Tuesday, September 25, 2018

I dream like a mad one: I KNOW YOU KNOW.

I Know You KnowI Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

For twenty years, Sidney Noyce has claimed his innocence for the murders of Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby. In 1996, their bodies were found dumped by a dog track near the estate where they lived. Their friend, Cody Swift, who was ten like Charlie, lived, and now, twenty years later, is reviving the case via a podcast, It's Time to Tell. He too has his doubts about Sidney's guilt. He returns home to Bristol to start investigating. But not everyone wants this case reopened, including Charlie's mother, Jessica, who has started a new life, with a new family. And then there's the investigating detective, John Fletcher, who found the boys. Charlie died in his arms; you don't forget a case like that. Now, he's investigating another body--found buried in a location near where the boys died. Are the two cases related? Is there a murderer still out there?

I still remember the moment I discovered Gilly Macmillan, and her books are such a treat. This one was no exception. This is a stand-alone novel, or at least not one of her Jim Clemo novels, and I found it to be a highly enjoyable and compelling mystery. When I first realized that part of the book was being told via the podcast format, I felt a bit of deja-vu, as I had just recently finished another book in that structure (Sadie), but have no fear: the organization of this one is fresh and flawless.

The book is told via the podcast; Jessica's point of view; and Fletcher's perspective--both now and back then, when he was a rookie cop, investigating the boys' death. You have to get used to the book swinging back and forth in time with Fletcher, but it doesn't take much, and it's worth it, because Macmillan parallels things so well in time. The juxtaposition of the past and present with the two cases (current body, the boys' case - plus Cody's podcast) is really brilliant. Plus, we get to see the trajectory of Fletcher's life and the many decisions that have led him to where he his today. His character, for me, was fascinating and one of the best surprises of the book.

One of my favorite aspects of any Macmillan novel is her characters. They are always so detailed and fully fleshed out. That is the case here: you will find yourself transported back to the estate twenty years ago, with Charlie, Scott, and Cody running around, and then to the present, with Cody and his podcast, Jessica struggling to keep her new life afloat, and Fletcher, unraveling the details on a new--potentially related--case.

There are multiple mystery threads to keep any detective fan happy: what happened to Charlie and Scott all those years ago? Was it really Sidney Noyce? How about the body Fletcher just discovered nearby? Just a coincidence? I loved the way Macmillan weaved the pieces of all these stories together. There are some wonderful and unexpected turns here. I adore a book that surprises me, and it was great to have some twists and turns that shocked me.

Overall, this is a fascinating and compelling mystery that expertly weaves together the thread of two cases separated by twenty years. The characters are well-detailed and the book is beautifully plotted. It's hard to go wrong with a Macmillan mystery, and this one is no exception. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Friday, September 21, 2018

The day is still young but I'm one more day old.

The Other WomanThe Other Woman by Sandie Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Emily thinks she's finally met the perfect man when she runs into Adam at a bar. They quickly begin dating and all seems great, until Emily goes to meet Adam's mother, Pammie. Upon meeting Pammie, Emily realizes that the woman not only seemingly despises her, she will do just about anything to keep Emily and Adam apart. As Emily and Adam get closer, Pammie seems more and more determined to break the two up. Even worse, Adam seems oblivious to his beloved mother's schemes. Emily loves Adam, but she is powerless against Pammie's path of destruction.

I was so excited to read this one, as I had heard so many good things about it, but I wound up being really disappointed. This novel just wasn't for me. For a good portion of it, I felt like I was reading a similar-themed (better) book (Michelle Frances' The Girlfriend), and I couldn't shake that feeling of familiarity.

But, the worst part for me was Emily. I just found her to be so incredibly annoying and whiny. Most of the situations that involved her and Pammie seemed contrived and overblown, and I lost my patience over and over while reading these dramatic and ridiculous scenes. If I were Emily, I would have just walked away. It was all so stupid. I could have had so much sympathy for her if she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, but no. She was wimpy and self-centered and ugh. I would have stopped reading, but everyone had promised such a great twist.

So yeah. Twist?! There were no twists here that surprised me. I guessed the "big surprise" part of the book early on, though I still found a bit of the ending somewhat enjoyable. Still, it was not enough to make up for the rest of the book frustrating me so.

So, overall, irritating main character and no crazy, enjoyable twists--definitely not my favorite. Still, tons and tons of people *loved* this one, so it might be a good fit for you. It just didn't work for me. 2.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Monday, September 17, 2018

I'll get revenge the only way I know: CROSS HER HEART.

Cross Her HeartCross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Lisa lives a quiet life with her teenage daughter, Ava. She keeps a close-hold on her, which chafes on Ava, who is ready for independence from her mother. But Lisa has a good reason. She has a secret past: one she's never shared with Ava or even her best friend and co-worker, Marilyn. All that changes when Ava rescues a young boy from drowning at a local fair. Her picture and Lisa's are splashed across the news and papers, threatening the world Lisa has so carefully constructed. As things begin to fall apart, each of the three women must begin to confront the many secrets they have been keeping.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I seem to be one of the few people left on the planet who hasn't read Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes. However, all the hype about that one probably raised my expectations for this novel. I will admit, I found it to be oddly captivating. It's told from the points of view of Lisa, Ava, and Marilyn and oscillates between the present and the past. As a result the story unfurls slowly, releasing details in increments. It certainly adds to the tension and suspense of the book.

It's clear that all three women have their own secrets, but figuring out what they are is pretty fascinating. The book definitely kept me guessing until the end. Just when I thought I had something figured out, it threw me another curveball. I didn't particularly love Lisa or Ava--Ava more because I felt like I didn't get to know her that well, but I really liked Marilyn. Pinborough is very good at capturing the voices of her characters--each was unique and easy to picture.

In the end, I found the plot for this one to be interesting, and it kept me reading. Still, it's something that I can't really explain, except to say that nothing about this book "wowed" me. I liked it, but didn't love it. There's no real reason that I can put my finger on, just a feeling. Still, this is a very intriguing psychological thriller. It's twisty, with interesting characters. I still need to get to BEHIND HER EYES. 3.5 stars.

Thank you to William Morrow for my copy!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

And all my schemes drowned at the seams: WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT.

When the Lights Go OutWhen the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jessie Sloane's mom has passed away, but before doing so, she encouraged Jessie to find herself. Jessie decides to apply to college, but the college flags her social security number. Apparently it belongs to someone who is deceased. As Jessie attempts to unravel the bureaucracy behind her application, she becomes more and more convinced that something is up with her past. Even worse, her thoughts are jumbled by the fact that she hasn't slept well since her mother's death. She's no longer able to tell what's truly happening around her. What's the story with her identity? And is she crazy or is something sinister going on in her life?

"Find yourself, Mom told me. One of two wishes she had for me before she died. Maybe she didn't mean for me to apply to college. Maybe it was far less esoteric than that. Maybe it was quite literal. Find yourself, she said, because Jessie Sloane isn't you."

Well, I'm not so sure about this one. The novel goes back in forth in time between present-day Jessie and her story and a woman named Eden, whose story mainly takes place in the 1990s. Eden's timeline varies a bit though, which makes it hard to keep track of. (At least for me.) A lot of Eden's storyline revolves around infertility, which I thought was handled very well. As someone who has struggled with that, I identified with her and probably liked the book a bit more just because of that.

As for Jessie and her tale, it was definitely creepy at times, which is something Mary Kubica can do very well. With her sleep deprivation, Jessie is the ultimate unreliable narrator, and it's very hard to tell if she's crazy or what on earth is happening. At times, it seems as if the book is leading you down a particular path, but you're never exactly sure who or what to trust.

And then, of course, there's that twist. I'd heard a lot about it, so I was expecting something, but with Kubica, it's hard to know what. I'll admit, it wasn't this. I had sort of figured out where things were leading, but it didn't diminish how cheated I felt by the ending. I've seen a lot of reviews where folks loved it and others where they didn't--I just felt letdown. I won't go further so as to avoid spoilers, but know that it did diminish my overall enjoyment of the book. And while I wasn't loving it entirely--it's sort of a jumble of confusion and weird characters--the ending deflates what I did enjoy.

