Book Review: The Girlfriend (Michelle Frances) @kensingtonbooks

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 8.15.08 PM.pngI try to avoid reading reviews pertaining to titles that are in my current TBR pile but, by the time I was ready to dive into The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances, I had already read several reviews and the reviews of my fellow #cjsreads members. And, in this case, I feel like it really helped me prepare for this novel.

Marketed as a psychological thriller, I didn’t really feel like this one had a whole ton of “thrills” in the traditional sense.   Instead, I felt like maybe this one would have been better marketed as a domestic drama or maybe contemporary family drama.   There was no lack of family issues, manipulative girlfriends or overbearing mothers but I did find this one to be missing the fast-paced, twisty-turny type plot that I expect when reading a psychological thriller.

The novel opens with Laura, the woman who has it all (a successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband and a handsome, doctor in training son), who quickly becomes disgruntled when her son begins to spend all his time with Cherry, a real estate agent from the wrong side of the tracks.   Cherry wants to be welcomed into the family, but Laura suspects she is not all she seems.

From the first pages, this one had a lighter vibe to it and that didn’t bother me at all.  I have been finding myself feeling a little “weighed down” by all the heavy, dark, thrillers I have come to know and love.  I welcomed the break in The Girlfriend.     Initially, I was able to breeze through the novel quite easily but it ended up taking me a long time to finish when I started to find this one a little bit too predictable and the characters generally unlikeable.

In the end, this one missed the mark for me in regards to the plot but I did enjoy the author’s writing style and found that easy to digest.  I feel like with a different type of story, she probably would have had me hook, line and sinker!

I think fans going into the novel expecting a thriller, will be highly disappointed.  However, if you like a domestic drama, then this would be better up your alley!

2.5/5 stars.

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

Keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of this one!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Girlfriend (Michelle Frances) @kensingtonbooks”

Book Review: Unraveling Oliver (Liz Nugent) @SimonSchusterCA

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 7.03.10 PMAs I have mentioned before on Clues and Reviews, I struggle with serious cases of FOMO! As soon as I see other bloggers reading (and loving!) a particular book, I make sure that I arrange my schedule so I can add that book to the top of my TBR pile and dive in! This was the case with Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent.

When this one published last year, I was oozing with jealousy as I read reviews from other bloggers comparing it to some of my favourite books (You by Caroline Kepnes and Perfect Days by Rapheal Montes). However, this one released in Canada much later, so, when I was finally able to dive into this book, I was ecstatic and filled with anticipation. Was this a well-written book? Absolutely! Was it entertaining? Completely. A solid debut? For sure! Was it everything I thought it would be? Not exactly…

The novel follows Oliver Ryan, a handsome and charismatic writer who also happens to be a sociopath. After beating his wife, Alice, into a coma, Oliver reflects on his violent acts and, in the aftermath, his neighbours, acquaintances and friends of the couple try to understand what happened and what forced this man to unravel.

First and foremost, I did love the many differing perspectives and found that Nugent did an amazing job at ensuring that the plethora of characters did not become confusing. Her narrative voice remained fluid and even though there were multiple characters, it never felt disjointed. I loved the fact that all types of characters were given a narrative voice that represented all stages of Oliver’s life. I found this refreshing and a well-rounded and intimate way to discover a character. I truly did feel, by the end of the novel, that I knew Oliver inside and out.

The multiple characters were one of my favourite features and, at the same time, it was kind of where Unraveling Oliver lost me. I felt like this novel, unlike You or Perfect Days, was more of a character study. In the other novels, I was able to get a first hand, continuous look at how the protagonist/antagonist was feeling due to the singular, first-person point of view. I was able to get into the mind of a psychopath. In this novel, I was able to understand the character but it lacked the gritty and unsettling details. I also felt like halfway through, I started losing interest. I realized he was a sociopath, he was clearly a messed up guy but I just felt like it went on too long with the multiple perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt like this was a spectacular debut, it just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. If you like a dark character study, then you will absolutely enjoy this novel. However, if you prefer something a little more unsettling, this may leave you wanting more.

4/5 stars.

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

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

 

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”

Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 4.21.33 PM.pngIt is no secret that I am a huge fan of the domestic thriller genre.  Give me an unreliable narrator and an up-to-no-good husband and I am hooked.  So, when #cjsreads decided to read Poison by Galt Niederhoffer, I was thrilled.  It seemed like the exact type of book that would keep me up late into the night.

The novel surrounds a picturesque family and their suburban life.  Cass and Ryan make up a newly blended family with their three children.  However, Ryan has a dark side, one that keeps Cass looking over her shoulder, and when she confronts Ryan about his fidelity, Cass begins to wonder if her life is at stake.  As tensions rise, Cass’s sanity is questioned and she begins to worry her children are at risk.

As I began my reading, one of the things that stood out the most for me was the style of Niederhoffer’s writing.  I was drawn in immediately, almost as if I was connecting with old friends.  The prose was familiar and inviting.  It had me turning the pages.

One of the cleverest things about this novel was the use of the title and the ties to the plot; the jealous nature of Cass is poisoning her relationship and Cass believes that Ryan is literally poisoning her.  I loved this play and exploration into literal and psychological poison.  I felt captivated as I watched the story unfold.  Is she actually crazy?  Is she correct?  Who do I believe?

I really like novels with strong characters and Poison fit this bill.  Ryan was incredibly creepy and I found Cass to be very unreliable.    I also loved how Niederhoffer constantly called into question the idea of the unreliable female and the doubt that those in the legal system have with women as the victim.  I felt like this is extremely prevalent in today’s society and I found myself questioning my own judgments and assessment of Cass throughout my reading.

However, I did have a few issues with this novel towards the end.  About 40% of the way into the novel, I did find parts of the novel beginning to drag quite a bit.  The idea of the poison is brought to light very early in the novel and teased in the synopsis, so it was very clear that Cass believed she was being poisoned.  However, this was constantly drilled home for the next 30% of the book.  It felt very redundant.  Also, although I loved the little twist in the end, the final resolution left me feeling as if it had come out of left field.

Regardless of this, I did enjoy the easy prose and the compelling plot enough to finish this book over the course of a few sittings.  This novel really gave me a B.A Paris vibe and I feel like fans of this author will really enjoy PoisonPoison is published today!  Be sure to add it to your TBR pile if you are a fan of the domestic genre!

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

I mentioned this was a #cjsreads pick; want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of Poison? Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress”

Hey You! Read This! (The Domestic Thriller Edition)

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 5.43.21 PMConfession time: I am a bossy book reader.  I read books and then force people around me to read them make subtle and kind recommendations to others.

I cannot help it, I want to share the book love. I want to chat about what I’ve read.

Hence, why I started my “Hey, You!  Read This!” feature. This feature hones in on books I have read and would recommend in different genres and subgenres. Last time I did this feature, I focused on abduction thrillers.

Today, I figured I would take a look at another one of my favourite thriller subgenres: DOMESTIC THRILLERS. One of my favourite things about domestic thrillers (or marriage thrillers, as I have heard them called) is how close to home they can feel (see what I did there?). There is nothing like reading a story about the possibility of our nearest and dearest having some brutal secrets or behaviour.

Now, the classic domestic thrillers that come to mind are Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.   These are sort of the “OG” domestic thrillers that rebooted the genre and got everyone in a tizzy, so, for the sake of redundancy, I am leaving them off my list.

Interested to see what I did decide to throw on my list?

Keep reading to see what made my top picks….

Continue reading “Hey You! Read This! (The Domestic Thriller Edition)”

Blog Tour: Lie To Me (J.T. Ellison) @thrillerchick @TLCBookTours

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 9.30.43 PM.pngGood Morning and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Lie to Me!  I am thrilled to be able to bring you a review of one of my most anticipated September releases!

J.T. Ellison is an author whose books top my TBR pile but never actually make it to my reading list; for whatever reason, I get distracted and put them off so I was thrilled to be able to make Lie To Me, the newest novel by J.T. Ellison, a priority for my September. Now that I have finished this book, I have a feeling I’ll be going back to binge read her other novels pronto; Ellison’s writing style is incredibly entertaining!

Sutton and Ethan have built their life on lies; this idyllic couple is not as they seem. With a plethora of betrayals and financial trouble, the couple’s passionate nature and tension filled relationship comes to a boiling point when Ethan wakes up to find Sutton missing and a note stating she has gone away and does not want anyone to look for her. As Ethan’s worry mounts and the police become involved, Ethan finds himself at the center of the investigation. Did he kill his wife? Is he being set up? They appeared to be the perfect couple…

The beginning of this book felt like a lot like Gone Girl to me initially; a missing wife, a husband confused that finds himself the lead suspect and police on the case. However, after about the first one hundred pages I was pleasantly surprised to see how Ellison flipped the typical domestic noir/thriller narrative and brought something so much more original to the plot. I loved the multiple layers, the characterization and the different character POV. It made this one incredibly easy to binge read.   I found myself completely consumed as Ellison through out twist after twist.

Told through alternating POVs (a majority through the eyes of Ethan and the police investigator on the case, Holly) and also through alternating time periods (then and now), the reader is privy to their complicated relationship between Ethan and Sutton and the police case that unfolds. Characterization is a strong suit of Ellison’s writing and I was so impressed with his ability to develop these characters in such a way that I really felt something. I found myself hating Sutton, a character I really didn’t know and feeling conflicted about my feelings for Ethan. This book had me all over the place on the emotion scale.  By the time I got to the end, I was a disaster.  I didn’t see any of that coming; I was shook!  Ellison caught me by complete surprise.

I also really liked the tiny touches in this book as well; each chapter is named. I appreciated that! It is so rare now to have cleverly titled chapters.

Overall, if you are a fan of the domestic thriller style novel, you will love this book. In all the books I have read that have been compared to Gone Girl, this is as close as it gets! 5/5 stars from me!

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

This book was a #cjsreads pick for September.  Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Blog Tour: Lie To Me (J.T. Ellison) @thrillerchick @TLCBookTours”