Review: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets. – via Goodreads

This. Fucking. Book. Ugh. Seriously. What a damn chore to read. I hated pretty much every second of it. I honestly thought there would be more to this, but there really wasn’t. And the fact that this crazy twist was heralded as something, and let me tell you, it’s something alright. Something super grating and infinitely annoying and beyond stupid, that’s one.

Okay, so there is the opening. I guess you can tell from that that I was not really a fan of this. Goodness, I disliked this. The biggest failing here is the useless, unlikable characters. While this is usually a shortcoming in a book, this can be worked around if the story is good. Behind Her Eyes was not, my friends. I say again, a chore to read. Louise, let’s start there, is an insipid, whiny, border alcoholic nuisance that takes up too much of the book. Every single time the book turned back to her perspective I wanted to throw my Kindle. But I love it so much I refrained – though only just. David is a full on alcoholic cheater. Then there is crazy Adele, and that first twist is let out of the bag so early that the “tension” falls flat and the book tries so desperately to rebuild but fails at miserably because come on, we know.

Another major issue I had with this is that it started as one type of novel/story, and devolved into something else altogether messy, crude, and that did not gel with anything that came before it. That made me bristle, because seriously. It’s like The Boy, totally unsure of its identity, and this is the final nail in the coffin lid of this tedious read. Then there is this sordid, alcoholic relationship between Louise and David, and I hated reading about that, and her insecurities and her excuses and explanations for the things she was doing. Shut the fuck up!

All in all, I could go on at length about this, but I will leave it at I deeply disliked Behind Her Eyes, and regret having wasted my time on it. I could not with a clear conscience recommend something so messy, time wasting, and just overall meh. Yes, strong words and all that, but this book? Ugh.

Advertisements

Review: Kisscut – Karin Slaughter

kisscut

Grant County #2

SYNOPSIS: Saturday night dates at the skating rink have been a tradition in the small southern town of Heartsdale for as long as anyone can remember, but when a teenage quarrel explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton–the town’s pediatrician and medical examiner–finds herself entangled in a terrible tragedy.

What seemed at first to be a horrific but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications. The autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse, of ritualistic self -mutilation, but when Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, they are frustrated at every turn.

The children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime, one far more shocking than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, detective Lena Adams, still recovering from her sister’s death and her own brutal attack, finds herself drawn to a young man who might hold the answers. But unless Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it’s going to happen again . . . – via Goodreads

Man, another dark, solid entry into the series. Again, miss Slaughter holds nothing back, and delves into a depth of storytelling that a lot of writers will not touch with a ten foot barge pole. I could feel anger radiating off of me while reading this book, because she manages to write in emotions that you are able to identify with.

Lena is still dealing with losing her sister and the brutality that she went through, and there are some shifts and changes in the relationship between her and Hank, which I liked. Lena is such a bitch, and it does not endear her to me in these novels. Even in the last, I did not see her as a strong woman so much as an irritation, but that is just the character. Jeffrey I felt so bad for in this, as he has a lot on his plate, and executing a child can never be an easy thing, no matter what the circumstances. Sara is quite a complex character, one you fluctuate between liking and disliking. Again, the flaws of these people make them real.

I appreciate that there are things changing between Sara and Jeffrey, as I really think they are good together. Yes, there are issues, but they also bring out good things in each other. I also really love reading about Sara and her family, as it really makes for interesting reading, and I really like Eddie and Cathy Linton. But now that we have moved past those things, it must not be missed that Kisscut is an exceptionally difficult read, and I mean this from the content side, not the writing side (which is, as always, excellent). It will get under your skin, it will peeve you, it will make you think, it will make you angry. Slaughter again proves that she is not scared to get her hands dirty.

Kisscut is a fantastic read, well written and well researched, a great read for any time, chilling to the bone as always, and I highly recommend this series (of course). This is by no means an easy read, but it is gutsy and draws you in. The story flows, and gives you more to look at with the characters, fleshing them out more and more, and then there is the story, the victims, the mystery. Everyone has their own demons, and I appreciate how Slaughter can give you a main story and still weave these people’s lives outside of the story in.

Review: The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

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

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

Wow. Just wow. The Roanoke Girls is just so up my alley. I think the last book I read with such a hunger was Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter. I didn’t want to work or anything. I just wanted to curl up and read and ignore the world. I was drawn in from the off, and fascinated with the entire book.

I enjoyed the way that the book was written, with the “then” section and then the “now” section, as well as the little snippets of the other Roanoke girls sprinkled throughout. It really created tension, and this dark atmosphere you get sucked into and wrapped up in. Yes, the big ick is revealed pretty early, but that in no way affects the book negatively. In fact, it makes you even more observant on the dysfunctional behaviour you were wondering about before. The Roanoke Girls is really well written and flows, with the reveals slowly but surely painting the complexity of the story.

I really liked the way that Engel created the characters. Each had their own story, and each little flashback revealed some more, and every little section of the present peeled away yet another layer. Allegra is totally different from Lane, yet you can see how the girls are bonded. Allegra has a terrible secret, and is jealous because she knows how things will be, yet she loves Lane. It is very complicated. Add to the mix how the author created their grandfather, Yates, and you are in for an disquieting ride. The man does come across as charismatic and charming and loving, which leaves you with a perverted, sickening, uncomfortable feeling, which is amazing to establish the family ties at Roanoke.

Then there are the side characters, most notably Tommy and Cooper, and that is a whole other kettle of fish. Cooper pretty much immediately swept me off my feet, so I totally got why Lane was bowled over. Not everyone’s cup of tea,  to be sure, but total book crush for me. Their relationship was amazing, and then it was crazy, and I could see the shift of it, even while I didn’t like it. They were both damaged creatures inexorably drawn to each other, and just clicked. Tommy is also the all American boy, the safe kid, the nice guy, but he also has multiple layers to him. These characters having so many layers makes for interesting dynamics, and you are so hooked.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Roanoke Girls. I just gobbled this book up, it was thrilling, sick and rough and yet there was hope tinging the edges. It had that same dark, twisted vibe as Averil Dean’s The Undoing, a book I liked a lot more than most people did, it seems. I highly recommend this read if you like something a little warped and unsettling, something that peeks into some messed up places.

Review: Blindsighted – Karin Slaughter

karin slaughter blindsighted cover

Grant County #1

SYNOPSIS: A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it’s only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer’s twisted work becomes clear. Sara’s ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation — a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he’s got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county’s sole female detective, Lena Adams — the first victim’s sister — wants to serve her own justice. But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath .. or mean her death. – via Goodreads

I have been reading Karin Slaughter’s work for years. My love affair with her books and her characters started with this book, something I randomly stumbled upon years ago, totally by accident, and then I was hooked. Just like that, it was all over for me. Blindsighted is one of the best debut novels I have ever read from an author.

Slaughter wastes no time setting up her characters, and before you know it, you are invested in them, their lives, their everything. She has an earnest way of writing, and it makes the characters real, bringing them to life from the pages, and that is not an easy thing to do. The novel also doesn’t suffer from stiff writing, like some debuts do. The story flows, and Slaughter also does not hold back the punches, and is not scared of getting her hands dirty. She does not shy away from heinous details, and they are also not just thrown in to shock. They are there to serve a purpose .

The book is fast paced, bold, brutal, and is written in a way that is flows effortlessly. It makes for an intense, albeit quick, read. Slaughter really is one hell of a storyteller. The tales she weaves and the characters are strong and well presented. The story had the perfect balance that simulates real life intersecting a terrible tragedy. For a debut novel, this truly blew my mind. I also appreciate that the situations were not too far out there like usual for some novels, so strong points for her there as it gives it a feel of the events being viable. Also, she deals with real issues, from romance, relationships, friendships, to issues still riddling the South.