Overall, this is a creepy book in many ways, with a story that befuddles but intrigues you. It's compelling but the ending diminishes a lot of the early drama and excitement. 3 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley/Edelweiss in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Monday, September 10, 2018

You ain’t worth the life they hand out in a town this small: SADIE.

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sadie's pretty much always been an adult. Her mom struggled with drugs and alcohol since Sadie was born. Sadie basically raised her younger sister, Mattie. So when Mattie is found dead at the age of thirteen, Sadie's life completely falls apart. The police have no idea who killed her, so Sadie is determined to find justice for her little sister. She leaves town following the only bits of evidence she has. Meanwhile, a few months later, West McCray, a radio anchor, hears about Sadie's story while on the road. He starts thinking about missing girls, as Sadie's de facto grandmother, May Beth, is now convinced she's missing. He starts a podcast that tracks Sadie and her trail for Mattie's killer, trying to find out what happened. But is he too late?

"I'm going to kill a man. I'm going to steal the light from his eyes. I want to watch it go out. You aren't supposed to answer violence with more violence but sometimes I think violence is the only answer."

I had heard a lot of hype about Sadie before I started it, but luckily this is one of those rare books that really lives up to all the buzz. The novel gets off to a captivating start and never really lets up. It's quite the page-turner and really a tense, heartbreaking journey. You get fully immersed into Sadie's journey between Summers' gorgeous writing and the book's format. The novel alternates between chapters told in Sadie's point of view and then chapters told in West's podcast format.

The result is really spellbinding: West is just a little behind Sadie in her quest, but somehow it all works perfectly, and you feel like you're hurtling (to nowhere good) along with these characters. I wouldn't have thought the podcast pieces would work so well, but they were great, and I found myself enjoying those chapters a lot. You get swept up with West and his desire to find Sadie.

Part of feeling so much a part of this book is because it's so, so well-written. Wow, Courtney Summers can write. This novel is almost lyrical it's so beautiful in its descriptions, in Sadie's narration of her life and her situations. The characters--both the good guys and the bad--are so vivid they almost fly off the pages. You can just picture Sadie--alone in the world and hurting--with the world against her. The book is magical in that sense.

I live in a place that's only good for leaving, is all that needs to be said about it, and I don't let myself look back. Doesn't matter if I want to, it's just better if I don't.

I mean. C'mon. This girl. I dare you to read this book and not fall for Sadie. It's pretty much impossible. It's certainly not an easy read, and I felt like this one sort of broke me down and spit me out a bit. I wasn't sure about that ending, but I completely understood it. It was what the book deserved, just perhaps not what I hoped.

Overall, this is a beautifully-written, incredibly captivating book. I was immediately sucked in wondering what happened to Mattie and Sadie. The characters are real, and it's a read that will stick with you. Definitely recommend. 4 stars.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for my copy, which I received in return for an unbiased review.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Leaving safety to chance and reason behind: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.

Good Luck with ThatGood Luck with That by Kristan Higgins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends since they were teens. They met at Camp Copperbrook, a weight-loss camp. They've stayed close ever since, so when Emerson passes away, Georgia and Marley are distraught. Emerson asks her friends to complete a list they made at camp, forcing both Georgia and Marley to confront some long-held fears. Marley still feels guilty since her twin sister, Frankie, died when they were four. And Georgia, has been scarred by the exacting conditions--especially about weight--passed on by her mother and brother. And she's hurt after the ending of her marriage. But Georgia and Marley are determined to complete the items on the list, for Emerson, even if it means getting past their comfort zone and learning to love themselves just as they are.

I'll be honest. I wasn't sure I'd like this one in the beginning. The tell-it-like-it-is weight talk is jarring at first, so are Marley's many, many references to her dead twin. I was confused about who was talking, eventually having to make myself a little cheat sheet to keep Georgia and Marley and their various family members/histories straight. But, pretty quickly, this book grew on me, and became a very powerful, very heartbreaking, very realistic, and very lovely read.

This isn't an easy-to-read book. It's starkly realistic and tells it like it is. Weight, life, reality, friendship, parenting, and more. It's tough to read and touches on the insecurities we all have deep inside ourselves, plus how cruel the world can be to those it deems "different." It made me very sad at times.

