Posted in Gregg Olsen, Uncategorized

Lying Next To Me by Gregg Olsen

Synopsis:

No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug—and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of a puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know—or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married.

Review:

I have no idea how many months passed already since I’m in this “psychological/domestic thriller” loop, but for now, the attraction for this genre looks just as strong as when it started and it’s still bringing me joy and excitement. So here we are, with yet another mystery that I finished in just two-three days: Lying Next To Me.

There’s not a single character in this book that doesn’t look deceiving and shady. Even the only one which seems pretty clean in the beginning will make you change your mind later. As for all the rest…no chance they won’t make you squint suspiciously to anything they do, say or even think! This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects. When it comes to this type of books, usually the authors prefer to mislead you into thinking that their characters are innocent and later to shock you by revealing their true nature. But Gregg Olsen makes everybody look guilty. You doubt everyone, you detect all the lies they’re telling both to themselves and to the others around them and yet, you still cannot put all the puzzle pieces together.

I normally don’t even try to unravel a mystery and just enjoy the ride as it comes, but this time I was convinced that I discovered the murderer way before reaching the final chapters. So I was completely surprised to see that in the end, I was and I wasn’t right in the same time. I did get a part of the puzzle, but only to notice that I missed a whole other bunch of it.

I enjoyed the whole story, the characters’ double faces, the imperfect matches, the apparently untied threads that the author leaves here and there.

What I definitely didn’t like was the rushed ending, the way everything looks fast-forwarded. There’s a constant cadence during the whole book, not to slow, not to fast and in the end, everything escalates in an unnatural way. I guess the author’s intention was to raise the reader’s pulse and the adrenaline levels but it felt unnecessary and unflattering for the whole story. All of a sudden, you’re witnessing this abrupt evolution of some of the characters and therefore, the whole story’s development looks forced and hasty. That’s actually the only reason why I dropped my rating from 5 to 4 stars so besides this annoying aspect, the story was a great and engrossing read.

Posted in Saya Lopez Ortega, Uncategorized

The Seduction Expert (The Seduction Expert #1) by Saya Lopez Ortega

Synopsis:

She’s cold, narcissistic, conceited and she has no redeeming qualities.

She doesn’t care, she’s gifted.

She doesn’t care, she’s the seduction expert.

Women contact her to take over their love lives. She steps in when they’re lost, she’s supposed to succeed where they failed. She handles their single status, their relationships, their breakups, and very often their partners’ affairs. Her job is a life priority, she spends most of her time at the office or between two flights in business class and the fact of having a sports car that can reach one hundred kilometers in less than six seconds often make her feel like a superheroine in service to women.

Anyway, take her card.

You’ll see, it’s much better than spending holidays in St Barts.

Review:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I can’t remember ever reading a book whose main character is in the same time, the villain of the story. I know they do exist, but I just haven’t had the chance to read one yet. However, I’ve always been curious to find out what’s going on in the minds of the people who we generally call mean, shallow or bad, to see how they can be so much different from most of us and what motivates them to stay behind their controversial actions.

So when I started this book, it was a whole new perspective for me. Obviously, I did not agree or like any of the character’s moves. But I felt amused and entertained to observe her, to discover how anyone could find satisfaction in things that should be the last ones to motivate you. Instead of looking for true happiness, for love, goodness and peace of mind, there are people who live just for power, reputation and the image they have in the eyes of the beholder. Perhaps this would not be a problem as long as you’re keeping it on a decent level. But for B, or “the Baroness”, how she prefers to be called, these things leave no space for anything else inside her and she becomes just a painted portrait of the person she should have been. And damn, this girl loves her power. Blinded by her love for money, image, luxury and the devotion of her clients, she turns out unconscious of all human qualities. Yes, she’s good at her work, she manages to offer her customers even more than they were even promised with (although the means of doing that are…debatable, to say, at least) but on her way of becoming that famous seduction expert, she loses all her empathy, all her kindness and her humanity. Her whole life is a theatrical performance, all the details are carefully staged, all her lines previously rehearsed in order to manipulate everyone around her, from her employees to her clients, to her friends and future husband.

Of course, this kind of lifestyle will always be at stake, because no matter how much planning you’d do, there’s always something that might go wrong, there’s always someone who might react different to what you were expecting. With all her cautious groundwork, her whole career, love story and future are at the risk of collapse the moment she meets an even more spiteful character whose plans seem to be in conflict with her own. And here is where the book gets an interesting effect over the readers. No matter how much you despise B, the moment when an even more poisonous snake enters the stage, you automatically team up with the Baroness and hope she’ll be the one to win this war.

Before I finish, I just need to mention that according to GoodReads, the book seems to be part of a series and not a stand alone, although there’s no information regarding the next books for now. I came to realize this when I reached the last chapter and instead of an ending, I discovered that the novel stops at a critical point, which definitely needs a follow-up.

Posted in B.A. Paris, Uncategorized

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Synopsis:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Review:

I’ve always had “genre phases”. I would start reading a certain type of books and wouldn’t stop for weeks or months, until my brain is suffocated by that genre till I’m finally ready to move to something else. Lately, I noticed that I’m craving for psychological thrillers and my shelves slowly started gathering such kind of books.

I picked up Behind Closed Doors running through an airport, almost impulsively, barely reading the synopsis from the last cover and devoured the first half of the book during my flight. I kind of loved it, but there are some things that kept bugging me, although I find it pretty difficult to identify them clearly.

From the first pages (and obviously, from the synopsis), you realize that under the illusion of perfection, something is very, very wrong in the marriage of Jack and Grace. The author doesn’t let you wonder for too long, as she starts showing you the darkness that lies behind that perfect couple. You’re jumping with every chapter from the past to the present and both of them look just as terrible, without any traces of salvation, without any hopes of escaping. There’s not a single moment when you can relax and not feel ice flowing through your veins, never knowing what to expect, always assuming something even worse is going to happen.

Despite the satisfaction that I felt while reading it, I got a sense of disturbance, something kept bothering me. I feel like the story was built on a successful recipe without adding any extra flavors to it. Yes, the characters have a background that would explain why their personalities got so twisted. Yes, there is an aftermath that you’re even scared to think about. Yes, the suspense is on its highest. But all of these elements seem somehow shallow, like there’s too little substance to sustain the storyline properly. There are some moments that make no sense, there’s no explanation nor logic behind some of the actions that the main characters do.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a good book. If this is what you are looking for (and I definitely was!), the story will keep you entertained, holding your breath, waiting for the next move and knowing that every moment passing will throw the heroine even deeper in despair and further from salvation. But for me, the novel didn’t make me step in the characters’ shoes, didn’t transfer me to their world. Perhaps it will be different for you but personally, I couldn’t stop feeling the whole time that it’s just a story. A good one, yes, but… just a story.

Posted in Cyndy Aleo, Uncategorized

Undying (Undying #1) by Cyndy Aleo

Synopsis:

What if the world isn’t ready for your miracle?

Cameron Tattersall’s wife, Adrienne, should not be cooking breakfast when he wakes up. After all, he buried her yesterday. Yet the woman in his kitchen not only claims she is his wife, but also refuses to accept that she’s supposed to be dead.

Cameron doesn’t know what this woman is: hallucination, con-woman, or bona fide miracle. For all he knows, he’s crazy, but her reappearance may return the only thing he ever wanted: a life with Adrienne.When their families discover Cameron isn’t alone in his house, the couple learns coming back from the dead has its own set of trials: angry surviving family members, confused insurance companies, and a media storm that simultaneously wants to build the couple up and tear them down. There’s also the matter of just who, or what, was buried in that coffin. Or not buried.

Thrust into the spotlight, Cameron and Adrienne have to decide whether living under a microscope is a fair trade for a miracle, and to reconcile their need for privacy with the desire for answers.

Review:

I probably cried when I was reading some sad books when I was a child. I definitely remember crying a damn cascade while reading half of the Harry Potter books. But it’s been decades ago and since then, my masochistic brain keeps looking for books that would tear me apart completely and make me feel everything that the characters feel at such a deep level that I’d forget that I’m crying for the pain of an imaginary person.

When I started this book I chose it because of how interesting the idea looked. Maybe it’s a thriller with an impostor trying to impersonate the dead wife of a poor husband. Maybe it’s a zombie book. Maybe it’s a fantasy one. A dead wife showing up in her husband’s bed next day after her funeral? I literally had no idea how things could have evolved. But what I definitely didn’t expect was to cry uncontrollably after the first chapter. I have no words to explain how amazing this book is. Without notice, the story starts flowing through your veins, touching every part of your soul, forcing your brain to feel absolutely every single damn thing that Cameron feels. You’re thrown into a path of pain and anguish so deeply that you feel the story at the most personal level. Because what is the biggest fear of all of us? Not spiders, not monsters, not poverty, not loneliness, not our own death. But the death of our loved ones. And the feeling that no matter how much you’d wish, there’s absolutely nothing that you can do to stop that, to help them, to keep them longer next to you.

Cameron goes through all of this in the year when he finds out that his wife, Adrienne has a devastating form of cancer. She’s young, beautiful and healthy and all of a sudden the terrible news descend over them. And one year is not enough to get used to the idea that the whole future that you imagined is shattering to pieces. But one year of suffering is also clearly not going to make things easy when he wakes up after her funeral to find her in their kitchen. Young. Beautiful. Healthy. Undead. And cooking breakfast.

So what follows is exactly what you would imagine. Because Cameron lives in our universe, not a parallel one, not in a fantasy world. He lives in this one, where miracles don’t exist, when you cannot continue your life like nothing happened after the wife that you just buried literally just came back from the dead. The world will not allow it. You will become a “case” that needs to be studied and explored from all the practical angles: legally, medically, by lawyers and doctors and churches and media. Over and over again, since there seem not to be any answers that could solve such a mistery.

I loved how realistic the author treated her idea. She took an unthinkable fact and throw it in our society that is very far from accepting the impossible as possible. There’s nothing forced, nothing romantic and magical about it. Her characters don’t treat the whole thing just like a miracle because the human brain simply doesn’t work like that. No matter how enormous the happiness and amazement can be once they accept that what happened is true, they are still very well anchored in reality and take the whole right and mundane road to understand how was it possible.

Every reaction, every gesture, every word and action, even the ones that piss you off are all perfectly drawn and completely understandable and realistic. I loved the fact that nothing comes easily, that the characters actually go willingly into the chaotic carousel that their lifes became, even if sometimes they cannot feel in any other way than totally overwhelmed by what’s happening to them.

If you have any doubts about reading this book, just take them all and throw them into the garbage right now. You need this book! The storyline is flawless, the writing, the characters, the action, everything has a bright, shinny “perfect” label on it! You will be carried through the whole spectrum of emotions, you will cry, laugh, be surprised, melt into a puddle, die of curiosity and live the whole story at the same intensity as the characters are.

Posted in David Staniforth, Uncategorized

Imperfect Strangers by David Staniforth

Synopsis:

How well do you know the people you see every day? Sally hardly knows Keith. They’re practically strangers until the day she smiles at him. Would you smile so readily if you risked losing your friends? Would you smile so readily if you risked losing your life? Unfortunately, you can’t begin to know a person until you let them in. Imperfect Strangers: A psychological thriller that simmers to a dark and dramatic climax.

Review:

If you’re an extrovert, this book will probably turn you into an antisocial creature. And if you’re an introvert, already not a big fan of human interaction, well… I’m guessing you’ll feel even less the desire to get out of the house. Like…ever!

I was in such a strong mood for a phychological thriller and this book was honestly the best choice I could have made! I looooved it! I don’t even know how to start describing how perfectly the author mastered the whole story, the evolution of Keith, the main character of the book and the development of the relationship with his object of adoration, Sally.

To how many people do u smile or say “Hello” or “Thank you” to during the day? How many of these people are strangers? The security guys from your office or apartment building, the vendors from your regular grocery shop, the bus drivers on your commute, the courier from your favorite food delivery place. You’re a nice, decent person, so you salute them and acknowledge their presence. You know all of them by sight, but they are still strangers to you. But what if…you are not a stranger to them? Not anymore, since the day when, unlike most of the people, you smiled to one of them in a way that, for him, it was personal and intimate.

Sally doesn’t know it yet, but once she smiled to Keith, the veeery awkward security guy from her office, their relationship started already. And it’s just a matter of time until she will find out as well. And once she does, it might not be in a way that she will like it.

I think the best part of the novel is the way the author built a whole history of his main character. Instead of just throwing an anti-hero that is just mentally disturbed or pure evil, David Staniforth creates a very credible background that facilitates the evolution of a mental illness. We dive into Keith’s childhood memories in the most disturbing way, when the teriffied child inside of him still kicks in and takes control over the adult Keith, reliving those awful years over and over again. There was no way for him to escape that horrible life as a kid and once he grew up, it was too late to even try fixing things. Because his normality looks completely different from our normality and from his perspective, Keith sees himself just a bit awkward. He does know that he’s not quite like everyone else, but in no way he understands or identifies the magnitude of his sickness. And this is probably the most horrific thought that haunts you throughout the entire read. How so many people are living in their own, distressed universe and how little do we know about this. They look normal, act (almost) normal, but once you interact with them, you might discover that it’s like meeting an alien from another planet. That absolutely nothing that makes you, you, is common or known for them. And whatever moulded them in such ways during decades is probably completely impossible for you to comprehend.

The whole book keeps you on pins and needles and every step that Sally takes towards Keith makes you want to scream at her “RUN!”. But she doesn’t. Because she’s a nice person. Just like you are. And you continue to smile politely to all the strangers in your life, to help them if you can, to become a friend for those who seem lonely, completely unaware of the dangers that lie behind their awkwardly sweet replies, having no idea that their brain would never resonate with all the things that you find normal.

I rated the book with 5 stars on GoodReads without even a blink of an eye. The sinopsis is already sending you chilly vibes on your spine and the execution of the whole idea is brilliant.