Review: One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

I really enjoyed One of Us Is Lying and have been eagerly anticipating One of Us Is Next. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still ended up really enjoying it, as well.

I was a little bit disappointed when I first found out that this sequel wouldn’t follow the same characters as the first book, but I ended up not minding at all. We still get to see all of the Bayview Four in more than just quick cameos and they even all get some character development, too. I also liked the new cast of characters. The three POVs follow Maeve, Bronwy’s sister – who I liked in the first book – and two new characters – Knox and Phoebe. I didn’t love Phoebe, but I really liked both Maeve and Knox. I also enjoyed Knox’s family dynamic with his many sisters and Maeve’s love interest, Luis. The story is pretty character driven and I just enjoyed reading about them.

The mystery wasn’t bad, but I did figure things out long before they were revealed. I also thought the secrets that were revealed and the dares that were made were kind of lame. I mean, there was a definite embarrassing factor for the secrets, but I guess I kind of expected something more. I also had a hard time believing that every single student in the school would keep the game completely a secret from their parents, school administration, and everyone else, just because they would lose phone privileges during school hours. That said, the stakes did raise a lot in part two and we got more of the suspense that I was expecting in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed One of Us Is Next. Though the mystery didn’t surprise me like I had been hoping, it was still pretty well done. What really kept me reading were the characters. I loved what we got to see of the characters from the last book, and I really enjoyed reading about the new ones. I think fans of YA Mystery will definitely enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

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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: No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley #3) by Cara Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

It was murder.

No Way Out was the first book I read in 2020 and it was the perfect choice to start my year out right. There’s not a whole lot I feel I can say about this book without spoilers, so I’m going to list some of the reasons why I loved it and the series in general.

-Cara Hunter is a terrific writer. I sometimes find police procedurals to be a little on the slow and dull side, but not this series. It’s so well plotted with lots of small twists and turns. The mystery here was really well done and much more intriguing than I expected it to be.

-I love the formatting of the book, as well. There are not standard chapters, which is something I thought I would hate when I read Hunter’s first book, but I was quickly proven wrong. I feel like the way it’s formatted keeps the pace from ever lagging and it also makes it so hard to put the book down. You decide it’s finally time to go to bed, but the next section is only two pages. Then the next section is just right there. And before you know it, you’ve read another twenty pages. I also enjoyed the excerpts from news articles, along with online comments, and reports.

-I love the cast of characters. One thing that I have always appreciated in this series is that even though Adam Fawley has had some tragic things happen to him, he is still well adjusted and good at his job. Far too often the lead in these type of books are some kind of functioning alcoholic or something. Though Fawley was a little off his game in this book, he still was a really likable and capable character. There are several other members of his team we get to follow as they investigate the case, as well as see bits and pieces of their personal lives.  It was the perfect balance of personal and professional for me and I loved seeing the dynamic of the group, as well.

Overall, I loved No Way Out. I love the characters and the mystery and the writing. I really can’t recommend this series highly enough. The one thing I wish, though, is that there was a US release date for this book and the next in the series. While the first two books in the series are available here, I had to get a UK version of the paperback for this one and I know I’m going to be going that route for book four, as well. It’s totally worth it, though!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then, Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

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

The Wives will be available December 30, 2019. 

Tarryn Fisher is a very popular author with many of the bloggers I follow. Despite the overwhelming hype, this is only the second book I’ve read by her. While I can’t dispute that she is a good writer, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that her books just aren’t for me.

I find the idea of voluntary polygamy kind of fascinating. I would sometimes watch shows like Sister Wives and Big Love and never be able to understand why these women would agree to such an arrangement. I was hoping for some more insight into the whole thing, but the only answer the main character, Thursday, really gives is that she loves Seth and polygamy is the only way to be with him. I suppose worse things have been done in the name of love. We also don’t really get to see any of the sister wives dynamic I was hoping for since they are not supposed to interact.

The story mostly focuses on how Thursday has become unhappy with her one day a week arrangement. She decides to investigate the other wives behind Seth’s back. For about the first half of the book we just see Thursday being lonely and paranoid and obsessively investigating. I thought this part of the story drug out for way too long and it felt like just another domestic suspense story of a crazy woman and a lying man. It did start to shift into something else, though, and became more of a psychological suspense. Fisher did do a good job of making me question what was real and what was delusion, but at the end of the day, it left me pretty underwhelmed.

Overall, The Wives was just ok for me. Other than the plural marriage angle, there wasn’t much to set it apart from the same type of story I’ve read countless times before. While the book wasn’t really for me, I have seen many other favorable reviews for it and I’m sure Fisher’s fans will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Map from Here to There (The Start of Me and You #2) by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

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

The Map from Here to There will be available January 7, 2020. 

I noticed that I shelved The Map from Here to There as “To-Read” on Goodreads back in September 2017. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and read this in September 2019. That is a long time to anticipate the book and hype it up. I wish I could say it met my very high expectations, but, unfortunately, it did not. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of enjoyable moments. One of the things I loved about The Start of Me and You were the strong friendships and they were still on display here. Yes, there was some drama and fights, but they worked through them and were always there for each other. There were several funny, bantery moments that I enjoyed, as well. I also liked that Paige’s parents were a strong presence in the book.

There was a lot in this book that didn’t work for me, though. Paige had a lot of issues to work through in the first book and by the end she was starting to figure it out. Instead of her continuing to progress, she had a major relapse back into anxiety and it kind of made all the lessons learned in the first book obsolete. I did find the anxiety stuff relatable, but I would have rather seen Paige continue to grow, instead of spending the majority of yet another book as a mess (and still not communicating it) and then finally growing in the final couple chapters.

Some of the problems I had with this book are probably more my fault than the books, though. I wanted a cute book of Max and Paige being adorable together. Yes, I knew there would have to be some strife, but I thought (hoped) it would be a small part of the plot. Instead, we got very few scenes with them together, unless they were fighting. Paige treated him so, so unfairly and it drove me crazy. He was patient and understanding for awhile, but eventually reached a breaking point where he didn’t handle things well. There is a new character introduced – Paige’s co-worker at the movie theater – that Paige hung out with and talked to like she did Max in the first book. He was also there to stir some jealousy and insecurity in Max. And once that role was played out, we don’t really hear any more about him. Which annoyed me because even though I didn’t like his purpose in the story, he was sweet and funny and I liked him. But back to my original point, the story was much more about the anxiety about growing up and making hard decisions and dealing with change. And this made me feel a little too old for the story. As a cynical adult who has never had a job that utilized her college degree, nor is no longer friends with any of the people she was close to in high school and college, these major crises the characters faced felt a little trivial. I do remember being in high school and thinking these decisions were life and death, so I get it, but I’m just so far past that, that it was kind of hard to take so seriously. I also am not a fan of open-ended conclusions. The biggest focus of the book is where Paige will go to college and the story ends without a definitive answer and that kind of pissed me off.

Another thing that bugged me is that Tess and Ryan aren’t together. I felt it was very heavily implied in the first book that they would get together. I thought her whole arc in the story was how she was all closed off due to her abandonment issues with her parents, but Ryan slowly won her over. Instead, the author decided to fix the lack of LGBT+ diversity from the first book by giving Tessa a girlfriend instead. Not only did I not even get a hint of this in the first book, but it basically skips over the whole coming out part of the book by referencing how it happened in the summer, conveniently between the end of book one and start of book two. Don’t misunderstand, I support a more diverse cast of characters, but it annoyed me to see Tessa with anyone but Ryan.

Overall, The Map from Here to There was just ok for me. I enjoyed parts of it, but had a lot of issues with it, as well. I liked the first book much more, but I think people in the actual target audience age range will appreciate this book much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

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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: Reputation by Sara Shepard

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this fast-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, a tight-knit college town scrambles for answers when an e-mail hack reveals life-changing secrets and scandals.

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people’s e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning’s handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit’s sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn’t right about the night Greg was killed, and she’s determined to find the truth. What she doesn’t expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It’s a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.

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

Reputation will be available December 3, 2019. 

When it comes to reading a Sara Shepard book, I definitely expect some soapy, crazy drama and Reputation did not disappoint on that front.

The story follows the POVs of 5 women: Kit, Willa, Raina, Laura, and Lynn. It may sound like a lot of characters to keep track of, but I think Shepard did a really good job with it. Often times with this many characters I find I only like a couple and get frustrated when the POVs switch away from them, but I didn’t have that problem here. While I didn’t necessarily like all of these women, I enjoyed watching some of the petty drama play out. When that started to get a little much, it was balanced out with the development of the mystery. While I didn’t find the reveal of Greg’s killer to be all that surprising, there were definitely a good amount of red herrings that kept me guessing.

While the story did start out pretty strong for me, it seemed to lose steam a bit for awhile in the middle. Parts of it dragged on for a little longer than necessary and once some of the red herrings were revealed to be just that, I started to lose a little bit of interest in some of the storylines. I was also hoping for some kind of scandalous twist in the end, but it ends kind of quietly with basically everyone getting their version of happily-ever-after. It also tacked on some #MeToo lessons with a pretty heavy hand towards the end that I thought could have been incorporated a little more organically than it was.

Overall, I enjoyed Reputation. I have been in a bit of a book rut lately and this was the first one in awhile that I looked forward to picking up again every time I had to put it down. Though it did feel a little long in parts and it didn’t end as dynamically as I hoped, I enjoyed the soapy drama and I also liked how the mystery played out. I look forward to reading more from Shepard in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars