Genre: Thriller

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James | Book Review

Posted October 30, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James | Book ReviewThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Published by Berkley on February 18, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 327
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

I love a good creepy thriller this time of year, and am always on the hunt for the elusive atmospheric writing, so I when I was approached by Berkley to join the blog tour for The Sun Down Motel I was definitely excited about it. The Sun Down Motel is full of strong women, creepy ghosts, and a mystery that spans decades. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The atmosphere was definitely my favorite part of the story. It was just so creepy (sometimes too creepy), and I enjoyed that uncomfortable feeling it gave me. Viv (1982) and Carly (2017) both worked at The Sun Down, each for their own reasons. Viv was there as a means to an end, and Carly was there to find out what happened to her Aunt Viv. This motel is the epitome of everything repulsive. Nobody would ever actually want to say there, and that made it way creepier. It’s run-down, outdated, and full of noises, mysterious smells, and questionable guests. And both women worked the night shift. Alone. Both women go to the point where they knew the ghosts and talked to them. Well, except the man with the noisy shoes who smoked outside every night. He kept quiet. Doors would open and closed by themselves, the lights would flicker or go completely out, there were voices and footsteps… It’s just a very scary place. These were strong women to put up with working there.

2. Strong women is a huge theme in this story. You’ve got Viv, who left home to go into show business in NYC but actually just wanted to get away from her family. She’s a Nancy Drew type who paid a lot of attention, started connecting dots, and made it her quest to stop a serial killer who was preying on women. Nobody believed that there was anything that needed solving, so she jumped in. Then you’ve got Carly, who left home to find out what happened to her Aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down one night without a trace. Again, nobody really paid any attention to her. Viv and Carly both had cool roommates who helped them solve their various mysteries. There was also a female police officer named Alma, who was given the night shift because nobody else wanted it, and a freelance photographer who I can’t remember the name of that was also involved. All of these characters were strong, persistent, brave, women who stuck up for themselves and looked out for each other. All of them did things they were not comfortable with because they thought it was their only option.

3. The detective work was so exciting to me. I loved reading about the stakeouts and the research and following people around, hoping to not be seen. Carly/Viv were impersonating people on the phone to get info and sending anonymous tips. It felt like Veronica Mars a little bit in this regard.

4. I really could have done without the ghosts. Actually, I could have done with less activity from the ghosts. It’s fine that they were there, and they really added to that creepy feeling I liked. Sometimes it just got to be too scary for me, though. Some of these ghosts were… mad. Very mad. But they ended up being there for very a important reason in the end, so I understood the need for them.

5. I did struggle sometimes with keeping Carly and Viv straight across the dual timelines. They had the same jobs, were about the same age, each had a roommate, both worked with Alma and the photographer… Sometimes I just got lost on who was who. Even thinking back now on my reading experience, I can’t exactly remember which girl did which important thing. I don’t think it matters, though. Maybe the point was to have these girls live parallel lives so there was barely a seam between them.

6. The plot itself was not very complex, but I was still riveted and had to know what happened. 

7. The book starts out pretty slow, so hang in there!

All in all, I ended up enjoying The Sun Down Motel way more than I thought I would. There were a couple spoilery twists that I called… and one was just a little too twisty to seem reasonable to me, but I still enjoyed the story overall. It’s a great book to read during spooky season, and I’m definitely interested in getting more atmospheric reads from Simone St. James in the future!

4 Stars

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book Review

Posted May 21, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book ReviewThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on August 6, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 337
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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4 Stars

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

I really love books set in creepy buildings… and I love them even more if isolation is thrown into the mix, so The Turn of the Key had my name written all over it. And Riley Sager, author of my favorite creepy building book: Lock Every Door, recommended it to me when I reached out on twitter so I was EXCITED. And I was so engrossed. I quickly became very addicted to the story and could not stop myself from reading long into the wee hours of the night.

What I Liked:

  • I listened to the audio, and Imogen Church is an amazing narrator.
  • Ruth Ware is SO GOOD at the atmospheric, suspenseful feelings. This book is eerie and dark and tense in a very subtle way that works itself into your very being. I’d read about a creepy sound and then feel sure I’d just heard that sound in my own house. I was afraid to run across the hall to go to the bathroom at 2 AM. I wouldn’t say the book is scary, it’s just got this underlying sense of foreboding like anything could happen at any moment.
  • The Turn of the Key is written as a letter from Rowan to a solicitor she hopes will represent her in her murder trial. I enjoyed reading a book in this format, and felt it brought some added intrigue to the situation. Rowan is currently in prison for murdering one of the girls in her care, but she swears she’s innocent. I loved unraveling her story and trying to figure out what really happened. 
  • The setting was exactly what I hoped it would be. I was so creeped out and uncomfortable reading about this isolated smart home with cameras and voice controlled everything (and I mean everything). Lights turning on on their own, doors locking themselves on their own, secret locked doors with who knows what behind them, a do-I-trust-him-or-not groundskeeper who seems to be very nice but might actually be a serial killer. I was so unsure of everything.
  • During the day Rowan and the girls explore the grounds a little bit, and discover a bit of the house’s history. CREEPY. I’d love a prequel book to get the story of the original inhabitants of the house in more detail. 
  • All the previous nannies could not handle living in Heatherbrae House, and I really loved trying to figure out the mystery of why. This book was really one mystery within another, and I liked all the layers that gave me to work through. I was never bored.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I feel like we never get a heroine who is strong and level-headed in a Ruth Ware book. Unreliable narrators are a Ware hallmark, it would seem, and sometimes I don’t love it. Rowan put herself into some pretty sucky situations and then didn’t trust herself enough to be able to handle them. She never stuck up for herself. She never put the bratty, misbehaving girls in their places. I got a bit annoyed at how spineless she was, and how quick she was to believe that’s she’s going insane instead of the victim of someone other than herself.
  • The ending is VERY unsatisfying. So much is left up in the air and, after everything I had gone through as a reader, I wanted more answers. Be prepared to Google for other readers’ theories or find someone to chat with when you’re done (I’m happy to DM on twitter if you need someone to listen to your theories or discuss things!).

Additional Thoughts:

  • I really want to read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James now and see what the original story is like!
  • Imogen Church has to mimic a creaking floor in her narration, and oh man. It gave me goosebumps.
  • I never, in a million years, would have guessed the ending. Ruth Ware always tricks me and I never get it right, so that’s obviously one of the main reasons I keep coming back for more! She’s a very entertaining storyteller and a great writer.

All in all, The Turn of the Key was creepy and atmospheric and so engrossing. The ending drove me insane and I still think about it all the time, but I guess that serves Ruth Ware well! She’s always marinating in the back of my head. I keep telling myself I need to stop reading her books because I always come away slightly frustrated, but perhaps that’s her goal. And… I know I’m going to read more of her books. lol. So great. More torture on the horizon for me!

4 Stars

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware | Book Review

Posted November 3, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware | Book ReviewThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on July 19, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 340
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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4 Stars

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

I really, really love mysteries and I love them even more if they are set at sea. So obviously the cover and the synopsis had me sold, not to mention that our heroine is a travel journalist sent to write about a luxury cruise on a small, elite, incredibly expensive vessel during its maiden voyage. The Woman In Cabin 10 is suspenseful, exciting, chilling, and completely enthralling. While trying to write my review I realized I don’t want to stick with my usual format of bolding my points and elaborating on them. I just want to list things out instead, so here we go!

What I liked:

  • We start off with a bang. We immediately learn that Lo has crippling anxiety, which was very well written. In the beginning of the story, someone breaks into her house while she is there. Understandably, she is already on edge and quite paranoid when she boards the ship and soon hears something horribly wrong happen in the cabin next to hers on night.
  • The setting. The Aurora has 10 cabins, with only a handful of guests (20 at most) and a few common areas. It’s lavishly decorated and sounds super cozy and intimate. The guests are sailing the freezing Norwegian fjords, which is a huge bucket list item for me. I’m so jealous of the beautiful scenery they saw. Northern Lights, people!!
  • The mystery. One night, Lo hears a scream followed by a splash. She sees blood on the balcony next to hers, but the person who was supposed to be in that cabin never boarded. But Lo met the woman in cabin 10 the day before. So what is even going on? What caused the splash? Whose blood was that on the balcony? And why are there more questions than answers? Lo’s anxiety is blamed as the investigation proves no help, so she’s left completely helpless on a little boat in freezing waters, surrounded by guests and crew that do not believe her and that she cannot trust.
  • The atmosphere. As amazing as the Aurora sounds, it turns into a very creepy place once murder is suggested. Things felt very ominous, unsettled, and unsafe as Lo laid in bed at night trying to sleep or as she walked the halls looking for answers.
  • There’s a twist that I wasn’t expecting at all.
  • I didn’t know who did it until the end.

What I didn’t Like: 

  • The characters. Lo exhausted me. Her anxiety and paranoia, while very well done and very realistic, kind of wore me out because I never got to know anything else about her. She became a condition instead of a character, and I could not separate the two and see who she truly was. She also makes some silly mistakes for the sake of making the story work. And she has no backbone. The supporting characters were shells, and not very memorable or used to their fullest potentials.
  • Parts dragged a bit and slowed down at times.
  • The narrator of the book is rather long-winded and repetitive at times.
  • The resolution. The end went in a direction that was interesting, but not what I was hoping for. Things started to feel unbelievable, but not enough for me to be irritated or upset.

All in all, I really enjoyed the mystery. I tend to like the story more than the characters in mysteries like this, so the fact that I didn’t enjoy the characters didn’t bother me. I love mysteries at sea, and this one was quite entertaining. I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for an entertaining mystery.

4 Stars

Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Book Review

Posted August 10, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout | Book ReviewTill Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by William Morrow on February 28, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.

First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.

But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

I really, really love romantic suspense and was looking for a great one to read on my cruise a few months ago. Problem is, I’m pretty picky. I don’t like romantic suspense that’s super gory, erotic, or paranormal. I don’t feel like I’m asking for too much here, but apparently romantic suspense isn’t romantic enough if the love interest isn’t a werewolf trying not to eat the beautiful lady. Anyway… I LOVED Till Death. It’s my new favorite romantic suspense, and I’ve been scouring the Internet to try and find other titles like it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. It’s super scary and creepy and ominous without being over the top and unrealistic. I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries this summer, and they’ve been pretty disappointing as a whole just because they totally would not happen in real life. This would!

2. The characters are so well developed, and I loved them all. Sasha is so strong and well adjusted after suffering at the hands of the Groom. She was the only one of his victims to escape, so obviously she’s resourceful, thinks well under pressure, and is driven to do what needs to be done. I really loved reading about her past and how she recovered and moved on from it. I also liked her best friend Miranda and her mom a lot. And Cole… the sexy FBI agent… I love this man.

3. The story has so many layers and characters that are intertwined. And it’s such a complex plot! I could not read fast enough.

4. I loved the setting. The inn is super cute on the surface, but it just feels unsafe and creepy underneath. The perfect setting for a mystery.

5. I had no idea who the Groom was until we were told. I was completely taken aback by who the culprit was. And that’s all I will say because I don’t want to spoil it.

All in all, this is the book that I will use to judge all other romantic suspense. And honestly, I haven’t found anything that has even come close yet. All those 1-star reviews I’ve been posting recently? Yeah, those were my attempts. I hope Jennifer Armentrout writes more books like this one! She’s got a knack for the genre!

5 Stars

Love Her Madly by M. Elizabeth Lee | Mini Book Review

Posted July 28, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

Love Her Madly by M. Elizabeth Lee | Mini Book ReviewLove Her Madly by M. Elizabeth Lee
Published by Atria Books on August 16, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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0.5 Stars

If you loved Luckiest Girl Alive and The Girl on the Train, you’ll devour this stunning debut novel about an intense best friendship between two college girls which leads to the abrupt disappearance—and presumed death—of one and the survival of the other, who reveals the twists and turns of their relationship seven years later.

Glo never thought she’d become best friends with a girl like Cyn. Blonde, blue-eyed, and stunningly gorgeous, Cyn is the kind of girl other girls love to hate. Yet Cyn is the only person who embraces Glo when she transfers to their tiny liberal arts college in Florida, looking for a second chance to get things right after falling apart at her first-choice school. With her dark sense of humor and bad-girl ways, Cyn is captivating to a nice girl like Glo, and soon they’re inseparable.

Until they both fall for the same guy.

It’s Cyn who suggests they share Raj. Half the time he’ll be Cyn’s boyfriend, the other half he’ll be Glo’s. And for a while, everything goes smoothly. Until Glo realizes that she doesn’t know Cyn or Raj half as well as she thinks. Until Glo and Cyn’s friendship implodes while they’re studying abroad in Costa Rica. Until Cyn disappears one night, setting off a media firestorm and leaving Glo in the dark for seven long years.

Until Cyn resurfaces.

Another book that claims to be just like The Girl On the Train that so totally is NOT. This. Was. Awful. And seriously, it could have been so good! Girl goes missing in Costa Rica after being chased into the ocean by ominous men while studying abroad? And then BAM, resurfaces later? I was seriously intrigued. But this book was so unbelievably terrible that it got its slime all over me in the process.

I HATE these two girls, Cyn and Glo. They are awful awful people. I hated reading about their history and how they became friends. I hated their toxic, creepy friendship. They spent so much time doing drugs, getting drunk and high, sleeping around… one of them was a prostitute. And then they decided to SHARE a boyfriend. How gross and demented is that?? I mean, clearly he enjoyed it but seriously? I’ll never like a friend enough to let her share my boyfriend with me. It was a very weird threesome, with him using one for physical closeness and the other for emotional closeness. Until then he’s sleeping with them both and connecting with them both and they get mad at each other for connecting with him in the wrong ways. I don’t know exactly what they were expecting. Really, these two were extreme cliches to me. There are all kinds of people out there, but I think these two were specifically designed to come off as a combination of all the worst kinds.

When Cyn resurfaces things got even worse. I can’t even begin to explain how implausible this story felt to me. Everything was just so convoluted that it felt convenient, not to mention clunky and unbelievable. If I liked the two girls I might have somewhat enjoyed the story before Cyn’s return, but her return was the last nail in the coffin for me. I wish I had not finished this book. Or opened it, for that matter.

0.5 Stars

While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft | Book Review

Posted July 19, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft | Book ReviewWhile You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft
Published by Bookouture on November 16, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 326
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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0.5 Stars

You wake up to find the man beside you is dead.
He is not your husband. This is not your bed.
What do you do?

Tara Logan lives a quiet life with her husband, Noah, and two children, teenager Rosie and eleven-year-old Spencer.

But her peace is shattered when she wakes in her neighbor Lee’s bed, with no memory of how she got there or what happened between them.

And worse – he has been stabbed to death.

Convinced she didn’t kill Lee, Tara stays silent, fearing the truth will rip her family apart.

But as her daughter spirals out of control, and her husband becomes increasingly distant, Tara soon realises that someone in her life knows what really happened to Lee. She must get to the truth before they do.

Tara made a mistake … but will one night cost her everything?

A gripping, shocking psychological thriller, with a twist that will take you by surprise.

Will engross fans of Gone Girl, Behind Closed Doors, and The Girl on the Train.

I love mysteries and thrillers, especially when lack of memory is involved, so I was really excited about the synopsis of this book. But seriously. When a book actually tells you on the back cover that it is a gripping, shocking story with a twist that will take you by surprise… and then compares itself to some of the most well-known and well-loved thrillers (Gone Girl and Girl On the Train), then it better be ready to deliver something phenomenal. I went into this holding this book to the standards that it told me to, and I was severely disappointed in what I read.

I absolutely hate this author’s writing style. It doesn’t flow at all. The storytelling felt very choppy and followed the formula of: this happened, then this happened, then this character thought this thing, then here’s a whammy (I hope you’re shocked and surprised). It was just bad. There was no atmosphere of suspense or wondering. I felt like I was reading a list instead of a book, and I had a very hard time forcing myself to read a book that claims it is unputdownable.

So many things happened that were just too convenient and too outlandish. The author wanted x, y, and z to happen and as long as they happened she didn’t care how she got it done. I could not believe some of the things Tara did, I could not believe the multiple stalkings and crimes that happened to multiple members of the family, and I could not believe the interactions between some of the characters. The police officer/detective guy was an absolute idiot, and is not at all what law enforcement officials should be like. Actually, I hated all the characters. The insane daughter was super annoying, Tara was a poor excuse for a mother, and the husband was absolutely worthless and made some horrible decisions (everyone did, really). I did like Tara’s son who should move away from that dysfunctional family as soon as possible.

These so-called “twists” were just irritating. I was never surprised or impressed or flipping the pages as fast as I could to see how they turned out. I rolled my eyes every time. Apparently a twist can only happen if the main character has an ominous feeling first, which is just not how life works and took away whatever suspense might have been left in this drab and empty plot.

All in all, this book is an extreme waste of time and the more I reflect on my reading experience the madder I get about it. It’s not gripping, it’s not suspenseful, it’s not mind-blowing, and it does not keep you guessing. If you’re looking for a good psychological thriller I can recommend others that you would enjoy much more.

0.5 Stars

Shark Island by Chris Jameson | Mini Book Review

Posted July 14, 2017 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Shark Island by Chris Jameson | Mini Book ReviewShark Island by Chris Jameson
Published by St Martin's Paperbacks on June 27, 2017
Genres: Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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0.5 Stars

A shark attack survivor believes she has already lived through her worst nightmare. She's dead wrong. . .

Naomi Cardiff is not one to give up without a fight and now, after learning about a series of shark attacks in Cape Cod, she s joined a team of scientists to put a stop to the terror. The plan: to lure the sharks to a remote island far from the populated coastline. Meanwhile, a fierce Nor Easter is underway. . .

In the midst of the storm, an alarming number of Great Whites have come to slaughter the seals in a vicious feeding frenzy. When sharks ram and breach the hull, Naomi and her team must jump ship and swim desperately through a sea of circling fins and gaping jaws to the tiny island. But as the swells from the storm begin to swallow their rocky refuge, how will they manage to make it out alive?

I don’t know what it is about shark stories, but I gobble them up. I love the movies Jaws and The Shallows, and I love Shark Week… Sharks are just my thing. Unfortunately, it takes a lot to not make a shark story come off as outlandish and stupid. And this is how Shark Island turned out for me. I allow a LOT with books like these, but I just could not with this one.

The entire store was very unbelievable. The entire premise was to lure the sharks away from Cape Cod by broadcasting a signal that turned the seals into robots who could no longer think and act on their own, regardless of the danger they were in. This signal also turned the sharks into vicious killing machines with a revenge complex. It just seems far too outlandish. I was bored for the first half until the characters actually become stranded, and then I spent the second half rolling my eyes. I didn’t like any of the characters, and found their backstories very boring and drawn out. There was an INSANE amount of profanity and gory, bloody shark attacks. Sharks were flying out of the water and snapping bodies in half with one bite, sending all kinds of carnage and refuse into the water. There was so much blood that people were feeling the water temperature rise. It was just too much gore, too much profanity, too unbelievable, and too over the top dramatic and theatrical for me. I’m willing to suspend disbelief, but this was gratuitously silly and I’m irritated I made myself finish it. lol

0.5 Stars

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book Review

Posted July 6, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
Published by Christy Ottaviano Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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2 Stars

When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Ok… I think I’ve officially given up on April Henry. This is my third book from her and I haven’t liked any of them. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve given her books this many chances, although they are usually very short and very fast reads, so maybe I keep trying because her books are easy to get through if I’m behind on my Goodreads goal. Wow. That sounds harsh. And don’t get me wrong, I think young teens might really enjoy them. I just think they read a little younger than most YA mysteries I’ve read and loved over the years (like Dangerous Girls, for example).

I feel like there was not much thought put into this story. Things seemed very flat, and the characters all very shell-like… the kind of stock characters that get thrown into stories to fill roles but not connect with you or make you feel anything. The story itself was not suspenseful or exciting, and the anticlimactic ending left me wondering why I even bothered wasting my time. Everything that did happen felt very convenient, as though there was a checklist of things that needed to happen for the book to end when it was time to end. Many things felt unbelievable to me as well. A 17 year old doesn’t just move herself into a new town and start interrogating all these strangers about the intimate details of the lives of her murdered parents without raising some suspicion. Why did these people even talk to her at all, much less tell her the things that they did? I don’t understand. Everything ended so quickly, but nothing was really explained. Rather than tying up loose ends and explaining why things happened, the author cut those loose ends off bluntly and chose to not explain anything at all. It could have been better. Maybe not much better, but almost anything would have been better than what I got.

So… Goodbye, April Henry. I had such high hopes for finding a YA author that writes a ton of mysteries because I LOVE THEM, but unfortunately I’ll have to keep looking for an author that puts a little more thought into their stories. I did like the appeal of Henry’s short mysteries because sometimes I just want a quick escape, but I’d rather read a longer novel that is more complex, more thought out, less convenient, and more exciting.

2 Stars

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 23, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco | Book Review (+ Giveaway)Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #1
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 20, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

Presented by James Patterson's new children's imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion...

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story's shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

I’ve always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper. I don’t know why because I’m not a fan of violence or gore or creepy people or really anything that this serial killer was. I suppose the mystery just pulled me in more than anything else. These events happened so long ago that Jack the Ripper almost feels like a legend to me. How could someone that evil really exist? But he did, and Kerri brings him to life in her shining debut in a way that is chilling and disturbing, yet captivating.

As soon as I heard about Stalking Jack the Ripper, I was all over it. I HAD to get my hands on it and was delighted when the publisher sent me a copy for review. My excitement grew when I found out I was put on the blog tour with The Irish Banana Review, and I dove into this novel as soon as I could. Honestly, it was like hitting ice cold water. This book made my skin crawl, made me cringe and squirm, and totally grossed me out! Because Audrey Rose is a medical examiner’s apprentice, descriptions of the people she performed autopsies on were very detailed in a graphic, yet scientific way (seriously, the science helped me a little). I felt like I was reading a piece of an episode of NCIS or CSI. Intestines and reproductive organs are mentioned! Eeeeew! I hated picturing what was done to these innocent women! It definitely took some getting used to. Kerri did her research, let me tell you.

All the yucky was nicely balanced by Kerri’s lovely writing style. She did a beautiful job, and I loved the flow of her words. At times things dragged a little bit for me, but it was ok because I enjoyed the writing so much. The story was very intriguing, yet I wanted more suspense throughout (and maybe a little less gore because ouch). There are some major twists and turns at the end, however, that were well worth the gradual build-up for me.

I loved Audrey Rose. She’s got so much spunk and tenacity. She’s a modern thinker, and won’t let anyone keep her from her dreams. She’s also brave and a little crazy for wanting to perform autopsies, but you know. That’s ok! I also loved Thomas and his dry sarcasm. There’s a few twinkles of romance here and there between these two, but very little. The groundwork has been laid, and Kerri posted a little snippet from book #2 on Twitter recently that had me swooning a little, so I’m excited about where these two head in the future!

All in all, this was a great read that threw me out of my comfort zone. I can’t wait to see where book #2 brings us. The creepy atmosphere makes this the perfect fall weather read, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to someone looking for a unique spin on such a famous event in history. Read it with the lights on and on an empty stomach! Kerri Maniscalco is an author to keep an eye on, for sure.


About Kerri Maniscalco

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats. Stalking Jack the Ripper is her debut novel. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history, and is the first in a new series of gothic thrillers.

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Tour Schedule:
9/12: No BS Book Reviews – Review
9/13: A Perfection Called Books – Guest Post
9/14: The Heart of a Book Blogger – Review
9/15: My Friends Are Fiction – Q&A
916: Pandora’s Books – Review

9/19: Polished Page-Turners – Review
9/20: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10
9/21: Chapter By Chapter – Guest Post
9/22: What Sarah Read – Mood Board
9/23: That Artsy Reader Girl – Review

4 Stars

The Detour by S.A. Bodeen | Blog Tour Mini Book Review

Posted September 28, 2015 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 0 Comments

The Detour by S.A. Bodeen | Blog Tour Mini Book ReviewThe Detour by S.A. Bodeen
Published by Feiwel and Friends on October 6, 2015
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

On her way to a writer’s conference, a bestselling teenage author takes a detour that has been deliberately set up by her biggest fans—a mother and daughter who kidnap her.

Livvy Flynn is a big deal—she’s a New York Times-bestselling author whose YA fiction has sold all over the world. She’s rich, she’s famous, she’s gorgeous, and she’s full of herself.

When she’s invited to an A-list writer’s conference, she decides to accept so she can have some time to herself. She’s on a tight deadline for her next book, and she has no intention of socializing with the other industry people at the conference.

And then she hits the detour. Before she knows it, her brand new car is wrecked, she’s hurt, and she’s tied to a bed in a nondescript shack in the middle of nowhere. A woman and her apparently manic daughter have kidnapped her. And they have no intention of letting her go.

Welcome to my spot along the blog tour for The Detour by S. A. Bodeen! I really love thrillers and mysteries because they have the power to grab you immediately and not let go until the very end. When I’m in a reading slump, I pick up a thriller. That’s what I did in this case as well! It has been quite some time since I read a book that I was so excited about that I chose to read it instead of watching Netflix. lol. I’m in a major slump, and have been for the better part of the year. The Detour is a quick, fast-paced, tension-filled read that had me very curious and eager to answer my questions.

While the book was not scary, it was creepy and uncomfortable. The people who took Livvy are insane. I kept wondering what they were going to put her through next. And why did they kidnap her? I enjoyed the mostly believable plot, and I liked that Livvy is a teen author. I always love books that involve bookish characters. I just wish I liked her more. Livvy is stuck up and pretentious, not to mention downright rude, and I had a hard time hoping the best for her. I already mentioned I did not like the other characters, so… it’s hilarious that I enjoyed this book as much as I did! I cared more about the story than the characters, so my not liking them did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The action is fast-paced and there were moments I was scared for Livvy. Luckily the book was a little shorter so I could power through and solve the mystery.

Overall, I enjoyed The Detour very much. It’s an entertaining, quick read that is perfect for getting you in the mood for Halloween… without keeping you up all night. Give it a shot if you’re looking for something to grab you immediately!

3 Stars