Tag Archives: thriller

The Girl Who Was Taken, by Charlie Donlea

25 May
the girl who was taken charlie donlea

FIVE of Five Stars

Charlie Donlea has done it again, and now deserves to have his name out as one of the top thriller/suspense/mystery writers out there.

In only his second thriller, Donlea again drops us immediately into the middle of the action, and takes us through a roller coaster ride of likely suspects and red herrings. We go back and forth in time from before the “taking” and then to the present as Megan struggles to understand what happened to her, and Livia searches for her sister… or her sister’s body.

I loved Donlea’s first book, Summit Lake, because it gave a plethora of suspects but I was never able to clearly know Who-Done-It. In that book there were several people who had a clear motive to kill, and though I had guessed the correct person, I also guessed several other people, and we are never sure until the last moment who the real killer is.

That’s the fun of mystery/thrillers, right? You get a good scare, and then you see if you’re smarter than everyone else in the book. It’s always a letdown if you guess the killer right off, or (worse) if the killer is someone it would have been impossible to figure out at all. In Summit Lake Donlea presented person after person who could have done it, and he was masterful at drawing us in and giving red herrings that made sense. The mystery was intricate and it was enjoyable trying to solve.

In this book Donlea does it again. But now we have an even creepier story because we’re not necessarily looking for people with motives, but possibly a madman who could be anyone at all. Once again I did guess the real bad guy (along with many others), and even though this time the person was actually in my top 3 suspects, there was no way in the world to be sure until the very end. We are also treated to several strong female characters, and for the few who are unlikable we are given a psychological basis and history for the actions, along with some redemption. I did not see any simple stereotypes in this book.

At the end we do have some wrap up, and we do get answers, but do we get a happy ending? This may be one of the most realistic thrillers I’ve read, as finding a killer doesn’t really end the suffering of the victims and their friends and families. Donlea is starkly realistic and DARK about the survivors and the likelihood of being a survivor. There may be some closure for a few people, but there will still be a lot of difficult darkness ahead for most.

Many thanks to Kensington Publishing for asking me to be a part of their book blog tour, and thanks to Charlie Donlea for the wonderful book. He is an amazing author and has upped his game with this second book. I cannot wait for the third to arrive.

Buy The Girl Who was Taken.

Buy Summit Lake

Visit Kensington Publishing.

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The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

24 Feb
the-perfect-stranger-miranda-megan

FIVE stars of Five

Five stars all around.
This book had me completely on edge the entire ride.

The narrator is borderline unreliable; you are never quite sure if she’s telling us the truth, lying to herself, or outright crazy. She does have some boundary issues, some of which I related to, but the reader can’t be sure if they cross a line or exactly which line they cross. Megan Miranda does an excellent job of throwing in clues here and there to keep us off kilter.

But reliable or not (I’m not spoiling the answer!), the narrator is a very intelligent woman. I loved her. To the outside world she may have had some issues, and she’s disappointed herself, but that does nothing to take away the very quick way her mind works.

I’ve seen some reviews state that the narrative isn’t perfect, and while that may technically be true, Miranda accomplishes so much more than your average author does in a mystery book like this. This story is intricate, in the very best way, and I felt Miranda did a genius job putting it all together, just as she did in her previous book All the Missing Girls.

I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to state that nothing much is what it seems here, and that Miranda really shows how any narrator can be unreliable because you are seeing the story solely through their interpretation of events. But what if a reliable narrator tells you a story based on misinterpreted events?

All the Missing Girls was incredible and made me a huge fan of Megan Miranda, now The Perfect Stranger has sealed that deal. I cannot wait for her next book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me an advance copy for review.

Safe With Me, by K.L. Slater

3 Nov
safe-with-me-kl-slater

FOUR of Five stars

I loved this book, but let’s get one thing out of the way. I don’t really like the cover. It’s really not your average female-victim thriller, and it’s even a bit humorous at times (or maybe that’s just me). But this cover doesn’t make the book stand out in the way that it should.

The story is told mostly through Anna’s voice, after she views a road accident caused by a woman she believes is also responsible for the death of her brother. But it quickly becomes apparent that Anna is a very unreliable narrator, much in the realm of You‘s Joe Goldberg, and possibly just as bonkers. And just like Joe, Anna is often charming in her delusions of love.

But further into the book you realize Anna isn’t the only one with issues of psychology and/or outright deceit. Every single character in this book is hiding who they are in one way or another. And as all the layers are peeled away and we realize who is really who and what is exactly happening, the book becomes more and more difficult to put down.

The last ten percent however, falls a bit apart. It pains me to say that because I absolutely loved the other 90%, and it’s possible that others don’t have a problem with the ending. But for me the end was a little rushed, some logic was dropped, and some corners and character details were cut. It was not an unsatisfactory ending at all though, I just think the intense web of lies that the author created might have required a bit more time for her to arrange in a neater manner.

This is K.L. Slater’s first book, and while I felt the end lacked just a bit of organization, I 100% LOVED the rest, and absolutely look forward to what she puts out in the future. I am definitely a new fan!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an early copy in exchange for a fair review.

Evelyn, After, by Victoria Helen Stone

16 Oct
evelyn-after-victory-stone

Five of Five stars

This book is so many things, and I loved them all.

It’s about a woman struggling to come to terms with her husband’s betrayal.

Or it’s about a woman’s descent into madness as she tries to make sense of a no-win situation.

Or it’s Fatal Attraction told from Alex Forrest’s point of view.

It’s a horrific tragedy as a woman loses everything after making endless mistakes in an attempt to fix things.

But no, it’s a story of a woman picking up the pieces of her life and Winning. The last pages of the book turned the whole thing around from a deliciously terrible story about a sort of awful woman, into, honestly, a kind of inspiring story.  I think it’s easy to blame Evelyn for all the terrible choices she makes – and yes, she makes some really awful ones – but let’s not forget what started her on this path, WHO started her on this path. Absolutely none of this would have happened if not for the one truly terrible character in this story. Each character in this story makes their own choices and they all pay for them, Evelyn included. But the really unexpected (to me) situation at the end brings a lot of hope and comfort and… well, hope. Unexpected positivity.

This story could only have been told this well by a female author.  We all have a bit of Evelyn in us. You can disagree with everything Evelyn does in this book, but don’t judge this woman until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes. There truly is a little Evelyn in us all.

Siracusa, by Delia Ephron

26 Aug
siracusa delia ephron

Five of Five stars

I pretty much loved this book, though I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t happy with the ending. In fact, I almost took off a star for it. However, I need to also admit that I’ve operated on very little sleep while reading this book, and finished it very late last night, so it’s entirely possible I just missed appreciating something in my haze. Regardless, not enjoying the last couple of pages doesn’t take away from the hundreds of pages that I absolutely loved.

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers recently, and I like thrillers, but most are not great literature. Neither is this book, but the writing is still on a much higher level. I fell in love right away, it was a relief reading the stories of these four main characters and getting to know them in a way you don’t in an average thriller. However, though there is a sort of mystery/thriller aspect to the story, it’s much more like just a great piece of fiction.

The book reminds me of The Dinner, where you have two couples getting together (on vacation here) telling a story, and you know something has already happened, and it was a bad something, but you don’t know what. You have to just sit along for the story until you find out. Like The Dinner, these four characters are somewhat unlikable and very self-absorbed. Unlike The Dinner, this story is told alternately from all four points of view, and it is really fun reading the different view points, and noting the slight differences in stories, and wondering who was lying, who was exaggerating, and at what point the truth merged.

There are four very different people here, and though they may be unlikable, I found them fascinating – and not entirely bad. I especially loved the woman who was so obsessed with her young daughter that she did not really know a thing about her. I thought the growth, changes and disintegration of the marriages was told well and accurately. Sadly, it was the young daughter who has the most interesting side of the story, but we don’t get to hear her version. But that’s what brings the spookiness and utter creepiness to the story.

I highly recommend this book. I usually like to clear my brain of intense literature with a bit of fluff now and then. In this case I was clearing all the fluff out of my brain with the great story telling in this book.

So much thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for a review.

The Sister, by Louise Jensen

21 Aug
the sister louise jensen

Three of 5 stars

I’m so very torn about this book. I’ve decided to rate it purely on my own enjoyment of it, and not what I think others may think of it. I believe many people may LOVE this book, and rightfully so. But I wasn’t happy for most of it.

The good: Louise Jensen can write. She wrote a very complicated story, with a slew of characters. No one is all good, no one is all bad. I loved the entire relationship arc between Grace and Dan – because sometimes good is wonderful, and sometimes bad is unforgivable. This books flies by and is difficult to put down. I read from the 40% to the 90% mark in one sitting, and then my eyes finally shut. As soon as I woke up I grabbed the book to finish it. This is the mark of a great story-teller, and I think Jensen is going to write some great books in the future. I will certainly be in line for the next one.

The bad: I’ve read this story many times before. In fact, I read this same story immediately before, as I just finished Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica and it’s basically the same thing. More than basically, it’s pretty much the exact same story. Also, the character of Grace: I personally cannot take the weak, helpless heroines, especially when they have less than zero self confidence. Grace is a perpetual victim. She grows in the book, and I actually love the strong confident Grace that owns the last third of the book – but the growth is so much as to not be believable to me. But the main plot of a strange woman somehow insinuating herself into a couple’s life, and then being invited to live with them rent free, as she systematically destroys their lives… this has never happened to anyone I know, and yet I’m starting to read it in way too many books. I don’t believe people invite strangers into their homes with no expectation of payment, and I don’t believe they would keep them there after all the rude and nasty things Anna says and does.

Back to the good: The book is exciting, and it’s very complicated with few if any holes. I enjoyed it. I genuinely LIKED it, and that’s what 3 stars means.

Back to the bad (possible minor spoiler): [ I’m not buying what the author wants us to feel about Anna in the end. She’s a sociopath and needs to be locked up, forever. I’m not buying the reveal of who wrote the notes either.]

But sometimes it just depends on which book a reader gets to first. If someone hasn’t read this plot before, this is an excellent book. I’m completely serious about that. But for me, it’s a tired theme and I want something more original.

A big thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for a review. I do look forward to future books by Louise Jensen.

If Looks Could Kill, by Andi Marquette

9 Aug
if looks could kill andi marquette

Five of Five stars

I was given an ARC of this book by the author, who happens to be someone I consider a friend, in exchange for a review. I hate reviewing books when they’re given to me by the author because it’s so difficult to then say anything bad about them. But I’ve read Andi‘s work before, and have yet to be disappointed. And so…

Simply put, I really enjoyed this one, and that’s the honest truth.
It’s not a heavy crime thriller, I’d say it’s more TV show level on the thriller part – but I was happy to go with it as I got to know undercover cop Ellie and the more elusive Marya. This isn’t a mark down, it’s just on the lighter side which is what I needed at the time.

Ellie is working on a case involving Russian mobsters who may have a link in the fashion world. Enter gorgeous Marya, head of a top fashion house and seemingly friends with many of those mobsters. Ellie gets an internship at the fashion house to keep an eye on Marya, and the sparks start to fly. Well, they’re flying all around Ellie, but Marya is the untouchable ice dragon boss lady with possible Russian mob ties. What’s an undercover cop to do?

I kept getting confused with all the Russian bad guys, but that’s because my full attention was on Ellie and Marya. More than once I was shouting “Just kiss her already!” when I should have been following along with the crime plot. But I was fully immersed in the story as we wonder whether Marya is a good gal or a bad gal, and whether that kiss will ever come. It’s not a romance novel, so there’s no mushy “love” involved, and neither is there a dramatic happily ever after, but it ends the way a crime novel should and on a very satisfying note at that.

This is part of the Law Game series by Ylva Publishing, a series by different authors with only the shared theme of “law”, so I don’t know if Andi is planning on writing any future books about Ellie. But I’d be happy to read more of her crime-fighting adventures, and also to find out more about her ex Gwen – after all, there was some sort of future drinks date that we never get to see in this book.

So let’s see: Intricate exciting crime thriller – check! Very likable main characters (male and female) – check! Sparks between two beautiful, strong, successful women – check! One A+++ sex scene – CHECK! And a hope that I might get more Ellie in the future… this is all I need to rate it 5 stars.