Netgalley Review: We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: We Went to the Woods

Author: Caite Dolan-Leach

Pages: 353

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 4.5/5

This is my second Dolan-Leach novel this year and I can confidently say that she is a must read author for me. She is so incredibly talented at writing characters and compelling stories. We Went to the Woods is a story about a group of five friends who decide live off the grid and start their own commune. Two members of the group are hardcore environmentalists who are against anything unnatural happening to the earth. The other members of the commune are just interested in their friendship group and commune living. The group also has a close friendship with some members of another commune living nearby.  This story is told all from the perspective of Mack who has a shady past involving a reality show and another commune and who is extremely interested in the past history of the other communes who live/lived in and around their property.

Over time I found myself really invested in the members of the group and where their story was heading. From the very beginning the author lets the reader know that something bad happened to the group and Mack is telling us the story of how the group came to be and all the events that lead up to the terrible thing that happened. I was also happily surprised to see that some characters from the Dolan-Leach’s first book popped up in this story. It adds another level of excitement for me when it comes to her third book because I can’t wait to see if there is further overlap in her stories.

If you love character driven books I really think you would enjoy this. Also for anyone, like me, who is interested in cults you will really like the different perspectives this book gives for them. It is more of a background of how cults get started and innocuous they can start off. There is also a side story where Mack is investigating a commune (or better referred to as a cult) that existed a hundred years ago. We get glimpses into that group and what led to their downfall. For me, I find cults so fascinating because I don’t understand what draws people to them and this book really opened my eyes to how harmless and ordinary they can start off as/ be.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookotoure for allowing me to read this book early in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: The Honeymoon

Author: Rona Halsall

Pages: 314

Publisher: Bookotoure

Publication Date: June 7, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5

‘I’m your husband, Chloe. We’re a partnership now and we do what’s best for us as a couple. Staying here is going to be the best option.’ He picked up his drink and took a sip. ‘It’s not open for discussion. We’re not going home.’

Chloe had the dream wedding. Dan is her perfect man. They haven’t known each other for long, but as she walked down the aisle and saw him standing by the altar, tears glistening in his eyes, she knew this was forever.

Later, as they relax on a beautiful island, settling in to their new married life together, they congratulate themselves on their lovely wedding day, and Dan jokes that he’d like them to stay there forever.

But as the honeymoon goes on, he becomes increasingly adamant. They shouldn’t leave. In fact, he won’t let her…

An utterly gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Clare Mackintosh, and The Wife Between Us.

Goodreads

This is a better than average domestic thriller. I really liked the way the main character, Chloe, is always questioning and rationalizing her thinking when it comes to her husband Dan. She knows that things are wrong and instead of blindly going along with it she stands up for herself. Sometimes, it feels like too much rationalizing on her part but overall I think the author, Rona Halsall, does a good job of not making Chloe a doormat. Chloe and Dan’s relationship was definitely rushed but at the same time it felt authentic. I fully believed that Chloe loves Dan and I could feel her pain and confusion over what was happening.

In the beginning of the book there are flashbacks and I didn’t like that it didn’t continue throughout the whole story. If you are familiar with my reviews you know that I am big on how a story is formatted. I would have preferred for the book to keep the same flow throughout the story. Also, there were a few times where there were flashbacks within flashbacks and I didn’t find them necessary.

I enjoyed the bulk of the story from when the honeymoon starts until the ending. It was well paced and I liked all the revelations that came out. The ending felt a bit over the top for me but it was still a fun read. I also really enjoyed the whole character arc for Chloe and the growth that she makes as a character. The unpredictably of Dan made the book very suspenseful as well because I was never quite sure what he was going to do or how far he was going to go.

I think that a lot of people would enjoy this book. If you are a fan of romance and/or thrillers then I definitely suggest you check this book out. It does a fabulous job of pushing the limits on what seems like a basic domestic thriller.

~Cassie

ARC Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for letting me read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Pages: 425

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Queer

Rating: 5/5

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of romance but when I read the synopsis of this book I instantly wanted to read it because it is such an original idea. And it definitely delivered. I am obsessed with the romance between Alex and Henry and I loved how real their relationship felt. I can honestly spend pages gushing about how freaking cute the two of them are together but I want you all to discover that all on your own.

In fact, all the relationships in this book are incredibly well done and realistically told. All the flaws felt so real and the characters were all so well rounded. Also, this gives such a positive spin on politics and politicians and it was a breath of fresh air from the world that we live in. The characters were all working towards making the world a better place and it was done in a really non confrontational way.

This is a world that I want to live in. I was crying at the end of this book because I so badly want this to be the kind of world that my boys have when they are older. Where all our differences are celebrated and it’s ok to love whoever we want. Where people are strong enough to push past old ideas and ways of thinking. But it’s done from a place of love and compassion and not from a negative place.

Honestly, this book is just amazing and I really hope that everyone gives it a chance. This is such a positive book with an amazing love story that I think so many people will relate to. I liked how much Alex grew as a character throughout the story and watching him fall in love with Henry was one of the sweetest things I have ever read.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

Thank you to Netgalley and St.Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2.5/5

First dates can be murder.

Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control.

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

Goodreads

This is my second Wendy Walker book and I think she does a fabulous job writing characters. She does such a great job of putting the reader inside the character’s heads and making them feel so real. There were obviously some things I didn’t like about this book but her characters were a high point.

For most of the book I thought this was going to be a three star read because while I do enjoy her characters I didn’t connect to the actual story the way I wanted to. There were a few things that I didn’t see coming but I figured out the final twist pretty early on. Since I figured out the end twist so early I was really just anxious to get to that point so I don’t think I enjoyed the lead up to there as much as I could have.

