Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: We Went to the Woods


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: We Went to the Woods
Author: Caite Dolan-Leach
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Recommended If You Like: outsider communities, intricate looks at relationships and friendships, environmental issues, a sense of foreboding

The Book:

Our narrator, Mack, is coming off a stint on a reality show that has left America hating her. Desperate to find a fresh start, she is swept up into the idea of The Homestead, an off the grid living community made up of four young adults she has recently become involved with.

Determined to become entirely self-sustaining, so as to fight against capitalism and the environmental disasters they feel are imminent, the five strive to create their own Utopia. But as Mack does research on other such communities, she begins to realize that despite their best intentions, they are all, in the end, only human.

What I Liked:

I love a book that is both smart and accessible. Dolan-Leach has a lot to say, but it never feels preachy. Both sides of all the issues are shown in all their beauty and ugliness.

These are some believably complicated characters as well, all thinking they are doing what is best for the world, but still driven by human desires and foibles.

There is also this amazing sense of foreboding hanging over the whole book. From the start, Mack lets the readers know something is going to happen, something she feels she should have seen coming. And whether it's what Mack did on the reality show, what happened to the Oneida community that was there before The Homestead, or what is truly going on at The Collective, a large and seemingly thriving self-sustaining community nearby, there are so many twists and surprises.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I thought I might struggle through the parts about growing vegetables or Utopian philosophy, but Dolan-Leach weaves everything together so well that nothing felt difficult or boring to read.

There were a few parts with animals I struggled with, but that's because it made me really sad what happened to the animals, not because those parts weren't well-written or didn't fit into the narrative.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It feels almost like a trend now to say a book is like The Secret History (a book I absolutely love), but I can definitely see really positive similarities in the ways Dolan-Leach explores the concepts of intelligence, communities, relationships, and intentions.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Review: The Last Time I Saw You



The Last Time I Saw You centers around Kate, whose mother Lily has just been murdered, and Kate's former best friend Blaire, who has returned to her grieving friend's side after many years of estrangement. As Blaire and Kate regain their previous closeness, Blaire becomes determined to find out just who killed Lily, while Kate tries to keep her sanity as her life is threatened by an unknown source.

The story is very suspenseful, which is absolutely a plus. This is a book that took me very little time to read, because I had to find out what the next twist and reveal would be.

But, while the two sisters writing together under one name worked so well with The Last Mrs. Parrish (a book that has still stuck with me even having read it almost a year ago) and the different viewpoints within that story, it did not work as well here. The character reveals seemed to come out of left field, and by the end it felt like so many of the characters had just had personalities and beliefs completely shifted to fit the story. This was a book that felt like it was written by two different people and suffered from it, feeling disjointed and disconnected.

The Last Time I Saw You was a book that absolutely captured my attention and kept me hooked (I was stalling while leaving the cafe just so I could read the last few pages), but definitely didn't live up to the promise shown in The Last Mrs. Parrish. I'm hoping the next book goes back to how great the first was.




Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: The Never Game


Deaver's Lincoln and Rhymes series has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I read The Bone Collector. I will freely admit that every time he comes out with a new book, I'm always hoping it will be another book featuring those two characters I love so much.

But after reading The Never Game, I am thrilled he has introduced the new character of Colter Shaw.

Shaw is a tracker, raised by his survivalist father in the wilderness, his childhood full of rules and lessons on how to stay alive. Now he uses his skills to solve cases where rewards are offered. earning his living while helping others.

When a young woman gets kidnapped, Shaw takes the case. As he works to find her, he discovers the case is far bigger and reaches much further than he could have imagined. Another kidnapping leads Shaw to the world of The Whisper Man, a video game where players are abandoned in an isolated spot with only five objects to help them survive.

Entering a world entirely new to him, full of gamers and new technology, Shaw must figure out why someone would be so inspired by a game as to kidnap and kill.

The story is really clever, and I love the creepiness of the fictional game and the way it is integrated. There is a great twist towards the end that actually made me gasp out loud, which is always a positive for me. And Shaw is a really enjoyable and intriguing new character, with a mystery in his own past that I look forward to learning more about in future books.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Man of the Year



Title: Man of the Year
Author: Caroline Louise Walker
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Psychological
Recommended If You Like: family dramas, male narrators interspersed with female narrators, complicated relationships

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

The Book:

Dr. Robert Hart seems to have the perfect life. He's even just been named Man of the Year for Sag Harbor. But when he takes in his son's best friend, Dr. Hart begins to see that there are cracks in the world he's built.

What I Liked:

This book kept me turning pages. From the start, I could tell that something big was going to happen, and Walker had me wanting to find out more.

There were also some great twists near the end that really surprised me, something I always appreciate. I really like when the author makes me rethink all of what I've read in the book before.

I thought it was a really clever decision to have the book interspersed with chapters from the women's points of view. This broke up what could have felt like a monologue from Dr. Hart, and provided important insight into the story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The last chapter really bugged me. I didn't feel it was necessary, and rather than adding another twist, I felt it took away from the power behind the twists that had already come-and it made things a little confusing.

I also found the characters as a whole really unlikable. I think this was the point, but it stopped me from being as invested in the book as I would have liked.

So...?

This was a good book with potential to be a great one. There were some choices that just didn't work for me.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: We Were Killers Once



Title: We Were Killers Once
Author: Becky Masterman
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Genre: Suspense
Recommended If You Like: fiction centered around real crimes, strong female heroines

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

The Book:

Everyone thinks they know the true story behind the Clutter family murders, thanks to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. No one is entirely sure what happened when the Walker family was murdered, but some think there is a connection between the two crimes.

In this fictional look at the murders, Brigid Quinn, a former FBI agent now married to a former priest, finds her world infiltrated by a man who just may have been the unknown and unsuspected third person who participated in the Clutter murders.

What I Liked: 

In Cold Blood is an amazing true crime book, so I was really intrigued by the idea of a fictional take on it. This is definitely a unique take on a well-established crime, and I really like that Masterman went for something brave and bold.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Unfortunately, this wasn't a very well-written book. The characters felt very flat, and there wasn't a lot of suspense to the story.

So...?

I sadly can't really recommend this book. Read the original In Cold Blood instead.


Friday, May 31, 2019

2019 Reading Assignment Challenge: Summer Semester



Professor AuthorLuv

Professor AuthorLuv used to have her own school, where her students we're required to pick a favorite author and commit to reading all their books over the course of a year (aka The AuthorLuv Challenge). She's decided to make her life a little easier and just host some classes here instead. She still wants you to pick a favorite author and commit to reading a certain number of books by that author each month, but she's letting you set your number based on the level course you sign up for. 

Beginner Class: My chosen author is Ngaio Marsh

Professor Genre

Professor Genre is all about choosing a genre/theme. For his classes you'll commit to reading a certain number of books from one genre each month. Choose your level course to sign up for the number of books you'll read each month.

Intermediate Class: My chosen genre is non-fiction

Professor Mix-It-Up

Professor Mix-It-Up wants you to have the freedom to mix-it-up. For her courses you'll commit to reading a certain number of books from a list that you create in the first month of the course. She's giving you a lot of freedom; The books can be any genre, any author, any format!

Beginner Class: My list is: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz and The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: The Mother-in-Law



Title: The Mother-in-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Recommended If You Like: character-driven suspense, family stories, surprising plot twists, good use of flashbacks

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself. 

The Book:

Lucy has always wanted to be loved by her mother-in-law, but has never been able to reach that point with Diana, and now it is too late. Diana is dead, having left a suicide note behind, blaming her death on the cancer it now turns out she never had. When the police suspect it's a homicide, Lucy and the rest of their family must look back on Diana's life and her death to find the truth.

The Good:

I could not put this book down. This year is already full of great family-driven psychological thrillers and suspense, and this book adds to that.

The characters are really well-developed. Hepworth does a great job of playing around with the idea of trope characters that, in her hands, subvert expectations, upping the suspense and surprises.

Plus, the ending left me completely surprised. I really loved how what I thought I knew wasn't true at all-I always appreciate a book that can truly have a conclusion I don't see coming.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything not to like about this book. It more than met my expectations based on all the raving I had been hearing about it.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. This is a gripping, quick, highly suspenseful and surprising story.