The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena; 2016

Anne and Marco leave their six-month-old baby, Cora, alone one night when they attend a dinner party at their next-door-neighbors’ house. They live in a townhouse and share a wall with their dinner party hosts. When their babysitter cancels at the last moment, they decide to bring the baby monitor with them with the arrangement that the parents will take turns checking on Cora every half hour. Okay, GREAT. Lo and behold, when Anne and Marco return home a little after 1 a.m., Cora is gone.

Cora was safe and sound when Marco checked on her at 12:30, which only leaves a small window of time for the kidnapping to have taken place. There is also no other sign that anyone besides Anne and Marco had been in the house, and how could anyone have known that Cora would be left alone in the house except for the two couples? Granted, things got a little shady at the dinner party. Anne watched her neighbor, Cynthia, outrageously flirt with Marco. They’d all had a little bit too much to drink. And why can’t Anne remember what happened the last time she checked on Cora?

What unfolds is, predictably, a whole untangling of secrets and lies. The catchphrase for many books these days is that ‘every marriage has its secrets,’ but like, hard pass if the average marriage has deception to this level.

Pros: extremely fast-paced and never a dull moment, a few unexpected twists, and overall a fun read.

Cons: the writing style of this book was so bizarre that it completely distracted me from the plot. A fairly outlandish premise and I truly didn’t agree with the ending.

-M

 

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Quick Review: The Kept Woman

Title: The Kept Woman (Will Trent #8)

Author: Karin Slaughter

Published: 2016

The down low: Most recent addition to the Will Trent series

Summary in 2 sentences: When the body of an ex-cop turns up at a construction site that’s connected to one of the NBA’s most valued and powerful players, Will Trent senses trouble. Marcus Rippy has already gotten away with rape charges, and then a set of bloody footprints at the crime scene reveal that there was another victim – a woman who knows Will very well…

Why you should read it: I will admit that I got confused when I requested this from the library; I really enjoyed Pretty Girls and when I saw a new book by Slaughter was out I requested it immediately. Be warned that this is part of Slaughter’s really popular Will Trent series. I didn’t understand half the context and character relationships, but it was still pretty good. I’d imagine this would be amazing if you’d read the others.

How Books & Bachelorettes categorizes this book: Twisty detective story

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough; 2017

 

WHOA. I’ve read a whole bunch of recently published thrillers lately, and Behind Her Eyes has definitely come the closest to *shocking* with a twist ending. The publishers of this book really pushed the twist ending – literally, it’s all over the book jacket – but this was my Book of the Month pick for February, so I decided to go for it.

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It’s difficult to to review this book without giving anything away, so I’ll stick the main details. Louise is a single mom who on a rare night out meets a gorgeous man whom she really connects with; they kiss, but then he reveals he’s married and flees the bar. The following Monday, she arrives at work where she is a secretary at a private clinic, and meets her new boss. Who happens to be David – the same David from the bar. Just as Louise and David manage to work out their awkwardness and agree to be friends, Louise bumps into Adele, David’s wife. Adele is beautiful and lonely, and is eager to befriend Louise. As Louise is sucked deeper into her separate relationships with both spouses, she realizes that something about their marriage is deeply wrong. Why is David going out and getting drunk and kissing strangers when his wife is so perfect and devoted? And why does Adele want Louise to keep their friendship a secret from David? And more importantly – why does Adele have an ancient Nokia cell phone?

Although this book will undoubtedly be leveled with Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, it’s pretty far out of that realm – although, is it even a thriller these days if the main character doesn’t drink too much?? It’s difficult for me to decide exactly how I feel about this, particularly because there are some crossing of genres that sort of confused me. Anyway, what I do know is that I quite literally could not put this down. I read it in a few hours this afternoon. The ending is certainly a twist, and most definitely unnerving.

In my opinion, too much was given away too early, but although I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going, I was definitely surprised by the very final twist. Absolutely someone should option this for a movie asap.

And now, for real, I will stop reading thrillers with girl/her/woman in the titles.

-M

 

 

All the Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda; 2016

Well, I think this about the fourth book I’ve read in the past month with “girl” in the title. Definitely taking a breather from these Girl on the Train type thrillers after this one.

Nicolette Farrell left her rural North Carolina hometown ten years ago, after her best friend Corinne disappeared when they were teenagers. Nic, her brother David, her then-boyfriend Tyler, and their close-knit circle of friends were at the center of the investigation of Corinne’s disappearance. Nic comes back home to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father. But only a few days into Nic’s return, another girl goes missing. Annalise Carter lived in the house behind Nic’s childhood home, and was dating Tyler.

Told backwards, from day fifteen of Annalise’s disappearance to day 1, Nic works to uncover the truth about the girl’s disappearance as well as Corinne’s, revealing – as expected – many shocking secrets about the town and her loved ones.

Here’s what I’ll say. All the Missing Girls definitely held my attention, there were a lot of twists and turns, and it was more challenging because it was told in reverse. HOWEVER, I was very disappointed with the final, most important twist, and ended up just feeling like it was told in reverse to distract the reader from the fact that it isn’t really that remarkable of a narrative. I would actually be interested to read this in reverse and see if it made more sense to me/was more shocking. I did find Megan Miranda’s writing very engaging, and am actually really looking forward to her next book, The Perfect Stranger. That one sounds like a single white female situation – woot woot.

-M

You: A Novel & Hidden Bodies (You #2)

You: A Novel & Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes

Okay, y’all. After reading these two books I think I sort of, kind of am getting closer to understanding why seemingly every guy between the ages of 18-30 “loves” American Psycho. Disclaimer that these books by Caroline Kepnes are twisted and dark AF, yet somehow also hilarious and a valid commentary on today’s social media obsessed society.

