Review: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre

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Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally. But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

You can’t imagine how happy I was when I checked out my reading calendar and saw that my next ARC was All The Wicked Girls. I had been trying to catch up on physical arcs to be able to focus my attention on Netgalley when I’m on vacation, and Chris Whitaker’s book was next on my to-read list. I was excited. And nervous. What if I didn’t love it as much as I loved Tall Oaks? After all, that one was my favorite book of 2016. High expectations were inevitable.

As soon as I read the first chapter though, I remembered why I loved his debut so so much. The writing is flawless, the story manages to grip you from the very first paragraph and you can’t wait to keep on reading to find out more. If you read the first chapter and you don’t want to know more… well, then I guess we can’t be friends 😉 It’s still July, but I already know All The Wicked Girls will be one of my favorites. It was that good. You know which book I thought of while reading this one? Mystic River. And I liked All The Wicked Girls better.

At the same time, I feel I should warn you that this is much darker and dramatic than Tall Oaks ever was. This book was like one of those epic dramas that leave you exhausted but in a good way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could feel this was going to be a special novel just after a few pages. There was something magnetic about it, I was completely captivated. And no, this isn’t your typical fast-paced, easy-to-read thriller, it’s way more complex and deep, and I especially love the way the author explores small-town dynamics and relationships between unlikely allies. And how the weather is practically another character.

So what’s it about? All The Wicked Girls tells the story of Grace, Alabama, a small-town filled with broken people keeping secrets. And girls from near towns are disappearing. No one knows what’s going on and the only suspect is someone they call “Bird”. But who is he? Everything changes when Summer Ryan disappears. She’s Grace’s “good girl” and she wouldn’t run away, would she? But then again, she left a note… Did Bird take her? Did she take off? Meanwhile, her wild sister Raine is determined to find out what happened and so she starts investigating with the help of two other teenagers: Noah and Purv. But that’s not all. We will also follow Summer’s months before her disappearance and we might discover things we wish we hadn’t known…

The mystery was hands down fantastic, and it’s exactly the kind of story that I crave for. A southern gothic tale that is completely absorbing and leaves you breathless by the time you reach the tragic final pages.

Even though the book is completely different to Tall Oaks, it still has all those ingredients that made me fall in love with Chris Whitaker’s writing. You can’t help but love Noah from the very first scene with the badge. And he is not Manny, but there’s something about this sweet kid that reminded me of him. The relationship between the teenagers is sweet and devastating at the same time and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears.

All The Wicked Girls is an unforgettable novel and I want you all to discover its magic.

ARC, Bonnier Zaffre, 2017

Review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter @HarperCollinsUK

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Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy smalltown family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night. Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself – the archetypal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again – and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatised – Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case which can’t help triggering the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried for ever

A person who has been up close when a gun is fired into another human being never mistakes the sound of a gunshot from something else.

In my humble opinion, Karin Slaughter is an amazing writer. From the moment I read her first book, I fell in love with her twisted mind. I like her Will Trent series, I love her characters and I admire the way she crafts her twisty plots. While Pretty Girls wasn’t my favorite, I found it addictive and a gripping read overall. However, I firmly believe that The Good Daughter (despite its cliché title) is a much better book overall. This is not a short book at all, but it’s as engaging and addictive as your typical psychological thriller. I also found myself highlighting various quotes and scenes I really liked, which is always a good sign.

This is a book that covers many themes, such as family, grief, and guilt. There are two main storylines and two main narrators, although as it usually happens, I got more attached to the one that came first. So yes, I’m looking at you, Charlotte. I can’t help it, I love you more despite not understanding you most of the time.

This is the story of two sisters, Sam and Charlotte, who see their lives fall apart when two masked men come to their house and hold them at gunpoint. What exactly happened 28 years ago? Did everyone survive? Flashforward to 28 years later and tragedy finds Charlie again when she happens to be at her old high school when a shooting takes place. But the suspect is not your typical cold-blooded killer, so Charlotte is pretty sure that some people are keeping secrets.

I loved your mother more than anything else on this earth. Every day with her was the best day of my life, even if we were screaming at each other at the top of our lungs.

Although this is definitely a mystery-crime novel, there is a lot of focus on family dynamics and marriage issues. I must say I loved this aspect of the book because I found Rusty -the father- to be an amazing character and I couldn’t help but love him dearly despite his obvious flaws -and all the mistakes he made-. I hope I’m not the only one. Another storyline I enjoyed: I was rooting for Charlotte and Ben from their very first scene together. Ben reminded me a bit of Ed Mackenzie from Big Little Lies and he won me over quickly.

Not everything is glowing, though, as I had some issues with the conclusion of both storylines. The two “twists” felt contrived, especially the school shooting one. However, I believe that the fact that I forgot I had to cook dinner (and eat!!!!!!!) while I was reading this book makes up for all of that.

So yes, of course, I’ll read your next one, Karin. Always.

Netgalley, HarperCollins UK, 2017

Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter

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In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies. Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir. Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother. Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

First of all, I need to say that I read and enjoyed Burying The Honeysuckle Girls last year. It was one of my firsts approvals ever on Netgalley and for that, I’ll always be grateful. However, as much as I enjoyed that first book, I think The Weight Of Lies is much better and it just proves that Emily Carpenter is a fantastic storyteller. I can’t wait to read what she writes next! Although both books are southern gothic tales, they couldn’t be more different. The first was more of a slow-burning mystery, this one is all suspense and action. It’s addictive, compelling and the last few chapters were completely crazy. I loved all of it.

The Weight Of Lies tells the story of a young socialite called Megan Ashley, daughter of famous best-selling author Frances Ashley. The relationship between the two of them has never been easy, so no one is surprised when Megan decides to write a memoir about her childhood and goes on to investigate the real crime that inspired her mother’s most famous book: Kitten.

This is a book within a book, so we get to read one chapter from the actual story and then a Kitten excerpt. I must say that structure works really well and this way, you know what the characters are talking about when they describe the Kitten phenomenon. And Kitten was surely gripping (at least, that’s how I feel about the parts we got to read), but the present story was the real gem here.

The setting was my favorite part: Bonny Island, Georgia. I could feel like I was there with the characters, and the hotel made for a really good book location. Emily Carpenter has written a complex and fascinating mystery with plenty of red-herrings and moments where characters say things like: “You have no idea of what’s going on here” (I honestly felt my heart racing at that moment) and scenes where there is so much tension that you need to breathe in and out to relax.

I was never sure about my suspicions and I kept changing my theories with every new chapter. In conclusion, even though the last chapter felt a bit rushed, I finished the book with a big smile on my face. I knew this would be one of the best books of the month. And not that it needed it, but there was a nice twist that I never even considered (although once you start thinking about it, it makes total sense).

Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing, 2017

Review: Girl On Point by Cheryl Guerriero @uncle_cher

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Alexandra Campbell’s life comes to a crashing halt the night her younger sister is killed during a convenience store robbery. Shattered by guilt, Alex distances herself from her friends and family. Months later, with the police investigation stalled, she fears justice may never be served. Determined to avenge her sister’s murder, Alex disguises herself and joins the gang responsible for the shooting. To identify the one who pulled the trigger, she must put her own life at risk in a world of dangerous criminals. But the longer she plays her new game, the more the lines blur between loyalty and betrayal.

I was in serious need of an unputdownable book. I couldn’t finish my last read, so I wanted something fast-paced and short, something I could devour in a day. My instinct told me Girl On Point would be a good option and I ended up finishing it in a sitting. I really enjoyed it!

I had requested this one on a whim, mainly because I love books and films about undercover agents and revenge stories where people have nothing to lose. Girl On Point seemed to feature all those ingredients: a young woman infiltrating a dangerous all-girl gang while trying to discover what happened to her sister. I need to confess that the first pages didn’t impress me and I started wondering if I had made a good decision. A basketball match isn’t the best way to win me over, but I kept on reading because the blurb had me intrigued. To be honest, I felt everything happened too quickly at first and I wasn’t entirely convinced, but then the scenery changed and Alex moved to a hotel to start working on her revenge. And I was hooked. Inevitably captivated.

I really liked Alex, which I still don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing. She was so brave and willing to sacrifice everything! I admit that the scene with the gun left me a bit shocked. I also loved how she made friends with the girls and learned to get what she wanted from them (and even though I would’ve never followed her actions, I kind of admired her). Reading this kind of books makes me realize I’m a coward, but it’s okay, I admit it, let’s move on!

I guess this is what you’d call a YA novel… the main character is seventeen years old and she’s still going to high school. But I didn’t mind. The book was violent, dangerous and addictive. The writing was straightforward but the author did a great job of describing the gang, the girls, and their robberies and dealings. I could picture it all in my head and I honestly would’ve have minded if the book had been a bit longer. At first, I wondered how Alex would keep her parents in the dark about her activities, but in the end, I believe it was done pretty well. I didn’t think it was too unrealistic and she was smart enough to say what her father wanted to hear (I also liked the part where she gave a woman 20 dollars to talk to him).

I can’t say the ending shocked me, as I was expecting that revelation from the beginning, but I still thought it was a good conclusion to the story and I think I would’ve chosen the same outcome. I quite enjoyed the final chapters where we were told what happened afterwards. A really nice surprise.

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Netgalley, Red Adept Publishing, 2017

Review: Shadow Man by Alan Drew @AlanArthurDrew

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Detective Ben Wade has returned to his California hometown of Rancho Santa Elena for a quieter life. Suddenly the town, with its peaceful streets and excellent public schools, finds itself at the mercy of a serial killer who slips through windows and screen doors, shattering illusions of safety. As Ben and forensic specialist Natasha Betencourt struggle to stay one step ahead of the killer, Ben’s own world is rocked again by a teen’s suicide. Ben must decide how far he is willing to go, and how much he will risk, to rescue the town from a long-buried secret, as well as from a psychotic murderer.

This book wasn’t what I expected at all, an in a good way. Shadow Man is a contemporary drama and a mystery of sorts as well, although I wouldn’t say that the crime aspect is the main aspect of the story. Those looking for a fast-paced thriller won’t find it here. However, if you’re willing to give it a chance, I think you could end up really enjoying this little gem.

I warmed up to Ben Wade from the very beginning. Since that first scene with his daughter, I was sold. I loved their interaction. I highly enjoyed reading about Ben and his family, too: their struggles, their obvious love for each other. It was heartbreaking and realistic and I really felt for them. Wade was a tortured man, still fighting demons every day, but that made him even more interesting. The story was set in the 80s, but it could’ve also happened today, as the themes portrayed in this novel are equally important now.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, especially because I read a review on Goodreads where they spoiled the main idea. I think it’s not that hard to figure it out after a while, but I would’ve loved it if I hadn’t known what the book was about before reading it. And believe me, it was not an easy book to read, but it was beautifully written and everything was treated with delicacy.

There are two cases going on, one featuring a serial killer and the other revolving around a potential teenage suicide. It’s not that the serial killer aspect wasn’t interesting, but I didn’t think it was the main focus. I preferred reading about the other case, which was the one that made me more emotional. I remember feeling angry when the main character chose to do something that left me utterly confused. Fortunately, as it usually happens with great novels, it all makes sense in the end.

It is not a book that should be rushed through but rather savoured. I found it compelling and unforgettable and I’m still thinking about it even after a few days. Tragic and beautiful. Don’t miss it.

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Netgalley, Random House, 2017