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Review – The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

 

The Shining Girls

By Lauren Beukes

SummaryThe Girl Who Wouldn’t Die Hunts the Killer Who Shouldn’t Exist

The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times. 

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . . 

The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

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Review:

 The Shining Girls was a strange mixture of crime thriller and time travel. Harper, a killer, found a house that led him to other periods of time in the same city of Chicago. He was urged by himself and the house to search for the shining girls and snuff them out. Kirby, one of his victims, survived her attack, grew up, and worked as an intern for a newspaper. She had an obsession with piecing together her case and figuring out who attacked her. 

Part of me feels like the book was lacking and it left me feeling strangely empty despite being long enough to have given me more than I felt it gave me. Another part of me feels like the book was perfect and very well done. It was strange, mysterious, quirky, and thought provoking. The shining girls seemed to be random girls that somehow sparked an interest in Harper, but they were kind of linked in that each of them were ahead of their times, important to a cause, passionate about something, and truly shined as women in fields that did not necessarily invite women. But it’s not a super obvious connection, nor is the book focused on that aspect.

Kirby was a quirky and likable heroine with a strange fashion sense and a dark sense of humor. I enjoyed watching her banter with Dan, the sports writer she interned under at the newspaper. She didn’t let her circumstances turn her into a broken version of herself, so she threw out spots of humor in subjects others wanted to tip toe around. She didn’t want to be a statistic, nor did she want to see pity in the eyes of everyone around her.

Harper was an interesting character and I liked watching him go through the different time periods and find his victims, though I don’t feel like I got into his head enough to figure out what truly motivated him. Despite getting his parts, I don’t feel like the novel ventured into who he was as a person, which would’ve been interesting. 

The Shining Girls would make a fantastic movie. I would aboslutely love to see the concept on screen because I think the jumps through time would be a lot neater if we could see it all unfold instead of having to keep track of the headers to discover what POV and what time period it was.

I would also recommend it for a book club book, though not for the faint of heart as it was a tad violent and dark. But the fact that the women were all ahead of their time and the way the House targeted and allowed entry with a “ticket” are all interesting points that could definitely be explored further if readers have the opportunity to discuss all of that. It was definitely thought provoking and strangely haunting. The end left me unsatisfied, but I wonder now if that wasn’t the whole point. I think I read another book of hers that left me feeling the same way at the end, so I think maybe that’s the goal. 

Star 3

Review – Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

 

Behind Her Eyes

By Sarah Pinborough

SummaryWhy is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Source: I received a hardcover as my Book of the Month Club February Pick

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Review:

Behind Her Eyes was a thriller guaranteed to have a twist I wasn’t going to see coming. I love mystery/thrillers, especially ones that aren’t so straightforward, so I couldn’t wait to dive in.

I enjoyed Behind Her Eyes a lot. The set up was one that seemed familiar, but one of those situations where any number of things could blow up in everyone’s face. Louise, a single mom, met a guy in a bar for the first time and actually made a connection. She completely and totally hit it off with the guy, shared a kiss, and left feeling pretty good about herself. Until she realized the guy was her new boss. Her new married boss. Shortly after, Louise bumped into a girl who was new in town, Adele, and they seemed to hit it off as friends. Except Adele was her new boss’s wife. 

So many things could’ve gone wrong and kept me guessing, but the characters themselves were just as captivating as the obviously precarious ledge their situation was teetering on. David seemed so cool and down to earth, but he had fits of rage and pure coldness radiating off of him at times. He seemed to have a drinking problem. Adele was so sweet and encouraging, helping Louise get some of the life back she lost after losing her husband. But she freaked about missing David’s daily calls, seemed scared and behaved like a battered wife. Louise grew to care for them both and couldn’t seem to lose either one of them.

There were a few twists and few things I wasn’t quite sure about. Louise suffered from night terrors and Adele was in a facility for sleep issues and shared some of her tricks for controlling dreams, which seemed to help, but cause Louise other problems. What happened to Adele in that facility? What happened to her friend? Why couldn’t she sleep?

I don’t want to give too much away, but I completely understand why some people didn’t like the end. I loved it, but I love reading books that aren’t straightforward and hover in between genre lines. I think that’s as much as I’ll say so I don’t give too much away. There are people who won’t enjoy the end, but I think, with an open mind, it’s actually a pretty interesting book that surprised me in a lot of ways. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did whatsoever and it completely gave me a chill!

I highly recommend Behind Her Eyes! It was my first Book of the Month Club book pick and I think I chose well. 

Star 4

 

Review – In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood

By Ruth Ware

SummaryWhat should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.

Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

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Review:

In a Dark, Dark Wood kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It bounced from the past, the invitation to the cottage for a bachelorette/hen party, to the future, where Nora woke up in a hospital bed with a fuzzy memory. What happened at the hen party? Why were the police talking about murder outside Nora’s hospital room? Did she do something wrong?

I loved the suspense of In a Dark, Dark Wood and it was unlike a lot of thrillers because it didn’t feel like an over the top, this cold never happen type of scenario, nor was it the type of situation that made me feel like the main character made dumb decisions. I liked how realistic it seemed. It started with an invitation to Clare’s hen party (which seems to be the UK version of a bachelorette party) hosted by Flo, Clare’s best friend. Nora hadn’t spoken to Clare in a long time and it didn’t seem to end well, but the reader wasn’t privy to the details about what happened. Nora felt like the invitation might have been a mistake, but it only went to a handful of people. She was still in contact with one mutual friend, Nina, who said she’d also go. It seemed like a decision anyone would’ve made, especially out of curiosity.

The cottage was secluded, the cell reception was shoddy, and the dynamics were off between everyone, but it was from Nora’s POV, so that was to be expected. She was the outsider. I loved seeing her notice everyone’s interactions. The whole event seemed so weird, but not in a way that screamed “thriller novel” so it was believable to me. I notice dynamics between friends all of the time and it is sometimes super awkward to bring people together. And some people have friends who act like different people with different friends, so it just makes you feel weird being around your friend and watching her act like someone else. But Nora hadn’t seen Clare in years, so she was trying to figure out who everyone was and who Clare had become over the years.

It was obvious that something happened between Clare and Nora, and we slowly got a little bit more of the story. I couldn’t figure out why Nora was invited in the first place. And in the present, when Nora was in the hospital, I wanted to figure out what happened, who died, and why Nora was being guarded by police officers. What happened? How could this somewhat low key hen party turn into a nightmare for everyone involved?

I loved the book. It had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was happening. I loved that there wasn’t any info-dump, so I craved more pieces of Nora’s past. I wasn’t sure if I could trust Nora as a narrator, trust her friends, or trust the strangers in the house. It was nice not knowing what to expect and I was thoroughly surprised by the turn of events. I definitely recommend In a Dark, Dark Wood for any fans of thrillers!

Star 4

Review – Second Life by S.J. Watson

Second Life

By S.J. Watson

SummaryFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep, a sensational new psychological thriller about a woman with a secret identity that threatens to destroy her.

How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia’s quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she’s losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.

A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead—and the dark places in which they can find themselves—Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson.

Source: I purchased a paperback.

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Review:

Second Life was a thriller with many twists, turns, and hidden secrets. Something told me that the book wouldn’t be as good as Before I Go To Sleep, mostly because I really enjoyed that and I figured it would be hard to top it. I was right. Second Life was good, but it didn’t wow me the way Before I Go To Sleep did.

Julia was married to a doctor, Hugh, raising her sister’s son, Connor, as their own. Everyone knew about the situation. Kate, Julia’s sister started making more and more requests to have him back, but Julia and Hugh didn’t entertain the idea. In a strange and suddenly violent incident, Kate was killed and it sent Julia a bit over the edge. She didn’t forgive herself for shutting her out and she really wanted to figure out what happened. So she started talking to Kate’s roommate, Anna, and logging onto Kate’s social media dating site thing and started talking to people on her friends list.

Julia’s life spiraled out of control as she gave into desires she didn’t realize she had and began a relationship with a stranger online that she originally hoped would lead her to details about Kate’s disappearance. 