You. First things first, this book is seriously deranged. While I was reading it I was like why am I enjoying this so much? Why am I laughing so much? Is something wrong with me? etc. etc. I have never read a book like this before, and it’s actually pretty brilliant. Kepnes takes you deep, deep, DEEP into the mind of Joe Goldberg, a seemingly average dude who works at a bookstore in New York City. One day Guinevere Beck (AKA Beck) comes into the store; she’s beautiful, flirtatious, and an aspiring writer. Joe immediately feels a connection with her- they’re meant to be, obvi, she just doesn’t know that yet. So he does what to him is the obvious next move – he Googles the name on her credit card. From there, he is easily able to find out what he needs to know from her Facebook and Twitter profiles, including where she’ll be later that night for a “chance” meeting.

So begins Joe’s incredibly misguided quest for love as he takes silently control of Beck’s life, orchestrating a series of events that leads her right to his waiting arms. As he moves from stalker to boyfriend, he’ll stop at nothing to ensure that he transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man.

You is equal parts twisted, insightful, and hilarious. I found myself rooting for Joe because he’s funny and smart, and sees the world the way an astute person sees the world. But then he does something completely deranged – like murder. I promise you that you will find yourself rooting for Joe as much as you will find yourself disgusted by him. Despite being an obsessive/stalker/murderer, Joe has remarkably valid insight into society that’s completely immersed in a virtual world of social media. Plus, there’s Evan, Joe’s employee who is trying to learn Spanish via Enrique Englesias songs.

Hidden Bodies. Our charming, intellectual, witty, murdering narrator is back in Hidden Bodies. Without giving anything away, a certain chain of events leads Joe to leave New York City for Los Angeles in the sequel to You. LA is literally Joe’s nightmare, where people are chill, eat guac, and are obsessed with their own reflections. But then Joe meets Love, the real girl of his dreams. Love is beautiful, wealthy, and most importantly, Love loves Joe for who he really is.But then his past starts to catch up with him.

Hidden Bodies was still really enjoyable, but it was lacking a certain something that You had. The overall message of Hidden Bodies is more about the importance and redemptive powers of love. It was also just a little too outlandish for me to get completely on board with, but still a totally fun read. Joe’s critiques on society are more celebrity culture-focused in this one, but still spot on. Overall, I seriously enjoyed both of these books. Extremely original, unique, a lot creepy, and v. fun. DO READ!

-M

 

Trigger Warning

“I firmly believe that short-story collections should be the same sort of thing all the way through. They should not, hodgepodge and willy-nilly, assemble stories that were obviously not intended to sit between the same overs. They should not in short, contain horror and ghost stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry, all in the same place. They should be respectable.

This collection fails this test.”

-Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning, xvi

Short story collections are one category of book that I wish I read more often. I always enjoy them, but never pick them up. Since I’m obsessed with Neil Gaiman, however, this short story collection has been on my radar for a while. These stories did not disappoint.

The best story in this collection is “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” but I know I will be thinking about a lot of these stories for a long time. Black Dog even includes Shadow, the protagonist from American Gods. I really appreciated the foreword where Neil describes the process of creating each of the stories. “The Truth is a Cafe in the Black Mountains” came about as part of an anthology of stories with a science-fiction or fantasy edge. Gaiman got the idea surrounding this story in a story by Otta F. Swire about a cave near the Isle of Skye that was filled with gold. If you were brave enough to enter, you could take all the gold you could carry, but each time you enter the cave, you lose a bit of your soul. Gaiman says “that cave, and its promise, began to haunt me.”

“The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” tells the story of a man brave enough to enter the cave and what he discovers inside. There is even a great surprising twist in the end. I also loved the story about Doctor Who, titled “Nothing O’Clock” and the story about a missing sailor titled “Down to a Sunless Sea.” “Down to a Sunless Sea” is literally two pages but Gaiman somehow creates a realistic, haunting world in those two pages.

I would highly recommend this collection to any Gaiman fans, any fans of science fiction, any horror fans and any fantasy fans.

-A

 

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware; 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10 is about Lo Blacklock, a travel journalist, who is invited on a maiden voyage for the Aurora, a mini, luxury cruise ship owned by British businessman Lord Richard Bullmer. Lo hasn’t slept in quite a few days before the trip because she was burgled in the middle of the night and attacked. So, she’s overly tired, has been self-medicating the trauma with too much alcohol, and is trying to prove to her boss that she can handle more responsibility by covering this trip. However, on the very first night of the cruise, Lo hears a scream in the middle of the night and the woman who she saw in the cabin next door to her is missing – and there was never any proof that she had been there to begin with, nor is anyone missing from the ship. Dun duh duhhhh.

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I was really excited when I heard about this book because A and I find cruise ship disappearances/crimes v. v. fascinating. However, my main disappointment with The Woman in Cabin 10 was that it had a lot of wasted opportunities for creepiness! Ware did a really great job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, but I was hoping for a little more sinister. This book has a lot of Agatha Christie vibes, particularly And Then There Were None, so I guess a part of me was waiting for each of the guests to start dropping one by one – but in hindsight that would be way too similar. It also had some Girl on the Train vibes – like is Lo losing her mind or isn’t she? Is she just drinking too much alcohol?

There were technically about 8 concrete suspects, along with the amorphous staff, but only a couple of characters/suspects really got an attention from the narrative. In other words, I wasn’t completely surprised with the reveal, which is not to say that it was a disappointing ending.

I thought it was better constructed and executed compared to In a Dark, Dark Wood, but it didn’t have the same thrill levels. It had a similar structure to a classic mystery, which I actually really enjoyed.

-M