Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle #BookReview

TITLE: Dear Wife | AUTHOR: Kimberly Belle | PUBLISHER: Park Row| PUBLISHED ON: June 25, 2019 | PAGES: 329| ISBN13: 9780778308591 | RATING: 3.5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by publisher for review consideration.

My Thoughts:

I don’t normally do half-hook ratings, but this one has left me truly stuck in the middle – 3 stars doesn’t seem to quite give the book the credit it deserves, but I can’t quite justify pushing it to that fourth star either. This novel was most of a really great thriller, but it wasn’t without its shortcomings.

The novel has a pretty straightforward premise: we follow Beth, a woman on the run, Jeffrey, a man searching for his missing wife, and Marcus, the detective assigned to find Jeffrey’s wife. From the very first pages, this book gave me serious Gone Girl vibes. Not to say that the plots were overly similar, but the alternating viewpoints and the overall tension that Belle builds in the opening chapters were definitely reminiscent of Flynn.

This book hooked me fast, and it demanded to be read in large chunks because I couldn’t put it down. The characters were flawed but compelling, and I absolutely needed to know what would happen next! I did find that the tension died off a little in the middle of the novel, particularly in Beth’s sections, but for most of this book, I was totally glued to its pages. A good thriller needs to be thrilling (it’s in the name, after all) and this one definitely delivers on that aspect.

My main issue with the novel is that I found it to be a bit predictable. It definitely took some unexpected turns, particularly near the end, but I had probably the biggest twist of the book figured out within the first couple of chapters, because the alternative seemed just too obvious. I’ll admit I doubted myself a couple of times while reading, so the author did a decent job of trying to throw me off the scent, but I was pretty confident I had it (and I did). The ending was also a little Scooby-Doo for my tastes: lots of exposition of the why and how in the middle of what was otherwise an exciting and action-packed climax.

This was my first time reading Belle’s work, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’m definitely planning to check out her other novels. The writing here is solid and definitely delivered the thrills, even if some aspects of the plot left me craving a bit more suspense.

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford & Matt Hayward #BookReview

TITLE: A Penny For Your Thoughts| AUTHOR: Robert Ford & Matt Hayward| PUBLISHER: Poltergeist Press | PUBLISHED ON: June 1, 2019 | PAGES: 287| RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by authors for review consideration.

My Thoughts:

Guys, this book is a fucking trip! It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with a book. It’s hilarious, it’s gross, it’s creepy, it’s touching…this book gave me a lot of very conflicting feels and I loved every second!

The book follows Joe, a recovering heroin addict freshly released from prison and trying to get his life back on track in some…questionable ways. Joe is a likeable, albeit extremely flawed, character and I really enjoyed following his insane attempts at staying clean while battling a whole new kind of addiction. But what really adds soul to his character is his connection with his father. It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of the novel, but their relationship and the love they clearly had for each other is what really drove my personal connection with Joe. His interactions with all of the other characters in the novel, and especially with Kenny and Ava, show that while he definitely isn’t a “good guy,” he is compassionate and truly trying his best to clean up his mess, which made the story all the more compelling for me.

While the humour is definitely present, this is still a horror story, and it has its fair share of chilling moments to make sure the reader doesn’t forget that. The two genres blend effortlessly in this novel, so that I found myself sometimes laughing and feeling utterly disgusted all at the same time. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but the authors have managed it beautifully here. I love a book that can make me question my own sense of humour by having me laugh out loud at completely gross, inappropriate moments, and this book delivers on that HARD.

The writing in this book is awesome. So often, collaborative projects end up feeling a little clunky because the authors’ styles just don’t fully mesh, but this book is seamless. Ford and Hayward clearly jive, because at no point could I pick out a section and say “oh yeah, this is where things switched off.” I also loved, LOVED all the little witticisms and descriptions thrown in, they definitely had me chuckling more than once. The story is completely unique, and while I had a couple of points where I had to remind myself not to think too hard about the specifics and just enjoy the ride, for the most part everything weaves together in a rewarding way. I wish we’d spent a bit more time with the Crimson Sisters, and I would have liked a little more detail on the mechanics of the wishes, but honestly this book is so much fucking fun that I can look past the areas that lack a bit of detail.

This book is a seriously fun read. I was hooked from the very first page and I had a hard time tearing myself away from it. It has a couple tiny weak points, but really the story as a whole is strong, original and just SO. DAMN. FUN. Highly recommend grabbing this one if you need a bit of a creepy laugh in your life (and really, who doesn’t?)!

Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols #BookReview

TITLE: Vessel | AUTHOR: Lisa A. Nichols | PUBLISHER: Atria | PUBLISHED ON: May 21, 2019 | PAGES: 304 | RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Netgalley

My Thoughts:

I don’t know that I’ve ever really read a sci-fi thriller before, but this was definitely a solid entry point into the genre. I tore through this book in only a couple of sittings because I absolutely needed to know what would happen next, and that’s always the mark of a good book for me.

The novel follows Catherine Wells, an astronaut presumed dead in space after six years of no contact with Earth. Once safely back on Earth, she must adapt to life where her family (including her now-teenaged daughter) has moved on without her, while also facing questions from NASA about exactly what happened to the rest of her crew.

The ideas here felt fresh and not like a rehashing of the same themes I’ve seen over and over. It definitely gave me some X-Files, government cover-up, type vibes, but in a good way, without feeling like it was pulling too much from outside sources. This novel is very much its own unique story, and while the thriller element is front and centre, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is, ultimately, a sci-fi novel.

I loved the two timelines, having flashbacks to Catherine’s time in space interspersed with the mystery of what REALLY happened to her crew now that she’s back on Earth. It added a lot to the tension of the novel, and kept me reading as I looked for the links between past and present. The characters and plot were, for the most part, both written in a way that was incredibly engaging, so I found myself immersed in the story very quickly and invested in the outcome of Cath and Cal’s search for the truth.

This would have been a 5-star read for me if not for two things: one, it features yet another useless romance subplot that adds absolutely nothing of value to the plot, and two, the ending was way too neat and tidy (and ridiculous) for me to buy it, especially given some of the shady shit that takes place over the course of the novel. But overall, this was a really entertaining read, filled with suspense and unique ideas. Definitely worth picking up even if you aren’t typically a sci-fi fan. There’s more than enough mystery here to grip most readers!

Nothing But Darkness by Maria Ann Green #BookReview

TITLE: Nothing But Darkness | AUTHOR: Maria Ann Green| PUBLISHER: Self-Published | PUBLISHED ON: July 27, 2018 | PAGES: 305|
RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Author provided copy |
TRIGGER WARNING: Extreme violence against women

I fully admit, I was apprehensive about starting this book. The more I learned about it, the less it sounded like something that would be up my alley: I’m not a huge fan of serial killers, or gore, or romance. Not to mention those don’t really sound like things that would mix particularly well. But somehow, the author manages to take these very, VERY different elements and combine them into a thoroughly engrossing, supremely disturbing thriller.

Our main character is Aidan, a handsome, charismatic and reasonably successful man. He’s got a decent job, a caring best friend, and no shortage of luck with his sexual conquests. But Aidan is also discovering that he has a newfound penchant for death, and the more violent, the better. Even before you add in the whole serial killer element, Aidan is a grade-A asshole; he’s a liar and a womanizer, and the thoughts in his head are pretty damn disgusting. And yet, I couldn’t help rooting for him. I think it says a lot about the quality of writing when an author can make a reader simultaneously utterly disgusted by yet weirdly supportive of such a despicable character. I hated Aidan completely, but I also couldn’t help hoping that he’d succeed in his non-murderous endeavors. I had a lot of very uncomfortable, very conflicted feelings towards Aidan, and I have to applaud the author for making me feel that way about a character I should have out and out loathed.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of having romance thrown into a non-romance book. I feel like most of the time, it’s unnecessary and adds nothing to the story. I should have felt that way about our charming serial killer’s love life, and yet somehow I kind of loved the romance element here between Aidan and Bee. It just fit into the story perfectly despite being such a completely different vibe from the rest of the plot. It also made Aidan feel like an actual human being, which I think added a lot to the conflicted feelings I had about him. There was a cheating spouse element to the story that I didn’t care for at all, but that has more to do with my personal tastes than how it was actually integrated into the plot; I just don’t enjoy reading about infidelity. But overall the romance element was well done and I loved how it added a totally different and softer element to the still completely fucked up plot.

I really didn’t have many issues with this novel. Sure, Aidan’s thoughts on women are pretty horrifying, but it fits with his character. It definitely made me make my “ick” face more than once, but it was overall well done. The writing is great, with good pacing and complex characters. I did find the ending to be a little bit abrupt, but knowing there’s a sequel coming, it didn’t bother me much. This was a really solid thriller, and a great take on showing things from the killer’s perspective. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Aidan and Bee will end up in the next book!

Return to Hogwarts: My Harry Potter Reread, Part 1

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone| AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling | PUBLISHER: Scholastic | PUBLISHED ON:  June 26, 1997 | PAGES: 332 | RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Self-Purchased

My Thoughts:

I’ve been saying for ages that I was going to reread the Harry Potter series, but I’ve been stalling. Hard. Part of that is just my complete inability to stick to a TBR, but mostly, I was afraid that revisiting the series as an adult would take away from the magic of the experience. I grew up with Harry Potter, reading the books, watching the movies. It was one of my absolute favourites, and I can’t even tell you how many times I reread the series; it became a bit of a summer tradition for me to reread the entire series before the next book was released. I’ve reread a couple of other childhood favorites as an adult, and was left feeling a little disappointed. I didn’t want to risk feeling that way about this series which was such a massive part of my childhood. But, thanks to a Bookstagram readalong, I finally decided to take the plunge and start on my reread. And THANK FUCK, I still loved this book!

Of course rereading this as an adult is a completely different experience. It’s still magical and wonderful, but certain things definitely stand out more now than they did when I was 11 or 12. Case in point, Hagrid: WHO IS LETTING THIS MAN WORK WITH CHILDREN? As a character, I still love him of course, he’s a sweetheart who has Harry’s best interests in mind. But he’s also an alcoholic with no magical abilities, he’s horrible at keeping his mouth shut, and half the time he’s actively putting Harry and pals in danger due to his extremely poor decision-making. Mindblowing.

I also wanted to scream at Harry, Ron and Hermione to just mind their own damn business more than once. I kind of forgot what nosy little shits they are. Though, I suppose, if they weren’t, this book wouldn’t have much of a plot. As a kid, reading about their adventures is fun and exciting! As an adult, I’m wondering how the supervision at Hogwarts is so fucking lax.

All joking and get-off-my-lawnism aside, I really did still love this story. Rediscovering it as an adult is really like reading a brand new story, but one that somehow still feels so perfectly nostalgic and comfortable. I immediately sank back into the world of Hogwarts, and while I remembered the broad strokes of the story, I was surprised by how much I’d also forgotten since my last reread probably 15+ years ago.
I loved learning about magic all over again with Harry. The relationship between the main characters is still so wonderful and easy, the way all good childhood friendships should be.

I truly enjoyed re-immersing myself into this wonderful, fantastic world. It was just the right amount of nostalgia, reminding me of the days when I would stay up past my bedtime reading under the covers because I just absolutely could not even consider putting the book down in favour of sleep. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey, and I’m interested to see how I’ll feel about book #2 when I read it next, given that it was always my least favourite growing up…Stay tuned for part 2 in the next little bit, as I try to get caught up with the readalong in time for book #3 in March!