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Review – The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich

 

The Winter Girl

By Matt Marinovich

SummaryA scathing and exhilarating thriller that begins with a husband’s obsession with the seemingly vacant house next door.

It’s wintertime in the Hamptons, where Scott and his wife, Elise, have come to be with her terminally ill father, Victor, to await the inevitable. As weeks turn to months, their daily routine—Elise at the hospital with her father, Scott pretending to work and drinking Victor’s booze—only highlights their growing resentment and dissatisfaction with the usual litany of unhappy marriages: work, love, passion, each other. But then Scott notices something simple, even innocuous. Every night at precisely eleven, the lights in the neighbor’s bedroom turn off. It’s clearly a timer…but in the dead of winter with no one else around, there’s something about that light he can’t let go of. So one day while Elise is at the hospital, he breaks in. And he feels a jolt of excitement he hasn’t felt in a long time. Soon, it’s not hard to enlist his wife as a partner in crime and see if they can’t restart the passion.

Their one simple transgression quickly sends husband and wife down a deliriously wicked spiral of bad decisions, infidelities, escalating violence, and absolutely shocking revelations.
Matt Marinovich makes a strong statement with this novel. The Winter Girl is the psychological thriller done to absolute perfection.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I love a good thriller, especially ones that deal with families and secrets. The Winter Girl didn’t have great reviews, but I felt like the synopsis was strong.

The beginning of the book was great. I wanted to know more about the awful couple and her sick father and what on earth the problem was, but things got out of hand really quickly.

I don’t even know where to start with the review because the book was just insane, over the top, and full of the most coincidental, awful, and weird secrets. Like.. just don’t even waste your time.

This book has some of the ingredients that could make a great thriller, but none of the storytelling and execution that makes it shine. I don’t even need to like the characters, I just need to believe them. I didn’t believe in anything in the book. 

The only good thing about the book was that it completed a category in my reading challenge and wasn’t long, so I got that category completed fairly quickly.

Star 1

 

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Review – The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

 

The Chemist

By Stephenie Meyer

SummaryIn this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

In this tautly plotted novel, Stephenie Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I picked up The Chemist on a whim because I’m always eager to try out a Stephenie Meyer novel. While Twilight isn’t the most well written book, I did enjoy it and I always hope to see Meyer branch out, grow stronger as a writer, and write some real gems. She genuinely surprised me with The Host when it came out because it was so good and so completely different than the Twilight saga.

The Chemist, however, was not good and the main reason for that was the writing. I hate to say it because I normally defend Meyer and believe she’s not the awful and mediocre writer that people claim. But The Chemist was not a shining example of a writer who can write well. If The Host was 1 step forward for Meyer, The Chemist is 2 steps back. 

The book was a romantic suspense thriller that started off pretty strong. The main character was on the run from a government agency trying to take her out. She worked for the government for years until they turned on her and her lab partner. Her previous employer approached her regarding a matter of public safety. She had to take out the target in order to save the lives of millions of people. She always believed that was why she did her job before she realized she was not doing all the good she thought, but this time had to be different, right?

Her target was a seemingly normal teacher who didn’t seem to have a dark streak at all, but the pictures given to her of him in foreign countries dealing with dangerous criminals said otherwise. It was definitely him in the pictures…. She’d have to take him to a secluded place and use all of the interrogation techniques to figure out what he was hiding.I had hoped for some fun twists once I got to this point of the book, but no. The most obvious thing happened and Daniel, the original target, was as boring and nice as his lifestyle (aside from those photos) suggested.

From the “twist” after she attempted to torture and interrogate Daniel, everything else was achingly predictable and awful. Daniel wasn’t just a nice guy, he was a completely idiotic doormat. I don’t know if Meyer is just trying to channel Bella in her male characters to overcompensate for the fact that so many feminists had an issue with doormat Bella, but Daniel was just awful. He immediately fell for his torturer even though she was bland and she just freaking tortured him. And she fell for her him but it was hard because she wasn’t used to having connections or caring about people. They embarked on an adventure to get their lives back and take out the people who set them up and watched romantic movies and courted each other. And it became glaringly obvious that the whole thriller government plot was just a backdrop that wasn’t complicated or well fleshed out. 

I suppose if watching Lifetime romantic suspense movies is your thing, The Chemist is right up your alley. But overall, it wasn’t my cup of tea. 

Star 2

Review – The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

SummaryWhen all hope is gone, how do you survive? 

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Source: I received an Owlcrate exclusive hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

Owlcrate_June_2017.jpg

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Review:

The Sandcastle Empire was a strange book. I was confused for the majority of the story, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t help but turn the pages to see what would happen next. Because I was so intrigued and constantly surprised by the direct of the story, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

The book definitely has a LOST feel to it, along with dystopian elements. Something happened to Eden’s world and it was under very strict rule, but her main goal was to find the Sanctuary her father wrote about in his survival guide. During a moment of chaos and confusion, Eden found herself traveling with three other girls headed off of the coast with only one way to go: towards Sanctuary.

There was so much going on with the plot. The island was really strange and it became clear that they weren’t on any ordinary piece of land. Also, the group dynamics were weird because none of them could really trust each other. And then one of them went missing and the girls attempted to find her and stumbled onto all sorts of messed up things. What WAS this place?! What was happening?

And then, suddenly, there was another group of people who showed up with characters some of the girls recognized, but not quite. Who were they? What were THEY doing here? 

I loved all of the craziness.

I have to admit, things did get a little over the top with the amount of strange twists and turns and shifting alliances, but I was so hooked. The end probably had more plot holes and rushed schemes than I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. From the beginning, I knew I wasn’t reading a story that was realistic or had a tie to any world I’d recognize, so it was pure fantasy and chaos that never really needed to make sense to me. I suppose I understand if you are a stickler for realistic fiction how this book would be maddening, but I thought it was kind of fun and insane. 

I would definitely recommend The Sandcastle Empire to anyone who enjoyed Lost, enjoys being on the edge of their seat, and doesn’t have super high expectations for YA dystopian novels. This isn’t the next big hit, but it was definitely enjoyable and I had so much fun flying through the pages with a confused look on my face. No one can accuse the book of being predictable!

 Star 4

 

 

 

 

Review – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

 

Into the Water

By Paula Hawkins

SummaryA single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

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Source: I purchased a hardcover from BOTM Club

Review:

Into the Water was slightly disappointing. I feel like I had middle of the road expectations for it, too. The synopsis sounded like it would be intriguing and perfect for what I enjoy in thrillers, but I also knew that, while The Girl on the Train was decent, it wasn’t a novel I found to be deserving of the praise and hype it got. Often, the second book after an explosive hit can be kind of disappointing, so I mentally prepared myself for that, too.

The book was actually not very well executed. The plot was there and it was a good one had it been more of page turner, but there were way too many characters to keep track of from the very beginning. While all of them had a purpose in the end, I can’t help but feel like there could’ve been a better way to tie it together. It wasn’t that the characters were unlikeable, though they were, but they were all just sort of flat and difficult to care about. I didn’t hate them or like them enough. They were just.. pawns in a larger plot. 

It’s almost like the author wanted to expand on the theme of the first book and how memory can be tricky, but didn’t want to be accused of trying the same thing by creating an unreliable narrator, so she just made every character somewhat of a narrator in a way that seemed artificial. It probably would’ve been better if she’d stuck with a smaller cast of characters and created situations with strong dialogue to include the other characters and their motivations better. 

I realize I’m being a bit harsh, but I read a lot of thrillers with similar themes and typically can’t get enough. I think there are a ton of talented authors who grasp the small town with buried secrets in better ways than this book did. It was so disappointing that whenever I read the synopsis, I’m excited all over again and then realize the pages inside of the book just don’t capture any of the descriptions used. It wasn’t satisfying or urgent at all. It was slow, like trudging through mud just to get to the good stuff. 

Star 2

Review – Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

Dark Matter

By Blake Crouch

Summary“Are you happy with your life?” 

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. 

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. 

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

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Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review:

Dark Matter was all the rage last year, so I gave into the hype and purchased a copy. As with most of my books, it took me a bit to finally get around to reading it. The science fiction mood hit me, so I picked it up. The book was very difficult to put down and entertaining to read. I flew through it and cared about Jason and his situation. He was a character you couldn’t help but root for and feel for throughout the novel.

