Posted in Naomi Kramer

Dead(ish) (Deadish #1) by Naomi Kramer

Synopsis:

Linda’s had a bad day. First her boyfriend killed her. Then she woke up, still on this boring plane of existence, and with an odd obsession about her missing body. Mike won’t tell her what he did with her body, and she can’t find the stupid thing herself. There’s only one thing she can do – torment the bastard until he coughs up the information.

This is a very short work – novelette length – around 11000 words or 44 (print) pages.

Warning: Frequent foul language, mild sex scenes, and Australian spelling. Not suitable for children.

Review:

If you’re in a waiting room trying to kill some time in a pleasant way, pick this book up. But if you’re looking for some substance and want to dive into a deeper story, you can definitely skip this, you’re not losing much, despite the attractive description and cute cover.

Dead(ish) is a novelette, just fifty something pages, with an interesting and fun idea but pretty poor execution. Besides the intriguing idea and some funny dialogues, there’s not much to enjoy.

Probably in the first half of the book you will still feel confused over who is who and who is talking and what the hell is happening. Later, when things become a bit clearer, the writer throws in what wants to be the bombshell, but it comes so abruptly and out of place that the effect is probably the opposite of the one she wished. Besides the lack of an appropriate development for such a twist and no reasonable explanation or motivation, there’s also no reaction to it, the characters behave so casually like whatever happened or what they did is a perfectly normal thing and not the huge, shocking revelation that it actually is.

Many years ago, before the internet, there were some magazines where you could publish stories, either fictional or inspired by reality. That’s all what you’d find in them: stories. No articles, nothing else, only few pages long fantasies of people who probably hoped to become writers at some point. Dead(ish) reminded me of those magazines, of those quick reads, fast written ideas that only occupied a few pages and offered only sketches of storylines and characters rather than properly finalized, complex plots.

Cute cover, though…

Posted in Colleen Hoover

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Synopsis:

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Review:

I remember there was a time when the whole bookish blogosphere was in love with Coleen Hoover and it was impossible not to stumble upon a review of her books whichever book blog you’d read. I must confess I was never tempted to try her novels since this romance, new adult genre was never one of my favorites. But since the publishing of Verity, which promised a completely different direction, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

The book is… good. Like really, really good. It comes with an original premise and the alternation of the heroine’s present with the antagonist’s past keeps you hooked and restless. Surprisingly, not only the villain’s diary inserts are building up the suspense but also the main character’s reactions to it. Lowen’s increasing obsession with the manuscript reaches a level where it’s difficult to know if she’s just imagining things or if she’s in a real danger. I felt like the author tried to give her some “unreliable narrator” traits but fortunately, she’s not diving really deep into that pool.

What I completely hated was the insta-love. I’m so over this trend, I feel like it expired years ago and the writers should stop trying to bring back its glory age. It’s unrealistic, boring and useless and every time Lowen sighs at Jeremy’s “majestic” view I didn’t know how to fast forward those paragraphs.

The same applies with the mediocre, weirdo heroine that writers insist on making so “not special” until the perfect Prince Charming arrives and discovers from the first second what a special snowflake she is and falls in love with her. I think Twilight was the story that elevated this fashion as a must have, but it’s been already 15 years since that series was published. You’d think it should have expired by now, but it seems that writers still cannot come with something better and finally drop this irritating idea.

To be honest, in this case, if there’s one remarkable character that deserves all the praise, that’s definitely Verity and not Lowen. Yes, it’s sweet and nice and bla bla bla that “the good” prevails over “the evil” but considering each character’s portrait and features, even the idea that after Jeremy loved genius Verity, he’d fall in love with dull and colorless Lowen is insulting and annoying. I would understand falling out of love or even hating his wife after the truth is revealed. But no, definitely not falling in love with Lowen. He might as well fall for a rock in his garden, it would have the same entertaining behavior as Lowen.

And speaking of this.. In the end, even without reaching the last twist, you cannot help but wonder if “good” is always good and “evil” is always evil or if they’re not actually pretty similar, only hiding under different justifications.

Despite the annoying aspects that I already mentioned, Verity is a pretty good thriller and the pros are definitely weighing more than the cons.

