[695]: Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

A quiet suspense full of twists and turns that you’ll have trouble putting down.


Everything You Want Me To Be
by Mindy Mejia

The novel opened with Hattie attempting to buy a one-way ticket to New York. Stymied by the airline ticket agent due to her age, she fled and decided to drive as far as she could only to find herself to the place where her body will eventually be found.

Told from three alternating points of view, the novel tells the story of a girl who played various acting roles depending on the audience. Hattie never stopped acting. Before or behind the curtain, she assumed different roles for different people. She was the perfect actress, playing the part of the perfect daughter, friend, and student. But beneath the surface was a dissatisfaction that comes from living in a small town. She’s got big dreams that she knew would never come to fruition if she stayed in her hometown. When she started corresponding with someone online, she found a kindred spirit. Someone whom she considered as the only one that truly knew her. From a clandestine affair between two unlikely people to the eventual investigation of Hattie’s murder, Everything You Want Me To Be was a fantastic mystery that’s quiet and engaging in a way that I prefer my mystery reads ought to be.

Though far from dull, the author sets an easy pace by which she told Hattie’s story. The suspense comes from the slow reveal of the pieces of the puzzle that come together in a surprising visage. In here, we see Hattie as someone who has crafted the art of acting. She was very adept in duping people into believing her genuineness with great efficacy. But that does not make her a suspect character. It’s done without any malice but more so because Hattie was a people-pleaser through and through. The malice that lurks within was in the way she manipulated the people around her. She was a master in a way that actors tend to be so your initial impression would be that she’s a well-adjusted, normal teenager.

I looked at Tommy until the horny teenager faded away and he became my instrument. I looked at his fingers and saw a hand that was mine to wield, that I could drive to murder the king himself. I looked at his confused expression and saw the madness that we would soon share. I became cold, too cold to feel. By the time he cleared his throat to say his first line, I could tase my own death.”

But inside, she’s a mess of ennui and discontent. So when she met a person who had given her a taste of something different and exciting, she clung to him like a buoy drifting into the open sea.

The investigation itself is methodically neat. On the whole, there are only two major suspects so there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll be right. Still, it’s fun to follow the red herrings. Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories with an easy pace. I like the mystery of the characters and the crime that needed to be solved. Sometimes, mysteries don’t need to be action at every turn of the page. It’s these that make for a perfect book to read in winter afternoons.

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[669]: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

28524313 Series: Knight and Moon, #1
Penguin Random House | August 16th, 2016
Source: Publisher
Adult Fiction | Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.


Short and sweet today as I’m not feeling well. It’s been a rough day. 

Janet Evanovich is one of those authors who has been around forever. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to get a taste for her books. I was excited to see this one listed on the available for request from Penguin’s email so I thought I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

There’s always something surreal when you open a book by a well-established author for the very first time. It’s like discovering new words again constructed in a way you’ve never read before. Though this book was written tandemly with another author, the novelty will not wear off anytime soon, I think.

Curious Minds offers a light mystery to those who are looking for a quick, enjoyable read. The narrative was very laid back with quirky characters that you’ll either take to easily or frown upon with quizzical brows. I found myself forgiving the less than realistic antics of an eccentric billionaire for reasons other than he was a hoot. He was stoic and dry at times that he doesn’t realize he was being unintentionally funny. Though, I should include a disclaimer that you’ll have to suspend disbelief more often with this story. Because the authors took liberties with their characterization of Moon and Knight, it was sometimes too unbelievable even for fiction. But I, for one, didn’t mind it too terribly.

There’s a lot to look forward to in this series, I think. I enjoyed the light mystery it offers, the humor, and the little insight on how the Federal Reserves works. And I can’t wait to see what this duo will get up to! They’re the perfect pairing personality wise. Moon takes herself way too seriously while Knight has a way of keeping cool under incredible pressure. I do feel like a romance is brewing, but not too much or too fast. Whatever’s in store with these two, rest assured, I’ll be at the bookstore come release day for the second book!

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[628]: She’s Not There

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She’s Not There

by Joy Fielding


Double Day Canada                                                                                       February 23, 2016


I was in a reading rut. A hell I would not wish on my fond enemy. But on Saturday, I finally found reprieve. She’s Not There threw the proverbial raft to save me from an ocean of misery.

About the book

It’s been 15 years since Caroline’s daughter disappeared from her crib at a hotel in Mexico on their 10th year wedding anniversary. Every year on the day of her disappearance, she’s had to deal with the guilt and the shame that the entire world has made her feel. The world hasn’t forgiven her. She hasn’t forgiven herself. And yet, she’s never lost hope. So when she receives a phone call from a girl who claims that she might be her long-lost daughter, she followed her instinct and flew to Canada to meet her. But she didn’t show up. Days later, she showed up at her doorstep in San Diego and threw her life into a frenzy. Old wounds and old hurts will be opened. Lili’s appearance might very well widen the distance between Caroline and her oldest daughter’s already difficult relationship. But Caroline will face anything – even being hounded by the media – just for a chance to finally find out the truth, absolve her of guilt, and to be reunited with a piece of her heart that’s been missing for 15 years.

My Thoughts

Joy Fielding perfectly captures a parent’s worst nightmare in her latest work. While I never would leave my kids in a hotel room all to themselves (especially at such young ages), she shows how easily it was for Caroline to succumb to her then husband’s reassurances that everything was fine. Caroline took the brunt of the blame and the ridicule that the world threw their way. Never mind, that it was her husband’s suggestion to leave the kids in their room while they  dined with their friends. Never mind that her husband only stayed a week longer than her three months waiting for word from the authorities. She was unfairly scrutinized to within an inch of her life. But even if I was angered by this, I can’t help but feel that Caroline did have a victim complex. She didn’t speak up. She didn’t cry foul. She took all of the injustices in stride. She even took the abuse from her oldest daughter. I don’t know if it was because they already had a precarious relationship to begin with, but the tension between the two never let up over the years.

This book made me go through a tumult of emotions for all the characters involved. I was angered by the ex-husband who lied when he said he checked out the kids when he didn’t; I was mad at the world who cast the stone at Caroline; I was even mad at the tempestuous older daughter who was difficult from the get go.

She’s Not There was a one-sitting read for me. I read it with ease all thanks to Joy’s effortless writing. I recommend this to those who enjoys light psychological thriller and an emotional powerhouse. This book gave voice to a resonating nightmare that I bury at the back of my mind every time I leave my 14-year-old and my 9-year-old at home. I always tell them to set the house alarm. Lock the doors. Don’t answer the phone from an unfamiliar number, and never, ever answer the door when someone knocks and we’re not home. It’s that sick feeling I always get whenever I’m not around my kids.

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[612]: He Will Be My Ruin by KA Tucker

25814244 Atria Books | February 2nd, 2016
Source: Publisher | ARC, paperback 340 pp
Adult Fiction | Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
GOODREADS | AMAZON | CHAPTERS


Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.

On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.


This was a different K.A. Tucker altogether. Gone are the steamy bed scenes and romance, replaced by some good old fashion mystery that enraptures a reader.  Admittedly, I was not completely sold at first. But the more I read, the more I got sucked into the vortex of mystery surrounding Celine’s death.

OPEN AND SHUT CASE

It was meant to be an open and shut case – death ruled by suicide. There was a  note; a bottle of pills and alcohol beside her bed. But Maggie had a hard time accepting the fact that her best friend could do something so cowardly. She was a person full of life and ambition. A person who loved her cancer-stricken mother and was working her way to a degree. So what would make her kill herself in such a way?

As Maggie tries to pack Celine’s belongings, she finds clues that will lead her to believe that not everything is at it seems. Slowly, she pieces together the life of her friend who struggled with money, love, and depression.

PLOT-DRIVEN MYSTERY

Like I mentioned above, this is not your usual KA Tucker fare. If you go into this book looking for romance, you will be disappointed. I tried my hardest to empathize with the characters, but at the end of it all, it’s a plot-driven book. I was more interested in what happened to Celine than I was with Maggie, or Grady, or Jace. This is also one of those few occasions when I didn’t care that Maggie had romantic trysts with both guys. I knew where Maggie’s head was at. And it wasn’t so much as getting romantically involved with the guys, but mostly because they were just…there. I wasn’t rooting for anyone. But through it all, Maggie’s focus was in solving Celine’s death.

I found the book to be a bit more verbose than usual. Packed with narratives as Maggie tries to unravel the last few months of Celine’s life. I had a difficult time solving the mystery. Just when I thought I had it in the bag, a wrench gets thrown into the mix. So as mysteries go, this was a neatly plotted, annoyingly bothersome novel.

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[610]: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

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I am ashamed to admit that I don’t follow too many Canadian authors. I haven’t even read too many of Margaret Atwood’s work. Kelley Armstrong, however, is one that I don’t dare miss. She writes the best thriller in any genre, so when I came across this title, I immediately pounced at the chance to read it.

City of the Lost is the story of Casey Duncan, a detective who found herself on the run because her past came back to haunt her. On top of that, her best friend’s abusive ex found her again and decided to reunite with her the only way he knew how: by beating her to within an inch of her life.  Wanting to hide, they found sanctuary in a town where people come to disappear. In the remote wilderness of Yukon Territory, a sense of an otherworldly danger only the likes of Casey can detect. And it doesn’t take long before she’s entrenched in a series of murder investigations where the suspect roams the inside and outside of the boundary of the forest.

I’m often cautious to recommend a good crime story. But if that’s not your thing, and you’ve decided to see what you’ve been missing, Kelley Armstrong’s work is a great place to start. She somehow manages to entice non-readers to come to the dark side with her tightly-woven mysteries and seemingly stereotypical characters. Don’t get me wrong, stereotypical characters are not always a good thing, but since it’ll be a new territory, it’s oddly comforting.

You’ve got a strong female character who presents a tentativeness that you don’t normally see from heroines in the genre. Casey can kick the living daylights of the bad guys any day, but is a little insecure in some ways. She’s a study in dichotomy, oddly enough. But then again, aren’t they all? I’ve never found her to be confident, even though she’s intelligent and quick on her feet. She’s mild-mannered and even-tempered. Just don’t surprise her or she’ll shoot you first and then ask questions after.

Then, there’s the Sheriff. He was a dick. But this dick grew on me. Hard. (Sorry. I can’t resist). Eric Daulton grew up in this secret town so he has a sense of ownership and is always looking for ulterior motives from any newcomers. Casey was on his shit list at first, but she quickly wins him over with her take-no-shit-from-anybody attitude. This novel features a whole slew of shady characters with shady pasts. And since this Rockton is a place where none of that matters, the investigation was a slow process. I think the only thing I can complain about is tediousness and it wasn’t very forthcoming with clues either. But never fear Casey and Eric’s interactions were torturous fun.

Once again, Kelley didn’t disappoint. She captures the very essence of a good mystery novel in a setting unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is a first in the series so I’m chomping at the bits to read more. The possibilities are endless for this town of Rockton, the good Sheriff and the detective.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | January 2nd, 2016 | Random House Canada | 


 

 

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[586]: Glory in Death by JD Robb

268601 GLORY IN DEATH BY JD ROBB
Series: In Death, #2
Berkley | December 28th, 1995
Adult Fiction | Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


It is 2058, New York City. In a world where technology can reveal the darkest of secrets, there’s only one place to hide a crime of passion-in the heart.

Even in the mid-twenty-first century, during a time when genetic testing usually weeds out any violent hereditary traits before they can take over, murder still happens. The first victim is found lying on a sidewalk in the rain. The second is murdered in her own apartment building. Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas has no problem finding connections between the two crimes. Both victims were beautiful and highly successful women. Their glamorous lives and loves were the talk of the city. And their intimate relations with men of great power and wealth provide Eve with a long list of suspects — including her own lover, Roarke.


R  E  V  I  E  W

I’m finally getting around to reviewing this book. I know it’s practically from the vault, but this series is too wonderful not to talk about. Between the futuristic landscape and the suspense that took my breath away, this book/series is worth scouring the earth for. I like that the Science Fiction aspect is downplayed. Those books tend to be daunting. This series, however, combines Sci-Fi with Romantic Suspense (which, I’m a big fan of).

This book finds Eve in the middle of several murders of highly successful women. Yet again, Roarke seems to be in the thick of it. I do hope this story arch stops soon. Honestly, it’s growing tedious. The doubting is getting to me. As if these two doesn’t have enough relationship problems already! At the same time, I like that Roarke’s name gets thrown into the mix. It’s like, when in doubt, blame Roarke. But one of the best things about this series is that it’s hard to pinpoint suspects – admittedly, it’s what also makes it fun to solve. At times, it’s frustrating. But hey, it’s a mark of a great mystery, isn’t it?

Eve and Roarke’s relationship are slowly developing. By that, I mean, Eve is getting more stubborn. She’s very wary of Roarke’s generous tendencies. She thinks that by accepting a gift from him, it’s a sign that he’s trying to change her. It was a battle of will for the most part, with one not readily giving in to the other. I do get it, though. It will take a lot for Eve to give up her independence, and she’s not quick to trust. So we’ll see how this goes. The ending will be another  set of contest for these two. I can just see it now.

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[553]: I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers

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I Saw a Man / Owen Sheers


Every time I tackle a literary fiction, I’m thrust into an unfamiliar world where no one does the expected. It’s surreal, and yet it’s as real as it can get. The people behave the way you don’t expect them to. The stories more often leave me reeling, and yet, it’s exactly how it happens in the real world. This book in particular, had me questioning if I would’ve done exactly what they did had I been in their situation.

The novel started unassumingly enough. Michael walked into his neighbour’s house with the intention of picking up a screw driver that he lent to Josh. The doors were unlocked, which surprised him considering the house seemed to be empty of its inhabitants. During the course of his search for the screwdriver, the narrator tells the sequence of events that forever linked Michael’s life to the Nelsons’. With it, is the story of how his wife was killed, and the man responsible for her death. The novel is like a jigsaw puzzle. A mystery told sparingly, but with a tension you can cut through with a knife. The suspense is frustrating; infuriating, even. The novel take its time to reveal its true colours. The summary doesn’t offer much, but the brilliance of this novel was the painstakingly slow reveal of every thing that makes it so addictive. It is that tension that persists throughout the majority of the book. But just when Sheers decided the readers have had enough, he forces us to see exactly how cruel “if only” scenarios could be. A pointless exercise that only lend to more frustration to the reader.

This novel is a close examination of  guilt and grief. A potent, debilitating combination for the weak.  Josh and Michael share a secret that if revealed, could very well ruin the lives of all the people involved. In this case, the novel looks at who most benefits a confession. Will the truth really set anyone free?  Or would it just be another form of prison sentence for the guilty party? In the end, both Josh and Michael will be left with very little choice but to own their  shares of the blame. Which is oddly satisfying for a non-resolution ending.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Bond Street Books | June 9th, 2015 Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


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[538]: The Taker by Alma Katsu

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster | Hardcover, 438 pp. | April 11th, 2011 | Adult Fiction | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


This was a very interesting take on immortality. The cover and title imply of something sinister, so my first impression/expectation upon seeing this book was vampires. Since they’re virtually the only creatures I know that can live several lifetimes, my uncreative mind immediately jumped to this assumption. Of course I was severely mistaken.

