Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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3 out of 5 stars to Hidden Bodies, the second book in a thriller and suspense series by Caroline Kepnes.

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Last month, my buddy Medhat suggested a read of You, the first novel in the series. It was such a fantastic book, probably in my top 2 of 2017 to date, that I had to continue reading the series. I’ve heard rumors there will be a third book, but I’ve yet to see it confirmed. I need to check on that! I am also completely excited as Lifetime is turning the books into a television series. I can’t wait… but until then, let’s get on with the review of this second book. While I enjoyed several parts of it, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first book and I’ll explain why below.

Plot, Characters & Setting
When we left off at the end of [book:You|20821614], our protagonist/villain, Joe, completed his vicious cycle of crossing many lines and breaking tons of laws in NYC all in the name of love, also known to most people as stalking your prey. Yet he escaped without anyone knowing of his crimes and found himself falling in love with a new potential victim, Amy Adam. Joe begins trusting Amy, realizing she’s a much-improved version of his last girlfriend, Beck. Amy begins pushing him for a key to his bookstore, which we all know from reading the first book contains a few secrets Joe would prefer stay buried, like some bodies. He hides everything as much as he possibly can, caving in to his girlfriend in order to hold on to her. When he arrives for work a few days later, the place has been robbed and Amy is missing. Did she do it? Was she kidnapped as payback for his prior crimes? What does she know? You’ll find out… he finds a lead that shows she may be in Los Angeles. Joe quits his job and moves cross-country, where he meets an interesting cast of characters in his typical LA apartment. He negotiates/manipulates his way into working closely with a few Hollywood type agents and producers, finding himself falling in love with a new woman, coincidentally named Love.

Love is perfect for Joe. She adores him. And he soon forgets about Amy. All seems well for a short period of time. But he keeps worrying about the one piece of evidence of his former crimes back in Rhode Island… and it drives him nearly insane, especially when the case is re-opened. He knows he has to find a way to retrieve it without anyone seeing him in the victim’s house. Unfortunately, he’s distracted by Delilah, one of the women in his apartment complex who has the hots for him. And then there’s a cop who has taken a dislike to Joe, tailing him at different parts of the day while Joe is trying to tie up loose ends. But it’s when Love’s ex-boyfriend and her brother monopolize all of Love’s time, Joe goes off the rails. As he begins to unwind, adding more and more crimes to his list in order to cover up the past and protect himself from losing Love, Joe finds himself getting careless. It all comes crashing down in the last few chapters of the book, ending at a place where it’s very clear, a third book is necessary. Readers will not be OK with this ending, as it opens more holes than the one’s Joe’s already had to dig for each of his hidden bodies.

Approach & Style
Whereas in the first book, Joe talks to the readers almost as if they are Beck, it’s quite different in this second book. It’s still told in first person with the perspective only on Joe throughout the whole story; however, there’s no concept of “you” this time around. It works just as well, given the title is no longer “You,” which means alternative progression is an expected path.

I read a large-sized soft-cover book with ~430 pages. There are 56 chapters, so each one is less than 8 pages long on average. It took me 4 days over the course of a week, as I couldn’t read each day; in total, probably about 6 hours. Some sections are a bit slow-paced while others are ultimate page-turners where you probably skip every fifth word just to see more quickly what’s happening.

Strengths
Kepnes can certainly dream up extremely aggravating and realistic characters. Everyone she incorporates feels like someone I’ve met before, and at times, I wish I could be Joe and punish them for the things they say and do. But I’m a good guy and I don’t commit many crimes. I mean any crimes.

When she’s on point with a dramatic scene, the plot and action is amazing. A few scenes were just as good as the initial book, especially when Joe is dealing with Delilah and the cop. It’s almost like we never left the first book.

Love is a really multi-dimensional woman; she has moments of brilliance followed by sheer silliness. I want her to be with Joe, but sometimes, she seems too good for him.

The settings are crystal clear for the most part. I can always tell where we are and whether it’s gonna be a safe zone or all hands to the battle field.

Concerns
It was such a let-down from the first book. Joe became weak. I didn’t buy his drama. He seemed to cause problems for the sake of causing problems. He had the girl. But he let himself get caught up in other areas, ones that made him a true criminal and not a man in love. That’s where he becomes a bad stalker. In the first book, he loved the girl so much, you could see why he did the things he did. This time, I struggled connecting with his motivation. He became every other evil antagonist, rather than the guy you wanted to root for.

The ending gets closer to the original strength, but not all the way. I was pleasantly surprised when the last 100 or so pages took the story in quite a different and unexpected direction, but it wasn’t enough to turn the book around for me. If this were the only book I read, and I didn’t know much about the original plot, it wouldn’t have been a book I’d recommend to friends. And that’s sad because Joe is an amazing villain. I toyed with giving this less than 3 stars but I know that is mostly the disappointment in ruining a good character. It’s redeemable in a third book, so I will have faith things get better.

Final Thoughts
The story is still good. It’s got major problems with his constant quest for sex, which is just an overused plot component in this book. Pull that out. Take out the section where he turns into a whiny mess. And maybe give him a few more close calls, and we’re back in the game.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Book Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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3+ out of 5 stars to Lies She Told, a thriller set to be released on September 12th by Cate Holahan. I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to sharing this review with you.

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Why This Book 
Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books, the publisher, for sending me this copy to read and review in advance as an ARC. They found me on Goodreads based on my reading tastes, reviews and ratings, suggesting this as a potential book I might find engaging. And they were right. I had it sitting on the shelf for a few weeks as I got through other books, but as all my NetGalley reads aren’t due until September, I had some time to squeeze this one in.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Welcome to the concept of a book within a book… The primary story revolves around Liza Cole, an author living in the NYC metro area who’s had some good books and some not so good books. She’s been given a deadline to get the next one written since she won’t first draft an outline, which prompts her to dive head first into her own thrilling plot. While she’s writing the book, readers learn Liza’s trying to conceive a baby with her husband, David, but they’ve been unsuccessful due to a few issues she’s had in the past with uterine damage. David’s best friend, Nick, is presumed missing, which is setting off a few alarm bells. David starts worrying when they can’t find Nick and he’s being suspected of causing the disappearance. Eventually, his body is found in the East River, dying in a very similar way to the character in Liza’s book. Liza’s supported by her mother, agent Trevor and best friend, Chris.

In Liza’s story, her primary character, Beth, is a new stay-at-home mom who suspects her husband, Jake, is cheating on her. When she secretly monitors his behavior, Beth learns he has been spending a lot of time with a cop named Colleen. When she accuses her husband, he forces her to go to therapy, where Beth meets Tyler, a therapist who attempts to get her to realize she needs to end the marriage. Unfortunately, Beth isn’t ready and soon finds herself stalking Colleen. Next thing she knows, she’s killing Colleen and dumping her body in the East River, then sleeping with Tyler.

As the two stories begin weaving in and out, readers learn there are common things occurring in both, leaving us to question which one is real and which one is a story. Or perhaps… it’s all the same story happening from different perspectives. You don’t really know until the last few chapters when the random clues begin fitting together, revealing what has actually been happening along the path.

Approach & Style 
I read the paperback version sent to me by the publisher. It’s just under 300 pages, broken into three sections and alternating back and forth between the two story lines. There are 19 chapters, each dividing into two sub-chapters: (1) Liza and (2) Beth. As a result, chapters are relatively short, usually under 8 pages each. Both stories are told with first-person narration from the main female character’s point of view, and both are told in the present tense. I read the book over 3 days, about 100 pages each day.

Strengths 
The concept of the book is great. I love trying to solve not only the mystery within the novel, but also determining how the two stories would eventually link together and which was fake. I enjoy seeing parallels between the two lead characters and their families. The emotional aspects of the characters are strong and offer readers an easy connection. You can understand the pain and feel the impact of the actions happening around them. It’s full of suspense, some very descriptive scenes and lots of potential suspects and angles.

Concerns 
It was a hard read, and I’m normally good at keeping story lines separated. A few things that could have worked differently, which would have helped readers retain which characters belong in which section, as well as distinct from one another. Character names were too similar: Beth and Liza. I know this is supposed to help with the parallels, but it left you a tad confused at times. Jake and David. Sound a bit similar. Go with two very different options to help us keep it straighter. Something long, something short. I had to stop and start a lot. I don’t like to re-read the same thing over and over again. But I was OK here as it was a complex story, plotted out in a good way.

The ending came a bit from out of left field. You can guess the connection between reality and the made-up story, but why it happened was very unexpected. There were a few clues, but we needed more to not be fully surprised. I would have liked to be reading it and go “oh, now I understand how it ties all together.” Instead I went “Hmm… there were no clues of this before…” It wasn’t too much of a distraction, but it was enough to make me think the book needed another round of editing before its release. Add in a few more connected pieces of history. Make me impressed with the things I missed along the way.

Author & Other Similar Books 
The author has two other books prior to this one. I might give them a chance, depending on the plot and setting. I’ve read another book in the last few years like this one, but I can’t recall the title. It’s not a common story where there is 1 real story and 1 fake story an author is writing, which makes it a different type of read. You’re sure to be excited and thrilled at parts, but you will also be confused at some parts.

Questions & Final Thoughts 
The author can certainly write. She has a good eye for characters, setting and details. I’m glad the publisher sent this one to me, as I definitely found myself wanting to read it each night. But it was also one where I stopped a lot to check if the story had an error or if it was being written in a vague way on purpose. Overall, good book… lots of complexity in the details… good supporting characters and a treasure of relationship drama that you find quite engaging. Put it through another round of beta readers or editing and it would have been an easy 4 from me.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Book Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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3.5 out of 5 stars to Girl in Snow, a new mystery and suspense novel written by Danya Kukafka and set to be released on August 1st, 2017.

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Many thanks to Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to review an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this novel. I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading more by this author.

Why This Book
This is slightly embarrassing, but I’m not one hundred percent certain how I came to read this book. I was awarded the novel on NetGalley in May, but I believe someone recommended it to me, or maybe the publisher reached out to me to take a look at it. I can’t find any emails, which I normally save, or any comments that might refresh my memory… so bottom-line, it was part of a NetGalley list of books I wanted to read.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Lucinda is a teenager in a small Colorado town who is found dead in the snow on a school playground by a custodian. She was hit in the head with a blunt object and left to die. The story follows several people in the town who either knew the girl or knew of her, each having different opinions about whether Lucinda was a good person or a bad girl.

Cameron is the boy who loved her from afar, except someone knows he was stalking the girl and watching through her windows. He’s had mini-breakdowns after his father left town years ago under very bad circumstances. He doesn’t remember doing anything, but people close to him know he was missing, saw him talking to her and believe he’s guilty.

Jade is a fellow schoolmate who did not like Lucinda. Lucinda stole the boy Jade loved, but the boy never really loved Jade. Jade is not upset that Lucinda is dead, but her younger sister is angry. Jade’s mother treats her daughter poorly and seems to be hiding some sort of a secret.

Russ is the cop assigned to investigate Lucinda’s death. He’s harboring a secret about his friendship with Cameron’s father, as well as the reasons Cameron’s father disappeared. He’s also certain the school custodian, who happens to be Russ’s wife’s brother, is guilty. He tries to navigate the situation, but finds himself stuck on the past.

A few other characters intersect, e.g. a couple with a young child that both Lucinda and Jade babysat for. A young school teacher accused of flirting inappropriately with his female students. And the friends and family members of all 3 main characters.

One of these people is guilty. But the question is who… and you’ll need to read the book to find out.

Approach & Style
I read the novel on my iPad through Kindle Reader. It was about 4500 lines, which is about a 300 page hardcover — not that long. Chapters are relatively short and alternate perspective from the 3 main characters: Cameron, Jade and Russ. The language and writing are absolutely beautiful. So much background and description are revealed in the narration and prose. There are limited amounts of dialogue.

Jade tells 2 sides of every conversation — what she wishes she said (through a play she is writing) and what she actually said. For a young and new writer, the author has a firm grip on flourishing language. On occasion, it fell a little too simple, but it balanced out from the lengthy details of everything else going on in the background.

Strengths
The best part of the story is the absolutely beautiful descriptions of the characters and the scenery. Everything feels authentic. The plot is complex in that there are different levels of relationships happening behind the scenes, which readers only see when certain characters happen to stumble on the supporting cast. It’s a good approach to hold interest in the story. The plot has many interesting sub-components, which help reveal who people really are on the inside versus who they appear to be on the outside.

Concerns
I didn’t know enough about nor care much for Lucinda. A lot of details were revealed about her, but she’s dead when the story starts. As a result, I felt like she could have been anyone as opposed to having a real strong desire inside me to want to know who killed her. I felt less of an attachment to her, but if it were written a little differently, I think it would have been an easy 4 rating for me. Also, once the killer is revealed, there is no scene explaining how/why it happened. You have a hint at the reason for the murder, but you never actually watch or hear the scene played out from either the narrator or a confession from the killer. It felt like a bit of a letdown.

Author & Other Similar Books
This is a very typical story about 3 seemingly disconnected characters where you have to figure out how everyone knew each other. There are a lot of similar type stories on the market right now, as it’s a popular genre and sub-genre. In a way, it was similar to “Beartown” in the structure, focus on teenagers and the mystery portion. But it was also like “I Found You” where the 3 stories will intersect somehow, but you just don’t know until the end, but also that this this was about teenagers and “I Found You” was not only about teenagers.

This is the author’s first book. She definitely has writing talent and storytelling abilities. I think with more experience, she’ll flush out some of the areas that felt a bit weak to me and become a fantastic and creative author in this genre. I’m glad I read it and will chance her next book.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: The Marriage Pact

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The Marriage Pact4 out of 5 stars to The Marriage Pact, a thriller and suspense novel written by Michelle Richmond and set to be released on July 25, 2017. Many thanks to the author, NetGalley and the publisher, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Bantam, for the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). I really enjoyed reading this novel and felt it had a lot of contained suspense, as I couldn’t put it down but it wasn’t the kind where you were scared; you just desperately wanted to know what was going to happen.



Why This Book


I’d seen the book on a few people’s Goodreads To Read or Currently Reading lists, and it looked interesting. I requested a ton of books on NetGalley to try to earn my 80% badge, and I got lucky when they approved this request.



Plot, Characters & Setting


Alice and Jake had been finalizing the list of 200 guests for their upcoming wedding when she won a big case at her law firm and felt compelled to invite one more guest and his wife: Liam Finnegan, a client who made a point of telling Alice’s boss how instrumental she was to winning the lawsuit. When they arrive home from their honeymoon, Jake and Alice open the Finnegan’s gift, an invitation given only to a select few to join “The Pact,” a group of married couples who call each other “Friend” and help ensure everyone’s marriage is successful. At first, it seems a bit odd but given their history as a couple, both think it’s a good idea and jump in with open arms. They meet Vivian, who is their guide for the initial few months, and begin reading the bylaws, a huge tome of a contract that dictates how often they must give each other gifts, plan vacations, see other Friends, talk to one another, et al. And if they do not, there are consequences with differing levels of punishment. As the weeks go by, Alice and Jake don’t take the group too seriously and begin accidentally committing minor infractions. The punishments begin, and it starts to completely unnerve them both. When they push back and try to leave The Pact, they’re essentially told “No one ever leaves The Pact. And The Pact never lets anyone go.” Alice and Jake attempt to follow all the rules, but work gets in the way, and Jake meets another Friend, whom he once knew before he was married. The woman tells him about the dangers of The Pact, but it’s too late to save themselves, she warns. Weeks go by where Alice and Jake try to balance everything, but frequently find themselves with intrusive and harmful punishments… all culminating in Alice’s disappearance and Jake flying to Ireland to find the creator of The Pact, in hopes he can convince the strange woman to let them leave.



Approach & Style


I read the novel through a Kindle Reader on my iPad. It has about 5200 lines, which works out to about 400 book pages. There are over 80 chapters, as each one is short and focused on a multitude of events happening in Alice and Jake’s lives.

The novel is told in past tense (with a few exceptions for present tense) and with Jake as the first person narrator whose point of view and perspective dominates the story.

It took me about 5 hours to read the novel. I read 20% the first day and then 80% the second day. I couldn’t put it down on the second day and only did so to go out for dinner. I found myself so interested in the middle section that I sometimes skimmed pages to get to the action, as I was shaking trying find out what was going to happen.



Strengths


The idea behind The Pact and the story is excellent. The divorce rate is too high. People take one another for granted. You’re often left on your own to solve marital issues unless you push yourselves to attend therapy. It sounds like a fantastic idea: a group of Friends meant to help you focus on your life as a couple, some rules and guidelines to ensure you are constantly thinking about the other person and minor punishments meant as little reminders not to get off track. But when it gets out of hand, and you realize this is more like a cult who like to torture one another, wow… the subtle actions and words really leave you right on the line, trying to decide is this really happening? Is this one bad apple making the group worse than it really is? Are they truly a cult or is it all a game? Who is behind this? And it quickly becomes a page-turner, where you don’t want to put it down.

The book can seriously play on someone’s fears about marriage. It makes you think what the point of it is, how and when you separate yourselves as a couple and two individual people. You see the love between a newlywed couple being ripped apart over minor issues in the hope that it will teach them not to ever let something big or bad happen between them. The intricacies of how The Pact always knows what’s going on, how they simply just accept what happens to them and the balance of power between all the couples… really gets you ignited and passionate over what’s right and wrong in this book. All good stuff, especially when you have such an emotional gut reaction to what’s happening. The descriptions of the behavior, the punishments and the setting really help create the suspenseful drama.



