Category Archives: Mystery/Thriller

The Disappearances – Emily Bain Murphy

The Disappearances – Emily Bain MurphyTitle: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
Publishing Info: July 4, 2017 by Hachette
Source: Subscription Box
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: October 16, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

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THE DISAPPEARANCES sounded quite interesting with touches of magical realism and intrigue, but I just never quite clicked with it. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was quite boring so I’m sure that didn’t help, but I just didn’t really connect with this book on many different levels.

I did like Aila’s personality but there was something about her that just didn’t quite fit in the story. The historical aspect of the book just seemed unnecessary to a certain extent, and that’s not to say that an author needs a reason to set a book in a specific time period but I wished there had been something more to establish exactly why this time period was special besides the kids’ father being shipped off to war.

This was the type of magical realism that stretched just a bit too far beyond reality and was in that weird in-between state that asked me to suspend reality a bit too much, for my personal tastes. It was interesting to think about the different disappearances and why they were happening, but I didn’t find the answer satisfactory and it felt a little too cheesy. Plus, the addition of the Variants sort of took away from the atmosphere of the book when it could have been darker and grittier. (I mean, that’s just what I was hoping for.) Despite this being more magical realism, I felt like the Variants delved a little too into fantasy and things got a little muddy as the book went on. I wasn’t sure how much was supposed to be magical and how much was supposed to be scientific. There’s no right or wrong answer to that but I just personally didn’t love how everything was handled.

All of the little world-building additions just didn’t click for me either. There were neat things like games, sports, and traditions that were woven in that were unique and captivating but they really took me out of the story more than they pulled me in. They were things I enjoyed experiencing but it didn’t feel like it kept with the tone of the novel, or maybe I was just looking for a tone that wasn’t quite there (as I often spoil things for myself in that regard).

THE DISAPPEARANCES wasn’t a bad book but it just wasn’t the style I was hoping for and it really didn’t pull me. About halfway through I actually considered not finishing because I wasn’t really interested but then things started to evolve and questions were getting answered so I stuck with it. I’m glad I finished it but it didn’t shine for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical, I guess? This wasn’t in a contemporary time period so it was interesting to have it set in another time… I wouldn’t say I loved that aspect but it did change the way I looked at things!
Left Me Wanting More: Intrigue. I wish some of the more interesting concepts had been introduced earlier on to spark some more interest. There was some time spent with things I didn’t care about and I wanted to get into more of what was happening and why.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Some people really enjoyed this one, but writing this review so long after reading the book, I just remember being bored and not loving how the book was structured. I would personally say skip it but hey, it’s always worth looking into!

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BOOKS LIKE THE DISAPPEARANCES

             

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten WhiteTitle: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
Publishing Info: September 25, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: ALAAC18, Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Retelling, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: October 13, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Mind Games (Mind Games #1)

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

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My history with Kiersten White books is quite rocky, finishing some with intermediate feelings and deciding to abandon others. I feel like I just don’t click with her writing style but I couldn’t resist this Frankenstein adaptation, especially when I saw it pop up as an available audiobook.

I still didn’t quite click with this one for some of the same reasons, but I also didn’t struggle as much either. The beginning intrigued me but I also still felt like so much was narration. With the adage of “show, don’t tell,” I feel like so much was still told to the readers from Elizabeth’s point of view and there wasn’t as much happening through the plot and dialogue. There were a lot of flashbacks to supplement the story line but I’m also not sure how I felt about them. As an audiobook, some of them seemed to come on abruptly and it took me a couple sentences to realize we were flashing back based on the characters ages and which characters were present.

I also felt like there wasn’t quite a clear direction for the characters and there wasn’t a commitment to their demeanor. I guess you can see it as the fact that people aren’t black and white, so I did like the shades of grey where you weren’t sure who had dark motives and if we were still rooting for said motives… but the way that some things in book ended was a little too light for me given other darker things and it just didn’t feel like it fit with the tone of the rest of the book. I ended up being bored and disappointed with Elizabeth’s actions towards the end and things really lost steam instead of having a big, thrilling conclusion.

I’m glad I read the book given its context and I like being able to continuously try authors that I haven’t quite connected with in the past. It’s still not something I’m thrilled with and it wasn’t a superb match for me but it did offer something different as far as a literary style, even if it wasn’t the best match for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Frankenstein retellings. For some reason, I think Frankenstein retellings and adaptations are really cool and I liked this take on the story!
Left Me Wanting More: Thrills. This book had a cool, creepy vibe to it and it ended a little dully for me. I thought it was leading up to something insane and the ending just felt a little tame.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It looks like Kiersten White’s writing just isn’t for me. This was an okay read for me but for a cool retelling, I still didn’t love it.

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BOOKS LIKE THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN

             

The Tenth Girl – Sara Faring

The Tenth Girl – Sara FaringTitle: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
Publishing Info: September 24, 2019 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal, Ghosts, Science Fiction
Date Completed: June 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi's existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

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I think readers will either love this book or lose steam with it like I did. It was interesting and had a lot going for it but there was so much happening with it that I felt like it was hard to keep up with, and I usually don’t have too many issues like there. There were a lot of new things, clues to pick up on, a bunch of characters (which wasn’t an issue for me but there were a number), and without a rapid pace to keep things moving, I quickly started losing interest without any reveals towards the middle. I had some Goodreads friends who loved it and from the other early reviews that felt similarly to me, it seems like we had the same issue: pacing.

While the book is suspenseful and atmospheric, I just felt like plot points took forever to come around. There’s a lot to keep readers really hyped up by providing new questions, throwing in suspicions, and having Mavi running around this creepy house, but I just felt like not a whole lot was happening for most of the book. It felt like she was getting more questions and we never got any answers until the end, which makes things a little frustrating at times.

THE TENTH GIRL goes back and forth between a couple time periods but it’s a little confusing. Mavi is at this creepy house in the 1970s but her present seems to be in the future or present day. The flashbacks are to the present but the past and yet somehow Mavi is in the past in the present. It’s enough to make your head spin for sure! It was definitely interesting to try to wrap my head around it but I feel like these kinds of plot devices really stole time away from actually getting to know all of the characters. I just really wanted to experience their personalities more and I felt like I never got to know anyone when I was spending so much time on the mystery and different time periods.

Then there was the twist at the end. I… did not like the twist in the book. There is a twist, as other readers have stated, and I found that it really took away from the whole tone and concept of the book for me. It’s one of those things where it makes you rethink the whole book, which can be really interesting, but in this case it made me feel like I was reading something totally different the whole time and not in the best way. I’m really a person who likes a cohesive feel throughout a whole book so to have a twist at the end basically change the genre, it really is irritating for me and takes me out of the whole experience.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique settings. I loved the Patagonian setting, bringing in a new culture with new myths and a new location. It was different from a lot of other books out there and it was really enjoyable to explore.
Left Me Wanting More: Pacing. I just had a hard time with the structure of the book, I think. I would have liked to know the twist basically at the beginning so I knew what kind of feel this book was going to have. I would have liked to have more answers along the way. I would have maybe skipped so many flashbacks. I just didn’t love the structure and pacing overall.

Addiction Rating
Try it, or get another opinion

I’m torn. It’s an interesting read and I liked a lot about the setting and atmosphere, but is that enough to recommend the book? I’m not sure I’d actively pass it along to a friend but it’s also not a bad read. For its length and how I felt about it, I don’t know if I’d tell someone else to read it.

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BOOKS LIKE THE TENTH GIRL

             

The Swallows – Lisa Lutz

The Swallows – Lisa LutzTitle: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
Publishing Info: August 13, 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: August 16, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Passenger

A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war--with deadly consequences--in a provocative novel from the bestselling author of The Passenger and the Spellman Files series.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want?

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy's new creative writing teacher. When the students' answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there's more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten--the students at the top of the school's social hierarchy--as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can't remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who've started to question the school's "boys will be boys" attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her--including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can't find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there's Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school's secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal--and potentially fatal--consequences for everyone involved. Lisa Lutz's blistering, timely tale shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long--and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.

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I first found Lisa Lutz with her Spellman Files series and absolutely loved the tone, funny family, and easy mysteries. I know she’s written a few different works and not all of them share the same tone, but I think I excepted something much different from THE SWALLOWS. That being said, that’s not the cause for my rating because I’m happy to read different styles from the same authors, but I just didn’t like the way this book was put together and I don’t think that the structure did the topic as much justice as it could have.

The book is presented as a mystery/thriller, but it doesn’t really get too thrilling until the very end of the book (like the last couple chapters) so those few chapters are the reason I’m throwing a half star in there instead of just rating it two stars. The book deals largely with a secret contest and website held by the boys at the school, rating the girls on their sexual performance and having them unwittingly play a part in this school-wide “contest”. It is off-putting and gross, and yes it’s supposed to be, but I hated how the first half of this book just basically kept going over the details and adding more to the concept, leaving the justice and revenge until the end of the book. I sat their feeling incredibly disgusted and bad for all of these girls while they uncovered the secret of the contest and how terrible all of these boys were. It seemed like overkill to keep developing the concept of the contest and describing the message board when we could have spent more time developing the female characters and getting them ready for their moment of empowerment, and it really felt like a lot of time wasted by giving this contest way more attention than it deserved. It wasn’t just a big reveal or anything, the reader knows about it almost the whole time, so I wanted to see more empowerment on the female side much earlier.

There were also a lot of erroneous things in the book that didn’t really make much of a difference. The weird cottage Alex Witt stayed in didn’t really play a big role. There wasn’t really a reason why this was set in 2009 other than to look back on the occasion but there was no flash forward to 2019 or anything, so that was kind of pointless as well. Alex’s romantic involvements with various characters were irrelevant. A side character’s relationship with her mother I guess tied in at the very end and was supposed to “explain” some of her actions, but I think it was entirely unnecessary and threw in random bits of “mystery” to keep the readers wondering. Lisa Lutz is primarily a mystery/thriller writer in various tones and forms, but the beginning wasn’t much of a mystery or a thriller and read more like general fiction. The tone very much switched in the action towards the end to a chilling thriller-type feel with escalating events and some remorseless acts so it was just kind of a jumble of too many things overall.

I mostly just didn’t enjoy reading this book while I was reading it. It came together at the very end but I wished the rest of the book was like the ending. It really didn’t feel cohesive in so many ways and I just really disliked the structure.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Empowerment. I liked seeing the female characters take matters into their own hands and fighting back against the injustices throughout the book.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. For a book that’s supposed to be empowering, I felt like way too much time was spent dwelling on the oppressive and bad parts, giving them too much power and attention. I wanted to see the plot move forward much sooner to get us into the more empowering moments and actually seeing these girls and women making their stand.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I’m sure some people will enjoy it but I just was far too annoyed, frustrated, and even disgusted to think about recommending it. This one was not for me and I don’t think I’d recommend it to my friends.

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BOOKS LIKE THE SWALLOWS

             

Mini-Review: Providence – Caroline Kepnes

Mini-Review: Providence – Caroline KepnesTitle: Providence by Caroline Kepnes
Publishing Info: June 19, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: October 10, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: You (You #1), Hidden Bodies (You #2)

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he's suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and "fit in" with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity—but he's soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters' lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

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I knew this was part sci-fi going into it but I still didn’t quite click with PROVIDENCE like I had hoped… and it wasn’t even because of the presence of that element itself. It was more how it was incorporated for sure. YOU was so creepy because the madness was 100% Joe and this was sort of something that was inflicted upon Jon so it took away some of the creep factor.

With all of Kepnes’ books, it didn’t quite feel cohesive but there was an addictive sort of quality and I wasn’t as into PROVIDENCE. I had a little pause in the middle where I didn’t feel the jump to get back in, but it was easy to continue with the audio and good audiobook narrators.

It was definitely an interesting story and Caroline Kepnes always does a great job at pushing that character emotion (or sometimes lack thereof) forward and there were some really nice suspenseful moments in PROVIDENCE that I appreciated. I’ll always be looking forward to more of her books but I think I like the more psychological aspect of YOU more than I did the sci-fi element of PROVIDENCE.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Caroline Kepnes. I’m definitely interested in picking up whatever Kepnes writes! It was exciting to read something outside of the “YOU world”.
Left Me Wanting More: Twists? Things were revealed but I also didn’t feel that shocked or surprised like I was hoping.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It’s a curious little story and it definitely has an addicting quality to it but I also didn’t totally love it.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE PROVIDENCE

             

Sadie – Courtney Summers

Sadie – Courtney SummersTitle: Sadie by Courtney Summers
Publishing Info: September 4, 2018 by Macmillan
Source: BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: September 1, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

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SADIE was such a difficult and yet compelling book to read. I started it on a Saturday morning and finished it within a few hours because I just couldn’t put it down. It deals with a lot of difficult subjects that are incredibly hard to read because of the reality of the situation, but there’s something about Sadie and her story that just entangled me and I didn’t want to let go.

The narration of this book was just perfect in so many ways. The chapters alternate between Sadie’s POV as she’s on her quest to find her sister’s murderer and the reporter who started a podcast series based on his investigations of Sadie and her disappearance. The story perfectly unfolds with each chapter and POV giving a different perspective of the mystery and revealing just the right amount of information for the readers to keep this book unraveling but not too quickly. This is my first Courtney Summers book and I’m incredibly impressed with the writing style. These narrators really pull you into the book and Courtney Summers really made each one a real person and not just a character in a book, which is true on a whole other level. This is someone’s story in many ways, even though it’s a work of fiction.

I actually really loved the ending. In a story like this, there’s no way to have a happy ending and it’s not really a spoiler to say that because whether or not Sadie enacts her revenge, what sort of happiness would come out of it? Even if justice is served, everything has still already unraveled so I appreciated that Courtney Summers didn’t put a pretty bow on the end of everything to wrap it all up.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Podcast formatting. This was really neat with the podcast incorporated into this book! I wish I had listened to the audio because I heard it was fantastic, but I really thought that was a great way to get a different perspective into the book and make it feel so unique.
Left Me Wanting More: Words to describe it. This is such a difficult book and yet it was so great. It’s quite a compelling read with a chilling story because it is so close to real life and we know these things do happen.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was one of my favorite reads of 2018 and I highly recommend it to everyone! Even if this isn’t your style, I think it’s such a compelling read that it’s worth trying, for sure.

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BOOKS LIKE SADIE

             

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter Evanovich

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter EvanovichTitle: The Big Kahuna (Fox & O'Hare #6) by Janet Evanovich, Peter Evanovich
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: May 9, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2), Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1), Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24), The Heist (Fox & O'Hare #1), Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum #25)

A stoner, an Instagram model, a Czech oligarch, and a missing unicorn. Nick Fox and Kate O'Hare have their work cut out for them in their weirdest, wildest adventure yet in this latest entry in the New York Times bestselling series by Janet and Peter Evanovich.

Straight arrow FBI Agent Kate O'Hare always plays by the rules. Charming Con Man Nicholas Fox makes them up as he goes along. She thinks he's nothing but a scoundrel. He thinks she just needs to lighten up. They're working together to tackle the out-of-bounds cases ordinary FBI agents can't touch. And, their relationship? Well, there hasn't been so much explosive chemistry since Nitro was introduced to Glycerin.
Next on the docket: The mysterious disappearance of the Silicon Valley billionaire, known as the Big Kahuna. Kate's been assigned to find him but no one seems particularly keen on helping. His twenty-six year old adult actress wife-turned Instagram model wife and his shady Czech business partner are more interested in gaining control of his company. For that they need a dead body not a living Kahuna.
The only lead they have is the Kahuna's drop-out son, who's living the dream in Hawaii - if your dream is starting your day with the perfect wave and ending it with a big bowl of weed. To get close to the Kahuna's son, Kate and Nick go undercover as a married couple in the big wave, bohemian, surfer community of Paia, Maui. Living a laid back, hippy-dippy lifestyle isn't exactly in Kate's wheelhouse, but the only thing more horrifying is setting up house with Nick Fox, even if he does look pretty gnarly on a longboard. If they don't catch a break soon, waves aren't the only thing she's going to be shredding (or bedding).

bookreview1

This was a really disappointing installment in this series. I felt like it totally reverted to Stephanie Plum-type humor and lost of of the clever heist elements. While I enjoy Stephanie Plum for what it is, I enjoyed the Fox & O’Hare books so much more.

This was the first book without Lee Goldberg (instead substituting Peter Evanovich) and while I haven’t read any Lee Goldberg books, it really did seem to affect the whole tone of this book. I don’t know if that’s the actual factor of the change but it really does seem like it. Everything turned so incredibly goofy with the new characters and adventure. It was not clever and it was not intriguing.

I also didn’t realize what else it was missing until I read other reviews but I realized that we were missing the fun crew that we’ve seen in the other books! Willie and Boyd were nowhere to be seen and the lack of crew really takes away from the concept of a heist/con book. Also, what in the heck happened to the cliffhanger at the end of book five!? At first I thought maybe I just missed something but that was confirmed by reading other reviews as well. It seemed to just move on and also somehow take a step back with Kate and Nick’s relationship. It was all just very messy.

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Kept Me Hooked On: This series, I guess. I loved the first five books. I’m hoping this was just a fluke and there will be something better on the horizon.
Left Me Wanting More: Heists! Crew! Everything! This was so disappointing. I still enjoyed the book enough but it just felt like a totally different author writing this book.

Addiction Rating
Read it, I guess

This was such a blah installment but if it leads us to the next book where it gets better, then it’s worth it.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BIG KAHUNA

             

The Cheerleaders – Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders – Kara ThomasTitle: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Publishing Info: July 31, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, ALAAC18
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: July 23, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Darkest Corners, Little Monsters

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

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I think this was Kara Thomas’ best book yet! I really, really loved the writing style and the whole set-up of this novel. It reminded me much more of my adult thriller reads rather than the YA, while still maintaining a YA atmosphere, characters, and setting. Things are set up right from the beginning to come full circle at the end but I couldn’t tell how they were going to come together and I kept trying to piece the puzzle together. What I loved about this book was that I was able to follow along and start putting little clues together but it took until the end to really realize what exactly had happened and how they really impacted Monica and why she was involved in this story from start to finish and every piece in between.

I actually thought that this was going to be… a little sillier. The deaths of the five cheerleaders years ago was thought to be a sort of curse and I actually had that Fear Street mentality in the back of my head (there was a Fear Street Cheerleaders series after all), but this read much more maturely than I had anticipated. I think I would have enjoyed it either way but I’m really glad that it read the way that it did and I really enjoyed this type of structure.

I actually think I already want to re-read it because there’s so much that I’ve forgotten writing my review (way, way later… my review schedule has been all over the place with new reviews and old reviews!) and I think I’d enjoy reading it all over again to experience those discoveries like new. Even if I don’t remember all of the details, I do remember how much I enjoyed listening to this audiobook and it’s one I knew I wanted to recommend!!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mature YA mystery/thrillers. Young adult novels can contain any array of tones and topics but sometimes young adult is still just too young for me. Obviously that’s not a bad thing (and let’s not get into it because that’s a whole different topic) but I loved how this one just had a more mature tone that teens can still appreciate but I felt like it reached out more to the adult audience too.
Left Me Wanting More: Cover representation. Between the title and the cover, I felt like this was going to be a campy horror story and while I would have appreciated that too, I’m so glad it was the story that it was! The cover definitely did throw me and I think it might throw off other readers as well. I’d love to see a cover redesign somewhere down the road.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I thought this was such a solid novel! Writing my review has only made me want to re-read it again soon.

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BOOKS LIKE THE CHEERLEADERS

             

The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) – Kristen Simmons

The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) – Kristen SimmonsTitle: The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) by Kristen Simmons
Publishing Info: February 5, 2019 by Macmillan, Tor Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, ALAAC18
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Heists/Spies/Espionage, Retelling
Date Completed: June 3, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists.

When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom's loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances.

At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials--because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that's before she meets her mark--a senator's son--and before she discovers the school's headmaster has secrets he'll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she's in way over head.

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I really wish that the synopsis of this book had made note of the Norse mythology inspiration because I honestly didn’t pick up on that at all but once I knew about it, it seemed really obvious and I think that would have been a fun thing to pick up as I was reading. That’s no fault of the author but I guess that’s what happens when I don’t do a lot of looking into things before I read a book (and I guess whoever’s in charge of making the synopsis/making sure that info is on Goodreads). I didn’t know about it until I started reading reviews after I was finished. Since I never read reviews before I start a book (in case of spoilers and I don’t want anyone to influence my opinion), there’s really no other way I would have known about that and I bet a lot of other people may not be aware either.

That may have helped how much I enjoyed the book but I still think I would have come out relatively the same. I was irritated that it was labeled as “Pretty Little Liars meets Ocean’s 11”. I don’t know PLL but Ocean’s 11 is one of my favorite movies and if we’re talking about the 2001 version…. that movie is WAY too sassy and not even close in tone. I was expecting some super clever sass, cheeky cons, and an overall heist feeling. This really wasn’t a heist book. I guess it was more of a “long con” but it wasn’t really a plan we were in on from the beginning and we learn a lot as the book progresses. This was just not the tone I was expecting and would compare it more to Deadly Class (the SyFy TV show), THE FIXER by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer, or new Adriana Mather book KILLING NOVEMBER. It wasn’t ALL serious but it certainly wasn’t quite as light or funny as I had expected.

Mostly, the book was just kind of slow. We picked up some interesting facts along the way, sure. But it unraveled a bit more like a mystery than a heist/con concept (which is more of what I was expecting with the Ocean’s 11 comparison) since we got some reveals about characters in the end and unraveled a little mystery that tied all of the characters together. It’s just a different way of putting that story together and it makes a difference of how I read/approach/experience a book.

I was also really disappointed that there wasn’t much happening to show us the school itself. It’s a con school which is AWESOME and really all we see are little snippets of Brynn’s intro to her classes with glimpses of what she might learn there but the book doesn’t really spend much time there at all. Aside from convening in each other’s rooms and using it as a base to get all of the students together, there wasn’t much about the school at all and it really felt like a missed opportunity. I felt like the book took entirely too long to set up Brynn’s family life and introduce the compromising situation that she’s in and I felt like things just dwelled there for an unnecessary amount of time. I get it. We’re supposed to be uncomfortable with Pete. She needs an escape. The school is it. But there was just too much time wasted in the beginning when the book could have set up that school world more to really pull readers in some more.

It seems like this book gets some mixed reviews. Its core was still solid and it had a clear story to tell. Some of my friends absolutely loved it and others, like me, felt a little underwhelmed. At least it seems like no one really hated it, which I agree with! There were a lot of good elements there and some appreciated the structure and tone more than I did, but if you don’t have the expectations that I carried into my read, maybe you’ll enjoy it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mythology retellings. I didn’t even realize this for what it was while I was reading but looking back, it was a fun way to adapt some Norse mythology as a modern retelling!
Left Me Wanting More: Time in this awesome school! I felt like it was a real missed opportunity to make this series about Vale Hall and then not even really spend time in this unique and interesting school! I really wanted to see more of the classes, especially in the first book.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I have a few friends who really loved this book. Maybe they knew more about it than I did before starting, maybe not, but it seems like I might be the minority with my reservations!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE DECEIVERS

             

The Last Time I Saw You – Liv Constantine

The Last Time I Saw You – Liv ConstantineTitle: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 23, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

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THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU was an interesting read! The book kicks off with the death of main character Kate’s mother who was well loved and well off when Kate finds out later that her mother was actually murdered. The book continues on with a killer tormenting and threatening Kate and Kate slowly starts to unravel. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be into the concept since the concept was dealing with the “high society” and I wasn’t sure how that would all play into it. I feel like those society rules make the characters feel a little stiffer and I did feel that with each of these characters, but it also adds to a more secretive element because with so many niceties and manners involved, there’s a lot of unspeakable things that get/stay hidden.

The suspect list went around and around a few times so I wasn’t really sure whodunnit or if there was even more than one person involved. It was also interesting with Kate possibly being an unreliable narrator. There was that added question if she WAS an unreliable narrator or if the perpetrator was doing all of these things to mess with her head. I actually really liked that addition to cast some extra doubt and throw the reader off-course if they already solved the mystery.

I almost wished there had been some other clues earlier on in the book, not necessarily to give things away but to give some better ties to the actual answer. I like being left in the dark and not being able to guess the ending but there were a few things that kind of came out of nowhere that were a little too covered up. It was interesting but I also didn’t quite love it — not in a bad way, just a personal preference.

This was a quick read for me! I felt like it took a while to really get into the fast-paced section of the book and wished the pacing had been a little bit quicker form the start, but it was an overall enjoyable read.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Brand-new adult thriller reads. I enjoy a lot of adult thrillers but this one was a totally random pick for me! I was able to select this one from a list of available audiobooks for review from the publisher so I wanted to try this one based off of its genre, not knowing the author or the title or even anyone who had read it first.
Left Me Wanting More: Reveals. I do like when I’m in the dark on the answers to the mystery but I also like being able to see some things revealed along the way to keep me interested and keep my mind racing. I could have used just a bit more.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It was a quick and enjoyable read, and while it wasn’t my favorite in a few different ways, it was still worth the read and I loved taking a chance on a new thriller book and author!!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU