The Swap by Robyn Harding REVIEW

The Swap (9781982141769): Harding, Robyn: Books - Amazon.com

Due out June 23, 2020

The Swap by Robyn Harding begins with Low, an awkward 17 year old girl with hippy, poly-amorous parents. She starts pottery classes with glamorous Freya and becomes enamored of her right away. They become fast friends and Low learns about Freya’s past. She’s from Los Angeles, where she met her hockey player husband Max. They had to leave because Max injured another player in a game. When this happened, they lost nearly everything and had to move to the island.

When Low gets a summer job with Freya’s friend Jamie at her gift shop, she grows jealous of their friendship and becomes infatuated with Freya. One night, Jamie, her husband Brian, Freya and Max all get together. A spontaneous indiscretion that night leaves one big secret between them on this island known for loose ideas on monogamy. The question is, did Low see everything?

The chapters alternate from several characters’ perspectives in a fast paced, exciting style. Even though the plot was slightly predictable, I enjoyed every minute of it. I think it is because of the snappy writing, short chapters, and developed characters. Even though I might have been able to foresee the story line, I couldn’t guess at what the characters would say or do in response to the events as they transpired. That was really the fun of having it in limited third person from multiple perspectives.

The end is so exciting, so thrilling, that it took my breath away from gasp after gasp as the characters’ truly dark sides come creeping out like a toxic gas, slow and nearly imperceptible, but deadly. All in all, a fast paced, exciting, character driven thriller well worth the read.

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker Review

* To be released September 15, 2020

In Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker, Molly Clarke mysteriously disappears by the side of the road when her car runs out of gas as a hurricane approaches. The first chapter is told from her perspective, but then her eldest daughter, Nicole, narrates the next part. There is a million-dollar reward for her return. The book continues in these alternating patterns of point of view to find out why Molly disappeared five years after she accidentally ran over her middle daughter with her car. The police think she purposely left and doesn’t want to be found, but Nicole has other ideas and wants to make amends with her mother.

I love this style of narration because it makes it really suspenseful. You still get a glimpse of Molly and what’s happened to her but have to wait while Nicole catches up. The characterization is expertly written. You can feel the characters’ pain and understand their anguish. The suspense is thrilling and artfully crafted. It’s one of those books you don’t want to stop reading, but have to sometimes because of how painful it is to go through the experience with the characters. It’s cathartic and exciting all at the same time.

The plot is intricately woven and doesn’t feel forced or obvious. You get enough clues as you’re reading to get more and more interested in both the characters and what happens to them. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had all the elements of a great thriller.

One by One by Ruth Ware REVIEW

* Due out September 8th, 2020

One by One by Ruth Ware is a take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. A music app company called Snoop brings their staff on an isolated retreat to a French ski lodge in the midst of an impending snow storm. The chapters alternate between two characters’ perspectives: Liz, one of the ten guests from Snoop, and Erin, the girl who works at the lodge. When one of the guests, Eva, comes up missing, everyone starts to panic. But that is not the worst of their troubles. An avalanche traps them in the lodge with no phone service, no way out, and a potential murderer among them.

The writing is very fast paced and the characterization is strong for some characters, like Erin. One downfall is having so many characters to follow and not knowing much about them except for superficial things. I thought the book was going to be from a different character’s perspective each chapter, which would give more insight into what the characters were thinking. I think that would have been easier to read or if it were just narrated from Erin’s perspective. I didn’t really get into Liz’s character too much.

Even though the pace was somewhat fast, there weren’t too many surprises for me. It didn’t keep me up at night wanting to read it to find out what happened next. Although, the fun part of this murder mystery was following along with the characters as they try to figure out who the murderer is among them. The most suspenseful part was about the last third of the book.

I enjoyed the Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware much more than this one as it has a more Gothic feel to it. If you are an Agatha Christie fan or love murder mysteries, then you will eat this one up. I think I just found some parts hard to believe and some aspects of the plot a little too slow. Overall, Ware is a strong writer and I do like some of her books, but unfortunately did not care for this one as much.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney REVIEW

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*To Be Released July 28, 2020*

His & Hers by Alice Feeney, follows Her: Anna Andrews, a news correspondent, and Him: Jack Harper, a detective, in alternating points of view each chapter. When a beautiful, young woman comes up dead, Jack Harper investigates the murder and realizes that it is Rachel, the woman with whom he’s been having an affair. Anna must return back to her hometown where she covers the story for work and learns that it one of her childhood friends. This is where the two characters’ story lines collide. Interspersed throughout the two narratives is a third: that of Rachel’s killer.

Feeney’s writing style is superb. This is the first book I’ve read from her and it certainly won’t be the last. I could tell right away that she is a skillful writer, one that pays special attention to tone and sentence structure, which did not go unnoticed or unappreciated as I read. I especially liked her descriptions both of the characters and the situations, which really created a depth I don’t often see in most thrillers.

The plot takes carefully crafted twists and turns as Feeney artfully reveals clues one by one that leads the characters towards discovering the killer. All the characters are in question as we learn more and more about their sordid pasts which intertwines seamlessly in with the present. And the ending – WOW – I did not see that coming!

This book is so well written and suspenseful, I could not put it down once it really picked up the pace. A definite must read! Do not pass this one up!

The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin REVIEW

To Be Released on June 2, 2020

The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin, is about twenty-eight-year-old reporter Cecily Gardner who meets 30 year old Grant Smith in a bar one night. They spend the night together, but just sleep, a highly unusual occurrence when meeting someone at a bar. Then Grant whisks her away on a road trip to a secluded, romantic cabin for the weekend. Sparks fly when their relationship goes to the next level. Grant is sweet and vulnerable, divulging his deceased parents and twin brother with ALS who he is traveling to London with in a few weeks for a controversial treatment.

When her ex boyfriend Matthew resurfaces a month after their breakup, things get a little cloudy for Cecily. Yet she stays true to her heart and her relationship with Grant progresses. Then, right in the middle of this cute love story, 9/11 happens. I’m not sure how I feel about this event because it definitely made it more exciting, but less enjoyable in a way to be reminded of such a tragic event in history in the middle of a more lighthearted story. Since Cecily is a writer, she gets pulled right into the thick of things. When Grant goes missing after 9/11, the story takes a darker and sadder turn as she searches for him.

The whole time I am wondering… Will she find him? Who was Grant really? But that all takes a backseat to the twists and turns in the plot for Cecily. Just when I thought I had figured out what was going to happen, I had another thing coming. It definitely kept it interesting!

The book is more plot-driven rather than character-driven. I couldn’t help but want to know more about the characters, like what they looked like, what they were like at work, and what they were thinking. Because it’s womens fiction, I suppose that’s why it is more focused on the main character, Cecily. However, the plot was interesting enough to keep me reading until the very end. And wow, what an ending! Emily Giffin isn’t who she is for nothing. All in all, a solid read and one I would highly recommend.

In Her Shadow by Kristin Miller REVIEW

*Due out April 21st, 2020

Thanks to Ballantine Books for my advanced release copy.

In her Shadow by Kristen Miller pays homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier in the form of a murder mystery. Five months pregnant Colleen moves into her boyfriend Michael’s house, an estate called Ravenwood. Colleen can’t help but notice that she is essentially taking the place of Michael’s missing wife, Joanne. There are reminders of her everywhere from her perfume to her robe, and even her favorite meals. There is an entire wing of the house that is off-limits to Colleen. Michael alludes to some deep dark secrets and grows worried that she might find out.

Upon first reading the novel, it seems like Colleen is going to be the main character. That idea quickly vanishes as the narrative switches focus from her life to various characters trying to figure out what happened to Joanne. The narrative is written from several characters’ points of view including the main characters Colleen and Michael. Rachel, Michael’s colleague’s wife and their next door neighbor, and Detective Shaw, a policeman investigating a neighborhood murder, also have their own sections. This really keeps the pace fast and suspenseful.

The sections jump around between time and points of view, which also adds a quickness to the plot. Sometimes, it’s a little too quick and I can’t help but feel that some characters are a bit underdeveloped, especially Michael. Rachel and Travis, the friends, are much more believable as a married couple. I enjoy the banter between them and can sense the unspoken tension in their marriage. It’s a much more realistic relationship than Colleen and Michael, but maybe that’s the point. Michael and Colleen together isn’t supposed to seem natural.

The title of each section takes the suspense up a few notches. Instead of the typical chapter one, two, or three, it’s titled with the event that’s happening or about to happen. It’s a step above foreshadowing because I know what’s going to happen, I just don’t know how or why. There is a method to this that made me smile once I’d finished the book.

I did not see the ending coming! This was definitely a well crafted thriller and some of the things I found unbelievable in the first half all made sense by the end. This is an exciting, suspenseful read that seems well suited for a screen adaptation I’d gladly watch.

 

 

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald REVIEW

Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald is an exciting thriller about Eva, a young, newly engaged woman. The same night she gets struck by lightning, her mother gets mysteriously murdered. Eva keeps getting flashbacks to the scene of her mother’s death. The question surfaces… Who killed her? With Eva’s memory loss, she becomes the prime suspect in her mother’s murder. But did she really do it? Hints about Eva’s mysteriously dark past made me question her innocence, but her relatable character made me want to root for her at the same time. The story is told in alternating perspectives from present day Eva to Kat, her mother, twenty five years earlier. In reading Kat’s story, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She didn’t marry Eva’s father, Seb, for love and often endures his brutal abuse. It makes sense why she is so tough in the present day chapters. Both story lines have plenty of mystery and suspense, which makes it a bit infuriating to keep jumping back and forth. I just wanted to know what happens! I found myself reading way more than I intended in one sitting. 😂 The end of the book is well worth the read with shocking twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend this one.

