BOOK REVIEW: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Book Length: 316 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: November 7, 2022

Read Finish Date: November 13, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

My Review: The book tells the story from 3 POVs:

Rachel is having a hard time of it. Spiraling downward, she has lost her husband, her job, and many times her dignity (she often gets blackout drunk and does things she regrets in the morning). Fooling her roommate into believing she still has a job, Rachel takes the train each morning into London, drink in hand. Every morning she passes by the house that used to be hers — the one that her husband now lives in with his new wife and baby girl. A few doors down lives another couple, whom Rachel watches through the train window, creating a perfect life for them in her mind.

One day, this perfect image is shattered when sees the wife cheating on the husband with another man. Shorty thereafter, the wife goes missing and is feared dead. What happened to her? Was it the man Rachel saw her with? Did the husband find out and kill her in a jealous rage? Rachel was there that night–the night that Megan went missing–but she was drunk and doesn’t remember a thing.

Rachel becomes obsessed with trying to solve the mystery, as she is convinced she knows more than she remembers.

Megan: The story of Megan is told in the past and leads up to the circumstances surrounding why she goes missing. Something horrific happens in her past (I won’t spoil it), but it left me bereft for days afterward.

Lastly, the story of Anne, Rachel’s ex’s new wife. Anne views Rachel much like everyone else — a drunk, a nuisance, crazy. Rachel is constantly leaving messages for Tom (the husband) and Anne is becoming fed up. I wasn’t too crazy about Anne’s POV and it didn’t add that much to the story until the ending when it all came together.

Down the Rabbit Hole sums it up best: “The characters in this book were all so frustratingly imperfect. Each time I wish they would make some good decisions, but they wouldn’t. I think all in all that speaks to the author’s prowess at creating these characters that you can’t help but root for, or at least wish the best, and then have that all crumbling down around you all the time. It truly made for a frustrating yet impressive experience of impending dread.”

I love Paula Hawkins’s writing. Both its imagery and the mystery aspect. The ending had a big twist that I did not see coming and it tied the whole story into a neat little bow. Although Rachel’s actions are cringe worthy sometimes, she is a sympathetic character. She has been done wrong — and by the end it is clear why she is (justifiably) a mess.

I would definitely recommend this book.

As a last point, I would like to share a couple of quotes that I took note of:

My heart breaks for Rachel here in this moment.

I liked my job, but I didn’t have a glittering career, and even if I had, let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things — their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.

The Girl on the Train page 85

The below quote as a really awesome element of foreshadowing in it, that you don’t pick up until much later in the book. It’s just really fantastic, actually, when I think about it.

Blackouts happen, and it isn’t just a matter of being a bit hazy about getting home from the club or forgetting what it was that was so funny when you were chatting in the pub. It’s different. Total black; hours lost, never to be retrieved.

Tom bought me a book about it. Not very romantic, but he was tired of listening to me tell him how sorry I was in the morning when I didn’t even know what I was sorry for. I think he wanted me to see the damage I was doing, the kind of things I might be capable of. It was written by a doctor, but I’ve no idea whether it was accurate: the author claimed that blacking out wasn’t simply a matter of forgetting what had happened, but having no memories to forget in the first place. His theory was that you get into a state where your brain no longer makes short-term memories. And while you’re there, in deepest black, you don’t behave as you usually would, because you’re simply reacting to the very last thing that you think happened, because — since you aren’t making memories — you might not actually know what the last thing that happened really was.”

The Girl on the Train page 74

BOOK REVIEW: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Title: The Woman in the Window

Author: A.J. Finn

Book Length: 427 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime

Read Start Date: October 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: November 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My Review: Anna Fox, a child psychologist, is bound to her home after a traumatic event left her with agoraphobia. We don’t find out what this traumatic event is until nearly the end of the book, so I won’t spoil it here. To fill her days, Anna drinks, mixing the alcohol with prescription medication, and watches her neighbors. For the first 115 pages of the book we learn about Anna — her (bad) habits, mostly. How she likes to watch old movies, play on-line chess, and dispense advice to other agoraphobes in an online chatroom. She has a cat, named Punch, and is separated from her husband and daughter. Anna speaks to them on the phone a few times, but hasn’t seen either of them for what seems like a long time.

