Review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Little Brown
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

Review

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about Megan Abbott’s books. I’ve heard that she’s extremely talented at writing women and their relationships with each other. Due to these recommendations, I had high expectations for You Will Know Me. While I enjoyed the novel a lot, I found myself a little underwhelmed with some of it.

I’ve always had a soft spot for books about gymnastics or dance. There’s something about sports competing against other women that cause really dynamic, interesting relationships to write about. This novel was full of those strange interactions, and I have to agree that Megan Abbott has an innate talent for getting to the heart of characters and their motivations. She’s able to get into the heads of each of her characters and having them respond to situations and process emotions in a really complex, yet genuine way. While I didn’t like any of her characters as people, I understood them and saw what made them the way they were. I really thought the characterization was spectacular.

The part that left me underwhelmed was the plot. I knew the resolution to the mystery aspect pretty quickly, and I could see all the red herrings as well. I know that the point of this book isn’t really about what happened with the death, but how everyone got to that point, but it still bugged me. I wanted more from the plot, I wanted there to be more to the story. I wanted something original, and I didn’t get that with this book.

Since Megan Abbott’s writing is so beautiful and poetic, and her characterization so raw and intense, I know I’ll be reading her other works. For the most part, I really enjoyed this novel, and I recommend it to those who want a book with great characters and sharp writing.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

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Review: The Trophy Child

The Trophy Child
The Trophy Child
Author: Paula Daly
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

Karen Bloom is not the coddling mother type. She believes in raising her children for success. Some in the neighborhood call her assertive, others say she’s driven, but in gossiping circles she’s known as: the tiger mother. Karen believes that tough discipline is the true art of parenting and that achievement leads to ultimate happiness. She expects her husband and her children to perform at 200 percent—no matter the cost. But in an unending quest for excellence, her seemingly flawless family start to rebel against her.

Her husband Noel is a handsome doctor with a proclivity for alcohol and women. Their prodigy daughter, Bronte, is excelling at school, music lessons, dance classes, and yet she longs to run away. Verity, Noel’s teenage daughter from his first marriage, is starting to display aggressive behavior. And Karen’s son from a previous relationship falls deeper into drug use. When tragedy strikes the Blooms, Karen’s carefully constructed facade begins to fall apart—and once the deadly cracks appear, they are impossible to stop.

Review

This is one of the craziest books I’ve ever read. Paula Daly has already made a name for herself by writing these mystery/thrillers that follow a formula that I’m obsessed with. All of the characters are multi-faceted (often times unlikeable), and the plot always has a few twists.  From the premise of this novel, I thought this book was going to be a standard mystery/psychological thriller, but it was so much better than I was expecting.

Every character in this book is extremely well-written and well thought out. All of them are so deeply flawed that there really aren’t any good or bad characters. They’re all dealing with their own issues and trying to find a place in their family where their main goal is to not disappoint each other. Paula Daly writes the complexity and the problems of a blended family really well. She forces the reader to examine the typical idea of what a family is, and also the many ways a mother can love her child. Even though Karen is a typical “tiger mom”, these mothers love their children and want them to be successful and they show it in a slightly different manner. There’s so much competition between mothers that perhaps they end up showing their love inappropriately. I tried to understand this side of Karen, and a part of me could do so, but it was really hard to like her. It was hard to like any character fully because they all acted selfishly. That was the beauty of the characters though.

The plot was so fast-paced and intriguing that it was almost impossible to stop reading. I thought I knew exactly what this story was going to be about, but there were so many twists and curveballs that the plot was completely different than what I thought it would be. I really liked the whole investigation aspect and how everyone was a suspect, but I was disappointed by the ending. I really hoped for a longer resolution and for the motives to be a little clearer. This is also a British novel so there were slight differences in how they ran their police investigation. Apparently, British police officers don’t carry guns, which I find a little strange.

Overall, this was a nearly perfect mystery novel and I was so addicted to the plot and the wonderful characters. I’m so interested in all of Paula Daly’s future books. She is definitely one of my new auto-buy authors.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorAnne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family–a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Whenever books are classified as the next Gone Girlor a new psychological thriller, I’m always hesitant to pick them up. I loved Gone Girl, and I’ve always felt like any other books that claim to be like it are just setting themselves up to fail. They’re never going to reach the same level of success. However, The Couple Next Door, is a very good novel and while it’s not up to Gone Girl standards, it’s the first psychological thriller I’ve read in a long time that actually kept me guessing and wasn’t fully predictable.

I’m a sucker for stories that have a mysterious premise. I think it’s important to go into this novel with as little information as possible about the plot. What I can reveal is that I didn’t see of all of the twists coming and I’m usually very good at predicting what’s going to happen next. I definitely didn’t see the end coming and while I thoughts parts of the novel were a little overkill, overall the plot was so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. While I was reading, I kept thinking that this is a plot that would make a fantastic movie.

The book switches narration between of all of the main characters, and while I like that plot device, I wasn’t fond of any of the characters. I didn’t really connect to any of them. The problem was that since the book switched perspectives so often, the reader never fully understood anybody. It was a superficial view of the characterization and I really disliked that.

Another place this book fell short was with the writing. The writing wasn’t bad, but I have a habit of comparing every psychological thriller to Gone Girl, and Gillian Flynn’s writing is almost perfect for me. Shari Lapena writes well, but her writing isn’t as sharp or as acerbic as Gillian Flynn’s writing. You never find yourself in awe of the writing, which is disappointing.

Overall, this is a really interesting, entertaining novel with a lot of unexpected twists. While I do recommend it to people who like mysteries with unreliable narrators, and psychological thrillers, the mediocre writing ensures that it will only be a one-time read. However, I would still be very interested in reading Shari Lapena’s future novels.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: The Widow – Fiona Barton

The Widow When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

I received a review copy from the publisher but this has not affected my review in any way.

In any investigation, there are always so many people affected by the tragedy. This is a multi-viewpoint novel about the fall-out after a little girl is kidnapped. It’s dark, complex, and very haunting. There’s a new genre of books these days after the Gone Girl craze. These novels are from the point of view of a (usually) middle-aged woman, classified as psychological thrillers, and the reader expects a twist at the end. As a genre, I’m immediately drawn to these books because not only are they entertaining, they’re usually sharp and acerbic with some really important observations about our lives.

In this book, the woman the novel centers around is Jean Taylor. Most of the novel is told through Jean’s point of view. As characters ago, I thought Jean was a surprising protagonist. I wasn’t expecting the revelations and she was a lot meeker than I thought she would be. We also see the book from the perspective of the reporter who interviews her and the detective who is investigating the case. They were all very interesting viewpoints to read from, and I thought the use of switching between their perspectives was a really nice addition to the book.

However, even though this is a very important case, nothing very exciting happens in the plot. A lot of the time, I felt it was dull, and it seemed to be racing toward a conclusion that left me underwhelmed. The book switches from the past to the present and the two story-lines eventually merge, but at times it was really clumsily done.

While there was nothing wrong with the writing, there was nothing very impressive about it either. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I wasn’t very impressed by it and the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth.

This book is classified as the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, but it didn’t live up to expectations. While it was interesting, it isn’t a must-read.