Review: Shutter by Melissa Larsen


Synopsis from Goodreads:

A young woman agrees to star in a filmmaker’s latest project, but soon realizes the movie is not what she expected in this chilling debut novel.

In the wake of her father’s death, Betty Roux doesn’t allow herself to mourn. Instead, she pushes away her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves everything behind to move to New York City. She doesn’t know what she wants, except to run.

When she’s offered the chance to play the leading role in mysterious indie filmmaker Anthony Marino’s new project, she jumps at the opportunity. For a month Betty will live in a cabin on a private island off the coast of Maine, with a five-person cast and crew. Her mother warns against it, but Betty is too drawn to the charismatic Anthony to say no.

Anthony gives her a new identity–Lola–and Betty tells herself that this is exactly what she’s been looking for. The chance to reinvent herself. That is, until they begin filming and she meets Sammy, the island’s caretaker, and Betty realizes just how little she knows about the movie and its director.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Shutter publishes June 15, 2021. 

Oh boy, this books was absolutely not for me. I’ve tried really hard to think of positive things to say about it and the only thing I can think of is that I actually felt the need to finish it, instead of DNF-ing it. I wish I would have DNF-ed it, though.

The characters were all awful. Every last one of them. There was no one to root for. No one to connect with. I could not for the life of me understand why everyone was so drawn to narcissistic Anthony. Or why Betty just rolled over every time he said “trust me,” even though he had done absolutely nothing to prove himself worthy of trust. And Betty. The story is told through her first person POV and it was a trial to be stuck in her head. I think we’re supposed to give her a pass because she’s still grieving over the loss of a parent, but that does not make up for the never ending parade of stupid decisions she made.

While the plot of making a mysterious movie on a secluded island sounded like it would be creepy and entertaining, I ended up just rolling my eyes at the whole thing. Anthony’s motivation was childish and psychopathic, as was Sammy’s character. The whole thing was just ridiculous and then the ending was super anti-climactic.

Overall, I did not enjoy Shutter at all. I kept waiting for some great twist to be revealed that would make everything worth it, but it never came. The awful characters and ridiculous plot made this a chore to get through. While this book is obviously not for me, I have seen some much better reviews on it, so it might be worth the read for others.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: The Doctor by Lisa Stone


Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘I was gripped immediately’ Katerina Diamond, Sunday Timesbestseller

How much do you know about the couple next door?

When Emily and Ben move in next door to Dr Burman and his wife Anita, they are keen to get to know their new neighbours. Outgoing and sociable, Emily tries to befriend the doctor’s wife, but Anita is strangely subdued, barely leaving the house, and terrified of answering the phone.

When Emily goes missing a few weeks later, Ben is plunged into a panic. His wife has left him a note, but can she really have abandoned him for another man? Or has Emily’s curiosity about the couple next door led her straight into danger?

A gripping, sinister thriller with a twist you won’t see coming from the international bestseller Lisa Stone.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Doctor will be available June 24, 2019. 

To be perfectly honest, the reason I decided to read this book was because of that little blurb from Katerina Diamond, who is one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, I was not gripped immediately by The Doctor – or at all, really.

First of all, I need to point out a little pet peeve I have with the synopsis, which is that the name of the doctor’s wife was not the same as in the book. In the book, her name was Alisha, not Anita, so either the synopsis is wrong, or it was changed after the ARC was done. Also, Emily doesn’t go “missing” until the latter half of the book and the reader knows where she is the whole time. I expected it to be more of a mystery, but while Ben doesn’t know where she is, we know everything that happens and I felt it took away a lot of the tension.

Alisha has a chronic disease and her husband, Amit, is obsessed with the idea of cryonics, which involves freezing her body when she dies until medicine has advanced enough to cure the disease, when she can then be brought back to life. Alisha won’t consent to signing up with the agency that does this, so he decides to teach himself the process and will do it to her himself. In the mean time, he’s emotionally and physically abusive to Alisha to make sure she’s too scared to leave the house or accept the friendly advances of their neighbors, Emily.

I thought the book was much, much longer than it needed to be. The plot advanced very slowly and I never really felt the characters were developed that fully, either. The quality of the writing left a little to be desired for me, as well. It felt like a first or second draft and could have used a lot more editing and polishing. I was also really disappointed with the “twist” that was promised. It was barely a twist at all and left no real impact.

