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review 2017-07-19 23:52
Are You Sleeping/Kathleen Barber
Are You Sleeping - Kathleen L. Barber

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father's murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

 

This was fine. This was solid. This was unexceptional, but enjoyable.

 

If there had been more backstory to this, it might have been more captivating. I felt like the characters were pretty bland and needed some salt. Josie especially. She's gone and changed her name, completely reinvented herself. I want to know how this went about. I want to see her changing and know if that was hard for her. But we're kind of just thrown in the middle of things. I never quite understood why she couldn't forgive or at least talk to her sister.

 

I also felt like the women were angsty all the time and completely fell into a trope of being unstable. Her boyfriend, Caleb, could have made them angsty and could have caused a lot of conflict, but he and Josie just travel places and sometimes raise their voices a little but for the most part, skate by without the realistic drama I wanted to read about.

 

However, despite my issues with characterization, this was a pretty easy read and I enjoyed it all the way through. The podcasts were a lot of fun--I understand why so many people across the nation were captivated by them and drawn in.

 

There was a lot of telling to this story and I never quite felt very actively involved, which is a shame, because the plot was interesting enough and there was a pretty big mystery that should have had me flipping pages furiously.

 

If you're looking for a solid okay, this has a cool premise. If you want extraordinary characters, go somewhere else.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-07-12 17:35
The Marriage Pact/Michelle Richmond
The Marriage Pact: A Novel - Michelle Richmond

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

 

Five stars. I'm sold. This book got me through and through. Go read it. Now.

 

I got ten percent into this one and thought to myself, "Wow!" I was intrigued. I needed to keep reading. It was a good thing that I was on a plane and thus able to tune out the rest of the world because this book drew me in and kept me there the whole way.

 

But at the same time that I'm telling you to read this, please don't. It's chilling. It's frightful. It's dreadful. It made me physically uncomfortable. (It definitely did not help the plane seat.) I felt so uncomfortable reading this because I dreaded what was to come--it was scary, though in a psychological sense, and I found myself fearing. I definitely shuddered out loud because of this book. I definitely closed it and told myself I'd stop, just to pick it up a few minutes later.

 

The plot is fabulous. I was still thinking about this book a few days later, and have already detailed it enthusiastically to two non-readers. I'm disappointed that I have to wait until it's released to go and tell everyone to read it. The ending did get a little bit hard to believe, but never realistic because the entire book had set it up to be so. It wasn't until after finishing this that I actually realised that it was so.

 

The detailing of this was very real. As someone who grew up in San Francisco, I fully vouch for this book. The details it provided were all believable and it contributed to how real this book was--I could see it taking place in the streets I used to walk down, which was a lot of fun. Jake and Alice additionally were interesting and real characters. Jake's job working as a therapist really made his outlooks interesting and I enjoyed all his thoughts about what made a good marriage and in relation to both kids and adults.

 

It was so clear how much he loved and respected Alice, too. I think everyone in a successful relationship has wondered why their partner is with them or questioned if the other person actually loves them back. Though Jake's tone could be clinical, I really believed his passion for multi-faceted Alice.

 

This is a must-read.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-07-07 14:47
Hello, Sunshine/Laura Dave
Hello, Sunshine: A Novel - Laura Dave

Sunshine Mackenzie truly is living the dream. A lifestyle guru for the modern age, Sunshine is beloved by millions of people who tune into her YouTube cooking show, and millions more scour her website for recipes, wisdom, and her enticing suggestions for how to curate a perfect life. She boasts a series of #1 New York Times bestselling cookbooks, a devoted architect husband, and a reputation for sincerity and kindness—Sunshine seems to have it all. But she’s hiding who she really is. And when her secret is revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. What Sunshine does in the ashes of destruction will save her in more ways than she can imagine.

In our modern world, where celebrity is a careful construct, Laura Dave’s compelling, enticing novel explores the devastating effect of the secrets we keep in public…and in private. Hello, Sunshine is a fresh, provocative look at a woman teetering between a scrupulously assembled life and the redemptive power of revealing the truth.

 

This was fine. This was solid. This was enjoyable. This wasn't addictive.

 

I felt like this was just so close to me loving it, but I never really became completely drawn in. Why? I'm not sure. This had solid writing, an interesting plot, and some well-drawn characters. But meh.

 

First of all, "spoiler" alert, the big fall from grace is simply that she didn't write her own recipes and isn't from where she said she's from. If she had been a bestselling author, I might have felt differently, but I found it hard to take the big deal seriously because they're recipes, and especially with the internet, recipes are so widely spread that anyone could have created them.

 

Our main character is immediately introduced as unlikeable and not entirely honest and I loved that about her until she proved to be quiet mediocre and kind of likeable but definitely not unlikeable. I think I got too excited about having a villainous main character that to then have her be jovial was not terribly fun. The book doesn't take her through any big changes personality-wise and she doesn't really grow or change.

 

Her new job and her family was probably the redeeming aspect of this book--she has an adorable niece and her sister has some interesting friends. The interactions amongst them were fun to watch, though their history was strange. I loved reading about her new job within the restaurant industry and her strange boss. I wanted to see more of that.

You'll probably enjoy reading this. I did. But it's not one I'll write home about.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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review 2017-07-04 20:12
Final Girls/Riley Sager
Final Girls - Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

 

 

Once I'd picked this one up, there was no way for me to put it down.

 

I actually explained the premise to my boyfriend halfway through and he guessed the ending then and there, but I thought he was wrong and remained in suspense through the novel. There were many possible ways it could have gone that all were plausible and I loved how this kept me guessing. I did not trust a single character.

 

The book starts off with Quincy baking and the constant theme of flour and eggs simply adds to the mystique of the topic. It’s horrifying to think of someone with such simple pleasures going through something so horrible, and it’s all the more intriguing to discover the cracks in her shell and the way she’s still dealing with her traumatic past.

 

The way that the "Final Girls" interacted with that particular label made the story all the more fascinating. The three were nothing like each other and I enjoyed learning about their personalities and their backgrounds.

 

There were horrifying scenes that had me wincing that I really enjoyed—they definitely brought me into the story and made me suffer alongside Quincy.

 

One arbitrary reference to race in this book really bothered me—it was incredibly needless and pulled me out of the book completely. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind that choice was, as other than that, the book was perfectly lovely.

 

I do highly recommend this as a thriller that will keep you in suspense.

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review 2017-07-01 17:37
Everything We Left Behind/Kerry Lonsdale
Everything We Left Behind: A Novel - Kerry Lonsdale

From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Everything We Keep comes the highly anticipated sequel. Told from one man’s two perspectives, Everything We Left Behind effortlessly blends suspense, mystery, and romance in an exploration of loss, resilience, and the compelling need to protect the ones we love at all cost.

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

 

Well, I did not realize that this was a sequel until I just sat down to review it. Oops. In that regard, this book can definitely stand alone.

 

Ironically, my biggest issue with this book was that I felt thrown in. I wanted more backstory. I didn't understand what had happened and I wanted it in laymen's terms. I wanted more on Raquel. I wanted to know the family dynamics. I guess I should have read the first book before reading this and maybe I wouldn't have had these issues!

 

Having said that, I thought this was a quite solid book despite the strange premise. It was challenging for me to really comprehend the strange dissociative fugue state that James-Carlos had, and to relate to how it might be to wake up one day in this state, but I enjoyed reading about how this often happened after trauma. It did feel too convenient as a trope, but I got over that since this is a book. I would have recommended it alone, which says a lot.

 

I also wasn't terribly enthralled with the Natalya/James-Carlos relationship. Natalya was Carlos's deceased wife's half-sister, and I thought it just could have been much tidier if she had been a best friend, or a next door neighbour, or something that would just keep family out. There were too many "true loves" in this book for me to feel passionately about any--it's hard to believe that Aimee was James's true love his whole life when he then has no problems going to the sisters.

 

I did really admire the way that James-Carlos both cared immensely for their children and worked to do everything in their power to keep them happy and safe. This was really admirable, and made me care so much more about all of the characters.

 

If you enjoyed the first book, then this one will probably satisfy you. But you should probably read the first one before diving into this one simply so that the premise will be more clear and so that you care more about these characters than I did.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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