Kate’s Review: “The Wife Between Us”

34189556Book: “The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendrix and Sarah Pekkanen

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, January 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

Review: The super hyped heavy hitter thrillers are the ones that scare me the most. Not in terms of content, mind you; in terms of my fears to even give them a try. I’ve been burned by a number of them in the past. I was marginally impressed by “Girl on the Train”. Mary Kubica’s recent works have left me a bit cold. I flat out hated “Gone Girl” and “Behind Her Eyes”. So when “The Wife Between Us” was available at work, I felt a tug to check it out, but also the nagging ‘what if you don’t like it?’ apprehension. But I did take a chance on this one, steeling myself for potential, sullen disappointment, so much so that I kind of let it sit for a bit, knowing I could renew it and just delay the potential inevitable disappointment. But I can safely say that when I did pick it up, I had a very, very hard time putting it down. Praise be, “The Wife Between Us” lived up to the hype that made me very hesitant!

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TAKE THAT, HORRIBLE STREAK OF ANNOYING THRILLER BLOCKBUSTERS! (source)

The dual narrative device isn’t really new to the thriller genre. Many books use it, including a number that I’ve reviewed on this blog. But given that this book was written by two women, the voices that each character, Nellie and Vanessa, have are incredibly unique and feel totally separate. Nellie’s story is told in the third person, as the new younger woman that this man Richard is about to marry, while Vanessa is in the first person, the ex wife who hears about this new marriage and is intent on stopping it. I tend to feel that when a book promises that ‘this book isn’t what you think it’s going to be’, I’m going to go in looking for hints and clues as to why that is. But with Nellie and Vanessa and the perspectives they each give to the overall story, while I was looking for clues I wasn’t distracted by my personal search. In fact, when we get to the first big reveal, I actually said ‘wait, WHAT?!’, and had to go back and look for clues because I was so totally caught off guard. The thriller genre seems to be stepping it’s game up, as this isn’t the only book that has done that lately (but more on that another time). I also liked that neither Nellie nor Vanessa were very stereotypical, even if they appeared to be at first. As the stories progressed, you saw a whole lot of growth in both these narratives, and I ended up really liking and feeling for both of them.

While Nellie and Vanessa were refreshing and kind of new for the genre, there were some familiar traps that the plot itself fell into. I’m not going to spoil it, as this is a fun book and shouldn’t be spoiled for those who want to read it. But while I didn’t call one of the super big twists, the other one was fairly obvious from the get go. It’s a device and a twist theme that I’m honestly losing my patience with, as we’ve seen it so often now that it’s long past stale and definitely overused and overdone. And then (and I can’t tell you how ridiculous this moment was), in the last few pages, yet ANOTHER twist was thrown in for good measure that harkened back to a long lost plot point. And the biggest grievance I had with this one was that not only did it fall right in the last few pages, it was revealed in a way that didn’t actually have ANY bearing on how anything turned out!! So I don’t know what I find more frustrating, that it was a quick ‘gotcha!’ reveal a la “Into the Water”, or that it didn’t even go anywhere or change anything. It just felt tacked on, and tacked on in a way that was incredibly superfluous and unimportant to anything.

But given that I picked “The Wife Between Us” up and didn’t put it down, reading it in one sitting, it clearly had a serious hold on me, which is what a good thriller ultimately needs to do to be effective. This is one that, in my opinion, deserves the hype that it’s getting.

Rating 8: A thriller that kept me entranced with a couple of unique and interesting narratives, “The Wife Between Us” had few pitfalls and lots of really good curve balls.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Wife Between Us” is included on the Goodreads lists “Chilling New York Novels”, and “Unique Narrators”.

Find “The Wife Between Us” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Truth Beneath the Lies”

28533271Book: “The Truth Beneath the Lies” by Amanda Searcy

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, December 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Fight or Flight. 

All Kayla Asher wants to do is run. Run from the government housing complex she calls home. Run from her unstable mother. Run from a desperate job at No Limit Foods. Run to a better, cleaner, safer life. Every day is one day closer to leaving. 

All Betsy Hopewell wants to do is survive. Survive the burner phone hidden under her bed. Survive her new rules. Survive a new school with new classmates. Survive being watched. Every minute grants her another moment of life. 

But when fate brings Kayla and Betsy together, only one girl will live.

Review: You may remember that I put this book on my Highlights list for December of 2017, perhaps a gamble to do since teen thrillers/mysteries can be so dicey sometimes. I feel like I either really enjoy them, or find them too cliche or unbelievable. I didn’t really know what to expect from “The Truth Beneath The Lies”, as this is Amanda Searcy’s debut novel and the description was vague as vague can be. But I decided to take a page from ABBA and took a chance on it. And I’m not totally sure if it paid off.

It took me a little time to really get into this book. The first problem was that I had to keep reminding myself which girl was Betsy and which girl was Kayla. As you will find in a fair number of mysteries and thrillers these days, “The Truth Beneath The Lies” has a unique storytelling hook (in this case, two distinct narratives that seem separate but will eventually come together to tell a larger story), and a premise and set up that initially provide more questions than answers (and since I feel that this story definitely needs a lack of answers and clarity to be effective, I’m going to try and be, like the description, as vague as possible). The problem, however, was that Kayla and Betsy had so many interchangeable elements to their stories that I really had a hard time at first with keeping them straight. I can’t tell you how many times I had to say ‘okay, which one is this, who has the burner phone and who is working at a grocery store?’ and then look at the book description again. Of the two narratives I was more taken in by Kayla’s story (and even now I had to go back and remind myself who was who), as her frustrating existence made it so her motivations and choices were clearer. While Betsy’s situation was secretive for a reason, it still made it so I was irritated with just how much we were reminded that she was in danger, without explaining why. It all makes sense, but even though it does I still found myself more frustrated than intrigued.

The big twist wasn’t too hard for me to guess either. If you know what to look for and have the ins and outs of the genre in it’s present form down cold, you will probably be able to piece it together at the same rate that I did. And while that certainly isn’t to say that everyone will, or that they will be unimpressed with it, it did take away from my personal experience of reading this. Again, I’m going to remain a bit mum on what I mean by this, because I think that this is potentially worth reading if you aren’t as old hat and cynical as I am. But also figuring out the whole puzzle early on made me question whether or not how Searcy laid the clues out, and even in how she frames major parts of this story, treaded more towards deceit rather than deception. If you read this you will understand what I mean when I say that.

But I will say that ultimately, when all was said and done, I was entertained by this book. Once the cat was out of the bag plot wise, I did want to see how things turned out for our characters, and the consequences that were going to fall upon them all. So in the end it’s not like I regret reading this book, it was just that it didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to thrillers, or even YA thrillers. It was perfectly acceptable, but the problem is that with thrillers with twists and turns it’s more fun to be thrilled.

Rating 6: An entertaining thriller, but the twists were a bit predictable while some of the hints treaded more towards deceit than deception.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Truth Beneath the Lies” isn’t on many relevant (or even correct… superheros?) Goodreads lists at the moment, but I think that it would fit in on “Best Books of Secrets”.

Find “The Truth Beneath the Lies” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Broken Girls”

35533431Book: “The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James

Publishing Info: Berkley, March 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley

Book Description: The “clever and wonderfully chilling” (Fiona Barton) suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare…

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . . 

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

Review: First I want to say a special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!

I have a deep appreciation for an unsettling Gothic horror story, and while the genre is a bit less common these days (if I’m totally wrong on this, PLEASE send me some titles! I love Gothic horror!) when I find a good one that just makes it all the more special. So when you take a historical fiction that has a boarding school setting AND throw in a restless ghost to boot, I am going to be so there and so ready. It was really just icing on the cake that “The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James not only had these plot points, but also a modern day thriller with a body found in a well and a woman who can’t let go of her sister’s murder. Fun fact: I was lucky enough to have my initial review selected as the official LibraryReads.org blurb for the book. Not to toot my own horn or anything. But the reason I was so inspired in my initial review was because this book really took me in and creeped me out for lots of reasons.

The dual narratives of 1950s and 2010s each give us pieces to a puzzle that is rooted in the mistreatment and abuses of women. Idlewood  School was an all too common place where unwanted or inconvenient girls were sent to live out their adolescence, be it because they were the children of mistresses of powerful people, mentally ill, or orphans with few other places to go. They all have the similarity in that their lives are basically valued as worthless, and few, if anyone,would miss them if they were to disappear. Which one girl does. The modern story is of Fiona, a reporter whose older sister was murdered near the property in the 1990s, and who still harbors an obsession about why this happened and it could have been prevented. And always settled above both is the ever present legend of Mary Hand, a teenage girl who died on the property shortly after giving bitrh to an illegitimate child whose body ended up in the garden. While all of the victims in this story are painted in broad brush strokes by those who live to tell the tales, be it a missing girl, a murdered girl, or a ghost girl, as the story progresses you learn so much about them, giving them more depth and showing a number of tragedies that you can’t disconnect yourself from. I was more interested in the Fiona storyline as she digs deep into the history of Idlewood and tries to find some answers to give herself peace, but I did like going back to the 1950s and seeing the group of friends of Kate, Sonia, Cece, and Roberta. The way that St.James ties it all together is worth it in the end, and I’m being deliberately vague because i think that you have to go in without any hints to really enjoy it.

I also really liked the supernatural and gothic aspects! I mean, come on! A boarding school in the middle of the Vermont Countryside? May as well be the moors! You get the sense of isolation and foreboding whenever the school and it’s grounds are described, and I could totally see why it could get lost in the wilderness even tough everyone knows that it is out there. St. James did a great job of crafting the perfect ghost story to take place there as well, harkening back to books like “The Woman in Black” and “The Haunting of Hill House” and creating a genuine tragedy that sets off a deeply creepy and fear inducing haunting. It’s also important to note that even the haunting has it’s secrets, and that while there are truths to the legend, like I would imagine most ghost stories and their origins, things aren’t always what they seem, and St. James really makes the reader feel like there is something realistic at the heart of it, a realism that keeps to the themes of gender discrimination and misogyny.

“The Broken Girls” is a dark and poignant novel that fans of Gothic horror really ought to check out. Not only does it effectively address still all too relevant themes of our culture,  I was definitely side eyeing every bump in the night right after finishing it.

Rating 8: A haunting gothic tale that brings up relevant societal issues, “The Broken Girls” is an effective and chilling mystery.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Broken Girls” is included on the Goodreads lists “Historical Mystery 2018”, and “Most Anticipated Mysteries 2018”.

Find “The Broken Girls” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Behind Her Eyes”

28965131Book: “Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, January 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Why 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.

Review: 

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(source)

I know Serena has used that gif before, but this is the only way that I can describe my reading experience of “Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough. Let me tell you, I slogged, SLOGGED through this book because it was promised to be one of the great thrillers of 2017. I have friends whom I greatly love and respect who really liked this book (and my disdain in this review is only a reflection of my own tastes, guys, not yours), so I kept going even though it took me almost a WEEK just to get through the damn thing. A WEEK, YOU GUYS. I can usually put away a book in two, three days, four tops. I went on because I was promised a twist, a game changing twist. I went on because I liked “13 Minutes,” the YA book that Pinborough did that I picked up on a whim. I WENT ON. AND WHAT DID I GET?

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(source)

Okay, let me be constructive now, I just needed to rant.

“Behind Her Eyes” does have the goods to back up the fact that it’s not like other psychological female driven thrillers that we’ve seen as of late. I will one hundred percent give it that, no problem. Pinborough tells the story through a few different perspectives: the chapters from Louise’s point of view, the chapters from Adele’s point of view, and the ‘Then’ chapters about Adele and her rehab friend Rob. The story is pieced together bit by bit through all of their unreliable and partially constructed POVs. For whatever reason, I had a really hard time caring about any of it. Adele is emotionally unstable and deeply vicious in her plotting, Louise is simpering and so easily manipulated that she just pissed me off, and the Rob and Adele chapters were (seemingly) random and superfluous. They would jump and flip between narratives and none of it was enough to really keep me interested. You throw David, Adele’s husband and Louise’s love interest, into this mess through their conflicting POVs and you get a guy who is possibly a violent manipulator, and is assuredly a lying drunk. So what does anyone see in him? Why is Louise still interacting with him when 1) he’s married, 2) he’s her BOSS, and 3) he’s potentially an abusive spouse? I usually like to be able to find someone to connect with in these books when there are so many toxic players, but in this one there were none to be had.

But my biggest problem? That lays in the twist. And I am just going to throw it out there. So those of you who still want to give it a go, and by all means DO still give it a go if you want to, this is where you may wish to stop or to jump past the last paragraph this review. Here is your hearty

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(source)

So Adele and Rob, whilst they were in rehab together when Adele was younger, experimented in lucid dreaming. When Adele and Louise become ‘friends’, Adele gets Louise into lucid dreaming. So what is lucid dreaming, you ask? It’s when the dreamer knows that she/he is dreaming, and because of it may be able to control what is going on inside of the dream. But what is it in this book? It’s FULL ON ASTRAL PROJECTING. In fact, it’s astral projecting that can therein turn into possession. Because what is the big twist folks???? Adele is NOT Adele! Rob, becoming obsessed with David back in the day, taught Adele how to astral project, and then killed her, and timed it JUST right that he could SLIP HIS CONSCIOUSNESS into her body!! So ‘Adele’ is actually ‘Rob’ the WHOLE TIME. And not only that, at the VERY end Rob manipulates Louise to astral project into Adele’s body, and then kills her too and astral projects into Louise’s body, so he can be with David once more!! That’s the end, folks!! I know that twists are kind of well expected in these kinds of thrillers these days, and that the less guessable the twist, the better. But when you have a book that is seemingly based in a real world situation without any basis or foundation for magical systems, I feel like you can’t just be like ‘AND THEN MAGIC!’ and try to pass it off as an actual phenomenon to craft a twist that no one saw coming. That feels like cheating! I actively rolled my eyes and tossed this book to the foot of the bed when I was done with it. Because WHAT THE HELL? Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Because that’s how I felt.

“Behind Her Eyes” just frustrated me more than anything else. I am going to do my usual disclaimer, because as a librarian I know that just because this book isn’t for me, it doesn’t mean it’s not for anyone else. So therefore:

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I didn’t enjoy “Behind Her Eyes”. Perhaps you will. But know that it gets weird, and not in a way that I found enjoyable.

Rating 2: A plot that didn’t suck me in, unlikable characters, and a ridiculous twist that completely threw all credibility out the window really turned me off this book.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Behind Her Eyes” is included on the Goodreads lists “Emotion Overload”, and “Female Psychological Thrillers/Suspense Written by Women”.

Find “Behind Her Eyes” at your library using WorldCat!

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: “Mind Me, Milady”

Occasionally we are approached with the opportunity to promote books that may be of interest to our readers. And occasionally in lieu of a full review of the book, we will let it speak for itself by posting an excerpt from it. So if you like what you see in one of these excerpts, we have good news! You have the chance to win a copy of it! What could be better?

38085332Book: “Mind Me, Milady” by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks

Publishing Info: Melange Books LLC, April 2017

Book Description: Jane Larson is an attorney on the Upper East Side of New York City, and the Gentleman Rapist has chosen her to receive his calls announcing each conquest. He also reminds her in chilling terms that he will one day twist his wire around her throat and bend her to his will. 

Jane has professional and personal problems of her own, but she is forced to try to catch this monster when he stalks her newest client. Susan is a sweet young woman who cannot remember large time periods of her past and who has dreams about a prior life in which she was raped. Soon, the Gentleman escalates to murder, and Jane wonders if he was involved in Susan’s forgotten past, or if Susan is simply a means to get to Jane. Either way, Jane is caught in the deadly game of stopping the Gentleman before another woman feels the wire at her throat and hears his sinister whisper to Mind Me, Milady.

Notes from the Blogger:

Last year I was approached to run an excerpt and giveaway of the mystery novel “Weave a Murderous Web” by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks. It involved lawyer Jane Larson and a load of cash and some drug money, as well as a murky personal life for Larson herself. I really liked Jane as a character, and the giveaway was a huge success. So when Kenneth Hicks asked if I’d be interested of doing an excerpt and giveaway for the next in the series, “Mind Me, Milady,” I was more than happy to participate! Jane is back, and this time she’s on the case of a serial rapist, hoping to stop him before he strikes again. I still really enjoy Jane as a protagonist to follow, as her character is imperfect and completely relatable. I had a harder time with the mystery this time around, but that was more because of the nature of the crimes at hand and not the storytelling in and of itself. Kirkus has called this book “An engrossing, suspense-filled thriller with an intriguing protagonist” (source).  Basically, Jane is really great and keeps the reader itching for more (as someone who has many personal connections to lawyers, she speaks to my heart)!

For more information of the authors, you can find them on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads!  Jane Larson is still a fun mystery heroine with a unique occupation you don’t always see in procedural mysteries! Enter the giveaway below to try and win yourself a free ebook copy of “Mind Me, Milady”, and read the excerpt below! Trigger warning: this scene involves violence towards a woman.

Please note that the giveaway copy of this book is an Ebook, with your choice of an ePub, Mobi, or PDF. It’s open to US entrants only and will run until March 23rd at 11:59pm EST. Good luck and happy reading! – Kate

Enter the Giveaway Here!

Excerpt:

Chapter One

It was almost noon when he looked out to the street and saw Natalie step from the cab. A familiar pounding rushed through him—a blood rush of fear, of anticipation.

She ran up the stairs as he had expected she would. She was an athlete, after all, and desperate for this apartment. Rent-controlled, one bedroom, East Side, dirt cheap. Run, Natalie, run.

On the third floor, she saw the door was open a crack and came right in. This was one of the reasons he was drawn to her—her confidence. There was not a tentative bone in her body.

“Hello?” she called. “It’s me. Natalie.” She looked around, pleased by what she saw, no doubt—floors newly sanded and stained, walls freshly painted, kitchen appliances all scrubbed clean. For the rent he had quoted her, it was more than a steal. It was highway robbery. And she was carrying cash for a promised “bonus,” as she put it, because a bribe would be so tacky.

She stepped into the bedroom and heard nothing as he slipped the wire over her lovely head, pulling it tight around her lovely neck. She struggled, but not for long. A knee pressed against the back of her legs forced her to the floor. Lovely legs.

“Mind me, Milady,” he whispered in the British accent he affected for occasions like this. “Mind the Gentleman.”

There was no choice. Denied breath, she was seconds from dying. Quickly, he placed a wide piece of tape over her eyes and another over her mouth. Two longer pieces bound her wrists and ankles. Only then did the wire slacken. Air rushed in through flared nostrils. What was she thinking? Was she grateful just to be alive? And how many more times would he have to bring her to the very edge of death before she learned who was in control?

Kate’s Review: “Friend Request”

33785151Book: “Friend Request” by Laura Marshall

Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, September 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.

Review: I joined Facebook back in the day when it was still reserved for college students and your networks were categorized by what school you were going to! Why I had friends from the U of MN to Berkeley to some school out in England (who this person was, I don’t remember, but I remember being super smug about it)! But as it’s grown and changed it has become not only about keeping in touch with people in your life, but also about putting your entire life on display for everyone to see if you so choose. I know and accept the problematic aspects of Facebook, but at the same time I do check it multiple times a day, almost as a reflex.