Overall, The Doctor just wasn’t for me. While it had an interesting angle with the cryonics plotline, it never really lived up to it’s potential. I never connected with the characters and thought Amit was a pretty weak villain. I was originally going to give this two stars, but once I actually started to write this review, I realized I don’t really have anything positive to say about it, so it’s only getting 1 star from me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman


Synopsis from Goodreads:

A smart debut novel—a wonderfully engaging infusion of Lab Girl, The Assistants, and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine—that pits the ambition of scientific discovery against the siren call of love.

How does smell work? Specifically, how do olfactory sensory neurons project to their targets in the olfactory bulb, where smell is processed? Justin McKinnon has hired fresh-faced graduate student Emily to study that question. What Justin hasn’t told Emily is that two other scientists in the lab, Aeden and Allegra, are working on a very similar topic, and their findings may compete with her research.

Emily was born focused and driven. She’s always been more comfortable staring down the barrel of a microscope than making small talk with strangers. Competition doesn’t scare her. Her special place is the lab, where she analyzes DNA sequences, looking for new genes that might be involved in guiding olfactory neurons to their targets.

To Emily’s great surprise, her rational mind is unsettled by Aeden. As they shift from competitors to colleagues, and then to something more, Emily allows herself to see a future in which she doesn’t end up alone. But when Aeden decides to leave the lab, it becomes clear to Emily that she must make a choice: follow her research or follow her heart.

A sharp, relevant novel that speaks to the ambitions and desires of modern women, The DNA of You and Me explores the evergreen question of career versus family, the irrational sensibility of love, and whether one can be a loner without a diagnostic label.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

I was a little hesitant to pick up this book because of the heavy scientific content, but I admit I was drawn in by that beautiful cover. I thought it conveyed whimsy and lightness that would balance out the science jargon. However, my initial instinct was correct and the story ended up being way too science-heavy for me.

I felt like The DNA of You and Me ended up being more of a science lesson with a little bit of romance and self-reflection thrown in. And unless you are already familiar with the science, it’s probably not a lesson you will learn anything from. The author herself is a scientist that studies the sense of smell and perhaps because of this didn’t find it necessary to do any world building, if you will, for those of us that haven’t been in a lab since high school. Large portions of this book felt like reading another language. I also found the subject matter incredibly dull. The story was never able to make me care about the research of the sense of smell.

I probably could’ve overlooked the science heavy content if the rest of the story made up for it, but the characters and romance really felt lacking to me, as well. I never really connected to Emily, even though there were many aspects of her that I felt should have been relatable to me. I honestly thought her actions were kind of sociopath-like in the beginning as she manipulated the situation to get closer to Aeden. And Aeden was awful. He treated her horrifically in the beginning. Somewhere along the way he ended up with genuine feelings for Emily, but I couldn’t tell you when. The romance was dysfunctional and confusing with a total lack of chemistry.

Overall, The DNA of You and Me was not the book for me. The cover is basically the only good thing I can say about it. The characters were not likable or engaging, the romance was dysfunctional, and the story was just really dull. If you are interested in science and have some familiarity with the subject matter, you might well enjoy that part and be able to overlook the characters and romance. I should’ve stuck with my initial instinct to pass on this one, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins


Synopsis from Good Reads:

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Well. That was a huge disappointment. I’m just going to list all the ways it disappointed me.

This was basically a Contemporary Romance with a little bit of murder thrown in. It was not in the least bit scary or even suspenseful. The killer’s pre-killing ritual didn’t really make a lot of sense. A nod to Charles Manson, I guess? It still wasn’t scary.

The characters were boring and unlikable. It reminded me a little bit of Lola and the Boy Next Door in trying too hard to make the characters seem quirky and unique (speaking of LATBND, there is a brief cameo mention from that novel which was one of the few things I liked). There is just enough diversity thrown in to make sure the mean kids on Twitter don’t get mad.

-Makani, the main character, has been exiled to her Grandma’s in Nebraska after some horrific event in her past that is often vaguely alluded to. She lives in constant fear of someone finding out what she did and thinks it might be why she’s a target of the killer. It’s eventually revealed and it’s…STUPID. It’s so stupid. It made me start to wonder if this book was supposed to be a spoof and I had been reading it with the wrong intentions. But, no. Unfortunately it’s supposed to be serious.

-The romance. The romance really did feel like the main focus of the plot. I didn’t necessarily dislike Makani and Ollie’s developing relationship, but I didn’t love them together, either. Ollie was a more subdued version of the swoony male lead Perkins is known for and in another type of book I might have liked him a little more. There is a scene where they make out a bit during a group prayer that I felt was really disrespectful.

-The murders. I have read several reviews that talked about how gory this book was so I was really expecting some intense scenes. Now I’m wondering if we read the same book? The murder scenes were incredibly brief with about the least amount of detail you can have while still staying in this genre. I don’t want it to seem like I really enjoy a lot of graphic violence, but if you’re going to have a slasher-inspired murder scene, you better make me squirm in discomfort and maybe feel a little sick. Instead I felt nothing but a little bored.

-The killer. The identity was revealed much earlier than I thought it would be and it took with it a lot of opportunity for tension and suspense (though by now I don’t think this book was really capable of that much suspense, anyways). The identity didn’t really have a lot of impact and the motivation for the killing was really lame. 

Overall, There’s Someone Inside Your House was a tremendous disappointment. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t suspenseful, it wasn’t unique, it wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t very enjoyable. I was thinking that I would give this book 2 stars, but the only good thing I can really think to say about it is that I like the cover. I can appreciate the author’s effort to write something outside of her normal genre, but I definitely think she should stick with romance from now on.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: Size Matters (A Perfect Fit #1) by Alison Bliss


The rules of (fake) engagement . . .
Leah Martin has spent her life trying to avoid temptation. But she’s sick of low-fat snacks, counting calories, and her hyper-critical mom. Fortunately, her popular new bakery keeps her good and distracted. But there aren’t enough éclairs in the world to distract Leah from the hotness that is Sam Cooper – or the fact that he just told her mother that they’re engaged . . . which is a big, fat lie.

Sam sometime speaks before he thinks. So what started out as defending Leah’s date-ability to her judgmental mother soon turned into having a fiancée! Now the plan is to keep up the fake engagement, stay “just friends,” and make Leah’s family loathe him enough to just call the whole thing off . But Sam has an insatiable sweet tooth, not only for Leah’s decadent desserts but her decadent curves. Her full lips. Her bright green eyes. Yep, things aren’t going quite according to plan. Now Sam has to convince Leah that he’s for real . . . before their little lie turns into one big, sweet disaster.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

**My response to this book did not warrant a full review, so behold my unorganized rant.**

A fake relationship story with a cover model that isn’t a size two. I thought this was going to be sweet and relatable and very body positive. I was wrong on all counts. I just disliked this book so much. The characters were awful and really unlikable. Leah was not that overweight, but she was really insecure about it and lashed out a lot because of it. Every time a skinnier person was mentioned (by her or Sam) they were referred to as anorexic. Sam acted like a huge jerk for the majority of the book. Even when he was supposed to be swoony, I despised his behavior. He also bordered on crude a good deal of the time and maybe some readers will be into that, but I’m not. It took way too long for Leah to grow a backbone and stand up to Sam’s treatment of her and her mother who was constantly putting her down, and when it finally happened things were resolved much to easily. The one positive thing I can say about this book is that it was occasionally humorous. I really should have just stopped reading this, but I kept hoping it would get better. Instead, I just disliked it more and more.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Quick Review: Beautiful Maids All in a Row (Iris Ballard #1) by Jennifer Harlow


Synopsis from Good Reads:

Dr. Iris Ballard’s glory days are behind her, so when Luke Hudson, her former FBI partner and onetime lover, asks for help constructing a psychological profile of an elusive serial killer who murders single mothers and dumps their bodies in the woods, Iris turns him away. She just wants to be left alone with her infomercials, her German Shepherd, and her vodka. That is, until she gets a peek at the case files.

The media has dubbed him “the Woodsman.” But after Iris learns the sickening details held back from the press, and as she sets foot onto the scene of his latest crime, she assembles a portrait of a more complicated, enigmatic, meticulous man. Control is his motivation. He thrives on it. Soon he even tries to manipulate the investigation by contacting Iris, hoping to rattle the woman he considers an intellectual equal.

The game is on. Iris thinks she has a read on her target, enough to push his buttons, to make him lose control. But when the Woodsman gains the upper hand, Iris faces the most painful reckoning of all—with her own violent past.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Beautiful Maids All in a Row will be available 10/11/16.

In the acknowledgments, the author reveals that this is the first book she ever wrote at age nineteen. And it reads like it. The story is just one cliché after another with nothing surprising or original in the whole book. I guessed who the serial killer was in the third chapter and it took about another twelve chapters for the characters to figure it out. I really don’t have anything constructive to say about this book, so this is more of a note than an actual review. I will say that based on other reviews I’ve read I am in the minority opinion. And maybe if I had never read another book in this genre before I could have enjoyed it more.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

I’ve read nothing but great things about this series, so I was excited to finally read it. Unfortunately, it did not at all live up to my expectations.

Celaena is supposed to be the greatest assassin ever, but she was betrayed and ended up in a prison camp. I would have liked this to have been explored further. We don’t really get any information about her assassin glory days. We get hardly any details about her former trainer, her fellow assassins, or her past other than in vague terms. In addition to the poor background, I felt that the rest of the world building was pretty shoddy. There’s talk of old magic and different gods, but they were never really explored either. Though, the magic was explained a little towards the end of the book, though I still didn’t totally understand it.

While Celaena was a mostly likable character, I didn’t find her the great, strong female character everybody praises her for. She was often shallow and petty. Other than one time where she talked about how music makes her feel, there wasn’t really much depth to her. I also would’ve liked to have seen the other characters more developed.

Then there was the love triangle. While I almost always hate love triangles, this one was particularly poor. Neither Dorian nor Chaol were developed enough for me to care that much about them. Celaena was also incredibly fickle about who she liked more at any given moment.

Overall, I just didn’t care for Throne of Glass. The pacing was slow, the characters were not very well developed, and the plot just didn’t really interest me. While I almost always have to finish any series I start, I don’t think I’ll be continuing this one.

Rating (out of 5):
Plot: 2
Characters: 2
Readability: 2
Enjoyability: 1.5
Overall Average: 1.875 stars

A Spoilery Review of The Registry by Shannon Stoker – 1 star (out of 5)

The Registry

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.


-I read this book because it kept showing up in my Facebook feed. The concept isn’t bad. A dystopian post-America where young women are bought as wives. Unfortunately that’s pretty much as interesting as it gets.

-The character development was pretty lacking. Grant, Mia’s “husband”, is basically just a rich psychopath and no real reason is ever given as to what made him this way. He’s not at all sympathetic. Not that the villain of a story is supposed to be sympathetic, but if you’re going to spend so much time in the story seeing through his point of view, you want to actually be able to understand his motivation. Here his motivation is that of a toddler’s: It’s mine, I want it back.

-Whitney, Mia’s friend that she talks into running with her, is supposed to be the smart one, but spends the whole trip sulking and debating whether or not she should return home. Andrew tells her that makes her selfish, which I don’t think is completely fair. Out of all of them, Mia is the most selfish, talking Whitney into going in the first place and blackmailing Andrew into helping them. When Whitney dies to protect Mia, I was only relieved that we didn’t have to  bother with her anymore.

-The “romance” in the story is between Mia and Andrew, but most of the book is spent by one or the other fighting their feelings. When Andrew finally decides to tell her how he feels, he catches her with Carter, one of the men assisting them in their journey to Mexico. Mia, who was pretending that Carter was Andrew while she kissed him, runs after him saying “I didn’t know how you felt.” One moment he storms out angry, the next moment they’re kissing in the back of the get-away car. There’s no explanation as to why she was with Carter or declarations of how they feel for each other. It just happens. And in the rest of the book, Andrew is referred to as “her love.”

-Overall, the book was just boring. Even the moments that were supposed to be surprising or exciting fell flat. I didn’t really care about any of the characters or what happened to them. Usually books I don’t like I give at least two stars because even if I didn’t enjoy the story, the writing was good. But this read more like a self-published free e-book than something that went through a real editing process. If you’re into a dystopian story that focuses on repressed females escaping their fate, a better bet would be Eve by Anna Carey or Wither by Lauren DeSteafno.