Review: The Apartment by K.L. Slater

The Apartment by K.L. Slater

Published: April 28, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

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Synopsis: It’s an opportunity she can’t refuse. The woman before her tried…

Freya Miller needs a miracle. In the fallout of her husband’s betrayal, she’s about to lose her family home, and with it the security she craves for her five-year-old daughter, Skye. Adrift and alone, she’s on the verge of despair until a chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes everything. He’s seeking a new tenant for a shockingly affordable flat in a fashionable area of London.

Adder House sounds too good to be true… But Freya really can’t afford to be cynical, and Dr Marsden is adamant she and Skye will be a perfect fit with the other residents.

But Adder House has secrets. Even behind a locked front door, Freya feels as if she’s being watched: objects moving, unfamiliar smells, the blinking light of a concealed camera… and it’s not long before she begins to suspect that her dream home is hiding a nightmarish reality. Was it really chance that led her here—or something unthinkably dark?

As the truth about Adder House starts to unravel, can Freya and Skye get out—or will they be locked in forever?

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer!***

I am horribly behind on my NetGalley and author requests, so I am on a mission to get caught up before the end of summer. So expect to see my disclaimer a lot in the next few months.

But on to The Apartment. This was a pretty average thriller, as they go. I can’t say it was great. Neither can I say it was bad. It kept my attention and it was entertaining. I ended up staying up late into the night again because I wanted to see how it ended. I already had a good idea of how it was going to end, but I was interested enough to want to see it through.

The premise of this book is a good one. The offer that’s “too good to be true” is a common theme in thrillers. Naturally it gives all readers those “don’t go into the basement, you idiot!!” kind of vibes. I am okay with that. I don’t mind feeling like a character is making an obviously stupid decision. It wouldn’t be very thrilling if they didn’t, right?

Freya is one of those characters. From the beginning I was screaming at her not to move into that house. I didn’t need anything suspicious to happen, it’s a thriller so I know it’s going to go badly. I do feel that she didn’t entirely respond the way a normal person would early on. That can be problematic because it pulls me out of the story. For example, when your new landlord takes it upon themselves to enroll your child into school. You don’t just be internally mad for a minute and then go to lunch. That’s the reaction of a not-normal person. Eventually though Freya pulled it together and was rightly angry and suspicious.

I felt like more time needed to be spent on this book. The ending was a really good one. Predictable, but good. And it was executed really well. But it stretched reality a little too much for me. All of this took place in less than a week. In order to accomplish what the villain was supposedly trying to accomplish there needed to be much more time invested. Unless Freya was unstable to begin with. But the author took great pains to tell me that she was a strong, capable woman. She dealt with a lot in her life and bounced back. So this needed more time to make me believe that she would lose it that way.

Overall I enjoyed it and it was a pretty good thriller. I wish it was longer and a bit more developed though.

Review: Reproduction by Ian Williams

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Published: May 5, 2020 by Europa Editions

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Synopsis: A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams’ own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.

Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar’s “Mutter” does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter’s caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don’t quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.

Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids—the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army’s fascination with his absent father—and his absent father’s money—begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar’s unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.

Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn’t a matter of blood.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Europa Editions!***

There is only one word that I can come up with for this book. It was bizarre. From what I understand the author is a poet. This makes a lot of sense to me as much of this narrative reads more like prose. And I got the sense that the author was doing a lot of exploring of the bounds of fiction. I appreciate that too but it didn’t work for me.

Parts of this read like a poem, others like diary entries, others like bullet points. And then occasionally the author would throw in what can only be described as rap lyrics. It made it very difficult for me to connect with the story in any way because the story kept changing. I also hated that the author insisted on typing out everyone’s accents. That made this so hard to follow in addition to everything else. Whenever anyone spoke I would not be able to determine what was happening without reading it twice. It was incredibly bizarre and I still don’t know quite what to make of it.

