reviews

The Affair; Sheryl Browne

The Affair: Sheryl Browne
Genre: Psychological suspense
Published: 2018
Pages: 318
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff, Slytherin

They’re a perfect, happy family that would never hurt one another. Or are they?

After tragedy strikes, Alicia is shocked to run into an old flame. Justin picks up on this, and Alicia is forced to confront the past and tell her husband what happened all those years ago. Just when it seems that things can’t get any worse, another secret is revealed causing their daughter to flee the house. Justin is not only on a mission to save his marriage, but to save his daughter from whatever threats are out there. Without Sophie, what does he have left to live for if the rest of his life was a lie? But the random run-in may not have been so random, and Justin must confront not just a threat to their marriage but to his whole family, and his life.

Normally, novels about affairs don’t thrill me. For one, I can’t stand the perpetrators; if you don’t want to hurt your family by doing so, why do it? For another: they’re boring. It seems like predictable affairs take place in every domestic drama lately. But it came as an addition to the original Browne novel I bought, and as it was two books for the price of one, I couldn’t just ignore a free book.

This book features the 3rd person perspectives of Justin, his wife Alicia, and daughter Sophie. (What is it about Sophies in the media always having their main plot be about finding their father?) Of course, you want to hate Alicia for what she’s done to the family, and at first I did. But I was also surprised at how my feelings toward these characters changed as the story went on. The character development, or the way that Browne makes you think differently about people, is pretty strong. I was always in Sophie’s corner. But I did feel some twinges of sympathy toward Alicia farther along, and I didn’t like Justin as much by the end. Maybe. There is also Jessica, Alicia’s sister, who plays a role I should have seen coming but didn’t. Who is right and wrong here? There are multiple conflicts at play between them; to Sophie running away as she doesn’t trust her family to Justin’s disbelief to Alicia’s guilt. The novel does get a little repetitive in saying that “Alicia felt guilty” over and over, and that’s what added to some of the slowness for me. What elevates this novel from the standard is Paul Radley, Alicia’s love interest. You can tell something is off about him from the get-go, though we don’t learn much about him. He seems to have a bigger plan in mind, one that involves Sophie, that escalates as the novel progresses. I wasn’t sure why he was appearing now after so many years apart, however.

Admittedly it was a slow start. It was 50-70 pages of characters mourning their own life and a tragedy that’s taken place which has little to do with the main storyline. Lots of “woe-is-me” is present. It’s a little repetitive here as well, but it does lay the groundwork, which was dull as I expected. But maybe that’s just me; I’m tired of the “affair reveal.” It picks up when Paul enters the picture, but sometimes other events are called upon to keep the story interesting. Browne lays the tragedy on pretty thick here. There’s a car wreck, a stabbing at a bar, and another death. Not all of these things had to do with the plot. I read in the author’s note that Browne herself was struggling from the loss of a child. While maybe this helped her, it really didn’t serve a purpose for the novel. Adding to my above point, it may even have added to the slowness of the first part of the book. I may have cut the tragedy that happens near the beginning for more focus on Sophie’s time at Paul’s apartment.

The ending does get a little Lifetime-movie-ish, preaching about how their family is working toward building their future together, and healing from the past. Mostly where I had mixed feelings was the “excuse” for Alicia… spoiler paragraph below…

…which was that she was actually raped. O….kay. But isn’t she still at fault for having the affair in the first place? And she frames it as an actual affair in her POV chapters, so that didn’t make sense to me either. Maybe it was meant for shock value? I can kind of see how it might work, seeing that it gave her and Justin reason to make up a little faster, but I’m not sure if it did or not. It was a bit of a cop-out.

End of spoilers

The reveals that were supposed to be shocking weren’t shocking at all, and I don’t think that most readers will find that to be so either. I don’t like to take anything as truth until the accusations are proven, so I wasn’t shocked at the reveal of Sophie’s father, either. (I’m not entirely sure I even got the ending, though I have a pretty good idea, Browne doesn’t explicitly say anything.) Either way, this wasn’t a bad ending, even if it wasn’t the shock it was trying to be, and I’m happy that hopefully my strong ending slump seems to be over for now. There are some unanswered questions, like why Paul was trying to put Sophie on a healthy diet, but they didn’t matter too much. Overall I think I enjoyed Sophie’s plot the most.

I’m still not sure whether I would have picked this up as a stand-alone novel, but The Affair brings enough new things to the table where I feel that it wasn’t a waste of time. I even found myself caring about that characters, particularly Sophie, and while it won’t be a favorite of mine it’s not a bad book.

3 stars

Book Club Questions (spoilers)

  1. Why do you think Alicia went ahead with her relationship with Paul? She herself said that she didn’t want Justin to blame her. Does he? How much of a real relationship do you think was present?
  2. Is Justin a good character in this novel? Readers will notice that he has some aggressive tendencies–is he good as a husband? What about Alicia?
  3. Sophie is so angry that her first and only thought is to run away from home. By the end of the book, she is blaming herself. Who is right and who is wrong in this novel, and how so? Do you think that Sophie is to blame for anything?
  4. Do you believe in the saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” as Justin seems to? Or are you okay with second chances? What does it take to ruin a family–the action or the lies?
  5. What happens after Justin and Alicia drop the final bombshell on Sophie at the end? Is their family going to survive this?
reviews

The Babysitter: Sheryl Browne


This is a repost from 2 hours ago due to wordpress cutting words from the last post.

The Babysitter: Sheryl Browne
Genre: Domestic suspense
Published: 2018
Pages: 352
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Slytherin

Mark and Melissa are happily married. But when they stumble across Jade, they know that they’ve found the perfect person to help out with their children. Since Jade’s house just burned to the ground, they can’t help but think that it is perfect timing.
Maybe it is too perfect. As Mark spends long days tackling a missing child case at work and Melissa struggles from depression, their marriage is put to the test. As a result, Jade spends lots of time looking after the kids. But something more sinister might be going on. Is it possible that Mark and Jade used to know each other? What does she want, and what is she going to do to the family to get it?

The Babysitter is my first foray into this genre in which someone has easy access to the house but isn’t the person that they seem. I loved the premise, but wasn’t expecting much from a big, thick book that advertised “Great Price!” on the front and also advertised a “bonus novel inside.” Clearly, I shouldn’t have been put off.

