Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

41719140. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

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

The Better Liar will be available January 14, 2020. 

I had really high hopes for The Better Liar. It sounded intriguing and suspenseful and multiple twists are promised in the synopsis. Unfortunately, none of those things ended up being true for me. Instead of the psychological suspense I was expecting, this book read much more like a Women’s Fiction story, focusing on two sisters with a dysfunctional childhood who turned into two dysfunctional adults. It’s also supposed to shine a light on postpartum depression, but I don’t think that was done all that effectively, even with the condescending Author’s Note about it at the end of the book.

The story is told from three points of view: Leslie, Robin, and Mary. I liked the multiple perspectives, even if they all sounded basically the same. The premise definitely had promise, but I found myself pretty bored for most of the book. I disliked all of the characters and found a lot of their actions a little unrealistic. I kept waiting for the multiple twists and when they finally happened I thought they were kind lackluster. I expected a really explosive, twisted ending and was left pretty disappointed.

Overall, The Better Liar was just not for me. While it had promise, it failed to live up to it. I think if this had been packaged as Women’s Fiction rather than Mystery/Thriller, I could have adjusted my expectations and enjoyed it more. However, I have seen many more favorable reviews on this than mine, so it may still be worth picking up for some.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

45701350

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic–and terrifying–consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

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

The Dead Girls Club will be available December 10, 2019.

To be perfectly honest, I wanted to read this book because of that beautiful cover. I think I requested a copy on NetGalley without even really reading the synopsis. Unfortunately, the cover ended up being the best thing about the book.

I kind of feel like the synopsis is a little misleading. It doesn’t say anything inaccurate, but I think it frames the story as more of a Horror than it actually was. Instead of a creepy, cat-and-mouse type of story, we get to watch a paranoid woman wander around making stupid decision after stupid decision, interspersed with the re-telling of the events that led to her childhood best friend’s death. The past chapters were a bit of a struggle to get through. The Red Lady is a story Becca makes up and scares her friends with. Many of the chapters were just repetitive stories of the Red Lady and how Heather gets annoyed that Becca doesn’t want to talk about anything else. Eventually all the girls start to think she’s real and it ends in some insanity. The girls are 12 or 13 and I felt like they were too old for this type of behavior. I also thought Becca was a little psycho and I had a hard time understanding why Heather would actually want to be friends with her.

I had a real hard time liking Heather. I just feel like every single thing she did was the wrong thing. As a psychologist I thought she should have recognized her unhealthy behavior a little more than she did. But, I guess it goes along with the cliche that the people who need psychologists the most are the ones that end up going into that field. She also really frustrated me with how she treated her husband and her friends.

One good thing I have to say about the story, though, is that I thought the conclusion was going to be super obvious and it ended up not being what I thought it would be. I was so focused on what I thought was going to happen, that I overlooked all the clues the author left and I liked that it surprised me. I just wish the rest of the story wasn’t so repetitive and slow.

Overall, The Dead Girls Club wasn’t really for me. I found the main character really unlikable and felt the story dragged a lot. It didn’t live up to it’s potential for me, but I have seen some more favorable reviews of it, so it might still be worth the read for some. I’m increasing my rating a bit because the end did manage to have a twist I wasn’t expecting.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Lake Season (Bluebell Inn Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

44441971

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of  The Convenient Groom  and  A December Bride  (now beloved Hallmark Original movies) comes the first novel in a brand-new series!­

When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic home back into an inn.

Adam Bradford (a.k.a. bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive author with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to a North Carolina lake town, the setting of his next novel. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

When Molly finds an old letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But the guest she invites along has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

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

Lake Season will be available November 12, 2019. 

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying that when I read this book I was kind of in a book-slump mood where I wasn’t really enjoying anything I picked up. I started several different books that I set aside after a few chapters, but I decided to keep reading Lake Season even though I felt the same way about it as all the others. Maybe if I had read it in a different mood, I would have enjoyed it a little more.

-The story begins right after Molly’s parents die. She’s discussing next steps with her older brother, Levi, and younger sister, Grace, and when Levi proposes Grace moves in with him – to another state – she throws a tantrum which ends up with her siblings giving up both of their current life paths to move back home and open the inn their parents were planning to do. I know that they obviously had just gone through a lot, but Grace came off as such a brat that I couldn’t stand her. It really set me off on the wrong foot with the story.

-I never really got on board the whole letter thing. Molly becomes obsessed with it and while I kind of understand the reasoning, I just found it pretty boring. I also thought it was kind of odd that she needed Adam’s help because she’s just “bad with computers.” It was like she barely knew how to Google something. Yet, she’s a millennial who was in college, so it’s basically impossible for her to not know how to use a computer.

-There are a few flashbacks to the letter writer in the ’60s and I just didn’t really think they were well done. They were very few and far between and not really enough to get me invested in the story. I could kind of tell the author wasn’t that invested in them either.

-Knowing that Adam keeps his author identity a secret and that Molly’s last relationship ended because of lies, you know what the big romantic conflict is going to be. This type of scenario is never my favorite and it was made even worse by Molly’s hypocrisy. She lied to Adam about things, too, but that didn’t really seem to matter. She also was kind of dating his best friend just because she thought he was actually the author. Not to mention that she also kind of cheated on him with Adam. I just found her a little hard to like.

-One prevailing thought I had while reading this was that it was pretty light on the Christian for being a Christian Fiction. However, the lessons came in really heavy handed towards the end. I don’t necessarily mind the strong push at the end, but I would’ve preferred it to be more evenly involved throughout the whole story.

Overall, Lake Season just wasn’t for me. I know I listed a lot of negative things, but I did enjoy some things about it, too. Even though I had some issues with it, there were some good romantic moments. I also fully admit that if I read this at a different time, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more and given it a solid three stars. However, I found it pretty hard to get through and so I need to give it a slightly lower rating.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

43263680

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Well, this was a colossal waste of time. It pains me to say that, but Ninth House was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not even come close to meeting my expectations. I’m going to go the list route for the rest of this review.

-Let’s talk about those expectations. Ninth House is Bardugo’s first adult novel. However, it pretty much read exactly like all of her YA novels. Plus, it’s set in a college, so the main character is a freshman (though she’s 20 instead of 18, so I guess that’s supposed to make her more adult?) and it still follows a basic YA formula – the dumb adult doesn’t listen to the young main character’s concerns, so she goes behind their backs to figure things out on her own.

-Almost every review I’ve read described this book as DARK, but it wasn’t really. Maybe slightly darker than her YA novels, but if we’re comparing to similar adult novels, I wouldn’t describe it that way. It wasn’t even very creepy, which was disappointing.

-If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen some trigger warnings and debates about a rape scene. I was really preparing myself for something graphic and horrible and don’t get me wrong, it’s a sensitive subject and is always awful to read. But the scene was very brief and not graphic and didn’t leave much of a lasting impact. I don’t think there needed to be that much of a fuss kicked up over it. I also don’t think it was necessary to include in the story since there were other traumatic things that happened to her that had a bigger impact on the overall story.

-This book was several hundred pages longer than it needed to be. It took over 300 pages for the plot to actually move forward. Before that, the book is mostly made up with descriptions of Yale, New Haven, magic, and the secret societies. It was really a chore to get through and I almost DNF-ed it so many times, but I pressed on because it was Leigh Bardugo and I thought she would pull through in the end. I wish I would’ve DNF-ed it.

-I was really interested in the whole secret society subject. When I first started reading, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Skulls which was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. However, the societies never really lived up to their potential. They ended up coming across as nothing more than boring covens.

-The characters weren’t really that likable. I don’t know how the author that brought us characters like Kaz Brekker and Sturmhond/Nikolai could fill this book with such flat, forgettable characters. I feel like all of her energy and attention went into creating the atmosphere and the magic and the characters were left as afterthoughts. While Darlington was my favorite character of the book, I found myself wanting to like him, more than I actually liked him.

-The story did start to pick up for me towards the end, where there was actual plot that focused on the murder mystery and I even started to enjoy it a little bit. However, the ending made me really not want to read the next book. It’s something straight out of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and was such a lame way to end the story.

Overall, Ninth House left me incredibly disappointed. It focused way too much on the “let me show off the research I did for this book” descriptions and not enough on plot or on creating credible, likable characters. I am obviously in the minority here, though, so fans of Bardugo might find it much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

43263539

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of LIES comes 29 SECONDS, a sensational new thriller that explores what happens when a split second thought of revenge takes on a life of its own. 

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

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

29 Seconds will be available September 10, 2019. 

I found T.M. Logan’s last book, Lies, to be pretty entertaining so I had high hopes for 29 Seconds. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I was hoping to.

The topic is a timely #MeToo scenario. Sarah is a junior faculty member at a university and her boss is notorious for getting away with sexually harassing/assaulting his young, female subordinates. He has his sights set on Sarah and much of the book is her trying to figure out how to avoid his advances without ruining her career. With this being such a current and important topic, I was hoping for a strong female character who would do the right thing. Instead, Sarah was pretty spineless and just felt sorry for herself. I found her more annoying than anything else.

Then there’s the 29 Seconds part of the book. Sarah helps interrupt a kidnapping and to repay her, the little girl’s sketchy, mobster father offers to make someone in Sarah’s life disappear. Sarah initially refuses, but when things with her boss go from bad to worse, she makes a 29 second phone call to make her boss disappear. What follows is a lot of paranoia and a bumbled disappearance that kind of made the whole thing pointless. While I initially thought this idea was kind of intriguing, it just ended up being kind of ridiculous.

Overall, I found 29 Seconds kind of disappointing. While I liked the short chapters, the story did drag a bit. The characters were unlikable and the “twist” wasn’t really much of a twist at all. There was also an issue with the ARC copy I had where the villain’s last name kept changing between two different names. Hopefully this will be all sorted out by the final copy, but it made for a confusing and frustrating reading experience.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

46862577. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of The Hating Game, a debut lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy about two unhappily engaged people each trying to force the other to end the relationship–and falling back in love in the process.

Naomi Westfield has an Instagram-perfect life, including the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family every bride dreams of being a part of. They never fight, complain, or disagree. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And they are miserably and utterly sick of each other.

Tired of contorting herself to fit the ridiculous standards demanded by Nicholas’s family, Naomi wants out of the relationship. But there’s a catch: Whoever calls off the engagement will have to foot the enormous bill for the wedding. When Naomi finds out that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of wills to see who can annoy the other into surrendering through pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves. They’re having so much fun getting on each other’s nerves that it starts to feel like something else entirely. As Naomi discovers hidden feelings for Nicholas buried under three years of simmering resentment, she wonders if he feels the same way. Suddenly, the countdown to the wedding that may or may not come to pass feels more like a race to mutual destruction–and Naomi doesn’t want to be left alone at the finish line.

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

You Deserve Each Other will be available April 7, 2020.

The cute cover and the reference to The Hating Game definitely drew me to You Deserve Each Other. Unfortunately, it was just not for me.

Naomi has to be one of the most unlikable characters I have ever read. For about the first 60% of the book I really thought she’d be better suited as the narcissistic villain in a psychological thriller rather than the heroine in a Romance. She is just so, so awful and self-centered. She spent the early days of her relationship with Nicholas lying to him and then got mad when he thought that’s who she was. She refused to communicate and every time Nicholas tried to be honest, she would not take any responsibility for the things she’s done wrong, but would turn it back around on him. She was so mean and vindictive. I really couldn’t stand her. Nicholas also didn’t hep matters by often retaliating her bad behavior. However, he wasn’t trying to get her to break up with him like the sick game Naomi thought they were playing, but wanted to get an actual reaction out of her and get their relationship back on solid ground.

Even though I was not enjoying the book at all, for some reason I kept reading it and a little over halfway through it began to get better. Naomi and Nicholas finally have real conversations and start to make positive changes. There were even several cute and humorous moments. It made me sad that the first half of the book was so frustrating because it had the potential to be such a sweet, fun story, but the second half was not enough to make up for the first.

Overall, You Deserve Each Other ended up disappointing me. It did have some funny and cute moments, but Naomi was just so unlikable for the first half of the book (and still not great in the second half). She really came across as a sociopath to me and I felt bad for Nicholas. While I wouldn’t personally recommend it, I’m sure that there will be many people that find it funny and enjoy it much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Killing Tide (Coastal Guardians #1) by Dani Pettrey

43866213. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter–and Finn’s boss’s sister–Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark

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

The Killing Tide will be available August 6, 2019. 

It’s always a disappointing thing when a book by one of your favorite authors doesn’t end up working for you. This was the case for me and The Killing Tide.

What I Liked

-I thought the actual mystery aspect of the story was well done. It was pretty well-paced and Pettrey did a good job of weaving together multiple cases.

-I liked the setting and that many of the main characters are in the Coast Guard. That’s something new I haven’t read a lot of before and I found it pretty interesting.

-I thought Pettrey did a good job with incorporating the characters’ faith in into the story. There wasn’t really any big lesson, it was just daily life and I liked that.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Gabby drove me crazy for pretty much this whole book. The first time we meet her she narrowly escapes an attempt on her life and she ends up going to her brother so he and his Coast Guard friends can help protect her. But then she fights against the notion of needing to be  protected the whole time and continually runs away from the people who are supposed to be watching her, which I just found really annoying and selfish. And her whole defense is that she needs to chase the story because God made her passionate about it and to ask her not to do it is wrong. Um, pretty sure that’s not  how God works. She just really, really rubbed me the wrong way and pretty much ruined the book for me.

-The romance didn’t really work for me. We find out that prior to the events of this book, Gabby and Finn had started a relationship, which was cut short when Gabby moved away. They both already had strong feelings for each other when the story starts and so we miss all of the build up. I never really felt their chemistry when they’re reunited and so I never got invested in them as a couple.

-There are a lot of characters that are thrown out in the beginning. I had a really hard time keeping them straight. It took about half the book before I could start to tell them all apart. While I don’t have a problem with any of them, none of them really stood out to me as someone I would be excited to read about next.

-I think my biggest problem with the book, though, is the way that Gabby was involved in the official investigation. Let me preface this by saying Gabby is not in law enforcement, she is a reporter. Throughout the story Finn has her help him process a crime scene where there were multiple murders, she uses Coast Guard computers to do her own research on the case, she accompanies Finn while he is investigating leads and persons of interest, and she is part of debriefing sessions of multiple cases. And the reason for all this? She’s incorrigible and would just go out and investigate on her own if they didn’t include her, so might as well keep an eye on her. THIS IS NOT HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT WORKS. My brother is a police officer and I talked to him about some of these things and asked what would happen if he involved a civilian like this while working. He would be fired. I understand for the sake of fiction there are certain allowances made, but I feel this is just way too unbelievable. And this is a complaint I have about several books by this author.

Overall

Overall, The Killing Tide was just not for me. Even though the pace seemed steady and there was a lot of action, I found myself bored for most of the book. I found Gabby so unlikable that it made it hard to get through the story at times. However, everyone I know that has read this have all really loved it, so it might just be me and my mood. I do plan on reading more from Pettrey in the future and am hoping my experience with this book is just an anomaly.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars