Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Love can go to hell in a broken heartbeat minute: THE ARRANGEMENT.

The ArrangementThe Arrangement by Robyn Harding

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Twenty-one-year-old Natalie gratefully escaped her small-town life in Washington state, including an obsessive ex-boyfriend who broke into her house when she told him she was leaving for art school in New York City. But now the glamorous life she dreamed of is anything but: even with a partial scholarship, she's struggling to pay her tuition and rent. So when her friend tells her of a possible solution--go online and find an older sugar daddy: a wealthy man who pays her for dates--Natalie is intrigued. She figures it is a temporary solution until she gets back on her feet. But then she meets Gabe Turnmill, a handsome lawyer, more than thirty years older her senior. Soon she's madly in love with Gabe, who gives her a monthly allowance and helps her find her own apartment. But Gabe has his own family and life, and when he ends things with Natalie, she's devastated, unable to let things go. She begins stalking Gabe and his family. Gabe is a powerful man, however, and he's not going to let his sugar baby ruin his life.

Wow, this book was utterly captivating! I totally loved HER PRETTY FACE, and I felt the same about this one! This novel starts out with Natalie calling her long-estranged father, who abandoned her family when she was ten. "I killed someone," she says. From there, we flash back four months, learning more about Natalie's life as an art student and how she winds up as a sugar baby. It's utterly fascinating--learning about this life and how Natalie becomes tied up in it. She's convinced she will only go on a couple of dates, but her life becomes a series of unfortunate incidents. Then she falls for Gabe.

"But this was not a real relationship. Gabe was paying her. Now, Nat was afraid of falling for a man she could never really have."

The characters in this book are spot-on. Talk about creepy, obsessive, and utter trainwrecks. These two are so messed up. And I loved them! I could not put this book down! I picked it up on Sunday afternoon and had to finish it Sunday night before I went to bed. I simply could not look away from Natalie and Gabe and their absolutely bizarre relationship.

"Gabe liked situations he could control, people he could manage."

This book is a crazy mix of thriller, mystery, and romantic suspense. It's really interesting to think that these sugar baby/daddy relationships actually exist (hopefully without some of the other insanity that occurs in this book). Harding does such a wonderful job with her main characters and their utterly twisted minds. The point of view switches between the two, and we hear from some of the supporting cast, too. It helps up the drama and suspense, for sure. New York City is a great backdrop for all that goes down. I sort of had an inkling how it would all play out near the end, but I definitely couldn't put the book down.

Overall, totally loved this one. Definitely one of my favorite thrillers this year--just a really fun, captivating book with a different storyline and awesome, crazy characters. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Gallery/Scout Press and Netgalley in return for an honest review. Thank you! It is available everywhere as of 7/30/2019.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

But the hardest part is leaving love behind: A STRANGER ON THE BEACH.

A Stranger on the BeachA Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Caroline Stark is proud of her new gorgeous beach house, carefully designed for vacationing and showcasing her perfect family. But that perfect life is crumbling around her. At a party debuting the home, her husband of 20 years, Jason, shows up with another woman. Her daughter, Hannah, is off at college now and doesn't need her. When Caroline, spots Aidan Callahan, a local bartender, watching her from the beach outside her home, she wonders if he's casing her house. Then Aidan is the bartender at her party. But as her marriage falls apart around her, Caroline finds herself turning to the much younger Aidan for support. They have a one-night-stand; then Caroline thinks there's a chance she can reconcile with Paul, her husband. But Aidan is obsessed with Caroline, calling her constantly and following her everywhere. Suddenly Caroline doesn't feel safe. She jokingly told Aidan to get rid of her husband, but she meant it as an anger-fueled joke. But will the obsessed younger man see it that way?

I'd heard a lot of excited buzz about this one and was looking forward to reading it, but--unpopular opinion time--this one wasn't one for me. I kept waiting the entire time for the book to excite me or draw me in, but I found it irritating and predictable. (I know! I'm sorry!) I figured out immediately how things were going to play out and then read it hoping I was wrong. I was not.