Blindsighted is a fantastic debut novel, and I have been hooked from this very first book. Dark, brutal, violent, with characters that are so real that you get invested in, I cannot recommend Slaughter’s work enough. The Grant County series is a fantastic series, and would definitely say that this is worth the read if you are into gritty, nasty crime thrillers that have darkness and guts.

Review: I Know A Secret – Tess Gerritsen

Rizzoli & Isles #12

I received this in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.  – via Goodreads

As you all probably know, I am a long time reader of Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, and I was pretty excited to be granted an advanced copy of the latest novel in this series, and I got to it as soon as possibly. I Know A Secret is a relatively fast read, but this is truly one of the novels in this series I found to be rather flat. Hear me out…

For starters, I Know A Secret never hits the heights you expect it to. It starts off running, but doesn’t ever go anywhere. Some grisly deaths, to be sure, but nothing special, not on the death scene, but the investigation. It just feels like it never goes anywhere, like there are moments it wants to break out and go somewhere, but instead it just gets stuck. All the material comes across as a rehash of sections of the previous novels and offers up nothing new.

There is no real character development here, either. Twelve books down, you would expect some more development coming in, because so many situations have been set up in previous books, and instead all just feels tired. Gerritsen explores nothing new, and instead just falls back into old patterns – Angela leaves Frank (thank goodness), Barry Frost returns to his ex-wife, Alice, and Maura and Daniel run right back into each other’s arms. Just like that, we are back to where we were a couple of books ago – no real growth or change, unfortunately. I thought there would be some major changes, especially with Amalthea Lank passing on. On that note, it also felt like she was forced into this, and I honestly thought she would have more to do with the book, especially after the way the novel opened.

I was quite pleased to read about Gabriel once again, though my (constant) wish is still that he would feature more prominently in the books, he is a great character, and he and Jane work really well together when we go get to read about them. I did like the concept of this book – kids being hunted down and butchered after all being involved in some heavy witch hunt as kids, and one that seems to be rather flimsy as the novel progresses. Holly Devine, too, was a character I never warmed to. She sort of felt like a caricature of a dangerous character, not someone who was actually dangerous. She had the potential to be more, but just like the rest of this novel, she just felt a bit tired

I Know A Secret is not a terrible read, and there were aspects I enjoyed, I just felt that it was quite a flat affair when all was said and done, an idea that never really spread its wings and took flight. It was uninspiring all round, and I am hoping that the next instalment proves to be a worthier addition of the series.

Review: The Stolen Girls – Patricia Gibney

Detective Lottie Parker #2

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: The young woman standing on Lottie’s step was a stranger. She was clutching the hand of a young boy. ‘Help me,’ she said to Lottie. ‘Please help me.’

One Monday morning, the body of a young pregnant woman is found. The same day, a mother and her son visit the house of Detective Lottie Parker, begging for help to find a lost friend.

Could this be the same girl?

When a second victim is discovered by the same man, with the murder bearing all the same hallmarks as the first, Lottie needs to work fast to discover how else the two were linked. Then two more girls go missing.

Detective Lottie Parker is a woman on the edge, haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her family together through difficult times. Can she fight her own demons and catch the killer before he claims another victim?  – via Goodreads

I decided to give this one a shot because the synopsis seemed alright, and people were comparing this to the work of Karin Slaughter, so naturally I was sold. Unfortunately for me, this is not the same genius as Slaughter, and I had a myriad of issues with the book. Some things I liked, but for the most part, I was not pleased.

To start, I figured out pretty quickly after starting this that this was the second book in a series, which sucks because I don’t like reading things out of sequence. It was obvious, too, because the author continually referred to things that obviously happened in the last book, and it felt like I was missing something major because I had not read it, which sucked. I prefer a book in a series to be okay on its own, even if you miss some things, but to feel like you have been chucked into the middle of the ocean is not cool.

I was not a fan of one single character in this book. Not our main protagonist Lottie Parker (I just think she’s a terrible mother and an all round bitch), and the supporting characters were not endearing, either. I just want to take another moment to talk about Lottie. She is really terrible – she knows her kids are going through stuff, and she is just absent. Completely, totally absent. I also found her extremely selfish and I didn’t like the way she treated other people. Not cool. I found most of the characters to be whiny. I was initially drawn into the writing style, because it came across as solid, but the longer I read, the more dawdling and long-winded it became, going around in circles and never really getting to a point. The plot also tried to be so much more in depth and complex than it ultimately was, so it came across as really convoluted.

I enjoyed the concept of the book, I did. I also liked reading about the young boy who fled the extreme horrors or his past, who survived, and who underwent even more harsh things at the hands of terrible people. I could have done with more of that and less rape scenes. Also, setting up this monster stalking these girls was something, but never really got to anything super scary because Gibney almost had too many bad people in this novel, so they ultimately all ran together and had no distinguishing features. There were way too many coincidences in this book to make the plot plausible, too.

I have to give Gibney credit for the grittiness of the book. She did not shy away from some heinous things (maybe that’s why this got the Slaughter comparison). I know it sounds rough, but when an author is ballsy about that stuff, I have got to respect it. You want to tell a story about human trafficking and the sex trade? You are going to have to get into some icky areas.

Anyway, The Stolen Girls is not the worst thing you could read, but it is convoluted, filled to the brim with unlikable characters, and is an excruciatingly long read that happens to have an interesting plot that is just drowned by all the issues presented throughout the book. I don’t know if I will be in a hurry to read anything else from Gibney, despite the fact that she is not afraid to go to the nasty places for her story, a book that is icky and gory does not mean it is a good read if it cannot substantiate the nastiness with a solid story.

Review: Karin Slaughter – The Good Daughter

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever… – via Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about receiving a book from NetGalley for review, ever! Karin Slaughter, as you probably know, is my favourite author. Hands down. The woman is phenomenal and her work is totally up my alley – it is so dark and brutal and unforgiving, and you get so hooked on her characters, they just draw you in. When I was granted access to this, I pretty much did my nut. But enough about that. How did the book hold up for my excitement?

W.O.W. This was one hell of an amazing read! Really. I was drawn in from the first few opening pages, and got hooked on these characters within moments. Slaughter delivers, once again, a solid story, told with such finesse. You get drawn in. The characters become genuine, real people to you, the women are strong (I will always appreciate this), and you never feel like you are reading a book. It is like someone is telling you this story.

I was a big fan of the characters in the book. Sam, Charlie, Rusty, Lenore and Ben all brought a distinctly unique voice to the book, and I appreciate that. You always knew who was who and what was going on. You could identify with each and every one of them. Rusty is described in such a way that even though the town hates him on principle, you cannot help but like the man. He is witty and entertaining and loves his kids. Lenore is strong and stands her ground. Charlie, while totally damaged, is difficult to hate, though originally you think you are going to. Sam, brusque and stubborn as she is, has such a brilliant mind. Ben is absolutely adorable, and a strong, supportive man. I really liked it.

The story that Slaughter tackles here is a heavy one, something I know Americans are particularly touchy about – school shootings. They are vile things, and a horrible, tragic occurrence. Slaughter delivers the goods here again in terms of story – we have a truly savage, brutal back story for the Quinn family, and to see how they all come together again 28 years down the line over a school slaying is quite something. Slaughter gets right up to her elbows in the narrative. The writing flows smoothly and is genuine.

I barreled through this book. I did not want to put it down. I was engrossed for every single second, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story. I was hooked, plain and simple. Definitely one of Slaughter’s strongest novels, and very interesting to see a story told from the perspective of the sisters. Absolutely a solid read and well worth it, I highly recommend this standalone novel from such an accomplished writer.