Posted in Anne-Rae Vasquez

Almost A Turkish Soap Opera by Anne-Rae Vasquez

Synopsis:

Adel and Kamil, two young good looking Turkish men try to immigrate to North America. Adel’s ruthless grand uncle arranges him to marry Yonka (his spoiled obnoxious cousin) in exchange for his immigration status in Canada. The problem is Yonka and Adel hate each other. The drama heats up even more when Adel has an affair with Nora, his beautiful English teacher which ruins Yonka’s plans. And to add to this, his best friend Kamil has a big secret of his own. How did his life turn into a Turkish soap opera?

Review:

Honestly, I have no idea what I was expecting when I started this book. I had it in my kindle for so many years that I don’t even remember purchasing it. But considering the title, I must have imagined I’d find a fun and somewhat ironic or mocking story between the pages.

The book is pretty far from that and the author might have peacefully removed the “almost” from the title, since this is definitely not “almost”, but “exactly” a soap opera. And unfortunately, not even a great one. Trust me on this, my generation grew up in the times when that type of tv shows were booming. I watched everything during those years, from the most crappy ones they made in the beginning to the more modern ones that didn’t kill your neurons while watching them.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the story is terrible, but it’s just very plain, predictable and lacking any grain of salt and pepper. You don’t get attached to the characters, you don’t really get to know them enough to care for them. The length of the book might be also one of the reasons for this, since it’s more a novella than a novel.

The one thing I did appreciate was the way the author portrayed the new generation born in a very traditional society. Although young and more or less independent, a vast majority of the youths are still deeply attached to the old mentalities. For years, I would have thought this wouldn’t be possible, that “young” equals “modern” and “open minded”, until I started interacting with an international community and discovered how wrong I was and that the environment and traditions have an enormous impact on one’s personality. Bonus points for the author for doing such a great job in describing this concept.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only thing that I enjoyed. Yes, I was expecting the novella would be a light and easy read. But the concept of soap operas is to get you addicted, to end each episode with a cliffhanger, to make you wish for more. And that’s precisely what Almost A Turkish Soap Opera fails to deliver.

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 Joanne Serling, J.D. Serling

Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

Synopsis:

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

Review:

First things first: this is not a thriller. It might be described as one, it might even give you the illusion that it is, at least in the first pages. But slowly, slowly, you will understand that it’s not. By definition, a thriller is suppose to…mm… thrill you? To surprise you? And Good Neighbors has a good start in building that required tension. But somehow, chapter after chapter, the tension just dissipates somewhere in thin air, leaving you with a deflated balloon that hisses embarrassingly instead of popping with the glorious bang that you’d expect.

Buuuut…. There is a big “but”. I did actually enjoy the book. I can’t say I was “thrilled” (pun intended) to go back to it each time I interrupted my reading sessions and it did take me a while to finish it because of this reason. But weirdly, I liked the dark colors the author uses to paint her whole story. The slow action didn’t disturb me, the lack of suspense didn’t feel like a flaw. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain feeling of apprehension, only that it’s not as concentrated as I was expecting when I read the synopsis.

I also loved how dark, somehow rhythmic and melancholic the protagonist’s voice was, as well as how lyrical Serling’s style is because of the abundance of verbless clauses. Few authors surprised me during the years with a very unique writting style that would be worth reading even if they’d write a grocery list, but I think J.D. Serling might actually be one of them.

And my-oh-my, I couldn’t wait to write this review only to share this one thing with anyone who’s reading it: the deeper the writter digs in the heroine’s mind and soul, the deeper you feel she went into your own. There’s nothing wrong with the protagonist. Realistically speaking, she doesn’t do or act in any wrong ways. But in the same time, there’s something disturbing, there’s something that feels somehow too personal and hidden. Or, perhaps, that’s exactly the issue: that it should be concealed and yet, there it is, out in the open, a truth about each one of us that we never acknowledge even to ourselves. You will find that ugly part of yourself in one of the protagonist’s thoughts. Perhaps when she’s thinking about all the ways she wishes her kid to be different. Or when she’s judging her own husband. Or when she’s not such a good friend as she likes to think. When she is not saddened about somebody else’s unhappiness. When she throws money to cover the guilt of lacking the proper feelings or taking the right actions. When she avoids responsibility just because her comfort zone is warm and nice. We all do things like these. We all have dirty sides that we refuse to look at. We all know they are there, despise them, feel guilty about them and yet, do nothing to correct our ways. Maybe because unconsciously, we feel they are irremediable, maybe they are our souls’ diseases that cannot be cured.