Review: Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him

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Hi y’all! I am happy to announce I am a proud new member of the Book of the Month (BOTM) club, a book box subscription. Each month BOTM chooses five (hardcover) books and allows each subscriber to choose the one they are most interested in reading. The book choices vary in authors and genres so there really is something for everyone.  It’s $14.99/month and shipping is always free and you can skip any month you want. What I love most about BOTM is the sense of community it creates. Seriously, check out Bookstagram. It’s flooded with BOTM choices. But, I digress. The point of this long intro is that Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him was my March BOTM and I was very excited about it. (*not sponsored lol*)

Before She Knew Him follows Hen. Hen lives with her husband, Lloyd, and they have just moved to a quiet suburb outside of Boston. Hen is an illustrator and artist, and she finally feels her life is at a point of peace. Oh, and she also suspects her neighbor, Mathew, is a murderer.

spoiler free: Before She Knew Him was an unconventional thriller read for me. I remember thinking within the first thirty or so pages that I knew everything there was to know about the story. I felt like the author let me in at every angle, so I always felt like the other shoe was about to drop. Around the fifty page mark, I remember thinking ok so I know x, y, z…where is this story headed? For me, that was exciting. I felt like the author freed up the second half of the book to go anywhere. It felt like a very fresh take on a whodunnit.

In that same vein though, I felt like the beginning of the book was a bit slow. The suspense really picked up in the last third and it was great. However, I felt like the suspense was a little lacking at the beginning just because of how much I (thought) I was “in on” regarding the story. But this was my only complaint.

I was impressed by the ending and truly did not see it coming. I think I was so focused on the fact that I (thought) I *knew* everything, that I was constantly waiting for something to pop up out of nowhere. Due to this, I felt like I missed so many signs that were right in front of me. I didn’t know the reveal until the author showed me, and that’s an impressive feat. I enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book the most.

Overall, I this was a 4/5 for me. I really did enjoy it and I can’t wait to read more from Peter Swanson in the future. The only reason it isn’t a full 5/5 is because the beginning was a bit slow for me, but I still highly recommend this one!

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Before She Knew Him is an adult thriller, and it was published in March of 2019.

get more info: visit Peter Swanson’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Before She Knew Him on Amazon; visit Book of the Month

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Frances Vick’s Two Little Girls

I want to say thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!

Two Little Girls tells the story of Lisa and Kirsty. They are Best Friends Forever. At least, they are until the day Lisa disappears. It’s 1985 and Kirsty, afraid for her friend and traumatized by her disappearance, helps provide evidence to put the killer behind bars. The killer even gives a confession. So why, ten years later, is Kirsty still haunted by the thought that she made a terrible mistake?

spoiler free: I really wanted to love this one, because I was so captivated by the premise of the novel and the first third of the book. The author wrote a compelling, chilling, and questionable friendship between two young girls. The first third of the book explored their warped friendship through a child’s POV and it was eerie.

I loved how from the very beginning we were introduced to the theme of real vs. fake. Lisa told so many lies that we were left, alongside Kirsty, to wonder what was real after all? I was excited to see how the author was going to play off this theme when exploring how time distorts memory and how the line between real and fake becomes blurrier as time marches on.

It was really the latter half of the book that fell flat for me. I just could not buy that Kirsty was so unconcerned that she potentially put away an innocent man on a murder charge. I kept wanting her to wake up with some drive or intensity to uncover the truth. That never really happened. Instead, Kirsty was pulled along throughout the book until the truth literately fell into her lap. This was unsatisfying.

Further, I felt like the author missed an opportunity to really play up the theme of memory distortion. There were some moments where Kirsty potentially misremembered aspects of her childhood, but she pretty much stood firm on what she saw as a child. I felt like the novel would have been so much stronger (and quite honestly Kirsty’s attitude more believable) if she were constantly questioning what she truly saw back then.