Concerns


When I read a book, I throw myself into it, usually letting most unbelievable things go if they are meant to drive the action or plot forward. I’m pretty forgiving when a situation happens that probably wouldn’t or couldn’t in real life. It’s a book. That’s what drama is for. If I want reality, I’ll look at my own life. And that’s what readers will have to do with this book — let some things go —
as there’s a 1 and a million chance something like this could ever happen, but there are at least 10 situations where some readers are going to say “No way. That’s ridiculous.” And they’re right, but then again, this is a story meant to entertain and scare you. So… I worry that some readers are going to be disgruntled with parts of the plot, and I can’t say much as I don’t want to give away spoilers. But a few easy examples… (don’t read the next paragraph as it’s not really a spoiler, but does give a bit of action away).

Why would a lawyer sign The Pact without reading it? How could they not go to the police? How did The Pact know things about Jake and Alice’s past? Why would you not ask the question to the leaders: “What should I do? If I don’t attend your meeting today, you will punish me. But if I miss this court date, I lose my job. It’s not that you aren’t important… but without a job, how do I live?” That last comment is in reference to a major part of the plot where Alice is asked to do something by the same person who is helping her move forward at the law firm… and if she does do what they ask, she’ll get in trouble at work. Something just didn’t jive well for me there. I kept thinking to myself…. ask them what they want you to do and stop saying “I just won’t show up to the meeting with the Friends.” At that point, they’d already been punished a few times… why??? And they also hadn’t read the full bylaws. I wanted to smack them for not reading the whole thing.

I loved the first 80% of this book. I put it down to go to dinner at a point where it was absolutely unreal and intense in the suspense and drama. I was so excited to finish it when I got home. And then I did. But the ending was not sufficient for me. It’s a good ending, but it wasn’t the one I wanted. Alice and Jake are essentially faced with a choice in the last few chapters, one which as they learn more about The Pact, they realize what has truly happened in the last few months. And they have a decision to make which is a good thing, but wow… I think I might not have done that if I were in their shoes!



Author & Other Similar Books


Michelle Richmond has several other books which I will definitely peruse, as I enjoyed her writing style, characters and plot very much in this one.

The story felt like a cross between “The Stepford Wives” and the movie “The Gift.” The people in The Pact all feel like a cult being controlled by someone behind the scenes as the Wellingtons do Stepford. And Jake and Alice receives strange gifts with scary alternative meanings and consequences as occurs in the movie “The Gift.”



Questions & Final Thoughts


I really like this book despite a little concerns with the ending. It’s the kind of book where I want to keep talking about it. But I won’t give away spoilers. So… a choice for you: (1) Read the book and then let’s talk about it, as there is a lot to say, or (2) Don’t read the book and we can talk about it but I’m gonna reveal all the spoilers so you totally understand it!



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: No Turning Back

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No Turning Back4 out of 5 stars to No Turning Back, a thriller and suspense novel released on June 15, 2017 by Tracy Buchanan. Many thanks to the author and to the publisher, Crooked Lane (thanks, Sarah!) for suggesting this book and sending it to me. I enjoyed the read and am excited to draft this review.



Why This Book


I love thriller and suspense novels. I’ve been very active on Goodreads and NetGalley for the last 4 months. Suddenly, the publisher reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reading an advanced copy of the book. I read the description, which sounded fantastic, and I quickly said “Yes, please. And keep ’em coming!”



Plot, Characters & Setting


Anna, a young woman in her late 20s, has been a stay-at-home mom for the last six months six giving birth to her daughter Joni. Anna and her husband Guy are in the middle of a divorce and she’s staying at a separate cottage on the beach near their hometown in England. After returning to work as a radio show host where she provides advice and talks about current events, Anna realizes things are starting to change around her more quickly than she can adapt to. Her mother has been quite distant since Anna’s father committed suicide more than a decade earlier. Her brother Leo has grown more arrogant and difficult. Anna really only has some friends and her grandmother to look out for her. As she’s walking on the beach with Joni in a carriage one evening, a 15-year-old boy runs at her with a knife, appearing to want to kill her. Anna defends herself and Joni, accidentally killing the teenager.