Outside of the writing style, I wasn’t invested in the plot or characters either. The plot was fine (nothing special), but the characters were awful. Felicia alternately comes across as a naive little girl or a crazy person. One second she’s finally realizing that she was deceived and taken advantage of and the next second she’s trying to stab people. And Edgar was just horrible. Selfish, persistent liar, abusive son, abusive lover, borderline rapist, takes advantage of young and naive women. He was a real gem. I haven’t hated a character as much as him in quite a long time.

Some people will undoubtedly love this book and the way it explores how we write fiction. But, it didn’t work for me.

Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

Published: April 7, 2020 by Arcade

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Synopsis: From the Prize-Winning Author of The Hole, a Slow-Burning Thriller about Unseen Forces that Shape Us and Debts We Accumulate, in Life, in Death.

Winner of several of Korea’s top literary awards, The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape. The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.

Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from. Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn’t satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister’s university to find out what happened. Her sister’s cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.

Like Hye-young Pyun’s Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel The Hole, an immersive thriller that explores the edges of criminality, the unseen forces in our most intimate lives, and grief and debt. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Arcade!***

This book took a little while for me to buy in. The synopsis says this is a slow burn and that is entirely accurate. This is the kind of story that is all about the characters. If the author cannot make you care about their characters then the story is lost. I cared.

This is a story about grief. Both Se-oh and Ki-jeong have been struck with grief. For Soe-oh it is the death of her father. Her grief is enhanced by events from her past that may have contributed to her father’s death in ways she never anticipated. For Ki-jeong it is the death of her estranged sister. She isn’t willing to accept that her sister died and she ultimately knew nothing about her, or her life. This sets the two of them on a quest.

But this book is also about more than that. It’s about poverty and the cycle of poverty that is seen all around the world. Along with the devastation and desperation that comes with it. It affected everyone in this story but all of the characters were too far into their own cycles of grief and poverty to see it, let alone offer any compassion or empathy to anyone else.

I enjoyed this story very much. It was highly literary and an excellent character piece. I do think it is being marketing poorly as a mystery or a thriller. It is neither of those things. It’s a story about two women and the unpredictable ways that their lives intersect while searching for their respective answers.

Review: Providence by Max Barry

Providence by Max Barry

Published: March 31, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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Synopsis: A dazzling, inventive, and thought-provoking new novel from the ingenious author of Jennifer Government and Lexicon.

Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity’s war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity–and that the true nature of reality might be the universe’s greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss–a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they’re fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and G.P Putnam’s Sons!!***

This is my second book by Max Barry and I officially just love him! The way he uses words is just extraordinary. His plots seem so simple on the surface but the nuance and depth that they uncover is astounding. I want to talk to him about how his mind works and how he has so many gorgeous ideas. I may have gotten a copy of this for free, but I now own a paid copy of everything of his I can get my hands on.

On the surface, this book is about a war in space with aliens. Four people have been selected to “pilot” an AI controlled warship that is being sent to the far reaches of space to kill the enemy “salamanders”. No one is clear why the salamanders started killing everyone, they just attacked and so humans attacked back. During an engagement the ship makes the crew nervous and they start to wonder if maybe it is fallible after all or perhaps it might turn on them at some point.

The more I read, the more I realized that ultimately that is not what this story is about. This story is about the psychology of warfare. It doesn’t matter who the enemy is. It doesn’t matter why there’s a conflict. It doesn’t matter who is fighting on the front lines except if they can sell it to the public. So put on a smile and make some wartime diaries for the folks back home. And, in the end, it doesn’t even matter that you won it’s all just part of the game of warfare.

I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters, they seem incidental to the plot and frankly I think that was intentional. They didn’t matter. They were just a vehicle to the story. That was the point. But the ending got me. It made me tear up a bit. Because I finally got the point. It was a beautifully written book. I absolutely loved it.

Review: The Other Mrs by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Published: February 18, 2020 by Park Row

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Synopsis: Propulsive and addictive, The Other Mrs. is the twisty new psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

She tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs….

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Review: I put down an ultimatum when I started this book. If I didn’t enjoy it, then I am giving up on thrillers for awhile (except ARCs that I have obviously). Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the current world of thrillers but it’s not doing it for me.

This one started off well, despite the fact that I found our main narrator (Sadie) incredibly dull. She was so boring. And despite her insistence on reminding everyone that she is a doctor, we never actually see her performing duties as a doctor. Mostly she just navel gazes and complains. We learn very quickly that she is damaged and so is the rest of her family. They have fled to Maine after her husband’s sister commits suicide and they adopt another damaged person into the family. Sadie is not a nice person. She’s judgmental, arrogant, and a really bad mother. The only interactions we ever see her have with her children are when she’s telling them to leave her alone or suspecting one of them of doing something awful with no real evidence.

Despite Sadie, the story drew me in. We were also narrated by Camille, the woman who Will had an affair with. Camille is fantastic. I loved her narration and wish we had gotten more of it. We also hear from Mouse, a 6 year old little girl who is dealing with an abusive stepmother and a father who travel frequently for business. The way these three narratives were woven together was actually very good. Even though the ending was terrible, I thought the weaving of the narrations was masterful.

Unfortunately, it became abundantly clear to me what the ending was going to be about halfway through. One of the twists I predicted was accurate. It wasn’t great but it made sense to the story. The second twist was so ridiculous that I actually laughed out loud. I wonder if that’s the landscape of thrillers these days, come up with an outlandish twist that no one could possible guess. I am not a fan. Usually this means that it is absolutely out of character for the people in the book and makes literally no sense with the rest of the plot. That was the case here. Having a standard thriller ending that everyone knows is coming is not a bad thing. Deciding to throw in twists just for the sake of shocking your audience is a bad thing, and I wish authors would stop doing it.

Review: Docile by K.M. Szpara

Docile by K.M. Szpara

Published: March 3, 2020 by Tor

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Synopsis: There is no consent under capitalism

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Tor!***

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think I can actually discuss this book without spoilers, except to say it had no point.

This book was basically a slavefic erotica with a messy attempt at a moral/political/social message attempt. But it failed pretty badly on all fronts with it. Instead I was left with a book that had a good idea and a snazzy tagline but otherwise had no purpose. It gets an extra star for being well written, because the writing is very good.

I had hoped this book would make some point about the social and economic gap between the wealthy and the poor. I mean, re-instituting slavery is a rather aggressive step to deal with a debt problem so I expected there to be some kind of larger point. But this is very rarely touched upon except to be pointed out that “this person is wealthy, this person is not.” There exists no other purpose for this distinction that I could fathom. I also don’t understand how there’s seemingly two classes of people at play here (3 technically). First, we have the very poor and indebted county folk. Most of them seem to have somehow accumulated millions of dollars in debt over three generations but I am not clear how. They live in a house that was built with abandoned bits of other houses. They run a self sufficient farm. No one is college educated and all of them refuse to seek medical care. So, where exactly did all this debt come from? Never explained. Then you have the trillionaires who buy the debt of the county folk. Always trillionaires. I don’t know why, and it’s not clear how they amassed such extreme wealth either. Then they have a mostly absent third category of people who work in the city, live outside the city, and spend most of their time worried about making sure they don’t accumulate debt. They aren’t wealthy but they aren’t in debt either. But these people only become relevant in the latter half of the book so they don’t matter.

We spend the first few chapters of the book being introduced to this world system. Laws have been passed that make debt inter-generational. You inherit your parents’ debt. We later learn that this has been in place for about three generations. You have two options to handle your debt. Go to debtor’s prison or become a Docile (a slave) for a set period of time that is set forth in the contract agreed upon by you and your Patron (the one who will be paying your debt). As a Docile your Patron can do….well basically anything they wish to you, as long as they get you medical care and try to keep you alive. The wealthy seem to mainly use this power to rape their Dociles and have sex parties. I don’t know why, except so that we could put in sex scenes or make it seem more despicable. But the more we learned about the treatment of Dociles, the more I thought “you have told me nothing about debtor’s prison, but in pretty much any world it’s better than spending multiple years being raped……”

Dociles have rights…sort of. They have the right to request or refuse to use the drug Dociline (which makes them forget their memories while under its influence), they have the right to not tell anyone their real name, they have a right to medical care…and a few other things that really don’t matter. But here’s the rub. Everyone chooses to take Dociline (except Elisha it seems). Dociline makes that person agree to anything. So what is the point of insisting that there are rights they have if they have no capacity to realize that their rights may have been violated? It seemed utterly pointless. We spent a LOT of time being reminded of a Docile’s rights, but they are entirely unaware of themselves and unable to say no to anything. So they really don’t have those rights if no one is actually around to enforce them.

I knew that Alex would change course and suddenly have a change of heart about the company and Dociline, and would see Elisha as a human being and be horrified by his treatment of him. But it was also made clear to me through the writing that I was supposed to feel sorry for him. He just didn’t realize that what he was doing was wrong. Except that isn’t true. He knew it was wrong. He told us it was wrong over and over again. But he did it anyway. He spent 200 pages torturing and dehumanizing Elisha but then suddenly has so much regret and “loves” him. The fact that the two of them end up in a relationship at the end of the book was such bad judgment. It’s like the abused woman leaving the shelter to go back to the husband who’s been beating the crap out of her for years. That is literally what happened here. Elisha got a month or two of making his own choices and then went back to his abuser. I don’t give a damn if his abuser “changed” or was a better person, that was disgusting and cheap.

Now we come to my biggest problem with this book. It makes no sense. Literally zero sense. At first I thought this was the new debt system of the entire United States. But at the end we find out it’s only Maryland. So…..the entire federal government and 49 other states were totally okay with Maryland pretending that the Constitution doesn’t exist and that the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War and Civil Rights Movement never happened? They just allow an entire state to reinstate slavery? No one took that decision to the Supreme Court as a gross violation of the Constitution? Really? I am expected to believe this? No sense. If it was the whole country then I could get there if you gave me an explanation. But one singular state that is allowed to do all these outlandish things with no interference or intrusion from other states or the federal government? I have a really hard time believing that is even remotely plausible.

This book is nothing more than an erotica with a snazzy tagline and a half backed premise. Which is disappointing because the writing is wonderful.

Review: The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

Published: April 14, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing

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Synopsis: Filmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended.

She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge.

A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing!***

I was not sure that I was going to like this one when I first started it. I liked Tessa as the narrating character but the story just didn’t grab me at first. Tessa was so real. She had flaws and had made mistakes, she was open with these things and wanted to escape from it. I like characters that feel like real people and Tessa did. This book weaves three different stories that all center on the idea of justice, family and the damage that the past can do to the present.

The first storyline is of Oliver Barlowe. Tessa did a documentary about his conviction for rape and murder. She didn’t go into the project with any particular agenda but along the way she began to believe that Oliver was innocent. And so the documentary ended up leading to a new trial where he was released. But then, a year or so later, he kidnaps and murders the daughter of the police chief. There’s no doubt he did it this time because he made a video admitting it. This throws Tessa into an unwelcome spotlight as she has to examine whether or not she was wrong the first time. And even if she wasn’t wrong about his innocence then, she can’t deny that he’s a murderer now.

Then we have the story of Tessa and her sister Margo. Something really terrible happened when they were newly college-aged that yanked Tessa out of her sister’s life. The death of their mother forces the two of them to confront that past and the reasons why neither one reached out to bridge the gap.

Finally, we have the story of the forgotten family homestead. Again it is a place where awful things have happened. Things that just about everyone would love to forget. But when Tessa runs there to hide from public pressure about Oliver, she can’t resist pressing into the history and trying to find out the truth.

At first, I wasn’t in love with the story about Fallbrook. I kept hoping we’d hear more about Oliver instead, but in the end that story won me over. It chilled me, it touched me, and then it shocked me. Similarly the story of Tessa and her sister. At first I didn’t really care and thought it didn’t belong in the book at all. But as the book went on I was drawn into the tale and it took on a much greater significance to the overall story.

I read the last 140 pages of this book in one sitting. I was so entranced by it that I simply couldn’t put it down. I loved how the three storylines ended up coming together and each one was given more gravity and significance together than it did on its own. I loved it.

Review: Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

Published: February 4, 2020 by William Morrow

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Synopsis: All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows her ex-best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today, or ever again.

But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora and her children Thomas and Emily step out of the car. Except… There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. As Beth would have expected. It’s the children. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then.

They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.

They are no taller, no older… Why haven’t they grown?

Review: I had quite the journey with this book. Through the first two hours of the audiobook I felt like I was being tortured and interrogated. The entire portion was almost entirely a repeat of “I definitely know what I saw, but it’s impossible, I couldn’t have seen that. But I know I did!” For two hours. I felt like crying in exasperation. At a certain point you just have to accept that you saw something that doesn’t make sense!

Then things started to pick up and I was glad that I hadn’t given up on it. Beth was investigating and running into more things that didn’t make sense. Pieces started falling into place in her head and in mine. I also loved her daughter Zannah. She was so sarcastic and ruthlessly logical. I was so happy when Beth enlisted her help in investigating the mystery because she was amazing. I also enjoyed learning little tidbits about their past relationship with Flora and Louis. What had it been like being their friend all those years ago? Did it shed any light on the situation occurring now? I was fascinated.

I didn’t like how Beth acted like her husband was trying to “mansplain” to her and treating her like she was a hysterical woman though. I mean, Beth was literally stalking two strangers. Following them to their children’s school. Getting into their unlocked car when they stepped away. Going to their home to interrogate their neighbors. Interrogate the school receptionist about their children. He wasn’t wrong (or sexist) to treat her like she was behaving hysterically, she was!

But ultimately, like any book, it comes down to the ending.

SPOILER ALERT!! Spoilers for the ending.

The ending literally made no sense. I had come up with all kinds of options in my head. Obviously since this book had no shades of the paranormal, the children were not the same two children. They were two different children, with the same names and approximate ages of the children Beth had known.

But all of my theories were wrong, instead it was so stupid that I still can’t believe it went there. Louis and Flora had a third child, Georgina, which we learn early on. Louis didn’t like Georgina because she had an eye problem. So he became horribly abusive to Flora, deeming the medical condition to be her fault because she had gotten pregnant after he told her that he didn’t want more children. Louis drugs Flora and then kills Georgina and convinces Flora that she had gotten drunk and rolled over on the baby and smothered her. In order for him not to turn her in for murder, she agrees to cut off all contact with the children and pretend to go away forever. But he occasionally visits to rape and impregnate her against her will and insist that she name the children the same names as their existing children. He’s even hired someone to pretend to be her new husband and keep her in line.

I mean, really? It was all an abusive husband, trying to make his wife miserably because she gave birth to a cross-eyed baby? That was so incredibly stupid that I just couldn’t get past it. It didn’t matter how compelling the middle of the book was because it flubbed it when it matter.

Review: The Body Double by Emily Beyda

The Body Double by Emily Beyda

Published: March 3, 2020 by Doubleday Books

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Synopsis: A strange man discovers our nameless narrator selling popcorn at a decrepit small-town movie theater and offers her an odd and lucrative position: she will forget her job, her acquaintances, even her name, and move to Los Angeles, where she will become the body double of the famous and troubled celebrity Rosanna Feld. A nervous breakdown has forced Rosanna out of the public eye, and she needs a look-alike to take her place in the tabloid media circus of Hollywood. Overseen by Max, who hired her for the job, our narrator spends her days locked up in a small apartment in the hills watching hidden camera footage of Rosanna, wearing Rosanna’s clothes, eating the food Rosanna likes, practicing her mannerisms, learning to become Rosanna in every way. But as she makes her public debut as Rosanna, dining at elegant restaurants, shopping in stylish boutiques, and finally risking a dinner party with Rosanna’s true inner circle, alarming questions begin to arise. What really caused Rosanna’s mental collapse? Will she ever return? And is Max truly her ally, or something more sinister? With echoes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, The Body Double is a fabulously plotted noir about fame, beauty, and the darkness of Hollywood.