Luckily, the novel is also infused with Higgins' trademark humor. The woman can write a darn funny scene and even with the serious topics she covers here, there are plenty of funny times and warmth throughout this novel. She can make piggyback rides humorous. And running! Marley and Georgia become real people throughout the course of this novel, and so much of their friendship is witty and hilarious. I really grew to love them.

The book is also powerful in so many ways. Yes, it can be powerfully sad and heartbreaking at times, but it's also just powerfully well-done. I really think this is a book everyone should read, especially parents or anyone who spends time around teens. Georgia's teenage nephew, Mason, quickly became one of my favorite characters. His storyline has nothing to do with weight, but everything to do with self-acceptance, and I totally adored him.

There's so much going on in this book. The power of friendship. Struggling with weight and loving yourself. And the idea of, What happens when we get everything we want and we still aren't happy? So much resonated with me. The book will make you laugh. It will make you cry. Parts of it are predictable, but in the total Higgins fashion of exactly the way you want them to be.

Overall, this book was nothing like what I expected, but that's totally OK. It's really a powerful, tough, emotional read, but completely worth it. By the end, I was completely immersed in the characters' lives and the story. I found it to be heartbreaking and beautiful, and I certainly recommend it. 4 stars.

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Monday, September 03, 2018

But I could tell you had a broken heart: IN HER BONES.

In Her BonesIn Her Bones by Kate Moretti

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

When Edie Beckett was in her teens, her mother, Lilith Wade, murdered six women. Lilith went to prison for life and Edie's life irrevocably changed. Now she's nearly thirty, trying to stay sober, working a city clerk job, and living a lonely life. Her only family is her brother Dylan, and she has no friends, no real life. At night, Edie secretly obsesses over the families of Lilith's victims, watching them online--and in real life. Then she actually meets one in person, and a man ends up murdered. Edie is immediately the police's one and only suspect. The investigating detective, Gil Brandt, is the same one who arrested her mother. He knows Edie better than anyone. She goes on the run, with Gil on her trail. Will Edie discover the truth in time?

This book just kept getting better with every page. I absolutely loved Kate Moretti's THE BLACKBIRD SEASON and was worried this one might not live up to it. I shouldn't have worried. This is just an excellent, fascinating novel.

The book is told from the point of view of Edie and Gil, with excerpts included from a tell-all book written about Lilith and her family. It all combines to make a very intriguing read. The way the novel explores looking at serial killers from the perspective of their family is just amazing and interesting. As Edie says,
"Sometimes, Lilith was just my mother."

You get this really in-depth look at how Lilith was both an awful mother, a regular mother, and influenced by mental illness. The book does a great job of providing a portrait of mental illness as well. I thought its look at Lilith as a serial killer was just so well-done. Lilith isn't necessarily the main focus--that's Edie--but she's had such an influence on forming Edie that we learn so much about her.

As for Edie, I was worried at first that I wouldn't like her or enjoy her character, because sometimes I have a hard time with characters who make nothing but bad decisions. But I quickly grew attached to her and to really, really like her. One of the best things about this book is that despite its serious and sometimes even gruesome subject matter, it can be funny sometimes. It's definitely heartbreaking and real. It's powerfully written, and Edie becomes this wonderfully great main character. She's so very smart and so very real. Moretti gives such a personality to everyone through her excellent detail; you're just able to visualize each character so well. I really love how you can get lost in her books. The bond between Brandt and Edie is interesting--different in many ways, but I liked how they were tied together in some way, and the how they each described that thread.

What's so great about this book is that you get to explore the serial killer aspect--how Edie is affected by her mom, some of the elements that formed Lilith into what she is, and more, but you also get a really well-done mystery too, after a character dies and Edie goes on the run. These two storylines run expertly in parallel and keep you riveted throughout the entire novel. There are some awesome twists and turns, and the whole book is just so well-done. I really loved these characters and truly just felt changed by the end of this one.

Overall, this is just a wonderful book. The characters are amazing and detailed, the plot is excellent, and I was just drawn in from the beginning. This goes deeper than your usual mystery or thriller, and I was so impressed and touched by this novel. I highly recommend this one! 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 09/04/2018.

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