Review: The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

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

The Winter Sister will be available February 5, 2019. 

I’m sorry to say that this one did not live up to my expectations. I’ve seen some great reviews for The Winter Sister mentioning the beautiful writing and shocking secrets and both fell a little flat for me.

The story is not really anything new. Nothing at all about the mystery plot line surprised me in any way. However, where the book shined was in the interpersonal relationships. Even though Sylvie and her mother, Annie, drove me crazy, their dysfunctional relationship was kind of fascinating. Annie’s story of toxic love and the emotional and psychological impact of it to not just her, but her children was compelling and frustrating. The only character that I really liked was Ben and I mostly just felt sorry for him, too.

Overall, The Winter Sister was just not for me. I was looking for a mystery and surprising twists, but it ended up being much more domestic drama. The writing wasn’t bad, but it didn’t blow me away, either. I also found the ending a little more open-ended then I prefer. Most people have seemed to enjoy this one much more than I did, though, so it still might be worth your time to check out, especially if you are interested in more domestic driven stories.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

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Review: For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

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Official Synopsis:

On their first date back in law school, Natalie and Will Clarke bonded over drinks, dinner and whether they could get away with murder. Now married, they’ll put the latter to the test when an unchecked danger in their community places their son in jeopardy. Working as a criminal defense attorney, Nat refuses to rely on the broken legal system to keep her family safe. She knows that if you want justice…you have to get it yourself.

Shocked to discover Nat’s taken matters into her own hands, Will has no choice but to dirty his, also. His family is in way too deep to back down now. He’s just not sure he recognizes the woman he married. Nat’s always been fiercely protective, but never this ruthless or calculating. With the police poking holes in their airtight plan, what will be the first to fall apart: their scandalous secret—or their marriage?

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

For Better and Worse will be available December 11, 2018. 

I’m going to preface this review by saying my expectations may have been a little off for this book. I was expecting a fun, twisty story of a husband and wife team doing some very bad things, in the vein of (the far superior) My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. However, For Better and Worse was neither fun nor twisty. It was a heavy, somber, and agonizingly slow paced tale of two unlikable people trying to get away with something and at the end of the day I really didn’t care if they managed it or not.

The story starts with Natalie and Will in law school on a date where the topic of how to get away with a murder comes up. Flash forward seventeen years and they’re married with a kid. When their son’s principal – and family friend – is put on leave due to accusations of abuse, Natalie decides it may be time to put their idea for the perfect murder into action. Will doesn’t exactly agree, but that’s not going to stop Nat, or keep him from getting involved.

Nat and Will were both really unlikable. Natalie was the too-smart-for-her-own-good control freak and Will was the put upon husband that looks for validation elsewhere. At no point in this whole book did I find myself rooting for either of them. They were bad spouses, parents, and people in general. I also expected a lot more from them in the “perfect murder” department. Natalie acts like she’s so smart and has covered all the angles, but she barely makes any plans and the plans she does make are anything but fool-proof. They honestly deserved to be caught.

The outcome of the investigation is anti-climatic and unbelievable. It kind of irritated me, to be honest. The very ending has something that I guess is supposed to be kind of a twist, but I found it predictable and lackluster.

Overall, I just didn’t care for For Better and Worse. Perhaps if I had different expectations going in I would have felt differently, but I don’t think so. With the slow pace, unlikable characters, and all too convenient ending, I think this book just failed to live up to it’s potential. However, I have read some really great reviews on this one, so it might just be me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

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

The Similars will be available January 1, 2019. 

I thought that the concept for The Similars had potential. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to it for me.

I think the idea of cloning is very interesting. It brings up so many ethical questions. Some of those issues were brought up in the course of the book, however I didn’t think it was handled well. Instead of actual discussions and honest questions, it was treated like so many hot button topics are these days: with the two sides yelling their opinions at each other and not having an open mind about it at all. I get enough of this in real life, I don’t really want it in my entertainment. The author also tried to draw parallels between cloning and illegal immigration that I felt was a bit of a stretch.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. The story is told through Emma’s first person POV, so I felt like I got to know her pretty well, but character development was really lacking for everyone else. Emma was likable most of the time, though. The Similars are easily the most interesting characters of the book, but only a little bit of time is spent getting to know any of them. I didn’t really get on board the romance. Even though it was obvious what was going to happen, I still felt like it just kind of happened out of the blue.

There are two reveals towards the end of the book that I felt were supposed to be twists, but they were both things I suspected pretty early on in the story. Even though they didn’t surprise me at all, I think they have potential to provide some interesting paths in the coming books.

Overall, The Similars was just not for me. Despite an intriguing premise, the lack of character development, somewhat messy writing, and forced political overtones made this a book I was just getting through, rather than enjoying. As of right now, I’m not interested in continuing the series. I am by no means the target audience for this book, though, so those that are may find this a much better read than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A deliciously disturbing, compulsively readable debut domestic suspense–prepare to meet The Other Woman: there’s nothing she won’t do to keep you away from her son …

Emily thinks Adam’s perfect; the man she thought she’d never meet.

But lurking in the shadows is a rival; a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.

Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

The Other Woman is an addictive, fast-paced psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between Emily, her boyfriend Adam, and his manipulative mother Pammie.

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

The Other Woman will be available August 21, 2018. 

I thought the synopsis of The Other Woman sounded kind of like a Lifetime movie and I was expecting a really fun, guilty-pleasure type of read. Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations.

I was really looking forward to seeing what a psycho Pammie would be. Even her name is perfect for the frustrating, overbearing mother-in-law. While she definitely did some underhanded things, she just never got as over-the-top as I wanted her to be. I think for this type of book you really have to go big and it never really got there for me.

I also found Emily, the main character, to be exasperating. She was one of those characters that just always made the wrong choice. She was also pretty spineless. She rarely stood up for herself and when she did she went about it in the wrong way. There were so many times I just wanted to slap her and tell her just to be HONEST and maybe she wouldn’t have all these problems. In addition to not liking Emily, I really didn’t like Adam. I expected him to be a sweet, yet clueless mama’s boy, however he was actually just not a very nice person. I thought he could be abusive and controlling and there were definite red flags – besides Pammie – that Emily just ignored. Their relationship was far more frustrating to me than Emily’s relationship with Pammie.

There was a bit of a twist at the ending, but I wasn’t really a fan of it. It was something I had begun to suspect, so it wasn’t very surprising. I also thought the epilogue left a lot to be desired. I didn’t really see the point in it.

Overall, I found The Other Woman to be underwhelming. I really liked the idea of it, but it just never lived up to my expectations. I thought it was pretty slow-paced and drawn out and Pammie never got as crazy as I wanted her to be. My biggest complaint, though, is with Emily’s character. If she could have been just a little less annoying I think I would’ve enjoyed the book a lot more. However, almost every other review I’ve read of this has been very positive, so it might be worth checking out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

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

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