Review | Mary B

Mary B by Katherine J. Chen

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Die-hard Jane Austen fans, those especially smitten with Pride and Prejudice, may find themselves in a fit of rage or tears (…or both) if they pick up this retelling covering the events before, during, and after the timeline of the original story.

Told by overlooked middle sister Mary Bennet, she explains how she understood from a young age that she was not valued as her older sisters were because she was plain and unlikely to find a suitable husband.

Mr. Collins, the cousin who will take control of the estate once Mr. Bennet dies, arrives at Longbourn with the intentions of proposing to one of the Bennet sisters.  Mrs. Bennet explains that Jane is practically engaged already to Mr. Bingley and so Lizzie is naturally next in line.
A flirtation arises between Mary and Mr. Collins but Mary soon finds herself heartbroken after learning that he has proposed to their neighbor Charlotte after Lizzie rejected him.

When Jane and Lizzie become engaged at the same time, they hold a double wedding and begin their lives at their new estates.  Lydia writes often to request money from her newly married sisters as her husband Wickham leaves for days at a time and people arrive to collect his gambling debts.

Mary is invited to stay at Pemberly, where she spends her days reading, writing, and caring for pregnant Lizzie.  Soon Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to stay and though they have a rocky start, a friendship soon blossoms into much more.

I don’t want to give away some shocking details about the fate of some of the Bennet sisters but suffice it to say that things take a dark and dramatic turn, which will leave some readers shocked after the hopeful and positive ending for the beloved characters of Austen’s classic.

Shocking behavior fills the pages, loyalties are tested, and scandal and betrayal turn this retelling into a dark soap opera.

If you want a faithful retelling of Pride and Prejudice which stays true to the morals and virtues of Austen’s characters, I suggest What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean (read my review here), which is told from Kitty’s perspective.

If you want to read a retelling that will shatter all the things you thought you knew about the Bennets (and their spouses!), then Mary B will certainly shake things up!

Thanks to Random House and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Mary B is scheduled for release on July 24, 2018.

 

 

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Review | Read Me

Read Me by Leo Benedictus

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*Cue the annoying stalker anthem Every Breath You Take by the Police*

An unnamed stalker writes about how he came into a great deal of money, quit his job, and began following people.  He keeps notes on all of the people he stalks and shares bits of information on a few of them (there appear to be at least 80 because he gives a number with each name he mentions), the methods he uses to follow them without being noticed, and some rules he’s created.

His main focus in this novel is on a woman named Frances.  She’s just been suspended from her job because of an anonymous e-mail with serious accusations and the company wants to do a full investigation.  The stalker breaks his own rule against interfering in the lives of the people he follows and approaches Frances to ask if she’s okay when he sees her crying in a restaurant.  She shares her work situation and they exchange numbers at the end of the conversation.

Eventually he installs microphones and a camera in her apartment and even hides in the house while she’s home.  His obsession grows and we learn he is in fact the person who sent the e-mail to her company and set in motion the events he’s writing about.

My problem with this book is that there has been a recent wave of stalker novels since You (read my review here) was released. Caroline Kepnes certainly wasn’t the first author to write a novel about an obsessive sociopath, but she did something interesting and made her stalker main character Joe Goldberg not only interesting but downright charming.  I loved it!
I recently read Our Kind of Cruelty and found myself comparing it to You but the stalker Mike was neither interesting or charming, just whiny.
In Read Me, the unnamed stalker goes into long winded descriptions and tries to explain his thought process but it bored me.  I found myself skimming his musings to get to the story of Frances, which does build from creepy to crazy.  I felt the ending was abrupt and anticlimactic after the suspense that was built up to get to the final scene.  I didn’t feel like I got to know any of the characters so I wasn’t invested in the story.

Overall, this book was a “meh” for me but if you’ve enjoyed the recent novels featuring creepy stalker main characters it wouldn’t hurt to give this one a try.

Thanks to Twelve Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Read Me is scheduled for release on August 7, 2018.

Review | The Truth Lies Here

The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

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Penny is back in her hometown of Bone Lake, Michigan for the summer prepared to write her college essay on the decline of the town after the military pulled their major contract causing the local factory to close several years ago.
Her dad doesn’t show to pick her up at the airport, which doesn’t surprise Penny who is used to be letting down by him.  Dexter, the literal boy next door, picks her up and voices concern that her dad has seemingly disappeared.

Penny brushes it off as the normal flakey behavior of a conspiracy theorist.  Her dad has made his career selling blurry photos of bears and passing them off as Big Foot in lame magazines.  On top of that, just before the factory closed a giant meteorite crashed in the nearby woods and since then strange lights have appeared that her dad now attributes to The Visitors (i.e. aliens).

Penny begins research for her essay by asking the locals what they remember about the factory closing and the impact its had on the town.  Things take a strange turn when their vague answers all conclude with the same line:  “It’s best not to think too much about it.”

Soon dead bodies are turning up in the woods, burned beyond recognition.  Penny and Dexter team up like the new Mulder and Scully in search of Penny’s dad who may actually be on to a huge (not to mention real) story for once.  The fact that he’s missing during the time bodies are piling up makes him a person of interest for the Sheriff, who’s also holding an old grudge against him.

Penny knows there’s a connection between the meteorite crash and the factory closing but when she goes to investigate, she wakes up on her back porch hours later with no memory of how she got there.  A natural skeptic, she has to grudgingly admit that maybe her dad isn’t the complete fraud she’s made him about to be most of her life.  She has to solve the mysteries of the burned bodies and strange lights in the woods in order to clear her dad’s name …and she still has to find him.

Full of major pop culture vibes (Stranger Things meets The X-Files meets Men in Black), The Truth Lies Here has a love triangle, a fractured father-daughter relationship, and a creepy supernatural mystery begging to be solved by the teenagers who obviously know more about what’s going on than the adults do.

This was a fun YA read with a storyline that’s obviously been done before yet remains entertaining!  Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  The Truth Lies Here is scheduled for release on August 21, 2018.

Review | Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey

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This book defies genre and logic in so many ways. I was under the spell of 1980’s music references, the mysterious location we’re never entirely sure about, and the cult-like community we enter.

Billie Jean Fontaine hasn’t left her home in almost three months. She abruptly walks out without shoes or a coat on a freezing evening and takes off in the family truck. The community begins to whisper about her absence and though she arrived 17 years ago and became a part of the ‘territory’, she has remained the outsider.

Billie Jean’s story unfolds for us through three surprising narrators.  Her dramatic and often heartbreaking tale is woven through the impact on the lives of the narrators and into the electric atmosphere of the mysterious territory that is described with vague details that left me with so many questions!
Some of the information given to us but never fully explained:  a group of people drove into the territory (that’s the only name given to their location spanning 2,000 square miles of wilderness with a current population of 391) led by a man called John the Leader.  In the present day, which we’re told is 1985, girls marry and begin having babies at 18.  Boys are given nicknames between the ages of 14-19 and that nickname is what they’re known by until they die.  Kids between 13-18 years old give blood/plasma in their banquet hall for less than $10 (not even enough to buy a gallon of milk in their one convenience store) up to three times per week.  A man from outside the territory comes every so often to collect the plasma but we don’t know where he comes from.

From the 1980s pop culture references to the bizarre traditions/rituals of the community, I was never sure what was truth and what was fantasy. A sci-fi drama/mystery/dystopia that I can only describe as an alternate reality version of My So-Called Life if it had taken place in a cult-like compound in the wilderness in the mid 1980’s and was directed by M. Night Shyamalan.   Heartbreaker is a bullet that cuts clear through multiple genres, never resting in one.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Heartbreaker is scheduled for release on August 21, 2018.

Review | Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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Moving between the 1950’s and late 1960’s, Delia Owens spins the tales of a sensitive young girl left alone to fend for herself in the marshland of coastal North Carolina and the death of local golden boy Chase Andrews until they intertwine.

Six year old Kya Clark heard her mother leave the shack at the edge of the marsh.  She watched as she walked away in her fake alligator shoes, train case in hand and failed to turn at the end of the lane to wave.  Kya doesn’t understand how a mama could leave her five children behind.

Left with an abusive father too fond of liquor, the children leave one by one, until only Kya is left.  The small town of Barkley Cove looks down their noses at the poor folks who live in the marsh and call them trash.  Kya spends her childhood dodging truancy officers and surviving on the kindness of strangers and her own wits, becoming a local legend folks call the Marsh Girl.

Kya shies away from human interaction yet yearns for love, believing she’s destined for nothing more than loneliness and heartbreak.  She spends her life ostracized by a community never willing to give her a chance until two young men fall for her:  Tate falls for her innocence and intelligence and Chase falls for her mysterious beauty.

