Book Review: The Girl on the Velvet Swing (Simon Baatz)

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 9.35.30 AM.pngI am a bit of a history nerd, so, when #cjsreads decided to delve into a true crime/historical crime novel as one of our picks to kick off the New Year, I was intrigued.   The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, the non-fiction novel by Simon Baatz, followed the scandalous case of love, murder and betrayal by Evelyn Nesbit (the victim), Stanford White (the perpetrator) and Harry Thaw (the murderer).

I am always surprised when I read nonfiction how socially and culturally relevant many of the issues still are today.  Evelyn Nesbit is raped by an older man (White) and is afraid to tell anyone based on social stigma and backlash.  White seems to be untouchable due to his status and wealth.  Truly, what else could be more socially relevant?   Evelyn eventually marries Thaw and he, in revenge, murders White.

For the most part, the work focuses on the backstory and then Thaw’s trial after the murder was committed.  While I did find this incredibly interesting, in theory, the delivery was a little confusing and dry for me at times.  Lots of legislation and legal jargon was used that felt a little bit over my head and, in turn, pushed me out of the moment.

For lovers of true crime and legal non-fiction, I think this book would be a no-brainer.  However, if you are looking for an on-the-edge of your seat suspense, then this would not be the case.

I gave it a solid 3/5 stars.

Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what the other #cjsreads members thought of The Girl on the Velvet Swing?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Girl on the Velvet Swing (Simon Baatz)”

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Book Review: Strangers (Ursula Archer and Arno Strobel) @MinotaurBooks

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 8.10.45 PMLately, I have been feeling the need to expand my reading repertoire and read something a little bit different than my usual. So, when I received Strangers, a German noir novel by Ursula Archer and Arno Strobel, I was thrilled. Not only did this book fit into my Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge (a book by two authors) and have an amazing cover but also the synopsis had me completely hooked.

A woman wakes up without any memory of the strange man who is in her home, claiming to be her fiancé. The ultimate he said/she said narrative style on steroids; Strangers had me feeling actual anxiety throughout my reading. I was so stressed out trying to figure out what was happening!!

Like many other domestic thrillers, this one uses the back and forth narrative style between our male and female protagonist. This style had me incredibly conflicted throughout my reading. I would hear from Joanna, fearing her safety as a strange man enters her home, and feel for her. Then, a chapter later, Erik would enter talking about how upset he was that Joanna didn’t remember him, and I would feel for his plight just as much! I was completely divided trying to figure out whom I could trust. You want a novel with an unreliable narrator? How about two!

Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t stay continuous throughout the text. About halfway through the novel, I started feeling as if the story was becoming a little redundant. I get it. They couldn’t trust each other. Then, the novel switched gears and gave more of a conspiracy vibe. I did like this bit of narration but I think I would have been completely content with the novel to be about 100 pages shorter and focusing solely on their back and forth narration.

Overall, I didn’t love the end and I didn’t love the final twist, but I did appreciate the bit of originality.

Regardless of my feelings for the end, I did feel as if this book was worth the read and feel that fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this one. Especially if you enjoyed SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep; they had a very similar vibe!

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review

 

Book Review: A Map of the Dark (Karen Ellis)

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 10.44.30 AM.pngMarketed for fans of Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen (two of my favourite authors), I was incredibly excited to read A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis. Unfortunately, with the comparison to these thriller powerhouse authors, I was expecting graphic suspense and “on the edge of your seat” pacing.  This novel had neither of these things.

The novel, the first in a new series, introduces us to FBI Agent Elsa Myers- a woman who specializes in child abduction cases and has a past full of demons.  When a young woman is abducted, Elsa must balance her work life and personal life to find the missing girl while dealing with her own battles.

This book had a few moments where I felt like I couldn’t put it down.  I did like Elsa at the beginning and I did enjoy the different workings of the police case.  However, more often than not, I felt like parts were dragging.  This novel was so incredibly slow.  I struggled throughout the whole thing.

I also felt a little bit confused in regards to the narrative style.  Elsa goes back and forth between the present and memories of the past.  These happen without any warning and I found I struggled to keep up.  It took me right out the moment.  I also really did not like the amount of personal life that was introduced.  Most of the novel was Elsa grieving her father’s cancer and her lost childhood.     There really wasn’t investigating involved.   I found myself feeling this one was a bit mismarketed.  It really didn’t feel like a mystery thriller or a police procedural; instead, it felt more like contemporary family drama with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Overall, if you are looking for a new police procedural to bury your nose in this January, I think this one will disappoint you.  However, if you are interested in the inner workings of family, then this one may appeal.  Personally, it missed the mark.

2/5 stars.

Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy; it was my pleasure to read and review.

Curious to know if Chandra and Jessica felt differently than I did about A Map In the Dark?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: A Map of the Dark (Karen Ellis)”

Book Review: They Know Not What They Do (Jussi Valtonen)

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 11.22.12 AM.pngOver the holidays, I spent several hours (okay…fine, days) binge-watching Zoo, the TV series based on the book by James Patterson. As soon as I read the synopsis for the #cjsreads pick, They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen, I got a serious Zoo vibe from it, probably based on the fact that the lead character, Joe Chayefski (a neuroscientist) has his lab targeted by animal rights activists. I eagerly dove in, anxious to see if my suspicions were correct. They were not.

Not by a long shot.

In fact, every presumption I had going into this book was incorrect.

First, this novel was not a thriller. I was sort of expecting the same sort of vibe that Scandinavian crime fiction brings me, instead, I found this novel to be more like contemporary drama mixed with some science fiction elements and it was extremely character heavy. Now, don’t get me wrong, the writing by Valtonen is superb. The characters were described with extreme finesse and their stories were beautifully developed, however, the plot itself was extremely slow moving. If you are looking for heart pounding, mind racing twists and turns, this book would leave you disappointed. I am a self-pronounced binge reader- I like to sit down and become completely engrossed in a book. However, with They Know Not What They Do, I found there was so much going on and it was written in such a long and drawn out way that I found myself disinterested and confused. There would have been no way for me to binge read this one.

Clearly, I was not the right reader for this novel, given the types of book I am drawn to on the regular. However, if you prefer something more character-centric that can be read slowly, then this could be a good choice!

I gave it 2/5 stars.

Thank you to the author and publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see if Jessica and Chandra had similar feelings?  We read this one together as a #cjsreads pick.  Keep reading to see what they thought of They Know Not What They Do.

Continue reading “Book Review: They Know Not What They Do (Jussi Valtonen)”

Blog Tour: Best Friends Forever (Margot Hunt) @HuntAuthor @TLCBookTours

Best Friends Forever copy.pngWelcome to my stop on the TLC Book Tour for Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt!  This morning, I am thrilled to be able to bring you a review of this psychological-domestic thriller!

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was intrigued instantly.   Two women (Alice and Kat), best friends after a chance meeting at an airport, are rocked when one of their husbands end up dead and police begin an investigation into the suspicious death.  Who is the master manipulator?  How well do you REALLY know your best friend? From the first pages, as Alice is explaining how she has been arrested for murder, Hunt had me on edge and I read this one late into the night.  A bingeable read?  Absolutely!

Told through back and forth narration as Alice deals with the police investigation in the present and showing how their friendship unfolded in the past, I found Alice and Kat to be deliciously addictive characters; I was hypnotized by Kat’s charisma and felt sorry for Alice’s plight.  Hunt did a phenomenal job at making both character relatable and I felt like I could have known each of these women at some point in my life.   I felt like this was one of the strongest points of Hunt’s writing; the realism of the prose brought the psychological suspense to a whole other level.

Giving me a vibe between Big Little Lies and Making A Murderer,  I found myself growing increasingly paranoid as Hunt builds to the final twist.  I was a little bit underwhelmed by the ending, as I had my suspicions about the ending and I was correct.  However,  Hunt delivers a well-written thriller that is completely entertaining!

You want a chick-lit inspired thriller that will keep you up late into the night?  Are you a fan of Liane Moriarty or Michele Campbell?  Then, look no further, this one MUST be your next read!

Book Review: I Know My Name (CJ Cooke) @CJ_Cooke_Author @GrandCentralPub

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 9.35.38 AM.pngI am such a sucker for a mystery/thriller with a missing wife.  Gone Girl started the trend and, now, I cannot help but add a book to that similar thread to my TBR pile.  I Know My Name, the debut novel by CJ Cooke, had just that element.

Lochlan’s wife, Eloise, is missing.  She disappeared from their home leaving her phone, her wallet and her children behind.  Meanwhile, a woman washes up on a Greek island without any knowledge of who she is or how she got there.   Told in a back and forth narration, these two tales weave together making quite the digestible read. In fact, I sat down to read a few pages and was finished within a few hours.

Cooke’s tale is not only beautifully written but incredibly entertaining.  It becomes quite clear within the first few chapters that the missing woman and the woman on the island are one in the same but Cooke still had me on the edge of my seat wondering how she got there and how Lochlan would discover her whereabouts.

My only complaint in the novel came from sections of narration.  There were a few moments where I found the style to be incredibly confusing. Told mostly through the eyes of the woman on the island and Lochlan, as he desperately searches for his wife, there ended up being some random chapters narrated from Eloise’s grandmother’s point of view and also a few chapters from the past which felt a little bit random.  These had me flipping back and forth trying to re-orient myself in the text.

The final twist nearing the end I did find interesting and quite fitting for a novel of psychological suspense. Overall, I felt like it was a solid crime read that readers who are looking for a softer bit of crime fiction will enjoy.

Thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This novel was a #cjsreads pick for January.  Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: I Know My Name (CJ Cooke) @CJ_Cooke_Author @GrandCentralPub”

Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal (Sarah Vaughan) @SimonSchusterCA @AtriaMysteryBus @SVaughanAuthor

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 9.35.10 AM.pngWhen choosing a novel, I am typically drawn to anything involving courtroom drama or a he said/she said type storyline. When I discovered that Anatomy of a Scandal, the new novel by Sarah Vaughan, had these exact two things within its storyline, I was sold! Up to the top of my TBR pile, it went.

The novel opens with the introduction of James: loving father, Member of Parliament and accused rapist. His wife, Sophie, is shocked at the accusations and is desperate to protect her family. Kate, the lawyer hired to prosecute the case, is certain James is guilty and should pay for his crimes. As all three viewpoints collide, Vaughan weaves a tale of love, betrayal, deceit and revenge.

When I started reading, I was completely hooked from the first few pages. In fact, I flew through Anatomy of a Scandal within a couple of sittings. Vaughan’s narrative voice is completely addictive and I found myself loving the characters; I found Sophie and Kate to be extremely relatable. Vaughan did a spectacular job at making her characters jump off the pages; there was nothing superficial about them. Instead, Vaughan seemed to delve deep and I found myself completely engrossed as their stories developed. While I loved the female characters, James, on the other hand, I hated from the moment I was introduced to him. Conniving and powerful, I felt like I couldn’t trust him for a second. I loved this juxtaposition within the writing! Having characters I loved and characters I abhorred kept me on the edge of my seat!

As for twists, I felt as if the story was pretty surface. I was able to guess where it was going almost immediately but that didn’t disturb or affect my reading at all. In fact, it made me more curious to see exactly how the story was going to play out.

I think my favourite part of the novel was how relevant it was. With all that is going on in the world involving rape culture, women’s rights and Hollywood/political scandals, I felt as if Anatomy of a Scandal did an amazing job at portraying the system surrounding these issues and what needs to change.

Overall, I really enjoyed Anatomy of a Scandal. If you are looking for a character-centric, slow burn that will get you thinking and leave you feeling, then you will enjoy this one too! However, if you are looking for an extremely fast-paced, thrill ride type of novel this one will likely disappoint.

I gave it 4/5 stars.

Thanks to the author (Sarah Vaughan), the publisher (Atria/Simon and Schuster Canada) and Netgalley for copies of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Obviously, #cjsreads had to make this one of our January picks!  Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought!

Continue reading “Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal (Sarah Vaughan) @SimonSchusterCA @AtriaMysteryBus @SVaughanAuthor”