Lola

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Lola stands next to Garcia while he mans the grill in their craggy square of backyard. The barbeque has just begun, and the women are clustered gossiping, while the men hold sweating beers. Lola prefers the periphery.

Business has been good lately in their tiny nugget of South Central Los Angeles, where a legit man has two choices: landscaping off-the-books for West Side white cash, or sweating through twelve-hour shifts at a factory in Vernon. Garcia does not make his living either way. If Lola were like the other women at her barbeque, she would spend her work day perched on a padded stool behind a dollar store cash register. But Lola is not like the other women in Huntington Park.

Suddenly: a sharp knock on the front door, probably a cop. Lola goes to answer it. The man standing there is Mexican, not Mexican-American, like everybody else here. Lola searches his face for a bead of sweat but comes up empty. She has never met him, but she knows his name. Everyone in this neighborhood knows his name. They call him The Collector, and he won’t give them long.

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Publication Date: March 21, 2017 by Crown Publishing

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My Thoughts:

This is definitely not a book I would have picked up on first glance at the book store, but I ended up winning an ARC so I decided to give Lola a chance and I’m glad I did.

There are things that I really enjoyed about the story: the author’s writing style, the powerful, female lead, and reading about a small-time gang in poverty stricken LA: a topic I definitely can’t relate to. I’m all for branching out and I appreciate authors and books that can take me out of my comfort zone and broaden my world view and Lola definitely fit into that category.

What made this a 3/3.5 stars read for me was ultimately Lola herself. Lola was such a fearless, intelligent, and badass female character. While far from perfect, her narrative and internal dialogues always felt real and I always found myself rooting for her, even when she was more of the villain than the hero at times. She knew the challenges she faced, especially as the only female leader in a gang world ruled by machismo and her acknowledgement of these barriers was always brutally real and often discomforting. It was this honesty that I especially appreciated about the novel.

While the writing was fantastic, I often found myself thinking I would have enjoyed Lola more if it were a film or a TV series. Since a lot of the plot revolved around action, I had difficulties keeping up at times since I’m more of a visual person and found myself needing to re-read sections of the book to avoid missing important details. I tend to gravitate towards books that are heavy on character development rather than plot and other than Lola, most of the characters in this book fell flat for me.

Because of the emphasis on action, there were times during my reading that I found myself questioning the repetitive nature of certain observations Lola would make about the people around her. While this worked in the beginning of the storyline, by the end I began to feel like the author was trying to drive home certain points regarding racism and classism and had just run out of ways to say it. This made some of Lola’s internal dialogue seem a bit forced towards the end of the novel which is what kept me from truly loving this book.

Overall, this was a fast-paced read that was entirely different from what I usually pick up. I was happy to branch out a bit and ultimately had fun reading this book. Fans of TV shows/films like Breaking Bad and Kill Bill, or more action-based fiction with badass female characters (think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) should pick up a copy of Lola!

Rupture

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1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…
In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.
Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.

Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson

Publication Date: January 15, 2017 by Orenda

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My Thoughts:

Dark and atmospheric, Rupture is a tense thriller that weaves together several different plot lines into one suspenseful story. While I enjoyed all of the Dark Iceland books, I think Rupture was my favorite of the four. It still revolved around Ari Thor and an Agatha Christie-eque mystery, but the writing seemed more mature and the plot felt much more elaborate.

Much like in the prior novels, there are several different story lines and narrations to follow with everything tying up succinctly back together at the very end. I enjoyed reading more from other characters’ perspectives in addition to Ari Thor this time and the suspense was much more prevalent in this book compared to Nightblind and Blackout.

I would recommend this series to anyone who likes a more traditional thriller and doesn’t need fast-paced action. I think what’s particularly enjoyable about the Dark Iceland books is the atmospheric elements that the author includes. There’s something about such a small Icelandic town that makes everything seem even more frightening in these crime novels. Such a fun read!

See What I Have Done

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In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Publication Date: August 1, 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press

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My Thoughts:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

I recently finished watching The Lizzie Borden Chronicles on Netflix and couldn’t believe my luck when I was approved on Netgalley for See What I Have Done.

Having watched the mini series with Christina Ricci (Lizzie Borden) and Clea DuVall (Emma Borden), I found this book to be an accurate depiction of the dysfunction in their relationship with each other and their parents as well. For those who need something to fill the void until this book is released in August, I’d highly recommend watching this show!

See What I Have Done brings us a little closer into the Borden household by alternating chapters narrated by several different characters: Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and a man named Benjamin. I’m particularly drawn to character studies and this is a novel that doesn’t disappoint in that area. As the reader gets an intimate look into the thoughts and daily lives of all these people, it’s easier to see why things ended in the murder of Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby Borden.

While Lizzie ceases to terrify me, I particularly appreciated the opportunity to hear from her older sister, Emma. There was something heartbreaking about Emma’s wish to escape, but her unwillingness to leave for fear of abandoning her sister. The dysfunctional relationship between the two sisters is clear from the very start and there were several times where I just wished I could reach out and shake Emma and tell her to run as far as she could.

Lizzie tucked her chin, couldn’t quite look me in the eye. ‘Do you still love me?’ I hardened: ribs ached, fingers tired, shriveled. It always came down to love. I wanted to say, ‘No.’ Then, ‘Not always,’ then, ‘Sometimes I wish you were dead.’ ‘Yes,’ I told her. ‘I do.’

Schmidt does an amazing job of highlighting the unhealthy relationship between not only Lizzie and Emma, but between both girls and their father as well. Despite being grown women, Lizzie and Emma are ruled by Mr. Borden and at times, it seems more a sense of ingrained responsibility towards him than anything he dictates aloud. Regardless, the feelings of discomfort and unhappiness in the household are palpable and Schmidt’s prose makes those uncomfortable feelings even more visceral.

Spikes grew along the back of my ribcage, made me cough, and I took her hand. It was soft like mine. There we were, me and my sister, our bodies inseparable. There is nothing that escapes blood.

For those who like suspenseful, somewhat gruesome plots with a cast of both likable and despicable characters, be prepared to get a copy of this book as soon as it is released in August! Even those who don’t know the historical background of the Borden family would easily become absorbed in the novel since it does not require a prior knowledge of the murders. Either way, this is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys an unsettling, psychological thriller regardless of their interest in history.

Thank you, Netgalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for allowing me to read this book prior to its publication in exchange for an honest review!

Final Girls

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Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 11, 2017 by Dutton

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My Thoughts:

This was such an amazingly fun book to read! I have very high standards for horror novels and films and I was ecstatic when Final Girls easily surpassed those expectations.

Final Girls is a fascinating mixture of horror and psychological thriller. The reader learns almost immediately of the nightmare the narrator has experienced when she was a college student, but much of the rest of the story involves a roller coaster of emotion as the reader tries to determine how reliable of a narrator Quincy really is.

Final Girls is a great lesson on red herrings. It felt like every time I started to feel like I had a grip on what was going on, I was completely thrown off again. While this could have felt frustratingly misleading, instead I found this mistrust to be a major focal point of the plot and I loved how quickly Sager could make me feel unsettled after thinking I knew a character’s intent.

I’m glad I didn’t let the synopsis fool me. This book easily could have let the violence and the use of shock value to gain readers, but Riley Sager is a talented writer and Final Girls is so much more than a terrifying story.

Thank you, Netgalley and Dutton for allowing me the chance to read this fantastic novel before its publication date in return for an honest review! I cannot wait to see what Riley Sager writes next.

The Roanoke Girls

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After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Publication Date: March 7, 2017 by Crown Publishing

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My Thoughts:

I’m not quite sure what I expected when I picked up The Roanoke Girls , but it surprised me in the best way possible. While the major cause for all the family dysfunction was shared early on, I felt that knowing the major secrets had even more of an impact on how I felt about certain characters and added to the character development, especially that of Lane and Allegra.

I LOVED Engel’s writing style. Even when tackling some very uncomfortable subject matter, her writing is beautiful and often poetic. Rather than looking for shock factor, I felt like Engel used the darker parts of the novel to deepen the reader’s connection with Lane and to further explore all the different personalities in the book. While there were plenty of things to dislike about particular characters, I still found myself completely enraptured in the storyline and dying to know where Lane would end up and what exactly happened to Allegra.

This novel is not for the faint of heart because there’s definitely a major “ick” factor to the plot that may turn off certain types of readers. However, for those looking for a slow burning psychological thriller that focuses more on characterization and lush prose than an action packed story line, The Roanoke Girls should be the next book you pick up!

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

My Husband’s Wife

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It won’t be so bad when you’re there, says my new husband before kissing me on the mouth. He tastes of Rice Krispies and that strong toothpaste of his which I still haven’t gotten used to. I know, I say before he peels off to the bus stop on the other side of the road. Two lies. Small white ones. Designed to make the other feel better. But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.

When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe. A convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything.

But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants. When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

Publication Date: January 31, 2017 by Pamela Dorman Books

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My Thoughts:

My Husband’s Wife has all the telltale signs of a great psychological thriller – unlikeable characters, lots of secrets, and a razor sharp tension from start to finish.

Corry focuses a lot of attention on characterization and that is what keeps the story moving along. While there may be a lot NOT to like about Lily, there were also times where I found myself rooting for her despite her flaws. I also liked her strong personality – a detail that is sometimes lacking with female characters in this genre.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the transition midway through the book that pushed the reader forward to over a decade later. As the book progressed, things began to click into place and Carla’s motives were much easier to understand after having gotten such an intimate look into her life as a 9 year old girl. And while adult Carla is an even more unlikeable character than Lily, it was much easier to understand her actions even if it wasn’t easy to sympathize with her.

Many of the events in the plot are somewhat predictable and some of the secrets, while terribly sad, aren’t necessarily much of a surprise either. This isn’t the type of thriller that relies on a lot of action or plot twists to have an impact. And while I generally prefer psychological stories that weigh heavier on character studies than plot, I did find something a bit lacking in My Husband’s Wife. It may just be that Corry’s writing style isn’t quite my cup of tea, but there were aspects of the novel that I just didn’t find resonated as strongly with me as it might have if it were written somewhat differently.

Knowing that this is Corry’s debut novel, I’d be interested in seeing how her writing progresses with her next book. Although there was something that fell a little flat with me in My Husband’s Wife, I still really enjoyed the characterization and could see the potential of liking her second novel even more.