Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Karen M. McManus’s first book, One of Us is Lying, many months ago and absolutely adored it. I generally like the YA mystery genre and McManus has a great way of putting you right back in high school with her stories.

So when I found out she was writing a second book, I immediately told myself I had to read it. Which brings me to Two Can Keep a Secret. While I loved the concept of this book (missing high school homecoming princesses and murder in a small town), I struggled a bit overall. Here are my thoughts…

Things I loved:
1. The way McManus incorporates that nostalgic high school feeling into her books. The characters definitely have a YA, junior essence in both their actions and their dialogue.
2. The ending. I definitely did not see the ending coming and love when I’m caught off guard with a really great twist. This book had it. The twist was fantastic and unexpected… and the last line of the book will leave you with chills up your spine.

Things I didn’t love:
1. There were too many characters and none of them were that well developed. I felt like I was reading a bunch of names and trying to remember who was which character. The cast definitely could have benefited from some more distinguishing characteristics that would help to better differentiate them from each other. And while I understand that the more characters are in the story, the more red herrings there are to throw the reader off track, I did feel like there were maybe too many characters in general.
2. The story wasn’t all that unique. As I’ve said before, the mystery genre is so saturated that authors have to get more and more creative to stand out. While I loved the ending, the road to get there was at times kind of slow and didn’t keep my attention the whole time. There were times that I found myself just wanting the story to get somewhere quicker because I was losing interest.
3. I listened to the audiobook and the narrators were not my favorite.

Overall, this one was just okay for me. In my opinion, it wasn’t as strong as One of Us is Lying, which I really enjoyed. I feel “meh” about it.

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Mystery, Thriller

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted so badly to read this book before publication! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snag an ARC. [Insert sad face here]. But the cover just called to me. I saw it everywhere on social media and every time I saw it, I said to myself, “You have to get your hands on that book!”

So imagine my surprise and delight when I won the Goodreads giveaway! Thanks Berkley Publishing!

Because my list of ARCs is so huge right now, it took me a while to get to a book “just for fun” but when I had the time, I knew I had to put The Au Pair on the top of the list.

The back of the book says, “If V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous’s The Au Pair would be it.” Which is funny, because as I read it, I found myself comparing it to Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. The story spanned multiple generations, had a hint of mystery, and the same literary writing style. I would say the publisher hit the nail on the head with that comparison.

At a high level, The Au Pair is about a young woman named Seraphine who is determined to uncover the secrets surrounding her mother’s suspicious suicide the day she was born. When she stumbles upon a photograph of her mother with a baby on that fateful day, her first thought is, “Which baby is she holding and why is there only one in the picture?” I guess I should mention here that Seraphine is a twin. So which of them is her mother holding? And why is there only one baby? She finds herself on a journey to find the family au pair that took care of her older (non-twin) brother and was present on the day of her mother’s death with hopes of uncovering the family secrets that have been buried for years.

I loved this book so much. It wasn’t the most unique book in the world just because the mystery genre is so strong and jam packed with talent right now, but I still really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the multiple timelines Emma Rous played with to tell the stories of the past and present side by side. And I felt like her writing transported me in time and place right into the story. I could imagine myself at Summerbourne and could envision the cliffs. The writing in my opinion was very strong.

I also felt like Rous kept me on my toes from start to finish. I definitely did not see some of the twists coming and appreciated the surprises throughout. I did feel like the ending took a really long time to unfold (to the tune of 80-100 pages) and felt like it possibly could have come to fruition a bit quicker. And, while I personally appreciated that the author left the ending a tad vague, I do think there may be some disappointed readers (particularly those who need everything wrapped up with a bow).

All in all, this was very strong work for a debut novel and I can’t wait to see what Emma Rous comes up with next!

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Thriller

The Tale of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

The Tale of Mrs WestawayThe Tale of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’re a Ruth Ware fan, you need to sign up for her book club (just because she’s awesome), but also because you can get this short story for free!

The Tale of Mrs. Westaway is a prequel to The Death of Mrs. Westaway that gives the back story of Mrs. Westaway, her marriage, and the development of her family. It took me about an hour to read so is a nice book to read if you need a brain break from longer novels or are looking for a short story to get you closer to your Reading Challenge goal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…. Ruth Ware is one of those people you either really love or you don’t. I’m on the “really love” end of the spectrum and enjoy everything she writes. After reading The Tale of Mrs. Westaway, I actually wish she would publish more short stories, because the Gothic and ghostly quality of her writing lends itself well to this type of tale.

Thank you to Ruth Ware for sharing this story with her book club members!

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Mystery, Thriller

Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer

Saving MeghanSaving Meghan by D.J. Palmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out April 9th! Preorder here!

4.5 stars.

Medical thriller + courtroom drama + murder mystery = jam packed, exciting new thriller by D.J. Palmer!

The back of the ARC says “Can you love someone to death?” and this is the question at the heart of the story. Teenage Meghan has been “sick” for years. With many nondescript and vague symptoms, she has seen countless specialists in the pursuit of a diagnosis at the direction of her mother, Becky. But when Becky is accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the question becomes, “Is Meghan really sick?” Or is her mother pursuing a diagnosis that doesn’t exist?

Munchausen syndrome by proxy has always fascinated me and I thought D.J. Palmer did a great job introducing it and giving the reader an idea of just how hard it is to diagnose. I found myself throughout the book unable to pick a side, wavering back and forth between believing Becky’s account of events and then getting on board with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). I imagine real Munchausen cases give people similar mixed feelings and precariousness, so I appreciated that Palmer wrote the book with an element of uncertainty.

I feel like the thriller genre is getting pretty saturated with the “same old, same old” type of story. Usually the titles begin with “The Woman [fill in the blank]” or “The Girl [fill in the blank],” and have an unreliable narrator. It is hard to find a story that is unique and different. And I think D.J. Palmer accomplished that. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen as the story went on and didn’t feel like it was predictable. In fact, the ending really threw me for a loop so if you’re looking for a great twist, I would recommend this book.

Saving Meghan is a look at what it means to be a parent. What lengths would you go to for your child? How much is too much? How much adversity can a marriage take? What happens when your role as a spouse takes a backseat to your role as a parent? So many interesting social questions and one wile ride. This is a must read and would make a great buddy read!

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, D.J. Palmer, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Reese Witherspoon's 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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