Review Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

Fragments of the LostFrom the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger comes a suspenseful psychological mystery about one girl’s search to uncover the truth behind her ex-boyfriend’s death. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars and 13 Reasons Why . 

Jessa Whitworth knew she didn’t belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb’s room. But she couldn’t deny that she was everywhere–in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things–even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb’s life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb’s accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

I have been looking forward to reading Megan Miranda’s newest publication, marketed as a blend of YA and psychological mystery genres. I love the subtlety and finesse with which this author plays with words, an aspect I have been able to find not only in Fragments of the Lost , but also in The Perfect Stranger and thoroughly enjoyed All the Missing Girls. However, aside from the exquisite, almost lyrical style of writing employed, this novel did not offer the kind of reading experience I would have expected from a novelist of Megan Miranda’s calibre. The incredibly slow pace characterizing over half of Fragments of the Lost did not allow me to be fully concentrated on what was going on as I was often drifting off due to a slight sense of boredom. On top of that, the characters were not particularly likeable, from my point of view, although I found the dynamics of the relationship between Jessa and Max rather interesting. The suspense was intelligently built up, but the revelation, albeit unforeseen, did not shock me and therefore did not make up for a very much needed faster pace and quite bland characters. While I may sound very critical of this novel, the overall experience was not a negative one, but perhaps I just expect Megan Miranda to reproduce the level of quality, complexity and cleverness attained in All the Missing Girls. Most of my Goodreads friends have written very positive reviews of this book so I am evidently very much in minority with the few displeasures I pointed out.

Rating:

Imagini pentru 3 stars rating

Review Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownSixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Paper Towns was my second ever read in English and my first encounter with John Green. I loved the storyline, the characters, the mystery, the symbolism, the humour, the flowing prose – in other words, everything about that book. I came to understand why so many readers have fallen in love with John Green’s literature. I excitedly dived into Looking for Alaska, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations. The same can be said of Turtless All the Way Down, a release that, as many other readers, I have highly anticipated for the last few months, given that John Green had taken a hiatus after his highly successful publication, The Fault in Our Stars, which I haven’t read yet.

Turtles All the Way Down was by no means an unpleasant read, but rather a confusing one without a clearly defined plot. My impression is that John Green failed in his attempt to build multiple subplots. While he took the plot into more than one direction, he has never finalized the process. As a result, Turtless All the Way Down has an uninteresting and unclear plot. Nonetheless, John Green displays once again his talent for crafting memorable teenage characters, capable of introspection. He couldn’t have illustrated in a more realistic manner how OCD affects one’s life. Considering that the story is told from Aza’s perspective, the youngster suffering from OCD, you are made aware of her thoughts on her mental disorder from the first page to the last and I promise that you will feel unsettled at times. In addition, the novel lays emphasis on how the people in Aza’s life cope with her mental health struggles and I thought that this aspect was well-done and realistically approached. I very much appreciated Daisy’s (Aza’s best friend) raw honesty, because she did not forbear from criticizing and scolding her friend, now and then.

Even though I disliked the writing style at the beginning, believing that John Green let himself get lost in unnecessary details, as I kept turning the pages, I was able to find many relatable quotes that summed up life and were worthy of highlighting on my Kindle:

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice in the matter.

Reading someone’s poetry is like seeing them naked.

The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.

She noted, more than once, that the meteor shower was happening, beyond the overcast sky, even if we could not see it. Who cares if she can kiss? She can see through the clouds.

“The problem with happy endings,” I said, “is that they’re either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse. And then eventually you die.”

You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved,that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person,and why.

All in all, I have mixed feelings on Turtles All the Way Down. I enjoyed various aspects of this novel, but at the same time it had obvious imperfections that partly interfered with the reading experience. If you are an avid fan of John Green or the Young Adult genre, this is a must-read, although it is not as compelling as my beloved Paper Towns.

Rating:

Imagini pentru three stars rating

Review Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard

Here We Lie

A riveting novel about how the past never stays in the past, from the critically acclaimed author of The Drowning Girls and The Mourning Hours 

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. But in 1999, Megan and Lauren become college roommates and, as two young women struggling to find their place on campus, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship. The two quickly become inseparable, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before their senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. The weeks go by, filled with fun and relaxation, until late one night at the end of the vacation, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of the girls’ friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, in the midst of a political scandal, Megan finally comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth about Lauren’s family and threatening to expose their long-buried secrets.