The shtick in this one is that it's told from both Caroline and Aidan's perspectives. We get most of the same events filtered through each of their lenses. It's clear early on that we're dealing with unreliable narrators. Either one or both of them are not telling us the whole truth. The problem with this is that it's also really freaking repetitive. I don't want to hear the same thing told to me twice, with a bit of a twist. I also didn't care for Caroline. She's annoying. The woman did not make smart decisions, and she couldn't even find the breaker box in her own home. I'm sorry, even if you're "not handy," be able to manage basic things. (I may have some pent up anger against Caroline to deal with.)

"There was a stranger on the beach. He was standing in front of my house, staring at it like he was casing it to rob. Sometimes fate sneaks up on you. But Aidan Callahan didn't sneak up on me. He was brazen. He stood there in the middle of the sand, staring up at my brand-speaking-new beachfront house, looking like he was up to no good."

As for Aidan, we have to hear about a million times about a previous violent incident involving his best friend. I don't know why. I was just over the repeating of things, in all forms. Aidan's brother is the Chief of Police in the small town where Caroline has built her beach house, and he's basically struggling to rebuild his life. I definitely felt more sympathy toward him, but also annoyance, because his obsession toward Caroline was just that, an obsession, and nothing good was going to come from this. From any of this! Just go home, dude, and stay out of trouble. She is so not worth it.

"Caroline. She was his good-luck charm, come to rescue him, and he loved her for it. Hell, he plain loved her, as she sat there laughing, her skin glowing, tendrils of golden hair curling around her face."

About 3/4 through the book, the perspective changes a little and things picked up a bit, but by then I was too irritated to be truly glad. I had also guessed everything from the beginning and this shift did nothing to alter that or surprise me, so yes. Sigh. There's definitely some drama in this one, but it felt forced to me. Oh, the power goes out just as you arrive at your beach house on the run? Wow!

Anyway, most people really love this book, and so take my bad mood review with a grain of salt. Hopefully you will love it much more than me! 2.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE.

Things You Save in a FireThings You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Cassie Hanwell is a great firefighter. She loves her job in Austin, Texas and her friendly crew. Cassie's life is shaped by a series of events that occurred on her sixteenth birthday, including her mother leaving her and her father. Now she stays clearly in her comfort zone. That zone includes work, work, and more work. No relationships, no real attachments to anyone, a strong resistance to forgiving her mother, and definitely not love. But when her mom calls Cassie and asks her to move to Boston to help her--due to an illness--Cassie has to leave that comfort zone. Big time. She has to go live with her mother, whom she barely knows anymore. She has to leave behind her progressive Austin crew and work with a group of guys in Boston who are appalled at the thought of a "lady" on their crew. Except for one guy, the new rookie, who has no problem with Cassie. And Cassie doesn't mind being around him. At all. In fact she even likes it. But love isn't in Cassie's vocabulary, and even if it was, everyone knows firefighters don't date other firefighters. Right?

"I'd structured my life around routine, and safety, and order. Feelings were a lot of trouble. I avoided them as much as possible."

I really enjoyed Katherine Center's previous book, How to Walk Away, so I was excited to read this one. I didn't enjoy this one quite as much (though I enjoyed the little link between the two), but it is a cute read. I have to admit, there were times in this one when things seemed a little too saccharine for my cynical self. I know, I know, that's terrible, especially when things aren't always light and breezy for Cassie and friends in this book. I think it's something only sarcastic folks like myself will understand.

In fact, this book is a really interesting blend between dark and quite light and fluffy. Cassie has a dark past, as does the rookie, Owen, but a lot of the book is Cassie just repeating that she won't ever love anyone or date a firefighter. I think we all know where this is leading...