The pacing of the story is really well done though so I feel confident that most of my problems with this book are an “it’s me not you” situation. The story is told from both Laura and her sister Rosie’s perspectives as well as parts of Laura’s therapy sessions. All these different parts helped tell the story in a suspenseful way. Things would build up to something and then it would switch to another perspective. Because of that this book just flies by and I really liked all the different reveals.

Some of the things that I didn’t like would be spoilers so I can’t really go into them. I can tell you that I knocked half a star off at the very end because I really don’t like when authors booksplain (I heard this recently and thought it was genius). I don’t need pages at the end of the story to explain things to me. If an author feels it is necessary than maybe a paragraph at the most but any more than that and it comes across as lazy storytelling. Sorry if that seems harsh but booksplaining is one of my bookish pet peeves.

Overall, this is an average (average doesn’t equal bad!) thriller that I think anyone who is a fan of thrillers will enjoy. I know I rated it low but I did enjoy 99% of this book. I also think that someone who enjoys women’s fiction would also like this book because a lot of Laura’s story has to do with dating and relationships. I am also going to link the other Wendy Walker book that I read because I gave that one four stars and I do think she is so great at fleshing out characters. Also, if you aren’t familiar with the name Wendy Walker I bet most of you have heard of her last book Emma in the Night. I think she has written five novels and I plan on reading all of them.

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Better Sister bay Alafair Burke

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper for allowing me to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Title: The Better Sister

Author: The Better Sister

Pages: 336

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4/5

From Alafair Burke—New York Times bestselling author of the runaway hit, The Wife—comes another twisty tale of domestic noir. When a prominent Manhattan lawyer is murdered, two estranged sisters—one the dead man’s widow, the other his ex—must set aside mistrust and old resentments . . . but can they escape their past?

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless—the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past

Goodreads

The beginning of this book I was disappointed because it was resembling a book that I had recently dnf’d but thankfully it made a sharp right turn and got a lot better. The reason I didn’t like the beginning is because the author, Burke, heavily took from current events, which is fine by itself, but when page after page is the the main character, Claire,  thinking all these thoughts about current events and no actual story building is being done it got to be annoying. What Claire does is an important part of the story but it is not necessary to spend so much time on just building up her character when the author would have been better off building up the relationships that she has with the people around her. We know from the synopsis that Claire’s husband, Adam, is murdered but we don’t get to see much of their relationship before that happens. Which, if I had a choice in how the author started this book I would much rather they spent their time on Claire and Adam and not Claire and all the amazingness that she has done with her magazine.

Once the story really got going though it was a fantastic thriller. There were a lot of twists and turns and I loved watching the story unfold. If thrillers aren’t a favorite genre of yours then you might find some of the plot overdone with all the different reveals. For someone like me, who loves mysteries and thrillers, than this will be a fun adventure for you.

I also really enjoyed the pacing of this book. This book would jump forward in time at different plot points and I really felt like it kept the book from getting too stale. It also helped it to feel more realistic since everything wasn’t happening in the span of a few days. Burke also did a great job of balancing all the drama and different storylines that were happening. We know going into it that their is obviously some drama with Claire and her sister and I liked how their relationship unfolded throughout the story. Going between the drama between them, the mystery of who killed Adam and Claire trying to deal with the police and social media kept me engaged in the story.

Overall, this was a really well done thriller/mystery and I highly recommend that anyone who enjoys this genre check this book out. If you like Law & Order: SVU I also think that you would like this book. It follows the basic narrative of the episodes where there is a crime, the police investigate and then there is a court case. Also, I know I spent some time talking about how I didn’t really like the beginning but the rest of the book more than made up for that.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Thank you to Negalley for giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review. 

 

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Title: The Perfect Girlfriend

Author: Karen Hamilton

Pages: 352

Publisher: Graydon House

Publication Date: March 26, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 5/5

YOU’VE NEVER READ A LOVE STORY AS TWISTED AS THIS.

Juliette loves Nate.

She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

Goodreads

The main character, Juliette, is such a twisted character but by the end of the book I felt like she was a friend. Which is such a bizarre thing to say about someone who is a stalker and sees nothing wrong with doing whatever it takes to achieve her end goal. Books like this almost make you question yourself because I felt so connected to Juliette even though she was doing these terrible things. So many times throughout the book I just wanted to shake her and tell her not to do it, that it wasn’t worth it, that she could be better. To me this really speaks to what an amazing job the author, Hamilton, did because in any other situation I would have been totally freaked out by someone doing what Juliette does.

There was a couple of moments about a third of the way through that I found myself annoyed with the flashbacks to Juliette’s past. However, I really think that these flashbacks are what cemented in me the way I felt about her character. Also, they do serve a greater purpose because not only is she stalking her ex boyfriend she is also obsessively stalking a girl that she used to go to school with. The more the story unfolded the more I appreciated what the author was doing with the story. And this story has turned into one of the best thrillers that I have read this year.

Juliette is one of the most twisted characters that I have ever read before. She is able to justify every wrong decision and every bad action that she makes. It was entertaining to see her do these things and then normalize it when as the reader you know that she is so out of control. Since the book is told in first person this became a very powerful narrative tool. I think that if the author had chosen to tell this story in a third person narrative that it would have fell flat and ridiculous. The things that Juliette do are so over the top but it works because of the way the story is told. The books that I connect to the most (and probably most people) are ones that feel real even though they aren’t and this easily felt real to me.

This book immediately brought me back to when I read You by Caroline Kepnes. Even though the stories are different they also have a lot of parallels. So if you liked that one than I feel confident that you will enjoy The Perfect Girlfriend. Honestly, I can see myself rereading this book throughout my life which feels unnatural to say about a thriller. So, if you are a fan of thrillers than I believe you will enjoy this and hopefully love it as much as I do.

~Cassie