For starters, the book is well written. Browne’s writing style flows and paints a vivid portrait of this family’s world while also getting into the heads of her characters so we see their thoughts firsthand. Mark has to balance being a police officer with taking care of his kids. Melissa stays at home working on her pottery business, keeping afloat after they lost a child years ago. Then Jade arrives at the perfect time to help them out. Loving how Jade behaves with the kids, Melissa forgoes the background check, one example of how a single decision will change the course of the book. In addition, there is drama at the police station where Mark works. There is levelheaded Lisa, scumbag Cummings who Mark is hoping will get his just desserts as he tries to catch him in the act of being a sexual predator, and Edwards, the boss of the operation. Although they all play important parts in this book, and Jade figures out ways to use them in her plot, I also think they were some of the most underrated characters in the novel. I loved watching the dynamics between them. Melissa and Lisa were supposedly friends until Jade got in the way. I would have liked to see more of that (this isn’t a criticism, just a suggestion). I think Browne may have a possible series on her hands with these characters. I also took a particular liking to Poppy, their Peppa-Pig loving, daddy’s-girl daughter. Browne can write kids very well. She was a little beacon of light in an otherwise dark tale.

As for Jade, I hated her. As I wrote in my Instagram, I had Professor Umbridge-levels of dislike for this character. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it was because she was beautiful and got her way. Perhaps it was because she seemed to get away with everything–I thought she had ultimate motives for their baby, which never quite came to fruition. Or maybe because the family didn’t seem to think anything was happening. Personally there would have been a few times where I’d think to check things out, like look at what exactly was going into Melissa’s drinks that someone else was giving her. (Seriously, a cup spills with powdery substances in it and nobody thinks to check this out?) In short, I was frustrated! The book is filled with little mysteries like these–Jade may have a plan, but ends up changing it later on. And she’s obviously telling Poppy some things but we never figure out what they are. Readers will be kept on their toes, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing; maybe some of these questions could have been fleshed out. Overall, it was hard not to just skim the pages to find out what had happened to this family. It is a strength of Browne’s writing that she is able to create a villain so especially dastardly, even though I’ve seen many characters like her before. Her actions truly kept me turning pages. Jade does have an ultimate goal, but most of the enjoyment comes from seeing her little actions play out, rather than seeing if she accomplishes what she is setting out to do.

As for the end, I can’t really complain minus a bit of rushing. I wasn’t quite sure on a few details of the climactic action, like locations. Otherwise, there’s closure, but there’s also a hint of uncertainty, as in how the family will keep going. Could it be that I’m pulling out of my strong ending slump? I hope so. Sure, Mark does seem to put things together very quickly while not even at home, but at least they finally got to that point!

If you’re looking for a well-written novel with characters that will keep you worried for them, The Babysitter might be a good one for you. It’s filled with all the things I love in domestic suspense with an antagonist I won’t soon forget.

4 stars

SONG OF THE NOVEL: Stranger

Book Club Questions (spoilers!)

  1. How sympathetic was Jade as a villain? Was Mark in the wrong at all, or was it entirely Jade’s fault? Did Jade have a right to be upset? Do you think that her house burned down by mistake? How long had she been plotting everything?
  2. There is a brief mention of Dylan’s past in the book by the police office–so brief you might miss it. Do you think Jade’s Dylan is the same Dylan? Think about his backstory and how he got to where he is today. Where does life end up taking him?
  3. There are several little mysteries sprinkled throughout–what Jade was telling Poppy about her father being annoyed with her, how her grandmother died, what Jade was originally going to do with Cummings. Pick one of these questions and answer it.
  4. How are these characters’ futures determined by their pasts? Not just for Jade, but for other characters as well. How will Evie and Poppy turn out having gone through this?
  5. Describe a time in your life when someone you knew and trusted ended up not being the person they seemed to be. Maybe it wasn’t as extreme as Jade’s case, but maybe there was a betrayal, or maybe they ended up being different for the better. How did this impact the relationship?



reviews

The Night Before: Wendy Walker

The Night Before: Wendy Walker
Genre: Psychological suspense
Published: 2019
Pages: 310
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Ravenclaw

Laura has never found “the one.” She must be content with watching her sister Rosie be happily married, unable to truly bond with any man after an incident in her youth. After she leaves her job and runs off to Rosie’s home in Connecticut, she decides to give things one more try. She signs up for online dating and decides to meet up with a man named Jonathan Fields.

While Laura goes on her date, Rosie sits at home and worries. She knows that Laura has had a troubled past, and when Laura doesn’t return home, she embarks on a search mission. Is Laura’s date who he says he is? Or has Laura done something terrible to him?

The Night Before is a domestic suspense novel that takes an interesting turn. Instead of a romantic affair, the tale is about two sisters, one who is flighty and troubled and the other who is more levelheaded. So what drew me to it? I liked the possibility of the protagonist being the bad guy. I also enjoyed the idea of sisters. In the end, it’s a challenging book to review. Is it about what happened to Laura? Is it about what Laura did or didn’t do years ago? Is it about family secrets that the book becomes muddled with? It doesn’t seem to want to decide.

Much of the book takes place within a 24-hour time frame, as Laura goes on her date and then doesn’t return. She’s still haunted by a tragedy from her high school past involving a guy that she sort of liked, and doesn’t fully trust herself. . Rosie can’t help but worry, so she enlists her husband and their childhood friend to help. As they do, more things begin to unravel. Ultimately, it becomes a tale of many secrets; this isn’t just Laura’s story. That’s where things get maybe a little too complicated.

The biggest problem is that it suffers from purple-ish prose. It’s hard to explain in the context of a review, but the text itself was essentially just…hard to follow. Laura’s chapters are narrated by her, and it’s clear that she’s a messy person. On pg. 72, on her date with Jon, Laura is talking about Rosie’s family and says, “I know my nephew. I do.” Now out of nowhere she’s wondering about if her nephew is who he says he is? Her two year old nephew who doesn’t really have anything to do with this novel? What was the point of those lines? The thoughts overall are just scattered; that’s just one example. Characters just start talking about something else. They use weird phrases–someone uses the word “whale” as a verb at some point. There are way too many incomplete sentences for my liking. Characters even sound the same–religious or not, I wasn’t impressed with the constant use of “Jesus Christ” as an interjection. Overall, Laura’s story felt more like a choppy first draft. Walker obviously had material to work with here, but it’s pretty much that. It’s not organized especially well. I think she made things too complicated with the addition of some irrelevant twists and turns involving a family secret and Jon’s identity. And then there’s the fact that most of what happens in the story really isn’t relevant to Laura’s issue, not to give too much away. Too much time is ultimately spent on red herrings and side characters that contribute nothing, like Laura’s roommate. There is another potential twist that doesn’t go anywhere about a family affair, and another about someone who Laura used to date, and probably more that I’m not thinking of. It’s disjointed, and that’s where it missed the mark for me. There are too many possible suspects and plots thrown in and many aren’t relevant, and at a certain point I wondered whose story I was reading.

