The Middle of Somewhere

Do you ever begin a book thinking it is one thing, and it ends up being even BETTER THAN THAT? I mean, this is why we read, right? We may come across some duds, but it’s the really wonderful stories that keep us going.

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On Monday, I talked about how I go into most books blind–I don’t really want to know much about them before I begin. And that’s true, but when I got the request for Sonja Yoerg’s second book The Middle of Somewhere, and saw the cover, I knew immediately that I was interested. I have a thing for backpacking stories–fiction or nonfiction. I think it is the idea that everyone has a journey to go through in life, something they are either walking away from or walking toward, and the hike is a very real illustration of that. So I was very much looking forward to reading this one.

And The Middle of Somewhere started out pretty much like most backpacking novels do. Liz is turning 30, and she is struggling with commitment with her boyfriend Dante. She’s been planning this walk on the John Muir Trail for years, and is finally determined to do it–but instead of the lone ranger trip she had planned, Dante has decided at the last minute to join her. Not only does that delay her trip into a not very prime part of the season, but she also has some skeletons in her closet that she knows will come out during their three week hike…and she is not sure she is ready for that.

Once they get out on the trail, however, they meet an unexpected danger–more than rocks and bears and storms. Yoerg has written more than just a backpacker novel–she has given us a mountain thriller. Hiking in the mountains would be hard and scary enough, but Yoerg puts her characters in a situation where there is a crescendo threat to their lives. It gets creepier and creepier until it escalates to violence.

This was such a page turner that I finished it in one afternoon. I was excited to just read it as a backpacking story, but add the thriller component and Yoerg has a bestseller on her hands…at least in my opinion. In an environment where Eat, Pray, Love and Wild are so popular, I think her book will do really well, and she has added a special edge to separate herself from the pack. Big time yes from me!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

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Bradstreet Gate

Graduating from Harvard often means that you will be starting a life of wealth and high pillars. The 1%. For the last four years, you’ve worked hard, studied hard…and of course, probably partied a little hard too. Graduation should be a celebration, you’ve done it! Life can begin.

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However, for Georgia, Charlie, and Alice…things didn’t quite go that way. Bradstreet Gate is the story of how their graduation year at Harvard went very wrong, when a classmate was murdered, allegedly by a professor they trusted.

My first thought when I started reading this book was, “Ok…this sounds an awful lot like How to Get Away with Murder.” And since I love that show…I was ok with it. Really though, it’s not at all the same plot, except the creepy teacher/student love affair thing.

Robin Kirman is going to be an author to watch–she writes characters brilliantly, on the same level as Gillian Flynn. There are two people here that I want to open their brains and just rummage around, to see what is going on. One is a textbook novel sociopath. That person is perfection–one that you love to hate immediately. The other will have you guessing the entire book. I am not going to tell you which is which because the kicker of these two characters is…which one actually committed the murder?

Bradstreet Gate‘s subtle creep factor just nails it the whole time. The story itself is wonderful, and then interwoven is this nagging feeling that you are being watched and studied. I kept thinking, “Why is this called a thriller? It’s really not that thrilling?” And then a chill would run down my spine out of nowhere. Oohhh, there it is.

Great debut, Robin Kirman. I’ll be looking for more from you!

 

Blogging for Books sent this to me for an unbiased review.

 

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Dark Places

Tonight, I have tickets with friends for a screening of Dark Places. Gillian Flynn’s second movie isn’t getting near as much fanfare as Gone Girl did, but anything with Charlize Theron has got to be good, right?

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I read Dark Places a long time ago, but I could not remember anything about it, so I made sure to pick it back up before tonight’s show. Libby Day is 30, broke, and unemployed. Up until now, she’s lived off the charity of crime obsessed philanthropists who years ago threw money at the little girl left broken-hearted and lost. Her family was murdered by her Satanist brother when she was young, and she was forced to testify against him as the only witness. Now, those charitable hearts have moved on in favor of other crimes and she has to find money quick.

Welcome Kill Club–a creepy organization of people who geek out over conspiracy theories. One favorite conspiracy circles around the Day family and the night Libby’s family was killed, and they are willing to pay her to track down information for her.

Dark Places is a very weird book. I wanted to say that I find Libby a very awkward, uncomfortable character, unbelievable in that she should be much more traumatized by what happened instead of just skimming money and using it for nice cars and clothes until it runs out. But, we all react in our own ways. The more I think about Libby and her, for lack of a better word, laziness to do anything with her life, I realize that just about everyone her world is that way–except maybe Patty. The town was full of excuses and poverty and drugs, the kind of small town where no one ever gets out.

My romantic reader brain wants her to be heroic–full of fight and power. And she does too–she even mentions it at one point to herself, when she thinks about how all she did was hide in the closet and that’s why she didn’t see the attacker. But, that’s not who Libby is. It was much easier for her to hide after the murders, to turn away from Ben and Diane and Runner, dye her hair blonde, and use all the donations she could.

The book itself is bit of a quiet start, but there is a crescendo of action at the end. In typical Flynn fashion, she keeps you guessing and fascinated right up until the end, when all at once you will connect every single dot she left for you with one big EUREKA moment.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the screening tonight!

 

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In a Dark, Dark Wood

Bachelorette Parties.

Everyone has a story about one, don’t we? There’s even movies about them now. That one last weekend of drunken madness before the wedding.

Usually those stories are laughable–who kissed the most random guys at the bar, or who drank a few too many shots and ended up with their skirt outside of their panties. Oops!

But every once in awhile…Bachelorette Parties–or Hen Nights–can turn quite ugly.

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Ruth Ware writes about one such Hen Night way out In a Dark, Dark Wood. Nora finds out her high school best friend is getting married, and while she isn’t invited to the wedding (strange), she is invited to the party (stranger). She’s curious enough to join in, mostly to find out what exactly is going on with Clare and why she suddenly wants to get back in touch. Instead of the fun, girly weekend she expects, however, it turns into a horrific nightmare.

From the beginning, Ware sets up the suspense by making Nora out to be slightly unstable. We don’t know exactly what happened in her past until the end, so she comes across as more than a little neurotic. The tension between the two ex-friends builds layer upon layer, and she also uses flash-forward plot separations to really beef up the upcoming thrill.

When you get drunk on Hen Night, secrets come out. And bad things can happen when they do. Lucky for us…those bad things make great books. It’s released today, so go check it out!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases on July 30.

Fear Nothing

Wow I am just on a roll here, aren’t I? My friends from the Adult Booklr Chat have been talking about book slumps and how they can’t find anything interesting to read…and I sure hope they aren’t rubbing off on me!

Another mediocre book, dammit. This was one that we had on our shelves. I’m not sure who’s collection it came from, but it’s one we’ve had since we got together. I’ve not read much from Dean Koontz–I think one of his Odd Thomas collection, but that was years and years ago. People have told me I’d like him, due to my love affair with the edge of my seat.

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Fear Nothing just didn’t do much for me. I felt like it was a story I had heard before–genetics experiment gone wrong and ruins town. Scientists destroy themselves and try to cover up the evidence.

I did like the main character, Chris Snow, or Snowman, a young man with a rare genetic disorder who recently lost both of his parents and is stuck living in the dark. However, I feel that the backstory is insufficiently built. I think we need a prologue maybe–something where his other introduces Orson, his beloved, but slightly extraordinary, black lab. Or perhaps the day she has her accident. SOMETHING to lead up to what is happening in the down. I just feel that is severely lacking and may help to provide some OOMPH to the plot.

Hopefully I can find something interesting in the next one. Please don’t let this be a slump! Not during Readathon Week!

Trust No One

The key ingredient in any thriller is the psychopath. The dark, twisted pathways of his brain drive the plot and keep us up at night.

Normally the thrills in a thriller are deliberate. That instinct that forces the monster to plan his next move and torture his victims is what makes the book so exciting to us (because let’s face it, we are pretty twisted gluttons ourselves, aren’t we?). My favorite part is trying to figure out what the heck is going on inside his head, trying to guess his next move.

But what happens when the killer doesn’t remember killing?

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Paul Cleave plots out one of the most thrilling thrillers I’ve ever read with just that situation, in Trust No One.

Successful crime novelist Jerry Grey’s career is cut short by early-onset Alzheimer’s. He keeps escaping from the nursing home and losing time. When his daughter picks him up, she acts very strange about her mother, something just isn’t right. In fact, no one is acting right towards Jerry. Apparently a woman was found dead at the same time Jerry was gone and he is suspected of the murder. Why? He’s just an sick old man! Because, Jerry, you shot your wife. She’s dead. That’s why you are in a nursing home. You were out of your mind, and you have no memory of it.

Thus is the basis of one of the craziest thrillers I have ever read. It is an emotional roller coaster! Three women, besides Jerry’s wife, are dead. Who killed them? Jerry insists that he did not. He would remember, right? But all the evidence points to him. And he is a crime writer with very elaborate plans and getaways laid out in his books. He cannot account for hours of time, and he has been disappearing. His pseudonym has become almost a split personality, a devil on his shoulder that he can’t get away from.

Cleave has written one hell of a creative novel. It doesn’t come out until August 4, so mark your calendars. This one isn’t necessarily a scary or bloody thriller. It’s more about the utter mindfuck that is going on. Where do you put your sympathy? Who do you trust?

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Released Aug. 4.

Swerve

Last night was a blast, ya’ll! One of the area neighborhoods, Deep Ellum,  has a monthly Wine Walk that they put on in the summer. A bunch of shops and galleries serve in the back, and then everyone just kind of mingles around for a few hours. What a great way to get in our Fitbit steps, and check out some local shopping! We’ll definitely do it again.

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I ended up surprising myself–because we went out last night, I didn’t think I was going to have a chance to read and finish a new book in time for today’s blog. But hey, you know me. I can’t leave you guys hanging!

Actually, I just picked one that I hoped would be a quickie. It also turned out to be REALLY good.

With Hannibal starting back up, I am craving thrillers. That show just charges me up for that surge of electricity I get from reading terrifying, twisted stories. (Does it say something about me that I like reading about psychopaths and broken people? Maybe…but I am a broken person too.)

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Vicki Pettersson’s new book Swerve releases just after the July 4th holiday and it fills that thriller need perfectly. Kristine is on a trip with her fiance to visit his mother, when the couple is abducted by a psychopath. The mystery trucker leaders her down a terrifying road of destruction in order to save her fiance.

This book reminded me a lot of Red Dragon–even though we never got a look out from the perspective of the killer, we do hear a lot about what is going on in his head and what lead him to this point. The precision and escalation to the moments in the book, the “hot” point of the serial killer instinct, it’s all very similar to how Dolerhyde escalates.

I highly recommend this for you thriller freaks out there like me. Pick this up on July 7 and be prepared for your summer to sizzle!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.