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, Thriller

Looker by Laura Sims

LookerLooker by Laura Sims

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick as a flash! That’s how I would describe this book in 4 words.

The physical book is only 188 pages which translated to about 5 and a half hours on audio. It might have been the shortest audiobook I’ve ever listened to and would make a great book for a short road trip.

If you haven’t seen this cover all over social media, I don’t know where you’ve been. Because it’s out there! It has been on my list at the library forever, and I finally made it to the top of the list at the library.

While Looker is short in length, it packs a pretty big punch. But I feel like this book might not be for everybody. I could see it being somewhat polarizing as it’s somewhat abstract and different than your standard thriller.

A woman on the edge of a breakdown…. Fertility problems. A failing marriage. Mental stability teetering. That’s where we start. And the woman deals with her issues by obsessing over and idolizing (let’s call it borderline stalking) her neighbor, a big-time actress who seems to have the picture perfect life. What ensues is the woman’s downward spiral into madness as she tries to cope with her issues in the face of another’s success.

Listen… as a female currently dealing with fertility issues, I can relate. Would I turn all crazy stalker? Probs not. But, I can totally relate to the mind f*ck of waiting every month for something that never comes. And Laura Sims did a great job portraying the character in a way that I found totally authentic in terms of her struggles.

I also felt like I was on the downward spiral with her, her world crashing down around her as she struggled to hold onto any small thread of her sanity.

What was the downside? Well, this may come as a shock to some because I feel like I typically harp on authors for making books long for the sake of being long without adding value to the story. This was the complete opposite. I wanted a little bit more. I felt like as soon as the story really got some teeth, it was over. I think I might actually classify this as more of a novella than a full length novel.

At the end of the day, did I really like it? Yes. Did I love it? No. It was one of those books that lives in the middle somewhere. It was good and entertaining in the moment, but may end up being forgettable by the end of the year.

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