Although I never felt like this was overkill per se, I feel basically nothing happened in these 115 pages and it probably could have been shortened. We get a lot of conversations between her and the online people, a lot of quotes from her black and white movies. Unnecessary fillers perhaps?

Anyway, at some point the neighbor, Ethan Russel, and then shortly thereafter, Jane Russel (Ethan’s mother), comes over and they have a night of fun. Drinking wine, playing chess, just chatting. Anna is concerned because Alistair Russel can be violent sometimes, and controlling — or so says Jane. Anna has never met him before, so all she has is Jane’s word for it. Other than this unexpected visit, everything seems a bit mundane, I guess maybe that is how it feels for Anna too.

Finally, on page 115, the thrills begin. Anna hears a scream coming from the Russel’s house. Anna immediately calls Ethan, who tearfully tells Anna that “he just lost his temper.” Anna is convinced that Alistair hurt Jane.

The next evening, Anna is drinking and watching TV as usual, when she turns her attention to the Russel house. While Anna is listening to the TV in the background (the quotes from the movie are interspersed with the narrative, which honestly was distracting), Anna sees Jane shouting at someone, and then:

Once more Jane enters the frame–but walking slowly, strangely. Staggering. A dark patch of crimson has stained the top of her blouse; even as I watch, it spreads to her stomach. Her hands scrabble at her chest. Something slender and silver has lodged there, like a hilt.”

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, page 144

Anna phones the police and the gaslighting begins. Anna was so drunk when she made the police call, she was slurring her words. Almost unintelligibly. No one believes that she saw someone get murdered, mainly because the woman she thought was Jane Russell, was in fact, not. She was someone using Jane’s name. Who was this woman? Does she even exist? Or could mixing the pills and alcohol have given her a hallucination?

Overall, I liked the story. I found it intense at times and I did not see the ending coming. I found myself getting annoyed that no one believed Anna — I found her to be a very sympathetic character and though I couldn’t relate to her completely (as I’m not in her circumstances), I could relate to the gaslighting, the not being taken seriously. I think most women can.

It was easy to read and I got through the 400+ pages in about a week (around 50 pages per day). I only gave it four stars, however, because at times it dragged on. I felt there were too many movies quotes, too many days that were the same; there was a lot of repetition. Despite that, if you haven’t read it already (it’s been out since 2018) I would recommend it.

SIDE NOTE: I was wondering why this book wasn’t listed as “women’s fiction”, but then I just read on Goodreads that the author is actually a man! That answers that! I had just assumed that the author was a women. I’m not sure why I thought that honestly…I guess because the main character is a woman? It doesn’t change my opinion of the book at all, I just found it interesting and though I’d share.

BOOK REVIEW: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi

Title: Ghostwritten

Author: Ronald Malfi

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 56 minutes and Book Length: 400 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Short Stories, Novella, Paranormal, Suspense

Read Start Date: October 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 17, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Four brand-new horror novellas from “a modern-day Algernon Blackwood” all about books, stories, manuscripts – the written word has never had sharper teeth…

From the bestselling author of Come with Me, four standalone horror novellas set in a shared universe!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel drives people to their deaths.

A delivery job turns deadly in The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride.

In This Book Belongs to Olo, a lonely child has dangerous control over an usual pop-up book.

A choose-your-own adventure game spirals into an uncanny reality in The Story.

Full of creepy, page-turning suspense, these collected novellas are perfect for fans of Paul Tremblay, Stephen King and Joe Hill.

My Review: I received this first as a book from Netgalley, but by the time I was ready to read it, there was also an audiobook version available, so I received that from Negalley also. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ronald Malfi is fast becoming one of my all time favorite horror authors. Ghost Written is the second book by Malfi I have read (the first being Blackmouth (you can find my review here)). I really liked the book in both mediums (book and audiobook format).

I’m a voracious reader (I have read about 85 books so far this year, which is pretty typical for me), so the theme of cursed books was intriguing to me. I was not disappointed!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel will stop at nothing to remain unedited and unchanged, even kill! I really liked this one alot — it was actually probably my favorite of the bunch. The book in this story took on a monster quality and seemed to have a mind of its own. I really liked the ending (but I won’t spoil it).

In The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride, two guys have to deliver a package, a book — should be easy right? The problem: the delivery comes with certain instructions, ones that the brothers decide not to follow. This novella has elements of alternate realities / dimensions and I really liked it!

In This Book Belongs to Olo, Olo is the child of rich parents — his only problem is that he has no friends. With his magical pop-up book at his side, he decides to get friends any way he can, even if that means trapping them forever. This was not my favorite story. I would have liked to know how Olo came to have this book and/or how he came to have the power to make this book magical.

Lastly, in The Story, a journalist is investigating the apparent suicide of his ex-girlfriend. What he finds is a strange dark web choose-your-own-adventure story. Could this be the reason for her death? Reading this story via audiobook was a little confusing because sometimes the POV would switch to the characters in the adventure story. I think this one might be better read than listened to.

I love this author, so I can’t recommend his books enough!

Reviews Published
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Title: The Golden Couple

Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: September 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

My Review: The Goodreads synopsis is pretty good so I won’t elaborate on the plot much here, except to say that the book alternates between the perspectives of Marissa and Avery. There are threats lurking behind every corner. Marissa owns a boutique store and starts to get mysterious and at times threatening messages. Is it the guy she slept with? Is Matthew also having an affair with an old girlfriend.

Avery lost her professional license because she went one to step over the line: she broke a patient’s confidentiality when she took information she had learned during a session and leaked it to the news media, essentially becoming a whistle blower. Like Marissa, she is also being threatened, but by the pharmaceutical company who wants to know the name of the informant. Avery adopts a love bug of a Pitbull, but not for protection oddly. I have to say I was a little worried that the dog would get hurt protecting Avery at some point in the book, but happily NOPE! Finally! An author who knows to leave the dog alone 😀.

The authors do a good job of building the tension through out the book and although it started somewhat slow, by the end I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store at the story’s climax. The twist at the end was very unexpected, but I liked it!

This book was great as an audiobook, and it was possible to read while multitasking.

BOOK REVIEW: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

18045891Title: Sharp Objects

Author: Gillian Flynn

Book Length: 321 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Contemporary

Read Start Date: September 4, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My ReviewCamille Preaker, now a reported living in Chicago, is sent to her childhood hometown Wind Gap to cover the story of two child murders. To say that Camille had a troubled childhood would be an understatement. The tag line on the cover of the book I rented from the library states: “This family isn’t nuclear. It’s toxic.” That’s a mild way to put it.

Adora, the family matriarch and Camille’s mother is beloved by the small town of 2,000 residents. The Preaker’s are old money, and own the biggest business in town: a hog farm and butchery. When Camille was thirteen, her sister Marian died after a long bout of illnesses. Marian, the more loved child. The more adored child. Camille had always been second best. Soon after, Camille started cutting words on her body until only a small patch of skin on her back was unmarred. By the time she was an adult, she was also an alcoholic.

At the age of 30 she went to rehab for 6 months, a place for girls who cut. Her mother only visited once. “Then, inevitably, came the stories of Marian. She’d already lost one child, you see. It had nearly killed her. Why would the older (though necessarily less beloved) deliberately harm herself? I was so different from her lost girl, who — think of it — would be almost thirty had be lived. Marian embraced life, what she had been spared. Lord, she had soaked up the world — remember, Camille, how she laughed even in the hospital? I hated to point out to my mother that such was the nature of a bewildered, expiring ten-year-old. Why bother? It’s impossible to compete with the dead. I wished I could stop trying.”

Despite this horrible relationship and past, Camille, fresh out of rehab is heading back to the place where her demons grew up — to stay in the very house where they were created. Wind Gap was “the place where [her] sister died, the place [she] started cutting [her]self. A town so suffocating and small, you tripped over people you hated every day. People who knew things about you. It’s the kind of place that leaves a mark.”

For the first time in a long time, Camille sees Amma, the half-sister she knows very little about. “My mother said she was the most popular girl in school, and I believed it. Jackie said she was the meanest, and I believed that, too. Living in a swirl of Adora’s bitterness had to make one a bit crooked. And what did Amma make of Marian, I wondered? How confusing to live in the shadow of a shadow. But Amma was a smart girl — she did her acting out away from home. Near Adora she was compliant, sweet, needy — just what she had to be, to get my mother’s love.”

Gillian Flynn paints the picture of a bleak town in Nowheresville, America, where you are either a winner or a loser. “Old money and trash,” as Camille puts it. Now, two young teenagers are dead, strangled with their teeth pulled out. By all accounts these girls had their troubles — sometimes they were even bullies, but who would do such a heinous thing? Suspects abound, the police seem a tad incompetent, or at best overwhelmed / out of their league. Will the killer be caught before the next girl goes missing?

The mystery keeps you in it’s grip until the end.

I also really love Gillian Flynn’s writing style. Here are some examples:

“I rang the doorbell, which had been a cat-calling screech when I was very young, now subdued and truncated, like the bing! you hear on children’s records when it’s time to turn the page.”

“I drank more vodka. There was nothing I wanted to do more than be unconscious again, wrapped in black, gone away. I was raw. I felt swollen with potential tears, like a water balloon filled to burst. Begging for a pin prick. Wind Gap was unhealthy for me. This home was unhealthy for me.”

This book was published back in 2006 — wow already 16 years ago — so chances are you might have already read it. In case you haven’t yet, please do. This book is just fantastic.

BOOK REVIEW: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

54737068Title: Local Woman Missing

Author: Mary Kubica

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Contemporary

Read Start Date: August 30, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Review: I really struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars, but landed on 3 stars. This book is essentially about two women and a 6 year old girl who goes missing in the same town 11 years ago. The story is told by 3 separate POVs, some in the present and some 11 years in the past.

Essentially, the plot of the book is as follows: One woman (Shelby) is found dead, buried in a shallow grave — her husband is sent to prison for her murder. The other woman, Meredith, is found dead in a motel — death by apparent suicide — her 6 year old daughter is missing, and has been for the last 11 years. Meredith left a note saying that her daughter was “safe” and not to bother looking. The daughter, Delilah, is found in the opening scene of the book (after she escapes her captors), but her brother Leo soon suspects that the girl calling herself Delilah is not actually his sister.

I read some Goodreads reviews that said that they didn’t like the way the sentences were written. They were really short — however, this did not come across in the audiobook, so perhaps audiobook in this instance should be the preferred medium. For me, this was an easy listen and one that could be done while doing chores etc.

I liked the suspense of finding out what really happened — this was building through out the entire book. I was entertained and generally liked the book until I got to the end. I was disappointed as to how it all turned out. There was a lot of potential for this to be better than it was — the ending just was not plausible and there seems to be a lot of convenient police incompetence, which would not normally happen. I feel like so many things went wrong just for the sake of the story.

If you want to read this book, please do not read on.

SPOILER ALERT:

I need to give away key elements of the plot to fully state my feelings on why I gave this book 3 instead of 4 stars.

We are told that Leo and his dad always believed that Meredith killed herself after giving away Delilah to some unknown person. Say what now? Does that make sense to anyone? But ok. So they believe this hogwash, which means that they basically have believed the whole 11 years that Delilah is safe and happy living with some kind family.

Did the police really believe that Meredith would go to a motel, kill herself, but before doing that “hide” her daughter somewhere? Essentially give the child away to someone else?  Why would she do that? Meredith was happy in her career, her marriage, her life. The dad was a good guy, husband and father. It just really makes no freaking sense whatsoever. And who would she stash the daughter with? Wouldn’t there be a list of trusted friends?

If there was an Amber Alert out for the girl, how would no one recognize her? How would she be living a good life elsewhere without coming into contact with someone, anyone? A 6 year old girl is old enough to know who her parents are — she is old enough to tell someone. How anyone could have thought she was anything but kidnapped and hidden is ludicrous. And if she was kidnapped, then of course Meredith was murdered. Duh. Also, can’t pathologists figure out it wasn’t suicide by the angle of the wounds? Like, if Meredith was stabbed in the stomach, the angle of the wound would be different than if she stabbed herself in the stomach. Right? Sigh.

Then there is the issue of the girl being found. So Delilah escapes, and the cops take a DNA sample. Turns out, it is not the right girl, but the family keeps on thinking it is Delilah because one detective with a crush of the dad tells him that the DNA results are positive so that he won’t be sad anymore. Uh, what? No one else at the police department checked the file? Was this detective actively lying to everyone? Did she honestly think no one would find out?

By this point in the book, we have almost reached the culmination of the storyline 11 years in the past.

We find out that Shelby was a victim of a hit and run accident (Bea (Kate’s partner) was driving drunk with Meredith in the passenger seat). To hide the crime, Bea and Meredith bury the body in a shallow grave, and then Meredith comes back later to cover her with a blanket. There are so many problems with this. The police eventually arrest Shelby’s husband for the murder (I guess based upon the theory he beat her up or something), but like, hello, how is this even possible? She was HIT BY A CAR! Did the pathologist miss this fact? How did the police think the husband had killed her? And what about the blanket? Couldn’t they tell with forensics that the blanket was placed later — didn’t they look at video surveillance at shops to see who had purchased the blanket? Are the police in this town just crazy incompetent?

I mean these crimes did not take place in 1940 — DNA existed. I watch enough true crime to know that there is ALWAYS DNA left at the scene of the crime. I mean, come on. Was NO DNA testing done on Shelby’s body? And if not, why not? Did Shelby’s husband have an incompetent lawyer also?

The ending is probably the most farfetched, but I won’t spoil that for you. I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the idea.

As I said above, I would recommend this book as a beach read or something you can listen to while multitasking. As long as you don’t think too much about the plot holes, it’s actually rather enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

58909880Title: The House Across the Lake

Author: Riley Sager

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, Paranormal

Read Start Date: August 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 9, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night (“a master of the twist and the turn” – Rolling Stone) is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

My Review: I think the Goodreads synopsis on this book is pretty good, so I won’t go too much in detail regarding the plot. This book reminded me a lot of The Woman in the Window. Lonely / isolated woman who has trouble with alcohol, has nothing better to do than to spy on her neighbors. What she spies through the binoculars is a dysfunctional relationship, but she isn’t believed by anyone (mostly having to do with her alcohol consumption and the fact that she is spying.)

At some point the two books separate in theme, and the House Across the Lake takes it into a totally different and unexpected realm, where there are 2 twists at the end that I was not expecting at all!

I really liked The BiblioSanctum’s take on this book: “I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Whatever you might think is going to happen from the short synopsis I provided above, I guarantee it will be wrong. That’s because for most of the novel, Sager leads you to believe The House Across the Lake is going to be another one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill thriller mysteries with a perfectly mundane albeit exciting explanation that you would expect, if not perfectly predict. In reality though, it’s all just a ruse to make you feel all the more astonished and knocked for a loop when everything—and I mean everything—is turned on its head once he drops the big twist.

And it’s big. Genre-changing big. Without spoiling even the tiniest of details, I’ll just say that there is a supernatural element to this, and that is why I think reactions to the ending will be mixed depending on the type of reader you are. Even speaking as someone who enjoys fantasy and speculative fiction, I felt the twist was a bit too much, too sudden, and too in-your-face, so if you’re more into earthly non-supernatural thrillers, I can see how the bombshell might frustrate or even anger you.”

I got through this book pretty quickly, because I couldn’t stop listening to it (I was listening to the audiobook). If you like thrillers, murder mysteries and ghosts, then I’d recommend this!

BOOK REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover

59344312._SY475_Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Review: This book was such a mind f***! From the first sentence this book grabbed my attention. I found it very hard to put down, which was a problem since I was reading this book in order to fall asleep. I have read other Colleen Hoover books before (e.g. Ugly Love (see my review here), It End With Us (see my review here)), but this is by far my favorite one.

The main character Lowen Ashleigh is an author who hasn’t had much success — this is mostly because she doesn’t do book readings or tour — she is a self described introvert. This is a shame, because she is in fact a really good writer. Her luck is about to change.

On her way to a meeting with her agent, she witnesses a fatal car accident. Covered in gore, she is approached by a good Samaritan, Jeremy Crawford, who lends her his shirt, so that she doesn’t have to wear her blood soaked shirt anymore. Sparks fly during this encounter, but it doesn’t matter because she is never going to see him again anyway. Right?

Wrong! Fast forward to the meeting, she learns that Jeremy is attending the same meeting. What’s more, he is the husband of best selling author Verity Crawford, who after suffering a near fatal accident, is essentially in a waking coma. Jeremy wants to hire Lowen to co-author the remaining 3 books in Verity’s hit series. Taking this job would change Lowen’s life forever. Verity’s series is already wildly popular and Lowen will be paid a large sum for her work. This is the break she has been waiting for. Despite this, Lowen has some reservations — she does not do book tours.

Lowen, following the slow and emotionally draining death of her mother, is broke and has been recently kicked out of her apartment, so she accepts the job, with the caveat that she doesn’t have to do public appearances, and travels to Jeremy’s home to go through Verity’s office to try to find notes / outlines that will help her write the next books. What she finds is something all together different — a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, in which she reveals some disturbing things about herself, her relationship with Jeremy, and the circumstances surrounding the death of their twin daughters.

Regarding the alternating story line between Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s perspective, which added layers of plot: Zainab Chats! writes in her review that “It really felt like each secret that was revealed may have both a literal and deeper meaning to Lowen in regards to how she felt about Verity. And it was very unique because it seemed as she read more and more of Verity’s manuscript she seemed to be even more frightened, of a helpless woman with traumatic injuries.”

I loved the layers of complexity created by this dual narrative.

Verity’s novels are so popular because Verity writes in the villain’s point of view. So what is the truth? Is she really a monster and that is why she can write the part of the villain so well? Meanwhile, Jeremy and Lowen are obviously falling for each other, but then strange things start happening around the house. Door are locked when they shouldn’t be, Crew (Jeremy’s and Verity’s son) talks about his mother as though she is awake, and Lowen even sees an apparition of Verity on the stairs.

What is the truth? What is happening at this house??

What I liked most about this book: It was a total page turner. I wanted to know what happened next. The author kept me, the reader, engaged in the story. I loved to hate Verity as her autobiography was truly heinous–she writes about abusing her kids as babies, about loving one twin over the other etc. Would Lowen and Jeremy finally get together, or were they always going to be stuck in platonic world, seeing as Jeremy was still technically married? What really happened to the twins? Was Verity involved in their deaths? The twist at the end was totally unexpected. It was great!

There was a few downsides about the ending though that left me a little unsettled. Ruminative Philomath says it best: “I don’t understand Verity’s end. It felt forcefully concluded…like there was so much story build-up around her but it turned out to be nothing.”

There’s a reason why this book has been highly recommended on Booktok. I second this recommendation!

BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

58468990._SY475_Title: The Paris Apartment

Author: Lucy Foley

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 53 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: May 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

My Review: Jess is struggling in England and has run into some issues at her place of work — she decides to crash with her half-brother Ben in Paris, but when she arrives at his apartment in an upscale apartment building, he isn’t there. He cannot be found. Where did he go? How does he afford such expensive digs? Where did all this blood come from? Suspecting the worst, but hoping for the best, Jess starts the search for her brother, enlisting the help from Ben’s friend Nick, who also lives in the building.

The other characters in the book are the other occupants of the apartment building, and through their narratives we soon get to learn how they are intertwined with Ben and in a more general way, each other and the building.

This book kept me guessing to the end and I never expected the twist!

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Floor by Lee Child

78129._SY475_Title: Killing Floor

Author: Lee Child

Book Length: 474 pages

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Suspense

Read Start Date: January 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Jack knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.

My Review: Okay, so there are spoilers in this review because I’m giving it a 1 star and no one should read this book. I picked up this book because of the movies and the series about Reacher. They are pretty decent, and since books are usually better than the on-screen adaptations, I figured I was in for a good time. Wrong!

First of all, the summary from Goodreads is not what the book is about. Reacher convinces the police that he wasn’t the killer in the first part of the book, and then spends the rest of the book investigating the murders alongside the police. It’s totally misleading.

Additional plot points: It turns out that Reacher’s brother Joe (who worked for the treasury department) was investigating the biggest counterfeiting ring in the US and it got him killed. Reacher has to find out the who, the why, and the how, to solve the case.

While the premise sounds ok for an action book, I just couldn’t get into the story. The first main issue with the book is that the prose was terrible. I felt like I was reading a freaking Trump speech. A prime example of this is below:

“We found the right street. Found the right house. Decent Place. Well looked after. Neat and clean. A tiny one-storey. Small yard, small single-car garage. Narrow gate in the wire fence. We went through. Rang the bell. An old woman cracked the door against the chain.”

This is how the WHOLE BOOK IS WRITTEN! It made it really hard to read without wanting to tear my eyes out. Would it kill the guy to use a freaking comma once in a while?

The second and third issue that I had with this book, was that the main character Jack Reacher is completely unlikeable and the premise behind the plot is just ridiculous. Jack Reacher is a highly trained army veteran who got laid off from the army, so he just wanders around the country. In one of the biggest coincidences of all time, he ends up in some small backwater town in Georgia the day his brother (who he hasn’t spoken to in years) is murdered. Seriously? I think the odds of winning the lottery are better.

After being mistakenly arrested for this murder, and killing a few guys in the county lockup, he is removed as a suspect. He then hooks up with the hottest girl in town, Roscoe, who happens to also be a cop.

Their relationship is on the fast track. Then we start to get scenes such as the below:

“So we showered. Put us in a better frame of mind. We soaped up and started fooling around. Ended up making love in the stall with the water beating down on us. Afterwards, I just wanted to curl up in the glow.”

So we go from hardened army veteran willing to kill remorselessly and violently (ok it was in self defense, but still) to snuggle bunny. Is this the author’s way of making the main character balanced or well rounded or something? Guys, he might be a viscous killer, but he also likes to cuddle! He has depth!

And speaking of depth, Reacher doesn’t even know how to do his own laundry…he just throws away his clothes! He’s so cool (not).

“Next stop was the basement. I fiddled around with the furnace until it kicken in. Then I stripped off and shoved all my clothes in Charlie’s electric dryer. Set it on low for an hour. I had no idea what I was doing. In the army, some corporal had done my laundry. Took it away, brought it back clean and  folded. Since then, I always bought cheap stuff and just junked it.”

Even though Reacher has fallen head over heels for Roscoe, in the last chapter of the book, after a night of talking (so he’s a snuggle bunny AND a good listener…), we get this. I have to say, I thought: “WTF?” Reaches waxes eloquent about this woman for the whole book and then after a night of talking is like, oh well. What happened to the snuggle bunny? What happened to the sensitive guy he was supposed to be? Doesn’t he care at all?

“It didn’t work out for Roscoe and me. It never really stood a chance. There were too many problems.”

The main problem? Apparently Roscoe doesn’t like that Reacher is capable of remorselessly and viscously killing like 10 people. Makes her a little uncomfortable. I wonder why. What annoys me a little bit, is that the reader is supposed to think that this guy is cool or a major badass or something. He just comes across as a little bit of a psycho. This book is written in the first person, so these thoughts are HIS thoughts, what REACHER is thinking. It’s not the narrator giving us a blow by blow of what is happening. So like, when the book is describing how he has to saw the knife into the guys neck to kill him, this is what REACHER is thinking about as he’s doing it.

“Hauled his head back. Cut his throat. You don’t do it with one elegant swipe. Not like in the movies. No knife is sharp enough for that. There’s all kinds of touch gristle in the human throat. You have to saw back and forth with a lot of strength. Takes a while. But it works. It works well. By the time you’ve sawed back to the bone, the guy is dead. This guy was no exception.”

Serial killer much? Would have been fine just to stop at “cut his throat.”

And all these problems made it really hard to get into the story, let alone enjoy it. It wasn’t even that the background story was so interesting either. Sigh.

Would I recommend this book? No. Do yourself a favor and just watch the movie instead.