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To those who have unplugged, I salute you.(source)

I think that one of the main ‘thrill’ or ‘chill’ factors of “Friend Request” is that it is supposed to make you feel like social media like Facebook makes you all the more vulnerable and unsafe in this fast and cutthroat techy world. After all, you can’t see who is on the other side of the computer screen when you interact with them. So when Louise starts getting mysterious messages from long forgotten (and long thought dead) Maria Weston, these fears come to life on the page. What I liked about Louise is that while she’s definitely a protagonist you see a lot in these kinds of stories, the ‘woman with a dark past’ trope to be sure, her personal moral dilemmas and inability to really know just what she was actually dealing with made for an interesting enough and solid mystery. A former mean girl turned repentant single mother, Louise is still wracked with guilt about what she and her friend Sophie put poor nonconformist Maria through before she disappeared, and it has basically stalled her life and stunted her self worth. She’s your usual unreliable narrator, but it’s hard to tell if she’s unreliable because she’s deceptive or because she’s warped her entire view of herself. The only person who knows her dark secret is her ex-husband Sam, a boy from those days who assured her that he loves her in spite of her involvement. Louise was a mess, but she wasn’t an unlikable mess. I was rooting for her the entire time. By showing who she was in high school and juxtaposing who she has become, I feel like we got not only insight into her mind and character, but also some small insights into those in her life that play large parts in this story.

The mystery itself had a lot of balls it was trying to keep up in the air all at once. The main mystery, of course, is who sent Louise this friend request and the messages, but then a number of other bits branch out of it. The list of suspects if a large one (Maria’s brother? A mysterious man that Sophie has been dating? Maria herself?), and they all come with their own baggage. I will admit that I found myself fooled a couple of times, which is always a plus in books like this, but as it all came together there wasn’t really anything that really stood out or blew me away. In fact, I felt that a couple of the solutions that did come to fruition were a little too out of the blue, even if they did have some pretty good build up and solid groundwork laid out beforehand. I don’t know, I just don’t know how many times we can have similar solutions play out in these books. I was more interested in the questions that this book did raise about the ways we make ourselves vulnerable through our social media. I do my best to keep privacy filters pretty high on my Facebook, and to keep my posts on other social media vague and unspecific, but this story did make me think a bit about what I do put out there even when I think I’m being guarded.

“Friend Request” was a quick and fast read that I enjoyed in the moment, even if it didn’t stand out too much from others in the genre. I think that if you have travel coming up for Spring Break this would be the perfect yarn to take with you for a long flight or the pool or beach. It just may not leave much of an impression.

Rating 6: A by the book thriller with some fair questions about the social media age.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Friend Request” is not included on many relevant Goodreads lists, but I think it would fit in on “Books Involving Stalking”, and “Fiction Involving the Internet”.

Find “Friend Request” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Batman: Nightwalker”

29749090Book: “Batman: Nightwalker” (DC Icons #2) by Marie Lu

Publishing Info: Random House Books for Young Readers, January 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Review: Now it is very true that both Serena and I are big Superman fans here, willing to stand for him and stand up to anyone who would wish him ill or call him anything less than great. And we were solidly Team Superman in the most recent DC movies that involved him. But I do have to admit that even though I want to smack Batman upside the head a lot of the time, especially in his most recent iterations and interpretations, there is a very special place in my heart for him. I will openly concede that I love him, darkness and all. What can I say? I am a true, true sucker for the emotionally unstable messed up problematic loner guy in my fiction. Bruce, take your place alongside J.D. from “Heathers”, Kylo Ren, and Bobby Briggs.