Given it’s a small town, news travels fast. She’s quickly revealed as the woman on the beach who killed the young kid. Some people applaud her for protecting herself from a supposed drug addict. Others claim she is a murderess. The victim’s family claim their son was a good boy and Anna was just being vicious. Soon after, the Ophelia Killer, who murdered 5 or 6 boys nearly 20 years earlier, sends Anna an email, claiming (s)he’s back and is upset that Anna killed the boy who escaped from the killer’s clutches. Anna’s father had been investigating the killer before committing suicide, and it brings up difficult memories for her to accept. The killer is now after Anna, who took away his/her latest victim.

Over the course of a month, Anna befriends Jamie, the young boy’s brother. She’s unsure if he wants to harm her because she killed his brother, or protect her from the killer. Tensions escalate. More boys go missing. The cops suspect Anna or the boy’s family of being involved, or even being the Ophelia Killer. As evidence begins to pile up against Anna, her husband takes their daughter away, leaving Anna alone and frightened. But that’s exactly what the killer wants, and as Anna begins to unravel, she starts putting the puzzle together and figures out that someone close to her or her family is behind everything. Anna figures out how to stand up for herself, turning to her mother, grandmother, brother, husband and friends, but realizes in the end, someone has betrayed her. Now where does she turn?



Approach & Style


I read a physical copy of the book over 3 days, and it was 275 pages long. The story is told in the third person and generally follows Anna’s perspective. There are 6 or 7 small chapters, noted in italics, as conversations between the killer and his/her partner, but there are no dates, so readers don’t know if this is from the Ophelia Killer in the past, the same killer in the current time or a new copy-cat.

Chapters are about 10 to 12 pages long, easy to finish a few within an hour. The voice is consistent and straightforward. There is a lot of dialogue to keep the action going. It jumps a few days at a time in order to move the plot along, which sometimes creates a few areas of concern / confusion as to what happened during those periods. Nothing too uncomfortable.



Strengths


Anna is drawn very well. For the most part, you see her as the victim. Every so often, she says or does things where you wonder if perhaps there is a little bit of darkness to her. She’s likable, but she’s done a few things of concerns in the past. Her job plays an important role in the story, and we learn just enough to keep us focused without feeling burdened by too many details.

Other characters are believable. Her grandmother is a strong ally with a little bit of history and drama of her own. Anna’s mother is a recluse and often seems like perhaps she should have been institutionalized after her husband’s suicide, given some of her behavior and treatment of her children. But this works to an advantage in the story, as it provides more suspense and eerie moments throughout the novel.

The story of the Ophelia Killer, when it finally comes together, is quite well-crafted. I believe the events. I understand why the killer wanted to kill. It makes sense why things happened 20 years ago and why they happened again now. And the connection between the young boys and the people involved in the crime is quite complex and intriguing.



Concerns


Anna spends a little too much time talking to her infant daughter. It certainly helps create the bond and shows the love Anna has for someone else. But it was a tad repetitive and directionless in parts of the plot. It provided some angst during the custody negotiations with her husband, but some of that time could have been used with other characters to amp up the drama surrounding the mystery identify of the killer(s).

I’m not sure the secondary characters were used as much as they should have been in order to provide a more clear picture of what happened to everyone in the past. I understand it needs to be kept vague to throw suspicion on several different people and across different angles, but at times, it felt like too much was missing in order to feel connected to them. Not enough to worry me, but had this been a little tighter, the book would have felt even stronger.

As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, the relationships between Anna and her family members cannot truly be discussed in detail here. There’s a giant cloud over some events that happened in the past, which is important to the current plot. It adds to the suspense and mystery, but when everything came to light, I sort of felt a little displeased with how many discrepancies there were in people’s view points. After 20 years, I think some of the pieces would have come out much sooner. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book, but if I say much more, it’ll start to cross into the spoiler zone. For this reason, I hesitated between a 3 and 4 rating; however, it did keep me interested and the final outcome changed a few times in the matter of a couple of chapters, not easy to do under most circumstances.



Author & Other Similar Books


It’s a bit like Lisa Jewell’s “I Found You” or Michele Campbell’s “It’s Always the Husband,” in that there are events from 20 years ago which have a direct impact on what is happening today, but it is also different in that this is a serial killer. The title “No Turning Back” is very important to the story for many of the characters.

I haven’t read anything else by the author, but based on this book, I would definitely read another of her books. I’m thinking of giving “My Sister’s Secret” a chance.



