Review: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.

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

Girls’ Night Out will be available July 24, 2018. 

Well, I really did not care for this book. Unlikable characters and an entirely predictable plot made it a struggle to complete and I wish I didn’t waste my time on it.

The synopsis for Girls’ Night Out makes the story seem much more interesting than it actually is. There are no earth shattering secrets revealed and really no suspense. I’ve read some reviews talking about the great twist ending and I am here to tell you that is false. If you are looking for a really character-driven novel about insufferable women not getting along, then this book is for you. If you’re looking for mystery and suspense and some shocking twists, you should probably take a hard pass on this one.

Ashley was a very selfish, very self-indulgent character. While she seemed to have good intentions, her selfishness was still at the root of all her actions. It was very hard to feel bad for the beautiful, charming (aka: manipulative), rich, self-centered “victim”. Natalie was also not a likable character. She let herself be steamrolled by Ashley for pretty much their whole relationship and is only beginning to show her resentment towards it. I couldn’t help but feel like if she was just more honest with Ashley then maybe she could have talked some sense into her before things got so far gone. Lauren was basically a pointless character. I really don’t have any idea why she was even in the story, except to add just a tiny bit more drama and shine a brighter light on Ashley’s inability to maintain positive relationships. Lauren also has a scandalous addiction that is mentioned and then nothing really else happened with it. It didn’t portray how damaging it is or how it really affected her day to day life. It seemed like it was just something thrown in for shock value and felt a little irresponsible to me.

Overall, I just really didn’t like Girls’ Night Out. I feel like basically your guess from the first chapter pretty much ends up being true and it made a lot of the middle just seem pointless. I also am not a fan of the “amnesia/blackout” trope which the story heavily relied on. Maybe if the characters were a little more likable it would make up for the poor plot, but unfortunately they just made it worse. The only reason this is getting more than one star from is because I liked the use of multiple POVs and timelines.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

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Review: The Date by Louise Jensen

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Something bad has happened to Alison Taylor.

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future.

By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…

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

The Date will be available June 21, 2018.

I am so disappointed! I have seen nothing but praise for Louise Jensen books and I was very excited to finally try one. The beautiful cover, intriguing synopsis, and all the glowing reviews had me convinced The Date would be one of my favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, the hype going into this set my expectations way too high.

The whole temporary amnesia angle is never one of my favorite tropes, but I thought the Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness) set this one apart a bit. I have only read one other book that had a character afflicted with this so it still felt fresh. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with this disability and I felt the book did a pretty good job describing how debilitating it could be, but also how you can learn to live with it.

That is pretty much the end of what I liked about this book, though. I really had to push myself to finish this one. It might just be my current mood, but I just had a hard time getting into this. I found Ali kind of annoying, to be honest. I also never felt like we really got to know any of the other characters very well. Jensen did do a good job of keeping me guessing for awhile, making everyone in Ali’s life a bit suspicious, but as the book went on I started to really narrow down the villain to one character and I ended up being right. There was one red herring that made me right away guess the truth. I’m guessing that when that truth was revealed it was supposed to be the big shocking twist? It felt cliched to me and I can’t believe that many Mystery fans would be surprised by it.

Overall, The Date was disappointing to me. Maybe if my expectations weren’t quite so high I would have enjoyed it a bit more. But other than the Face Blindness plotline, the story was kind of cliched and I was completely underwhelmed by what was supposed to be the big twist. However, I seem to really be in the minority with this opinion, so it still may be worth trying.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this chilling and disquieting debut thriller perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’s Hidden Bodies and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, a family man with a habit of digging up the past catches the attention of a serial killer who wants anything but his secrets uncovered.

For years, unbeknownst to his wife and teenage daughter, Martin Reese has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and obsessively studying them, using them as guides to find the missing bodies of victims. He doesn’t take any souvenirs, just photos that he stores in an old laptop, and then he turns in the results anonymously. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of wrongs.

Detective Sandra Whittal sees the situation differently. On a meteoric rise in police ranks due to her case‑closing efficiency, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source she calls the Finder, especially since he keeps leading the police right to the bodies. Even if he isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, how can she be sure he won’t start soon?

On his latest dig, Martin searches for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the early 1990s murderer who may have been responsible for the disappearance of his wife’s sister. But when he arrives at the site, he finds more than just bones. There’s a freshly killed body—a young and missing Seattle woman—lying among remains that were left there decades ago. Someone else knew where Jason Shurn left the corpses of his victims…and that someone isn’t happy that Martin has been going around digging up his work. And when a crooked cop with a tenuous tie to Martin vanishes, Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder.

Hunted by a real killer and by Whittal, Martin realizes that in order to escape, he may have to go deeper into the killer’s dark world than he ever thought…

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

Find You in the Dark will be available June 19, 2018.

Comparisons to Dexter and to Joe made me pretty excited to read Find You in the Dark, but as with such other comparisons, I was left a little disappointed.

I had a really hard time getting into this book. While I did find Martin to be an interesting character, every time the POV shifted away from him I was kind of bored. I thought the pacing was really slow. I was expecting a good twist or two, but didn’t really find anything surprising. I didn’t find it suspenseful until the final chapters and by then it was kind of too little, too late.

As I mentioned above, I found Martin to be an interesting character (though not as compelling as the characters alluded to in the synopsis). I also liked one of the cops, Chris. I kind of hated all the other characters, though. Martin’s wife was super unlikable and I completely detested Sandra, the detective. She was abrasive and treated everyone around her horribly and I just cringed every time we got her POV.

Overall, I found Find You in the Dark underwhelming. I’m adding a half star to my original rating because I did enjoy the main character and the ending of the book picked up a lot. But, for the most part, I found the supporting characters very unlikable and the story itself was just kind of dull to me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Synopsis from Good Reads:

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

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

Providence will be available June 19, 2018. 

Providence included some of the addictive writing I’ve come to associate with Caroline Kepnes, but it was not enough to make this book really stand out for me.

Unlike Kepnes’ You series, I thought this book was missing that one compelling character that would make up for any issues I had with the plot. Providence is told from three different POVs – Jon, Chloe, and Eggs – and unfortunately I never really connected with any of them. Pretty much every review I’ve read has praised Eggs as the best character, but I just never really cared that much about him. I thought Chloe was incredibly unlikable. I did like and really feel for Jon, but even with all he’s gone through, he still felt like a pretty one-dimensional character.

The theme of the story is supposed to evolve around love and obsession and I just never really bought it. I don’t really think Jon and Chloe loved each other. I think they’re both emotionally stunted from what happened when they were young teenagers and they just never really grew up. They had a crush on each other, which was then intensified by the whole “want what you can’t have” thing. And I hate to keep making comparisons to You, but the obsession angle fell a little short for me, too.

I feel like The Dunwich Horror should have been required reading prior to starting this. It and Lovecraft’s life and other works were referenced often and while there was some explanation, I still feel like I missed something by not being familiar with it. I also did not really feel inspired to go check out his work after reading this. It kind of seemed like there was some lesson or big emotional impact I was supposed to experience by the end of the book, but I never did.

Overall, Providence had some moments of addictive writing, but just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t really like any of the characters and I thought the story was just kind of depressing. I also thought there were some inconsistencies in how Jon’s power works and I didn’t really appreciate the lack of resolution at the end of the book. Though I did enjoy parts of it, I’m still left wondering what exactly the point of it all was.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.

And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.

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

The Favorite Sister will be available May 15, 2018. 

Despite not being a huge fan of Luckiest Girl Alive, I wanted to give Jessica Knoll another try. Unfortunately, I was even less impressed with The Favorite Sister.

At the beginning of my E-ARC copy of the book, there is a letter from the editor promising the following: “Ferociously paced, brilliantly plotted (just WAIT for the ending), twisty and whip smart…” “…so shocking, and so un-put-down-able…readers everywhere will be blown away.” I feel like absolutely none of that was true. The pacing was very slow (and the chapters were SO. LONG) and I was not shocked by one single thing that happened. I felt like there were plenty of clues that anybody who has read a book remotely similar would be able to predict all the “twists” before they were revealed.

The story is told from the point of view of three different women on the reality show Goal Diggers (heavily inspired by the Real Housewives franchise). I did like the reality tv angle and it was probably my favorite thing about the book. I felt like there was good character development for those three women, but the rest of the characters – including two other women on the show – could have been a little more fleshed out. All of them were awful, though. There was really nothing sympathetic or redeeming about these women. It was really hard to care about what happened to any of them. The only emotion I occasionally felt was disgust.

Overall, The Favorite Sister was just not for me. Though I liked the reality tv setting, the characters were just awful and the plot left a lot to be desired. I’m sure there will be people who will enjoy this, I just wasn’t one of them.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer.

That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted.

Before his admission to a care home for dementia

Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip.

Only she’s not his daughter and, if she has her way, he’s not coming back . . .

Because Carl’s past has finally caught up with him. The young woman driving the car is convinced her passenger is guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel.

Now they’re following the trail of his photographs, his clues, his alleged crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. Confesses to any of it. To discover what really happened to Rachel.

Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he’s guilty of nothing and she’s the liar.

Either way in driving him into the Texan wilderness she’s taking a terrible risk.

For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all . . .

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

Paper Ghosts will be available May 15, 2018. 

It pains me to say this, but I found Paper Ghosts to be a big waste of time.

After absolutely loving Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans, I was really looking forward to her next book. I expected a great mystery and a good deal of suspense. I didn’t really get either of those things in this book. The only moments of suspense were kind of equivalent to someone jumping out and yelling “boo!” at you, where you are slightly startled for a moment and then over it with no lasting impact. I felt like the conclusion was not anything we were led to believe and instead of enjoying the journey to get there, I find myself asking, “What was the point?”

I really did not care for the main character. For some reason, her real name is never mentioned until the end of the book. I’m not sure what kind of impact this was supposed to have on me, but it had none. (Something similar to this happened in Black-Eyed Susans and it did have an impact there, but just didn’t do anything for me here.) We are constantly told of her mysterious trainer who has prepared her for the dark things she has to do and what a detailed planner she is. However, almost right away she starts losing the upper hand to Carl. She does not follow her own rules and continually loses track of Carl. I kept thinking that this had to be part of her plan. She could not possibly be that inept. I kept waiting for everything to come together and her master plan to be revealed. But it never did. What she finds out she only finds out because Carl led her to it.

Overall, I was incredibly disappointed in Paper Ghosts. The main character was not only unlikable, but her total ineptitude after constantly talking about how well trained she was was baffling. The only thing I really liked about the book was Carl. He was a much smarter and more compelling character. I’m sure there will be people that will enjoy this, but it just wasn’t for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Well. I am glad I decided to wait for a library copy of this book instead of buying it. Despite being very excited for the continuation of this series (my love for Warner knows no bounds), I was a little cautious about it. I loved this series the first (several) times I read it, but the last time I tried re-reading it I felt like I had maybe outgrown it a little bit. I realized some of the things that happened – like basically destroying Adam’s character just to make sure that everyone would pick Warner in the love triangle debate – was kind of lazy. I was still looking forward to revisiting these characters, though, hoping that Mafi would make up for some of the things I had issues with. Unfortunately, it fell short of even my lowered expectations.

Let’s start with Juliette. I kind of hated her in this book. I felt like she had grown so much throughout the series into this really strong character, but here she was back to the whiny, self-centered Juliette of book 2. She had no idea what taking over as Supreme Commander means and we do not see her do anything but complain about how much mail she has to go through, go for leisurely walks with Kenji, and hook up with Warner. She is completely overcome with doubts, but gets angry any time someone tries to help her. NOTHING she did made any sense. She was so childish I couldn’t even feel sorry for her.

Then there’s her relationship with Warner. Warner, who has never been good about talking about his past. Warner, who has repeatedly shown her his insecurity in their relationship. Warner, whose father she just killed. When he discovers important information about her past and tells her about it, she blows up about the one piece of information he did know and hadn’t told her about beforehand. I thought in Ignite Me they started a very solid partnership and I was looking forward to seeing that grow, but they took several gigantic steps backwards. It just really annoyed me that lack of communication and childish behavior were the main sources of tension Mafi used to reboot this series. Instead of giving the characters new challenges and letting them continue to grow, she reverted them back to how they used to be and are going to make them re-learn all the same lessons we’ve already seen them go through. 

And can we talk about Castle for a minute? Juliette is the supreme commander and Castle still beckons her like a student to the principal’s office and she just goes and gets all nervous about whatever he has to say. Like, girl, you are in charge now! You don’t have to do what he tells you. And you can make him tell you the things he’s being evasive about. Also, all of sudden Castle knows everything about everything? I don’t buy it. Nothing in the past books made him come across so knowledgeable or connected. It just felt way too convenient.

There were a few things I liked, though. Adam got a personality change again and went back to being a nice guy. And he reaches out to Warner and I liked their scene together. For the most part, though, I feel like he’s outlived his usefulness to the story and he only had a couple of appearances. (The same goes for most of the Omega Point characters from the previous books, except for Castle and Kenji.) I also still love Warner. Even though his nonsense with Juliette annoyed me, I did feel like he grew in some ways in this book and was the only character to do so. The story is told in alternating first person POV between him and Juliette and I found myself kind of unable to care about Juliette’s chapters because I liked Warner’s so much more.

Overall, Restore Me left me extremely underwhelmed. It basically saved all plot development that didn’t have to do with relationship drama to the last couple chapters and then it rushed through them. I thought it was pretty lazy writing to just have all the characters revert to previous versions of themselves and repeating past drama. I’m really hoping that Mafi will come up with some fresher ideas in the next books, which I will still read – because Warner.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars