Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, Thriller

Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Still LivesStill Lives by Maria Hummel

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m on a quest lately to read all of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club picks from the last few years. Luckily the library has almost all of them so I’m able to fly right through them. Sorry Reese. Didn’t really love this one as much as I hoped I would!

Everybody is dying to see Kim Lord’s new art exhibit, Still Lives…. a collection of paintings based of photographs of Kim posing as famous dead women. Think Nicole Brown Simpson and The Black Dahlia. Creepy, right? My thought exactly. And imagine everybody’s surprise when Kim Lord is M.I.A. for the opening night of her exhibit. The rumors start circulating. Is this part of the art, or is Kim in danger? Meanwhile a young copy editor for the museum named Maggie finds herself wrapped up in a the scandalous art world, and the more she learns about Kim Lord, the more convoluted the story becomes. Maggie quickly finds herself in the middle of her own investigation into the disappearance of Kim Lord.

I thought the spin on modern art in this book was really evocative and lovely. I appreciated Maria Hummel’s thoughtfulness in designing this somewhat grungy, underground-feeling world of eccentricity. Even though we don’t technically meet Kim Lord’s character, her description was so well done that I felt she was. And the way the art folded into the murder mystery had a wonderful uniqueness that I enjoyed.

What didn’t I like about it? I felt like my interest really ebbed and flowed as the story progressed. There were times when I was really invested and I felt like the story was really grabbing me and then there were times when I felt my mind drifting. Usually when I found myself losing interest in the story, I felt like the story had gone off on a tangent briefly and left me feeling disconnected. And to be honest, the story’s conclusion ended up being a tad too complicated for my liking.

Overall, this book had a ton of potential and I really did enjoy the concept. But the execution fell a little flat for me.

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Mystery, Thriller, Uncategorized

Verity by Colleen Hoover

VerityVerity by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I have some opinions about this book.

First of all, I’m so darn busy reading ARCs that it is super rare for me to take the time to read a book I actually purchased. This was the exception. I swear that every time I see somebody post a question on social media asking for recommendations for an “un-put-downable” book, I see two resounding answers lately:

No Exit by Taylor Adams (FREAKING AMAZING!)
Verity by Colleen Hoover

So here was are. I kept saying to myself that if people were putting Verity in the same category as No Exit, I just had to read it. And while I think it was very, very good (and I hate to compare), I didn’t find it quite as exciting as No Exit. But for me, that’s a really hard book to beat.

Verity is the story of a young writer named Lowen who is hired to finish the last few books in a famous book series written by Verity Crawford. Verity was recently in a tragic car accident that left her in a vegetative state, unable to finish her life’s work. When Lowen visits Verity’s home for research, she finds herself awkwardly living under the same roof as invalid Verity, her husband Jeremy, and son Crew. Suddenly, spooky and strange things start happening and Lowen wonders if she’s slowly going insane or if there is something unusual happening in the family home. Will she figure it out before it is too late?

I read this book extremely quickly. I very much enjoyed the format in which it was written. There were portions written from Lowen’s perspective and interspersed throughout the story where “chapters” of Verity’s autobiography, discovered by Lowen in the family home. The autobiography chapters serve to provide the reader with the backstory of Verity’s marriage to Jeremy. Every time I finished a chapter, I wanted to know what would happen next. I would absolutely categorize this book as a page turner.

While at a high level, I really enjoyed it, I think the one thing that brought it down to a 4 star read for me was the “believability” factor. There were a couple times where I just struggled to see the reality and felt like certain elements were far reaching (P.S. I do realize thrillers are often far fetched so I try to keep an open mind going in).

I would absolutely recommend this book, and think it was a fantastic read, particularly if you have the time to sit down and dedicate a few solid hours in a row. Because once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

Freefall by Jessica Barry

FreefallFreefall by Jessica Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only had a few days left on my hold at the library for Freefall and I kept telling myself I had to read it before it was gone. And I did just that! Powered through in time to return it back so some other intrigued reader could enjoy. The magic of the library, folks! It’s real… and you already pay for it.

Anyway, I’ll end my P.S.A. here before I start shouting from the rooftops about your tax dollars…

Opening scene:
Allison has just survived a fatal plane crash. She is hurt and she is alone.

Scene 2:
Maggie gets word that her daughter Allison has died in the plane crash, but refuses to believe she is gone

Scene 3 – ???:
Allison tries to survive. Maggie fights to find her. A bunch of twisty, sinister stuff happens in between.

The best thing about this book for me was the story itself. I enjoyed the directions it took, and it always kept me wanting to know what would happen next. I thoroughly enjoyed the strained and fragile relationship dynamic between Allison and her mother. It added another layer to the story that wouldn’t have been achieved had their relationship been all peachy and wonderful.

The hardest part for me was following the timeline. There were points in the story where I found myself questioning whether I was in the present or in the past. There were several different “past” stories that tied into the larger picture, but it was sometimes hard to follow. It also may have been made harder by listening on audiobook rather than reading. I tend to find that’s the case more often than not with books that bounce back and forther.

This was my first book by Jessica Barry and I enjoyed her writing very much. Would read her works again in the future.

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Dystopian, Mystery, Thriller

The Last by Hanna Jameson

The LastThe Last by Hanna Jameson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ask yourself this question: If you were thousands of miles away from home, away from your family, at a remote international hotel and nuclear war broke out, what would you do? You find yourself stranded. No phones. No internet. No connection to the outside world. Just you and the handful of hotel guests that stayed, living off the remaining supplies. And then…. You find a dead body. And you realize that one of the survivors among you may be a murderer.

The Last by Hanna Jameson takes you into this world. A world where nuclear holocaust is a reality. The world as we knew it is gone. And now all there is left to do is survive. And we may find that if the elements don’t kill us, we might kill each other.

This reminded me of Shari Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest in that it slowly introduced a line up of characters in a remote hotel and centered around a murder mystery. I really enjoyed the main character, Jon, and his constant struggle to come to terms with the new world surrounding him. As a historian, he constantly worked to document the aftermath. I enjoyed that characters were introduced slowly by way of Jon interviewing everybody for the sake of documentation. It was a nice way to get to know each person individually, and share in their background stories.

This did have a little bit of a The Walking Dead vibe without the zombies (I feel like I say that a lot about post-apocalyptic thrillers). There were many similarities in the way the characters scrounged for food and supplies, tried to establish leadership among the group, interacted with other settlements of survivors, etc. I’m a big fan of this type of novel, so it was right up my alley.

If I could have asked for anything to be better, it would probably just be a little bit more differentiation between characters. At times I found myself getting their names confused because there were so many of them and most of them had pretty standard, American type names which made them blend together. And the ending was maybe a tad abrupt, but overall satisfying.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here!

-I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Hanna Jameson, and Atria Books for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, Thriller

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying GameThe Lying Game by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing that I’ve learned as part of the book community is that there are two camps when it comes to Ruth Ware:

Camp I-Love-Her
Camp I-Don’t-Get-The-Hype

I happen to be in the former and adore everything she publishes (and P.S. I can’t wait to read her next book The Turn of the Key which will be out later this year…. read the first chapter here!). Her style is right up my alley with the right amount of mystery, oddball character development, and oftentimes Gothic undertones.

I’ve now read everything she’s ever published (with the exception of a short story that I recently got exclusive access to…. more on that to come). This was the last book I had on the list and while it wasn’t my favorite of hers…. *cough* The Death of Mrs. Westaway *cough*…. it still was really good.

And side note, it was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks in 2017 if you follow her recommendations like I do!

The Lying Game is essentially the story of four friends who reconnect at an alumni event at their former school after many years apart. Something fishy happened at the school all those years ago, and they’ve been keeping the secret ever since. But when a body is discovered close by, will their secret suddenly unleash itself? Or will they band together in their web of lies to keep their secret safe?

I could totally see Ruth Ware’s signature voice shining through in this story and really liked the overall content. I listened to this one on audio, and as with many of the other Ruth Ware’s books, I could not get enough of Imogen Church’s narration. She is one of my favorite audiobook narrators and I always enjoy the subtle personalities she gives the characters.

If I had one complaint, it would be that I felt it was maybe a tad too long. As I always say, I don’t mind length if I feel like it is necessary to the development of the story. But, I don’t care for stories that are long just for the sake of being long which in my opinion was the case here. I think in some places, the story could have gotten to the point faster and kept me more engaged.

But overall, really strong work again by Ruth Ware. I cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

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