The Breakdown by B.A. Paris-a 4/5 Star Review!

Cass and her husband, Matthew, live in a house far away from many things. Only a couple of neighbors down the road but it is quiet and peaceful. That is, until one stormy night on her way home a woman is stranded on the side of the road. Cass made the decision that she would later regret: she does not help her. The next morning, the woman is found dead.

Riddled with the guilt of not having done anything, and horrified that this could happen in her small and remote neighborhood, Cass gets spooked and lives in fear. When she discovers that the woman was her new friend, Jane, she nearly falls apart. Does the murderer know that it was Cass who passed by?

Let me begin with the end. The end of the book really ties everything together and makes up for the redundant middle of the book. Although many thriller books are compared to Girl On The Train, I will add this one to the list for this very reason. I gave up on Girl On The Train because the middle was so redundant on how she is drunk every day. I later had the book spoiled for me and wished I had carried on. I almost did the same for this book. The middle of The Breakdown becomes cumbersome to read as it does not feel like much of anything is progressing. The daily actions of Cass waking up devastatingly convinced to have early onset dementia like her mother had, taking pills, falling asleep, waking up again to pretend to be normal when her husband comes home, and going to bed again happens so often. However, there are snippets of clues subtly dropped within this chunk of monotony that it is easy to miss them. I would not say that this book is something that I could not put down. For a lot of the book I had a hard time actually picking it back up, but I am glad that I did as the ending makes up for everything.

I would recommend this book for anyone who could endure Girl On The Train. I also recommend this book for readers who enjoy getting in the mindset of the narrator. This reads in first-person narrative and does not jump back and forth between past and present.

For those who may be offended, there are themes of manipulation, stalking, murder, early onset dementia, and overdose.

Please note: An electronic advanced reader copy was generously provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar-DNF at 28%-1 Star Review

Rarely do I ever put a book down as a DNF but I just could not get into this one. There were a lot of names thrown out and it was hard to know which names would develop into characters the reader would get to be familiar with later. Typically, I enjoy books with parallel plots and that jump from past to present. However, there were so many characters introduced in both tenses that it came off as overwhelming to me. Furthermore, I did not care for one of the main characters in the present tense, Abby. I was not sure if she was supposed to have a panic disorder, anxiety, or if her tragic theatrics are what attracted the attention of her boyfriend, a screenwriter looking for his big break. The meltdown that Abby has at a restaurant, where she just got into her hometown that she hadn’t been to in a long time, with her mother and her mother’s best friend about a potential serial rapist in town was what made me put the book down for good. Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl and her hometown was small suburb of Minneapolis, and therefore she might have been in imminent danger. But it just did not connect for me nor did it seem realistic.

DNF at 28%, maybe some time away from the book will allow me to come back and pick it up again.

Please Note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin Random House’s First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Please also note: for readers who may be triggered or offended, there were mentions of infidelity, sexual harrassment, incest, violence, murder, and rape.

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan-5/5 Star Review!

Judith Carrington has finally found herself and, in her middle age, she is content. The first couple of decades of her life were filled with torment and the peace she has found would have been inconceivable in her youth. As she is going through the airport on her way home from a work trip, the front page of a newspaper throws her back into the chaos of her younger years.

Casey has had it rough since the one fateful night in his early 20s. Ever since then, he has lost touch with his friends, lost his confidence, lost his hope. He is successful in business but it can never fill the void that was left in him since that night. Just when he thought it could not get worse, he finds himself as the main suspect in a murder investigation from that night.

The night when, young and dumb, he and his friends decide to visit an abandoned penitentiary. Not all of them come out alive. None of them can ever forget. Decades later, the past comes back for a visit in more ways than one.

The first few chapters were difficult to get through because there is so much information that is not coming together to make a clear picture yet. There are about 8 characters introduced in the first couple of pages and the plot jumps not only between past and present, but between narratives as well. It was almost enough to make me put down the book and mark it as a “DNF”. However, once this has been navigated, it reads far more smoothly.

Another reason why the first few chapters were difficult to get through, for me anyway, is because it started off in what seemed like a different genre at the time. It is a mystery/thriller but the mysterious villain initially seemed to be hinted towards supernatural in nature. I had feared it would become a sci-fi horror and it was starting to give me nightmares. It took me several days to read this book because I put it down often to try to understand the difference between characters or I was terrified.

Fortunately, by soldiering on through the chapters, the confusion cleared and it became far more exciting and deep. It is not just a book about murder. This is a book about how even the strongest of friendships can fray. How the future is never what we expect it to be, nor are people always what they seem. It is also a book that shows several examples of how one person’s choice can affect many people’s lives. Even if it is to make that person’s life better.

As I got further into this maze of a plot, I became entranced with the secrets of the characters. The turns are sharp but the design is masterful. I felt connected to each character. I felt fear, sorrow, happiness, and hope. Small details from the beginning of the book come back to play a bigger part later. I have already recommended this book to others and will continue to do so for it is just that incredible.

My favorite character in this book was a tie between Benny and Casey. Innocent little Benny whose childish mischief carries with him in age. Casey who has an excitable optimism, despite his weak self-image, and a pure sense of love.

I would recommend this book for readers who can fight through the initial confusion to get to the main road. I also would recommend this book for readers who enjoy deeply complex characters and do not mind the frequent jumping from past to present. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who like fast-paced and mostly dark plots.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to the following: foul language, drug use, violence, sexually suggestive scenarios, and abortion.

Please note: a paperback copy of this book was generously provided by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel by Amy Engel-a 4/5 Star Review!

Lane Roanoke has spent childhood desperate to find out more about her family. Frustrated by her mother’s depression and secrecy, she is still stunned when she discovers that her mother left this world and her behind by suicide. Even more stunning is when she discovers there has been a family waiting to meet her and bring her back to her mother’s childhood home.

But Lane only stayed for one summer. One summer was far long enough and chaotic enough for her to understand why all of the Roanoke Girls are special. And why they all leave. Or die.

Although Lane makes it out of Roanoke alive, she is called back years later when her cousin Allegra goes missing. Lane and Allegra were inseparable that summer that she spent at Roanoke. Despite the time and distance that separated them, Lane knew immediately that she had to go back and find her.

Roanoke does not seem to have changed much in the time Lane has been gone. Nor do the people in it. Can she find her way back out alive once again?
This novel was a dark and twisted novel about how things can be too good to be true. Also, it is about how those who seem perfect on the surface often have twisted secrets buried deep away from the light.

My favorite character was Cooper because he worked hard to overcome what he came from. This is a daily struggle and he strives to make the right choices. Lane tests these choices yet he continues to try to do the right thing, and is understanding and forgiving with her. I also enjoyed that he was somewhat of an underdog figure in the beginning. A character that could be easily assumed would never change, yet develops and deepens the more contact the reader has with him.

This book jumps from the past to present every other chapter. It is mostly told in Lane’s perspective, however, there are a few brief chapters where the perspective is given to the other Roanoke Girls. I thought the alternating perspectives in this case added to the story as it mostly told about how those Roanoke Girls left or died.

The main thing that is holding me back from giving this book a five star review is that there were some points throughout the novel where I felt it lagged in action. Furthermore, the setting was beautifully described but the heat of the summer discussed far too much that it seemed repetitive to me.

I would recommend this book for those interested in a dark novel about how family secrets can stay with us forever, regardless of how far we try to stretch our ties.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be uncomfortable with the following: foul language, violence, explicitly sexual scenarios, adultery, incest, depression, suicide, abortion, miscarriage, substance abuse, manipulation, and physical abuse.

Please note: a paperback copy of this book was generously provided for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl Before by JP Delaney-5/5 Star Review!

Emma Matthews has been through a traumatic experience. She has been burglarized and attacked in the safety of her own home. She doesn’t feel safe there anymore so she and her boyfriend, Simon, are on a seemingly endless hunt for a new, safer, place. They come a cross One Folgate Street where the application process is grueling but the home is an architectural and technological masterpiece. Rarely does anyone get accepted and even more rarely do those accepted actually stay.

Jane Cavendish has been through a traumatic experience. She has just lost her baby at birth and she is looking for a new start. She comes across a place called One Folgate Street and decides that it is the only place that she could consider home. The architect, Edward Monkford, has outlandish demands for the tenants of his home and his obsession with minimalism and perfection are difficult to accommodate. However, he thinks Jane is the perfect match for the home. After she is accepted, that is when things become very strange and she sets out to find the truth. Is the truth better off hidden?

I am 2/2 on 5-star books so far in 2017! This book was hard to put down.  The chapters were short with the narration switching from Emma to Jane and from the past to present, respectively. This book kept me guessing throughout the book and until the last few chapters, it is very hard to figure out the actual identity of the villain. It is not a flat plotline, rather, there are so many twists and turns that it is almost dizzying. Lastly, this book covers many topics but they blend together so well that it did not seem overwhelming to read.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys plot twists. I also recommend this book for any reader who enjoys sifting through red herrings.

However, I do not think this book would be for any reader that is offended by violence, foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, stillbirth, mild drug use, stalking, rape, burglary, infidelity, murder, and conversations about abortion.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sodeti-5/5 Star Review

Lizzie Lovett has it all: good looks, popularity, and plenty of boys lining up for her.  Hawthorn Creely believes Lizzie was born with good luck and her whole life has been handed to her.  Hawthorn fixates on her resentment for Lizzie as she tries to survive high school.  But when Lizzie Lovett goes camping with her boyfriend and doesn’t come back, everything, and everyone, changes.

The story is told from Hawthorn Creely’s perspective and the reader becomes very intimate with her every thought.  Hawthorn is guarded, insecure, self-centered, immature, and jealous.  These attributes are generally unpleasant, however, in this YA it is perfection.  As an adult, I can look back on my teenage years and realize that I had these attributes sometimes in high school.

Negative attributes aside, she also has a thirst for knowledge, wild imagination, a fierce independence, and a naivete that often gets the best of her.  When Lizzie Lovett goes missing, Hawthorn is initially dry and arrogant.  However, her fixation changes from resenting her to wanting to become more like her.  She finds ways to assimilate into Lizzie Lovett’s life in limbo.

What I liked most about this book is the authentic nature of Hawthorn’s experience.  It is realistically honest and raw.  She is not the hero.  Everything does not go according to plan.  Friends do not stay the same.  People are not always what they seem. Life is not always sunshine and fairy tales.  Disappointment will come, even when you work hard and try your best.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has gone through high school.  Those in high school and younger may not understand (or believe) that people often change drastically after high school.  High school is a time to grow into who you will be and that process is different for everyone.

To whom it may concern: there is some foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, and suicidal themes.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free by the Publisher via Netgalley.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch-

Mr. M is a famed author who is struggling with coming up with new best-seller books as he ages.  He has a significantly younger wife and enjoys having her on his arm at events.  His best-selling book, Payback, is based loosely on a true story of a vanishing of teacher Jan Landzaat.  Landzaat had an affair with a student (Laura) who moved on with a fellow student (Herman) and left him behind with his marriage, career, and ego on the rocks.

 

Herman is a tall, gangly, teen who is obsessed with making videos based on the human reaction to startling scenarios.  For example: the reaction of a teacher when a student has a seizure at her desk.  He also is patiently manipulative when he has a girlfriend in order to get closer to his heart’s true interest, Laura, which everyone in school knows is having an affair with Mr. Landzaat.  Years later, he lives in an apartment above Mr. M, who based a best-selling novel on his and Laura’s story,  and slowly sneaks into his life.

 

Dear Mr. M is a novel heralded as a psychological thriller and it started off in that manner.  This was the first novel by Herman Koch that I have had the opportunity to read.  I have been familiar with his name and I had already learned that he is known for creating detestable characters.  He did not disappoint in that aspect, nor did he disappoint with the surprising ending.  The main characters (Herman and Mr. M) are both narcissistic, as is revealed through each of their narrations that switch several times throughout the book.  Unfortunately, the speed from the launch of the book stalls as soon as the first perspective changes from “H” to “M”.  The only time that it moved fairly quickly was in H’s perspective.  The switching perspectives are further complicated by flashbacks.  There were several times that I had to go back to previous chapters to be reminded of events or characters.

The characters do have depth and the way in which all of the story lines finally connect is impressive.  It would have been a 5-star book, in my opinion, had it not been for the slow and verbose pace when it is in M’s perspective.

 

Items of potential sensitivity: there is foul language, stalking, and mild violence. 

 

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy was generously provided for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.