However, the book is really funny at times, and it's very easy to like Cassie. She's incredibly tough and brave, and she gives all the guys a run for their money. The book makes some great points on sexism, and I always enjoy a chance to watch a tough girl beat some boys at their own game. And I have to admit I enjoyed (okay, identified with) some of her anti-social tendencies.

"Human connection had its upsides, but it sure was a lot of work. The risk-reward ratio was low, at best."

There's also a good supporting cast from Cassie's mom and her mom's best friend. For me, this one picked up in the last fourth or so, when everything seemed to really come together. There's a moment when it all just clicks, and I found myself laughing and grinning a lot. That part made it all worth reading for me.

Overall, it took me some time to warm up to this book--much like it took Cassie a while to warm up to Massachusetts. But she's an engaging, tough character, and her story is one of resilience, even if there are a lot of really sweet, almost too-perfect moments too. You can pretty much tell how the story is going to play out, but it's a fun, cute read. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and Netgalley in return for a honest review. It is available on 8/13/2019.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Over the unclear eyes of memory: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

I Know Who You AreI Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Aimee Sinclair is an actress. She's not really famous yet, but you might have heard of her. Aimee is working on her latest film when she comes home and discovers that her husband, Ben, has vanished without his wallet, phone, keys, coat, or shoes. Initially she isn't too worried as the two had a large fight the night before. But he isn't home the next morning, and Aimee's card is declined when she tries to use it. The bank tells her her account has been emptied. She immediately suspects Ben, but the bank tells her it was her. Aimee has a history of "forgetting," but she's sure she would remember this. Soon the police are at Aimee's door, and her world starts to turn upside down.

"My husband is gone"

I really enjoyed Alice Feeney's first book, SOMETIMES I LIE, and this one lived up to expectations. I have to say that Feeney has cornered the market on confusing books with unreliable narrators who bring along messed up backstories. (How's that for a mouthful?) Aimee is an interesting character--an actress with a spotty past and flitty mentions of her "forgetting"--yet you can't help but feel somewhat drawn to her. Things go south pretty quickly once Ben disappears, and we are sucked down with her. Yet Aimee is tough, and she's pretty determined to figure out what is going on.

"Acting is easy; it's being me that I find difficult"

Like Feeney's first book, this one will leave you feeling confused and disjointed as you read, much like Aimee's brain. What is going on? Can we trust her? Can we trust anyone? Complicating things is the fact that Aimee's story alternates with that of a young girl who wanders away from home and, well, let's just say that doesn't end well. These two storylines are oddly captivating, motivating you to madly flip the pages. Eventually, I found myself caring not so much about what actually happened to Ben, but just caught up in Aimee's overall story and saga.

"Sometimes it's the people who love us the most that hurt us the hardest; because they can."

Now, be warned. This is not just a befuddling tale, but a twisted one. Feeney goes dark, very dark with our story here. Oh man, but it's a really good surprise, and while I saw hints of it, I loved it, and quite enjoyed how everything came together. (Or, conversely, fell apart?) The book keeps you guessing, that's for sure.

Overall, this is a really twisted, mesmerizing thriller that keeps you engaged. I will definitely be reading anything Alice Feeney writes. 4+ stars.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

I have squandered my resistance: BURIED.

Buried (Agent Sayer Altair, #2)Buried by Ellison Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been six months since Sayer Altair discovered a prolific serial killer inside the FBI. She's still dealing with the fallout--including Congressional hearings and independent counsel combing through hundreds of past cases. Her boss, Assistant Director Janice Holt, is testifying at Capitol Hill. Sayer, a neurobiologist with FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, has been recovering from her injuries from her previous case and working on her research of serial killer brains, when Holt calls. Max Cho, an off-duty FBI agent and his Human Remains Detection dog, found a cave full of bodies in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The FBI is thin on agents during the hearings and investigations and Sayer is called back to duty. Her "team" is slight--Max; Piper, a park ranger; Kyle, the local sheriff; Ezra, our beloved IT whiz; and Dana, a FBI medical examiner just back from overseas. Together they set up shop in the National Park and investigate the gruesome scene. Before they know it, they are being attacked by the presumed killer--and they quickly have two fresh bodies dumped on their crime scene. Even worse, one of Sayer's research subjects starts meddling in her case, and she quickly realizes this supposed psychopath is a high-ranking Washington official. Can Sayer solve these cases in time, or will she lose her job during the craziness that's happening in Washington?