When Chase is found dead at the bottom of the fire tower with no footprints or tire tracks nearby, the Sheriff suspects foul play.  He soon finds out that the necklace Chase always wore was from the Marsh Girl and it wasn’t found on his body.  The town has always been suspicious of the Marsh Girl, out there all alone in her shack.  It isn’t long before they all suspect that she pushed Chase Andrews off that fire tower, the act of a woman scorned.  Kya has always been persecuted, the people in town want to act as judge and jury in her trial where she faces the very real possibility of the death penalty.

The coming of age story of a misunderstood girl aching for love and acceptance and the prejudice of a small town, Delia Owens fills this story with the wonders of the natural world and how a young woman finds her home in nature rather than the community unwilling to embrace her.

There’s a little something for everyone in Where the Crawdads Sing:  historical fiction, Southern culture and dialect, romance, murder, courtroom drama, and science/nature.

Thanks to Penguin Random House/Putnam and the First to Read program for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Where the Crawdads Sing is scheduled for release on August 14, 2018.

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Review | The Cabin at the End of the World

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

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Seven year old Wen and her dads Andrew and Eric are on vacation in a remote cabin in New Hampshire.  There’s no cell service and they’re using the unplugged time to relax and unwind.
Wen is outside catching grasshoppers in a jar when a man appears from the dirt road leading up to the cabin.  She’s wary of the stranger but he’s friendly and tells her his name is Leonard.  But then three more strangers appear on the dirt road.

“Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”  Leonard tells her as she runs away to find her dads.

Dressed in the colors of the four horsemen of the apocalpyse and armed with sinister homemade weapons, the strangers speak calmly as if they want to reason with Andrew, Eric, and Wen.  They will not hurt the family, they just need them to listen to what they have to say and see the truth.

I don’t want to give too much away except to say the four strangers arrive with an ultimatum for the family.  They believe the fate of the world is in their hands and the choices they make will decide the future of mankind.  Are these strangers part of a doomsday cult? Religious fanatics who disapprove of two men raising a family?  Why have they chosen this family specifically?

Paul Tremblay proves once again that he’s a master of head games.  What follows is a chilling story of paranoia as a family is terrorized by a group of strangers prophesying the end of the world, descending further into madness with each turn of the page.

Full of tension and violence, this novel can be compared to modern horror films like The Strangers and The Last House on the Left.  Readers are plunged into a horrific situation where there is no reasoning, obvious logic, or explanation.  All you can do is ask if this family is the cruel victim of chance …or if this is fate ushered in by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Don’t expect an ending with a clear resolution.  Tremblay keeps us on the edge of our seat with questions and the line between truth and paranoia begins to blur.  In the end, we’re left to decide our own truth.

The Cabin at the End of the World is a creepy and horrific psychological thriller that I can recommend as long as you’re not reading it alone at night!

Review | After Nightfall

After Nightfall by A.J. Banner

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Marissa and Nathan are surrounded by family and friends when they announce their engagement around the dinner table.
Nathan’s nine year old daughter Anna quickly heads to her room, phone in hand. Marissa’s once best friend turned more acquaintance Lauren drunkenly flirts with Nathan while her husband Jensen looks on. Nathan’s brother Keith and his wife Hedra offer their congratulations without much enthusiasm.

All the dinner guests have a long history, tied together by childhood bonds and betrayals that we will learn about as the book progresses. This introduction to the characters offers a look into their tenuous relationships and hints at secrets being kept.

Lauren takes Marissa aside to say she has something to tell her about Nathan but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow because she has to pick up her daughter. Marissa is curious but still has guests waiting so she drops the subject for the evening as Lauren leaves.

The following morning Marissa takes a walk down to the beach to clear her head of the wine and sleeping pill from the night before and finds Lauren’s body at the bottom of the cliff. She knows Lauren was incredibly afraid of heights and refused to go near the cliffs as close as they were to her own home.
In shock, Marissa begins to look back on her strained relationship with Lauren from childhood until the present. What did Lauren have to tell her about Nathan? Where did Nathan go in the middle of the night?

Nathan’s daughter Anna is acting strange and soon attempts to run away. Keith and Hedra leave and there’s a sense of unease that something isn’t quite right between them. It isn’t unusual for Nathan to leave in the middle of the night because of his job as a paramedic but Marissa feels he’s keeping secrets now.
Did Lauren accidentally fall after her night of drinking or was she pushed to her death? All the characters seem to hold a secret that could explain what happened to Lauren and Marissa is fiercely determined to learn the truth.

After Nightfall has a strong cast of suspicious characters! This was a quick read as I wanted to learn what each person was hiding and if/how they were connected to Lauren. I wouldn’t call it fast paced since we’re experiencing the aftermath rather than the shocking event itself.  I categorize it as more of a whodunit than a psychological thriller because we’re trying to piece together the clues as we learn suspicious details about each character.  With a summer release date, this book is sure to be a big beach read!

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  After Nightfall is scheduled for release on August 7, 2018.

Review | The Third Hotel

The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg

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Clare is reflecting on her life and trying to pinpoint a definitive moment when she spots her husband Richard, five weeks after his funeral, across a tourist filled street in Havana, Cuba.

Richard, a horror film scholar, was supposed to attend a film festival celebrating his favorite genre in Havana with Clare before his sudden death in a hit and run near their home in upstate New York.

Clare has chosen to attend the festival alone and it feels like it’s her way of grieving and coming to terms with her loss, but once she spots Richard she begins to follow him across the island in a relentless search for answers.  Overwhelmed with the loss of her husband and the impending loss of her father to dementia, Clare confronts her life through memory and dream.

Part ghost story, part metaphysical mystery, The Third Hotel is a haunting portrait of marriage and solitude, filled with quirky and compulsive details.  The story moves intentionally slow with a strange dream-like quality and offers up an ambiguous ending that readers will either love or loathe.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Third Hotel is scheduled for release on August 7, 2018.

Review | This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us

This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero

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A comedic noir with snappy lines, pop culture references, and the obligatory femme fatale (well, sort of), This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us crosses genres with ease.

Adrian and Zooey Kimrean (known together as A.Z.) are twin brother and sister Private Eyes sharing an office in Fisherman’s Wharf …and also a body.
As chimeric twins (the only known occurrence in the world), they are two separate people living in the same body. What some people mistake for schizophrenia is really sibling rivalry.
Adrian is the intellectual/calculating twin with a sharp eye for observation and Zooey is the free-spirited/passionate twin with a sharp eye for trouble, especially causing it.

When the sons of the San Carnal drug cartel boss are murdered one by one, A.Z. speed into town to solve the case before a gang war spills out on the streets. Looking for clues, they also manage to rescue an undercover cop and a sassy 11-year-old girl along the way, while dodging bullets and fighting ninjas (…and each other).

A unique gender and genre bending novel with wildly entertaining characters!
Thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us is scheduled for release on July 31, 2018.

Review | Neverworld Wake

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

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Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends ruled Darrow-Harker School.  Sure there were secrets and alliances and love or something like it, but they’d do anything for each other.
Then Jim, the brilliant writer and Beatrice’s boyfriend, is found dead at the bottom of the quarry near campus just weeks before graduation.  His death is ruled a suicide.

Beatrice never believed Jim committed suicide and after a year of grieving, she finally returns to the seaside estate of Wincroft to see her friends, determined to find out the truth about Jim’s death.  She knows they are all hiding secrets about his initial disappearance and she’s frustrated after a night out that no one has shared information that could lead her a step closer to the truth.  They’re returning to Wincroft on a winding road during a storm when they nearly collide with another vehicle.

Back at the estate, a mysterious man arrives and introduces himself as the Keeper.  He explains to the group that they’re all technically dead.  The collision they thought they’d avoided less than an hour ago had actually happened; they’re all on the side of the road trapped inside an eighth of a second, wedged between life and death where time is stuck; they have entered what’s called a Neverworld Wake.  They’ll relive the same hours in the day repeatedly.  The only way to leave is to reach a unanimous vote on who should survive the car accident.  Only one can be chosen to return to life, the other four will truly die.

Panic and disbelief form a rift between the five friends as they relive the day repeatedly, never able to reach a unanimous vote, learning the rules to their purgatory.  Eventually the group embarks on a journey through the past to find the answers to Jim’s death and share the secrets that have haunted them.
With the burden of their secrets lifted and Jim’s death resolved, can they release themselves from their Neverworld Wake?

A stunning YA novel of psychological suspense, Neverworld Wake captivated me from the first page with a mystery to solve and a fantasy world that left me guessing.  While this is Pessl’s first YA novel, she’s once again created an atmospheric world on the edge of fantasy and reality.
If you enjoy this novel, I highly recommend checking out Night Film also!

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