The Taker was an atmospheric novel about a girl who’d fallen on hard times at a time (1800s) when pregnancy out of wedlock was mortal sin. But that’s not how this book started. This book started in present time when she was picked up by cops wandering the streets bloodied, and with claims that she’d just killed someone.

She was brought to the hospital where she meets Dr. Luke Findlay, a man who had just gone through a series of bad luck himself. He was inexplicably drawn to the young woman. She was charming, enigmatic and had the gift of persuasion. There was very little she could ask that Luke wouldn’t give her, including, escaping the cops that took her. It was during the escape that she tells her story to Luke: how she became who she is and the stories of people that created her. It was a history hundreds and hundreds of years in the making; a lonely existence of debauchery, excess and unrequited love. And more importantly, the alchemy that provided her a life without end.

Alma Katsu is a brilliant story teller. This introduction had me in its grips from page one. It was rich in gothic-inspired history shrouded in a cloud of dark mystery.  It was a vivid imagery of how brutal and punishing love could be, and how quickly we all become victim to weakness and vanity.

So why the middle of the grade rating? One word: characters. I’ve never been a fan of characters (mostly heroines) who were so blinded by love that their actions make them weaklings. And Lanore McIlvrae is perhaps the poster girl for heroines with this affliction. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t give to “her eternal love” regardless of how fruitless her efforts were. Lanore was the classic example of a woman who’s incredibly brave and weak at the same time. She was a mixture of both, but I have to admit that her unrequited love made her every bit the weakling the I couldn’t admire.

Despite the rough start, I still think this could be the beginning of a fantastic series. And the ending, though, finished by all rights, left an ominous cloud that had me fearing and wanting the next book in the same breath.

 

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[497]: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Scholastic Press | Hardcover, 320 pp.
January 15th, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | 3 out of 5 Stars


Ally Carter’s introduction to a new series didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Mind you, I didn’t really know what to expect from a novel about the lives of those who live in a fictional community known as “Embassy Row”. All I know is that I expected more from what I’ve gotten. I thought for sure this would be a cool novel. I mean, imagine all the rich culture we could learn from it, right?

Unfortunately, I was disappointed that this novel couldn’t really offer more than what we already know as far as the state of affairs between countries: Russia and the United States hate each other. Iran and Israel can’t be seen together. There are balls. Gowns. Men in Black. Assassination attempts. It didn’t get much more interesting than that, sadly.

Grace is a character worn down by a baggage she was lugging around. Her mother was killed in a fire; her father is a serviceman dedicated to his country; and her brother, well on his way to following their father’s footsteps. She was dumped in the care of her grandfather, who happens to be the Ambassador of the United States to the island of Adria. She was, for the most part, your typical character in a YA novel: abandoned, parentless, with a past that even she can’t remember.

I like the pace of the novel right up to about a quarter to the end. But because Carter took her sweet time developing how Grace’s past will be revealed, the pace suffered greatly towards the ending. Beware of whiplash.

I think I share everybody’s gripe when I say that the infinite unanswered questions got old pretty fast.  Just when a piece of the puzzle will be revealed, Carter yanks it out of a reader’s hand and swallows the clue whole like a freshly-shucked oyster. It was infuriating. I lost my patience with this book on a couple of occasions, but the story was engrossing enough that I couldn’t abandon ship.

Adria is a fictional island off of Mediterranean. Regardless of its size, it somehow managed to have several embassies congregated in one area. This could’ve been way cool. But honestly? You could take this plot element and plop it on any random teen novel. Halfway in, you would’ve forgotten already that this series is called, Embassy Row. Because by then, it bore no relevance to the plot. You’d forget that these kids are global representatives living in one community.

Regardless of my struggles with this novel, I’m still curious to see where this is going. Hopefully, Carter will have a better direction in her next instalment.

 

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