The characters are…okay. Nor great, even. Laura drove me up the wall with her constant “woe-is-me” and “I’m sooo messed up and broken” attitude. She seemed to refuse any sort of change. Her date, Jon, isn’t especially interesting either. In fact, this date night, the plotline the story is supposed to be based upon, ends up primarily being a vehicle for the backstory to expose itself, and they don’t actually do a lot of dating activities. Rather, she just opens up to him about “that night,” or when she was accused of doing something terrible. Would you open up to a guy you literally just met by spilling every last detail on a personal tragedy that happened years ago? These two could have had an interesting night, but it just wasn’t, and I found myself tempted to skim these chapters. It read more like a therapy session.

The family dynamics should have been more interesting also. I like the idea of two sisters together. Of course, Laura chalks up all her issues to her missing father who ran out on them years ago. This is getting highly unoriginal. Not that we’re even sure that he is to blame. He’s just kind of a scapegoat in a larger picture. I would have liked to see Rosie and Laura’s relationship explored more, though, as it seemed more relevant here.

As for the ending, it’s more solid than ones I’ve read recently. The prose finally tightens up to focus on a singular issue: where Laura is. Now readers of this blog will know that I like an epilogue, just so I can learn how life continues on. This ending walks the line between knowing and fearing the future and does it pretty well. There are explanations given (though I would have liked a more definite answer to some questions), and Laura finds an answer to what she must do next, regardless if her life becomes happy or not. So, points for that.

I’m not sure if The Night Before works. I think it’s a collection of ideas that needs to be refined and expanded upon. I think there was opportunity for expansion on the sisters’ lives and it focused too much on the past. I think the writing style made it suffer more than it needed to as well. Organizationally, it tries to take on multiple plots which distract from the main purpose of finding Laura, or wondering whether she was the bad guy–and I don’t think many readers will peg her as the culprit there, so it’s wasted time. This is hit-or-miss really, and if you’re interested I certainly wouldn’t say you shouldn’t pick it up, but it wasn’t a highly memorable novel either.

2.5 stars

Book Club Questions (spoilers!)

  1. Laura looks to her sister Rosie to find her ideal of marital bliss. Is all that it seems, or is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? Will Laura need a guy to complete her?
  2. How does parental involvement play a role in shaping the children of this book? Discuss the impact of parenting on Laura, Rosie, Gabe, and even Mason. Does it have any impact on how they turn out, do you think?
  3. What are the perils of online dating? Have you ever tried to create a profile? If so, how did it go? Did you choose to hide anything about yourself? Why might Jonathan want to hide his identity? To what extent does he show his true self?
  4. Why does Laura choose to act the way that she does? Is it because of her upbringing, or something else? Is she incapable of loving herself or does she choose not to?
  5. There are multiple cases of mistaken identity, or of a character not truly knowing someone they think they know. Consider Joe and Rosie, or Rosie and Laura, Laura and Mitch, or Laura and Gabe. How do you go a good portion of your life without knowing someone? How well can you truly know anyone?
reviews

The House Swap: Rebecca Fleet (DNF)

The House Swap: Rebecca Fleet
Genre: Suspense Fiction
Published: 2018
Pages: 294
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff

When Caroline gets the opportunity to swap houses with someone in the suburbs, she jumps at the chance. This will be a perfect opportunity to repair her relationship with Frances, her husband.
But then little clues start to appear that only mean things to Caroline and the relationship she kept hidden while her own was falling apart. And what’s happening with the overly nosy neighbor that seems to harbor too much interest in Caroline? Maybe the things she wants to leave behind aren’t as far away as she thinks. Because it almost seems like the house is watching them.

I was expecting to like The House Swap a lot more than I did. It had plenty of signs that this would be a good suspenseful book . Sadly, the novel fails to be engaging in any way and I just couldn’t get through it. It’s a bad sign when it takes an hour to read twenty pages; when I keep drifting to Instagram; anything to give my brain a break from the boredom. It’s also a bad sign when I’m already on my third DNF of the year, which is something I rarely do at all.

This seems to be Fleet’s first effort, and it seems pretty clear that it is. The premise is pretty bare-bones; a woman had an affair that comes back to haunt her. The problem here is that absolutely nothing new is brought to the table. I’m literally watching two bland characters as they deal with an affair, and too much time is spent on flashbacks of said affair, which is just watching two people make out pretty much. Yay, more sex scenes that lead nowhere! What was the point for including these specific scenes? Were we supposed to enjoy her cheating/ And chapters in the present pretty much follow the same formula: They decide to try a bonding outing. It’s going well. Caroline has a breakdown. There are awkward conversations. It gets awkward and Francis storms out. Awkward evening. They try again tomorrow. It’s super repetitive, and nothing particularly exciting happens in any of them. Maybe it’s a character study? But I’m struggling to call it that, too, because we don’t get to know very much about these people. And you still need to have something happen somewhere. This book is 95% watching people verbally “work out issues.”

Now let’s talk about the twists. They are not twists. They are very easy to guess. Maybe if they weren’t supposed to be twists, I could have written it off. Now sometimes it’s fun to guess the twist. But in this case, it’s not satisfying at all because I find that most readers will predict everything immediately. On the other hand, the twist that I couldn’t predict (I did skim the other pages) comes so far out of left field that it’s hard to be believed. Perhaps Fleet realized her book was supposed to be exciting and decided to throw something scary in there. It didn’t work for me. It was too random. It doesn’t help that the few characters that there are don’t leave a lot of room for any real surprise. And really, characters tried too hard to keep secrets. Why couldn’t Caroline have just told her husband about the things appearing in the house? I mean, even if they don’t “mean” anything, it’s still an intruder, right?

What I did like was the addition of Amber, a socially awkward character who shows too much interest in Caroline. Again, though, her story arc is super predictable, all but laid out in front of us. I could tell where it was going as soon as she arrived. Another interesting aspect of the novel is that it tries to address topics like broken marriage and drug addiction , but this doesn’t entirely work either. It’s very, very preachy in what it’s trying to talk about in the serious moments. There’s a scene between Amber and Caroline that reads just like a therapy session, dialogue and all, where Fleet is hitting us over the head with a hammer on how marriage can be hard work. And that’s not the only scene. Sometimes it was more like reading a pamphlet than a fiction novel; I was reminded of the time when I rented a Christmas movie only to be tricked into watching a 90-minute commercial for St. Jude’s. Only instead of cancer care, this book serves as an advocate to people who are dealing with addiction, with deep thoughts and ideas of how to best deal with it. It’s an interesting topic when done right, but this book merely beats me over the head with perky morals like “Drugs are bad!” and “Marriage is something you have to work at!” I’m not married nor know an addict, so these parts just didn’t click for me at all.

Is it possible that some people could get things from this novel? Possibly. If you are struggling with addiction in your marriage, parts of The House Swap could ring true for you. If you’re just starting to dip your toes into the genre, this could work as well. And you’ll still have to prepared for long stretches where nothing happens, a very predictable plot, and nothing else that’s truly interesting or more than a fix-our-marriage story. People who are experienced with the genre will be bored with this one quickly.

SONG OF THE NOVEL: Dirty Little Secret

1 star

reviews

I Know Who You Are; Alice Feeney

I Know Who You Are: Alice Feeney
Genre: Psychological thriller
Published: 2019
Pages: 288
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Ravenclaw

Aimee likes acting because it gives her a break from being herself. The problem is, who is she?

Somebody knows. They know who Aimee is and what her secret is.

When her husband disappears, Aimee wonders if she’s going nuts or if someone is out to get her. When hints of her troubled childhood start to reappear, she knows it’s time to find out who else has something to hide, even if it’s herself.

I Know Who You Are is a traditional thriller that alternates between the past and the present, as many do. There are incompetent (and sometimes cruel) cops, an unreliable narrator, and flashbacks. In this case the chapters alternate between Aimee’s current life as an actress and her childhood when terrible things happened. Still, I was having trouble deciding whether or not I wanted to root for this character. I felt sorry for her in childhood, and then of course when everything was going wrong for her in the present, but then again she wasn’t acting innocent. She wouldn’t cooperate with the police and kept a lot of secrets. At times. I just wanted to scream at her. Yes, she technically did do something bad in the past, which we try to figure out as the book goes along, but it wasn’t really her fault either…so why not cooperate?

Actually, though, I found myself drawn more to the story of Aimee’s childhood. The present day story is fine, but it can be slow (and oddly gets even slower closer to the end with considerable filler romantic scenes). Feeney does a good job of writing through a child’s eyes. It wasn’t a traditional kidnapping scenario, but rather, a replacement for another. Aimee’s parents often claimed to love her and there were some happy moments as well as disturbing ones. She was taught not to trust the police, which may explain her behavior in the present. As she navigates adulthood, these experiences will come back to influence her thoughts and actions. It’s a good psychological look at how childhood experiences shape us later.

In the present, while Aimee tries to figure out who is setting her up, Feeney gives us plenty of suspects to choose from. There is her co-star Jack and rival Alicia and a storyline between them as they try to cope with jealousy against one other. Yes, Jack is indeed is the fourth character I’ve read this year who speaks random French. This is a quirk that I would like to see disappear and be replaced with actual character traits. There is also her husband who seems to have turned on her. I also admired the use of transitions in between chapters; how a reference to one thing leads to a scene in the next chapter. They give the novel a cinematic feel, like you’re watching things play out. I didn’t feel like the book needed the unreliable narrator trope, though. Aimee drinks and some believe that she has a type of amnesia, which isn’t really touched on and seems to be included because it’s trendy. Otherwise, the Hitchcockian feel turns this novel of tropes into something a little more interesting.

Where this novel suffers throughout is the use of purple-y prose and semi-philosophical statements on human nature, especially secret keeping. Aimee uses a lot of “we all” statements to the point of being repetitive. In chapters that are in third-person (read: not by Aimee), Feeney continues using these statements making me wonder why all the characters are thinking this way. And who’s the “we?” Is she speaking about people in general? Because I’m not sure that “we all” behave in the sense that she says we all do. She also makes a lot of allusions to acting like someone else that get a little repetitive. Sometimes it’s interesting when authors drop deep statements, but the ones Aimee brings about real life acting vs. acting on the stage are a bit predictable.

And then there’s the ending. Endings tend to be the hardest part to get right in these thrillers these days. This novel did have a unique twist that is tricky to guess that I’m not even sure I got until after I finished. And the more I think of it, the more unique and interesting of a twist I think it is…except the character really doesn’t have any motivation to do that stuff, which is where it was weak for me. But I was left with several other questions that made no sense to me (spoilers in below paragraph):

First off, why in the world would her brother be mad enough to pull off what he does over a very little something that happened years ago? Where was Maggie in all this? How well did the two actually know each other? Speaking of Maggie, why exactly did she dispose of her daughter? For that matter, how–or when– on earth would she have placed a tracking app on Aimee’s phone? Who were the people that were after that family always robbing them? I would have liked to know more about this background stuff because this part of the story stood out to me the most. SPOILER END

It gets worse. We get an epilogue–which I normally love so we can see how everything has ended up. But a part of this epilogue leaves a very bad, very offensive taste in my mouth. Not on the part of the character (okay, maybe) but on the part of the author. Here’s the deal (another spoiler below):

Aimee is having a child that is presumed to be her brother’s, and she’s absolutely delighted over it. Not only is this terrible to begin with, but considering the terror she just went through, it’s extra nonsensical. Someone tell Feeney that having a baby doesn’t automatically mean happily ever after especially given these circumstances! I would hate to see her thoughts on babies conceived through rape from a stranger if this is her attitude toward incest. SPOILER END

In general I was okay with it, but those parts alone made the whole thing pretty disturbing.

I feel like although the premise is good, I Know Who You Are does try a little too hard in parts. The characters’ behavior can be extreme and some plot points needed to be thought through a bit more. I also question Feeney’s morals when it comes to the ending, and I’ll probably have to read it a second time because either I missed things or there were plot holes; I’m not sure which. However, the good stuff was good and it was hard to put down at its most exciting.

3 stars

SONG OF THE NOVEL: Paparazzi

reviews

One Perfect Lie: Lisa Scottoline

One Perfect Lie
Genre: Domestic thriller
Pages: 351
Published: 2017
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Gryffindor

In a small town, there is a threat looming that nobody knows about, especially three members of the the high school baseball team in a quiet Pennsylvania suburb.

Susan loves supporting her son Raz in his role as starting pitcher, but worries about how he is coping with the loss of his father. Mindy, the wife of a surgeon, has a comfortable life but isn’t aware of the things that her husband and son Evan are keeping from her. And Heather is proud of her son Jordan but worries about his relationships with other boys on the team.

Then there’s Chris. A newcomer to town, he’s taking on the roles of history teacher and baseball coach. He looks like the perfect addition, but everything about him is a lie. He’s only here to use some of the baseball players as a pawn in a bigger plan. So what is he really trying to accomplish? And how far will he go to get what he wants?

I initially picked up this book because it looked like there were lots of interesting conflicts to pick from. It’s really hard to put THIS MUCH in a book and have it fit together and flow, but for the most part Scottoline succeeds in doing so.

You’d think this would be about baseball. It’s not a baseball book; if you’re hoping for one you may be disappointed. Readers should go in with an open mind. Instead, there are genuinely surprising twists and plot turns where you don’t expect them (very well pulled off might I add), leading to a book that changes currents. In fact, the book can arguably be split into three sections or themes. The first section focuses on school relations, the second is about parent-child relationships and secrets, and the third actually gets somewhat legal and semi-political. By an amateur writer this could become a trainwreck, but Scottoline somehow found a way to merge these ideas together cleanly. The plot itself was very intricate and well-thought out. It’s clear that she knew the material she was dealing with. And it never slowed down. Stakes are raised early on when Chris arrives at the high school to start a teaching position.

The characters were interesting and Scottoline writes them and their dialogue well. From the teachers to the students, everyone had a personality. I especially found myself emotionally invested in Chris and was disappointed that he was just involved in some sort of plot. Surprisingly, I liked him in the teaching and coaching role. As he became a beloved coach to the players and ended up actually caring about them, I found myself hoping that the situation would work out. He was by far the most interesting character. This universe also seems pretty authentic, from the roles of mothers to the high school interactions to the farming. Scottoline is extraordinarily good at creating detail to bring a place to life. Whether it’s hints of a character’s social class, a place to live, or even a scene in a classroom, she can place you right in the setting she has set up.

The one characterization I did take issue with was Abe’s. Allow me to go back to a guide I wrote for a previous book I reviewed this year:

HOW TO WRITE GAY CHARACTERS
BY FICTIONISTAS UNITE

1. Follow the exact same character-creating process you use for straight people. 
2. Make them attracted to people of the same gender.

I bring this up because Abe is a complete caricature. He is flamboyant. He is outgoing. He uses terms like “chichi.” He loves fashion. He is basically the exact same gay side character I saw in the novel for which I wrote my how-to. How in this day and age are we still writing gay people as cardboard cutouts? It was so stereotypical my eyes were rolling. I liked the guy, but he’s the same gay guy we see everywhere. Come on, writers of America. I don’t take points off for this because it’s so minor in the book, but still. Can this stop?

Back to the plot. In addition to the kids’ lives, there are their parents’ stories as well. In these cases, I like to give the book a chance and see where they’re heading, especially in stories like this where you don’t know quite how everything connects right away. But I did find that by the end some of the parents’ stories really weren’t necessary and were maybe put in to throw the reader off the trail. The book does spend too much time on Heather’s personal problems, and I think Susan’s parts could have been eliminated entirely. Their stories also leave some loose ends untied. Heather seems like she is trying to hide from others but this is never explained. Neither are Susan’s sons’ troubles with stealing. Perhaps there was going to be more that just got left out of the book? So maybe there was too much packed into the novel.

Still, they don’t linger on the parents lives for quite as long. The action certainly makes up for this; looming terror is around every corner. I didn’t really know where things were going, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I was instead impressed at how things came together. It’s more than just suburban baseball; this is a story that garners national attention, so it’s pretty fast paced. And there’s always enough going on because of the various points of view of the kids and their families. Of course, dealing with missing fathers is just one of those issues which mercifully isn’t lingered on too long. But there are also things like competition, sexting scandals, and that play a role in the situation and a role in the boys’ lives.

I was mostly disappointed in how the ending was handled…not in how things ended, but how it was written. I’ve said before how I don’t like how so many authors feel the need to include people falling in love in their novels when the book doesn’t need a love story. Here, there is a considerable amount of time spent exploring the “romance” between Heather and Chris. These characters spend a grand total of maybe fifteen/twenty minutes together in the book. I understand that the book was hinting at how Chris was missing having a normal life, but the book almost forgets about the conflict at hand entirely to focus on their feelings for each other once the big plot point is settled. They just weren’t interesting enough because they’re still pretty much strangers. It didn’t warrant a lot of time, especially considering all else that was going on. SPOILER PARAGRAPH BELOW……

The characters’ behavior also struck me as weird in the last chapters. Near the end, Chris actually calls Heather to apologize for lying, and Heather is actually mad at him despite the fact that it was his job to lie…and despite the fact that these people should not be anywhere close to a point in their “relationship” where they’re talking on the phone. And then there’s her anger at his “lying.” Is Heather just that immature? It was a very chick lit-ty last chapter which I thought was disappointing. The author should have spent more time on the parents’ reactions, trial highlights, and how things turned out for the kids rather than manufactured romantic drama that felt rather forced. Speaking of which, we actually barely saw the kids’ reactions and how things affected them. I would much rather have seen an ending focused on the baseball team considering that’s who the book was trying to focus on.

***end of spoilers

This forced romance wasn’t Storyteller bad, but it wasn’t necessary all the same.

Despite some little issues with the writing that really don’t take up that much time, One Perfect Lie is a great thrill ride for readers looking for high-intensity stakes. With plotlines that are well thought out and drama that rarely stops, it’s an exciting adventure that might leave you wondering what’s really going on in those nice houses. (Especially if you’re me; I’m pretty sure the book takes place 30-ish minutes from my own house.) But it’s more than that: the characters make for an exciting tale you won’t forget. This was a fun one.

4.5 stars

reviews

Best Day Ever: Kaira Rouda

Best Day Ever: Kaira Rouda
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Published: 2018
Pages: 334 (probably more like 290 given it starts on 11 and has page breaks)
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Slytherin

Paul and Mia are heading to their idyllic lake house to spend their “best day ever” together. To Paul, this house represents everything he has in life: a wife, two boys, an impressive job, and a great life that everyone envies. In fact, Paul has big plans up his sleeve for this weekend, ones that could change the course of his life–and Mia’s– forever. But it doesn’t help that the neighbors keep getting in the way, and it’s not long before they find themselves asking: how much can they trust the other, really?

I usually don’t consult Goodreads before writing a review, but this time I accidentally saw someone I follow talk about it. They gave it one star, noting that nothing happens until halfway through. I’ve docked many points for these types of things, particularly in a recent novella I read where nothing happened until the last ten pages. But this book is right up my alley so I picked it up anyway.

The premise is that these two happy-looking, wealthy people are heading away to their lake house for a relaxing weekend but there are secrets. And cheating. Sound familiar? Sure. But this time, it is a little different. I can’t say too much without giving things away, but the twists are different than you might expect despite falling into trope territory early.

So does nothing happen throughout the first half? Kind of. Maybe. But a lot of the information provided here is important to the story, and as Paul’s narration keeps going you see him first as somewhat of a regular guy (I did imagine him to be an extreme right-winger), and then someone more sinister. Is he lying to himself? His wife? There is definitely suspense that keeps you wondering what is going to happen, so I wouldn’t say that nothing happens for the first 50% of the book at all. I liked the conversational tone, too. Paul has a lot to say about his hometown and his life and it’s like you’re talking to a friend…though I wouldn’t really call Paul that, even at the beginning. Readers are supposed to go in thinking that Paul isn’t necessarily the bad guy I think, but that was never my impression. From the beginning I didn’t find him especially likable. He is a massive hypocrite. He loves his money. Clearly something is wrong here and I think that many readers will eventually realize what exactly it is.

I didn’t care for Mia, either. But as time went on, some of the reasoning for her is explained and as Paul reveals more information to us over time, which also helps to keep the narrative flowing. You don’t know what’s coming next, but it’s not like the tidbits he drops are so random that the book doesn’t make sense. They make sense and paint a picture of the guy Paul actually is. I actually found myself falling for some of his judgments (for example, he talks about Mia’s father like he is the bad guy and I thought the same for a while). Besides, I always liked the idea of a story that takes place within a day, so the “flashbacks” and Paul’s choices of conversation didn’t detract from the storyline. It fleshed it out a bit.

The unreliable character aspect actually goes both ways. Paul is for obvious reasons, but then there is Mia. We know that Paul isn’t telling us everything, but neither is Mia really. So who do we choose to believe?

Now some readers might be expecting a big confrontation between Paul and Mia, but this is where the book gets clever. Instead of lots of arguing and violence and who knows what as a climactic response (though there is some), Paul essentially gets tricked. It’s a different, more psychological twist than what we’re used to seeing and I thought it was very interesting. Most of the plot twists are details unveiled by Paul as the story goes on, rather than shocks that unfurl halfway through or near the end. I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming, but that’s when I knew that Mia was a different character than I thought. I did find Paul’s motivations to be a bit jumbled near the end when he goes back to town and does all his activities, and even in his ultimate plan. I’m pretty sure I know the motive for his plan with Mia, but I’m also not 100% sure. I also would have liked to have had his past (with his pets, parents and brother) explained a bit more; there are hints as to what Paul did but explanations are never given. The book itself wraps up in an almost-satisfying way. I don’t mean that as a bad thing; I mean that not everyone in life gets the justice that they were expecting and the same is true in Best Day Ever. So I have to give Rouda props.

Best Day Ever is definitely a solid addition to the genre. It’s not always fast paced, but the suspense is there throughout the whole novel. If you’re looking for something in this genre that’s just a little different than you might expect, give it a try. Fans of Behind Closed Doors will like this, too.

4 stars

reviews

Looker; Laura Sims

Looker; Laura Sims
Genre: Suspense/noir (more on this below)
Published: 2019
Pages: 180
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Slytherin

Official Summary

In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor-the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with a wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.


When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining–at once a propulsive Hitchcockian thriller and a fearlessly original portrayal of the perils of envy.

My Summary

With a tough separation and the inability to carry children, an unnamed narrator finds herself alone and judged harshly by the neighbors. She does what she can to stay afloat, from beginning a flirtationship with a student where she teaches to watching a famous neighbor of hers and avoiding the judgmental ones, like Mrs. H. But as things begin to take a turn for the worst, the narrator slips deeper into despair. Fantasizing about the famous next-door neighbor probably doesn’t help, nor does sinking deeper into a new relationship.


You’ll notice I did something different and included two summaries. That’s because this little book I was promised was quite different from the book I actually got. Oddly, this is the third time this year the summaries have mislead me somewhat significantly. This was a marketing misfire in that the actress is a very minor part of the story, and it resulted in a bit of a disappointing book, unfortunately. You’ll notice my summary is pretty unfocused and lacks the actress.

Our MC, who is nameless, is supposed to be unlikable to show us how envy can ruin lives. So is the actress she envies, which was an interesting touch. She really is not. In fact, she’s almost a sympathetic character. I feel like it’s like this: Imagine you’re sitting down to watch Jim Carrey’s Grinch movie. You’re excited to see such an exciting villain come to life. To see him truly unravel. But when it comes down to it, the Grinch has really done nothing wrong. In fact, everyone around him is such a greedy, horrible—well, grinch, I guess—that you start to realize that he is almost justified in his actions. You have this poor young Grinch wanting to make friends, but everyone is so cruel and condescending and over the top that that’s clearly not happening.

It’s the same idea in this novel. And the actress plays such a minor role (no pun intended) in the story that it’s hard to ever see the narrator unravel to begin with. And wow, what a horrible judgmental community she is stuck with! Almost every woman she meets has a rude remark for her about not having children; even her husband presumably leaves her for it. It was a little unrealistic. Twenty pages in, it’s feeling more like a feminist treatise on how childless women are treated, something I really wasn’t expecting in a story that’s supposed to be about the obsession with an actress. (She also goes on anti-men rants, which really didn’t belong.) I get that something had to happen for the MC’s life to come apart, but geez. If you want to write about women’s issues, more power to you, but there was too much of a focus on them in the beginning and then they never make an appearance again. The topic is presented in such an in-your-face way that it didn’t make sense. It should have been a different book.

Then we press on and the book switches gears from feminism to the MC’s affairs. Reeling from her impending divorce, she turns to a student for comfort. Together, they enter a weird relationship with predictable consequences. I’m still not sure what that has to do with the themes of the book and her obsession of the actress. Instances of the narrator watching the actress are there, but they’re not hugely prevalent. Most of the actress’ scenes are those of the MC watching and just thinking about her. Sometimes the scenarios she devises are interesting, but when almost literally nothing happens or comes of it, it’s pointless.

So where is the obsession with the actress in all this? Finally, in the last 25%, the book mostly…mostly…focuses on the actress. Mostly in side scenes in the background. To be fair, I did enjoy some of the MC’s observations on her life and how she imagined themselves sharing life together. I just wish there was a lot more, especially in the first half. I should also mention that none of these loose ends get tied up. So….I guess the boring subplots just went nowhere.

To sum up, side plots were necessary to show the MC’s current life, but there was way too much of a focus on them. And speaking of the MC, she is…standard. We have seen her in many places before. To give you an idea: her hobby of choice is drinking wine, she spends most of her time alone, and…that’s really about it, but the problem again is that she doesn’t have much of a personality. I did like the writing style of the novel, poetic and noir-ish. Nor was she unrelatable; I can definitely feel her need to be liked and her desire to be friends with someone interesting and that was where the book hit home for me. But other characters don’t make any sense, particularly a neighbor who seems to read the MC’s thoughts (not sure how she knew that the MC was watching the actress??) and then does a 360 personality change by the end of the story.

Now for the mysterious genre category. Looker is marketed as a thriller, and that’s barely true. This was not thrilling, save for about thirty seconds at the end. There was a touch of suspense with lots of dark, psychological tones, sure. But it’s not a thriller. In fact, this was almost my 2nd DNF of the year. Why? Well, the first 75% is watching our MC miss her husband. She daydreams. She cleans the bathroom. She thinks. There is a LOT of “thinking” to be done here, which doesn’t really add up to a riveting story. And it kept going. And going. We are literally just watching her be depressed for many pages and almost nothing of note happens until near the end of the book. It was one of the dullest novels I’ve read in a while. (That “disastrous” turn at the block party between her and the actress doesn’t seem to happen.) There are ten pages of thrilling action–count em, ten. And these pages aren’t very big. There’s another freaky scene, too, but it doesn’t last long. To be honest, those pages were interesting. But was it worth reading 170 pages of humdrum tasks like cleaning the house and thinking to get to those ten pages? I’m not sure.

This novel’s problem was that it was 170 pages of filler (well, 150, I guess, because background was needed). This author just couldn’t seem to find a focus. Still, to give the book credit, the ending wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be and it was an interesting finale. There just needed to be more leading to it. However, readers who like dark undertones and a film noir aesthetic, and don’t mind a book that simply exists to set a mood might appreciate it a little more. It wasn’t for me and quite honestly, it was pretty dull. So I personally can’t recommend this.

2 stars

reviews

Before She Knew Him: Peter Swanson

Before She Knew Him: Peter Swanson
Genre: Psychological thriller
Published: 2019
Pages: 309
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Slytherin

It was supposed to be an ordinary dinner party.
But on the day she meets their new neighbors, Hen discovers something she shouldn’t. The item in question is reminiscent of a murder case that Hen followed intently a while ago, and she can’t help believing that her next-door neighbor is a killer. But the last time she accused someone of being a threat just before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she really hurt someone. So would anyone think to believe her? What do you do when you live next door to a killer?

Meanwhile, Matthew is keeping a dark secret, but he knows it was for the greater good. He also knows that he saw Henrietta looking at his shelf, but that doesn’t mean anything, right? He knows that he wouldn’t want to hurt Henrietta, but there is still a threat lurking. And little do they know that Matthew might not be done killing just yet.

Before She Knew Him is an interesting and suspenseful addition to the popular thriller genre. It follows not just Hen, but many characters as they uncover revelations about who the other really is. There is Mira, Matthew’s wife, who must eventually contend with her husband’s past. There is Matthew’s brother Richard, who constantly clashes with Matthew over women. There is Lloyd, Hen’s husband who she isn’t feeling particularly passionate about lately. The suspense begins to pick up from the get-go when he watches Hen look at the objects in his office, but it isn’t an action-packed-scene-a-minute affair. However, there is that too as the suspense and drama are interspersed with intense drama.

Matthew is a character that’s drawn in shades of gray. He’s not a good guy, but sometimes I wondered if I should be rooting for him. On the other hand, I was always on Hen’s side. Hen herself (I questioned her name; I can’t really see a woman–I think she was maybe in her thirties or forties?– being called “Henrietta” or “Hen” and not having my thoughts go to a Mother Goose-like character. On the other hand, she originally struck me as an older woman. Combined with her career-illustrating children’s books and making art–this is an interesting demographic not written about very often.) is said to be bipolar, which I think is a device to make her seem unreliable. However, she has no bipolar episodes throughout the novel except for a flashback. Observations on Matthew are usually brushed off as “her thoughts seemed weird, but she knew she wasn’t manic. This was actually real.” So one might wonder why this plot device is here in the first place. In this case, we didn’t really need an unreliable narrator anyway. Matthew is conniving enough that he can make her seem unreliable on his own.

I guessed the twist very early on in the novel. It is, arguably, not an original plot and the twist has been done before in famous works–not naming names. (Full disclosure: I also saw the exact same twist in a previous book, so maybe that’s why I guessed it easily. Many Goodreads reviewers, checked after I published this review, say that they were completely surprised. This is the second time this happened for me this year.) Unfortunately for the book, the clues are there, and not only within the text. One of the reasons I write my own summaries is because I occasionally don’t love the one that comes with the book. The book’s summary makes it seem like the novel is primarily Hen’s story, and it mostly is, for the first half. In the second, there is much more of a focus on Matthew and side characters. That was fine, though I wasn’t expecting it to go in so many directions.

However, there are major characters missing from the summary and that’s another reason why readers might catch onto the twist so quickly (or not…see above). Publishers should be wary of accidentally using these things to give away important information. Characters, on the other hand, seem to make realizations by making lucky guesses. Mira, for example, figures out her husband’s past because she sits in her room thinking about it years later. It would have been more satisfying for them to come across tangible evidence.

The second half of the book is also riddled with subplots that occasionally lost structure and that focused on many characters. There is a predictable one with Henrietta and her husband having marital problems, and another with Matthew fighting with his brother Richard. These were interesting, but at the same time, I wondered, where is this all going? The first half of the novel is solid with Hen dealing with living next to a murderer. But then we enter the second half, and I’m not sure where exactly the focus lies. What, exactly, is Matthew planning, and to who, and why? There was so much going on that I couldn’t tell…Mira’s business trip, Matthew’s friendship with Michelle, etc. Hen isn’t seen as much here, but Matthew’s brother is. I was also unclear on the brother’s motives–he’s not a great guy either. Does he just like to see women suffer, which is something I’ve seen recently? Is he getting revenge for something? Is he just a product of his abusive upbringing? (This, too, is a place where readers might guess the plot twist because it’s hard to tell how otherwise these issues fit into the story cleanly.)

Despite that, though, I was entertained and looked forward to seeing how things would end for Hen. This was dulled slightly by a fairly anticlimactic confrontation, but otherwise I was rooting for Henrietta and pleased (mostly) with how things ended. There was a final twist that truly put everything together that I didn’t guess, and I was glad for that. My main problem was mostly with the cluttered subplotting in the second half, which also led to my easily guessing what was really going on because there was only one logical explanation for including a certain storyline.

Still, Before She Knew Him is a worthy addition to a popular genre. There’s nothing particularly different here, but if you like suspense, give it a try. Despite the scattered plotlines, I think that at the end of the day, people who like the genre will find something to like if you’re looking to make your skin tingle.

3.5 stars

reviews

Behind Closed Doors: B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors: B.A. Paris
Genre: Psychological thriller
Published: 2016
Pages (small paperback): 293
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Ravenclaw

(also an honorary winner for Best Fiction, a title that doesn’t exist at the time of this posting)

What’s a Hogwarts House Recommendation? I’ve seen many blog entries sort books into Hogwarts Houses, meant to help people find books that are good for them based on what their House is. This is a new feature I will include in every review…not that anyone can’t pick it up! In this case, for example, I feel like Ravenclaws would truly enjoy this book the most because of the cleverness displayed by the characters, and in some cases, the cleverness required.

Jack and Grace are the perfect couple next door. He’s a talented lawyer and a wealthy one at that. She’s a beautiful woman who can cook wonderful meals, which are often display at the dinner parties they throw. The dinner parties, in fact, are almost the only instances that others get to see of Jack and Grace’s ideal life, but it seems to be enough to impress them.

But is it ideal? What really happens when the party is over? Grace barely has a social life and mostly only goes out to lunches with friends. She is never available to talk, nor does she have close friends of her own. That’s because the truth is that Grace is living a nightmare behind the closed doors. And there may not be a way out.

I had doubts about this one, sure. I picked it up because I liked her second novel, The Breakdown, pretty well. But the summary looked to me like your standard domestic abuse novel. Oh yes, and it was also said, like basically everything else, to be the next “Gone Girl.” I can’t imagine that these authors aren’t miffed that bloggers and reviewers constantly make them stand in Gone Girl’s shadow–I certainly would be. Let these books have a chance to develop their own identity.

And wow, was I wrong about everything. This is not your standard domestic abuse story. Related to Gone Girl or not: this is a compelling book.

This book grabbed me from the start–the lull of the dinner party peppered by Grace’s anxiety and carefully planned moves, but why, we don’t know. From them on, chapters alternating between the past and the present show us Grace’s current horror and what happened to lead her there. Physically trapped in a marriage and house she can’t escape, the sense of claustrophobia is overwhelming, especially if you’re me and have a fear of being trapped. You truly feel for Grace. There is simply no way out. Maybe part of the reason for its grabbing me is how it deviates from the traditional format. You already know the bad guy, but the “how,” “why,” and most importantly, the “how do I get out of this situation?” unfold as time goes on, creating a sense of utmost terror. What a refreshing tactic! Although I was able to pick up on some things, it in no way lessened my enjoyment of the story. Something could always go wrong at any second, even when Grace’s path seems clear.

The characters are great too, despite the focus on action. Yes, of course Grace’s father is out of the picture as in almost every book I’ve read in the past two years which is pretty darn bad but thank all that is holy, this trope isn’t expanded on. Millie, however, I loved. Grace’s younger sister has Down’s syndrome and Grace has agreed to care for her. She is sweet but also conniving. Able to figure out what is going on even without Grace being able to tell her, the two form a great team. And then there’s Grace herself. Although seemingly helpless, she is a good thinker and able to get out of situations with her mind and creativity. She isn’t always the smartest person in the room–I saw the red flags from a mile away–but she isn’t stupid and very resourceful, much moreso than I would have been. And she learns from her mistake of rushing into marriage. Side characters play a role, too. You want to hate party guest Esther for being judgmental at first, but she may see something that others do not.

By far the strongest point of the story is the possibility that this could actually happen if one weren’t careful. With all the messages out there about believing women these days, this book drives the point home. I’m not scared by ghosts or clowns; they can’t do anything to me. But in Behind Closed Doors, this is not the case. It would take some planning, but the events here, orchestrated by a super abusive spouse, could absolutely be a thing, and this is perhaps why it’s the scariest book I’ve ever read.

Still, like all books, it’s not perfect. If I had one complaint, it was that Jack’s motivations were incredibly weak. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: he just likes to watch women suffer.
As such, he comes across as a corny bad guy in an action movie or something. On the other hand, though, you kind of have to be one in order to pull of the kinds of things that Jack does here. So I’m not really willing to take points off for that. The point was that he was sadistic enough to create a chilling story, and Paris accomplishes that very well. My other qualm was with the ending–it was very sudden, much like the one in The Breakdown. It was also almost a cliffhanger. You can’t do that in a thriller that you’re not going to write a sequel to. I pay the author to tell me what happens. I think an epilogue would have been nice also. But maybe that’s just me. I like happy endings.

Behind Closed Doors is probably one of the the best thrillers I have ever read…if only there had been an epilogue so I could learn what happened to Millie, and if only it had been longer! It was extremely well-thought out and Paris, though Grace, manages to cover all the bases and have Grace navigate her environment in a believable way. Do not be fooled by the trite summary on the back: it’s a lasting book that will haunt you and leave you with its powerful message: not everything is what it seems.

5 stars