Review: Shutter by Melissa Larsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

Shutter publishes June 15, 2021. 

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 1 Star

Review: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The author of the “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) The Family Upstairs returns with another taut and white-knuckled thriller following a group of people whose lives shockingly intersect when a young woman disappears.

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

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

Invisible Girl publishes October 13, 2020. 

I’m a big fan of Lisa Jewell and oftentimes her books rate among my favorites of the year. Unfortunately, though, I did not really care for Invisible Girl. 

Let’s start with what I did like about this book. Jewell always takes a lot of care with character development and she continued to do it really well here. I felt like I got to know all of the characters. I also thought the three different POVs were used really effectively to create suspense.

While I felt like I got to know the characters, I didn’t really care about most of them. I thought Cate was shallow and judgmental, while she she lived in deep denial about her own life and relationship. I felt sad for what Saffyre went through as a child, but really nothing she did in the present made a bit of sense to me. And honestly I found most of her actions incredibly selfish – and some a big overreaction – and I’m upset that she didn’t face any consequences at all for what she’d done. Owen is the only character that I really felt something for. He made me really sad most of the time – and a few times a little disgusted. For the most part, though, Owen was very misunderstood. While we get to see him come to understand how he has misperceived others and how to work on himself, none of the people who frequently labeled him as creepy got the same education and that kind of disappointed me.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the whole incel plotline. It wasn’t as big a part of the plot as I thought it would be based on the synopsis and I was glad for that. But I felt like I wanted them explained a little bit more. While the people described are obviously hateful, I wondered if there was another side of the coin. It’s like when all people on the political left are grouped together with the far-left and all people on the political right are grouped together with the far-right. Not everyone is an extremist. I didn’t like that celibacy was only looked upon as something weird and creepy and not a valid lifestyle. Though, I do suppose these people are “involuntarily” celibate.

Overall, Invisible Girl just wasn’t for me. It took me well over half the book to really feel interested in the story and even then, I felt like there was a big lack of payoff because I didn’t care about most of the characters. However, I’m still a big Lisa Jewell fan and I will look forward to her next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“This is simply one of the nastiest and most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years. In short: I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line.” —Gillian Flynn

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

Well, this was a twisted little tale. Based off of my experience with similar books, I expected Mike to be your standard sociopath, but I didn’t really feel he was. He has some obvious mental health issues and while he did lack empathy for most people and situations, he didn’t lack ALL empathy. I mostly just felt bad for his poor, delusional life. However, I was pretty much on his side the whole time and I don’t even feel uncomfortable saying that.

I did not care for Verity at all. Never getting her POV, I’m not really sure how much of what she said was true. I think Mike read way too much into what she said and assigned meaning to her words that weren’t true, but she was still not a good person. I thought she was purposefully cruel where Mike just took all of his cues from her and didn’t seem to know better. I also thought for how well she knew him, she had to have known how some of her actions would seem to him. I kind of spent the whole book waiting for her to go down.

I felt like this book was much longer than it needed to be. Dude, we get it. You love V and you want to be with her and you’re playing an elaborate game. It just went around and around like that for far too long. Additionally, instead of traditional chapters, the story was told in three very large parts and I think that contributed to making it feel long. I did enjoy Part 3 of the book much more than the first two parts, though.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Our Kind of Cruelty, but I didn’t love it. I thought it went on a little too long and did not find the story quite as compelling as similar books. However, I did really like the final part of the story and I liked Mike. This book wouldn’t be for everyone, but there is definitely a niche audience for it that will love it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

Review: The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

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

The New Neighbors will be available April 10, 2018. 

I found The New Neighbors to be a pretty standard psychological thriller (and I’m using the word “thriller” loosely). The writing wasn’t bad, but I just found myself pretty underwhelmed with the plot and the characters.

I thought the synopsis sounded pretty intriguing. I thought the house and the neighborhood was going to provide a really creepy atmosphere. However, I don’t feel like the house played that big of a role. In the beginning there was a good deal of description of it, but I felt like after being told it was creepy a couple of times, that was kind of it. And the “grisly discovery in the attic” was a pretty big letdown, as well.

I’ve seen lots of reviews talking about the journal formatting, but it didn’t really work for me. In the first part of the book we get alternating 1st person POVs from Jack and Syd and we’re told they’re writing everything down so they can hand it over to the police. I was never sure if there were parts of those chapters that were supposed to be regular narrative or if everything we were reading was supposed to be a journal. With few exceptions, it just didn’t read like journal entries. It read as very straightforward regular narration. In the second half of the book they are done with the journaling and the style was not any different than the first half. I thought that Jack and Syd’s voices were very distinct in the very beginning, but as the book went on, they sounded exactly the same.

I didn’t think the “surprises” were done very well. A lot of things are alluded to throughout the book that are supposed to help build suspense, but when things were finally revealed I just didn’t find them to be very impactful or surprising. To be honest, I just felt let down by the direction the “mystery” went. I found the ending very underwhelming.

Overall, The New Neighbors was a little disappointing to me. The main idea and the writing itself weren’t bad, but the formatting, the characters, and the progression of the plot were lacking. I think people who don’t read a lot of this genre and like character-driven stories would probably enjoy this a little more.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars