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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General Fiction (Adult)

Pickle’s Progress by Marcia Butler

Pickle's ProgressPickle’s Progress by Marcia Butler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Out April 9th! Preorder at Amazon here!

Thank you to Marcia Butler for being so sweet many months ago and offering me an opportunity to review this book! And also for mailing me her autograph! I always love to connect with new authors, and while Marcia is not new to the art scene, this is her debut novel.

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Pickle’s Progress is about four people, all with their own struggles, just trying to make it through life in New York City. Stan and his wife Karen are struggling in their marriage. Pickle is Stan’s twin brother and has forever been the black sheep/lesser loved child of their mother. Junie is the bystander of a car crash on the George Washington bridge caused by drunken Stan and Karen, and Junie’s boyfriend just happens to have jumped to his death off the side. All four of them are connected in their own twisted way, and we will find out if there is a happy ending for any of them by the time the last few pages roll around.

I honestly kind of struggled with this book. While I really appreciated the book conceptually and understood where Marcia Butler was trying to go, the plot ebbed and flowed for me. There were times when I was fully invested, and other times when I found my interest wavering. The one thing that I found super distracting which could have impacted my investment in the story is the dialogue. The dialogue did not feel authentic at all. It felt very scripted and, in my opinion, kept the book from feeling realistic and relatable.

I also had a hard time with some of the decisions that the characters made throughout the book. For example, after the car crash, Junie is invited by Karen and Stan to stay in their home as she recovers from witnessing the traumatic suicide of her boyfriend. I had a really hard time believing that a real person would move in with a pair of drunken strangers without question.

If Marcia Butler was going for completely unlikable characters, she hit the nail out of the park though (and my impression was that was the direction she was trying to go). I could not stand any of the main characters. They all had horrible qualities and character flaws that made them completely despicable. Butler certainly accomplished the development of uniquely defined characters that I think will ignite some passion and emotion for any reader… good or bad (which is something I think any author should strive for).

Overall, while this wasn’t my favorite book of all time, it did have some redeeming qualities. While there were highs and lows, as a complete package it was just okay. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself and tell me what you think!

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Marcia Butler, and Central Avenue Publishing 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
…and…
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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Self Help

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex LifeCome as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Calling all women! All women to the table please!

(Caveat: In this context, by women, I mean exclusively cisgender females… as the author herself specifies in the introduction for this book)

Okay, listen. To say that “self help” is not my genre of choice would be a huge understatement. I rarely choose self help for myself because I tend to not really care for people giving me their subjective opinions of how I should live my life. That being said, this book was chosen by my Nashville Badass Babes Bookclub, and of course I wanted to be able to be part of the conversation, so I read it.

O.M.G.

This book spoke to me on so many levels.

Let me stop quickly and just comment on the cover. If I saw this book on a shelf at the store, I would probably NEVER pick it up just because of the cover. I tend to stray away from book covers that resemble vaginas (or as this author would have you clarify, “vulvas”). But I’m so happy I didn’t let the cover deter me.

Come as You Are is so much more than a book about sex. I mean… yes.. it does have a lot of reference to sex. It has a vulva on the cover for crying out loud. But, so much of the content was relatable to other elements of life and translatable to many different scenarios. Communication. Body Image. Loving Ourselves as We Are. Being Kind to Ourselves. Working Through Problems. Just So Many Good Moments of Personal Reflection!

And it was funny. Emily Nagoski found a way to put scientific subject matter in relatable, conversational words. She inserted humor and some snarky attitude. I felt like I was reading a letter from one of my girlfriends, joking around about various sexual topics. For anybody who reads and enjoys The Skimm (a semi-snarky, quick-witted daily newsletter targeted towards women), this had a very similar tone and vibe.

I don’t do this often, but I would highly recommend purchasing this book in print. I’m usually impartial to whether I listen to a book or rent it from the library… and tend to not purchase a lot of books because… well… $$$. But in this case, I think the purchase is entirely worthwhile. There are activities throughout the book after several chapters where the author encourages you to self-reflect and jot down some personal notes. And I found the activities really meaningful and worthwhile. I took the time to complete them, marking up the pages in red pen for my own reference at a later date. I would encourage anybody who reads it to do the same.

I guess that about sums it up. This book is a “must read” for women everywhere. If nothing else, just to hear the words:

You are normal.

You are beautiful.

Women aren’t broken versions of men; they’re women.

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