Review: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Meet Chloe Sevre. She’s a freshman honor student, a legging-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study for psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

Never Saw Me Coming is a compulsive, voice-driven thriller by an exciting new voice in fiction, that will keep you pinned to the page and rooting for a would-be killer.

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

Never Saw Me Coming publishes September 7, 2021. 

I will admit that I wasn’t expecting much from this one. There’s no shortage of stories of anti-heroes and vigilante women and I thought this would end up being more of the same. However, Never Saw Me Coming surpassed all of my expectations. I enjoyed this book so much!

I think part of what sets the book apart from similar stories is that it’s not just about one psychopathic woman. Chloe is one of several students getting a free ride to college to be part of a study on psychopathy. While the subjects aren’t supposed to know who each other are, Chloe discovers a few of them and we also get POVs from some of them, as well – Charles and Andre. Charles is exactly the kind of character you would think of when you hear about a Washington DC-based psychopath. Andre has faked his way into the program for the free tuition and is a much needed dose of empathy to help level out the other perspectives. Even though there’s definite anti-hero vibes from Chloe and Charles, I did find myself liking them. I thought they were well-written and it showed how easy it is to be taken in by such manipulative behavior.

I thought the mystery was well done, as well. I suspected numerous characters at different times and while I did ultimately guess who the killer was, it wasn’t until close to the actual reveal.

Overall, I really enjoyed Never Saw Me Coming. While so many books with similar themes have let me down, this one actually lived up to it’s potential and surpassed my expectations. The characterization was very well done and the writing was addictive. My only nitpicky complaints are that there were times – especially in the beginning – where there was some info-dumping about psychopathy that I thought could have been incorporated into the narrative a little more seamlessly and I thought things were wrapped up a little too easily at the end. Those things definitely didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the over all story, though, and I am definitely going to be on the look out for Kurian’s next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Two lives. The one you wanted. The one that wanted you.

Her birthday should be like any other night.

One minute Kelly’s a free-spirited artist in Chicago going to her best friend’s art show. The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She’s got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she’s married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.

Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly’s search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him—including a connection to a mysterious tech startup—tells her she shouldn’t. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning.

But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift. And if she can’t figure out what happened on her birthday, the next change could cost her everything…

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

The Other Me publishes August 10, 2021. 

I thought The Other Me had an intriguing premise and while it was an entertaining read, I didn’t feel it fully lived up to it’s potential.

The story opens with Kelly going to her best friend’s art show, feeling a little disillusioned with her own lack of success. When she steps through a door to another room, she suddenly finds herself in a completely different setting. She’s inundated with memories of a life she didn’t live. And she just kind of goes with it. While I was really invested in wanting to figure out what was going on, I thought far too much of the book was made up of Kelly comparing her memories of this life to her “real” life and wanting to go back. Very little actual plot progression happened until the final chapters.

I also wanted a little more explanation of the futuristic, sci-fi things going on. There’s not a whole lot I can say about it without spoiling it, but I would’ve liked more time spent on it than the few flashes we get before the villainous speech towards the end. After that, I thought the ending was pretty anticlimactic and all the big lessons Kelly’s extolling are undermined by the changes she was able to implement in her own life.

Overall, The Other Me had an intriguing premise and some addictive writing, but I thought it was really repetitive and should have spent a little more effort on the sci-fi aspects of the story. I was also hoping for a more explosive ending. However, I did mostly enjoy my time reading this and will be on the look out for what Jeng writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

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

The Other Passenger publishes July 20, 2021. 

When I pick up a Louise Candlish book I know to expect some addictive writing, stories of horrible people, and a great twist or two and The Other Passenger delivered on all counts.

I always have to commend Candlish’s writing. Though I did feel the story was a little longer than it needed to be, I had a hard time putting this one down. The plot also heavily involved the main character cheating on his girlfriend of ten years and even though I was disgusted by him – and most the rest of the characters – I still wanted to read it, which is not always the case for me. It did, however, bring my enjoyment of the story down a little.

There’s not a lot I feel like I can say about how the plot evolves without giving away some major spoilers. I will say that there were some fun twists. I had guessed part of the first twist, but there was another part of it that definitely surprised me. After that, I easily predicted the remaining twists, but I still thought they were well done and people who read less of this genre than I do might be more surprised than I was.