 

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce REVIEW

You Let Me In by Camila Bruce is a thriller from Tor Books in the vein of Shirley Jackson, Carmen Maria Machado, and Tana French. It is due out in April 2020.

The book is written in first-person from the perspective of Cassandra Tipp, who has mysteriously gone missing at 74 years old. Did she die? Did she disappear? No one knows. Cassandra, a best selling novelist, has left a manuscript behind for her niece and nephew in the case of her disappearance with a few stipulations. Only her niece or nephew can claim her estate and they must read her manuscript to find a password to claim it. In her manuscript, she takes the reader through her life story from the time she was a little girl with mind bending twists and turns to figure out how she turned into a suspected murderer.

In her story, Cassandra has an unusual mythical friend named Pepper-Man, who sinks his teeth into her throat at night and influences her to think and do bad things. When Cassandra meets more faeries like Pepper-Man in the woods, her world changes forever. Bruce flips modern fairy tales upside down and creates a creepy, dark story remniscient of the brothers Grimm.

But the reader is soon confronted by the idea of reality creeping in to Cassandra’s world in the form of Dr. Martin. He has written a book of his own about her called “Away with the fairies: A study in trauma induced psychosis.” We are left questioning whether the fairies are real or a sort of coping mechanism Cassandra has cooked up to deal with her dysfunctional family.

After her husband, father, and brother die, things get even more mysterious. Was the faerie world something Cassandra just created to deal with her trauma or is that where she ultimately ended up? To find out, as the back of the book says, you must “read on, if you dare…”

What you will love 😍: The fast pace and fantasy element.

What you will hate 😠: The ambiguity. What did happen to Cassandra!?

What you will appreciate 😌: Camilla Bruce’s strong writing skills and imaginative story. How did she think of these dark and disturbing faerie characters?

 

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber REVIEW

Follow Me is a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media oversharing. The story follows three characters in alternating, first person points of view. First, we have Audrey, a self proclaimed Instagram influencer with a million followers. She’s a seemingly confident red head who leaves New York to take a museum job in Washington DC where she appropriately manages their social media accounts. She reunites with her college friend, Cat, the second POV, a successful lawyer, who is undoubtedly her voice of reason. Then, we have Him, the third POV, a sketchy character who happens to be one of Audrey’s Instagram followers. Something is obviously off about this one.

From the beginning of the book, Barber raises the tension as she places Audrey in some questionable situations that make us fear for her safety. She throws different characters at us to see which one we just may believe is “Him”. There’s skeevy Ryan, Audrey’s landlady’s grandson. Then there’s Connor, Cat’s friend from college and work that we’re kind of questioning, but he could be a stretch. Then there’s the mysterious admirer who randomly shows up at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden where Audrey works. Barber is apt at craftily placing us in Audrey’s tentative and leary shoes. Everyone’s a potential suspect.

The best thing about this book is trying to guess who Audrey’s stalker is. Is it someone she knows? Is it a complete stranger? Is it the person she least suspects or someone she has her eye on? Just when I think I have it all figured out, Barber changes everything up and makes me second-guess my detective work.

This thriller is so well worth the read. It has everything a reader could want from a story and ramps up the suspense towards the end. I literally could not stop reading the last quarter of the book until getting to the satisfying end. This one definitely knocks it out of the park.

 

The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr REVIEW

The Sinner begins with Cora Bender, a complex character driven to the point of temporary insanity as she deals with her dark past. The narrative alternates between present day and flashbacks in which Cora’s unstable nature is revealed through her unconventional upbringing.

The book was originally released in Germany in 1999, but translated for English speaking audiences around 2007. I am a little late to the game in reading it, but I’m so happy I did.

Hammesfahr weaves a mysterious tale of child abuse and murder that could only be described ironically as sinful. Cora’s mother, a religious fanatic, does not let Cora experience a normal childhood. She blames her for every sinful act and requires her to pray for forgiveness. Cora has a sister, Magdalena, who is born with Leukemia and is not expected to survive. When she does, their mother tells them that the only way she will remain alive is if the family absolves themselves of all sins. Sinful behaviors include eating chocolate and even reading Alice in Wonderland.

Of course, Cora rebels from this stifling and rigid environment. She escapes through marriage and a family of her own, but that’s where the real mystery begins. One day, she just snaps and commits the biggest sin of all: Murder. Readers are left in the dark and spend the majority of the book reading to find out just why Cora Bender did what she did.

The writing is dense, possibly due to the translation, and rich with detail. It wasn’t a fast read for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The characters are complex and the mystery kept me reading until the last page. Although it was a denser read, the reward comes at the end where we finally get to discover just what makes Cora Bender do what she does.