Questions & Final Thoughts


I enjoyed the book. It contains a good plot, strong characters and lots of mystery. It’s not crazy earth-shattering with the reveal, but it definitely makes you think about how well you really know someone. People do the strangest things, and this book capitalizes on the “what if” scenario by showing all the challenges, fears and ideas that pain and murder bring out in someone. What would make you kill someone else? What’s the line of defense between an accident and fate? Where does revenge seem appropriate? It’s a good mystery and page-turner without being an intense roller-coaster ride. You can put it down, but you won’t want to let it go for more than a day before you feel drawn back to it… so when you take this one on, plan a 3-day read. You’ll want some time in between to give some consideration to all the suspects. And if you do figure it out, you won’t figure out why on your own… so there’s still a lot to look forward to.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: Watch Me Disappear

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Watch Me Disappear4 out of 5 stars to Watch Me Disappear, a new mystery and suspense thriller, set to be published on July 11, 2017 and written by Janelle Brown. Many thanks to the author, NetGalley, Random House and Spiegel & Grau for this Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for a fair an honest review.


Why This Book
I saw this book floating around on Goodreads, which prompted me to read the description. I checked NetGalley to see if it was available and was awarded the request back in April. I had a few other reads to complete before it, but settled in last week to be able to release the review a few weeks before the book’s publication, as part of an effort to promote the novel.

Approach & Style
The book is told mostly in the present tense, which is not something I have experienced very often; however, it worked very well given the suspense and thriller aspects.

I read it via Kindle Reader on my iPad. It is about 5000 lines or 350 pages.

It is mostly told in a third-person point of view and switches focus on a few different characters. There are also 5 chapters which are news articles that one character writes as part of the book he is publishing. These serve to connect different story points and keep the momentum of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Plot, Characters & Setting
Billie and Jonathan have been married for nearly 20 years and they have a 16-year-old daughter named Olive. They live in the East Bay on the outskirts of San Francisco, California. As the story starts, it’s been almost one-year since Billie went missing after she was on a hike, leaving behind her husband and daughter to wonder if she was kidnapped or died somewhere in the forest, as a body was never found.

Billie grew up in a very religious family as an only child. She ran away from home a few times, and after father, a minister, was caught with a teenage girl, Billie left for good. She told her friends that he was an awful father and abused her from time to time. She became a free spirit and helped protect the environment and animals from disasters and corruption. One day, she meets Jonathan and after 6 weeks, they get married and later have a baby. She loves him, but seems to struggle settling down, often needing her free time away from the family life. Jonathan had a sister, but she drowned when they were children, and he’s always felt guilt for not being able to save her. Years later, when he meets Billie, he’s drawn to her and they quickly settle into a life where it’s just the 3 of them. Olive is your typical angsty teenage girl going thru her own coming of age story.

Harmony, Billie’s former best friend shows up at some point, trying to re-build her friendship with Billie. She also later tries to help Olive and Jonathan move on after Billie’s death, offering both friendship and an attraction to Jonathan. Olive’s best friend, Natalie, also tries to help Olive get over her mother’s loss. But one day, Olive has a weird vision where she thinks her mother is trying to be found. Jonathan doesn’t want to deal with it, as he believes Billie is dead, and needs the money from her life insurance to be able to afford to pay for their mortgage and raise Olive. But suddenly, as he begins throwing Billie’s things away one year later, he finds notes and files that indicate she may not have been as honest with him as he thought. Jonathan begins to believe Olive and they search for Billie, learning various bits of information which cast Billie into a darker shadow.

Jonathan keeps coming to the same conclusion… over and over again about his wife:

The book is a quest for Olive and Jonathan to move on from Billie’s death, but also to determine whether she is indeed alive or if something darker has happened to her when she supposedly went for the hike. It’s a psychological thriller, leaving readers to question which information is accurate and which is just a red herring. In the end, Jonathan and Olive find a great deal of answers, learn what Billie had been up to in the last year of her life and figure out how to move on from the entire situation. You also find out exactly what happened to Billie when she went on her hike “to get some space for a few days.”

Strengths
The story is captivating and draws you in around the 15% mark. You really want to know what happened to Billie. Jonathan and Olive are likable characters whom you want to find answers in order to be able to move on with their lives. Both are written as believable father and daughter. There are tons of personal details about their lives, including when Billie was home with them. You see this from both a parent’s and a lover’s perspective. The story engages you and pushes you to decide what kind of a person you want Billie to turn out to be.