Overall, The Other Passenger had some fun – if predictable – twists and addictive writing, but the main plot line of infidelity brought my overall enjoyment down. I also thought there were parts that dragged on a little too long. This might not be my favorite Candlish book, but I will still be looking forward to whatever she writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Falling by T.J. Newman

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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

Falling publishes July 6, 2021.

T.J. Newman’s book journey is pretty much every aspiring author’s dream. After dozens of agent rejections, she gets signed by one that goes on to get her a seven figure book deal. As if that isn’t astonishing enough, she then sells the movie rights to the book in another seven figure deal. With that kind of hype, I had some pretty big expectations when I started reading Falling.

The story was incredibly fast paced. We mostly follow the POVs of the pilot, Bill, a flight attendant, Jo, the pilot’s kidnapped wife, Carrie, and an FBI agent, Theo – who also happens to be the nephew of the flight attendant, along with several others that are impacted by the terrorist threat. I thought the transitions between perspectives were well done and really helped move the story along. There are also several flashback scenes interspersed throughout the story that I wasn’t quite as impressed with, but some were definitely necessary.

I thought the characters were likable and easy to root for. While this wasn’t really a character-driven story, I did feel like I got to know and understand them. While I liked them, I didn’t always find them very realistic. With a couple of minor character exceptions, it was like they were all their very best, level-headed, most courageous selves. I think we would all like to think that we would respond well in a crisis, but I think it’s highly unlikely that there wouldn’t be at least a few cracks. Also, while on the subject of characters, I want to say that having one of the flight attendants nicknamed Big Daddy and constantly referring to him as just Daddy made me cringe every single time I read it.

With how much money this story sold for, I was expecting there to be a really fresh take on who the villains would be. I was waiting for some big conspiracy plot to emerge. I was a little disappointed that it ended up just being terrorists that hate America. And the twist on the “back-up” plan on board the plane was my very first guess.

Overall, I did enjoy Falling, but did I find it worthy of that jaw dropping deal? Not really. It was fast paced and entertaining, but even so, it took me almost a week to read it (which is several days longer than a book of this size normally takes me). I thought the plot was pretty formulaic and there wasn’t really anything fresh brought to the table. However, I do think it will make a great movie that I will definitely plan on watching.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

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

Such a Quiet Place publishes July 13, 2021.

I’ve been looking forward to Such a Quiet Place for awhile now. It sounded kind of mysterious and creepy and just look at that gorgeous cover! Unfortunately, I found the story rather disappointing.

I know to expect a lot of character development and a slower pace when I pick up a Megan Miranda book, but I thought this one was too slow. It was past the halfway point before anything even happened to actually advance the plot. I thought things might pick up after that, but it remained pretty slow and boring. I also wasn’t a fan of how the mystery slowly unraveled. Harper would just stumble into information and then make big assumptions on what must have happened. I found it pretty anti-climactic when it was all said and done.

Speaking of Harper, she was my greatest struggle while reading this. I spent over half the book being incredibly annoyed and frustrated with her for what a pushover she was. Now, I am a people-pleaser that avoids confrontation, so when I think someone is a pushover, it’s pretty bad. I could not, for the life of me, understand how she could just let Ruby move back into her house, take her car, etc. I didn’t care if Ruby was innocent or a murderer. Harper found her manipulative and untrustworthy and Ruby obviously had zero respect for her. And Harper just acted helpless to ever say no. There’s some things said about how she’s too trusting and that she felt a little guilty, but neither were enough to justify how she allowed Ruby to walk all over her. I’m getting mad all over again just thinking about it.

Overall, Such a Quiet Place was a disappointing read for me. While Miranda does character development and setting very well, those are the only positive things I can really say about this one. I absolutely could not stand how Harper acted and I found the mystery really lacking. However, I’ve seen some much more positive reviews for this book, so if you can handle how frustrating Harper can be, you might enjoy this more than me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: How to Kill You Best Friend by Lexie Elliott

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

If you suspected your best friend, the person you were closest to in the whole world, was a murderer, what would you do? Would you confront her? Would you help keep her secret? Or would you begin to feel afraid? Most importantly, why don’t you feel safe now that she’s dead? From the author of The French Girl comes a novel full of secrets, suspense, and deadly twists.

Georgie, Lissa, and Bronwyn have been inseparable since dominating their college swim team; swimming has always been an escape from their own problems, but now their shared passion has turned deadly. How can it be true that Lissa, the strongest swimmer they know, drowned? Granted, there is something strange about Kanu Cove, where Lissa was last seen, swimming off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband.