In this captivating and moving novel of domestic suspense, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the power of friendship and secrets and shows how betrayal can lead to disastrous, and deadly, consequences.

Due to be published at the end of January 2018, Here We Lie is my second encounter with Paula Treick DeBoard’s literature following The Drowning Girls, her enthralling novel of domestic suspense which I read a few months ago and very much enjoyed. Paula Treick DeBoard reinvented herself in Here We Lie in the sense that she left the realm of psychological thriller/mystery/suspense that she had explored in her previous publication and switched focus to the anatomy of female friendship intertwined with the themes of sexual assault and political scandal. I have always held the novelists unafraid to try different literary genres in high regard.

Here We Lie reconfirms the quality of Treick DeBoard’s storytelling skills. It is a slow-paced novel filled with well-done characterization and realistic, thought-provoking events. The chapters are told from Megan and Lauren’s perspectives and follow the past, when the two were roommates at Keale College and close friends, and the present, when the former friendship is non-existent. Even though the author opted for a dual timeline, the past accounts for a greater part of the story as it provides an explanation for the current state of the relationship between the protagonists.

Speaking of the protagonists, Lauren has always been the rebellious member of her political and very wealthy family, whereas Megan comes from an ordinary family and has been able to afford college tuition following her father’s death. Despite the evident antithesis regarding their backgrounds, the two form a close friendship when they become roommates, both being haunted by past secrets. While these characters are undoubtedly flawed and I have constantly wondered whether their friendship has ever been genuine, I wouldn’t say they are despicable. I appreciated the fact that both Lauren and Megan were well-aware of their defects most of the time.

All in all, Here We Lie is a spellbinding novel that requires slow reading in order to savour the beautiful and flowing writing of Paula Treick DeBoard. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a well-written and complex female friendship-themed book.

I was fortunate to be provided with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Special thanks for this opportunity go to NetGalley, Harlequin (US & Canada) and Park Row Books.

Rating:

Imagini pentru 4 stars rating

 

 

 

Review Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Friend RequestA paranoid single mom is forced to confront the unthinkable act she committed as a desperate teenager in this addictive thriller with a social media twist. Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.

Anyone can be anyone on Facebook. It’s easy to hide behind a faceless page on the internet.

 

Friend Request marks Laura Marshall’s literary debut. It is a well-conceived and decently written psychological thriller with a very enticing and thought-provoking premise: Louise, the protagonist and the narrator of most of the chapters comprising this book, is a single mom of a little boy, Henry, and a successful interior designer who receives an unexpected Facebook friend request from Maria Weston, a girl who disappeared more than 25 years ago and has been presumed dead ever since. Maria started to attend the same high school as Louise during the senior year and the two were initially friendly towards one another. Different rumors about Maria’s experience at her old school in London began to circulate among the students and Louise, influenced by her popular friend, Sophie, distanced herself from Maria and took part in harassing her. Louise and her friends plotted something meant to embarass Maria publicly on the occasion of the leavers’ party which coincided with the night she vanished under mysterious circumstances. Haunted by the past, Louise has been living under the impression that she was responsible for Maria’s death.

The story is told in alternate timelines: on the one hand, we are witnessing Louise’s present increasing paranoia caused by the frightening idea that Maria might actually be alive and she seeks revenge; on the other hand, we learn about the events that took place in 1989 and concluded with Maria’s disappearance.

It’s been a while since I read a psychological thriller that captivated me from beginning to end. Needless to say, Friend Request is highly suspenseful and no character can be trusted. I had my theories regarding the culprit’s identity but, as expected, none of them proved correct or at least closer to the truth. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the denouement, given that the gradual build-up of suspense throughout the book was excellently executed. Nevertheless, it seemed realistic and plausible, which is a real plus point.

The social media aspect of the novel announced in the blurb wasn’t as articulate as I would’ve expected, but I didn’t necessarily mind that. Friend Request approached other important matters, such as school bullying and how the unpopular teenagers grow to behave uncharacteristically because they crave the popular students’ attention.

That being said, Friend Request is definitely a page-turner and I highly recommend it to the fans of mysteries/psychological thrillers. I am looking forward to reading Laura Marshall’s future releases!