I thought the book was full of unpredictable moments and the twists were pretty good. I loved the way it ended and all of the reasons behind everyone’s motivations. 

My only real complaint about the book was that I never connected with Julia as a character so I didn’t feel her loss of control and spiraling life as much as I would’ve wanted. Because the book was essentially about her spiraling out of control, not really being able to connect to her character kind of disconnected me from the experience a little and made the book feel a little less.. believable. I think part of the problem was the way her character was simply written, but another problem was the fact that her life was already kind of hanging on by a thread. Something happened to her in her past, she was a recovering alcoholic, she was afraid Kate would essentially snatch her kid and win that court fight, and her husband was becoming distant as she started to lose her control over the urge to drink. I mean, it was kind of a house of cards just waiting for a slight breeze to knock it over. Because her life was already rigid and fragile, the breakdown was a lot less.. emotional. And when things did start getting out of control, it wasn’t just a little thing that exploded her life, it was a ton of craziness that was almost too much. Because it would’ve taken a slight breeze to knock her life out of balance, the tornado just seemed a little over the top, if that makes sense. 

Still, Second Life was enjoyable, relatively quick to read, and certainly full of great twists. I recommend it if you happen to already own it or can snag a library copy, but I wouldn’t recommend intentionally seeking this out, and especially not if you’re hoping for something as good as Before I Go To Sleep.

Star 3

 

Review – Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

By Elizabeth Little

SummaryAs soon as they processed my release Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were really headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I’m not.

LA IT girl Janie Jenkins has it all. The looks, the brains, the connections. The criminal record.

Ten years ago, in a trial that transfixed America, Janie was convicted of murdering her mother. Now she’s been released on a technicality she’s determined to unravel the mystery of her mother’s last words, words that send her to a tiny town in the very back of beyond. But with the whole of America’s media on her tail, convinced she’s literally got away with murder, she has to do everything she can to throw her pursuers off the scent.

She knows she really didn’t like her mother. Could she have killed her?

Source: I purchased a paperback 

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Review:

Dear Daughter was a thriller sort of mystery involving a famous woman accused of murdering her mother.  An issue in her county with evidence tampering exonerated her, though much of the public was certain she was guilty. After spending ten years in prison, he decided to stay off the radar and discover what really happened to her mom based on a small number of clues that seemed out of place to her.

Janie wasn’t a good person whatsoever. She was selfish and awful and she and her mother both treated each other like crap, which is probably why she was such an easy target for everyone to accuse of murder. Her character was like that of Amy from Gone Girl, so reading Dear Daughter was like reading a story narrated by Amy. I thought it was kind of fun, but I do enjoy the occasional awful main character. If that point of view annoys you or you have issues reading about unlikable characters, Dear Daughter isn’t the book for you.

Jane was snarky and unlikable, but she did grow a bit throughout the story. She wanted to track down what happened to her mom and discovered that everything she thought she knew about her mom’s past and her own origins was wrong. It was interesting and full of twists and turns. I liked the mix of mystery and suspense… Jane was playing a tough game where she could’ve been outed at any minute, but took some leaps of faith and even discovered there might be a few people she could actually trust or befriend during her search. 

I recommend Dear Daughter. It was slightly predictable towards the end and a little annoying given that the main character was such a frustrating It girl who thought she could manipulate the planet, but it was enjoyable and kept me guessing for the most part. It was a quick read, too. Again, if unlikable narrators aren’t your thing, I would definitely skip this one.

Star 3

Review – Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes

 

Dark Tide

By Elizabeth Haynes

SummaryElizabeth Haynes, author of the bestselling debut Into the Darkest Corner, returns with a tense, gripping thriller about a woman caught in an underworld of corruption and murder..

Genevieve has finally achieved her dream: to leave the stress of London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. She’s found the perfect vessel: Revenge of the Tide. She already feels less lonely; as if the boat is looking after her.

But the night of her boat-warming party, a body washes up, and to Genevieve’s horror, she recognizes the victim. She isn’t about to tell the police, though; hardly anyone knows about her past as a dancer at a private members’ club, The Barclay. The death can’t have anything to do with her. Or so she thinks…

Soon, the lull of the waves against Revenge feels anything but soothing, as Genevieve begins to receive strange calls and can’t reach the one person who links the present danger with her history at the club. Fearing for her safety, Genevieve recalls the moment when it all started to go wrong: the night she saw her daytime boss in the crowd at The Barclay…
Dark, sexy, and exquisitely chilling, Dark Tide is another superb mystery from acclaimed rising star Elizabeth Haynes.

 
Source: I purchased a paperback
 
 
Review:
 
Dark Tide was a suspenseful novel involving death, romance, and a secret life. Genevieve started her dream of living on a houseboat and making it her own after saving a ton of money. The book toggled between the present day, with her in her marina on her houseboat and her past, where she worked as a salesperson and an exotic dancer. The body of someone she knew turned up by her boat the day of her houseboat-warming party and the police started to get involved.
 
The plot was interesting and I loved getting to know who Genevieve was and who she used to be. She wasn’t a dancer for any reason other than knowing it made her a lot of money and genuinely enjoying dancing, but it was something that had an effect on her safety. Her work associates from her day job had no idea and she tried not to let it clash, but she angered some pretty important people by leaving.
 
I really enjoyed Into the Darkest Corner from Haynes, so my expectations were really high. Into the Darkest Corner was one of the best stalker type of books I’ve read, but Dark Tide was a much more forgettable suspense novel that didn’t really wow me. It was a good story and well written, but I didn’t connect to the character or the gravity of her situation the way I did with her other novel. 
 
If you enjoy romantic suspense, thrillers, and mysteries, Dark Tide is decent and if you can find a cheap copy, it’s certainly entertaining and worth the read. However, I would recommend Into the Darkest Corner as a MUST READ and if you could only read one, Dark Tide is the one you should skip.
 
Star 3

Review – The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

 

The Night Sister

By Jennifer McMahon

SummaryOnce the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Sylvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I am a huge fan of Jennifer McMahon novels and The Night Sister was certainly not disappointing. I’m always amazed when authors can deliver amazing stories that are consistently good and mysterious. While many of her stories share similarities, each one has a unique element that I never see coming and it makes each book it’s own wonderful adventure. Part mystery, part contemporary, part horror, part supernatural… all of her novels combine everything I love into compelling stories that feature something odd, something slightly off, and childhood adventures and misunderstandings that become adult secrets and memories of the past. 

I flew through The Night Sister on a cold and creepy evening, ready to be slightly scared, and the book definitely delivered. The story had 3 distinct parts. The 50s, where the story featured Sylvie and Rose, two sisters growing up in the Tower Motel in London, Vermont with their family; the 80s, featuring Amy, Rose’s daughter and her friend Piper, along with Piper’s sister Margot; the present, featuring Piper, who came back to town after an awful accident involving Amy. What secrets were hidden in the Tower motel? 

I loved piecing together the past and trying to unravel what was really going on in the motel. As I said before, McMahon isn’t afraid to throw a bit a supernatural into the story, so when Rose assumed her sister was a mare, a creature who could essentially shape-shift, I read with a healthy dose of skepticism and intrigue. Just because there are legends in the story doesn’t mean McMahon will necessarily include them as plot devices, so you never really know what to expect. I love never knowing what amount of the fantastic will be a part of the story and what is just part of the backdrop. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and it worked well in The Night Sister.

Aside from the mysterious plot and wondering what happened with Sylvie’s disappearance in the 60s, I was interested in the dynamics between Piper and Margot and Amy, as well as Jason, who played a part in the girl’s past and present and was later married to Margot. I love the complexities of growing up and discovering the problems of adults, wanting to figure out a mystery, and also having to deal with the emotions and hormone’s driving young teens. The book was compelling on several levels and it made it easy to flip through the pages eagerly.

I loved The Night Sister and I definitely recommend it. Still, my favorite McMahon novel is Don’t Breathe A Word, but The Night Sister was very good. I don’t know how she does it, but she tells great stories consistently, with none of them being disappointing to me. I highly recommend all of her books.

Star 5