I LET YOU GO

5/5 stars

MEMBER OF THE TWISTER HALL OF FAME

  • Author: Clare Macintosh
  • Published May 3rd 2016 by Berkley

 

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

Clare Macintosh, the author of I Let You Go, is the real deal. According to her Goodreads profile, she spent twelve years in the police force, including time in the criminal investigations unit (CID). She knows what she is writing about.

I Let You Go, her debut novel, was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015 (U.K.). It won all kinds of awards and is still an extremely popular book. For good reason.

Here’s what it’s about: after a tragic accident, Jenna Gray’s only hope is to start afresh—and in a tiny, remote Welsh village it seems possible, just for a moment, that she might be able to find a new life. But her grief isn’t going to stay in the past for long… THAT IS ALL I CAN TELL YOU without spoilers.

This book checks all my required boxes for a top notch domestic thriller!

  • UK setting (SO MUCH LOVE)
  • Heavy on the psychological aspects (YES)
  • Just enough police procedural
  • Sympathetic protagonist
  • Unreliable narrators (MUST HAVE)
  • Breath taking plot twists
  • Compelling mystery (UNPUTDOWNABLE)
  • Expertly-cleverly-plotted writing (TECHNICAL TERM)

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DING DING DING…..We have a winner! The book takes a minute to set up and you may find it a bit slow, but relax, you’re in good hands. (And wake up! You might want to really pay attention at the beginning since there may or may not be a few clues already sprinkled in. )

I found this book compelling and irresistible. Although the subject matter is heavy, it carries an important message and Clare Macintosh is up to the challenge.

AMAZON link

 

THE KIND WORTH KILLING

5/5 stars

“I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.”
― Peter Swanson, The Kind Worth Killing

This first-rate domestic thriller has never gotten the attention it deserved. It won a couple of awards when it was released in 2015, but The Girl on the Train was published around the same time and that press junket steamrolled over any serious consideration The Kind Worth Killing was gaining as the go-to novel that year.

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A modern take on the Patricia Highsmith classic, Strangers on a Train, the story is told mostly through the voice of Lily. I read this over two years ago, and I still remember Lily! She is a terrifyingly, unreliable narrator due to her psychotic tendencies. Here’s the weird part: I started sympathizing with her and hoping she would get away with murder in the end. This is a talented writer, people! To turn readers into serial killer sympathizers, kudos to the skillful Peter Swanson!

If I summarize this book, it would be filled with spoilers. You’re most likely familiar with the Highsmith book or the Hitchcock movie, so you already know the plot. It is a cat and mouse game played with the highest stakes. But there is so much more in the way of characterization (especially Lily!) and plot twists and shocks and murder and…MAYHEM! Amen to that.

Now is the time to pull THE KIND WORTH KILLING out of your TBR stack. You will be rewarded with lots of creepiness and an unputdownable story.

AMAZON LINK: The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel

THE DINNER

5/5 stars

  • Author: Herman Koch, translated by Sam Garrett
  • Published February 12th 2013 by Hogarth (first published January 2009)
  • TWISTER HALL OF FAME MEMBER
“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.”
— Herman Koch (The Dinner)

This is one of my favorite books in the domestic noir genre. It is not a book for everyone. It is biting, raw and the darkest humor you can imagine. Almost the entire story is set at a restaurant table.

There are two unhappy couples having dinner together and acting as if everything is fine. As we go from appetizers to dessert, the reader gets a sense that something is very wrong here. A simmering beneath the surface kind of tension. It continues to build until all the secrets are exposed. I could not put this book down except for minutes at a time and then I was constantly wondering “what in the world is going on here?”

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Each couple has a son. These sons are cousins to each other, because their dads are brothers.  The sons have done something horrible. Really bad. And the parents are here not just to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant, but to work out how this situation their sons are in should be handled. All four members at the table have a different agenda, a different perspective, a different personality flaw.

The narrator, Paul, is sarcastic and funny and relatable. He could be someone you know. But when you find out the true Paul, who he is when no one is watching, you realize you probably don’t know anyone like him and you certainly don’t want to.

To me, this book is a rare find. It is written so well, even though it is translated from Dutch to English. Amazing, my English major heart rejoices! A brilliant and literary, domestic suspense story.

AMAZON link    The Dinner

Bloggers: What do you say about a less-than-stellar ARC?

I was in the dumps a few days ago. I love mysteries, domestic noir, suspense books anytime anywhere.  I even dig a good procedural like the excellent Tana French and Robert Galbraith books.

Being a new blogger, I joined NetGalley a few months ago and went straight for my genre of books. While I’ve read some good ones, I read so many lackluster, blah (boring) ARCs that I seriously got burned out. Also, how do you bloggers handle bad ARCs? Some, I can’t even finish. Then, what about the review?

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My husband (not a big reader) says I should be honest and tell it like it is – let people know if the book is lousy. In these cases, I feel too much for the author, the hard work he/she put in and their feelings, too. I just can’t trash a book publicly. It does irk me when a so-so book is heavily promoted and I see tons of other bloggers tweeting about how great it is.  Is that solely so they will get more free books to review?

I have tentatively decided to only write reviews for “good”  books. Or semi-good. I’m not a snob, I just WANT TO READ GOOD BOOKS!

Not knowing how this whole blogger/book reviewer big picture works, I at first accepted a couple of author’s requests to read their books. One self-published, one has been published about a year. Both really bad.

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Do I let them know their books sucked, I couldn’t finish, no way I can write a nice review? I’m really interested in your thoughts on this subject.  How do you handle bad books?

In case you care (you do, don’t you?) I climbed out of my reading slump by concentrating on my TBR list. First up, DARK MATTER. High fives all around. Perfectly exciting and different and well written. Now, Sharp Objects. It’s looking outstanding.

DARK MATTER

5/5 stars

  • Author: Blake Crouch
  • Crown Publishers
  • Published 7.26.2016

“We’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.”
― Blake Crouch, Dark Matter 

Sometimes the perfect book comes into your life at the perfect time. Dark Matter kept catching my eye in the year that it has been published. But, ya know, sometimes I like sci-fi and sometimes I don’t. I happened to hear Anne Bogel on her podcast “What Should I Read Next” recommend this book to a reader. She said it’s not too science-y. She’s right. I would describe Dark Matter as a suspenseful love story with a lot of cool sci-fi elements thrown in.

Jason, our main character, goes out to buy ice cream one evening and is abducted at gunpoint, drugged, and wakes up in a Chicago that is not his own. His wife and child are not his wife and child anymore and he is a prize-winning physicist in this new world who has invented a way to travel to an infinite number of universes (the multiverse).  He is on a mission to get back to his universe with his wife and child in his own life. The story that follows is one of lost opportunities, what ifs, and how the smallest decisions affect our life. It’s kind of a “Sliding Doors” premise with a sci-fi twist.

Blake Crouch writes in an exciting fast manner, you can read this book in a matter of hours (and you will want to!). I heard he’s writing the screenplay for the movie and I have no doubt it will be amazing. His writing is well suited to a screenplay. Short and to the point on descriptions, dialogues, relationships.

The book is suspenseful because he is on the run and desperate to find who has taken his place in his original universe with the love of his life, Daniela.

He’s not time traveling, he is jumping between different universes at one point in time. Sometimes he encounters a horrifyingly post-apocalyptic Chicago and another time he finds an angelic, seemingly futuristic Chicago. But all of these worlds are existing now because of choices we made as the human race in that world.  AAHHHH, I can’t even explain it, but it works!

After a summer filled with reading the same-old-domestic-suspense stories, Dark Matter was a breath of fresh air.  I absolutely loved it. You don’t need to understand quantum physics to understand this book. Suspend all disbelief, buckle your seatbelt and let Blake Crouch do the driving.

Dark Matter: A Novel AMAZON link

Happy Monday

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Ugh, I know. Mondays suck and we are waking up to a blistering hot forecast for the Pacific Northwest this week. We’re going to experience 3-4 days in a row over 100 degrees.  I grew up in Texas so I know temps like that aren’t a big deal. But, Texas is one big air conditioner in the summer. Everyone has A/C. Public buildings are kept very cool. It’s deadly not to have A/C in Texas.

A little different in Oregon. We generally have mild summer days and cool nights. Most people don’t have A/C at home and if stores and restaurants have A/C, it is not kept at a cold enough temp to beat 105 degree heat. Bless their hearts, Oregonians just don’t like to run air conditioners full blast.  So, when we have a heat wave like we are this week, we just hunker down, don’t move around, conserve energy and try not to melt. Perfect time to get lost in a book.

 

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

5/5 stars

  • Member of the Twister Hall of Fame
  • Author: Paula Hawkins
  • Published January 13th 2015 by Riverhead Books

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train: A Novel Amazon Great Kindle Deal!

This story is actually told from three women’s points of view. For all intents and purposes, you will only remember Rachel. She’s the main character and her drunken memories help to create, dare I say it?  The all-time MOST UNRELIABLE  NARRATOR in literary history.  That’s why I love this book so much!  Well, one of the reasons. Actually, every character in this book is unreliable. Who can you trust? NO ONE. Put the clues together and solve this mystery yourself.

The new label being thrown around these days is “domestic noir” and I believe describes this sub-genre much better than “psychological thriller”or “chick” noir (ick).  This is the tribe of books I have embraced. And millions others. We may be in danger of overdosing on domestic noir now.

The novelist, Julia Crouch, described the subgenre in her blog in 2013. “In a nutshell, Domestic Noir takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

Paula Hawkins set the domestic noir scene on fire with this book. We had all been waiting (2 years!) for someone to replace Gillian Flynn on the bestseller list and she did it. Girl on the the Train is a much more delicious variation on the textbook standard that Gone Girl had established. I think it is an easier, faster read than Gone Girl and not as cynically, bitterly dark and depressing as Gone Girl.

The highly anticipated movie version of The Girl on the Train left me deflated. I thought The_Girl_on_The_Trainit was shot in such a slick manner, way too glossy while the book was unabashedly gritty. I couldn’t get past that! Oh, Hollywood. What are ya gonna do about it?  I love Emily Blunt as Rachel. But, the movie is a miss. Read the book.

BTW: the Audible version is outstanding.