Mini Reviews #5 | The Secret She Keeps & The Poisonwood Bible

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Two books that I read while being on vacation… wanna know what I thought of them? Let’s see…

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Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls. When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

The Secret She Keeps was a compelling and thoroughly addictive read that I enjoyed while on vacation. I had previously read another book by Michael Robotham, and it was quite different, to be honest. What I liked the most about this one were the two distinct voices. I greatly appreciate when an author makes me care for a character who isn’t a really good person. The way this book was written, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.

As for the plot, I can’t say the book was particularly original. I had read similar stories in the past and I was almost glad that the “twist” was revealed at about 40%, as I had suspected it from the beginning. The second part of the book was less psychological and more “classic thriller”, so I knew there wouldn’t be any surprises left, which was kind of a disappointment. Still, I enjoyed reading this one a lot and I explained the entire plot to my friends, so I think that’s a pretty good sign.

Netgalley, Little Brown UK, 2017

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This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

The Poisonwood Bible is celebrating a brand new edition featuring this strikingly beautiful cover. This is not a new book: it came out in 1998 and it’s already considered a classic. I read this book because I wanted to dive into a completely different story and I got exactly that.

This was a fascinating tale featuring a Baptist family who moves to the Belgian Congo and tries to settle down there. The father is a preacher and his mission is to convert the whole community into Christianism. The story is told from the four daughters’ points of view and despite some sad scenes, I found the narration pretty amusing. My favorites were Adah and little Ruth May. Rachel was fun to read because of her shallow personality, but on the other hand, I didn’t like Leah at all, and she was probably the main protagonist.

My only problem with Poisonwood Bible was the length. I usually avoid longer books because I don’t think I enjoy them as much as I would if they were shorter. This was exactly what happened here. My initial enthusiasm gradually decreased when I got to a point where I thought the book might be ending but there were actually many pages left. So I struggled a lot and I’m quite sad because I think I would’ve absolutely loved this if it had been around 350 pages.

Faber & Faber, 2017

Mini Reviews #4 | Jaybird’s Song & The Breakdown

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Again? So soon? I’m afraid so. I liked Jaybird’s Song by Kathy Wilson Florence and it’s perfect for lighter southern fans, but I was quite disappointed with The Breakdown by BA Paris. Let’s see…

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Affectionately called “Jaybird” by the father she adores, Josie Flint’s idyllic childhood in 1960s Atlanta is defined by her role as the oldest of the three Flint sisters and crowned with the presence of her grandmother, Annie Jo— the maypole that centers the Flint family. Surrounding their world, however, is the turbulent South as Jim Crow laws come to an end. As Josie’s school desegregates and the country meanders through new ideas brought about by the Civil Rights movement, a personal tragedy breaches Josie’s world and shatters that perfect childhood. Josie’s story is told from her early teenage years and 35 years later when her beloved grandmother dies. And when a long-kept secret unfolds for the Flint family, a new kind of heartache begins.

I was looking for a change after a couple of serial killer books and I still had this book on my Kindle, so I thought it was time to read it (as it was published in February). This is the story of Josie, a woman who grows up in Georgia in the 60s. Many years later, in 2003, her grandmother passes away and she remembers her childhood and teenage years.

I had a small issue with the way the book was written. The flashback parts felt like the author was telling us stuff that had happened but we didn’t get to enjoy. Lots of paragraphs filled with sentences like: “She became my best friend and we did everything together. And two years passed and then we grew apart. And on my 15th birthday, I had a big party and everyone came”. In spite of that, Jaybird was a lovely novel, a nice, feel-good southern saga that made me imagine a different kind of life. So yes, I enjoyed reading it although it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I think I had similar feelings with Dollbaby: the secrets weren’t surprising enough because I had already read and watched tons of similar stories. Would I recommend it? Yes. Because that’s just my experience, after all.

Netgalley, Smith Publicity, 2017

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Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Most of you know that Behind Closed Doors was one of my favorite books of 2016. I knew that The Breakdown would be a different kind of experience because I read a lot of reviews, so I wasn’t as excited as I would’ve been otherwise. This isn’t a matter of simply being disappointed.

I must say I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I wanted to know what was going on and it was an easy read, just like BCD was. On the other hand, the first half of the book, maybe until 60% was quite repetitive and I didn’t think it was going anywhere. Yes, we get it: Cass is forgetful. She is confused, she forgets things. My main issue with the plot was that there were too many situations that felt coincidental and seemed too contrived for my taste. Unrealistic, even. I don’t want to dive into spoiler territory, but for example, there’s a scene where our main character, Cass, discovers the truth about something and it was so improbable that I couldn’t believe that was actually happening. And once we all begin to learn the truth, there were too many coincidences, just so everything could be connected. Like the weapon thing. I mean, really? Why would someone do that?

Still, I really liked how the ending played out, maybe because it reminded me of Behind Closed Doors and I’m a fan of that type of situations. But I can’t ignore all those coincidences.

Netgalley, St Martin’s Pres, 2017

Mini Reviews #3 | Here and Gone & The Fourth Monkey

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And it’s that time of the month again! Today I want to talk to you about two of my most recent reads: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck & The Fourth Monkey by JD Barker. Both thrillers, one action, the other  a serial-killer mystery.

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Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities… It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return

Here and Gone is a thrilling and nail-biting book that depicts a situation that felt realistic and scary at the same time. I think the beginning was my favorite part, as I got super nervous while reading Audra’s encounter with the sheriff. You could feel the heat, the silent violence, the threats, the tension. I could picture it all in my head.

The whole book is a big “gaslighting” episode and it makes you feel so powerless that you wish you were there helping the main character get her kids back. It reminded me of Little Deaths by Emma Flint, although that one had a mystery component, whereas this one was more of a straight-forward thriller. Perhaps, the fact that there were no surprises is what prevents me from “loving” this book a bit more. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I admired Audra and Danny’s determination, but I thought the forum messages meant that there was someone else involved, and instead, I found the “chase” a bit predictable overall.

Netgalley, Harvill Secker, 2017

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For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive. As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own. With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

This was a lovely buddy read with Zuky @Bookbum. Sometimes, I’m in the minority and I’m afraid this is one of the cases. I believe The Fourth Monkey was a fun and entertaining thriller, but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. I enjoyed it for the most part (especially the first half), but the whole third act felt too predictable and it didn’t impress me.

I’m a big fan of serial killer books and the comparisons to Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs made me incredibly excited to read this one. At first, I was sure it was going to be one of my faves, just like Ragdoll & Kill The Father, but once my initial suspicion turned out to be true, I was quite disappointed. I couldn’t believe Zuky and I had guessed something so important within the first pages. However, I did love the last scene and the fact that the main character wasn’t young, but I didn’t connect with the police team dynamics and I was expecting a more explosive and shocking ending, I guess.

ARC, HQ, 2017

Mini Reviews #2 | Fly Me & Dare To Remember

Time for mini-reviews again! This time, though, I did like both books, but still, I thought they could’ve been better. Keep in mind that these two are super different reads, so nothing in common whatsoever. My verdict? Liked them, didn’t love them.

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The year is 1972, and the beaches of Los Angeles are the center of the world. Dropping into the embers of the drug and surf scene is Suzy Whitman, who has tossed her newly minted Vassar degree aside to follow her older sister into open skies and the borderless adventures of stewardessing for Grand Pacific Airlines. In Sela del Mar, California-a hedonistic beach town in the shadow of LAX-Suzy skateboards, suntans, and flies daily and nightly across the country. Motivated by a temporary escape from her past and a new taste for danger and belonging, Suzy falls into a drug-trafficking scheme that clashes perilously with the skyjacking epidemic of the day. Rendered in the brilliant color of the age and told with spectacular insight and clarity, Fly Me is a story of dark discovery set in the debauchery of 1970s Los Angeles.

I had a weird experience while reading this book. When I started, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. The writing didn’t appeal to me at first, but the setting had me definitely intrigued. I was about to give up, but something prevented me from doing so. I realized I wanted to know more. The more I read, the more engaging the story became. I wasn’t entirely happy with the way things were told, but at the same time, I was really enjoying the 70s and California, the beaches, the flights, the characters… The main character’s storyline was quite attractive, as she starts to smuggle drugs while working as a stewardess in order to pay for her father’s operation. And I knew that couldn’t end well.

To be honest, I think Fly Me was too long and I wish it had been shorter, especially the first section. The ending came as a total surprise, but I’m not sure I liked it. I think it was too crazy and out of the blue for my taste, but some people might be satisfied with it. Overall, this was a weird but strangely compelling read.

Netgalley, Little, Brown & Company, 2017


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Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her best friend dead and her badly injured, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley. However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night? As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that there’s another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can’t escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

Dare To Remember was one of those books that I would’ve loved more if I had read it many years ago. And don’t get me wrong, I really liked this tale of forgiveness and friendship and I thought it was well-written and compelling, I just didn’t fall in love with it. I’ve already read too many similar stories for the past few years. Despite the slow pace, I was thoroughly captivated by the plot, as I quite enjoy reading about women starting a brand new life after a traumatic experience (think I Let You Go, for example). I felt for Lisa and loved her interactions with her neighbour and Jessica, but the main plot, the “incident” wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be.

I think the book shouldn’t have been sold as a shocking psychological thriller because it was none of that. It was actually a contemporary drama and no, it didn’t shock me at all. Despite the weak “mystery”, I was never bored and I think this will be perfect for those looking for a slow-burning type of novel where characters are more important than action.

Legend Press, 2017

Mini Reviews #1

A new section! So I read Chelsea’s post last Monday and I decided I wanted to do something similar when I feel I don’t have too much to say about certain books. Stephanie also does this section called Reviewing the unreviewed and I thought I’d do it every now and then, perhaps with books that haven’t been my favorites but I still want to tell you about.

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Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later. Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name. Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

As many of you, I read All The Missing Girls last year when I discovered Netgalley. While it wasn’t my favorite book (I thought the reverse storytelling served little purpose), it was an entertaining story, no doubt about that. I wasn’t so sure when I decided to request The Perfect Stranger a couple of months ago, but the cover was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist. And, after all, I love suspense novels.

I’d say this is a psychological thriller, but not the domestic kind that’s so popular right now. If you enjoy novels featuring women trying to uncover hidden secrets, this might be a good choice for you. Sadly, I couldn’t connect at all with this story. I’ve read reviews from people who share my same opinion and others who loved it, so please, keep in mind that you might enjoy it. I struggled with the pace and there seemed to be too many different storylines that I  didn’t really care about. I finished it because I wanted to know what had happened, but as I was already struggling, I found the final explanation a bit unrealistic. I guess it was just not the book for me. And don’t get me wrong, I really believe that the idea for the novel was a good one, but I’m not sure I liked how it all played out.

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Netgalley, Simon & Schuster, 2017


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Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can t bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the perilous streets of a burgeoning American city. Lilli de Jong is at once a historical saga, an intimate romance, and a lasting testament to the work of mothers.

I remember requesting Lilli de Jong about six months ago because I love stories about strong women facing difficulties and because it was set at the end of the XIX century. This was a typical case of the story being appealing but me not being able to feel attached to the characters or the writing. There were too many descriptions about nursing babies and I felt I would’ve enjoyed this one way more if I had watched it as a film. I liked the first part and the ending, but I became bored when reading the middle section. The slow pace didn’t bother me, but I didn’t care about Lilli that much either and that prevented me from enjoying it more.

This one has glowing reviews on Goodreads, so don’t hesitate to give it a go if you think you’d be interested. It’s a story about mothers and daughters and overcoming life’s struggles. I thought I’d like it more because at some point it reminded me of The Waterloo Bridge (a classic film I absolutely love), but unfortunately, it let me down.

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Netgalley, Nan A Talese, 2017