Kate’s Review: “It’s Always The Husband”

31451082Book: “It’s Always The Husband” by Michele Campbell

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: Audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband? 

Review: On the show “Major Crimes”, one of my favorite characters, Detective Lt. Provenza, has a tag line that he lives by. “It’s always the husband, it’s always the husband it’s ALWAYS the husband.” Of course, on the show it isn’t ALWAYS the husband, but it plays to the sad statistic that when a woman is murdered, the odds are that her murderer is going to be her husband or boyfriend. It probably doesn’t surprise you that when I first heard of the book “It’s Always The Husband” by Michele Campbell that this phrase was going through my head. But like on “Major Crimes”, I had a feeling going in that it would be a bit more complicated than the steadfast and all too real adage that Provenza likes to toss about.

The story is told through two time periods that tend to flip flop from one to the other. The first is twenty years in the past, when three women start their freshman year of college at a prestigious school in New England. Aubrey is the girl who got there solely on her brains, and is escaping an impoverished life back in Nevada. Jenny is a townie who has ambitions and hopes to become more than her small town expectations. And Kate is the entitled and rick party girl, who expects life to be handed to her. Their differences were stark and while I had a hard time believing that they would have been as close as the book makes them out to be (specifically Jenny; I just don’t believe that she would have put up with Kate’s bullshit), I felt like they were all well explored and fleshed out. I liked seeing how they changed and shifted in their personalities from their freshman year to the present day, when they have all gone their separate ways and established themselves. I also liked that none of them were all good, or all bad. While Kate was absolutely a wretched and toxic human being, Campbell threw in some background and plot points that humanized her. While Jenny was determined and incredibly competent, and absolutely my favorite of the three main characters, she makes stupid decisions and mistakes that I wanted to smack her upside the head for. And Aubrey is so damaged and innocent that you definitely feel sorry for her, but a dark side lingers there, and when it rears it’s ugly head you can’t help but be a bit freaked out by it. As a reader I cared about all of them in some way, and was invested in how things turned out for all of them, and who it was that ended up on that bridge. It may also be a testament to how good the narrator was on this audiobook, as she varied her voices and inflections for each character wonderfully.

The mystery itself was very well done. The clues to what happened are laid out in both the past and the present, giving hints both in actions and the characters personality traits. This book definitely kept me guessing as it went on, and I never had a complete handle on what the ultimate solution was, which I really liked. My thoughts and opinions shifted in the ways that Campbell probably wanted them to, and I didn’t even mind that I was being led about like a puppet on a string because it was so fun to be taken on this journey. It eventually becomes clear just who it is on the bridge, but even getting to that first reveal was a fun trip to take, and it was even more enticing to find out who put her in that position, and why.

I will say that there were a couple of things that I took umbrage with. For one, there is a storyline with the new Chief of police in town who is investigating the murder, Owen. He goes in completely biased, as he had a VERY short dalliance with the victim before she ends up dead, and I found myself just irritated with everything about him and his motivations. I also found it a bit hard to swallow that an unexpected dinner with a woman who didn’t even give him her real name would affect him so much, no matter how magnetic she was, and it felt like an unnecessary way to throw in some drama. There are plenty of cops who try to fit evidence to a perp as opposed to the other way around without having a personal connection to the victim, so that seemed a bit superfluous. And this book also does that thing that I just cannot stand, in that in the last page and paragraphs of the book a FINAL TWIST is revealed. Man, that made me roll my eyes super hard. But unlike other books that have implemented this strategy in my recent reading, I enjoyed this one enough for everything else that I couldn’t hold it  totally against it. Just know that it’s coming.

“It’s Always The Husband” was a sudsy and compelling thriller that I had a great time listening to. While it had some flaws, overall I greatly enjoyed it. And I think that it would truly get Provenza to rethink his usual mantra.

Rating 7: A fast paced and well plotted thriller with some great revelations and some great surprises. One plot line was a bit tedious and frustrating, but overall I enjoyed what this book had to give.

Reader’s Advisory:

“It’s Always The Husband” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 Librarian Recommended Books”, and “Best Twists”.

Find “It’s Always The Husband” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Marriage Pact”

31748890Book: “The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond

Publishing Info: Bantam, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received and ARC from the publisher.

Book Description: Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Review: Ahhh, marriage. I’ve been married to my husband for eight years, and while it certainly isn’t a perfect marriage, it’s a good one. Probably because we don’t strive for perfection. And because we don’t strive for perfection nor are we perfectionists in any way, I take solace in the fact that had we been approached by a deranged marriage cult we probably would have answered with a solid

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But lucky for us readers, Alice and Jake in Michelle Richmond’s “The Marriage Pact” did not make the same choices that I would make. After all, had they said ‘no thanks’, we wouldn’t have gotten this tense and dark thriller that took me by surprise. As someone who didn’t have any expectations going into it I had no idea what to expect, but I’m thinking that in some ways that worked in the book’s favor. Because after letting it collect some dust on my book stack, I finally picked it up and cursed myself for not picking it up sooner.

“The Marriage Pact” is a slow building thriller that puts the reader in the position of Jake and Alice, newlyweds who find themselves invited to join a prestigious and secret group specifically for married couples. They are both written in such a way that I could definitely see them getting sucked into it: for Alice, her commitment phobia from her past could easily make her nervous about falling out of step with Jake. For Jake, he’s so in love with Alice that he would happily indulge her in her eagerness to try it out. And because it’s seen from their perspectives, we too get to experience the gradual change from fun and quirky hobby to all encompassing nightmare. This point is what struck me the most as I read this book: it didn’t rely too much on major twists or turns to get the thrills into the narrative. While I do love a good thriller with lots of game changing moments, the horror and surprise in “The Marriage Pact” was far more based in the realities of the dark sides of human nature and group think, and how far we can be taken because of cognitive dissonance and denial. It felt fairly real that Jake and Alice would find themselves in a frog in the boiling water scenario because of this. The punishments for breaking the ‘rules’ of the group evolved from minor and silly consequences to full blown horror shows, and by the time we got to that they were in so deep that all you could feel was abject dread for them. The cultist perspective was masterfully done, as while Jake (our narrator) knew that things weren’t right, he also seemed under the spell in some ways, thinking that in spite of the horrific circumstances they were finding themselves in that his marriage to Alice was, in fact, stronger when all was said and done.

I do think that this book was a bit longer than it needed to be. While it was a fast read and an entertaining one too, I did find myself thinking that it was kind of repetitive at times. The various punishments and strange meetings with other ‘Friends’, as the members call themselves, tended to make things drag on a bit more than I would have liked, and I did find myself skimming here and there. I also found a few of the details unbelievable or farfetched, specifically about how much power and money this secret group could possibly have. And finally, given that Alice is a freaking LAWYER at a high powered firm, I REALLY found it odd that she didn’t have any problems with the giant manual of rules that you have to agree to abide by, via non negotiable contract. What kind of lawyer would agree to ANY of that without going through the entire manual bit by bit? But those are minor quibbles when the rest of the story was so creative and outside the box of what I’ve come to expect from thrillers today.

Overall I found “The Marriage Pact” to be a satisfying and compulsively readable novel. And it makes me thank my lucky stars that my husband and I are such lazy non perfectionists, lest we be approached by some crazy marriage cult someday.

Rating 8: A solid and original thriller that slowly burns to a disturbing level, “The Marriage Pact” relied less on twists and turns and more on the dark side of human nature.

Reader’s Advisory

“The Marriage Pact” is included on the Goodreads lists “Follow The Rules and Everything Will Be Okay”, and “Domestic Noir”.

