Mini Reviews #8 The Missing Girls & The Last Weekend

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Hello! We’re back with a Mini Reviews post, this time, though, I really liked the books. Both were great mysteries.

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When a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer. No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial-killer. As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart. Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?

The Missing Girls is the third installment in the Robyn Carter series and I’m glad to say I liked this one better than the second book (not quite as much as the first one, though). I really like how Caroline Wyer plots her stories and the focus on the investigation as well as her relationship with her ex-boyfriend’s daughter. The case was quite intriguing and there were lots of suspects. I couldn’t wait to know more. The story featured a good and satisfying ending, too. I like Robyn more and more as the books progress, but I also want to know her team a bit more. I feel like I don’t know them as well as in other similar series and I’d love to!

On the other hand, and I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but if every review keeps saying that the ending is totally unexpected, for some people, it will be the opposite. I don’t want to say anything more about that.

Netgalley, Bookouture, 2017

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Every year for a decade, five college friends spent a weekend together at the atmospheric Chateau du Cygne Noir. Then, tragedy struck. Ten years later, Laurel Muir returns to the castle for the first time since the accident, hoping to reconnect with her friends and lay the past to rest. When a murderer strikes, it rips open old wounds and forces the women to admit there’s a killer in their midst. The remaining friends make a pact to unearth the truth, but suspicion, doubt, and old secrets threaten to tear them apart. Unsure who to trust, Laurel puts herself in harm’s way, risking it all for friendship and long-delayed justice.

I admit that when I started this book, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. In fact, I almost DNF’d after only one chapter. I wasn’t in the mood. A group of friends received a mysterious letter and I found those first introductory scenes quite repetitive. However. I read some great reviews, so I gave it another chance. By the end of the day, I had already finished it. The premise was very “Agatha Christie” and the moment those women arrived at the castle, I was completely on board. I enjoyed their interactions and I was super intrigued. Who had pushed Evangeline? What had happened this time? Were the two events related? I’d love to discuss The Last Weekend!

The ending was satisfying and I finished the book feeling really happy and relieved that I had kept on reading. I would surely recommend this cozy mystery for those who’re looking for a quick and smart whodunit.

 

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Mini Reviews #7 Yesterday & Working Fire

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Hello there! We’re back with a Mini Reviews post. This time, I bring you two books that I read during my vacation. I thought they were really entertaining but they won’t leave a lasting impression…

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Imagine a world in which classes are divided not by wealth or religion but by how much each group can remember. Monos, the majority, have only one day’s worth of memory; elite Duos have two. In this stratified society, where Monos are excluded from holding high office and demanding jobs, Claire and Mark are a rare mixed marriage. Clare is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-politician Duo on the rise. They are a shining example of a new vision of tolerance and equality—until…a beautiful woman is found dead, her body dumped in England’s River Cam. The woman is Mark’s mistress, and he is the prime suspect in her murder. The detective investigating the case has secrets of his own. So did the victim. And when both the investigator’s and the suspect’s memories are constantly erased—how can anyone learn the truth?

Yesterday had a fascinating premise and I couldn’t resist requesting it. What if you could only remember what happened yesterday? What if there was a crime and you only had today to solve it?The book featured four different voices from very different characters. Monos and Duos. Husband and wife. Lover. Detective. This was a psychological thriller based on a sci-fi premise and it’s an interesting concept, no doubt.

At first, I couldn’t understand why Duos thought they were so much better than Monos. How is remembering two days so much better than remembering one? Then I realized this was exactly what the author had been trying to imply. In our world, this happens with racism and sexism and it makes no sense whatsoever. But some people still believe they’re superior.

As fun as this book was, I couldn’t help but find the plot a bit predictable. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters either, so while I liked it, I can’t say I loved it. In my opinion, there was something missing.

Netgalley, Headline, 2017

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Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again. Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie.

Working Fire is a contemporary novel with a touch of mystery. This is the story of two sisters and is told from both perspectives: Ellie’s and Amelia’s. We know that Amelia has been shot, so the present narration helps us understand Ellie’s grief and determination to find out what happened. At the same time, we learn about Amelia’s life before the shooting and what exactly leads to that moment. I loved the relationship between the sisters and the family tragedy, their love for their father and the sacrifices they had made. I despised some of the other characters but found them interesting nonetheless. The writing is subtle and engaging and the book touches various themes like family, love, marriage, and lies.

I was always interested and wanted to know what had happened, but I thought there were too many unnecessary details and I struggled a little, skimmed through some pages because of that. The ending was unpredictable and introduced some interesting discussions. What would have we done?

Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing, 2017

Mini Reviews #6 It Was Only Ever You & The Walls

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And here I am again with two very different books that managed to keep me addicted despite not falling in love with them.

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Set in late 1950s Ireland and New York, the story of three women and the charismatic man with whom their lives are interwoven. Set, like Maeve Binchy’s early bestsellers, in late 1950s Ireland and New York, this is the story of three women and the charismatic man with whom their lives are interwoven. Patrick Murphy has charm to burn and a singing voice to die for. Many people will recognise his talent. Many women will love him. Rose, the sweetheart he leaves behind in Ireland, can never forget him and will move heaven and earth to find him again, long after he has married another woman. Ava, the heiress with no self-confidence except on the dance floor, falls under his spell. And tough Sheila Klein, orphaned by the Holocaust and hungry for success as a music manager, she will be ruthless in her determination to unlock his extraordinary star quality.

When I decided to read It Was Only Ever You, I knew it wasn’t exactly my kind of book, but I fell in love with the cover, and Ireland and NY are two of my favorite scenarios, so I was quite excited anyway. This was an enjoyable book featuring three different women who live in New York -under different circumstances- and their relationship with Patrick, a popular Irish singer who has just arrived in the city. The writing was gorgeous and evocative and I could picture myself in New York in the 50s. The dresses, the dances… Although I obviously don’t share that era’s obsession with getting married 😉

However, as much as I enjoyed the setting, I confess I never liked Patrick or Rose and I only really cared for Ava, so I wasn’t especially invested in the romance part. I believe It Was Only Ever you was an interesting and solid read, but it won’t be a story that I remember forever.

ARC, Head of Zeus, 2017

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Working on death row is far from Kristy Tucker’s dream, but she is grateful for a job that allows her to support her son and ailing father. When she meets Lance Dobson, Kristy begins to imagine a different kind of future. But after their wedding, she finds herself serving her own life sentence—one of abuse and constant terror. But Kristy is a survivor, and as Lance’s violence escalates, the inmates she’s worked with have planted an idea she simply can’t shake. Now she must decide whether she’ll risk everything to protect her family.

The Walls had an extremely intriguing blurb, so I, of course, wondered where the story would go. I read this with Zuky, although she ended up not finishing the book (not a success!). As for me, I must say I did enjoy the book, especially in the beginning, but I ended up quite disappointed by the time I reached the ending. I never read Baby Doll, so I don’t know if the books are similar or not, but the death penalty angle was what attracted me to this story in the first place. After a few pages, though, I realized the story was a domestic suspense novel but I expected the two storylines to come together at some point. Wouldn’t you?

This was a thoroughly addictive novel, although I think it lacked a bit of tension. The ending pages could’ve been more suspenseful but instead, I felt like there hadn’t been an actual climax and I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. The pros? I absolutely adored Kristy’s son and I thought she and her family were endearing, so I wanted everything to be okay for them. I really cared for this family.

Netgalley, Redhook, 2017

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