The plot was interesting, but not nearly as unique as I expected. I found it a tad predictable for the first half of the book because so many movies and books explore the parallel universe theory and the beginning of Dark Matter set it up so obviously with a main character who alluded to his bright future and it seemed to hit a nerve for both him and his wife that they both gave up so much for each other. The plot was still fun because I wanted to see what the other universe would be like and what would happen.

The second half of the book was much weirder and less predictable, which should have meant it was better, but I was a bit disappointed by the way the book dealt with the science. It wasn’t afraid to throw out those intense and complicated theories, but it glossed over a lot of the science and I had hoped it would be more complex. It’s a great book for people who are new to the science fiction genre or not well versed in the theories about multiverses. But for a science fiction fan who watches many documentaries about science in my free time (there’s always something space or physics related playing in the background of my house), it felt like the book just rushed and glossed over a concept I wanted to spend more time admiring.

Dark Matter would make a really good blockbuster movie that would appeal to many audiences. It was fun and entertaining with that layer of complexity that makes it different from your run of the mill action adventure.

I recommend Dark Matter

Star 4

Review – Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Till Death

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryIn New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . . 

 It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

 First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

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Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

Review:

This is going to be an unpopular opinion and one that I hate to give considering how much I typically love JLA books, but Till Death was awful. Maybe it’s just that I do enjoy mysteries and thrillers and have a pretty high expectation for the writing, but the book was seriously lacking in just about every way. 

The writing felt very juvenile, which I never really notice in her YA books or NA romances. I typically like the quirky and funny characters and writing, but it was out of place in romantic suspense. It felt like in order to tone the quirkiness down, the author decided to make the main character very soft spoken and similar to a doormat to convey the serious nature and the fact that she was damaged. But seeing “…” in literally every line of her dialogue just made me want to throw the book.

I figured out who the killer was at the very beginning because, unlike the main character, I wasn’t completely naive or blind to the world around me.

The romance was perhaps the best part because that’s what JLA is good at, but I was already over the main character to appreciate any of it. I would expect an FBI agent to have a higher bar set for his love interest and just don’t understand what the appeal of a cowering and stammering girl could possibly be. I just feel like she reminded me of a deer caught in headlights, all wide eyed and unable to figure out how to move in life. 

I can’t say I’d recommend the book at all. I think there other New Adult and romance authors who tackle mystery and suspense much better. As a lover of thrillers, this book just made me roll my eyes. It wasn’t suspenseful or thrilling at all, but perhaps if you’re used to reading nothing but new adult romances, then it might seem better.

Star 2

 

Review – Visions (Cainsville #2) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Visions (Cainsville #2)

By Kelley Armstrong

 

SummaryAs #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s new Cainsville series continues, Olivia’s power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her new hometown.

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.


Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy

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Review:

I really enjoyed Omens, the first book in the Cainsville series, and I loved that it was more supernatural mystery than urban fantasy, with just a hint of underlying supernatural abilities. I loved the strange friendship between Gabriel and Olivia and I couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel.

Visions had a great plot that moved forward affter the events of Omens, with a strange connection between her town and a missing girl. I enjoyed the journey and I definitely want more, but Visions was disappointing to some degree. Omens was not a romance, but there was a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia as she slowly began to rely on him and his icy demeanor melted a bit for her. 

In Visions, the relationship was strained after Olivia was pursued by Ricky, a biker she met in book one. I like Ricky, don’t get me wrong, but I did not want that relationship to happen and the book was peppered with tons of romance between the two of them that just made me feel like banging my fist on the table. Not only do I not trust whatever Ricky is, because he’s definitely something, but I would really like to see more Gabriel and Olivia. Ricky just feels like a setback, a temporary distraction, and so I kind of felt like it was a waste of time. 

For some odd reason, my library has the rest of the series except for book three, so I had to make a decision about what I would do next. While I like the premise and want more, I wonder if the author will distract me with more romantic adventures I don’t want. I just don’t want to pay $10 to read the next book, so I think I’m going to take a break and maybe read some reviews and see what to expect from the book. 

The story has a lot of potential to be great, but part of the reason I loved book one was the fact that it wasn’t full of romance. It’s weird, because I love romance, but I just wanted something different I guess.

I definitely recommend the Cainsville series, though, and I’m sure I’ll return to it at some point. 

Star 4