Review: This book had such an interesting premise. Something has gone very wrong with a young starlet and she is actively avoiding the public eye. She needs to hire a body double in order to make public appearances while she focuses on her mental health and recovers. I was fascinated by this story and the aura of celebrity.

Unfortunately this just wasn’t very good. The writing was technically proficient, but the writer writes in a literary style that just isn’t suited to this kind of plot. This was a dark, twisted tale but the literary writing style made it difficult to read. I felt like I was being tortured through much of the book because we spend so much time on stupid details. We spent endless pages on what Rosanna likes to eat, read, wear, watch, buy, how she does her makeup, who her friends are, every conversation she has ever had. Probaby a minimum of 200 pages was spent on this. I’m not being the slightest bit sarcastic either. I was so bored. It felt like an interrogation. I was being presented the same facts over and over again and demanded to know what Rosanna liked.

I also, didn’t buy into the premise about halfway through. We learned that it has been a full year since anyone besides Max has seen Rosanna. That’s a long time. She just disappeared with no explanation and a year later this double comes on the scene. Add in the over the top obsession that Max has with Rosanna and I deduced pretty quickly what was going on here. So all that was left was the journey. I already know the end, would the journey be worth it?

It wasn’t. I didn’t believe that none of Rosanna’s close friends was suspicious of how much she had changed in a year. They comment on it and then just casually toss it away with “I guess you have changed since we saw each other last.” No, that doesn’t really explain personality changes. It just doesn’t. Or the fact that she looks younger, a lot younger. They remark on this too and then just ask for her beauty secrets. It was shallow and fake.

SPOILER WARNING: I am about to spoil the end of the book. Please halt your reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

I was almost correct on how I thought this would end. Max was Rosanna’s assistant. He was also obsessed with her. He had set up cameras to film her and all sorts of things. She caught him and threw him out of her life. Then she proceeds to kill herself, knowing he will be the one to find her.

Max becomes obsessed with getting Rosanna back and so he goes on the hunt for this double so that they can be together for real. Our narrator gets progressively crazier as the book goes on. She starts wandering Los Angeles at all hours of the night, swimming in stranger’s pools, leaving blood smears on the pavement outside Rosanna’s house. It was very strange. Then it all culminates when our narrator breaks into Rosanna’s house and discovers that she is dead and decides that Rosanna will use her body as a portal to come back to life. It ends with Max discovering her after she has become the “real” Rosanna and they lay together, whispering Rosanna’s name.

It was a very weird ending. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I had to read certain portions several times in order to make sense of it. It did not pay off for me.

Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Published: October 1, 2019 by Ace Books

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth. 

Review: I think I fell in love with this book, and with Claire and Brevity and Hero and Leto. I feel such much emotion for all of them. Every single character is layered and deep, which is severely lacking in fiction these days. The plot was similarly complex and layered. Just when I thought the story had peaked it was raised to another level entirely.

Claire was one of the single best characters I have ever read. We are introduced to her as the surly, prickly Librarian of the Unwritten Wing of Hell. She takes no crap and expects everyone to follow commands without question. She is 100% certain that the role of Librarian is to prevent characters from rising from their novels because who knows the damage they could inflict on the world. She is steadfast, she has an iron will on this issue. But it’s not that simple. There is a heartbreaking reason why she feels this way. When it was revealed, I cried with her and for her.

Leto was a mystery when we are first introduced to him. He is a human who recently died and, for some reason, he has condemned his own soul to hell in the form of a demon. And he refuses to tell anyone why. Again, as we revealed the whole of his story, I fell in love with him too. I cried with him, I cried for him, and my heart rejoiced when he found his way.

My only minor complaint is that the story meandered quite a bit. I feel like this could have been a lot shorter but not sacrificed anything that made it wonderful. This world had so many layers and I loved exploring them.It is a very unique take on heaven, hell and all things in between. I also glanced rather uneasily at the unfinished manuscripts on my computer throughout this book, maybe I should work on those. I hope to further explore the different areas of this world in the next book, which I pre-ordered as soon as I finished this one.