Find “The Marriage Pact” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Followers”

Layout 1Book: “The Followers” by Rebecca Wait

Publishing Info: Europa Editions, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: On the windswept moors of northern England, a small religious cult has cut itself off from society, believing they have found meaning in a purposeless world. Led by their prophet, Nathaniel, they eagerly await the end times. But when the prophet brings in Stephanie and her rebellious daughter Judith, the group’s delicate dynamic is disturbed. Judith is determined to escape, but her feelings are complicated by a growing friendship with another of the children, the naive and trusting Moses, who has never experienced the outside world. 

Meanwhile, someone else is having doubts, unleashing a horrifying chain of events that will destroy the followers’ lives.

In the aftermath, the survivors struggle to adjust to the real world, haunted by the same questions: if you’ve been persuaded to surrender your individual will, are you still responsible for your actions? And is there any way back?

Review: I’ve been deeply interested in cults since I was in California during the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. I remember seeing footage of the crime scene on the television, and being completely horrified and yet taken with the idea that this group believed that a spaceship was on the tail of Hale-Bopp comet. Ever since then, I’ve had a twisted interest in books about cults, be they true stories or not, and the way that people can fall into them. So when I stumbled upon a New York Times article about “The Followers” by Rebecca Wait, I requested it, thinking that it was going to be a thrilling yarn about a scary cult wreaking havoc. While I sat on the couch reading it (making a lot of scandalized noises that my husband kept enquiring about, until the fifth time and he just stopped asking), I was totally engrossed. This was everything I wanted it to be, but it was a bit more than I bargained for as well. After all, at the heart of this is the story of a woman who takes her daughter and whisks them both away at the whims of a religious fanatic who has completely cast her under his spell. So, you know. Fun times.

The thing that stuck me most was that it shifted between various levels of believer/non believer. First we have Stephanie, the single mother who falls in love with “The Prophet” Nathanial. She feels so doted on and loved by Nathanial when they first start dating, and she feels so trapped in her life as a single working mother, that his affection is enough to make her pick up her entire life and follow him anywhere. As I read it was clear that Nathanial was big trouble, but I could also completely understand why Stephanie wanted to go with him, even if I was cursing her and the terrible decisions she was making. Then there is the perspective of Stephanie’s daughter Judith, whose adolescent rebellion is only kicked up a few notches when they move to the commune. She’s a strong willed girl who may have treaded towards unbelievable in her mental strength, but she felt so real and so well realized that I didn’t even care. Then you have Moses, the only friend that Judith makes at the commune, who was born into it and fully believes that not only is Nathanial the Prophet and the ourside world the road to hell, but that his birthmark on his face is a mark of the devil. At first I was very worried about him and his intentions towards Judith, but he really is just the epitome of naive wonderment, raised in a warped society that is all he’s known. And finally you have Thomas, a long time member of Nathanial’s thrall, but who has started questioning it. With these different characters on different parts of the belief scale, Rachel Wait has done a great job of showing the full gamut of emotions for the members.

I loved the description of the commune, which is located in the Moors of England. The isolation was palpable, both physically (with the description of few buildings and many bogs, forests, and other barriers) and emotionally. The members are told that if they leave they can never come back, and will be doomed to stay in “Gehenna” and probably rot with all the nonbelievers when the end of days comes. The manipulation that Nathanial administered to his disciples was also incredibly creepy, through kind syrupy promises and yet no physical action of his own to place his controls upon them. I think that Wait hit the nail on the head with Nathanial, and he was the perfect villain, just as Stephanie, Moses, and the other members were perfect victims. And yet this was told in such a way that it always felt a couple steps up from your run of the mill thriller. We also got to see beyond the cult moments, and where Judith and Stephanie ended up after all was said and done. Spoiler alert, it’s pretty bleak. But along with the overarching bleakness, there was also a fair amount of purity and hope, specifically through the friendship between Judith and Moses. They are both outcasts in their own ways in the commune, and while he’s a true believer and she’s a non believer, they forge a bond that was absolutely sweet and powerful. They really do bring out the best in each other, and their types of belief and non belief feel more constructive than those of Stephanie and Thomas. Every time they were together, my heart would grow ten sizes bigger.

And yes, the slow build up of terror as the cult starts to fall apart was absolutely riveting. I love a good slow burn build up, and “The Followers” really nails the ‘frog in a pot of boiling water’ pace.

All in all, “The Followers” was an entertaining and insightful story that exceeded my expectations. If a good and twisty cult story is your idea of a good time, definitely pick this one up. You’ll get a bit more than you bargained for in the best way possible.

Rating 9: A sad and suspenseful tale about fanaticism, family, and the way that tenuous bonds can be broken if a monster figures out how to exploit them.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Followers” is not on many relevant Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Cults and Communes in Fiction”.

Find “The Followers” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Serena’s Review: “The Fifth Petal”

29741905Book: “The Fifth Petal” by Brunonia Barry

Publishing Info: Crown, January 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: Blogging For Books

Book Description: When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem’s most notorious cold case, a triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, is guilty of murder or witchcraft.

But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?

Review: This is the second book by Barry, the first being “The Lace Reader.” I haven’t read this book, and when I requested this one I didn’t know that it was connected to this first novel. However, luckily for me, this story takes place many years later and any recurring characters that appear are at a different enough point in their lives that I never felt that missing this first book had much of an impact on my views of this. And, all told, they were fairly postive

As we all know by now, Kate is the horror/thriller reader on this blog, but in the spirit of Halloween, I tried to choose one book to read that month that was at least somewhat “on theme.” Enter “The Fifth Petal,” a murder mystery with ties to relations of the women accused as witches in the Salem trials. So, yeah, about as close as I’m ever going to venture to true horror. Witches, however, are more within my realm of experience and interest, so this seemed like a good compromise.

As the story progressed, I found this connection to modern day Salem and its history to be one of the more intriguing aspects of the story. Like many people, this place, time, and horrifying event, has always held a note of fascination for me. I feel that I went into this story already knowing much of this information, but I still enjoyed the nuggets I as able to pick up here and there, especially about the modern day town.

The author’s note at the end goes into good detail about how much of it is based on truth, which made these aspects of the story even better, in hindsight. Much of layout of the town is accurate, such as the location of the hanging tree. Goes to show how much good research reflects well on a story.

The story was also very action packed and never wanted for movement. This is a good and bad thing, in my view. I whipped through this read very quickly, but at the same time, portions of the story felt muddled, trying to fit too much within a limited page count. It’s a tough balance to strike, but I feel that either slowing it down in a few parts, or simply extending the page count out a bit so each of these elements had more room to breathe, would have ultimately served the novel well. At a certain point I began to question whether all of these various plotlines were necessary.

Callie was an ok leading lady. The mystery of her lost memories was interesting, but in a lot of ways she was just kind of bland. Nothing about her really stood out to me, and she ended up reading like the typical main character at the heart of stories like this. This, too, might have been improved had the author not devoted so much time to the many, many plotlines that I referenced earlier.

I also found myself enjoying the romantic spin of the story. I don’t typically read contemporary books, or contemporary romance, specifically, but every once in a while, themes from books like that can hit the spot. This book was a good compromise in this way as well. Got my romance fix, but still got to keep my fantasy/thriller moments.

Ultimately, I enjoyed “The Fifth Petal.” It wasn’t without flaws, and it falls pretty far outside of my usual reading tastes, but it was an fun enough time. It won’t stand out to me as anything special, but for readers who enjoy thrillers and contemporary romance a bit more than me, this might be a good read for you!

Rating 7: Fairly unassuming and enjoyable. Could be improved by fewer plotlines stuffed into one story, but was a quick read, especially for those interested in the Salem Witch Trials.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fifth Petal” is a newer book, but it is on this Goodreads list: “Fall, Halloween, New England Fiction.”

Find “The Fifth Petal” at your library using WorldCat!

More information:

About Brunonia Barry

More on The Fifth Petal”

Kate’s Review: “Fragments of the Lost”

27797316Book: “Fragments of the Lost” by Megan Miranda

Publishing Info: Crown Books for Young Readers, November 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley!

Book Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger comes a suspenseful psychological mystery about one girl’s search to uncover the truth behind her ex-boyfriend’s death. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars and 13 Reasons Why . 

Jessa Whitworth knew she didn’t belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb’s room. But she couldn’t deny that she was everywhere–in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things–even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb’s life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all. 

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb’s accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

Review: A special thank you to Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!

So perhaps you all remember that I read and reviewed Megan Miranda’s novel “All the Missing Girls”, and I wasn’t very impressed with it beyond the framing of it. But I was intrigued enough by her as a writer that I knew I’d probably pick up something else she had written in the future. That book happened to be “Fragments of the Lost”, a new YA psychological thriller by her. I saw that it was available on NetGalley, and decided to request it. When I finally got to reading it, I figured that I would start it one evening and make my way through, as I did with “All the Missing Girls”. But lo and behold, I actually sat down and read it in one sitting. So you know that we’re off to a pretty good start when THAT happens.

I think that what grabbed me about this book right away was Jessa, our main character. She’s a girl who has gone through the awful trauma of losing her ex-boyfriend Caleb after his car is thought to have gone off a cliff during a rainstorm and flood. She’s believable in that she has mixed feelings about cleaning out Caleb’s room, as they had broken up before his car went off the cliff on that rainy day. She was a very down to earth and realistic person, never treading into the realm of simpering or frustrating in her emotions. Which is funny, because I fully prepared myself for her to be the kind of wreck that Nicolette was in “All the Missing Girls”, and yet it was in the YA novel that Miranda’s main character was bit more nuanced. As she cleans up Caleb’s room, we get to see their relationships through flashbacks, depending on the object that she is sorting in the moment. While it had ample chances to become schmaltzy, it never did because Jessa is that well rounded and complex of a character. As for the other characters, we really only got to see them through Jessa’s eyes, so it was harder to get a gauge of who they were. I think that you certainly can give readers a handle on other characters through a main character filter, but I didn’t feel like we completely got there with Jessa. While I really liked her, everyone else was fairly bland. Caleb was really just this enigmatic good person that we didn’t really get to know beyond this plotline, and while I did like their mutual friend Max, a sweet geeky kind of guy, he was really just there to provide support to Jessa through thick and thin, no matter what. I liked him and I liked how he interacted with her, but he was just there for the ride and showing up when needed.

The mystery was solid enough, and I liked that we were given the pieces as Jessa boxed up his room. From a pair of spare glasses to a broken fan to some sporting equipment, we learn bit by bit what Caleb was like, what his relationship with Jessa was like, and why perhaps none of it was as real as she thought it was. I think that had it stopped there, and been an examination about young love lost, the different sides of people even in relationships, and why we may never know everything about them, this would have been a pretty powerful book. But while the mystery was solid (as to what actually happened to Caleb that day), I think that it may have actually hindered an already powerful narrative. That isn’t to say that Miranda had to write a book that was solely a meditation on grief and loss, because it’s her prerogative to write a mystery and I say have at it. Hell, this mystery was interesting to follow and I liked it enough. But along with it, we started to get into areas that kind of pulled me out of the story because of how unrealistic things were. It was mostly little things, like how a library computer would probably NEVER have search history that went between sign in sessions because of privacy laws, or how it would take a whole lot more than just a fake ID to completely restart your life as a new person. These may not seem like much, but it was enough to take me out of the story even for a little while, which was distracting. There was also a sudden shift in solution in the end, and you all know how I feel about that kind of thing. When I’m told that only options A and B are going to work, I have a really hard time swallowing a sudden option C rearing it’s ugly, if not convenient head.

“Fragments of the Lost” was a twisty turny read, though, and I think that it’s one of the stronger YA thriller/mysteries that I’ve read this year. Meg Miranda should definitely write more for this audience, as she brings the nuance that is needed to write an effective whodunit.

Rating 7: A pretty interesting mystery with an engrossing parsing of clues, “Fragments of the Lost” is a tangled read with some unexpected surprises. The characterization of supporting characters could have been stronger, but I enjoyed reading it.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Fragments of the Lost” is pretty new and not on many Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “YA Post Death Novels”.

Find “Fragments of the Lost” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Are You Sleeping”

30753570Book: “Are You Sleeping” by Kathleen Barber

Publishing Info: Gallery Books, August 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future. 

Review: Like a lot of people, I was damn well obsessed with the podcast “Serial” when it aired it’s first season a few years ago. I had held off on listening to it for awhile, but then I gave in and was able to binge almost all of it over the course of a few days. As someone who has always been interested in true crime, the thought that someone may have gone to prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and that perhaps those around him may have known his innocence the whole time, I found the premise compelling. I know that some people found it ghoulish, as the podcast used the murder of Hae Min Lee as a framework for it’s investigation. Such grievances are raised in the novel “Are You Sleeping”, a debut from Kathleen Barber, and makes the reader look at it through the eyes of a murder victims family as old wounds are opened up for sensationalism and ‘entertainment’. I’ll admit I felt a little yucky with myself as I read this book. But I wasn’t just chastened; I was also sucked into the story of Josie, her twin sister Lanie, and the family that is still suffering from the fallout of the murder of the family patriarch.

The plot starts out common enough; Josie is living a happy life in New York with a genuinely good man named Caleb. But what Caleb doesn’t know is that Josie hasn’t told him about her past. Her father, Charles Berman, was shot in the head when she was a teenager, and her twin sister Lanie said that their Goth and rebellious neighbor Warren pulled the trigger. Shortly thereafter, their mother Erin ran off and joined a cult, and Josie split town as soon as she could and swore she’d never talk to her sister again, and never return. But then a popular podcast hosted by the duplicitous and fame hunger Poppy Parnell has started raising questions as to Warren’s guilt, and tragedy sweeps Josie back to her hometown, the secrets and lies she’s told her whole life starting to plague her. Pretty common fare for this kind of book. But what sets is aside from others I’ve read is that it makes use of the podcast format, as well as the social media frenzy that can come with it, to help frame the plot and the characters that we meet. It was great seeing twitter feeds, reddit posts, and transcripts from the episodes to get various pieces of the puzzle that we may not have otherwise seen, and it was kind of fun sifting through them like the reader, too, was an armchair detective. The pacing and tone was fast and tense from the starting gate, and I was basically hooked the moment that I sat down and committed to it, reading most of it in one day. The mystery itself wasn’t that hard to figure out, but it was definitely a fun ride to take even if I predicted the destination pretty early on.

That said, it wasn’t really doing much different or unique from this genre. While I definitely enjoyed it more than, say, “Every Last Lie” or “Into The Water”, it didn’t blow me away as some other thrillers this year have (“Everything You Want Me To Be”, anyone?). Josie wasn’t as large a mess as these kins of protagonists can be, which was incredibly refreshing, but Lanie was REALLY hard to take at times just because she very much WAS a huge, honking trainwreck. I’m relieved that the book wasn’t from her POV, because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take that. None of the characters, however, really stood out as more than pretty standard players in this kind of book (the dutiful boyfriend, the ex who caused you pain, the uptight female relative). I had been hoping that there would be a little bit of experimentation with these tropes, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

But run of the mill characters and kind of easy to see ending aside, I really did have a fun time reading “Are You Sleeping”. Given that the holiday season is basically upon us and travel may be in some of your futures, I would definitely recommend this book for a long plane ride, a road trip, or just reading in the coziness of your home as the weather turns colder. But don’t let it shame you from listening to your favorite true crime podcast, okay?

Rating 7: An addictive mystery with a fun framework, but it isn’t really anything much that we haven’t seen before outside of said framework. A breezy read, maybe perfect for travel or a ready by a roaring fire.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Are You Sleeping” is included on the Goodreads lists “Sister Mysteries”, and “There’s Something Dangerous About The Boredom of Teenage Girls”.

Find “Are You Sleeping” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Every Last Lie”

32735394Book: “Every Last Lie” by Mary Kubica

Publishing Info: Park Row Books, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Review: I have many anxieties in my life, some that are realistic, others that are unrealistic. Or at the very least not worth worrying about. One of those anxieties is becoming unexpectedly widowed. I’m the person who can’t sleep too well at night if her husband isn’t home, especially if I’m expecting him home and he is late to return. Because OBVIOUSLY it isn’t that he’s just running late or finding that time has run away from him. Obviously he’s dead.

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Yes I am, Gene Wilder. (source)

So reading “Every Last Lie” kind of made me confront my anxieties on that at least a little bit, so it has that going for it. Mary Kubica is one of those authors that I really, really want to like, mainly because I really enjoyed her book “Pretty Baby” and the subversion of expectations that we were given. I wasn’t as thrilled by “Don’t You Cry” (if you remember) just because it was less a subversion of expectations and more a tangle of unnecessary twists and turns. But I was willing to give “Every Last Lie” a chance because overall, I like the author. Unfortunately, this was less of a “Pretty Baby” experience and more of a “Don’t You Cry” experience.

Note: I am going to try avoiding spoilers here, but I can’t really critique it without saying at least a little bit of how scenarios kind of play out. So even though I’m avoiding specifics, you may want to skip this review if you want to read it.

“Every Little Lie” is told through alternating perspectives. The first is Clara’s perspective as she’s trying to piece together what happened to Nick, finding potential clues to suggest that maybe her husband didn’t die by accident and that perhaps he was murdered. The other is Nick’s perspective in the weeks leading up to that fateful car ride that sets the plot in motion. I will give this book credit where it is due, I really enjoyed this structure. It allowed for the reader to be able to see the clues that were presented in ways that Nick and Clara couldn’t see them, and I liked picking up on truths that one or the other weren’t privy to. It’s good when these books find fun and interesting ways to reveal the solution to the reader, and I definitely felt like Kubica did a bang up job in terms of pacing and reveal. It also made it for a fast read, and a pretty entertaining one in the moment.

But plotting aside, I didn’t really care for either Clara or Nick. I didn’t feel like I knew that much about Clara as a person outside of the trauma that she was experiencing and what it was doing to her mental state. Sure, that makes sense that we are only going to see that side of her in her chapters, but even in the chapters that Nick had before the car accident we only got a partial view, and it wasn’t a very telling one. Nick was a bit more interesting, seeing Clara’s views of him alongside the truths about him was a very good way to get to know him as a character. But ultimately, he wasn’t terribly interesting, and just fell into pretty familiar tropes of a desperate man with a lot of secrets. And then you add into that a lot of really odd red herrings that never felt satisfying, as they never led anywhere. I know that red herrings usually don’t, but there were so many things in this book that I wanted to have SOME sort of resolution, only to find that there is no resolution in sight for a good deal of them as we turn the last page. And some of them, I felt, really needed resolution for me to be satisfied with the story. I was left saying “Well what about ______?” too much to be happy or at least okay with how things ended up.

I still fully intend to keep giving Mary Kubica a shot, because there is a lot of potential there. And “Pretty Baby” was proof that I do like stuff that she has done, and can like it again. It’s just too bad that this one fell flat. I keep hope alive that the next will be better.

Rating 6: A quick and entertaining enough read, but none of the characters really grabbed me and I wasn’t terribly invested in how it all turned out. Especially when many problems were left unresolved.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Every Last Lie” is fairly new and not on many relevant Goodreads lists. But it is on “2017 Suspense and Thrillers”, and I think it would fit in on “Female Psychological Thrillers and Suspense”.

Find “Every Last Lie” at your library using WorldCat!