Instead, we were left with the (pretty much) absolute truth of her memory and this caused there to be so few characters to pick from when questioning who the murderer was. There was a minor red herring, but this was hardly strong enough to mislead the reader. Instead, the ending felt obvious and inevitable, which never bodes well for suspense/mystery.

Overall, this was a 2/5 for me. (I did not enjoy the book overall, but there was some aspects that were ok).

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Two Little Girls is an adult suspense/mystery. It releases on April 17, 2019 and it is available for pre-order now.

get more info: visit Frances Vick’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Two Little Girls on Amazon

Review: Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake

Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake is told in third-person POV as we follow our two main characters, Logan and Cassie. They are both spending their summer before college in a small Montana town. Logan’s only goal is for this summer to fly by so he can head off to college in New York. Cassie’s only goal for the summer is to have one last hurrah before she heads off to the college of her parents’ choosing. Yet, one eventful night pulls them both together and intertwines their lives in more ways than one.

spoiler free: I want to start off with what I liked about this book. For one, I really liked the author’s writing style. Personally, I have some difficulty with third-person POVs. It just feels more natural for me to read first-person as it allows me to feel as though I’m really connected to the character(s). However, Daphne James Huff wrote a very compelling third-person POV. I felt connected to the characters the entire time and genuinely invested in their development.

The author also weaved the mystery throughout the book quite nicely. There was foreshadowing from the very first chapter and this alone kept my interest throughout the story. It added an extra layer of interest to your typical YA contemporary love story.

With that being said, I do not recommend This Summer at the Lake for a multitude of reasons. My biggest qualm with this story is a plot-spoiler, so I’ll go in depth in the spoiler-section. Without spoiling it, there was an action taken by the main “hero” character, Logan, that was unforgivable (in my opinion). Honestly, it was unforgivable because the male love interest made this decision and he was supposed to love the female love interest, Cassie. I tend to have higher expectations for people to do the right thing when it potentially affects someone they love. Regardless, a normal human being shouldn’t have made the decision that Logan made. I know this is a very abstract critique, but it is hard to explain without spoiling it. Just know this plot point is a trigger warning and I did not like the way the author wrote it or the way the characters reacted to it.

Further, it was difficult for me to read through Logan’s character because he was so judgemental. This would have been ok if his character had developed throughout the story. Nope. He was judgmental in the beginning and judgemental at the end. He felt static, and this made his viewpoint less enjoyable to read.

Overall, I had to give this one 1/5. The issues I had with the book just made it impossible to enjoy on the whole and I can’t in good confidence recommend it to y’all. Even though there were elements there that I liked (it had the potential to be a very cute YA), it fell flat for me.

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This Summer at the Lake is a young adult contemporary, and it was published in January of 2019.

get more info: visit Daphne James Huff’s website; find the book on Amazon

spoilers ahead: So my main gripe with this book is the plot point surrounding the final party/climax of the novel when Spencer “slips something” into Cassie’s drink, which she doesn’t realize. Logan, instead of being a normal human being and a) stopping him b) telling Cassie c) preventing her from being harmed? drugged? d) all of the above… he instead thinks “let her deal with the consequences herself” (?????). Even though he eventually goes back to the party and confronts Spencer, he still ends up thinking he “Wanted to save her. Even when she had betrayed him. Why?” Perhaps because any decent human being would want to prevent someone from being drugged? Although, the worst line of all was “I was still so mad, and so drunk, I thought you deserved it.”

Yeah, sorry. No one – ever – deserves to be drugged and/or sexually assaulted. I almost couldn’t force myself to continue reading at this point, but followed through to see if the author could potentially fix this situation. Nope. This toxic victim blaming (even though Logan expressed regret/remorse/went back to try and save her) was horrible to read. Cassie pretty much instantly forgives him without a second thought. Like, she literately doesn’t care.

I can’t condone this type of behavior in anyone – and I certainly don’t want to see it in my romance novels.

To make matters worse, there was the entire situation regarding her father’s lawsuit/potential sexual assault on his female workers. This was not handled well. There was a lot of victim blaming and overall lack of responsibility on behalf of Cassie’s dad. I have no idea why the author thought it would be ok to bring up such a sensitive, important topic and then refuse to hold any of her characters accountable for this? It seemed like there was no resolution/finality on this issue either.

Overall, I think there are many, many other YA contemporaries out there that I would recommend instead. I think the author got it wrong here, and the actions of the characters were irredeemable.

Let me know if you all read this one or have any YA contemporaries that you’d like to recommend!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Karen M. McManus’ Two Can Keep a Secret

TwoCanKeepaSecret.jpgThrillers and mysteries are my jam. There is something about a whodunit that I literately cannot resist. So I was really excited to read Karen McManusTwo Can Keep a Secret. I unfortunately had the ending to her debut novel (One of Us is Lying) spoiled accidentally (thanks a lot internet. kidding), so this was my first read by her. Going into it, I only knew the book had murder and homecoming queens. I had heard it compared to Pretty Little Liars, so I was immediately intrigued. (Ugh that show and book series used to be my guilty pleasure.)

Two Can Keep a Secret essentially kicks off with Ellery and Ezra, teenage twins, who moved back to their mother’s home town, Echo Ridge, to live with their grandmother. Echo Ridge is famous for the murder of Lacey, the town’s Homecoming Queen. Lacey was murdered in the town’s fair ground, known as Murderland. Years before that, when the twin’s mother was in school, the mom’s twin sister disappeared…without a trace. Now the Murderland killer is back. With threats happening all over town, it seems everyone is keeping secrets.

spoiler free review: So, I flew through this book. I loved the autumn atmosphere and the Halloween-themed park (and murder site). It gave off an eerie vibe, which was great for a thriller novel.

I also enjoyed the dual POV. Ellery was always fun to read through, and as a fellow true-crime junkie, I related to her character. I enjoyed her naturally suspicious personality. I feel like I would be the same way if I suddenly found myself in a town where a murderer was sending out threats. Malcolm was also great to read through. Just imagining myself stuck in his situation, I can’t imagine how I’d handle it.

Overall, this was a really fun thriller read. I did not figure out the ending (although there were some things I did guess… I’ll explain more in the spoiler’s section below). There were some strings that I would have liked tied up in the end (see spoiler section). However, the last line of this book literately gave me chills.

Ultimately, I would give it a 3.5/5 stars. I liked it, and I would recommend it.

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get more info: Visit Karen McManus’ website; connect with the author on Twitter; connect with the author on Instagram; find Two Can Keep a Secret on Amazon; find One of Us is Lying on Amazon

This is Karen McManus’ second novel. It is a young adult mystery/thriller, and it was published in January 2019. McManus currently plans to release a third book (a sequel to One of Us is Lying) in January 2020 in addition to a standalone YA mystery as her fourth.

spoiler’s ahead: So I knew there was going to be some type of twin switch when I read the scene with the porcelain doll with the crack down her face. For some reason, in my head this made me think of two halves of a whole and then I suspected that the twins had switched in some capacity. (Then, I remember the bit in the beginning about twin switching, so I became sure of it). I will admit though that I didn’t fully figure it out – I was thinking more along the lines of Sadie had actually died and Lacey was alive (posing as Sadie) although the why/when I wasn’t sure. Clearly, I was somewhat off base, but I was still a little disappointed that I had figured out even that much. My favorite mysteries are when I have all the clues, but absolutely no idea how to put them together.

My only real issue with this book was the situation involving Sarah. I felt like I did not get enough closure on this issue! How did he get the twins mixed up? Did he kill Sarah because he thought Sadie was going to go public with their affair? I need answers!! Although, I guess if the book did answer all these then the last line would lose its punch (and it really was such a great sentence to end on.)

Overall, I recommend this one! I can’t wait to read what McManus comes out with next!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.