13

[REVIEW + AUTHOR INTERVIEW] Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Follow Me Down is a rare find—a gutsy, visceral, and beautifully crafted psychological thriller.

My Thoughts:

“My first thought was my mother had started another fire.”

Nothing is better than reading a book that lives up to its gorgeous cover (LOOK AT IT. IT’S SO PRETTY). I am jealous of anyone who manages to get a hold of a physical copy of this book, since I only got an e-ARC. But I’m so glad that I received this one through Netgalley, because it was oh so good.

 (Also, stay tuned! I got the opportunity to interview the author, and it will be below the review!)

 I was definitely pulled into requesting this one because of the synopsis, and I’m so glad to say that it definitely delivered. I’m a huge fan of thrillers in which the main character used to live in a small town, and has no choice but to go back to the bad memories to solve a conflict, and this one definitely reminded me of why I’m such a huge fan of them. If you were a big fan of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, you’ll probably fall in love with this one like I did.

 The pacing of this book was A+. Once I started this book, I could barely put it down, especially near the halfway point where we kept discovering new things and clues kept popping up and I just absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. Personally, I thought this book was pretty much perfectly-paced, and a fantastic balance between being extremely tense, but slowing it down when it was necessary. I thought the way that the entire case unfolded was quite realistic, especially regarding the police work (even though that 100% frustrated me to death that the police wouldn’t listen to Mia, I swear to God). Not to mention that I was completely mislead about where this book was going, and it’s always a mark in my book when a thriller can truly surprise me.

 The main character of this novel is Mia Haas, who was quite interesting. Usually, I’m not one to care too much about characters in thrillers, but who can resist a pharmacist who’s addicted to pills herself? I also really loved the relationships between her and her family, which was a great way to build character. Even though Lucas isn’t in the book too much, I definitely got that sort of twin bond between the two of them, and you could definitely feel the love that she had for her brother, which was what made her complex feelings towards the case so real. And we also get to see the complicated relationship between Mia and her mother growing up, and even in the present, which I really loved. A lot of relationships get explored often in thrillers – married couples, parents and their children, best friends, even siblings – but I’ve rarely seen such a huge focus on characters and their parents, and I really enjoyed it and thought it included a pretty interesting perspective.

 Overall, if the premise interests you and you love small towns with big secrets, you should 100% read this book!

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 I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley. A huge thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Sherri Smith for granting me a copy!

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 And now, for what you guys were waiting for! I got the opportunity to interview Sherri Smith for my blog, and it was so much fun (and my first ever author interview eep!)! She’s such a sweetheart, and I really enjoyed reading her answers, so I hope you enjoy the interview!

1. What made you want to write your first psychological thriller since your other published books are in different genres?

It was really a combination of things. I love reading about history, but when writing historical fiction I was getting snagged on the details too much. The research was grueling and I was way too preoccupied with getting the historical time period just right and writing quickly became too stifling and clinical for me. I’d get too panicky about all the wrong things and realized I was avoiding the story I’d been working on at the time and I knew it was time to move on. I wasn’t happy doing it.

As well, both of my historical fiction novels are a tad on the dark side, especially the second one, and they weren’t exactly fitting in with the expectations of the genre. So I’d been heading in this direction long before I realized it.

2. Following up with the first question: were there any particular books that inspired you to write this one?

Well, I was reading Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing when I had this ground-shifting revelation about my writing. I just fell in love with it. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.

From there I read as much as possible in the genre. Gillian Flynn is also a major influence. I’m in awe of her novels, they just get everything right. Same as Tana French, Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter and Chevy Stevens.

3. Small towns with a lot of secrets are becoming a sort of trend in thrillers that I’m really enjoying! How did you make your small town different than other thrillers’ small towns, and were there any books that inspired yours?

Good question! First, the city I live in is unique in the way that we don’t have a thriving downtown area. This is probably because we have long, killer winters with ice-slick roads, blistering windchills and snow-drifts so high that turning into traffic is a blind-gamble with your life. And so, this makes going too far out of the zone one lives in, well, unappealing. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a hardy people, we do go for leisure walks in blizzards, but just in our own areas, so we can make it back home via sheer muscle memory if necessary.  Anyway, this all plays into the feel of living in a very small town. So it’s certainly a setting I am familiar with.

As well, like you, I just love small town settings. The town in Sharp Objects was a huge inspiration; it was so recognizable to me. As well the small-town settings in Stephen King’s novels where you think you know everyone, because you see them every day. You get a little too comfortable with the people around you, that they won’t spill out of the box you expect them to stay in and when they do, it makes it all the more terrifying.

4. I though this book was quite dark, and I’ve always been a fan of dark thrillers. Was there anything special you had to do to write from such a dark place?

Not really. I think I just naturally lean that way. Maybe it’s an urge to make the incomprehensible, comprehensible.

5. Mia is quite the interesting character, and I loved following her story. What was it like getting into the headspace of Mia, especially with what she’s dealing with?

Thank-you! Going into Mia’s head wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I wished she’d share a few of her pills with me, to smooth out the ride, but I think with writing any character you just have to find the threads that connect with you. I have two brothers. Again the small town thing was familiar. I certainly share Mia’s sense of humor, especially how it buoys up when she’s feeling particularly low. I’m a laugh while you cry sort of person too. So I sort of took those commonalities and went from there. And while I wouldn’t necessarily do much of what she did in the book, her actions made sense to me.

6. I’ve always been fascinated by how authors come up with their ideas for their books. How did you get the idea for this novel?

Follow Me Down started with an image of a semi-rundown apartment block with a rusty look pool in the back. There’s a teen girl in the pool, floating on an air mattress. She has that look girls this age can have, a kind of mournful sadness. I kept wondering, who is this girl? Why is she so sad? Who did she lose? Does she belong there or not? From there, a plot and characters eventually swirled together in the right way.

7. I’ve always wanted to ask this question to an author of a thriller novel: Did the mystery and the conclusion of said mystery unfold in the final version of the novel like it did in the first draft, if there was one? Did anything change?

The ending kind of revealed itself through multiple drafts. While this might sound artsy, it’s not. I had a slew of competing ideas (because I am a really indecisive writer) of where I wanted it to go and one just simply won out. So things definitely kept changing as I wrote.

8. I found it really interesting how this book focused so heavily on mothers. What influenced the broken relationships between some of the characters and their mothers?

Such a good question! Having a bad parent can set you up for a certain level of adult misery. Or so I say, because I am an armchair psychologist and it seems like a given truth. Anyway, I am overly preoccupied with being a good mother in real life that it borders on neurotic, and so maybe it was a covert away to air out my anxieties of being a bad one.

As well, just like in real life, you only really feel like you know someone if you know a bit about their history. Why they act the way they do, how they acquired their worldview and so on. I wanted that level intimacy to be there with Mia. I wanted you to feel like you knew her, the way Lucas might have, and that way you would better sympathize with her journey.

9. Expanding more on the previous question (and because it was just so interesting), what was writing the relationship between Joanna and Kathy like?

It was a bit like taking an outsider’s view of Mia and Mimi’s relationship. It was that kind of mother-daughter relationship people would heavily suspect was off in some way, but wouldn’t challenge it because they didn’t know for sure. Is this mother just really, enthusiastically supportive of her daughter or is she controlling? I think we’ve all encountered these kinds of relationships that make us suspicious of something we can’t exactly put a finger on.

10. I see you’ve written two historical fiction novels. How different was it writing a thriller rather than a historical fiction novel, or were there no differences at all?

There was certainly far less research! I actually went out of my way to not research anything for Follow Me Down because I was so totally research-fatigued from my historical fiction novels.

There wasn’t much difference in trying to create good, strong characters because I think that’s every author’s approach, but coming up with a twisty plot was very different and one of my favorite parts. I love the puzzle aspect of trying to pull it all tighter and when it clicked, it was the best feeling!

11. What are some of your favorite authors that inspire you?

There are so many authors who inspire me. Honestly I could go on for days. Books are my life’s playlist, which author, what book I was obsessed with at any given time reflects a lot of what I was feeling in that period. But now, today, those obsessions are Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Meg Abbott, Mo Hayder, Alex Marwood, Chevy Stevens, Hilary Davidson, Stephen King (always,) Gilly MacMillan. There’s more, but I’ll stop here.

12. Any books that you’d highly recommend everyone must read?

Well I’d have to split it into categories to a do a good job of it.  Such as, top recommended book to give you night terrors? The Silence of the Lambs.

Recommended magical realist book? One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Recommended unlikable characters with a cool plot twist? Nick and Amy in Gone Girl.

Recommended unreliable narrator? Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

Recommended book with a clown? It by Stephen King

Recommended long-suffering artist biography? The Tragic Honest: The Life and Works of Richard Yates.

Recommended graphic novel? I don’t know, but I am loving iZombie on Netflix right now!

See? This could go late into the night, so I should probably stop now.

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2

[REVIEW] The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

the-roanoke-girls

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

My Thoughts:

Well, THAT was certainly an experience. And probably one of the most messed up books I’ve ever read. And, let me tell you, I absolutely loved it. A little bit of a note: I know there are some people out there who want to know nothing going into a book, so I’ll tell you right now that if you don’t want any spoilers, just know that this book is wonderfully dark, but slow-moving, but also highly addictive. But, I am going to talk about this “dark secret,” mainly because it’s literally revealed in the third or fourth chapter, which is about 25-30 pages in? So, it really doesn’t matter. But, again, I know some people hate spoilers, so feel free to skip out on this review.

So, bye to the people who don’t want any spoilers!

 First off, this book was so dark. So incredibly dark. Like, “My Grandfather has sex with all the women part of the Roanoke family, and my Grandma knows about it and doesn’t care, and also, my Grandfather is totally a pedophile, and also I’m in an unhealthy relationship with a boy I had lusty sex with back when I was like, sixteen,” dark. And I absolutely loved it. I’m a huge fan of dark thrillers (this is probably why I have such an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Flynn and Nick Cutter), and this was definitely my taste. I know it definitely won’t feel that way for others, and it might be uncomfortable for some, but I just couldn’t stop reading. Not to mention this book made me have all the feelings, and, in my opinion, feelings always make me adore a book.

 In this book, we’re dealing with the mystery of Allegra, who is her “cousin,” but obviously not because her Grandfather is having sex with all of them, and then they’re having babies, so, probably not, but that’s not the point (in short, the way they’re all related is SO WEIRD, and I’m not even going to bother to figure it out). I will say, the mystery is very slow-moving, and it’s not even really towards the end that we’re really working hard on solving the mystery, but I didn’t really mind too much. I thought it was a sort of mix between a contemporary/literary fiction and a thriller, especially since we get to see the POV from Lane in the past when she’s sixteen, and in the present, and also a peek at the lives of the other missing/dead Roanoke girls, which is what made me devour this book.

 And we also get to see everything through the eyes of Lane, the main character, who I can’t really put my finger on. She frustrated me, but at the same time I really liked her? It’s all very confusing. I wouldn’t really call her a likeable character, in retrospect – and really not a sane one, either, to be honest – but she’s certainly an interesting one, and I really enjoyed seeing everything from her POV. It was a nice take on the “main character is forced to go back to a small town” trope, since for every one I read, I’m always faced with a different messed-up protagonist, and Lane’s a bit different, especially since she’s one of the few to sort of run away from the normal fate of the Roanoke girls.

 Also, there’s a romance? Or whatever you’d like to call it (I definitely don’t define it as one). It honestly seems like all kinds of unhealthy to me, and, like, two-thirds angry sex and hate, but, you know, I guess they’re meant to be because they can be messed up together? Honestly, every single relationship in this book was unhealthy in a way, so I guess you could say it really doesn’t matter in the end, right? RIGHT?

Also, a mini bravo to Engel for going from a YA dystopian novel to something as horrific as this. Like, hot damn. Welcome to the thriller crew, Engel; trust me, you fit right in with the big dogs.

 Overall, this was a dark mystery/contemporary that captivated me from the very first sentence. I highly recommend for those who are a fan of Gillian Flynn or just dark thrillers in general, much like me.let's chatHave you read this book yet? What did you think about it? Are you as much of a fan of dark thrillers as I am?

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6

[REVIEW] The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

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Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Adult

Series: The Otto Digmore Difference #1

Rating: 4 STARS 

Description:

“Road trip!” 

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success. 

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time. 

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie. 

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend. 

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams? 

My Thoughts:

“People are staring at me, and I’m in the moment, and I want it to go on forever.”

First off, oh my God, this is my first author request book! I was so happy to read this one because LGBTQ+ novels are my some of my favorite novels, as I’m sure you guys know. Plus, I actually have two of Hartinger’s books on my TBR – Three Truths and a Lie and Grand and Humble, to be exact – so, why not start with this one! And, yes, I’m so glad that we’re getting a sequel because this was oh so good.

I absolutely loved Otto so much! He has burn scars on one side of his face because of an incident when he was seven years old, and continually has to overcome prejudice regarding Hollywood because he can’t get the parts he wants, and the parts he’s offered are extremely offensive. He’s such a nice guy that just wants a chance to make it as an actor, and you’ll definitely feel for him. He’s such a real character that it’ll basically be impossible to not care about him even a little, especially because of the situations he’s constantly caught up in and the way he feels because of what he looks like. Do people think of him as sexless because he’s not conventionally attractive? Are the only parts he’s going to be able to act as are monsters or small parts?  It’s one of those things where you’ll feel frustrated and sympathetic because of his thoughts and what’s going on around him, and that’s always a good thing.

Also, the road trip aspect of this was so much fun. Believe it or not, I’ve had yet to read a book centered around a road trip and not become completely bored by it – I’m looking at you Retribution of Mara Dyer and The Darkest Minds – but I read this one so quickly because it was easily captivating, and because I cared so much about Otto, I just wanted to see what was going to happen regarding his story. Of course, we had some out-of-the-blue events going on, but it really didn’t bother me too much because it was just all so enjoyable.

And good news – this book had little to no romance! I truly thought there was something that was going to happen between the two main characters because I’m so used to watching shows or reading books where everything works out happily ever after for the main character romance-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised that this book featured absolutely no cheating and a really adorable bromance (and bromances are always some of my favorite friendships out there). There is a little bit of a fluffy romance near the end, but not too much that it’ll detract from the story, and I thought it was just so, so cute. I don’t think I’ve ever read a contemporary that doesn’t center completely around a romance, so it was nice to see a contemporary that had more of a focus on the importance of friendship and recognizing other people’s sacrifices.

Also, points for all the super modern references! Since it’s a book that takes place in Hollywood, we get to see all these references to modern TV shows – shows that came out just in this fall season of last year, which I adored – and actors – if you actually keep up with that type of stuff. This book reminded me that I was watching The Exorcist, and I never got back to that (like I do most shows I start watching oops). Also, Speechless is A+; I highly recommend it.

Overall, a really fun road trip contemporary that has a larger focus on friendship than anything. I highly recommend.

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I received this book for free from the author via an author request. Thanks so much to Brent Hartinger for allowing me to read this book!

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20

[REVIEW] This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

this savage song

Genre: Fantasy, PNR, YA

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

My Thoughts:

“The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk.”

“Mikaela, how dare you call yourself a V.E. Scwab fan when you haven’t read This Savage Song yet?” I know, I know, it’s a shame! I read the first two books in the Shades of Magic trilogy, fell in love with Vicious, even pre-ordered This Savage Song about a month before it was released…and then promptly downloaded it on the Kindle app, and never read it. And then went to meet her, bought a physical copy, and left it sitting on my bookshelf, collecting dust. So when I finally forced myself to read it, of course, I was like, “WHERE WAS THIS BOOK ALL MY LIFE???”

 First off, the world-building in this book was A++. I loved seeing this sort of dystopian/PNR novel in which humans and monsters co-exist. I thought the entire conflict between the two families definitely reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, except there was no romance (THANK JESUS HALLELUJAH). The entire conflict between monsters and humans sort of reminded me of how people can easily stereotype those we don’t know based off of what we’re told and our personal bias, which goes for everybody on any sort of side. I love how the details about this world were sprinkled in and not forced onto us via info-dump. Where does V.E. Schwab come up with these wonderful ideas and worlds?

 The characters were fantastic, and probably what made me really fall in love with this book. We have Kate Harker, a human who has total daddy issues and strives as hard as she can to be this “toughie” who has no feelings (which we all know for sure is completely untrue) and August Flynn, my sweet baby monster, who only wants to be a human being and doesn’t want to hurt a soul (which is quite unfortunate because he has to to, you know, live). I think one of my favorite things about this besides the fact that the two of them didn’t have these cheesy romantic moments (PRAISE GOD), was the fact that their typical gender roles were reversed, in a way? Usually, we have the guys being these broody bad boys with a rough past and family issues, and the girl is innocent and wants to stay out of the special powers she’s forced into, so I thought it was an awesome change of pace to see it be turned upside down a little bit.

 I also really loved seeing Kate’s anxiety. It’s not talked about that much in the book, but I love how it was shown, especially since she struggled with so many problems concerning her past that she just keeps bottled up inside. I don’t have the same anxiety that Kate herself has (I’m pretty sure she has a more general anxiety while mine is a more mild form of social anxiety), but I thought it was a really nice touch to the story. And can we please talk about August’s character development? It was absolutely brilliant to see him go from this shy monster who didn’t want to hurt anybody to someone who could finally take control of his own ability and accepted himself as who he really was. I think it’s a nice change of heart to see someone accept themselves as who they are, even though they feel as if they’re “bad,” especially since we read so many stories in which characters feel as if they have to entirely denounce who they are to be considered a “good guy.” August is just as morally gray and complex as a human being would be.

 The pacing of this novel was totally on point. There’s just something completely magical about Schwab’s writing that always manages to draw me in and keep me turning the pages. How could I ever say no to another chapter when the previous one ended on an amazing cliffhanger? HOW? I think one of the best things about this book is that you can easily go into it completely blind (which is obviously always the best way to go into a book) since the summary is so vague and doesn’t give away too much of the story, so we get taken on this incredible journey full of twists and turns.

 All in all, another V.E. Schwab novel that I completely and totally fell in love with. Can this woman do no wrong? I definitely think so.

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7

[REVIEW] My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

my-husbands-wife

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

It won’t be so bad when you’re there, says my new husband before kissing me on the mouth. He tastes of Rice Krispies and that strong toothpaste of his which I still haven’t gotten used to.

I know, I say before he peels off to the bus stop on the other side of the road.

Two lies. Small white ones. Designed to make the other feel better.

But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle. 

When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe. A convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything. 

 But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants. 

When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

My Thoughts:

“Flash of metal.”

 WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK? I swear to God, my mind was just blown. And twisted. And my mouth is gaping wide open. And I literally can’t even at every single character because I don’t think I liked even one? This is a world record, you guys; I’m actually proud. But let’s dive into this twisty psychological thriller.

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So, about all those characters I hated. Pretty much all of them, in some way, made a stupid decision and/or made me want to punch them in the face. Except Ross. Ross was a pretty good guy. But that was it. We get to be introduced to Lily, one of the main point-of-views of the novel who is completely and totally gullible to literally anything and has a thing for forbidden love between total creeps and/or drunken artists who end up being total assholes. We also have Carla, the other point-of-view, who we see as both a ten-year-old and a twenty-two year-old, and, no surprise, she makes stupid decisions in both those ages. And then there’s Ed, who’s just an asshole…and that’s basically it. He has zero redeeming factors. And, for some reason, that’s what made this book so entertaining. Ranting at people in my head was what made me read on (even though 99% of you will want to smack these characters, I swear to God).

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I absolutely loved the plot. It’s very intricate and twisty. Like, there are plot twists everywhere, especially near the end, and I was just like, “What? Wait, what? WHAT????” And face-palming a lot because, again, stupid characters and decisions all over the place. But definitely one of the biggest positives for me was how the plot played together. There are two timelines; the first part of this book takes place in 2000, and the second takes place twelve years later. I loved seeing how the details and the plot in the first part of this book ended up linking up to the second part of this book, and how all the storylines with the characters ended up getting tangled up, but worked themselves out in the end to make a really good story. Not to mention that how the storylines played out was what made me glued to the pages. I just couldn’t stop reading until I reached the very end.

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I actually really enjoyed the ending. There weren’t any huge plot twists that took place in the epilogue, which is good, because I really didn’t want one nor did there need to any more than there already was. But, oh my God, some crazy stuff went down in the final thirty to forty pages that just kept me on the edge of my seat. I just needed to know what in the world was going to happen next, and what these stupid characters were going to do in the sticky situations they were caught up in.

Overall, this was a pretty great psychological thriller, especially since I wasn’t even planning to add this one to my TBR, much less actually read it. I highly recommend to those who enjoy the genre; maybe you’ll like it as much as I did (and we can’t rant about how dumb the characters are together!).

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Have you read this book? Does it interest you? What is a favorite thriller of yours?

17

[REVIEW] Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Caraval #1

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My Thoughts:

“It took seven years to get the letter right.”

Yes, I did it! I finally read it! After months and months of seeing other people receiving ARCs and fangirling and falling in love with this book and talking endless praises and putting it on their “Best Books of 2016/2017” lists, I finally got the pleasure of reading this book. And, boy, was it just as amazing as everyone said it would be. 

First off, the world-building. I absolutely adored it. I know there’s been comparisons drawn between this debut and The Night Circus, but I will say that the ways the two deal with circuses are vastly different, but equally amazing. While The Night Circus has more of a magical circus that captivates all, Caraval deals with more of a darker type of circus, one that can easily trick you and play with your mind. I loved how the world unfolded, especially concerning the Isle of Trisda, since you’re constantly doubting yourself and wondering if this is real or if it’s not, or if this person is actually here or if this person is actually betraying her, etc. It’s so brilliant, and I’m a huge fan of books where I’m constantly going, “What in the WORLD is going on?” and keeps me on my toes.

The flow of this book was perfect. I found it extremely addicting and I didn’t think there was one dull moment. There were twists and turns that made me gasp and kept me focused solely on the story and what was going to happen next, especially near the end where I just couldn’t stop reading. This book was so entertaining. The plot really helped the pacing move along, because the summary, thank God, doesn’t reveal too much, so you’re really going in slightly blind, which is what makes it so good. There’ll be so many things that you just won’t see coming. 

And the characters! I loved Scarlett so much! She’s very different from the “badass leading lady” type that’s dominating a lot of YA, which isn’t a bad thing (I absolutely love some of those ladies) and she’s basically just a normal girl, stumbling through this twisty, magical world, trying to get her sister back. She’s one of those easily relatable protagonists that you’ll want to cheer for. And, of course, Julian, my newest book boyfriend. He’s just so sweet and kind and handsome and he cares about Scarlett so much, it’s absolutely adorable. Even though their relationship takes place over the course of five days, I still found it pretty realistic. Their romance didn’t feel forced or cheesy to me, and, in my opinion,  I didn’t think it was insta-love since there wasn’t really a defining moment where they were outpouring their love for each other and it was met with trepidation, but it’s all up to interpretation, I guess.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, and I’m sure literally everyone else has, so if you haven’t read it already, you definitely must. Like, right now. Right now.

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Feel free to chat about this book with me in the comments! Just make sure to mark your review as spoiler-y if you’re going to talk spoilers though!

9

[MOVIE REVIEW] The Girl on the Train

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Genre: Thriller

Based Off Of: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Movie Parental Guide Rating: Rated R

Rating: 4 STARS

My Thoughts:

Okay, so I went into this movie expecting to hate it or find myself extremely bored. All movie critics and fans of the books hated this one alike, but I’m neither a critic nor a huge fan of the books. I rated The Girl on the Train 3.5 stars when I read it last year because I found it addicting, but I thought there wasn’t enough evidence to support the answer to the whodunnit of the mystery to work, if that makes sense (probably not?).

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Anyway, in general, I did enjoy the movie, as you can see by my rating. Yeah, it was slow-paced, but I really expected it to be worse from all the people saying how bored they were. I liked how the movie transitioned between all three women – Rachel, Megan, and Anna – and gave all three of the women equal screen time without overdoing it. Emily Blunt’s performance as Rachel was freaking amazing; she played her so well. And, though I will admit that it’s been a long while since I’ve actually read the book, I thought it was pretty spot-on, in my opinion.

And that’s it for the non-spoilery part, so if you haven’t read or seen the book/movie, I advise you to leave now!

Okay, now for me to talk in depth about the movie. Something that annoyed me from the get go was how weirdly sexualized Scott and Megan Hipwell’s relationship was. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but in the books, the reason Rachel watches the Hipwells is because she’s recently been divorced, and she sees the couple as what could’ve been between her and Tom. But in the movie, they’re having sex in plain view of a train that rides past their house every day, and it makes Rachel seem like some sort of pervy voyeur or something. It reminded me of my disappointment when I watched the sneak peek of the Big Little Lies trailer. It was so saturated with sex in every scene, and portrayed zero references to the actual book. Why are they always doing this?

Another thing that annoyed me that isn’t as big as a deal: it takes place in New York. This is a pretty huge leap since the book takes place in the U.K., and correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t New York mainly have subways, not trains that ride around in the country? Honestly, it made no sense, and I’m guessing it would have been expensive, but still. Come on.

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I thought the cast of the movie was great! Again, Emily Blunt totally nailed Rachel, especially her drunken tirades and the way she acted so depressed and melancholy. She was absolutely brilliant. I also thought Haley Bennett did really well as Megan Hipwell, especially that heart-breaking scene where she accidentally killed her baby. Her acting was so powerful during that scene, and so were her scenes of the therapy sessions. Those were the top two stand-out actresses for me, but I think everyone did pretty well in their roles.

Also, woah, I didn’t know that Detective Sergent Riley was such a jerk. She straight up threatened Rachel at one point, and I was just like, “Is this legal? Are detectives allowed to do this? Do detectives do this to people just because they think they did the actual crime? What?” But, you know, irrelevant fact.

I mentioned earlier on that it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book, but I feel like the final scene in which Rachel finds out that Tom was the murderer was a bit incorrect. They made it seem as if Rachel blacked out, and then Anna went upstairs to chill out after finding out that her husband is a murderer, and Tom was just sitting around, waiting for Rachel to come to they could have a final show-down. Like, huh? I did like the moment where she stabbed him in the throat, and Anna joined in and drove it in to finally murder him. I thought it was a really poignant scene for their two characters.

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Other scenes I haven’t mentioned yet that I really enjoyed: the flashback to Rachel confronting Megan and Tom, the murder of Megan (which was super intense, damn), when Anna stood up for Rachel and said it was self-defense near the very end, the final couple of scenes with Rachel drawing, Rachel going to the AA meeting after blacking out, and probably a couple more that I just forgot.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one. Of course I’m part of the more unpopular opinion, but it wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to seem. If you’re curious, I think it’s pretty safe to go ahead and try it out for yourself.file_009Have any of you guys seen this movie? Did you like it? Did you think it was accurate to the book?