Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach – Non-Spoiler Review

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ARC provided by Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review

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Book: Bad Man

Author: Dathan Auerbach

Pages: 400

Genre: Adult fiction, mystery, thriller, horror

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won’t stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

I first became familiar with Dathan Auerbach several years ago when he was known as /u/1000Vultures on Reddit. He wrote the serial-creepypasta series, Penpal, in the /r/nosleep subreddit. No Sleep’s subreddit has one rule: “Suspension of disbelief is key here. Everything is true here, even if it’s not.” In other words, it is a subreddit for authors to post their horror stories and readers/commenters had to go along with it. It’s a creepy good time.

Dathan Auerbach eventually published Penpal into a full length novel, and then once I heard he wrote Bad Man, I really wanted to read it. Luckily Doubleday Books reached out to me and offered me an ARC!

Bad Man begins with brothers, Ben and Eric, who are out having a normal day shopping for groceries. Ben suffers leg pain from an old injury, so he’s not having a good time shopping with his distracting three year-old brother, Eric. Then Eric disappears. Five years later, Ben ends up getting a job as a stocker in the same grocery store from which Eric vanished. Ben believes the answers to his brother’s disappearance lies within those grocery store walls.

Right away the writing style and spook-factor reminded me a bit of Stephen King. I was immediately pulled into the story as soon as Eric disappeared. Add in some suspicious coworkers, a terrible boss, and shady towns folk, and I was hooked. Not to mention the cops in town were horribly useless. Really this book had all the elements of a fantastic horror-crime story. I had a hard time putting this book down and there were so many twists. I was honestly guessing until the very end.

And even though it’s never specified, I believe the book takes place sometime in the 80’s or 90’s. An era without cell phones and digital cameras. I love books in these settings because it makes everything so much more complicated. You have no way to google police reports or snap a photo of a suspicious person on your phone. Ah, the good ol’ days.

A few things that ultimately led to a three star rating are minor. I felt like the book was too much of a slow-burn for my tastes. It felt like things really didn’t start to pick up until I passed the 60% point. Also several scenes were a bit too over descriptive for me (for example there was an entire page about fixing a cabinet, and several pages describing a baler.) I know lots of readers enjoy descriptive scenes for the world building, so I think this writing style just wasn’t for me. As for the ending, I was left feeling unsatisfied.

With my minor qualms aside, I truly thought the horror elements were strong. There were so many scary parts! Auerbach really knows how to reel us in with his creepy-campfire storytelling while still weaving in themes of brotherhood, love, and hope.

I suggest you read Bad Man with the lights off to get those extra creepy vibes.

threestars

xx,

Amy

Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3) by Kerri Maniscalco – Non-Spoiler Review

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ARC provided by Jimmy Patterson Books in exchange for an honest review

fourstars

Book: Escaping From Houdini

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Pages: 416

Genre: YA mystery, historical fiction

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

Oh man, I have some feelings, guys. Lots of FEELINGS.

First and foremost I want to point out that per Kerri Maniscalco, she has written a different ending than what was in this ARC. So this review will be entirely based on what I read in the ARC. I may come back later to change my review/rating after I read the published copy.

And as always, since this is book #3 in a series, there might be spoilers from the first two books.

Escaping From Houdini opens on board the RMS Etruria. Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell (be still my heart) joined Audrey Rose’s uncle to help investigate another case in New York. But once they begin their week long voyage, passengers are murdered and everyone becomes a suspect. To add to the mayhem, there’s a circus troupe on board working as the ship’s entertainment, and the mysterious Mephistopheles has made a dark bargain with Audrey Rose.

And just like the other two books, we once again get more witty banter, swoon-worthy one-liners, and large doses of feminism to make my heart happy. While Audrey Rose’s attitude in this book was not my favorite, I still appreciated the author addressing Audrey Rose’s conflicting romantic feelings; that it is normal to feel confused when you’re only seventeen. We also get lots of forensics, murder investigations, and Thomas’ sly Sherlockian-style deductions. (Seriously, I could read an entire book about how Thomas investigates a murder scene!)

