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Name : Tanya S.

My Reviews

Come Closer by Sara Gran
 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Fantastic, Unconvincing
Creepy Horror Without the Gore

At first it starts with a simple tapping in the apartment, explained away as a drippy pipe, or perhaps a mouse. An urge to start smoking again and more frequent bickering with her husband. Amanda, a successful young architect, feels a vague sense of unease at the changes in her life. As time passes, Amanda refuses to accept the improbable cause for these changes, with horrifying results.

At 169 pages, it\\\\\\\'s a short book, and Gran\\\\\\\'s writing is so clean and succinct that it feels even faster. The sparse writing creates a break-neck pace that causes a sense of panic as a reader cannot stop racing toward the same terrifying end as the protagonist. The ambiguity in the story is one of the novel\\\\\\\'s best qualities and is what draws the reader in. Is the overshadowing of Amanda\\\\\\\'s will and her seduction the result of demon possession or of insanity - and does it matter?

This is a truly horrifying story that is not about cheap scares and gory scenes, but rather the slow loss of control to which any of us could be susceptible.

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
Solid Thriller

On the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary, beautiful, vivacious Amy goes missing from their beautiful home on the Mississippi River. The police are called, volunteers are combing the waterfront, and Nick is being questioned. Bitter and evasive, Nick quickly goes from the grieving husband to prime suspect in the eyes of the media, townspeople, and even his once supportive in-laws. However, a dark side of Amy emerges and Nick slowly begins to unravel the truth of his wife's disappearance.

Despite owning copies of Flynn's two previous books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, this was the first book of hers that I've actually read...and I could not put it down. The chapters alternated between Nick's current situation and entries from Amy's diary that was found by the police, which lent amazing insight into why the Dunne marriage was not as perfect as those on the outside once thought it to be. I was kept guessing right up until the end, which for me was, unfortunately, a bit disappointing. I was not pleased with the ending, which resulted in a four-star review, instead of the five it was on it's way to receiving for most of the book. Overall, though, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good suspense/thriller.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Informative, Dramatic
Next in a Great Series

"Was sorrow, in the end, a private thing? A closed container? Something that, like a bucket of water, could be borne only on a single pair of shoulders?"

The village of Bishop's Lacey is preparing to open the tomb of it's patron saint, St. Tancred, on the five-hundredth anniversary of the saints death. Flavia de Luce is excited to take a peak inside, as she does love a dead body. However, when the body of the church's organist, Mr. Collicut, is found inside, the town is thrown into a tizzy. Who would want to kill an organist, and why hide him in the saint's tomb? Flavia decides to investigate and what she learns is a surprise to everyone.

This book proved to be more complex in plot that previous installments, with more oddball characters, more seemingly unrelated clues, and more plot twists. However, in the last third of the novel, the story came together and clues that were seemingly throwaways or misleading came together in spectacular fashion. This book also deepened the ever present financial situation in which the de Luce family is embroiled, as well as worked in some emotional developments in Flavia's relationship with her older sisters Daphne and Ophelia. And, while I didn't need the push, the jaw-dropping cliffhanger Bradley included in the novel's final page has guaranteed that I'll be gobbling up book six in the series as soon as it hits the shelves.

Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive
A Unique Pate-Turner

"I did the whole making muffins for bake sales and going on trips and being there for
homework and inviting friends around. All of that. But I didn't know how to do what was important."

Grace Covy, mother of two and part-time writer for her local newspaper, races to rescue her daughter when a fire engulfs the posh private school they attend on Sports Day. Upon arriving at the hospital, Grace and Jenny, both badly injured in the fire, are outside their bodies, able to communicate with only each other. The situation becomes even more dire when the police close the case but Grace realizes they've collared the wrong suspect...and the real arsonist still wants Jenny dead.

A unique kind of mystery, this book took off full-bore from the start and never relented in terms of pace and emotional punch. Lupton's writing is superb, and as a former screenwriter she knows how to write a cliffhanger, leaving you unable to leave off after "just one more chapter." The characters are wonderfully drawn and fully fleshed out, not cookie-cutter as it would have been so easy to do. While part of the ending was a bit predictable, the whodunit portion of the mystery kept me guessing right up to the end.

Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
 
Interesting, Confusing, Insightful
Great writing, but dull and difficult.

Ursula Todd is born in the midst of a blizzard in 1910, not once, but many times, during the course of her life - living only to die and be born again, repeatedly, traveling many paths until she lives the life she was meant to live.

Kate Atkinson\'s writing is superb, and lyrical enough that it carried me through to the end of this book. The plot, however, left me floundering for weeks, trying desperately to claw my way to the end of this depressing tale. While the premise - reincarnation and destiny - is interesting, the execution left me frustrated.

The early chapters of the book are very short, as Ursula is born, dies, and is reborn again with rapid succession. With each successive life, she lives longer (in most cases) and is developed more and more as a character. The choppy format of the early chapters make it difficult to get attached to Ursula, but as she lives longer, it becomes more and more apparent that she lives a sad, depressing life. In addition, as a result of her continued rebirth, it\'s difficult to become attached to her, or to feel any real regret or sadness at her passing. Also strange is that, as often as you meet them throughout Ursula\'s life, her siblings never really become fully realized characters. As they move in and out of her life, these siblings play important roles in the paths she follows, yet they remain rather one-dimensional, as though Atkinson couldn\'t be bothered to spend the time on them.

The book was also a bit too meandering in its plot. Lives that led no where interesting or important wandered on for far too long, while lives that seemed to be leading somewhere ended abruptly, only to pick up again to follow another pointless path. Perhaps this was Atkinson\'s exploration of the capricious nature of fate, but it made for some rough reading. About 100 pages of this novel could have been trimmed and it would only have improved the quality. Forty of those hundred pages should have been the last forty of the book - the last few \"lives\" lived by Ursula were confusing and unnecessary to the novel.

All in all, the writing was exactly what you\'d expect from Atkinson (wonderful), but the story itself was confusing, lifeless, and somewhat empty. A hundred fewer pages, a different ending, and more fully fleshed-out secondary characters would have resulted in a 4 star book for me.

(I received a promotional copy of the book for review.)

The Comfort of Lies: A Novel by Randy Susan Meyers
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
Good for Discussion

Susan Randy Meyer\'s newest novel, The Comfort of Lies, revolves around the conception, birth, and adoption of a little girl, and the effect this has on the women it impacts.

Though the heart of the story is the drama that unfolds around the discovery of a child that was the product of an affair, the real power of The Comfort of Lies is its examination of motherhood as portrayed by the three female protagonists. Is Tia\'s decision to give her daughter up for adoption because of the pain she felt at her lover\'s abandonment a commendable sacrifice or selfish? Does Caroline\'s honest assessment of her unhappiness in motherhood make her a bad mother, and is this compounded by the fact that her child is adopted? Is Juliette\'s connection to this child legitimate, and to what extent should she expect involvement in the life of the child her husband abandoned? These questions are left up to the reader to answer, though Meyers paints a sympathetic view of all of the characters, sometimes to a fault.

The writing was unremarkable and the story felt predictable, both in the resolution and the behavior of the characters. Not a single character was well-developed or particularly likable and, despite Meyers\' attempts to make these women seem strong, the most important decisions in their lives are heavily influenced, albeit sometimes indirectly, by the men in their lives.

Overall, I found the realistic portrayal of infidelity and motherhood compelling enough to finish the novel, but I didn\'t feel much sympathy or interest in the characters themselves. I\'d recommend this book to someone who enjoys family dramas, perhaps, but not to someone looking for a book that packs a strong emotional punch.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.*

 
Book Club Recommended
Assume nothing, believe nobody, check everything.

Thirty-one-year-old Felicity Benson is an insecure television producer who is surprised when her boss, film-maker legend Laurie Nattrass, hands her his pet project, a documentary detailing the stories of women who were falsely accused of murdering their children, and announces his retirement. As Felicity begins interviewing these mothers, she receives a strange item in the mail - a card containing 16 numbers, arranged in a tidy grid. Soon she discovers the police are investigating crimes related to two women featured in the film who also received a card from the mysterious sender. One, assaulted on the street, the other, murdered in her own home.

This latest novel in the Spilling CID series by Sophie Hannah is my favorite so far. Hannah constructs a well-honed mystery with distinctive characters and sophisticated writing. DC Simon Waterhouse is once again pitted against his boss, "The Snowman", who was the arresting officer in the case involving the murdered mother, and we get to watch their relationship deteriorate even further. This plot was an extremely straight forward murder mystery, avoiding some of the confusing twists present in her previous novels. However, in true form, Hannah keeps the reader guessing until the shocking and unforgettable ending.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Interesting, Brilliant
Beautifully Written

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Gloomy
Couldn't Have Cared Less

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Addictive
A literary spy novel that delivers!

Scott Murdoch is a member of a secret government agency, so secret that only a few in the country are aware of it's existence. After years of living in the shadows, Murdoch decides on retirement and writes a book on forensics as an act of closure. Instead of a quiet life off the grid in Paris, he finds himself drawn into a murder investigation at a seedy New York City hotel. The killer appears to have committed the perfect crime and then disappeared without a trace - all while using Murdoch's book as a how-to manual.

Soon he is pressed into service by high-ranking government officials, thrust into service again, traveling to the Middle East in search of a lone wolf Saudi terrorist, with the fate of Western civilization hanging in the balance.

"The world doesn't change in front of your eyes; it changes behind your back."

At 600+ pages and cover art that some might call dull, I Am Pilgrim did not immediately strike me as a "summer read," the kind of page-turner I like to take on day trips to the lake. However, it didn't take more than the opening lines before I was hooked. Hayes has the somewhat dubious distinction of writing the first crime scene that I've excitedly read aloud to my husband over a glass of wine at night.

This book is a rare treat - a literary spy thriller that defies stereotype. Our hero is a young, but extremely accomplished, member of a secret government intelligence agency. The bad guy is a young, radical, Muslim terrorist, hellbent on the destruction of Western civilization. The novel is full of exciting chases, thrilling shootouts, and exotic locations. It does not, however, feel tired or overdone at any point. The book is a fresh take on the traditional spy novel. It's filled with enough twists and surprises to keep you on your toes. Hayes uses exciting side plots and character back stories to allow for some breathing room between tense scenes but these scenes are far from dull. On the contrary, they serve to flesh out his characters and bring them to life in a way that many suspense novels fail to do.

Though this is a debut for Hayes, his experience as a screenwriter results in an absorbing, action packed, heart-in-your-throat read. The pacing is perfect, building suspense in just the right spots and then unleashing the action in explosive bursts. Expertly delivered foreshadowing leaves you breathlessly awaiting the next surprise, the next twist. It's not difficult to imagine the blockbuster film this book will become.

In the end, this book is certainly a contender for best-of-the-year lists. It starts as a murder mystery, becomes a spy thriller, and ends up as one of the best books you'll read this year.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Addictive
A gripping psychological thriller

Daniel is a garden designer living in London with his partner, Mark. His parents, Chris and Tilde, have recently retired to a remote farm in Sweden, his mother's childhood home. Daniel believes his parents are happy in their retirement until he receives a frantic phone call from his father. His mother has had a mental breakdown and has fled the hospital where she was being treated. Daniel is about to board a flight to Sweden when he receives a call from his mother, claiming everything his father has told him is a lie and she's on her way to London to see him. As the accusations begin, Daniel is caught between his parents, unsure if he can believe his mother...especially once her conspiracy begins to implicate his father.

*************************

"If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son."

The Farm is a quick, engrossing read, the kind of book you'll want to finish in one sitting. Short chapters end in cliffhangers, resulting in a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Descriptions of the stark Swedish countryside, of hunting mushrooms in the forest, and of creeping around the house of a neighbor come to life through Smith's expert voice. As well as bringing individual scenes to life, Smith also successfully conveys the suffocating isolation the residents of Chris & Tilde's new home feel, as though the location was a character itself.

The real-life events that inspired the events in this novel - the mental breakdown of Smith's mother - creates the ring of truth that makes this story so compelling. Tilde appears sane and reliable even as her story becomes less believable, moving farther into her suspicion and mythology. The reader experiences the same confusion and skepticism that Daniel does. The tension he feels in being asked to choose between his mother and his father is palpable to the reader, especially as he begins to realize that he does not know his parents as well as he had previously believed.

The Farm is a true psychological thriller. There are no car chases, shootouts, or dramatic last-minute rescues. At it's heart, it is about trust - how much do we really know about the people we love and who would we believe? This fast-paced novel is sure to please Smith's existing fans and gain him several new.

(I received a copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing for an honest review.)

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Dark
Couldn't put it down!

This is the first book being compared to Gone Girl that has lived up to the hype – not because they were anything alike in terms of writing style, plot, or book construction, but because it was the first book since Gone Girl that I couldn't put down. I sat down one evening and read the first half, only stopping because it was time for bed, and then I waited grumpily all day until I could sit down again and finish it. It was incredibly fast paced and, as fast a reader as I am, I was still irritated that I couldn't read it faster. That earns it the comparison, in my opinion.

This debut novel presents the perfect couple, Jack and Grace. They met one day in the park when Grace's younger sister Millie was dancing by herself and Jack stepped in to be her partner. After a whirlwind romance they were married and rushed off to an exotic honeymoon in Thailand. Upon their return Grace loses touch with her friends and quits her job, seemingly content to stay at home in the beautiful mansion that Jack bought for them and decorate, garden, and enjoy her new wonderful life. Soon, their friends notice that Grace and Jack are inseparable and Grace is less available for lunch dates alone.

Do you see where this is going? Don't worry if you don't because Paris shows you before long. By the time that happens you won't care, though, because you'll want to know how the situation is going to resolve itself. The story flips back and forth between two timelines, the first following Grace as she meets Jack, falls in love, and accepts his proposal, and the second as she details what her life is like in the present. This moved the story ahead in a way that highlighted the frantic rush Grace was in. I genuinely enjoyed the scenes with Millie, too. Her portrayal as a person with Down's Syndrome but still smart as a whip, fun, and present in her sister's life.

The book was not without flaws. Without giving too much away, it did require a slightly higher-than-normal suspension of disbelief because one of the characters was SO extreme. The circumstances were so perfectly plotted that it seems impossible for anyone to be as well-coordinated as would be necessary to pull off their plans. There are a lot of trigger warnings in this book – nothing graphic but a lot of allusions to things – and they're scattered liberally throughout the book (not problematic but something to keep in mind before deciding to read it).

I recommend it but don't pick it up when you have places to be or things to do. You won't be able to put it down.

(Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dark, Dramatic
Read in One Sitting!

"Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they're not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit."

When their babysitter cancels, Anne and Marco decide to go ahead next door to a dinner party with the neighbors anyway. After all, they share a wall, they'll have the baby monitor with them, and they'll take turns checking every half hour. When they return their baby Cora is gone without a trace.

From that point the book takes off like a freight train and never applies the breaks. This was a book I read over the course of one two-hour sitting and I couldn't have put it down if I wanted to (and I did...I finished around 1:30am!). Around the half-way point you start to get a handle on what's going on but the pace doesn't slow down at all. This is a novel that maintains the suspense all the way to the last line.

The book is a touch melodramatic but I didn't find that to detract from the story in the least.(I watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU so maybe that's why?) The narration happens in an emotionally distant present tense making for some unsettling storytelling. Everyone around Cora seemed to have both a motive for the crime while simultaneously seeming innocent. Even though you know what everyone is thinking you can't tell who is telling the truth at any point. It all combines to create a pulse-pounding read.

Though it had some flaws this was a great debut and I can't wait to see what Ms. Lapena will come up with next.

(Thank you to NetGalley and Pamela Dorman Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Brilliant

Final Girls: A Novel by Riley Sager
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Dark
Scream in a Book

Final Girls attempts to turn the horror trope of the "final girl" - the blood-stained heroine who makes it out alive at the end of a slasher-horror flick - on it's head, with great success.

Our heroine, Quincy, is one of three "final girls" but is trying desperately to move on with her life. Between her baking blog and her fiance, she's making a good start. The police officer who saved her life contacts her to let her know that the first "final girl", Lisa, has been found dead in her home of a suicide. The other final girl, Sam, shows up at her apartment out of the blue, and the news hits that Lisa's death might not have been at her own hands.

For anyone who is a fan of the slasher horror genre, this book is a treat. As I was reading it reminded me so much of Scream that I could almost picture the scenes in my head. This book is not a wink-and-nudge commentary on the genre, though. It takes itself very seriously and, as a result, does a better job translating into a proper suspense-thriller than it might have had it attempted any level of camp. Watching Quincy's perfect facade crumble under the strain of Lisa's death and Sam's arrival was cringe-worthy, and I found myself shouting at her to just go back to baking! The flashbacks Sager used to fill us in on exactly what happened the night of the massacre Quincy survived were well executed and were a nice way to show, rather than tell, the reader about that night. Sager successfully juggles several red herrings that lead up to a twist that, I'm happy to report, I didn't see coming in the least. (Others have said they did correctly predict the ending, so perhaps I should have as well. I was just having so much fun I clearly wasn't paying close attention!)

This book is pure entertainment and a ton of fun. It's entirely suitable, though, for someone who stays away from horror but might want to dip their toes into something that will leave them up late at night with the lights on. :) (Does that classify a horror-lite?)

* Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.* (less)

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