Review: Bonfire by @Krystenritter @CrownPublishing

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It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small-town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands. But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’s biggest scandal from more than a decade ago, involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good. Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as she tries desperately to find out what really happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations. And when she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game”—it will threaten reputations, and lives, in the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her. With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote rural town of just five claustrophobic square miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of what happens when your past and present collide.

I remember requesting this book before knowing it was written by an actress. There was something about the blurb that caught my eye, probably the fact that the synopsis reminded me a bit of Erin Brockovich (which I love) and also because it’s about a woman going back to her hometown (you know I can’t resist those).

I want to say that I’m not a fan of Krysten Ritter. It’s not that I don’t like her, I simply haven’t seen her shows, so I don’t really have an opinion about her acting skills. Her writing skills, on the other hand, are good. I really liked the way Krysten managed to hook me from the moment I read the prologue. Talk about a gripping opening!

The idea for this book was great and I’m always a fan of this kind of stories where you’re rooting for the underdog who’s trying to beat a big corporation. I can’t help it. This was no different and it also included a disturbing storyline featuring high school students that made it all more interesting and complex.

Abby Williams is an interesting character, but at the same time, I felt like I’ve read many similar books where the poor, shy girl returns home having become a successful lawyer/writer/whatever and everyone else in her town is still the same. I don’t think she was memorable enough, although her relationship with her father was perhaps my favorite part.

Ultimately, my issue with this book was simply that I don’t think I will remember it forever. The conclusion was a bit predictable in terms of who was guilty and who wasn’t, although I definitely liked the bittersweet ending.

Netgalley, Crown Publishing, 2017

 

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#ThrowbackThursday Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

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Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer. Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…

Murder on the Orient Express was the first book I read by Agatha Christie. I was probably 11 or 12 years old and excited about  reading “adult” books. I absolutely loved it and I still think about it sometimes. I haven’t read it since then but I’ve watched two film versions (not yet the recent one) and I’ve discussed its plot many times. It’s that good.

I think it’s a story that I will forever remember, and it’s not even my favorite by Agatha Christie, but it’s undoubtedly a classic. It’s memorable and surprising and well, I love Poirot (although I also hate him sometimes). The setting it’s perfect and the ending is one of those you will surely remember all your life.

I think this is a book that everyone should read.

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

Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

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Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too. As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

There’s always a feeling of disappointment when everyone loves a book and you don’t. Especially if that book has been recommended to you by more than one person. I think my expectations were simply too high when I started reading The Child Finder and, unfortunately, the book didn’t quite live up to them.

This is one of those books that is pretty easy to review because I know exactly what I liked and what I didn’t. Let’s start with the positives. I absolutely loved the premise: a woman, “the child finder”. I loved Naomi’s dedication, her complete loyalty to the missing children, her “connection” with them. I especially loved how she took any case because missing children aren’t guilty of anything and simply deserve to be found.

I also enjoyed the “Snow Girl” narration. Those parts certainly reminded me a bit of The Marsh King’s Daughter, which I loved. And I really liked it when we found out what had really happened, although there wasn’t a shocking moment, it was more of a progressive discovery. It was heartbreaking and it made complete sense. On the other hand, the other storyline, the one about the missing baby was also tragic and I felt so bad for everyone involved.

While all of those elements worked for me, there were some details that prevented me from loving this book. First of all, I didn’t connect with the writing from the very beginning. I don’t know why, and I’m well aware that most of you loved Rene Denfeld’s style, but I found it kind of cheesy. I thought dialogues were unrealistic and I felt like she was trying to be meaningful and deep every single time. I don’t mind deep and meaningful and, for example, Chris Whitaker’s over-dramatic style worked for me in All The Wicked Girls, but here I didn’t believe any of it. I’m afraid there were a few eyerolls from my part.

The second thing that didn’t work for me was the love story. I found myself not really caring for their relationship. I didn’t really feel like I knew them at all and I didn’t think the love angle was necessary here. Again, everything was really cheesy when it came to their scenes. And well, lastly, I guess there will be a sequel (?) but there was a personal storyline that didn’t get its conclusion and I was kind of disappointed. I wanted to know!

All in all, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I understand why most of you fell in love with it and I definitely think it’s unique, as it’s not a traditional mystery by any means, but at the same time I’m sad because I never felt the “spark”.

Harper, 2017

 

Review: The Secrets on Chicory Lane by @RaymondBenson @skyhorsepub

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Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child. As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil–with a capital “E”–that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood. With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

I don’t know what I expected from The Secrets on Chicory Lane but it was definitely not what I got. And I don’t really know how to describe this book. Is it a mystery? Not really. But it’s definitely suspenseful. And it’s also sad and memorable and it won’t leave anyone indifferent.

I admit I wasn’t sure I would like it when I started reading. The writing was not what I expected and at first, I didn’t feel I’d enjoy the novel’s structure. This was a weird one. The narration was told entirely from Shelby’s point of view, only she tells us her life story instead of focusing on the present matters. I thought the present would be important, but it was not. Yes, we know that Shelby is traveling to Texas, but what actually matters are her thoughts, as she recalls her relationship with Eddie during five decades, from the time when they were kids until the last time she saw him during the trial.

While I didn’t think much of it during the first chapter, as soon as I started reading about Eddie and Shelby’s relationship, I was hooked. Theirs was one unforgettable tale and I was so immersed in their story that I almost didn’t want to finish the book. Shelby was a character that grew on me as I got to know her better. I definitely thought she made some mistakes (who hasn’t?) but she was a good person overall. Eddie… truthfully, I didn’t like him from the very first moment he was introduced, but I felt sad for him anyway.

As much as I liked The Secrets On Chicory Lane, I can’t say I was surprised by how the story progressed. I thought I knew what had happened and eventually, I was right. It was still heartbreaking and it definitely made me feel uneasy, but I believe it was the right way to finish the story.

This is not a happy book by any means and it touches several themes that make it a tough read sometimes. This book makes you reflect on how childhood experiences can affect our life paths, and how easily things could’ve been different.

Netgalley, Skyhorse Publishing, 2017