Also, does anyone else think this book would make an AMAZING cross-over with Stephanie Garber’s Caraval/Legendary? Because I am so game for that.

So, let’s talk a little bit about what I did not love. As previously stated, Audrey Rose’s actions in this book felt a bit out of character, and she does some hurtful things that just made me shake my head. I really hope the alternate/final ending will tidy that up more, because if I have to be honest with myself, I did not love the last 1/4 of the book. The introduction of Mephistopheles was a buzz-kill and opened the door for a really forced love triangle. His personality was like a watered down version of Thomas’ and I was not a fan.

And last but not least, there’s Houdini, who was rarely in the book and felt like an after thought. Much like the last two books, the title characters aren’t the main characters with a bunch of screen time.

I’ve said this before in my last review for Hunting Prince Dracula, but usually the endings for each of these books fall a bit flat for me. In this case everyone is stuck on a cruise liner, giving us that added mysterious ambiance in good ol’ Agatha Christie fashion. It’s a perfect whodunnit setting, yet I felt that the potential suspects didn’t drop very many subtle clues for a motive, and the red herrings were, once again, too obvious.

With that being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it wholeheartedly. I loved being back in that world and being surrounded by those characters who now feel like my friends. My heart was breaking so many times and I am still recovering from so many feelings! I am already dying for the next (and final) book, and I cannot wait to hear everyone’s thoughts when Escaping From Houdini comes out on September 18th!

fourstars

xx,

Amy

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2) by Kerri Maniscalco – Non-Spoiler Review

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fourstars

Book: Hunting Prince Dracula

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Pages: 434

Genre: YA mystery, historical fiction

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

This review might contain spoilers from the first book, Stalking Jack the Ripper.

I always enjoy a good, creepy mystery. And I especially love it when the book is set in the 1880’s with a powerful, feminist message.

In Hunting Prince Dracula, Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell embark on a new “adventure”; they’re both vying for a spot at the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science in Romania. By far the setting and story line alone is my favorite among the two books in this series. There is nothing I love more than a castle with a dark history, plus all the forensic/medical speak. It makes my heart so happy.

The book starts with a murder on a train, and the deaths do not stop there. Bodies keep turning up at the academy, and soon Audrey Rose and Thomas team up once again to investigate these gruesome murders. Stories of local legends of Dracula (aka Vlad the Impaler) and monsters in the forest circulate around the school, and the deaths mimic that of a vampire causing everyone to be put under suspicion.

What I loved about this book was how PTSD was addressed. Audrey Rose is still reeling from the aftermath of the Ripper case. Her family is torn apart. And as much as she loves forensics, she deals with the anxiety when performing autopsies because it reminds her so much of what happened with her brother’s gruesome experiments on their mother.

And let’s not forget Thomas Cresswell, who has unlocked Book Boyfriend Status. Please give me all the swoony Thomas one-liners please. He witty humor is such a treat and I love how feminist he is. I also adore his mind; it reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes. I could sit down and read chapter after chapter of how he deduces a murder scene. In fact, I really wish Maniscalco included a dual POV between Audrey Rose and Thomas.

However, one thing that usually falls flat for me in this series is the ending/culprit. I don’t want to compare a YA mystery with an adult mystery, but I’ve read a lot of adult thrillers/mysteries to know my tastes. And usually that means I prefer mysteries where we are presented with several potential suspects where they all each have a big motive. I want subtle clues and bread crumbs. In both of Maniscalco’s books, I feel like the suspects don’t get much screen time, the red herrings are obvious, and what’s supposed to be the big reveal or “ah ha!” moment ends up being anticlimactic. In this case I also felt like the ending was very rushed.

Overall I still immensely enjoyed this story and I loved it way more than the first book. The academy reminded me of a creepier version of Hogwarts, which I thoroughly adored. I still highly recommend this book based on the overall ambiance, school setting, and you get lotssss of Thomas Cresswell!

I am currently reading an ARC of the third installment, Escaping From Houdini, which I will post the review soon!

fourstars

xx,

Amy

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – Non-Spoiler Review

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fivestars

Book: The Poppy War

Author: R.F. Kuang

Pages: 544

Genre: Adult (maybe borderline YA), fantasy, historical fiction

My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

The Poppy War is one of those books that will forever stay with me and is one of my favorite reads of 2018. My friend Melanie recommend The Poppy War to me and I am forever grateful for this. I always appreciate reading books outside of my comfort zone and I’ve been wanting to read more own voices and adult fantasy this year. I cannot recommend this book enough if you’re a fan of war fantasies/historical fiction.

However, I want to mention some major trigger warnings right off the bat: brutal torture/murders, genocide, infanticide, rape (told via recounting), bullying, racism, drug use/addiction, animal cruelty, and overall very, very graphic scenes and descriptions of war. If you watch Game of Thrones, then I’d say the type of graphic violence in The Poppy War is on par with that (or maybe slightly worse.) Also, even though I’ve seen Goodreads label this as YA, I feel like it’s very loosely a YA book due to all the mature content. The story itself is inspired by the Second Sino-Japanese War, most notably the Nanking Massacre. I implore you to read up on these events to get a better understanding of how horrible, yet important, they are to remember.

I was instantly hooked from the very first page. We follow Rin, a war orphan who, wanting to avoid an arranged marriage, enters an elite military academy. I want to say how much I LOVED this school setting; from the combat classes to the odd teachers and (some horrible) classmates. Here Rin faces bullying and racism, but to watch her character arc has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever read (she is so fierce and badass. In fact, several of the females are in this book.) I found myself rooting for so many characters (even some who didn’t deserve it).

But this isn’t just a story about students; there is an entire continent with a war erupting, and an island nation that seeks revenge. Greater things beyond human control come into play and the story evolves into epic, magical battles.

You’ll also read about some great friendships and loyalty, but do not expect any romance. I will admit I had a few ships in mind. But you’re not going to get any romance out of this book.

While this book is over 500 pages, it is very fast paced and a huge page-turner. Every scene is action-packed and you’ll be in for some big twists. There were times I felt there were info-dump scenes I had to re-read to understand better (history lessons, war strategies), but they were all so interesting and I found myself tabbing alllll the pages! I seriously don’t even know how Kuang was able to construct this beautiful story (and it’s her debut!) but I cannot wait to read more!

fivestars

xx,

Amy

Circe by Madeline Miller – Non-Spoiler Review

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Digital ARC provided by Little, Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

fivestarsBook: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Pages: 352

Genre: Mythology, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

My rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My mythology background is pretty much non-existent. I didn’t pay close enough attention in high school when we read The Odyssey and The Iliad. So after I heard the raving reviews about Circe, I instantly knew I had to read it. My need for learning mythology is growing and I was so drawn into the themes of witchcraft in this gorgeous book.

Circe is a very character driven book. It begins with Circe growing up in Oceanus with her father, the sun god Helios, her cold-hearted nymph mother Perse, and her siblings: Pasiphaë, Perses, and Aeëtes. The story follows Circe’s relationships with her harsh family, who believe she is ugly and worthless. She only forms a close bond with Aeëtes, but once he moves away, she is all alone. After Circe casts spells that backfire, Zeus exiles her to the island of Aiaia.

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Circe’s life unfolds before us as she lives her eternal days alone on the island. There she hones her craft; perfecting spells, potions, and tonics. She encounters shipwrecked sailors and is visited by several gods from mythos: Hermes, Athena, Daedalus, and Odysseus.

Other than the insanely beautiful and lyrical writing, I was so pleased to get to read about the other gods as well. We get little glimpses of the rest of the Titans and Olympians. Odysseus and Daedalus play a major role, but we also get to witness the birth of Pasiphaë‘s son, the infamous Minotaur, Scylla the six-headed sea monster, Medea, and Icarus.

There are also some very rough topics such as rape and abuse. And while those were very hard parts to read, this book is also powerful, feminist, and full of hope. It showcases the love a mother has for a child, how we are not our parents’ mistakes, and how we can carve our own paths. This beautiful, epic story had me so hungry to continue my journey into the world of mythos, and I hope you enjoy this book, too!

fivestars

xx,

Amy

Pines by Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines #1) – Non Spoiler Review

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ThreeHalf

Book: Pines

Series: Wayward Pines, #1

Author: Blake Crouch

Pages: 305

Genre: Mystery/thriller, SciFi

My rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads Synopsis:

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

This review will be short and sweet because, as usual, writing a review for a thriller without spoilers is a bit tough. Blake Crouch is known for writing Dark Matter, another scifi-thriller with raving reviews. I decided to start with the Wayward Pines trilogy because I was enthralled by the idea of a small town that seems “off”.

I love thrillers that involve missing people and a conspiracy. The premise is simple: Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in a small town called Wayward Pines to investigate the disappearance of two other federal agents. Then bad things start happening, the people act strange, and nothing is quite as it seems.

This book is non-stop action, to the point where it will stress you out. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! I love a good page-turner! You will question everything and trust no one. You may even want to throw this book across the room because sh*t hits the fan. A lot.

A few drawbacks: Sometimes Ethan can be a bit of an “unreliable narrator”. If you’re fine with that, great! It’s a trope I’m getting a bit tired reading about, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from finishing the book. There are also some pacing issues for me toward the last quarter of the book, and the writing is a bit generic.

Overall, Pines is a very enjoyable page-turner that’s easy to fly through. You can easily finish this in one sitting. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this trilogy!

ThreeHalf

xx,

Amy

The Good Twin by Marti Green – Non Spoiler Review

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ARC provided by Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review

ThreeHalf

Book: The Good Twin

Author: Marti Green

Pages: 272

Genre: Mystery/thriller

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

My rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now it might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

Since thrillers are so hard to review without spoilers, I will try my best to make this as informative as possible!

I am a sucker for thrillers where the characters conspire up something crazy. I am all about lies, deception, and plot twists. I definitely got that out of The Good Twin, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

As the synopsis says, The Good Twin follows a set of twins who were separated at birth. While Mallory grew up poor, Charly grew up surrounded by wealth and everything she could ever want. But once Charly’s husband, Ben, learns Charly has a twin, he approaches Mallory with a clever proposal that may benefit them both.

The Good Twin is a page-turner, and I flew through it. I will admit the writing is a bit basic, though. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. Just don’t expect the writing to be elaborate or lyrical. Which, for a thriller, is just fine with me. Another thing that stood out to me was that the characters were a bit one-dimensional. From the get-go, Ben is made out to be the villain — a role he most certainly fits, and quite frankly, I found zero sympathy for him. Mallory is grey area, whom I’m sure will end up being a 50/50 split between whether or not you love or hate her. There were also a few times when a character would give their reasoning for their “bad” decision, and I’d be like, “REALLY!?” So, while that may be a bit unrealistic, you have to remember that some of these people are morally grey, which makes for a great thriller.

The schemes, deception, and the different layers to the plot completely make up for the one-dimensional characters. I mean, I genuinely loved how much was unfolding in front of my eyes with each turn of the page. I thought the beginning started out a little shaky, but once things picked up, I was 100% invested. I would definitely pick up another Marti Green book. I think The Good Twin would be perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Gillian Flynn.

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review! I enjoyed The Good Twin so much!

The Good Twin releases May 15, 2018.

ThreeHalf

xx,

Amy

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall – Non Spoiler Review

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Digital ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

threestars

Book: Our Kind of Cruelty

Author: Araminta Hall

Pages: 320

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is a love story. This is a tragedy. This is a book about a break up so bad that when you put the pieces of the love story back together, what you get is MURDER …

***

Mike knows that most of us travel through the world as one half of a whole, desperately searching for that missing person to make us complete.

But he and Verity are different. They have found each other and nothing and no one will tear them apart.

It doesn’t matter that Verity is marrying another man.

You see, Verity and Mike play a game together, a secret game they call ‘the crave’, the aim being to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and only Mike.

Verity’s upcoming marriage is the biggest game she and Mike have ever played. And it’s for the highest stakes.

Except this time in order for Mike and Verity to be together someone has to die …

I don’t get to read many thrillers where the main POV is from the male stalker. I really enjoyed listening to You by Caroline Kepnes on audio (Santino Fontana’s voice is brilliant) so that’s what attracted me to Our Kind of Cruelty. While I know You had very polarizing reviews, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book, but I wanted to give it a chance.

The basics are pretty simple: Mike and Verity are in love. They play a game called ‘crave’, where they go to a night club separately. Verity waits for someone to hit on her while Mike watches from afar. Then he swoops in to ‘save’ her. This turns them on. But after 7 years together, Verity breaks up with Mike, and announces she’s getting married to another man. Mike is devastated, but he is convinced this is just another, more hyped-up version, of their crave game. You see, Mike and Verity have their own codes and signals, and Mike knows this is all a part of some grand plan to be together again.

Or is it?

Our Kind of Cruelty starts out with Part 1, Mike’s inner monologues. We get into his head and see what he does on a day to day basis. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I was reading this part. I just didn’t know how much crazy I was going to encounter. I kept thinking to myself, “What exactly is the plot of this book? Because I am all sorts of confused right now.” Once the book segues into Part Two, things really begin to pick up. Is Verity really trying to get rid of Mike, or is she still playing the crave? Is Mike really the delusional, obsessive ex-boyfriend?

I won’t reveal any more details because I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you want to delve into the mind of a stalker and read about twisted games, then this may be your jam. There isn’t any action, and the sex and violence is minor. I was pulled into the story once I got to Part 2, and I felt so much anger and disgust. I will hand it to the author, she does a great job at invoking these emotions in me. I love a good page-turning psychological thriller. While I did enjoy the structure, writing, and overall story, it was a middle of the road read for me.

Our Kind of Cruelty releases May 8, 2018. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.

Please be advised: Trigger warning for abusive relationships, stalking.

threestars

xx,

Amy

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser – Non Spoiler Review

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Book: Not That I Could Tell

Author: Jessica Strawser

Pages: 320

Genre: Adult contemporary, domestic thriller

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

When I learned that Not That I Could Tell takes place in the small town of Yellow Springs, OH, I knew I had to add it to my March Book of the Month box. I have such fond memories visiting Yellow Springs with my husband, and it happens to be the sister city of my hometown, Athens, OH. It is very liberal, carefree, cozy, and surrounded by gorgeous state parks. Last weekend we took a day trip to Yellow Springs, where I got to pose with the book alongside some beautiful murals around town.

Not That I Could Tell follows a group of women who are neighbors. One night they decide to have some wine by a bonfire. By the next morning, one of the women is gone. Right off the bat, we have a mystery. Someone is missing. I immediately got Big Little Lies vibes and was pulled into the story.

As the police begin to question each of the women at the bonfire, you discover a bit about their lives, too. One gets roped into the investigation way more than she bargained for; one becomes a bit too close to a suspect; one has a daughter who does her own investigating to expose the truth.

With that being said, I’ll get into The Good and The Bad.

The Good:

  • The friendships. Everyone is so tight knit and welcoming.
  • Gay representation. Knowing how liberal Yellow Springs is, I am glad Strawser included Randi and Rhoda. They are a delightful couple.
  • Yellow Springs. I loved how many real hot spots were included. I felt like I was discovering Easter eggs as I kept reading. I’d come across Young’s Jersey Dairy, the Sunrise Cafe, John Bryan State Park — all places I’ve visited.

The Bad:

  • Predictable twists and anticlimactic reveals. I wanted more suspense.
  • Too contemporary. I was led to believe this book was a mystery/thriller, but it leans way more on the contemporary side.
  • I wanted to see more of the investigative side of the case. There just wasn’t enough detective work, sadly.
  • One of the characters is an insufferable idiot. (I won’t reveal who)

I am giving this book 3 stars because I overall liked the writing style, the friendships, and the ending. I am disappointed it felt like a contemporary book, which I wasn’t in the mood to read at the time. I will recommend this book if you like contemporaries with a mysterious twist. Please be advised: trigger warning for domestic abuse.

threestars

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xx,

Amy

Scythe by Neal Shusterman – Spoiler Free Review

IMG_8311FourHalfBook: Scythe

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

Author: Neal Shusterman

Pages: 435

Genre: YA Fantasy, Sci Fi, Dystopia

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

This book, guys. This book is ruthless. This book is jaw dropping. This book is vicious. This book is beautiful.

As the blurb says, Scythe takes place in a future world where there is no longer disease or war. A computer-like entity called The Thunderhead (think if IBM’s Watson and Amazon’s Alexa had baby) controls everything to make living as pleasant as possible. The Thunderhead has the technology to make you younger, eradicate depression, control the weather, help raise your children, drive your car, etc. The world is perfect.

In order to control the population, Scythes are needed to keep it in check. Being a Scythe calls for the highest moral discipline, along with mental and physical strength. That brings us to the two newest Scythe apprentices: Citra and Rowan. They do not want to become Scythes, which is basically the first requirement to becoming a Scythe: You have to not want to kill someone.

Scythe follows the journey of Citra and Rowan through their apprenticeship. We not only get to see the brutality behind the “art” of killing, but also the humanity. Would you be willing to kill someone in order to help keep the world perfect? 

As usual, let’s talk about the good and the bad:

The Good:

  • The world building. I thought Shusterman did such an incredible job creating this “perfect” world. The politics behind the separation of Scythe and state go deep, and you will learn so much behind the closed doors of the Scythedom.
  • The characters. I fell in love with a few of the Scythes, which sounds rather morbid since they, you know, kill people. They are so well developed and they each have their own methods for “gleaning” (that’s Scythe speak for “killing”.)
  • The moral ambiguity. You know I love me some morally grey characters. If that’s your jam, then oh man, this book is for you. One minute I found myself gasping, “What!? This is horrible!” And then the next minute I’m nodding my head saying, “Hmm, well, okay. That does make sense…” Seriously, what is wrong with me!?
  • So. Many. Twists. Just when you think things couldn’t get any crazier, they do.
  • Each chapter starts with a journal entry that belongs to a Scythe. They were my favorite parts of the book. I loved reading the thoughts behind a “pro” Scythe and seeing the world behind their eyes.

The Bad:

  • Citra’s character development fell a bit flat to me. She starts off very one dimensional, and she didn’t really gain much traction until the very end. I wanted more from her.
  • Ok, so let me preface this by saying I thought the pacing of the story was very good. I felt it was fast paced. With that being said, I heard a lot of complaints that the story starts “slow”. I don’t know what these people are talking about because I FLEW through this book. I couldn’t put it down! So, I don’t really know why I’m including this in the ‘bad’ section of my review, but I wanted to throw it out there in case you read this book and you’re like, “Wow, Amy, why didn’t you warn me this book starts out slow?” Well, my answer is: it didn’t feel slow to me!
  • Do not expect romance. In fact, what little romance there was felt lack-luster and forced, and foreshadows it may pick up more in the sequel.

I highly, highly recommend you pick up this book. I buddy-read Scythe with a lovely group of ladies from Bookstagram, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. I already finished the sequel, Thunderhead, and I loved it just the same!

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Happy reading!

Amy