14

[REVIEW] Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (Ft. Excessive Orange Is The New Black Gifs)

allegedly

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, YA

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Description:

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

My Thoughts:

“Some people are just born bad, plain and simple.”

Honestly, this book wasn’t even on my radar. I’d heard some things about this book because I follow up with the Epic Reads website, but it didn’t really interest me, so I stayed away. But then I was pulled over by the Influence of Bookstagram, and I totally and completely caved because I heard SO MANY GOOD THINGS. Would I say that I totally and completely fell in love with this book? No, not really. But I definitely found this one entertaining, and I’m sure, in the right hands, someone would love this book more than I did.

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So, regarding the characters, I found this one really interesting. We are introduced to Mary, a sixteen-year-old girl stuck in the crappy system and also just happens to be pregnant by her older boyfriend, Ted, who works in the nursing home close to the group home. Mary is someone you will most likely sympathize with. Her relationship with her mother is frayed, she wants to keep her baby but she doesn’t have that choice, she’s trying to get an education but is continually blocked from it, and everyone thinks she killed a baby. Allegedly. I felt so bad for her, and I thought this was a really great book to talk about how the system treats younger prisoners, especially POC. I know we’ve all watched Orange Is the New Black (and if you haven’t, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?), but this seemed like a darker, more grittier version (I mean, the show is dark as well, but this was less comedy and girl power, more depression and girl fights). And with Ted…whatever. I didn’t really care too much about him, to be honest, and I just didn’t like him? I’m weird.

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The plot of this book was done so well. I will say this is a mix between a contemporary and a mystery, so for mystery/thriller fans like me, this is no psychological thriller, but I still found it really addicting, especially since we’re hinted at something more constantly. I personally found this book that way, and I just needed more of it, needed to know what was going to happen, and I can owe that all to Mary and her plight. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, needed to see if she was going to get the proper justice she deserved, needed to know what in the hell actually happened to Alyssa.

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I also loved the little snippets inserted from books and reports and transcripts of interviews. I’m a huge fan of books like that, especially thrillers (it reminds me a lot of Dangerous Girls, and, wow, can I go a post without talking about that book?), and I thought it really added to the story, especially seeing how the public responded to the it. I honestly wonder how the public would respond if a nine-year-old black girl killed a white baby. Would the world go into chaos? Would more people believe she did it or if she didn’t? Would people think she deserved an even worse sentence? It’s one of those really interesting cases that would definitely bring up controversy in the real world right now (and I sort of wonder if it’s based off of something that happened in real life?).

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I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Of course, I’m trying not to spoil, but I feel like I’ve seen it so many times before that I’m not really shocked or surprised, and it’s sort of become something where I basically say, “Oh, okay.” Yeah, the first few times I’ve seen that sort of plot twist, I was like, “Woah; what???” but it’s so overdone at this point that I’m starting to hate it a little. It’s not like it’s the author’s fault or anyone else’s, it just feels as if publishers see a plot twist and go, “YES MUST PUBLISH NOW,” to constantly keep up with the trends, and after seeing a thousand different ways to express the fact that the main character is lost royalty, it gets old.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty interesting mix between a contemporary and a mystery, and I think you should definitely check it out if it interests you.

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5

[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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4

[ARC BOOK SPOTLIGHT] The Child (Fiona Barton) & Hit or Miss Authors

THE-CHILD-by-Fiona-Barton

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Genre: Mystery

Series: None

Rating: 2.5 STARS

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Description:

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

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Initially, I was super excited to have this book! I never thought I’d win it through First to Read because I barely win anything, so I was shocked to win this, especially since I adored Barton’s The Widow. Unfortunately, this one didn’t exactly live up to my expectations.

We follow Kate, the reporter from The Widow, as she investigates the story of a dead baby found near a construction site. Three other women also end up getting involved in this case: Emma, who has experienced a rough childhood, but quickly becomes effected because of the news of the dead baby; Jude, Emma’s mother who has a different side of the story; and Angela, who lost a baby long ago and wonders if she’s finally found her. I loved seeing how all four of these women interconnected with the mystery; it made the book truly interesting. We get to experience all of their POVs, and it always kept me guessing what truly happened. I ended up being proved wrong at one point, which reminds me why I love thrillers so much.

I think one of my issues with this book was the pacing. This book was quite slow, and I’d say it’s about the same pace of The Widow. It isn’t a fast-moving thriller at any rate, and I’d probably call it more of a mystery than anything. Though I really enjoyed the pacing in The Widow, the pacing in this book really ruined the experience for me, especially since it took me so damn long to read this one. I started getting bored and just wanting to finish it for the sake of finishing it.

I also thought this was more mystery than thriller. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s a sort of contemporary/mystery mix – you know, one of those mysteries that’s not really too dark and tends to be a bit tragic and the mystery isn’t really the main point of the novel? I will say, for those who complained about there not being a plot twist in her previous novel, they’ll probably enjoy this one much more, since there’s a couple, but I didn’t really enjoy them too much.

I thought the ending of this one was actually pretty nice. It was quite bittersweet for the tone of the novel, and I thought it tied up everything really nicely in the end, which is always good for a stand-alone. I loved seeing the characters get their own little happy ending, in their own way.

Overall, not as good as The Widow, but other people will probably enjoy this one more than I did (and already have!).

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Thanks so much to the Penguin First to Read program for giving me this e-ARC! I truly appreciate it.

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I thought a good topic for this one is talking about hit or miss authors. You know, those authors who have some books you enjoy, but also have some books you don’t enjoy, and some books just feel meh about. For me, I think the biggest culprit of this is Lauren Oliver.

I’m sure you guys know my never-ending love for Before I Fall, which is her debut novel. It was the first book of hers I read fully (I’d DNF-ed Delirium), and I still consider it one of my favorites, and probably the only book of hers I’ve liked so far. I found Delirium really boring and never managed to finish it or conjure the energy to re-read it. I bought Panic on a whim, and also read a good couple of chapters before I gave up on it as well. I recently read Replica, and, again, I found myself not really enjoying it and getting bored of reading the same scene from different POVs. The only unread novel I have of hers left is Vanishing Girls, which is a thriller, and I’m praying that it’s good, but it’s crazy to think that the only book of hers I liked was her first one.

Another author I can think of is Leigh Bardugo. I read Shadow and Bone because of the hype and wasn’t too impressed with it. I initially intended to read the sequel, but the more time passed and the more people raved about Six of Crows, I decided to just opt out of reading the Grisha trilogy, and instead just went with Six of Crows. It was a five-star read and absolutely freaking brilliant and so much better than Shadow and Bone. I wouldn’t consider her one of my favorite authors yet, but we’ll see once I read Wonder Woman: Warbringer.

I’ve realized for thriller authors, I’m quicker to forgive, though. For instance, I didn’t like or thought Shari Lapena’s, Paula Hawkin’s, and Ruth Ware’s books were as good as everyone said they were. Yet, for all three authors, I’ve put their 2017 releases on my most anticipated releases list, and I can’t wait for them to come out. I guess it’s just the fact that I’m weak for a good thriller premise, and, who knows, maybe their next book will be a total hit for me (though I don’t know if this has actually happened for real).

I feel like I judge YA books more by their authors, where there are times where I’ll not read a book because I didn’t like the author’s previous books, but for thrillers, I’m just like, “Meh. The premise sounded awesome; I’ll go for it.” Really, I guess it all depends on the type of bookworm we are.

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3

[ARC REVIEW] Another Thriller Bites the Dust // The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett

the last to die

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

 Series: None

 Rating: 3.5 STARS

Release Date: April 4, 2017

 Description:

 Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

 So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

 My Thoughts:

 Okay, so bear with me here. I was lazy enough to wait until, like, weeks and weeks later to write up this review, so if this sounds vague as all hell, now you know. But, when I was approved for this request on Netgalley, I was so pumped. I absolutely love thrillers, and I’m always interested in YA thrillers since YA is the genre I’m a huge fan of, and there aren’t enough thrillers found in the genre. Again, I ran into a YA thriller that I’d consider better than most, but, in the end, was still just okay. I think most people will enjoy this, but it’s no Dangerous Girls, and if you’re looking for a more complex thriller, this definitely isn’t it.

 So, we’re introduced to a gang of rich, teenage robbers, and I know you’re probably immediately writing them off as unlikable, but they actually weren’t too bad. I thought it was interesting that they robbed each other’s houses for the thrill of it, not only because it sounded stupid, but because it seemed sort of risky and useless, since they didn’t steal anything big, but whatever. Harper is the main character, and, of course she has a younger sister who’s deaf, and this reminded me a lot like Alex from the horror/thriller movie Don’t Breathe from last summer, which I loved and would recommend over reading this book, but that’s getting off-topic. I thought Harper was an all-right character; I didn’t really cheer for her, but I wasn’t praying death upon her, so that was good! I thought the rest of the gang was sort of forgettable, and weren’t developed enough, except maybe Alex and Benji.

 I thought the premise was interesting, and was pretty much what I expected from the synopsis. I was surprised to see that people actually died, and there were some moments that were really touching, especially during one of the member’s deaths. I will say, the book was addicting. I told myself I’d stop at one chapter, and, of course, I completely failed to do so. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, and I appreciate the fact that Garrett just wrote a straight-forward thriller without feeling the need to insert unnecessary filler. And hooray for the fact that the romance didn’t overtake the plot! It was barely there, which is how thrillers SHOULD be.

 I honestly don’t know how I feel about the ending. At the same time, I thought it was entertaining, but on the other hand, I feel like, again, I’ve suffered through a conclusion that seemed to have an unbelievable villain, which way too many damn YA thrillers suffer from sometimes. Instead of trying to make a believable thriller, some authors fall victim to wanting to have this big, crazy twist that shocks people, and it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to spoil, but I just felt like the way things were handled, the “villain” had to not only be the best actor in the history of acting, but also be a mastermind, with a hell of a lot of coincidences.

It’s funny, because it honestly seems like I’ve read way too many thrillers this year, both adult and YA alike, that I thought were good, except for the highly unrealistic endings. It feels like thrillers have stopped attempting to make logical sense and be entertaining, and now seem to try to out-rank each other for craziest plot twist of the year, which isn’t what I want thrillers to de-evolve to, but that’s a discussion for another day. But, I’m sure some people will love the plot twist and be like, “OH MY GOOOOD. DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.” I just rolled my eyes.

 Overall, if you’re interested, I’d say you should just go for it, but, personally, I wouldn’t set other people’s expectations to be TOO high.

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17

[REVIEW] City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

city-of-saints-and-thieves

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

 Series: None

 Rating: 3 STARS

 Description:

 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

 In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

 With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

 My Thoughts:

“If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.”

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 Okay, this first paragraph might seem like I’m talking gibberish, but can I just say, this was nothing like Gone Girl. When you have the words “Gone Girl” on the cover, I expect a psychological thriller. But this was more of a murder mystery than a thriller. Sure, the book jacket also mentioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I haven’t read yet, so I have no idea if that was an accurate comparison or a name drop as well), but it greatly annoys me that a domestic/psychological thriller that’s not even within the YA category was in anyway compared to this book. There was literally nothing in common. Nothing! This is more of a forewarning to fans of Gone Girl. And to publishers who keep incorrectly dropping names so people will read their work.

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 But on to the actual book. We get to meet Tina, whose mother died a while ago under Greyhill’s hands, wants to help her sister, and is involved with a dangerous gang that wants to assist her in taking Greyhill down and exposing him for maybe murdering her mom. I thought she was an awesome character, mainly because she’s a thief, and I love heists and robbers and cheering for anti-heroes, as I’m sure you guys might know, so Tina was, of course, my type of girl. We also get to meet Boyboy, a hacker and Tina’s best friend who reminded me so much like Job from one of my favorite TV shows, Banshee (which you should totally watch if you like action and cute badasses as main characters, but that’s not the point of this review), and Michael, the classic love interest that I didn’t care too much about because blah blah blah, he’s loved her since they were little, blah blah blah, I’ve heard this story at least ten billion times before, blah blah blah, this romance is literally not necessary; I came here to see Tina AVENGE HER MOTHER’S DEATH DAMN IT. But, of course, it’s all personal opinion.

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 I thought the pacing of this book and the plot tied together. There were some parts of this book that were totally banging and made me read faster and faster…and then there were some parts of the book that just fell flat and made me bored and were sort of slump-inducing. The pacing was a bit all over the place, and I guess that’s because the story would sometimes reveal new information and action sequences and cliffhangers, which was super exciting, but then we have those moments where we’re sitting around and getting a little bit of exposition or attempting to move the plot forward in the form of story-telling, which, unfortunately, failed keep me entertained. But, fear not those who love plot twists in their thrillers, there are many abound in this novel!

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 Despite my issues with the pacing, I actually really enjoyed the ending. I found the “big battle” really tense and exciting, and the big finish was totally worth it. I also thought that the ending was personally convincing concerning Kiki and the romance between Tina and Daniel. And for those who are worried about the romance over-powering the action and Tina’s mission, it doesn’t, which I found to be a definite positive, besides the fact that I considered it to be realistic and well-developed. I still didn’t think it was necessary, but I feel like at this point, I’ve got to start accepting it.

 Overall, I thought it was an okay murder mystery with pacing that felt like it was all over the place, but this book will definitely work depending on the person and their preferences.

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Have you read this book yet? And if this becomes a movie, would you watch it (I saw that it was optioned for film, which has now convinced me that EVERY BOOK is going to be turned into a movie, my God)?