Review: All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

img_0257 Nicolette Farrell is returning home to the rural, small town where she grew up. She left Cooley Ridge a decade ago after her best friend disappeared and was never heard from again. Everyone in the town has different ideas as to what happened to Corinne all those years ago; some think she ran away, some think she was murdered by her boyfriend, and some are still as clueless as the investigators seem to have been all those years ago.

When Nicolette receives a phone call from her brother telling her that their father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, she knows she has no choice but to go back home and help. Even though most things in Cooley Ridge are very different than what Nicolette remembers….some things will never change. Nicolette’s brother is married and expecting a baby, her old high school boyfriend, Tyler,  is dating a younger girl, Annaleise Carter….who mysteriously goes missing just days after Nicolette comes back into town. Annaleise also just happens to be the one person who can confirm Nicolette, Daniel, and Tyler’s alibi for the night Corinne went missing 10 years ago.  Old memories and new questions of Corinne’s disappearance begin to emerge when a brand new missing persons investigation turns the small town upside down.

“We were a town full of fear, searching for answers. But we were also a town full of liars.”

This was a fun and exciting read!!! I love a good mystery/psychological thriller that keeps you guessing the entire time….and this is a perfect example of that kind of book. This particular novel has a very unique and interesting twist to the style in that the story is all told in reverse! Yes, you read that right…the story is told in reverse order and it’s brilliant! All The Missing Girls starts present day with different small flashbacks from the past…then, suddenly, it jumps to day 15 when the major twist or conclusion seems to have already been revealed. After that the story is told each day in reverse so you only get tidbits of information at a time and you have to sort of piece little parts together as you go. It’s really quite a fun and totally engrossing ride. I found myself totally changing my opinion on certain events or decisions the characters made with each previous day’s events being unfolded in the story.

This novel had me on the edge of my seat for the entire read! If you enjoy a good mystery/thriller, this ones for you!

All The Missing Girls – Amazon

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Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson (Millennium #3)

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

img_5439 The Girls Who Kicked The Hornets Nest is the third and final installment of the Millennium Trilogy written by the late Stieg Larsson. (There is technically a fourth book, but it was written by a different author so I don’t really consider it part of the series.)

In this installment of the series, we find Lisbeth Salander gravely wounded in the intensive care unit of a hospital. The police are waiting on her recovery so that she can be formally charged with three murders. Together with her friend, Mikael Bloomkvist, she much prove her innocence as well as identify and bring to justice the authority figures who allowed her, and others like her, to suffer long term abuse. Salander spent the majority of her youth being a victim…and she’s ready to fight back and take revenge on the same people who destroyed her life over the years.

“I’m not going to apologize for the way I’ve led my life.” – Lisbeth Salander

Phew…i finally finished the trilogy! I’m not really sure what took so long other than the fact that these books can be wordy. And I guess at over 600 pages…they are long. I started this series a little over a year ago with the initial book The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I immediately fell in love with the strength and intrigue that is the character of Lisbeth Salander. The second book, The Girl Who Played With Firewas a little bit of a slower read for me…you can see my review HERE. What I’ve since realized is that book 2 and book 3 are almost 2 parts to the same story. So, while book 2 moved a tad slow for me…..book 3 more than picked up the pace and made up for it. Yes, there is still quite a bit of information and the same large cast of characters….but the action in this book was almost non stop, only peppered with small amounts of background information. The ending was perfect and totally left me with a feeling of deserved justice for the characters in the series.

I ended up really enjoying this trilogy. The first and third were my favorites and easily both 5 star reads for me and the overall trilogy definitely belongs in the category of my “favorites”.
I love Lisbeth’s character and absolutely enjoyed getting to see a different, more personal and intimate side to her. Lots of great characters in this series with fantastic twists, I mostly never saw coming. These are a great crime, mystery/thriller series that I highly recommend to those readers who like that genre.

Review: The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction

img_5443 Ani (pronounced Ahh-Nee) FaNelli is the type of woman that most people love to hate. She’s wealthy, pretentious, judgmental, snobby and she’s preparing for an extravagant New York wedding.  Portraying the perfect image is very important to Ani and she does everything in her power to make sure that happens. But as the is story unfolds, we slowly get to see that Ani’s perfection is only a facade put in place to hide the truth of her very dark teenage years.

When a documentary crew approaches Ani and asks her to participate in their film about her past, she hopes this will be her one time to share her side of the story. As the film crew continue to film and interview Ani, her seemingly perfect world begins to crack as she soon realizes that the buried past must eventually come to surface.

So….this is a hard book for me to review. I think part of the reason for my low rating is the way the book was portrayed. It seems like lately, every other book is called “the next Gone Girl”, and that expression is getting old because it’s very rarely correct. The Luckiest Girl alive has an unreliable narrator…but that’s pretty much the only similarity that exists between the two. And while I normally don’t mind and even I enjoy a good unreliable narrator when it’s done well….I didn’t care for that angle with this book. I don’t feel like an author should start with a narrator that you wouldn’t trust as far as you can throw them and then expect sympathy and understanding toward the same person half way through when they never really become authentic and real. I just never got there with Ani. Without giving too much of the storyline away….the reader SHOULD feel sympathy for her and for what happened, and at certain specific times I did….but then I felt like I lost it just as quickly as it came. All throughout the story, her character’s motivations, feelings and personality seemed to shift too often that I had a hard time feeling any sort of connection to her. Beyond Ani…pretty much every other character in this story is unlikeable, snotty, rude or just a plain jerk. Because of that, I spent the first 50-75% feeling like I was reading a story about nothing other than spoiled, pretentious, snobby rich people who were rude and mean to everyone around them. Once the climax of the story happens, the book did redeem itself quite a bit…but sadly, it seemed to not be quite enough for me to give it a higher rating.

I can definitely see why some people enjoyed this book, and I’m sure I would have had this story been written with a more reliable and honest narrator than the one the author used here. The Luckiest Girl Alive was definitely a quick book for me and I didn’t have any trouble finishing it….so that was good. I was just left with a feeling of disappointment overall.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Luckiest Girl AliveAmazon

Review: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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“In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…”

48 hours after Tanya Dubois’ husband falls down the stairs to his death, she finds herself cashing out everything she owns, changing her appearance and taking on a whole new identity. She flees town in the middle of the night knowing full well her life as Tanya is now over….but this isn’t the first time she’s had to do something like this. The main character and narrator of this story seems to change her identity as often as most people change their clothes.

The Passenger is a fast moving, immediately gripping mystery/thriller about a woman who creates new identities as she needs them while traveling across the country to escape her past.

I absolutely love psychological thrillers and this one did not disappoint. As well as following Tanya through her current day travels, we also get a glimpse back in time with a series of emails. In these emails, we get the history of why and when Tanya first started to run and change identities….only…we don’t get the whole story at once. As Tanya travels back and forth across the country, changing identities and meeting new people, we slowly get more and more insight into just who Tanya is and where she came from.

The Passenger is a gripping, sometimes fun & entertaining and, other times dark thriller. I love the unreliable narrator in this story…I can feel iffy about them sometimes, but it worked this time. And I think that’s because as the story went on, we get more honesty.
When I started this book I didn’t quite know what to expect or where this was going but I was pleasantly surprised as the story continued. I loved the feeling of being on the run with Tanya and not quite fully knowing all the history, while at the same time knowing you’d be rewarded with answers little by little.  I quite liked the conclusion and I felt like this story had a unique and interesting cast of characters.
Great read!

My Rating: 4/5 Starts

The Passenger – Amazon

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium 2)by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium 2) by Stieg Larsson

Genre: Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

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“Don’t ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, she’ll get a bigger gun.”

In the second installment of the Millennium Trilogy…Mikael Blomvkist, publisher of Millennium Magazine, has decided to run a story about a very large and twisted sex trafficking ring in Sweden.  The day before the story is to be published, the two writers of the article are found murdered in their apartment. When the investigation into the murders begins…a murder weapon is found, along with a very clear set of fingerprints….and those prints belong to Mikael’s friend, Lisbeth Salander. Mikael Blomkvist is immediately convinced of his friend’s innocence and finds himself entwined in the middle of Sweden’s largest and most dangerous prostitution ring in order to help clear Salander’s name. Meanwhile, Salander herself must face the dark and long buried secrets of her past in order to save herself.