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Oh and who could forget this fella? (source)

So you KNOW that I was all about reading “Batman: Nightwalker” by Marie Lu, the second book in the “DC Icons” young adult series. These books tend to take the teenage selves of these superheroes/heroines and give them something of an origin story, or at the very least an early foray into their ultimate heroic destines. I read “Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo last fall, and was very excited to see what the next in the series had to offer. Marie Lu herself has become a bigger and bigger name in YA, with her previous book “Warcross” getting a lot of buzz for its sci-fi and techno thriller premise. So giving her Batman was a natural choice, with his love for tech.

The Bruce Wayne that we meet in “Nightwalker” is not Batman yet. He’s still a teenager, recently turned eighteen and trying to keep going in spite of the loss of his parents, a trauma that still haunts him. Lu’s Wayne feels more like the teenage self of Michael Keaton’s version of Wayne. He is damaged and sad, but he still wants to see the best in those he cares about and wants them to be safe. There isn’t any disproportional arrogance here; he’s reflective and cautious, and has genuine connections and affections for the important people in his life. He also is fully aware of his own privilege in this world, and Lu takes many opportunities to address that his wealth and skin color has given him all the advantages that other people in similar situations just would not have (more on that later).  It’s a characterization that I found refreshing, and one that has been sorely missed ever since Bale took the cowl over and Affleck went from there. Lu does a very good job with Bruce, and with most of the other characters she writes, both familiar and original ones.  Alfred is a properly dry but loving guardian to Bruce (and yes, he’s still a bit too permissive, but then Alfred would kind of have to be for Bruce to turn into Batman later in life). Lucius Fox is a gadget fanatic but has some other background and abilities, mentoring Bruce in his love for all things tech. And my favorite was the appearance of Harvey Dent, who is one of Bruce’s best friends. I don’t know what it is about so many newer stories framing Harvey as a good person who’s turn to villainy as Two Face is steeped in tragedy (probably because of “The Long Halloween”), but I am HERE for it and I have to say that Lu has written the best one yet. There is no hint of what’s coming for him in the future, there is only a moral person and a wonderful friend who cares deeply for Bruce. Whenever Harvey was a perfect cinnamon roll of an individual (so pretty much ALL THE TIME) I just whimpered and clutched the book to my chest.

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WHY, MARIE, WHY?! (source)

The original characters, however, did not fare as well for me. Okay, let me rephrase that. Most of them did. I liked Detective Draccon, who puts Bruce on the Arkham community service beat, though she wasn’t really doing much beyond being Gordon before Gordon was around. I REALLY liked Bruce and Harvey’s bestie Dianne, a smart and empathetic brain who is fiercely loyal to her two main dudes. I had a harder time believing Madeline, the antagonistic (or IS SHE?) criminal genius who may or may not be connected to The Nightwalkers, who are targeting and killing the rich in Gotham. While I liked that she was super intelligent and super morally ambiguous, I felt that the forced star crossed lovers sort of vibe that she and Bruce gave off was unnecessary. I didn’t really need their empathy and understanding towards each other to turn into a romance that couldn’t be, I think that it would have been just fine if it was left platonic. I felt that by making her pine for Bruce undermined her own agency and self-actualization. Also, their constant “do I trust you or should I not because there’s this sexy charge between us but you are on the other side of this big long conflict” dynamic was WAY TOO Batman/Catwoman, and that just will not do. There can be only one Selina Kyle. The Nightwalker concept itself did feel very Batman villain-y, and also brought in some interesting questions about capitalism and wealth distribution in this country. I greatly enjoyed that entire aspect and how Bruce approaches it, and explores it just beyond the black and white morality and fully into the greys of capitalism’s winners and losers.

Overall, I found “Batman: Nightwalker” to be a pretty fun book. I would absolutely recommend it to any fan of Batman, especially those who may need Batman with a little more hope.

Rating 7: A fun early Batman adventure with some familiar faces and a likable Bruce Wayne. I didn’t approve of the need for a love interest, but it was a fast and fun read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batman: Nightwalker” is included on the Goodreads lists “Super Hero Books (Not Graphic Novels”, and “2018 Retelling Releases”.

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