It’s a real-life situation for the most part. How do you move on when someone you love is missing and you don’t know if they are dead or alive? All the right questions and emotions come up. It’s fantastic that the story starts nearly one year after she’s missing, so we don’t have to live through the initial phases of misery and loss. We see and feel the pain, but it’s the kind you’ve already nursed, and then it’s ripped open when evidence shows that she may still be alive.

I did like the character of Billie, but it was because of solid writing. And I’m not saying she’s done anything wrong related to the disappearance (no spoilers!). I didn’t like her because she seemed selfish to need so much time alone, to seem callous about showing her feelings to Jonathan at times, for treating everything as “that’s life, we’ll figure it out.” I wanted to see the motherly side of her where she cries and yells and wants to help her child. Instead, she seemed too much of a free-spirit who just went with the flow. Sometimes it’s good, but Billie took it too far in my opinion. But that means the writer did an awesome job pushing me to feel this way.

This book is a definite commentary on marriage or relationships: how well do you really know the other person? Is it OK to keep secrets? Is your life together a surface existence or so deep that you have trust in all areas? When do you decide it’s OK to just do what you want and be selfish, but tell yourself it’s for the benefit of the other person? Huh???? That doesn’t fit my definition of a relationship, but it certainly gave me something to think about. I’ll think I’ll tell my significant other tonight that I need 2 weeks alone just to be away from him as I have to think. LOL If someone told me that, I’d say… “Seriously? OK, sure. Be sure to leave the key when you go as your a$$ aint’ coming back. I’m all for space, but let’s work thru it together.” Thank you. Off my soap box.

Concerns
I don’t think the character of Harmony was flushed out as much as necessary. As you learn more, she feels a bit deeper, but overall, it was a bit of a missing component.

I know we needed Olive, Jonathan and Billie to seem like the only people around in the family, but where were Jonathan’s family and his friends. They seemed AWOL at a time they were likely needed.

When the book ends, there are a few parts left too open for me. I want to know specifically what was true and what was false in regard to Billie’s early days of running away from situations and people. She told one story. Another character told a different story. Seeing the whole picture, I struggled a little in deciding who to believe. Even in the end. But it was just a little bit, nothing to throw the story off.

I wasn’t too big a fan of the newspaper articles interspersed throughout the chapters. They didn’t seem to serve as strong a plot device as I thought they could or should. It helped me learn more about how Jonathan felt about Billie, but at the same time, I think I’d have preferred a journal entry, a conversation with a psychiatrist or even him just saying things aloud. It wasn’t distracting, but I didn’t get a lot from it.

Author & Other Similar Books
It’s the first book I’ve read by the author, but she’s written two other books before this one. I would be interested in reading them as I liked her style. I plan to look them up and read if the plot sounds strong.

This book is not a thriller in that you are scared or afraid of someone being hurt. It’s more suspenseful, trying to figure out what is really going on. In that vain, it’s like The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. You wonder for a while if you can trust the narrator. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I won’t say. But you get that feel from the book.

Questions & Final Thoughts
The title is super-important, as you’d expect. She disappears. You question the entire time you’re reading the book… “Who is saying those words?” Is is the mother, the daughter or the father? It could be any one of them. I liked that aspect. It’s the perfect title, also because the word “disappear” can mean so many things: physically, emotionally, due to fear, due to memory loss… really engaging for those reasons. It got a 4 of 5 stars from me as there were some concerns and I struggled to stay focused in the first 15%. But once it got into the swing of things, I only put it down one other time, as I was very sleepy. But I read the last 50% all in one sitting, so it’s definitely got game! And I sorta suspect, this might be a case of:

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: Blacklist

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BlacklistBook Review
4 out of 5 stars to Blacklist, the 11th book in the “V.I. Warshawski” thriller and mystery series, written in 2004 by Sara Paretsky. What a fantastic book! It had everything from murder to corporate espionage to communism. Spanning a history of nearly 50 years, the story puts VI in the most scary of situations, and it allows Paretsky to truly tell a tale of remarkable prominence. There are so many connections and seedy things happening, you’re not sure how to begin figuring it out. Plus there are two cases she’s got going on at once. Will they intersect? Something tells me they will… they always do. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. They might not actually come together. The best part of this book is Paretsky’s unyielding way of telling the truth and the reality of what’s happening all around us. I’m about 6 books behind on this series, at least a decade or so, and I can’t wait to catch up this summer. She’s always a treat.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews