Mini Reviews #9 Heaven’s Crooked Finger & Lie To Me

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Happy Saturday! Today I’ll talk about my most recent reads.

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Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamental rule of his father RJ’s church–a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl’s home. The photograph is dated long after his father’s burial, and there’s no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive. As Earl returns to Church of the Holy Flame searching for the truth, faithful followers insist that his father has risen to a holy place high in the mountains. Nobody will talk about the teenage girls who go missing, only to return with strange tattoo-like marks on their skin. Rumors swirl about an old well that sits atop one of the mountains, a place of unimaginable power and secrets. Earl doesn’t know what to believe, but he has long been haunted by his father, forever lurking in the shadows of his life. Desperate to leave his sinful Holy Flame childhood in the past, Earl digs up deeply buried secrets to discover the truth before time runs out and he’s the one put underground in Heaven’s Crooked Finger.

This was a novel that really caught my attention because of the creepy/amazing cover and, of course, the intriguing blurb. I usually love this kind of southern-gothic-horror novels about families and dark secrets. I was sure I was going to enjoy it. And I certainly did, but unfortunately, not as much as I had hoped.

Don’t get me wrong, this was an ok book. The mystery was appealing enough, it was easy to read and it didn’t drag. There were some twists and turns and the setting was undoubtedly a great one. However, I never felt that “spark”, I never really connected with the characters or the story, I felt mostly uninterested when it should’ve been the opposite. In the end, I guess this happens sometimes. Some books win you over and others don’t.

Heaven’s Crooked Finger was a good gothic mystery and an interesting beginning for what it seems it’ll be a series featuring Earl Marcus. Don’t hesitate and give it a chance if the blurb catches your eye. You might love it (I know some have!).

Netgalley, Crooked Lane Books, 2017

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Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her. Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Lie To Me is a gripping and easy-to-read domestic thriller that is perfect for fans of Gone Girl and toxic marriage books. Is it entertaining? Definitely! Did I love it? I’m afraid not.

It seems like I’m in the minority once again. I enjoyed the first half of Lie To Me, although I kept thinking I had read too many similar books in the past. However, I expected something much more unique and special based on some reviews I had read. I think this is merely a case of not being the right reader for this book, at least not at this moment. The first part of the book was fun and I was definitely curious. What was going on? Should I believe Ethan? Or was he lying? Who’s the mysterious narrator? Unfortunately, it all fell flat for me when I began reading the second half. I found the ending part too unbelievable even for my taste. I never bought the villain’s motives and I thought the whole final act was over the top, it never clicked for me. Plus, the last chapter made things even worse.

Gone Girl is one of my favorite books and I think it’s also because the genre wasn’t so popular back then. I loved the psychology of it all, the way Gillian Flynn made each twist believable because of every character’s personality. I’m sad to say I never felt this with Lie To Me.

Netgalley, MIRA Books, 2017

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Mini Reviews #8 The Address & The Rules of Magic

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Happy Monday! Today I’ll talk about my most recent reads: one historical fiction, the other part historical, part family drama.

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After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

I don’t know why but I had been postponing for a couple of months, even though it looked interesting and just my kind of historical read. What I loved the most about this book was the context and the location: The Dakota building in New York. I learned a lot about its history and I wish I could have seen what it looked like back then (in person, I already spent too much time checking out pictures yesterday haha).

This time I don’t have any complaints about the importance of one storyline over the other. Although, of course, the past is always more appealing to me, I also wanted to know what would happen to Bailey, who I really liked despite her flaws. The mystery was interesting although slightly predictable, but there was something unexpected that I’m sure felt super satisfying for everyone.

All in all, this was a good and atmospheric read that I would recommend for fans of historical fiction and Kate Morton-esque books. It didn’t amaze me, but I’d read another book by the autor without a doubt.

Netgalley, Dutton, 2017

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For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

Practical Magic is one of my favorite films ever, but I will talk about that later this month. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure about The Rules of Magic. I didn’t enjoy the first book, Practical Magic, and I thought it would be the same for this one. But my love for the film is still strong and I was curious. So I decided to try it out. This is a prequel, so it tells the story of Aunt Frances and Jet (and their brother Vincent).

At first, I was sure I wasn’t going to like it, but I decided to keep on reading. And you know what? I ended up enjoying The Rules of Magic. It’s not my favorite book ever, but I think Alice Hoffman’s writing is gorgeous and despite feeling like the story has some wasted potential, the book started off pretty bland for me but progressed into a beautiful tale. And yeah, I guess I love it when stories connect together (think it like watching Rogue One and knowing how A New Hope begins), so overall it was a positive experience for me.

Still, when I’m reading a book about witches, I want more magic, I want more spells. Because I’ve always felt that despite certain elements, these stories could be about ordinary families too. And believe me, I have nothing against that, I love family dramas. But witches are more fun.

Edelweiss, Simon & Schuster, 2017

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.

 

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