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Bite-Sized Reviews | The “WTF Did I Just Read?” Edition

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Good news has come: I HAVE BROKEN MY DAMN READING SLUMP!

I thought that the reason I had one was because of reading fantasy, but I think it’s actually because of all these sequels and finales I’ve been attempting to read, but just am not in the mood for. So, at the moment, I’m going to be taking a break from sequels until I’m in the mood for them because I MISSED READING BOOKS SO MUCH.

Anyway, for some reason, I made a terrible decision to go around requesting Netgalley books over the last few months, then getting accepted for them, and then saying, “Well, the book’s not going to be published FOR MONTHS, so I don’t have to worry about it, right?” WRONG. Summer comes upon me, and I realize that I apparently ALL THE BOOKS ARE COMING OUT IN JULY. AND ON THE SAME DAY. WHICH IS TUESDAY. PUBLISHERS ARE WEIRD.

So, since I have way too many July books coming out on similar dates (seriously, there are 31 damn days in July. Why can’t they just space it out???), I thought I’d go ahead and do some mini reviews to take the load off!

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The Revenge

Genre: Thriller

Series: None

Rating: 1 STAR

Release Date: July 1, 2017

Synopsis:

Break ups can be messy. After his ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the entire school, Tony wants revenge. So he signs her up for online dating sites, subscriptions, and even makes the location of her phone public. And it works. A few days later, Hope calls begging Tony to stop the prank. Then Hope screams and a car door slams. The call drops.

Tony tries to keep cool. It’s just like Hope to get back at him with more drama. But when Hope isn’t at school the next day, Tony knows the joke has gone too far-and he may have lead a predator right to his ex’s door. Can Tony find Hope and save her before it’s too late for both of them?

My Thoughts

Um…WTF? This book honestly left me speechless. Like most YA thrillers I hated, the only credit I can give it is that it was addicting…and that’s basically it. The characters were completely forgettable, the writing wasn’t that good, and it was just…weird? I literally can’t put into words how much this didn’t make sense. And the ending was SO OPEN. Like, it just ended, and when I saw that there were acknowledgements, I flipped back to see if I had missed something because that couldn’t possibly have been the end. But, nope, that was it. Basically, this was the poor man’s version of Gone Girl. Like, a REALLY poor man’s version of Gone Girl.

In Summary: 

what just happened here

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waste-of-space

Genre: Contemporary

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Synopsis: 

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show.    

And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.   

My Thoughts

And we have another “WTF?” book, except on a totally different scale! I guess you could say that it was contemporary, but then a little sci-fi ended up being thrown in at the end, so was it magical realism? WHO KNOWS? This was basically making fun of reality shows, and I actually enjoyed how satirical it was and how it poked fun at itself! It was also formatted to include interviews and transcripts, so think Illuminae, except all the science stuff is fake? This is honestly the hardest book to rate ever, because I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t hate it? So, three stars it is, I guess!

In Summary:

Question Marks

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The Inside Dark

Genre: Thriller

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Synopsis:

Five days ago, aspiring crime novelist Jason Swike awoke chained to the wall of a run-down horse stable, convinced he would soon die at the hands of Crackerjack, the infamous serial killer who had terrorized the residents of Massachusetts for the past year—capturing and tormenting men, painting whimsical designs on their faces before shattering their bones and ending their lives. Just when death seems inevitable, Jason, with the help of another captive, manages to kill the madman and escape.

Hailed as a hero, Jason reaps the benefits of his newfound fame: a book deal, a possible reconciliation with his estranged wife, and reward money he can use to pay for his son’s costly medical treatments. But he soon realizes the nightmare that began in the deserted stable is far from over, as he is drawn into a twisted game where the darkest terror may not be the psychopath manipulating his every move, but what Jason may have to do to survive…

My Thoughts

I absolutely devoured this one! I was really happy that the synopsis was so vague because that’s what made the book so entertaining – you think that the book doesn’t have enough material to carry on, but then BAM! Something happens halfway through and you just can’t stop reading because it’s so tense! I enjoyed seeing all the POVs in the story, and the ending was SO GOOD. This reminded me of Jeff Strand’s Pressure (which I loved!), but if you haven’t read that book, don’t bother looking it up because the synopsis will spoil you for this one. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I hope to get to some of his other books soon!

In Summary:

Thumbs Up 3

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A huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, HMH Children’s Book Group, and Thomas and Mercer for the e-ARCS via Netgalley!  

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34

5 Reasons Why I (Strongly) Disliked FOLLOW ME BACK

Follow Me Back Photo 2

Genre: Thriller

Series: Follow Me Back #1

Rating: 1 STAR

Synopsis: 

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

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So, originally, I was super pumped to read this. A YA mystery/thriller that uses a unique format? Count me in! I’m a huge fan of thrillers, and I’m always there to read thrillers in the YA genre, since they’re really lacking. After being approved for this one, my interest slightly waned when I learned that this was originally published on Wattpad. Not shaming Wattpad or anything (I’ve read amazing boyxboy stories on there, which is mainly what I read nowadays), but most of their stories, especially the extremely cliché ones, can definitely be a bit juvenile. And this one definitely reminded me of why I don’t read Wattpad stories about straight couples anymore.

1. Eric Thorn was a total douchebag. He’s one of the main characters of the novel and also one of the POVs, and being in his head for more than one page drove me up a wall. I’m guessing I was supposed to empathize with him because his record label is trying to change him from this sweet boy-next-door who’s all deep and such into a shallow boy with manufactured songs, but I didn’t. He continually puts down his fans, implying that they’re idiots and all sex-obsessed and that they don’t really care about him (no, Eric, no they don’t. That’s because they DON’T KNOW YOU), but, of course ~Tessa~ knows all about him and is different from all the other girls. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

Not to mention his horrible songs. “Aloe Vera”? “Snowflake”? Please tell me who in the world would actually listen to a song titled “Aloe Vera” in this day and age.

2. It had one of the worst romances I’ve ever seen. As you can see from the synopsis, Eric sets up a second account under an alias and ends up communicating with Tessa that way. In the span of a couple of months, Eric apparently falls in love with her? It made absolutely no sense. The two of them are simply talking over Twitter DMs, and before you know it, BAM! Eric’s talking about how much he loves her even though he knows next-to-nothing about her, and then before they’re going to meet, Tessa pours out her love for him, even though we never see this develop on her end. It’s utterly ridiculous.

3. The way Tessa’s agoraphobia was addressed. She’s traumatized by something that happened at camp, and decides to stay locked up in her room after that. I just really hated how literally everyone around her treated her like garbage. Her boyfriend, Scott, assumes that just because she feels like she might be ready to walk outside the house that she’ll want to attend some crowded fraternity party (???) and her mom is very short and impatient with her, which I found more concerning. She gets frustrated when Tessa isn’t mentally ready to go outside and sit for a couple of minutes, and her attitude was just so bad. And then, we reach the end of the book, and it’s as if it never even mattered, in my opinion. I just didn’t see the point of it being in the plot.

4. This is barely a thriller. But, for real though. This isn’t really a thriller. This is basically a contemporary that just slaps thriller elements into it in the most ridiculous manner near the final chapters of the book, and that’s basically it. I have to say, even though basically nothing happens, I still ended up being addicted to its pages. So, there was that.

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4. The nonsensical ending. We reach the end of the book, and we find out that Tessa is an undercover psychopath and that she murdered Eric and that she’s fled to Mexico to escape punishment??? Here’s the thing. I’ve already seen this happen twice before: once in With Malice by Eileen Cook and once in Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, both YA thrillers. So far, Dangerous Girls is the only book to have nailed this. The main character is revealed to have murdered her best friend, but the reason it worked and was such a brilliant plot twist was because the foreshadowing is subtle throughout the entire book, and the last sentence ties it all together. With Malice also did the same thing, and, in my opinion, failed, not only because it was WAY too similar to Dangerous Girls, but also because it just didn’t make sense. We see the main character and how she acts and thinks, and then the final chapters come in, and all of a sudden, she decided to make a last-minute decision to murder her friend out of nowhere. That’s how this felt like. We have zero indication or foreshadowing that Tessa is a psychopath. She seems like a very sweet, shy girl who’s suffering from agoraphobia, and there’s nothing to show she’s an obsessive fangirl who’s out to murder.

Not to mention that this is the most elaborate plot I’ve ever seen. In order for everything to even work out, this means that Tessa had to:

1. Have agoraphobia
2. Write an Eric Thorn fanfiction on Wattpad
3. Create a hashtag and hope that it ends up trending and catching Eric’s eye
4. Somehow play a part in Dorian’s murder to make Eric anxious
5. Get Eric to create a second Twitter account to troll himself
6. Get him to target her and start talking to her
7. Build a relationship over a period of five months
8. Get a crazed fangirl to attack Eric onstage, making him even more anxious
9. Get Eric to fall in love with her
10. Cause Eric to make up a whole contest just to meet her
11. Plan the fact that Blair was going to pretend to be Eric by hacking into his account
12. Escape and not die at the hands of Blair
13. Actually meet Eric
14. Actually carry out the murder

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It literally makes no sense. I know there’s a sequel coming out next year that might reveal things, but it’s so frustrating because nothing adds up. There’s not even a reason or motivation for her to kill him. There’s no context or build-up. It just seems like a plot twist tacked on so people can be like, “OMG!!! Never saw that coming!!!” but I’ve seen it before so many times, that it just made me annoyed.

All in all, a huge disappointment. I honestly don’t recommend this book, and I’m sure you can tell since I gave it one star, and if you know me, I rarely give out one stars for books I’ve actually completed. Apparently, everyone seems to love this one, so I’ll take the position of black sheep, I guess!

Even though I didn’t like this book, a huge thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for giving me a free copy of the book via Netgalley! 

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[ARC REVIEW] The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

the-love-interest

Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, LGBTQ+

Series: None

Rating: 3.5 STARS

Description:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

My Thoughts: 

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I was SUPER EXCITED to read this book. I’ve probably mentioned it only 28498282 times on my blog. So, like, a small amount. I requested it on Netgalley expecting to be turned down because I requested from them twice before and was declined both times, but imagine my surprise when on a really crappy Friday afternoon, I got an e-mail saying I was approved for one of my most anticipated releases. I screamed (in my head, of course, because I was in class, but it was a loud scream in my head). And then I read it in two days. Duh.

So, I guess that’s why I was a little disappointed. Just a little. This book wasn’t terrible by any means, but there were some things that I wanted to happen or I just wanted more of, and it sucks, because I wanted to give it five shiny stars, but then I wouldn’t really be honest with myself! But let’s actually get on to the review!

First up, the stuff I loved! The characters were absolutely brilliant and all three-dimensional and wonderful. We have our main character, Caden, who was so funny and I just loved being in his head and hearing all his thoughts. He’s basically assigned to be a Nice, but he doesn’t really consider himself that way (which I definitely feel because I don’t think I’m a nice person, but maybe other people feel differently). We also have Dylan, the boy that Caden’s competing against, who’s supposed to be a Bad, BUT IS SUCH A SWEETHEART OH MY GOD. I wanted to hug him so hard. Then there’s Juliet, the girl they’re fighting over, who is super smart and wants to be a scientist when she grows up and literally has MADE HER OWN INVENTIONS AND WEAPONS because why not? I didn’t expect to care about her so much, but it was so wonderful to see such a smart girl at the helm of a book! We also have Natalie and Trevor, who dressed up as Hazel Grace and Gus from TFIOS, so they immediately win everything in my books.

The world was also so, so creative! I just loved the way this book continually addressed cliches and the whole background of how everything worked and why it was done was just so well done. Also, in my opinion, this book definitely didn’t suffer from any horrible info-dumps; the world was continually built on as the book went on, and it was just so nice to learn more about the inner workings of the world and the mini details.

Also, this book was hilarious. I’m not one to laugh too much while reading books – funnily enough, the most times I laugh are while watching Youtube videos; go figure – but this one was just so funny and natural while doing it; there was no sort of forced humor. Caden is just a naturally hilarious character, and the fact that it’s so clever at making fun of YA tropes I’m sure we’re all tired of is what makes it so great.

Now on to the things I didn’t love so much. I know this might be hard to believe for some of you guys who’ve been around here for a while, but…I actually wanted more romance. Yep, I said it; I wanted more of a romance in a YA non-contemporary book. I mean, was this a kissing book? Duh, of course it was (and the kissing was amazing, by the way). BUT, I just wanted WAY more of it. This is more of a slow-burn romance – and I’m a huge fan of that sweet, sweet slow-burn – so I thought a lot of it was more focused on the bonding and the friendship and not the ~actual romance~. But, then again, romance is completely subjective for every reader, so it might be different for you!

Also, I felt like the ending moved way too fast. I had the same sort of complaint with Gone Without a Trace, which was also a thriller – a domestic thriller instead of a spy thriller, though – but Part 1 and 2 of The Love Interest were a bit slower-paced and had more of a contemporary feel, I’d say, and then Part 3 comes along, and it turns into more of a dystopian/spy thriller, and without a smooth transition between the two, the change of pacing and such was quite jarring for me. A lot of stuff happens and a lot of things are revealed and it just has such a different feel than a large majority of the book that, to me, it felt a bit all over the place.

But, the book did make up for itself a little bit just for the simple fact that the epilogue was TO DIE FOR. Excuse me while I casually drown in all the feels it gave me and flail all over the damn place.

Overall, though this one didn’t live up to my expectations, this is totally a subjective viewpoint, and you might think differently. I would actually still recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it because it was definitely entertaining!

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A huge thanks to Macmillan Children’s and Fierce Reads for giving me an e-ARC of this book for free in exchange for a review! No matter what I say in this review, it definitely made my day to get accepted for this one, so thanks a lot!

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I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has signed up for Project Big Blogger, Little Blogger so far! It means so much to me that you’re as excited as I am! For all my posts this week, I’ll be linking to my announcement explaining everything – which can be found right here – and the Google form for sign-up – which is right here – because I know there are some people who don’t read all my posts (which is perfectly fine!) or new followers who I don’t want to miss out on this! Feel free to join in, or promote my project in any way you can!

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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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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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15

[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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Does this book interest you? If you’ve already read it, what did you think about it? What did you think about the author interview?

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4

[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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