Lissa’s closest friends gather at the resort to honor her life, but Georgie and Bron can’t seem to stop looking over their shoulders. Danger lurks beneath the surface of the crystal-clear water, and even their luxurious private villas can’t help them feel safe. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the funeral guests together on the island, nobody knows who they can trust. Lissa’s death was only the beginning….

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

How to Kill Your Best Friend publishes August 17, 2021. 

This is a good example on why you shouldn’t decide to read a book based on the title alone. I thought this would be fun and mysterious, but it was incredibly slow paced and a bit of a chore to get through.

The story is told in alternating points of view between Georgie and Bronwyn, with a few anonymous pages thrown in. The anonymous POV pages describe the various ways in which you might kill your best friend, which I wanted to like, but ultimately found kind of pointless. The chapters from Georgie and Bron weren’t much better. There were tedious amounts of detail and nothing happened for long stretches of time. I predicted pretty much every single twist, except for one surprise right at the end.

Overall, I found How to Kill Your Best Friend disappointing. The very slow pace and unlikable characters kept me from ever getting that invested in the story. I wish there had been more time spent exploring Lissa’s past and her relationships instead of just one or two stories and vague references to her unstable behavior. The only reason I’m giving this two stars instead of one is because it did manage to surprise me once at the end.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

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Synopsis from Goodreads

For readers of Jane Harper and Rachel Caine comes a chilling thriller from award-winning author Jen Williams about a woman who discovers her late mother had been secretly corresponding with a serial killer for decades.

When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.

What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.

A Dark and Secret Place publishes June 8, 2021

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

I’m always on the lookout for a good serial killer book and I thought A Dark and Secret Place looked pretty intriguing. Unfortunately, I ultimately found it disappointing.

I thought the “Before” chapters about Michael’s early life were well done and compelling. I found Michael a sympathetic, if unsettling, character. Once Michael started to grow up, though, I didn’t find the Before chapters as well done. I wanted a lot more background information about the mysterious man that takes him in and the commune he starts. There is very little said about it’s purpose and motivations and it left me with a lot of questions. 

I struggled a lot with Heather’s character. She was so unlikable and barely anything she did made sense to me. I really felt like I had to suffer through the chapters from her point of view to get to the Before parts I enjoyed more. I also thought that as she investigated, everything fell into place just a little too easily for her. 

Overall, I found A Dark and Secret Place pretty disappointing. I really wanted to like it and was intrigued in the beginning, but the over the top turns the story took, how unlikable the main character was, and the unsatisfactory explanations in the end really let me down.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: You Love Me (You #3) by Caroline Kepnes

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The highly anticipated new thriller in Caroline Kepnes’s hit You series, now a blockbuster Netflix show…

Joe Goldberg is back. And he’s going to start a family – even if it kills him.

Joe Goldberg is done with cities, done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library – he does know a thing or two about books – and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kaye DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old fashioned way… by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is… Mary Kaye already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s… busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kaye will do the right thing and make room for him.

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

You Love Me publishes April 6, 2021. 

I remember reading You, the first book in this series, years ago. It still stands out in my mind as being perhaps the most the most messed up book I’ve ever read. The writing was so different and Joe was so crazy that I was completely enthralled by it. I was excited to pick up the newest book in the series. It ended up feeling very reminiscent of the first book to me. But while You felt fresh and fascinating, You Love Me…didn’t.

This book just really felt like more of the same to me, but not as well done. It didn’t have that new, unique feel of the first book and it didn’t have the body count and actual plot development of the second book. It was a slow (and I mean slooooooooow) burn with a lack of payoff. Joe is still the same obsessives, but lovable, pyschopath, but slightly reformed. He doesn’t want to be quite so stalkerish with hew new love interest. He doesn’t want to “have to” kill anyone for her. He comes off as a knockoff version of himself from the previous books and the result was a pretty boring story.

I do want to make sure I point out that I’m still a Joe fan. The thing that this author does so well is putting us in Joe’s head and making his crazy behavior almost make sense. I make myself a little uncomfortable with how much I understand his thought process sometimes. So while the plot felt recycled and almost a little lazy, I did enjoy getting more Joe.

Overall, I found You Love Me pretty disappointing. While I always enjoy Joe, I never cared about any of the other characters and the story really dragged. While I do like that Kepnes tried to evolve his character by making him want to be a better man, I found myself wishing he would act a little crazier so something interesting would finally happen. While I definitely plan on continuing to watch the tv series whenever a new season comes out, I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Minders by John Marrs

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“The new high concept thriller from the author of The Passengers and the word-of-mouth sensation The One, soon to be a Netflix original series. In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become “minders” – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads. Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew. But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…”

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

The Minders publishes February 16, 2021. 

This is why I can’t have nice things. I’ve heard so many great things about The Minders and I was excited to finally read it, my first John Marrs novel. Unfortunately, I did not find it to live up to any of the hype for me.

Let’s start with what I enjoyed. Going into the book, I was a little wary of the sci-fi elements and expected that to bring the story down for me, but it was actually my favorite part. Everything felt futuristic, but not that futuristic that it seemed unbelievable. A lot of it seemed like things that could still happen in my lifetime and that was kind of cool – and a little scary.

I thought the concept of the story was interesting and unique, but I ended up feeling really bored for most of it. The story is incredibly slow paced until the final third or so. It’s heavily character-driven, but I felt pretty ambivalent about all of them, which made it feel like a chore to get through. None of the characters were likeable and where there were a few sympathetic elements to all of them, I just never felt a connection to them. I almost DNF-ed the book several times, but the promises of crazy twists and suspense I kept reading in other reviews kept me going.

Sadly, I felt left down by the twists, as well. There were a few surprises that I didn’t guess beforehand, but most of the larger plot twists I predicted far in advance. I thought there were enough clues that anyone paying attention would guess them. Or even if you just read a lot of thrillers, you will probably be able figure it out. While the sci-fi backdrop felt unique, the actual execution of the plot seemed redundant.

Overall, The Minders was not for me. I liked the concept and the action did pick up in the last third or so of the book, but everything leading up to it was really boring to me. I didn’t care for the characters and I guessed a couple of the major plot twists long before there were revealed. While I didn’t really enjoy the story, I am obviously in the minority opinion, so it still may be worth checking it out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Newlyweds by Arianne Richmonde

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

One marriage. One lie. Two sides to the story.

The moment Vivien meets Ashton, she knows she will be his wife and absolutely nothing will stop her.

Powerful, rich and from a good family, Ashton is everything Vivien is not. So, she molds herself into Ashton’s perfect soulmate.

Pouring his favorite vintage wine, whispering ‘I love you’ over dinner in front of friends and biting her tongue when she disagrees with him are simple sacrifices for the perfect marriage she has always craved.

When people begin to notice the bruises on her cheek, she holds their stares. There is no cry for help from Vivien. She simply keeps her mouth shut and lets the gossip continue.

If you saw Vivien nursing a black eye, you might be forgiven for thinking what everyone else does – that she is the victim in her marriage, but you’d be wrong. Vivien and Ashton’s life together is much more complicated than that. You will never guess the true story behind Vivien’s undying devotion to her husband. Nor could you possibly predict what she does next…

Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Behind Closed Doors and The Perfect Couple. If you enjoy reading twisted psychological thrillers with bags of suspense, then you’ll love The Newlyweds from USA TODAY bestselling author Arianne Richmonde.

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

The Newlyweds publishes January 19, 2021. 

This is one of those books that sounded so intriguing in the synopsis, but the actual story failed to deliver. What should have been suspenseful and twisty came across as cliched and boring.

The first line of the synopsis mentions two sides to the story, so I was expecting Ashton’s POV at some point, but the story stayed in Vivien’s 1st person POV the whole time (though we do get a couple monologues from him in the final chapters). I think that even without the synopsis basically giving the whole plot away, I would’ve known very early on that Vivien is not what she appears to be. It made the first half of the book seem unbearably long. And the “big reveal” employed one of my least favorite narrative clichés – Vivien relays her whole backstory and scheme in a third person story that even begins with “once upon a time.” My eyes rolled so hard. Everything that happened after that was predictable and I’ll admit that I skimmed large parts of it just to make it to the end.

Overall, The Newlyweds was not for me. I was hoping for some fun cat-and-mouse type of suspense, but it all played out like a predictable Lifetime movie. I did like the setting, though. That and the fact that I actually felt compelled to finish the book and not DNF it, is why I’m giving this book 2 stars.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars