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[ARC BOOK REVIEW] Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Description:

A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, “If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why? ”

Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth…

My Thoughts:

This was quite the interesting psychological thriller. I went into this one really excited because the premise sounded awesome: a woman comes home to find her boyfriend missing? What? Unfortunately, though the pacing for this one was really well done, and this book kept me reading until the very last pages, the ending definitely fell flat on its face for me.

As I said before, the pacing was definitely well done. As soon as I started this book, I was hooked, and it really kept my interest. I feel like I’ve been doing absolutely terrible at reading this past year, so it was really nice to have an addicting read to keep up with. The mystery definitely keeps you going, especially with such an interesting premise at the basis of the novel.

I thought the characters for this one were also quite interesting. We have Hannah, our main character, and Katie, her best friend, that really drive this novel with their toxic friendship. I’m always a fan of that trope in thrillers, and this was no exception. This one proved to be a bit more subtle than as an outright thriller surrounding toxic friendships, but I still really enjoyed it. We also have James, Hannah’s husband, that was a previous boyfriend of hers when the two of them were growing up, and he played an interesting part in the book as well.

What I really thought set this thriller apart than many of the other ones coming before and after it is the fact that this one had a focus on family and its influence, much like The Roanoke Girls, except way less creepier. We get a peek into Hannah’s home life growing up and how that it’s shaped a huge part of her character, which is expanded upon as the book develops. I thought it was a really nice touch to see how her mom and her dad influenced her and played a part in what happens in the overall bigger picture of the book.

Now, the ending was what got stars docked off for me. Near the end, we get what I’d consider an interesting part, because something happens that I didn’t really expect to happen. I was really excited because I wanted to know where the book would propel from there on out. But after that point, the book got so…busy. Things were revealed, we got a flashback, even MORE things were revealed, a big thing happens, more things are revealed, more stuff happens, and then the epilogue. And it was just all too much. I wouldn’t have minded if everything were interspersed near the falling resolution, but it just happened all at once, and that’s what really bothered me the most. 

Overall, an okay psychological thriller that could’ve done with a better ending.

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A huge thanks to Berkley Publishing for the free e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

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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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2

[REVIEW] The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

The River at Night

Genre: Thriller, Adult

 Series: None

 Rating: 3 STARS

 Description:

A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

 My Thoughts:

 “Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.”

 This book reminded me of two things: why I will never ever, ever go into the wilderness no matter what and why I will never ever, ever trust a young twenty-something to lead me into the forest and save my life. But, seriously, I pre-ordered this book on a lot of great reviews, and I was super excited to read it! Apparently, this has a lot of similarities to something called Deliverance, which I have literally never heard of, so, thankfully, I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing.

 I thought the characters in this book were a huge plus for me! I’m going to blame my thriller obsession with the fact that I love twisted relationships and friendships between people in general, and the four main characters are all so different and have their own baggage going into the trip that definitely makes for an interesting addition to the plot. Of course, like in most thrillers, we have Wini, the more quiet, shy main character who we’re pushed to root for, and then there’s Pia, that annoying friend who thinks she’s all that and she deserves everything she can get her hands on until someone puts her in her place. Of course, she drove me crazy, and even though the novel made the effort to make me like her more, I just couldn’t get past my initial feelings for her. We also have Rachel and Sandra, who I didn’t think were developed enough as individuals since the main focus is Pia and Wini, but I did think they were an interesting touch into the friendship.

 I think one of my favorite things about the characters is the fact that they’re like real people. We’ve all read our share of survival stories before, and most of the time, we jokingly say that if we were in that situation, we would probably be dead, which is not only most likely true, but also shows that, sometimes, main characters make smarter and more logical decisions than most people would in their situations. The four main characters aren’t super athletic or super smart or don’t break out in, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do because one time I was caught in this situation/I read it on the Internet/I’ve been training for this my whole life.” They felt the same way I did and I felt like they made the same decisions I would, especially garnering the realistic ending, which I can’t talk about because SPOILERS.

 My main dislike: the pacing. Why, oh why, are my thrillers either extremely gripping or books that I pick up on-and-off because they’re just so slow? I think the main issue was the fact that the synopsis reveals a bit too much, if that makes sense? Like, we’re all well aware the four women are going to get stranded, so the 10+ chapters leading up to that event were basically boring exposition where I was basically screaming in my head, “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!” I also felt like it was slightly misleading? Maybe because the synopsis made this huge show of talking about being this “dark exploration of creatures,” and I didn’t feel like it did that? To me, that made it seems like they tried to make it sound more Hunger Games-y, but maybe that’s just me.

 Overall, this was a pretty interesting survival thriller, and if you want to check it out, I feel like you should, but it still ended up being a meh read for me.

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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.

i-hate-you-all

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.

reading-fast

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?