“There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.”

This second book in the series took me a little longer to get through than the first. The beginning was a tad slower moving. And the typical long list of characters, names & places can be tedious at times. I’m still not quite sure how the opening chapters fit into the overall storyline of the rest of the book…other than to more clearly immerse the reader into Lisbeth’s mind frame and character. However, the pace does pick up dramatically not too long into the story…and about 1/2 way through the book, I found myself not wanting to put it down.

Overall…I really loved the continuation of the storyline from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo…while also taking us on a completely different journey. I absolutely enjoyed finally reading about Lisbeth’s past and getting more insight on her and the things she’s experienced that helped to mold who she is today. I’ve heard from a few people who’ve completed the trilogy that Book 2 can and should be seen as the prequel to the finish of the story in Book 3…and that makes total sense to me now that I’ve read this one.

The book ended on a very tense, high suspense note….and I’ll be going right into the third and final installment! If you haven’t yet started this trilogy, I highly suggest it if you are a fan of a suspenseful mystery/thriller.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Millennium 1) – Amazon

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium 2)Amazon 

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest (Millennium 3) – Amazon

Review: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Genre: Thriller/Horror

img_5081  Deep in a large secluded estate, lies a mansion…and within that mansion is a beautiful butterfly garden. Within that garden, lives a collection of beautiful “butterflies” – young women who were drugged, kidnapped and are being held hostage within the garden’s walls. Overseeing all of this is the Gardener…a sick and twisted psychopath of a man who is obsessed and methodical with his collection.

The story begins with a survivor of the garden being questioned  by the FBI about her knowledge and part in the Butterfly Garden. Known only by the name the gardener has given her, Maya….she isn’t very trusting or even very helpful with giving the agents information. Because Maya has been a prisoner for the past two years she proves to be a bit of a puzzle for the detectives. Slowly as her story begins to unravel, light is shed on life inside the Butterfly Garden. A horrific story about a man who would go to any length to preserve beauty as he sees it and maintain his “collection” of young girls begins to open up. But….the detectives are sure that Maya is still hiding something back and they won’t stop until they find out what that is.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised by this book! It wasn’t really on my radar and I still haven’t heard a lot of chatter about it…and I’m not sure why that is. The Butterfly Garden  is a crazy, intense and wild ride. It’s not very long…only 288 pages, so it’s a nice quick, fast paced read. If I had a solid chunk of time to sit and read it, this is one I could have easily finished in one sitting. I’m a huge sucker for a good serial killer/thriller story and The Butterfly Garden definitely delivers in that aspect and does it well. One of the parts that I loved about this book was the relationships between all the female characters of this story…it added a nice soft place to land between all the craziness. I also absolutely loved the main character, Maya….she’s gritty, intense, honest and genuine.

If you are a fan of serial killer thriller stories…this is a fantastic one! And…as an added bonus, you can read the e-book for free via Amazon if you have a Prime account with their new Prime Reads program!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Butterfly GardenAmazon

Review: All Fall Down by Tom Bale

All Fall Down by Tom Bale

img_4342 Rob and Wendy Turner are enjoying a nice, relaxing weekend cookout with their family when suddenly a man who has been beaten near to death wanders into their yard. It’s immediately apparent that the man needs quick medical attention…and soon after, he dies at the hospital. The family has no clue who the man was or who could have done this to him, and they aren’t really able to offer the police much help.

Rob and Wendy Turner assume it was all a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but within a few days they realize their lives are also being threatened. What the family does not know, is that they are being watched…have been being watched for a long time…by a group of people who are determined to fulfill a very sick and twisted agenda.

All Fall Down releases on September 1st and I was lucky enough to be approved for an advanced copy through NetGalley. For me, it reads like your typical Mystery/Suspense/Thriller…so if that is a genre you normally enjoy, this is probably one you want to check out. There are a few rather graphically violent parts to the story… I always like to mention that just in case there are some who are put off by things like that. It wasn’t an amazing book for me, but it was enjoyable and I didn’t really guess what was happening. I did have an issue with the way the story was written…especially in the beginning. For me, it read kind of like a sequel to a first book (even though it’s not) that I missed out on. Half information is given, but instead of it being given in a way that leaves you feeling suspenseful, it made me feel like I missed some information. Most of those pieces fit together by the end, so it worked out…just something that I found kind of irritating in the beginning.

I think I’m kind of tougher on my reviews for books in this genre for some reason, seeing as how my last handful only received a 3/3.5 star rating from me, I’m not really sure why that is 😉

Thank You to Netgalley, Bookouture and Tom Bale for the opportunity to read and review.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Hearberlin

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Hearberlin

img_4198“I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.”

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Cartwright was found in a shallow grave amidst other bones and fragments of human remains in the middle of a Texas field. She has very little memory of her abduction, her assailant or how she was dumped in the grave. The media quickly dubs her the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan”…the name given to the victims due to the bed of flowers planted above their graves. With the help of her family, friends, therapists and the very little bits of memories she has of that night…Tessa’s courtroom testimony helps put a man on death row.

Years later, as a single mother to her own teenage daughter…Tessa starts to think she may have helped to put the wrong man behind bars. Fearing for the safety of her own daughter, Tessa is convinced that the real killer is still free after she begins to notice Black-Eyed Susans planted outside her bedroom window, suspicious packages mailed to her home, and cryptic messages left for her to find. With the help of the legal team already working to free the man awaiting execution, Tessa has no choice but to confront old ghosts and try to dig up long buried memories of her ordeal.

Black-Eyed Susans tells Tessa’s story while alternating chapters between present day, adult Tessa and sixteen-year-old Tessie.  This was an entertaining story…I had fun reading it, I wasn’t able to figure it out…but I wasn’t quite in awe or blown away by it like I was some other more recently published psychological thrillers.
I enjoyed the writing style of alternating between the past & present…it added a bit more suspense to the reading. And, like I mentioned above, the story kept me guessing & wondering throughout. I personally didn’t love the ending though…it wasn’t terrible, but certain parts of the ending felt kind of rushed and thrown together. I guess some of the details of the conclusion left me wanting a bit more.
Overall, I’d still recommend this to readers who enjoy a good mystery or psychological thriller.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Review: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

img_4204“All I know is that one day all the maps became useless and we had to make our own. The old’uns called the day the Fall or the Reformation. Nana said some down in the far south called it the Rapture. Nana was a babe when it happened, said her momma called it the Big Damn Stupid. Set everything back to zero.”

The Big Damn Stupid is a mostly unexplained apocalyptic war event that seems to have sent the world back to a time with no technology, rudimentary civilization, and society being at the mercy of Mother Nature. When a very large and damaging storm ravages a small town, a seven year old girl is left an orphan. Cold, frightened and starving…she happens upon a small shack in the woods owned by a reclusive man she comes to call Trapper. The mysterious man takes the girl in, names her Elka, and he soon begins to teach her everything he knows about survival in the great unforgiving wilderness that is now home. Elka learns to hunt, trap, start fires, build a shelter and most importantly…she learns to fear other people and to lead a solitary life.

After a decade of Elka living with Trapper, she not only relies on him…she comes to view him as her teacher and a father figure. Trapper is all Elka knows as she remembers very little from her life before meeting him. But one day, Elka learns of Trapper’s very sinister and secret life….he is a wanted serial killer, hiding from the law. Now that Elka knows the truth about the only father figure she’s ever known, she fears she may be in danger of being his next victim. Armed with nothing but her survival knowledge and a knife, Elka flees the only home and security she’s known into the bitter North… in search of her birth parents who left her to her grandmother when she was only a baby. But judging by the trail of blood that seems to be following her, Elka soon realizes that she’s not alone…and that Trapper is not going to let her go without a fight. If she is going to survive, Elka will have to learn the difference between people that can be trusted and those that can’t. She will also have to confront the very dark truth of the sinister path that she has been set on.

“Monsters ain’t real ‘cept in kids’ imaginations, under the beds, in the closets. We live in a world a’ men and there ain’t no good come out of tellin’ them they monsters. Makes ’em think they ain’t done nothin’ wrong, that it’s their nature and they can’t do nothin’ to change that. Callin’ ’em a monster makes ’em somethin’ different from the rest of us, but they ain’t. They just men, flesh and bone and blood. Bad’uns, truth, but men all the same.”

The Wolf Road was a little difficult for me to get into at first, specifically due to it’s writing style. Told in the first person, this novel is narrated completely inside Elka’s head…and due to the fact that she is completely uneducated and illiterate, some of the writing takes some getting used to. However, one I did get used to Elka’s voice, I found the prose of this novel so authentic and perfect. Once I was a few chapters in, I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Elka is such a wonderful, strong & endearing voice….she kind of reminds me a little of Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Even though, technically, this novel has a post-war ravaged desolate setting…I wouldn’t consider this a “post apocalyptic” genre book….it’s more of a PA with a twist of a wild west to it.  That apocalypse is really only used as an explanation for the way a few certain situations play out, but it’s definitely not the main theme of the story. In fact, if it weren’t for the mention of the “Big Damn Stupid” happening, the reader could easily assume this novel takes place over a hundred years ago. So if you are a reader who doesn’t usually care for the typical post-appocalyptic genre or even if you feel like you’ve read too many with that theme lately…not to worry….the message of this book goes so far beyond just the setting. The Wolf Road is a gripping cat-and-mouse tale with lessons on redemption, revenge and forgiveness….all played out against an unforgiving wild landscape. It’s narrated by a tenacious, capable and tough young heroine who you cannot help but root for and come to love! I’m fairly certain that Elka has earned her place as one of my many favorite strong and memorable character voices.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and definitely recommend it. This is a fantastic brand new (published July, 2016) debut from an author that I’m sure we will be hearing more about in the near future!

*** I would like to thank Blogging For Books for a print copy of this book in exchange for my review***.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

img_4143 “Are you happy with your life?”  Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked man who kidnapped him at gun point knocks him over the head rendering him unconscious. When Jason wakes up, he finds that he is restrained to a bed in a strange room with strange people looking down on him. He soon realizes that the life he knew…his career, his wife, his son….those things are no longer part of his life. People he’s never seen before are calling him their friend and colleague, his home is in the same location…but looks completely different, the college where he was a professor has never heard of him, his wife’s cell phone number rings to a stranger, and his 14 year old son appears to not even exist. How can this be?? Is Jason crazy or just confused…or is someone playing a trick on his mind? As Jason tries to separate reality from dream, he soon learns about a world in which the choices we make can alter the reality of our current lives….and a world in which we can see those alternate realities play out before our eyes.

I was excited to read this book since I was a fan of Crouch’s Wayward Pines Trilogy when I read it a few years ago. I’m not normally a huge sci-fi fan…it’s one of my lesser read genres, but the Pines Series was enjoyable for me and I was looking forward to trying this one out when I was given the opportunity for an e-ARC from Netgalley.

This was an engaging, sometimes thrilling and very interesting sci-fi thriller that kept me interested from start to the finish. Dark Matter is a new and (for me) unique take on time travel. Instead of exploring the travel through chronological time & history, this book looks at traveling through alternate realities of the same time. Traveling through and seeing all the different ways a persons life may be different, all at the current time period, if alternate choices had been made at critical times in life. It’s a very interesting concept and one that definitely makes you think and can give some room for great discussion. It’s not exactly an alternate history or a do-over type story…it’s different than that, but you’ll just have to read to see how as me saying more will give away too many spoilers.

At certain points in the story, the “science” talk got to be a bit much and sometimes I felt my eyes start to glaze over. I’m sure plenty of other readers may not share the same sentiment….but I would have preferred a tad more in depth character development in place of the physics discussions. But it was still a great plot that I found unique and very engaging.

So you’re probably wondering why the 3.5 star rating… The reasons it wasn’t a 4 star for me were some inconsistencies that irked me…as well as one particular part of the plot I thought would have been better to have been omitted. Again…this is the type of story that is really hard to review fully without giving away major plot spoilers… So, I’ll leave out any more specifics here and would welcome further discussion via comments once anyone reads this book and wants to discuss.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

*** Thank you to NetGalley, Crown Publishing and Blake Crouch for the opportunity to read and review this book.