Rating:

Imagini pentru 4 stars rating

 

Review It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

It's Always the Husband

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell is a 2017 St. Martin’s Press publication. The interesting choice of title and the gorgeous cover aroused my interest in this novel. In my opinion, the storyline idea, albeit decent and promising, is not uncommon when it comes to the mystery fiction. The surprising aspect of this book given the genre it belongs to is the sophisticated and elaborate writing style. When I read The Couple Next Door, for example, I was bitterly disappointed with the immature writing, whereas Michele Campbell’s mystery left me with the impression that it was a little overwritten. Initially I must admit I was caught up in the heavy characterization and the in-depth analysis of the protagonists’ mentalities. However, as the story progressed, I started to slighly lose my concentration on what was going on in the book due to the fact that I felt exhausted by the vast amount of detailed information and the rather difficult vocabulary used by the author. Regarding the suspense, it built gradually and culminated in an anticipated revelation, taking into consideration the title. I believe that neither the suspense nor the mystery played a key role in this book. To be honest, It’s Always the Husband was all about the female characters and the dynamics of the apparent friendship between the three.

The novel comprises two parts which differ considerably one from another. Aside from the minor change of pace, in the first half of the book we are provided with everything we need to know about the setting, the characters’ personality traits, their backgrounds, the beginnings of their friendship and the events that have caused conflicts between them, whereas the second half partly resembles a police procedural. The story is told entirely in third-person and moves between past – when Kate, Aubrey and Jenny were freshman students at Carlisle College – and present – when the three women are in their 40s and all of them married.

Michele Campbell did a great job of creating a cast of unlikeable and obnoxious characters. Even though the female protagonists are strongly individualized throughout the entire story, they appeared a little stereotypical to me, especially in the first few chapters. Kate is a New Yorker coming from a very wealthy family. She lost her ill mother at an early stage in life and has always had a difficult relationship with her father who has disapproved of her chaotic lifestyle. Kate is beautiful, mean, materialistic, indifferent, manipulative, complicated and somehow everyone gravitates towards her. I think that her destiny perfectly illustrates the saying “What goes around, comes around”. Jenny is the intelligent, conscientious, calculated, opportunist, controlling type of woman. She has a competitive mindset and is capable of lying and betrayal in order to attain her objectives. Given all these traits, it is not surprising that she became the mayor of Belle River. As a freshman student, Aubrey was poor, naive and easily influenced by others. She idolized Kate and behaved similarly to her. While reading the first part of the book, I found Aubrey very antipathetic and foolish. Subsequently, she slightly grew on me because she was the only one between the three female characters who underwent a visible development. She has learnt that her so-called friends are untrustworthy and in reality they have never truly cared about her and regarded her as a person inferior to them.

In conclusion, It’s Always the Husband is a challenging read that requires patience and full attention. I enjoyed the manner in which this slow-paced mystery was written and the fact that it managed to maintain my interest despite of the lack of action. If you like a book in the mystery genre that centers predominantly around the characters and the toxic relationships established between them and less around the crimes, Michele Campbell’s debut might prove an excellent choice.

Rating:

Imagini pentru three stars and a half

Review One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns, #2)The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

First of all, I would like to thank Edelweiss and HarperTeen for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

One Dark Throne is the second installment of the Three Dark Crowns fantasy series by Kendare Blake and is due to be published this fall. It is a solid follow-up novel to the best-selling Three Dark Crowns and equally intriguing. As everyone surely remembers, the ending of the first book consisted of two major and well executed plot twists that, in my opinion, were very surprising, considering that about 80% of the story was characterized by a relatively slow pace and lack of action, and left the things up in the air. In contrast to its predecessor, One Dark Throne showed a welcome increase in both the pace and the amount of action comprising the book and was an overall lighter and quicker read. As regards the character development, Kendare Blake continued to do an impressive job in One Dark Throne, as well. I believe that Mirabella, Katharine and Arsinoe are three of the best-drawn fantasy characters I have ever encountered. In addition, the author created a great number of secondary and rather memorable characters whose names I still mix up now and then. Virtually each character of this series plays an important role in the plot development and I think that the superb characterization, along with the fascinating world-building, allows Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne to stand out in the realm of fantasy books.

As was the case with Three Dark CrownsOne Dark Throne is written in the third-person, in the present tense. Reading a fantasy novel told in the present tense can be an awkward experience at the beginning, but fortunately I quickly got caught up in the beautifully written narrative. The events of the second installment are set in the island of Fennbirn, during the Ascension Year. The three sisters are supposed to kill each other in order to ascend to the throne, which explains the choice of title. It was interesting to observe the personality changes of Katharine who was portrayed as a villain and found herself in the middle of a love triangle in this second installment. Mirabella also displayed some cruelty at the beginning but she returned to her normal self soon. I wonder whether I am the only one who has noticed that Arsinoe appears to be a little more priviliged than the other two queens, in the sense that the chapters focusing on her character are slightly longer and greater in number. I thoroughly enjoy the relationship between Arsinoe and the mainlander Billy and the manner in which it has evolved from their first encounter. I think that Arsinoe is my favourite sister, if I were to pick one. In One Dark Throne there were also some interesting things going on with Jules, Arsinoe’s devoted childhood friend.

One Dark Throne doesn’t include any revelation as shocking and unforeseen as those experienced while reading Three Dark Crowns, but there is a number of deaths which will certainly surprise you and an ending that is bound to leave you burning with curiosity about what is going to happen in the next installment of the series.

All in all, One Dark Throne is a complex dark fantasy novel which will undoubtedly prove a satisfying read for those who have enjoyed the first book of the series. I always appreciate a series which improves progressively and features creativity and it seems that Three Dark Crowns is one of those.

Rating:

Imagini pentru 4 stars rating

Review I Know a Secret (Rizzoli & Isles #12) by Tess Gerritsen

33153725In the twelfth gripping novel featuring Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, the crime-solving duo—featured in the smash-hit TNT series Rizzoli & Isles—are faced with the gruesomely staged murder of a horror film producer.

The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.

Imagine the exhilaration I felt when I noticed on Goodreads that a new installment of the Rizzoli & Isles series was due to get published this summer, considering that I have said countless times that Tess Gerritsen is one of my favourite contemporary authors of mystery/thriller. The Rizzoli & Isles novel series also served as a source of inspiration to the popular TNT police procedural and crime drama starring the talented Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, which, sadly, concluded last year. However, I am happy because it seems that Tess Gerritsen has no intention of ending the novel series at the moment.

As anticipated, Tess Gerritsen returns with yet another installment of the long-running Rizzoli & Isles series with a well thought out plot and excellent writingI Know a Secret features the well known eponymous characters police detective Jane Rizzoli and her colleague and friend, medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. Initially, the two are faced with an interesting and odd homicide case: a horror film producer is found dead in her apartment with her eyeballs cut and placed in the palm of her hand. The problem is that Maura cannot determine the cause of death as there are no obvious signs of the manner in which the perpetrator committed the murder. Subsequently, Jane and Maura are examining another bizzarely staged crime scene. This time the victim is a man and his body was stabbed with arrows. The two murders appear connected and lead the Boston PD homicide unit to a notorious case of child abuse and presumed child abduction which took place 20 years ago.

In addition to the homicide cases that must be solved, some chapters focus on the personal lives of the main characters: the complicated relationship between Maura and her dying and villainous mother Amalthea Lank who featured for the first time in Body Double; the on-again, off-again relationship between Maura and her love interest, the Catholic priest Daniel Brophy; the funny drama of the Rizzoli family; the romantic reconciliation between Frost and his ex-wife, Alice.

In I Know a Secret, Tess Gerritsen proves that she is well versed not only in forensic medicine and police procedures, but also in filmmaking, religious symbolism and child psychology. She is able to readily transpose her vast knowledge into writing and this is the reason why all of her books in the mystery/thriller genre are so well-documented and credible at the same time. In my opinion, one aspect that differentiates each installment of the Rizzoli & Isles series from the ever increasing number of other crime fiction novels is the graphic and informative description of the medical procedures Maura has to perform in order to determine the cause of death of a certain person who was involved in a crime scene. This type of description unquestionably abounds in I Know a Secret, as well.

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While I definitely enjoyed and quickly read this 12th installment, I found the mystery and the twist and turns of I Know a Secret a little weaker and less thrilling as compared to some previous books of the series, such as Last to Die or Die Again. Due to this, I am going to rate Tess Gerritsen’s newest novel at 4 stars instead of 5.

All in all, I Know a Secret is a valuable addition to the Rizzoli & Isles series and it leaves you eager to encounter once again the great characters you have been constantly rooting for, over 12 books.

Rating:

Imagini pentru 4 stars rating