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Review – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

 

Murder on the Orient Express

By Agatha Christie

Summary: What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I’ve never read an Agatha Christie novel, though I do frequently enjoy mystery, suspense, and thrillers. Christie is quite certainly the Queen of Mystery, so I resolved to one day read one of her books. There was a movie being made for Murder on the Orient Express, so I figured it would be a great place to start.

I hate to say it, but I really don’t understand what the fuss was about. Maybe it’s just that I don’t enjoy whodunnit kind of books, nor do I really like when the main character is just beyond the normal level of clever. The story kept Poirot in the spotlight as someone who was so brilliant as he interrogated the passengers. Every time they wrapped up questions, everyone would be all “that wasn’t helpful at all” and Poirot would ponder about how it actually did add up and was helpful and the rest of them were awed by his uncanny ability to piece together these seemingly useless accounts. The story did this after each and every interrogation, so it got old pretty quickly.

I already knew that mystery wasn’t my go to genre. I don’t usually enjoy most cop dramas/thrillers or spy thrillers for all of the same reasons I avoid cozy mysteries and whodunnit books. I do, however, enjoy suspense, horror, and a bit of crime, but I guess I just prefer it to be done in a different way. It seems strange that I can enjoy a slice of the mystery genre and so thoroughly dislike the other type of books within the same genre.

I’m rating the book 3 stars because it was absolutely unpredictable and I wouldn’t have guessed who the killer was in a million years. Also, I am increasing the rating from my gut of 2 stars because I know it’s my own fault for just not being into the type of book this is and I always try to realize when my own issues get in the way of enjoying a book. 

Star 3

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Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

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Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)

By Jim Butcher

SummaryHarry Dresden — Wizard

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Secret Santa

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Review:

I’ve heard of The Dresden Files, but it never really showed up on my radar as something I might enjoy. When I got the first book from a coworker in my secret santa gift, I looked at the synopsis and realized it was the kind of book that would be perfect for me. I love science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers and The Dresden Files is a mash up of all of those things in one book. It’s more closely related to an urban fantasy, but Harry Dresden was basically a wizard P.I. so there was definitely the crime/mystery element as well. (I mean, if you were shopping for a book for me without knowing the specific books I’d want, this is honestly the best pick because it’s bound to appeal to me on some level! So genius!)

I loved Storm Front! It was so much fun and I really liked Harry’s POV. I loved the way the book kind of threw me right into this world where wizards were a thing, but like most urban fantasies, it’s not a big deal for the magical part of society to exist, but it’s still something that most people don’t deal with. I feel like Storm Front set the reader up for the rest of the series and wasn’t necessarily the strongest book as a standalone, but yet I also feel that there were some obvious conclusions so that, if I really wanted to, I could stop reading right now and feel like I read a book with a regular story arc. 

I definitely recommend Storm Front and I’m thankful that my gift giver person at work seemed to know me well enough to pick it out for me. It was right up my alley and a good mix of everything I love in my fiction and I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up otherwise. The urban fantasies from male POVs can be hit or miss, but much like the Iron Druid Chronicles, The Dresden Files seems to be a solid book with likable characters and a plot that just keeps grabbing me. I think I’ll definitely pick up the other books in this series!

On a side note, I am a huge fan of table top gaming and I noticed there is a board game for this book. This isn’t something I see a lot of with the fiction I read, despite the games I play and the books I read having many similar themes. Games are usually based on classic D&D or classic literature (like Lovecraft) or cult classic tv shows/movies… and the fact that there is a board game for The Dresden Files makes me hopeful that this is a world with some really solid plot/world building with a ton of fans, which makes me even more eager to read the rest of the series.

Star 4

 

 

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

 

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.

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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