This book gets started with a bang, as Max and Kona find a cave full of skeletons. Sayer and Dana are attacked as they investigate the new findings, and things never slow down from there. Sayer is the same tough cookie from the first book--driving her motorcycle around and taking no prisoners. Luckily, she's at least found a bit of family now and she seems to be maturing. It was nice to see her make some personal strides.

"The only benefit to being on TV was that at least no one was surprised anymore when the FBI agent turned out to be a thirty-something brown-skinned woman."

There is a ton of stuff happening in this book, but Cooper handles it all really well. The cave full of skeletons, two more fresh bodies, the hearings and their impact on the FBI/Sayer's career, her research and one of her subjects meddling in her career, her personal investigation into the death of her late fiance, Jake, also an agent... It's definitely a lot, but all the threads work together. This is shaping up to be a really good series. I enjoyed this book more than the first, even. The writing is stronger, Sayer's character is tightening up, and while the case is resolved at the end, there are loose ends that lead me to hope there is a book three coming.

"She hated that she even thought it, but she'd learned the hard way not to trust anyone, not even her own coworkers at the FBI."

Sayer is a great character--complex, intelligent, and tough. She dives right in to any challenge, and her team is loyal to her because of it. Which is good, because man, does trouble follow this woman! They are attacked constantly! They also see a lot of gruesome things. You'll need to be the type who enjoys a good twisted, dark mystery. This is no light and fluffy thriller. But Cooper clearly knows her stuff--police procedures, DNA, psychology, and more. It makes for a really good read.

I especially enjoyed the local angle for this one. It's practically set in my backyard, and I actually read portions of the book where they were occurring, at the University of Virginia campus and such. It's always fun to read about places you actually know. (Maybe not so fun when people are being abducted from there, but...)

Overall, I really enjoyed this mystery. It features a strong main (female!) character in Sayer, a great twisted story that keeps you guessing, and the true star of the show, Kona, the cadaver dog, whom I adored. Definitely recommend! You can read this as part of the series or a standalone. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from Minotaur Books and Netgalley in return for a honest review.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Who knows what fate is holding: ONE NIGHT AT THE LAKE.

One Night at the LakeOne Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

When Leah Tessaro heads to Seneca Lake in Western New York with her boyfriend Ollie for the 4th of July, she's hoping he will propose. They've been together for four years, and she's madly in love. Leah's best friend, June Kang, joins them on the vacation. Instead, something happens and Leah doesn't survive the trip. Seven years later, June and Ollie are headed back to Seneca Lake. It's June's first trip in seven years and she's hoping Ollie, her fiance, can make the trip a little easier. The lake and Ollie's family home are haunted by memories of Leah.

This was an interesting read that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. It's told between alternating timeline and narrators--we get Leah, seven years ago, telling us the story leading up to her death, and then June, in present-time, as she deals with being back again at Seneca Lake and Ollie's house.

"I hate it like I have never hated anything else on earth. And now I have to go back."

Tension basically oozes from June's every pore, but we don't learn what happened to Leah for most of the book, except that occurred at the lake seven years ago. I usually find that trope a bit annoying, but it wound up working here, as I got caught up in the story and the characters.

You definitely had to get past the slight ick factor of this odd threesome--first Leah and Ollie--now June and Ollie--but it's basically the book's entire premise, and I think it's dealt with fairly well. This is a character-driven novel at its core, though there is the tension and the mystery swirling as to what happened to Leah. Throw in Ollie's troublesome stepbrother and June's past love, and you've got plenty of characters to keep the story interesting and moving.

Overall, I found this to a be a surprisingly enjoyable read. It's easy to find yourself lost in the story, wondering what happened to Leah and how Ollie and June found each other again (they retreated to separate coasts after Leah's death). It's emotional and serious, but sweet too and a strong story of love and friendship. 3.75 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from Random House/Ballantine and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Everything slips through these cold fingers: THE STORIES YOU TELL.

The Stories You Tell (Roxane Weary, #3)The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Private Investigator Roxane Weary and her brother, Andrew, are night owls, but it's still never good news when she gets a call from Andrew in the middle of the night. This time, Andrew tells her that he's just had the strangest visit from Addison Stowe, a young woman who used to work with him at the hotel where he tends bar. She seemed panicked and scared, begging to used Andrew's phone, and she disappeared almost as quickly as she arrived. At Andrew's pleading, Roxane starts looking for Addison, but she quickly realizes this is not a straightforward case. Soon the police are on Addison's trail--and Andrew's too. Add a dead cop to the mix, and it looks like Andrew could be mixed up in something serious.

"Clients hired me to find lots of things, and I took them all seriously--but people, most of all."

So, I won't lie. I have a particular affinity for one Roxane Weary, our sarcastic, intelligent, bisexual PI. This is the third book in Roxane's series, and I just love them all. You know how you can give your iPhone a name? Well, one of mine (I have one for work and one for personal use, okay) is named Roxane. This gritty PI has wormed her way into my heart. And I've said it before and I'll say it again--it's just so refreshing to have a bisexual character in mainstream fiction who is real. She's not a crazy person or a murderer, she's just a smart, complex character. The main character. And when Roxane is talking, it sounds like my own friends hanging out. It makes me happy.

"The state of straight people was troubling."

This book finds Roxane on a slightly personal quest, as her search for Addison gets real fast, once it looks like Andrew could be in some big time trouble. Her searching leads her to a shady nightclub--including its shifty manager--and some of Addison's suburban friends. We also, as mentioned, have a dead cop, meaning that Tom is in full force in this one. Tom is the former partner of Roxane's late father, and Roxane's old flame. I'm happy to report that there's plenty happening in Roxane's personal life--both with Catherine and Tom. Lots of sexual tension and witty banter on a variety of fronts. (And I am the only one who would be perfectly fine if Catherine just disappeared? Roxane deserves someone who treats her properly.)

Anyway, despite a cast of recurring characters, this one will standalone just fine. That being said, if you haven't read the first two books, I highly recommend them. The conversational first-person style Lepionka uses for Roxane is amazing and draws you in from the start. I adore Roxane's voice. (Partially because I deem her my kindred spirit--see below.)

"Apparently he was one of those people who listened to and deleted messages instead of just reading the transcription and ignoring it like I did."

Roxane is a witty, awesome, complex main character, and she's nearly impossible not to love. The story itself is dark and twisted, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. No gimmicks, just a good mystery. There's lots of humor, lots of surprises, and lots of Roxane, one of the best PIs around. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Minotaur Books in return for a honest review.

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Monday, July 08, 2019

I'm not sure I like your angle: GIRLS LIKE US.

Girls Like UsGirls Like Us by Cristina Alger

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Nell Flynn has reluctantly returned home to Long Island after the death of her father, Martin Flynn, a homicide detective. Nell hasn't seen her father in years, but must settle his estate after his motorcycle skidded off Montauk Highway in the early morning. She assumes her dad was drunk, per usual, when the incident occurred. Nell's mom was murdered when she was a child, and there's nothing about being home that makes her happy. But when Lee, a young homicide detective and her dad's latest partner, asks her to informally help with a case, Nell's curiosity is piqued. She is, after all, on paid medical leave from the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI. Lee and team have found the body of a girl, murdered, near the dunes. It's similar to a case her father worked a year ago. Nell gets caught up in the investigation and the more she digs, the more she can't help but wonder if her father was involved in the killings.

"Dad had his own code. I learned early not to second guess it. At least, not out loud."

This was a great thriller--it features an interesting plot, a strong, complicated female heroine, and it's so easy to get caught up in it from the start. I had a great time unraveling the puzzle of the two murders, figuring things out alongside Nell. She's a really engaging character--smart, funny yet not without her own problems.

"The bureau thinks my head should be on straight, too. It isn't yet. Maybe it never was to begin with."

I really enjoyed the way this story is told--via Nell, but since she's not formally FBI or police, we get the pieces of the puzzle and story along with her. It's a twisted web that she uncovers: a dark, gritty story that feels timely and real. It's a fast read that kept me flipping the pages, desperately wanting to know what was happening next.

It's clear that Alger knows her stuff--police/FBI procedures, investigative techniques, and more. There are no tricks or unreliable narrators: just a strong, well-told story. And there's certainly series potential with Nell. I would love to see her again! 4+ stars.

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

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Friday, July 05, 2019

Tried to get back where you were before: DEAR WIFE.

Dear WifeDear Wife by Kimberly Belle

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

In Pine Bluff Arkansas, Jeffrey comes home from travel to find his wife, Sabine, missing. Her car has been left behind, and she's seemingly vanished into thin air. As Detective Marcus Durand begins his investigation, things quickly become complicated. Sabine and Jeffrey's marriage wasn't what it seemed, and all signs appear to Jeffrey wanting her gone. What was he doing between his flight and arriving home, for instance? Meanwhile, several hundred miles away, Beth Murphy is on the run, carefully executing a meticulous plan to escape her violent husband. One slip, one mistake, and Beth knows he will find her--and kill her.

"Four hours on the road, two hundred and eight-three miles of space between us, and it's nowhere near enough. I still hear the clink of your keys when you toss them on the table, still tense at the thud of your shoes when you come closer to the kitchen. Still feel the fear slithering, snake-like, just under the surface of my skin. You have three moods lately: offensive, enraged, or violent."

This was a really enjoyable, compulsively readable thriller. It pulls you in nearly immediately and never lets you go--I was completely sucked up in the various stories. The book alternates between the points of view of Beth, Jeffrey, and Marcus. Beth is focused on escaping her husband, Jeffrey on figuring out what happened to his wife, and Marcus on solving the case. Each has their own unique voice, but you're never quite sure of who is telling you the truth or what is happening.

"People don't just fall off the face of the planet. They run, they hide, or they are taken. I should know, because I am one of them."

The result of hearing each person's individual take is a really exciting, twisty story. Where is Sabine? Who exactly is Beth? There are a bunch of fun "aha" moments throughout. I figured out some ahead of time; others were great surprises. No matter what, I enjoyed every moment and was kept interested and guessing. I especially liked and was intrigued by the character of Beth. (Please note that there is a domestic violence trigger in this book.)

Overall, this is a quick, suspenseful read that will keep you flipping the pages. I recommend this well-executed and entertaining thriller! 4+ stars.

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

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

You probably think I'm foolish: NEVER HAVE I EVER.

Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After a childhood where she never felt good enough, Amy Whey finally has her perfect life. A loving husband, a feisty fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and a sweet baby boy. She even has a best friend, Charlotte, to hang out with in her suburban neighborhood. It's at Charlotte's book group when everything changes: with the appearance of Roux, a new neighbor. Roux is gorgeous and charming and soon all the book group ladies are happily drinking wine and spilling their secrets during Roux's Never Have I Ever game. But Amy can sense Roux's sinister side from the start. And sure enough, before she knows it, Roux comes to Amy. She knows Amy isn't so perfect after all. She knows a big, dark secret about Amy's past. And if Amy doesn't give Roux exactly what she wants, she's going to make Amy pay, tearing down the perfect life she's so carefully built.

"The game was Roux's idea. More than an idea. A plan. She made it up herself, this shotgun of a game. She packed it tight with salt and metal, counting on collateral damage, too, but she aimed it straight at me. She said it was like Never Have I Ever, but not any version I'd ever played."

Well, this was an interesting one, I must say. It's the epitome of domestic thriller, I suppose: a mix of character-driven fiction and thriller/mystery. The beginning was tough for me: it felt slow, as I waited for things to heat up. The language is rather flowery at times, making some scenes seem long. And some of the real action felt bogged down by Amy and Roux's interactions, as they chattered and bantered--either in person or in Amy's head--while they played their twisted little games. Enough, enough, just get to the point!

"Her hands were not empty after all. They were holding my history, invisible but so very heavy. I could almost see it in her hands."

That said, once things picked up, I enjoyed this much more. When the twists arrive, they are very twisty and fun, and often quite surprising. Roux is appropriately hateful, and Amy is a bit whiny, but it's okay when everything is collapsing and you're trying to figure out where this is all going. This one trailed dangerously close to my pet peeve of "main character with secret, where the book would have no point if they'd just man up and tell someone," but once some of the twists came out, I could at least understand Amy's point of view, if not exactly empathize with her. Jackson gives us a rather dark tale, which, you know, is appreciated. If these two women are going to battle each other, it might as well be grim, right?

Overall, this book starts slow, but once it gets going it's enjoyable twisty, dark, and macabre. It was a different sort of tale, but worth the read. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from William Morrow and Librarything in return for an honest review (thank you!); it's available as of 7/30/2019.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

You may never hear the angels sing: THE ESCAPE ROOM.

The Escape RoomThe Escape Room by Megan Goldin

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Sylvie, Sam, Jules, and their boss, Vincent, receive a generic meeting invite to an escape room challenge on the eightieth floor of a large building. All come with little question, as they have a slavish devotion to their firm, Stanhope and Sons. They make a lot of money for the firm--and in turn, they make a lot of money for themselves. But lately, their team has failed to secure two major deals in a row, both of which have gone to a key competitor, who had inexplicably undercut them each time. The team is trouble. Their revenue is lower than it has been in years. They know their jobs are in trouble, and bonuses are being issued next week (along with notices). However, it quickly becomes clear this may be more than a typical team-building escape room challenge. The group solves a clue related to Sara Hall, a former analyst on the team who died. Locked together in an elevator, the competitive quartet starts to turn on each other.

"There was only the message on the television monitor. 'Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.'"

This was a really fun, bizarre read that I very much enjoyed. I had no idea where it was going for much of the book, but that was totally okay. It's told in very short, quick alternating chapters between members of our elevator group and then Sara Hall herself, back when she was alive and well and working at the firm. The result is a fast-paced read, as you wonder what on earth happened to Sara, whom actually seems like a human being compared to the four others. Our four trapped analysts, however, range across various levels of despicable--liars and cheaters all devoted to making money at any cost.

Truth be told, you can only feel so sorry for them to be trapped in this elevator in the dark, at the mercy of a screen doling out clues. Once in the dark, they turn violent at times: empowered against their boss, Vincent. You realize that they've sacrificed so much for their company that they basically have nothing left on the personal front.

It's a fascinating, gripping tale of what people will do to succeed, for revenge, and what they'll do when pushed to the brink. It's a really fast read. Is it a plausible story? Probably not. Is it fun, enjoyable, and full of twists and turns? Oh yeah. I could see this one as a movie, for sure. Definitely just a thrilling read to get lost in a for a couple of hours, especially if you enjoy the dark and twisted world of finance. 4+ stars!

I received a copy of this novel from St. Martin's Press and Netgalley in return for a honest review (thank you!); it is available on 7/30/2019.

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