Category Archives: Review

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2) – Jay Kristoff

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2) – Jay KristoffTitle: Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2) by Jay Kristoff
Publishing Info: June 27, 2017 by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Gemina (The Illuminae Files #1), Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3), Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)

Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

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I knew I was in for a while ride when starting GODSGRAVE but Jay Kristoff sure did not skimp on the cliffhanger here! There was definitely a lot that happened towards the end of the book, full of action, surprises, and twists. While NEVERNIGHT was easily one of my favorite books of last year, I didn’t love GODSGRAVE quiiiite as much but it was still one of my favorite reads of 2019!

The gladiator aspect was fine and enjoyable, but it was just such a different setting from the first book. I liked the school setting more in NEVERNIGHT and it was such an easy way to introduce all of the elements of this world, magical and political. GODSGRAVE became a lot more plot-driven instead of world-driven, I think, and there was a heavy action focus with the gladiator concept taking over a big part of this book. It was still enjoyable but I felt like some of the things we could learn about the world was a bit limited due to setting. 

I also felt like we got a lot more character development in NEVERNIGHT. There were a lot of interesting things that happened here, although I do still wish we had gotten a few more answers here too. There was a lot to discover and I feel like we could have had a few more teases! GODSGRAVE was still a fantastic middle book but I almost felt like a couple things took a bit too long to transition. Then again NEVERNIGHT also really took its time setting a few things up. Also, I’m definitely not complaining because I really did still enjoy it! It’s just interesting to look back after finishing to see how things shook out over the course of the book. I think it would be fascinating to reread this whole series after reading the last book. 

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Roman influence in fantasy. I feel like most of the high fantasy influence is largely English. This was a very unique Italian/Roman influence and it was a neat change of pace!
Left Me Wanting More: World-building? It really wasn’t missing world-building but I did miss how much we got in NEVERNIGHT through what we learned through the school. It was just a different way of introducing things to the audience, I guess.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

A solid second book for this series and a great anticipation for the finale!

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BOOKS LIKE GODSGRAVE

             

Every Last Lie – Mary Kubica

Every Last Lie – Mary KubicaTitle: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
Publishing Info: June 27, 2017 by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry

Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

bookreview1

Okay, so firstly, this book gets an extra bump from me just for being in my neighborhood, essentially. I was trying to pick up on all of the landmarks mentioned because the street where the accident happened (Harvey Rd and its 90 degree turn) sounded reeeeally familiar to me. Turns out that I finally narrowed it down thanks to a park mention and an intersection and this book takes place in the Plainfield/Oswego/Naperville area which happens to be right in my neck of the woods! It was really fun to actually be able to identify with the setting because usually the closest I get is Chicago proper or if a book is in the suburbs, usually it’s a fake suburb or has fake landmarks, so that was really fun!

I was actually more engaged with EVERY LAST LIE than I was with a lot of Mary Kubica’s books. Sometimes the main characters get a little too hard to follow but I really liked that EVERY LAST LIE wasn’t too dramatic (well, until the end) and it was a simple case of following up on some loose ends and curious happenings of the husband’s death. I liked following a character who was sane but grieving instead of someone who was on the breaking point, like some of the other Mary Kubica characters. Clara obviously had her moments of hardship and she sort of started to unravel at the end, but I liked that this was more thriller and solving a mystery than dipping into the psychological thriller and having a more unreliable narrator.

I didn’t really love the ending but I also didn’t hate it. I liked that things didn’t get TOO crazy but there was also something that wasn’t quite satisfying about it. Thriller endings are so hard sometimes because I can never tell how I “want” it to end. When they’re not crazy enough, it doesn’t feel like enough and sometimes they’re too crazy and I wanted more of the normal. I did like where this story went and it didn’t go too far off the rails but there was still just something I was missing.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Familiar places! I’ll admit — it’s easy to get hooked on a book when I’m familiar with the setting. This was a real-life place where I’ve been before and it was that much more interesting picturing this book taking place there!
Left Me Wanting More: Book connection. I guess aside from the location connection, I didn’t feel as much as I wanted to with the main characters or the plot. It’s been a while since I read this (took me a while to write a formal review) and I can’t even really remember what happened.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I kept reading Mary Kubica books but really I haven’t quite loved any of them. I do like the local location so that’s definitely fun but if you like thrillers, she’s still a pretty popular author so I’d say they’re worth the try, in any publication order, really.

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BOOKS LIKE EVERY LAST LIE

             

Dreamology – Lucy Keating

Dreamology – Lucy KeatingTitle: Dreamology by Lucy Keating
Publishing Info: April 12, 2016 by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: May 6, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

For as long as Alice can remember, she has dreamed of Max. Together, they have travelled the world and fallen deliriously, hopelessly in love. Max is the boy of her dreams—and only her dreams. Because he doesn’t exist.

But when Alice walks into class on her first day at a new school, there he is. Real Max is nothing like Dream Max. He’s stubborn and complicated. And he has a whole life Alice isn’t a part of. Getting to know each other in reality isn’t as perfect as Alice always hoped.

Alarmingly, when their dreams start to bleed into their waking hours, the pair realize that they might have to put an end to a lifetime of dreaming about each other. But when you fall in love in your dreams, can reality ever be enough?

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DREAMOLOGY has been on my list for a very long time and I’ve been excited to read it the whole time but just never got around to obtaining a copy. When I saw the audiobook pop up on Scribd, I knew it was going to be my next read and I’m so glad I finally read this one!

Others seemed to fall head-over-heels for DREAMOLOGY, and while it was very enjoyable in so many ways, it still felt like it could have gone a couple steps further and I really would have loved it. I really enjoyed the concept of dreaming here, specifically that the two main characters dream about each other… and they both remember the dream. It was a really neat concept that I wasn’t sure how to define. Does it fit neatly in a box of sci-fi, magical realism? No matter how you classify it, it was such a fun idea that was also neatly backed by science (some real, some fake novel science) that really brought the concept to life. Felt like this book could have gone just a teensy bit further in any direction — the dreaming, the science, why the characters were connected — to really make it that much more special and wow me, but it was still a fun read the way it played out.

I enjoyed the romance but could have done without the love triangle. I liked Oliver a lot but I kind of wished he didn’t have to be a potential love interest, even though it was clear that he and Alice were really never going to get together. I would have loved to see him more platonic and leave the drama for the other half of the love triangle romance between Max and Celeste, which was much more relevant to the book. I actually kind of liked that triangle because there was meaning behind Max’s relationship with Celeste and it wasn’t just a throw away thing, and there was also the fact that Alice ended up actually liking Celeste and it wasn’t this sort of mean girl thing. It made for a nice, complicated plot point but it wasn’t overly dramatic by making any of the characters catty.

I really thought Max’s character could have been a little bit … better. He was a bit flat and it seemed like Alice kind of carried a lot of the emotion. I actually really envisioned a POV chapter from Max right off the bat and I really wished we could have seen things from his perspective too.

I kind of didn’t love how everything resolved regarding the dreams. It all seemed a little too easy and was like “Let’s fix it. Okay it’s fixed.” It was interesting but also kind of didn’t make sense… Maybe I missed something but to me it only described why they dreamed about each other but not why they both had the same dream and remembered it.

Anyway, this was a fun, easy read with a unique concept and I’m glad I finally got to it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: A different kind of sci-fi concept. I really liked the concept of dreaming! I haven’t really read many books that dabbled with things like that and it was a fun kind of read.
Left Me Wanting More: Closed plot holes. There were just a couple things that I felt like were left open and didn’t quite get answered. I think the book could have been amped up a notch with a few more cool answers and reasonings.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I didn’t full-out love this one but it was a quick and easy read with some fun dreaming concepts!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE DREAMOLOGY

             

Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson BennettTitle: Shorefall (Foundryside #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Publishing Info: April 21, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Del Rey Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: April 15, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it's not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won't tolerate competition, and they're willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.

But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that's not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees - especially Sancia.

Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself - before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.

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I picked up FOUNDRYSIDE on a whim in 2018 when I saw it as an ARC at ALA and it was sort of like a new discovery for me. No one I knew had read it and thieves! cons! banter! magic! It sounded like such a me book, and a me book it ended up being after I read it too. SHOREFALL was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 because of that and whew. This was awkward and painful for me.

I listened to the audiobook for this one instead of reading since I received a copy from the publisher and that’s how I get most of my reads in these days. The narrator was fine but I didn’t love her and I would have preferred maybe two narrators to get a male voice in there too even though a lot of this book is from Sancia’s persperctive, despite being in the third person. Maybe I’m not remembering well, but I feel like we got a LOT more from other POVs in FOUNDRYSIDE and I felt like Gregor had a much stronger presence in that book… I really would have loved to see more character development in this book but it really just fell flat and I feel like we learned almost nothing new about any of the characters except for Gregor in moments of plot reveal. There just really wasn’t much of anything new, and if anything, Sancia just became mushier with a romance involved. It’s not a bad thing but she lost some zip and the character banter was one of the things that made FOUNDRYSIDE so enjoyable. There was pretty much nothing humorous in SHOREFALL and I was pretty bummed to see that missing here.

Speaking of tone, the whole feel of this book seems so different. FOUNDRYSIDE was basically all heist/theiving/scheming and SHOREFALL really didn’t feel engaging like that at all. There are some big villain presences in here and gods/godlike characters getting involved which I guess makes sense after the end of book one but it really did change the feel of just about everything. The book was working on a grander scale which seems to have worked for a lot of people but I just didn’t love it. The concept was a very Brandon Sanderson-esque type of concept for the book but I didn’t like the pacing and plotting here like I do with Sanderson’s books (sorry to make the comparison but it’s part of the reason I loved FOUNDRYSIDE so much) and it really lacked those fun twists or brilliant moments that I’ve loved so much before. There were some big twists here but the scale was just so big that I just wasn’t really into it. It was like it was pushed too quickly and maybe things like this should have been spread out into more than just three books, giving the second book time to set up another task for the team while slowly introducing these higher powers, giving more of a team bonding, time to care about the characters more and become really invested in them, and get the ball rolling on these bigger things coming into play. It seemed like it JUMPED from book one to book two and it was all a bit much for me, coming across as forced and trying too hard to be epic.

The pacing was just not for me at all. There were so many BIG BIG action sequences that I constantly felt like the book was ending with all of these climax-like moments. But then it just kept going and going and going. Everyone sort of seemed like a shell of who they once were with just the big points sticking and I missed all of those pieces that made them human, so the dialogue was boring and sort of eye-roll worthy at points. It felt basic and more like what I expect from some newer or younger authors. There were WAY too many villains speeches with the big bag guy just telling you what he was going to do and there was actually a point where the team was like “What do we do now” and Sancia says “Let’s talk to him. He seems like he likes to talk” (not a direct quote) and I laughed out loud. Yep, he sure does.

I read a couple reviews before I finished the book because there was seriously a point where I considered not finishing but I decided I could make it another five and a half hours. One review pointed out how characters constantly get cut off mid-sentence and wow, that was a mistake to read because it was all I noticed for the rest of the book and really annoying…. And then others raved about the ending of the book and even those who didn’t love it felt the ending redeemed the rest of it. I didn’t really feel that way but there is a big reveal moment that’s supposed to shock you and others that are supposed to tug on your heart-strings. I just didn’t care at that point and wanted the book to end so I was not moved at all but my feelings shut off by that point. As for the plotting…. Eh. I don’t really know if I care to read the last book, even if there are only three and I’d only have to read one more. I don’t really care for where this book took the series and I’m just so disappointed with the pacing, lack of banter, and lack of character development that I really just don’t care what happens, plot-wise or character-wise. I can’t imagine being drawn in enough to care about the last book, and that’s the saddest part of it all when I was so excited about the first book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Less-mainstream fantasy reads. I don’t really know many people reading this series so it was still enjoyable to read something that was a little “unique” to me.
Left Me Wanting More: The feel of the first book. I missed nearly everything that made the first book what it was. Heists! Banter! Ugh.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you read FOUNDRYSIDE and enjoyed it, you may still like SHOREFALL. It didn’t work for me but a bunch of other reviewers really loved it!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE SHOREFALL

             

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana UrbanTitle: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Publishing Info: March 17, 2020 by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: April 16, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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This was…. kind of stupid. I’ll explain later in spoiler tags but I’m really disappointed with this one for a few different reasons. Non-spoilery things first BUT THERE ARE SPOILERS LATER ON in this review, so beware! They are well-marked so feel free to read the rest until you hit them!

The characters are incredibly flat and one-dimensional. There was little to no character development for any of the characters except to push them toward their dedications or their stereotypical “brands”. There’s an athlete and all he cares about is baseball. There’s a musician and all she cares about is music. The guy who’s branded as a stoner and who’s thought to be dealing drugs comes from a bad home. There’s humanity in any of these characters and they’re so incredibly flat that it made the kind of annoying when there was really nothing to get to know about them along the way. The reactions were not deep, the goals were surface-level. It just wasn’t anything to write home about.

The book felt kind of campy instead of thrilling. I actually have no problem with campy… when things are meant to be campy. KILL THE BOY BAND? Highly amusing and excellent. I don’t think this was meant to feel so slasher film (without the slashing). It actually really did feel like ONE OF US IS LYING, as mentioned in the synopsis but too bad I didn’t like the feel of that book either so that didn’t work in my favor. A few things were just too over the top and the whole plan for this book was just… ridiculous. Kids trapped in a room and someone has to die or a bomb will go off??? Eye-roll city. I didn’t *quite* know that was the plot before I read it — I just knew they were trapped together and that it was a thriller — but I probably still would have read it anyway.

I wish we had a time-ticking, nail-biting, fast-paced thriller instead of constant flashbacks to the events leading up to the entrapment. I was just hoping we would get a thriller side of things and focus on what was happening in the room instead of flashing back. The rest of the book really wasn’t twisty or mysterious except for a couple truth nuggets that were stored away so they could be revealed later, but it really wasn’t that twisty for me, being a big thriller fan. I just don’t think everything we learned was a big enough factor for this threat of “someone has to die” to happen and I kept waiting to be shocked and I really wasn’t.

Some of the high school stuff was incredibly unrealistic. I played sports and did the plays/musicals in high school. There comes a point where you have to pick one or the other. I doubted that Sasha could have been a varsity cheerleader to the point where she’s helping pick people for the squad and organizing things AND been so involved in the play AND have been so into her studies. There’s just not enough time in the world (which I guess was the point) but no, literally. It’s not possible. The practices for sports and the plays are likely at the same time, at least at some point in time, because this is high school and kids still have to practice after school. And of course everyone in this book was SO GOOD at what they do. The brightest brains, a musical composer, an all-star athlete… it was all just a bit too perfect that it felt far-fetched.

And here’s the spoiler… Turn away now if you don’t want to read it! So we find out at the end that narrator and lead gal pal Amber orchestrated this whole thing, trapping everyone in the room together to force Sasha to confess how terrible she was so she could open her eyes to this and she would be a better person after it. She was going to do it all secretly so no one would ever know it was her. Firstly, this is a BIG thing to orchestrate and you’d be in incredible trouble on so many levels. Likely, you couldn’t pull it off (and ha, she uhhh didn’t in many ways) and there’s the risk of anyone finding out meaning trespassing, breaking and entering, some kind of death threats or something, and not to mention all of your friends and potential love interest hating you for it. But here’s the kicker… Sasha DIES, stabbed by Amber’s former best friend Priya (who stops being her friend because Amber is too concerned with Sasha) and NO ONE’S MAD AT AMBER FOR MAKING THIS WHOLE THING HAPPEN. Amber TELLS Priya, the girl who stabbed someone, and potential love interest that she was the one who set it up and they’re like, no, don’t tell the cops, you’ll get in so much trouble! Priya isn’t pissed as hell that the only reason SHE stabbed someone and will have to live with that forever is because of what her former best friend orchestrated? Of COURSE everything went wrong! You’re 17 years old! You don’t understand human nature and what people do when they’re forced to confront their most horrible secrets, especially in front of other people. What an idiot. I’m even angrier typing it all out and thinking about it all over again.

The reason for this book is so stupid and having talked about it, I just can’t deal with that being the whole plot of this book. I can’t believe anyone would think that would work. And that they get away with it and no one suffers any consequences. I guess I have something to rant about now though *shrug*

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Kept Me Hooked On: Time-sensitive thrillers. I wish we spent the WHOLE time with the thrilling part of things, but I did like how there was a finite space in which this all took place.
Left Me Wanting More: Of a reality check? I just don’t see this EVER happening and it was far too unrealistic for me.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I personally would not recommend this one. There are a bunch of people who enjoyed it but as a thriller fan, this really wasn’t enjoyable for me and the ending made me so mad. I just can’t recommend it because of that.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS

             

The Better Liar – Tanen Jones

The Better Liar – Tanen JonesTitle: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Publishing Info: January 14, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Ballantine Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: February 19, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

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This was a really interesting read! THE BETTER LIAR had so many layers and I love a good unreliable narrator. The switching of POVs made the story work and captured some thriller tricks at their finest!

The characters really sucked me into this book and especially with psychological thrillers like this, I feel like that’s so important. There was something about Leslie that you knew just wasn’t quite right but it and it was a thought-provoking ride trying to figure out what secrets she was keeping and why. We get a voice from Robin, who has been missing for years and we’re quite unsure what happened to her for all those years, so that added another layer of intrigue, and then there’s the stranger Mary who agrees to impersonate Robin so Leslie can retrieve an inheritance . It really was so twisty the way all of these characters worked together (or against each other) and how this story unfolded the more you learned about each one.

There’s a big twist in here (as there usually are with psychological thrillers) that I somehow didn’t see coming and I love with a book surprises me! That’s one thing I love about listening to thrillers on audio while working — my brain doesn’t try as hard to dissect the mystery since it’s being occupied by something else, so I was definitely shocked by this book and I loved the slow but steady journey to all of the reveals.

The book was interesting, twisty, and for its craziness, really not so far-fetched. I was worried the ending was just going to fizzle out and it actually had a few more twists coming to really bring the story full-circle and it was nice that the book didn’t drag on after the big reveal. Sometimes with thrillers once that big moment is presented to the audience, I tend to feel like things wilt if carried on too long, so I liked that this book was filled with things to keep the readers interested until literally the past page and also had a sense of originality to it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unreliable narrators. You’ve got to love a good unreliable narrator, especially when there are three of them and you really can’t trust any one of them. This book definitely kept me guessing!
Left Me Wanting More: Pacing. I really didn’t have any complaints about this book, looking back. I liked the pacing of the book but I suppose there were just a couple points where my focus drifted. Really such a minor thing though because I really liked it from start to finish!

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you like psychological thrillers, I really recommend this one! I enjoyed every bit of it, really.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BETTER LIAR

             

Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott Reintgen

Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott ReintgenTitle: Ashlords (Ashlords #1) by Scott Reintgen
Publishing Info: January 21, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Date Completed: February 17, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.

In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

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So far, most of my Goodreads friend reviews are mostly five-star ratings for this book and some four-star. How did we know I was going to be the black sheep here…? If you’d like to read a cynical/critical review, this is it!

First of all, the comparison to “Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races”… just no. I usually hate comparisons and this one is one terrible. They’re two of my favorite books EVER with incredible character development, world-building, and plotting, and this book did not have it for me. The only Scorpio Races connection is the fact that it’s a horse race and it’s nothing else like TSR and Red Rising’s plotting and character connections are far superior than this book. It was far more of a Hunger Games feel than RR or TSR.

I listened to this book on audio and all of the narrators are ones I’ve listened to before and really enjoyed, so I know it wasn’t an issue of narrator. (Rebecca Soler, Lauren Fortgang, and Andrew Eiden, in case you were wondering!) When it comes to my fantasy preferences nowadays, I. Need. World-Building. The first paragraph of this book was the most interesting. There was a mention about nebulas in the sky and … hey, that was it as far as the actual WORLD part of the world-building. Is this a fantasy world? Are we in space? Is this related to our galaxy? I immediately wanted to know more about the galaxies in the sky and where this book took place and we never really get to know. Not just that, but there’s no real history about this fantasy world at all. There are plenty of mentions about “the gods” and how they’re the gods of the Ashlords but there’s not really much of anything else. We know that sacrifices happen, gods live in the underworld, and the Ashlords are connected to the gods above the others, but I don’t even know anything about the country or town or divisions of any sort.
There are a lot of things that don’t come up in the book until they’re needed so it just seems like a total afterthought. There are random leaders of each … community? Town? See, I don’t even know how this country (or whatever) is divided and why there are random leaders. Of course, the leader is oppressive and creepy and he shows up just to be awful and has no other significance whatsoever. Then there’s this police force which doesn’t show up until the end when all of a sudden they’re necessary. Even with the races and the horses/phoenixes, there were things we didn’t get to know until it was happening and everything was just told to us instead of actually learning about things in a more natural fashion.
I also don’t even know anything about the phoenixes at ALL…??? The synopsis said they were gifted to the Ashlords by the gods but we don’t really get to learn about that at all, anywhere in the book. There are tiiiiny pieces but I barely know anything about them. The characters create/influence them with alchemy but we don’t get to learn much about the alchemy other than being told what ingredients are used and we don’t really get to know why or how it works. Where did they come from? Are they otherworldly beings? How do their rebirths work and why do they HAVE to do that? What’s the magic system with what makes them different and how the riders use them? Why do riders have to happen and what do they gain from the races? Why are the races necessary? And so many more questions about gods and Ashlords and I COULD GO ON.
I really can talk a LOT more about this but let’s just say that there’s really no history or world-building, or at least not nearly enough for my taste. I could have been incredibly invested if I even know what this world was about.

Most of this book is action. There’s a lot of time spent spent talking about the races, which is fine! But everything else took a backseat, and for me, it really felt like EVERYTHING else.

I also really did not feel connected to the characters at all. There are three main characters but we barely get to know their personalities at all. Everything is basically about the race and we hardly get to see the characters interact with anyone of importance. We get some glimpses of Imelda and her friendships and her home life, but they’re just glimpses. No real time is spent there and it’s mainly just to set up other random parts of the story. The characters are very basic and don’t really tell us much about their histories either.

There’s one character POV that’s in second person instead of the other two in first person and there’s seemingly no reason why. I would hope there’s an actual reason but it wasn’t revealed in the first book and I won’t be reading on so maybe I’ll look it up later. It could have been interesting but it really didn’t seem to serve a purpose here.

I’m sure there’s more bubbling up inside my fountain of feelings here, but really, this one just did not do it for me. I don’t know how I feel SO far off from everyone so far but it was interesting going into it with an open mind AND expecting like it and seeing what my true feelings were without any hype or any other expectations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasy/sci-fi blend. This really was an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction. I really wanted to know more about everything!
Left Me Wanting More: World-building. The world-building in this book was just not up to par for me. I had a LOT of questions and there were so many things that weren’t touched upon that it made me really question everything. There were too many missed opportunities here.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

So lots of other people really enjoyed this book, maybe people who have not read THE SCORPIO RACES nor RED RISING or who at least weren’t making those comparisons because it didn’t have that feel at all for me. You just can’t compare the character development in THE SCORPIO RACES and the insane plotting and world-building in RED RISING. Anyway… a lot of other people loved this one but it angered me, really, haha. So check out other reviews, I’d say!

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BOOKS LIKE ASHLORDS

             

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) – Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) – Helen HoangTitle: The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) Publishing Info: June 5, 2018 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: February 28, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

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I really enjoyed this book! The writing was so enjoyable and it was so easy to just fall into this story and be welcomed in by the characters. It was a cute, quick, fun, and meaningful read.

I really liked the inclusion and representation of Stella’s autism/Asperger’s and from what I know of it, I thought it was brought into the story and represented really well. It’s noted in the author’s bio that she is also on the autism spectrum so we can see her accurate representation of this in Stella’s character and I just really loved how it not only includes this character but also educates readers and shows what life can be like on a day to day basis as shown through Stella’s relationships, interactions, routines, and just daily situations.

The romance was SO cute I loved seeing Michael and Stella immediately fall for each other even though they weren’t “supposed to”. Michael treated Stella so well and I loved seeing a male protagonist stand up for a woman and treat women respectfully. There was just something so refreshing about the interactions between Michael and Stella that just made me so happy!

I kept waiting for the inevitable conflict and fight to pop up but things were going so well that I couldn’t tell where it was going to come from! Once it started to appear, I caught on and it was reassuring that even though the characters almost always make up, this one I knew they’d make up from! It was a really great romance and such a fun read. I really look forward to reading more from Helen Hoang!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult romances. This was one of the first adult romances/rom-coms that I read on my kick to start reading romances and I was so happy that I enjoyed it!
Left Me Wanting More: I can’t think of anything it was missing! I just really enjoyed this book and I can’t think of anything I would have changed.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was a lovely romance full of representation, cute moments, class, and steamy scenes. I definitely recommend it!

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BOOKS LIKE THE KISS QUOTIENT

             

The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) – Marie Rutkoski

The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) – Marie RutkoskiTitle: The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Macmillan
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: March 4, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Curse #1), The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Curse #2), The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3)

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves.

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Okay, I’m going to be a little harsh on this because The Winner’s Trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series, full of cleverness, intrigue, and romantic tension that is a killer. While THE MIDNIGHT LIE is a very different feel than the original Winner’s Trilogy, that’s not what I had a problem with.

I’m pretty tired of naive, in-the-dark main characters and that’s what Nirrim is to me. She was “rescued” from an orphanage and taken in by a woman who pretends she’s nice to her but is actually awful. She tells a boy she loves him and sleeps with him because it makes HIM feel good so it makes her feel good (barf). She’s told what to do and she does it. It was just super cringe-worthy on a lot of levels and yes, it happens. A lot. But I’m just tired of seeing characters who are kept in the dark (by the author) on what’s going on in the book and end up being so submissive to everyone around them because of it. Part of the reason I loved The Winner’s Trilogy is because both Arin and Kestrel are so clever and determined that it was fun reading about their story. I didn’t really know why this was Nirrim’s story until the end of the book.

Speaking of which, almost nothing happens throughout the beginning of the book. We get little hints to the actual plot, but it’s basically Nirrim meeting Sid (which their whole meeting scene was pointless as far as location and how it happens) and then some character development until the plot finally kicks in. I love character-driven books. Heck, The Winner’s Trilogy was incredibly character driven with some awesome underlying political plot, but I didn’t like Nirrim and therefore, I had a hard time finding her chemistry with Sid or really with any character at all. I would be happy to experience that awesome character-driven side of the book but the whole first half was basically Nirrim being a lower class and Sid being the higher class. Sid had the WAY more interesting story in this book and even with what happens in the end, I would have much rather seen the story from Sid’s POV. We could have even kept the secrets about who she is throughout that book somehow. I just really couldn’t care less about Nirrim because SHE made me not want to care about her LOL.

I loved the connections to the original trilogy and honestly, that’s what kept me interested throughout the book. Without it, I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did (which was just okay anyway). There were a couple of “shocking” moments that I felt were for shock value and weren’t really necessary (one specific reveal in mind regarding Nirrim’s family history). The ending was actually really interesting and very cool, but I wish we had gotten to see more of that sprinkled throughout the book instead of it being shoved into the end for a huge blow-out. Things changed too quickly and I didn’t even get to spend time with some cool magical reveals, moments, and characters. I also get that it was supposed to be different than The Winner’s Trilogy but the inclusion of the magic and the showiness of some of it made it almost feel like the Capitol in the Hunger Games –way over the top — going from a trilogy that only had the slightest nod to god-magic with Arin and his god to a huge inclusion of magic here. I just wish for a little more consistency throughout the whole book, I guess.

I’m probably curious enough to continue on in the series but I wish I had been able to be more invested from the very beginning. I was expected to be but man, I really didn’t like Nirrim and she was boring. Sid was awesome and I loved her. I’m kind of hoping the second book is from her POV or at least includes it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The Winner’s Trilogy universe! Wait — what even is this universe called? Do we know? Regardless, I looooved that this book took place in the same world AND that it was even connected to the original series too!
Left Me Wanting More: World-building and development along the way. There was a LOT that happened in literally the last chapter of the book. I would have loved to see a little bit more of that along the way.

Addiction Rating
Try it

Some people loved this but it fell a bit flat for me. I’m not sure if you’d love it right off the bat without knowing the original trilogy but I would still recommend reading them first, mostly because it kind of spoils some things if you don’t. It’s not really critical to understanding THE MIDNIGHT LIE but it would affect your read of The Winner’s Trilogy.

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BOOKS LIKE THE MIDNIGHT LIE

             

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie WrobelTitle: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Publishing Info: March 17, 2020 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 6, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

bookreview1

This was just a middle-of-the-road book for me. It’s being branded as a thriller but it’s kind of not that thrilling? There are some psychological aspects to it but it was more just a story about generations of abuse passing down the abuse but in different ways. I can see how it’s more “thriller” being that it could fit under the umbrella of psychological thrillers but it’s much more slow-moving than that.

The book alternates between the POV of Rose Gold and her mother, Patty. Rose Gold’s perspective takes place almost entirely in the past throughout the past five years while Patty has been in prison for child abuse, convicted of poisoning her daughter to keep her sick until she reached the age of 18 and caught on to what her mother was doing to her. Some of the Patty side was more interesting, displaying a different sort of delusion than we normally see in psychological thrillers, showing how her need to control Rose Gold and her need to feel needed as a mother led her to keep her daughter sick, so she could constantly be dependent on her mother. I wish that the author had pushed just a little further into this since we do get Patty’s POV. We see it later on when Patty is taking care of Rose Gold’s baby but I feel like we didn’t get a real reason why she was actually resulting to poisoning. I guess it’s more of an implied thing where Patty is too delusional herself to even admitting to using something to intentionally make her daughter sick…. except she does admit it to herself later. It’s a bit fuzzy and confusing so I’m not quite sure if that was intentional or if we just didn’t quite get one piece of the puzzle to really complete that picture.

The beginning and middle of the book were sort of just blah for me. Most of the book details Rose Gold’s life with her mother, what she went through, and how people treat Patty once she’s released from prison. It just felt like a lot of setting the scene before we got to the breaking points of these characters and I guess the truly horrific stuff started happening (on-page anyway, since we already know what happened to Rose Gold as a child) but to me, it didn’t really read as a thriller all the way through and it just sort of felt like regular fiction, telling a disturbing story but not really bringing the fast-paced thrills that I enjoy and prefer when I’m reading books of this genre. I guess my criticism of the book is more to do with how it’s marketed/presented/reviewed since it wasn’t really what I was expecting.

There were also a few things in the book that didn’t really get explored enough for me so it felt like they were there for shock value or as an “excuse” for behavior. Patty was physically abused (beaten) by her father when she was young and her brother committed suicide in their childhood home so Rose Gold buys Patty’s childhood home, knowing that when Patty gets out of jail, she’ll have to stay with her in the childhood home which held so many bad memories. Like… okay? Yes, that’s a big step to go out of your way to mentally abuse your mother who abused you but the whole point was that it made Patty uncomfortable and she pushed past it. It just seemed like a very big gesture not to be used in some other way in the book. It did add to the list of long thought-out plans to harm her mother but it just seemed kind of weird.

The ending was interesting but we spent so long watching it coming that it didn’t really pack a punch for me and I just felt like I read a book about some kind of unlikable characters. The abuse that they experienced led them to perpetuate the abuse cycle on and on and at a certain point, I was just uncomfortable with and annoyed at both of them.

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Kept Me Hooked On: A different kind of thriller? It didn’t really feel like the thrillers I’m used to but I guess it’s just a bit of a different pace! It was interesting to read something outside of my usual pattern.
Left Me Wanting More: Development on some of the things mentioned along the way. There were a few things that were dropped and they just kind of felt like they were there for shock value since they didn’t really get brought up again or developed more in the moment. I wanted a few of the things that happened to mean just a bit more.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

This wasn’t my normal kind of thriller so I just really was expecting something different and yes, something more. Other reviewers seemed to really like it so it seems like it might depend on what your preferences are!

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BOOKS LIKE DARLING ROSE GOLD