Dennis Reviews: The Perfect Mother

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 05/01/18
4 STARS

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

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Review: The French Girl

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: The French Girl
Author: Lexie Elliott
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 02/20/18
3 STARS

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway–until they met Severine, the girl next door. 

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive, and there are some people you can’t forget, like Severine, who was never seen again. 

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free.

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I’m consistently intrigued by books with a premise of wonderful experiences gone awry, and that’s exactly what The French Girl promises. We see this set up more times than not in psychological thrillers today; a group of college friends plan some sort of vacation and something bad happens-usually a murder, or a sexual assault, or perhaps a kidnapping. In this case, it’s a disappearance where the body turns up a decade after the fact and the group begins to get antsy. Obviously someone is hiding something, but just how many someones are involved? What do they know and what did they do?  Lucky for us, those pesky police continue to show up, poke around, and not let the past stay buried!

I was rightly informed ahead of time to expect a slow burn type of pacing here. This is 100% true, and for some readers this will be a deal breaker. It isn’t the type of psychological thriller that’s begins slowly and then gradually picks up steam; The French Girl keeps an especially reluctant groove that loiters in some moments and almost stops full tilt in others. I particularly enjoy a good character driven, lackadaisical novel, but this was a little slow even for my liking. My main issues were tied to the lack of suspense this caused which led into a fairly predictable plot. Readers who aren’t as tied to the mystery/suspense/thriller genre likely won’t find that last portion an issue, and if you are generally pleased with most mainstream, commercial thrillers of the psychological variety you’ll probably enjoy this one even more than I did.

While I did experience the above issues, it’s also fair to note that, as a debut piece of fiction, the writing here was beautiful, creative, and of high quality. I found myself getting lost in some of the memories and moments where Kate is feeling haunted by Severine. These parts were the strongest and most fascinating, and I found myself looking forward to these portions the most. I’m highly intrigued by Elliott’s writing and will certainly be awaiting her sophomore novel; girl’s got talent! Recommended to readers who enjoy a fascinating slow burn with insightful characters.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy. 

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Dennis Reviews: The Favorite Sister

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: The Favorite Sister
Author: Jessica Knoll
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 05/15/18
4 STARS

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.

And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.

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When the Real Housewives and Big Little Lies collide—Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister is a perfect concoction of both reality television and female dynamics.

When I heard Jessica Knoll was coming out with a second novel that exploited the reality television genre in the same vein of the Real Housewives, I was immediately sold. How can I get a copy? What do I need to do? Who’s going to be Bethenny Frankel in her book?! I’d do almost anything to get my hands on a copy, no joke. The story involves five wealthy women in New York City who are all featured in the hit reality television show called Goal DiggersGoal Diggers is a show that strives to show millennial women successfully undertaking careers, while pushing gender norms aside. This cast is uninterested in having children and being stay-at-home mothers; they’d rather break the Forbes 100 list. In this dynamic group, we have Brett Courtney—a twenty-seven year old lesbian woman who is unafraid of what people may say about her body image and runs a yoga studio called SPOKE. She is tattooed and voluptuous, and she makes no apologies for it. Stephanie Simmons can be deemed the token black woman character on the cast, but she is so much more than that. She is a successful author, businesswoman, and wife; who has just released her empowering memoir that is breaking sales records. Lauren Bunn has launched her innovative dating app that is growing in popularity each day, but her drunken antics have caught tabloid attention that overshadows all the success that she has gained. Jen Greenberg, daughter of philanthropist and socialite Yvette Greenberg, has become the voice for dieting and health food options, claiming that her food line not only encourages a healthy body and mind, but also is a catalyst for success. Lastly, we meet Kelly Courtney, Brett’s sister and cofounder of SPOKE. Kelly is the newest cast member for the upcoming season and really doesn’t fit the mold of the initial concept of the series. She has a twelve year old daughter and is a single mother with modest flair. Goal Diggers is set to begin filming, but nobody would have guessed that it would end in murder.

I don’t want to get any further into the plot than just introducing you to the cast and providing the main theme of the story. The story develops much further than that little blurb, but I felt that you really need a cheat sheet for the main five characters because we are quickly introduced to all five of them (and at least 3-4 secondary characters) immediately. Take the blurb about the cast and carry it with you while you read, I wish I had one! The beginning of The Favorite Sister was rough, I have to tell you. We are thrown way too much about the cast early on, with long chapters that don’t provide us a break to digest what we just read. We don’t really go anywhere in the first part of this novel because there’s too much catch up for us to get to. The novel is broken into several parts, and each part is more enjoyable than its predecessor. Once I got to the halfway mark, I was hooked! As you get to the core of the story, we learn about the exploitation of reality television, we see the dynamics between family and friends, we see how society has forced feminism and women empowerment into a women-eat-women world, and we see fame and notoriety being used as a drug and the lengths people will go for that drug. One thing that I found so profound in The Favorite Sister was the theme of casual racism in every day life. We see a portrayal of how society uses casual racism in dating, business, and overall privilege. I did not expect this novel to even touch any of those topics, and for that I’m grateful. I believe that these thematic elements of the story will resonate with more readers than Ms. Knoll probably imagined. I loved that this story touched on all these different themes without feeling overloaded on plot. The plot is clearly defined as you go on and the story really doesn’t deter from that.

The Favorite Sister is NOT a thriller or a suspense novel in ANY CAPACITY and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. The Favorite Sister really is a drama that may also feel like a tragedy at times. Ugh I can keep talking more about the story, but I think I drove the point home. It’s time to pick up this book on May 15, 2018. Will I be buying a hard cover for my collection? Absolutely.

Thank you Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Real queens fix each other’s crowns.

 

 

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Dennis Reviews: The Other Twin

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: The Other Twin
Author: L.V. Hay
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 11/15/17
4 STARS

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well-heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth.

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The Other Twin is a deliciously dark, sexy, and devious debut by L.V. Hay. I was so excited to get my hands on a copy because after reading and reviewing so many thrillers, I really wanted to venture out and read something different. The Other Twin is a very profound novel that not only keeps in fashion with the typical mystery genre, but also interweaves relevant factions that our current society deals with today.

When India is found dead after jumping from a bridge in Brighton, sister Poppy returns home to recuperate with her family. Poppy hasn’t been in Brighton in years and has a very distant relationship with her family and her ex-boyfriend Matthew. After hearing the logistics of India’s apparent suicide, Poppy begins to question all the facts presented to her and begins to do some investigating of her own. As Poppy emerges through all the facts and tidbits of information that she can find, she begins to question not only her family’s involvement, but the involvement of Matthew’s family as well. Poppy begins to suspect that there’s more at play here than what meets the eye.

The Other Twin is a short, yet intense read that packs a punch right from the first chapter. Immediately, you are drawn into familiar dilemmas that we currently face today—family rivalry, social media emergence, LGBTQ rights and bigotry, and love and betrayal. I found the first half of this novel to be so powerful, yet also intoxicating. Poppy is a character that most of us can relate to in some way or another, which had me not only yearn for her grief, but cheer on her insistence to continue. As the story ends up developing, we receive a light-mystery towards the secret inner-workings of truly devious individuals. These individuals could mask themselves as anyone—your neighbors, your friends, even your own family. Although I did find the story somewhat clear from the beginning, Ms. Hay does throw some red herrings our way to get us off the beaten path. I would definitely recommend this novel to someone who is interested in reading a mystery, but can’t handle horror or suspense.

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Review: By A Charm And A Curse

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: By A Charm And A Curse
Author: Jaime Questell
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: YA, Fantasy Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 02/06/18
4 STARS

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

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Sorry, but if you don’t like stories about carnivals or the traveling circus, we can’t be friends. Just kidding, but I do have an affinity for all things weird, strange, and entertaining. In 2016/2017 I highly enjoyed both Caraval and Daughter Of The Burning City, and this book felt like a nice blend of the two while doing it’s own thing. I can dig that. I enjoyed this one so much that I finished it in a span of 36 hours; it was that type of compulsive read that begins as a slow burn (as most fantasy novels do), but then ramps up the pacing after the initial “world building” is set. By world building, I’m really referring to the carnival, as By A Charm And A Curse takes place in a contemporary setting, but the carnival contains a world of it’s own. Once we see how everything works and what the rules are, it’s game on.

“Jules, I can say with some certainty that never have I ever experienced a candy-induced joygasm.”
“Then I can say with some certainty that you aren’t living your best life.”

Ah, yes. I know the writing won’t be for everyone, but this book gets me. As I flipped along I felt a growing, kindred spirit in Questell; we have a similar sense of humor and I like that she didn’t depend on a bunch of cheap sex scenes to sell this book. It’s very much upper YA level in my opinion, as there’s language and thematic elements that may be disturbing for younger readers, but she kept the romance very tender and soft. There was more of a focus on the longevity of what love expects of us rather than the physical, “busty and lusty” stage of a young crush. That’s not to say I’m hating on the hot and steamies, simply that for THIS book and the flow of THIS story, I think the author made the right choice in how to portray that portion of the plot.

“The carnival is all I’ve ever known. I’d do anything to keep it alive. But everything ends, Emma.” She turns her bright-blue eyes to me, and tears sparkle at the edges. “Everything.”

I don’t want to say much more, because obviously I want you to pick up the book instead of just reading all about it in my review, but I’d like to include that this novel is just as lyrical and dramatic on the inside as it is on that beautiful cover. Even though it was only around 300 pages long, By A Charm And A Curse gave the feel of a sweeping drama that took place over multiple decades. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the atmosphere and love that the author blended a feel of historical and contemporary, or as I like to call it “histemporary”. If you enjoy this feel of a novel in a young adult setting, please consider giving By A Charm And A Curse a try. I can’t wait to hear if anyone else was holding their breath on the edge of their seat in the final chapters as I was.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

 

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Review: Surprise Me

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: Surprise Me
Author: Sophie Kinsella
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance
Goodreads
Pub Date: 02/13/18
4 STARS

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprises, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

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Review: Sunday Silence

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: Sunday Silence
Author: Nicci French
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Frieda Klein #7
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Mystery
Goodreads
Pub Date: 01/09/18
5 STARS

Lover of London, gifted psychologist, frequent police consultant   Klein is many things. And now she’s a person of interest in a murder case. A body has been discovered in the most unlikely and horrifying of places: beneath the floorboards of Frieda’s house.

The corpse is only months old, but the chief suspect appears to have died more than seven years ago. Except as Frieda knows all too well, he’s alive and well and living in secret. And it seems he’s inspired a copycat…

As the days pass and the body count rises, Frieda finds herself caught in a fatal tug-of-war between two killers: one who won’t let her go, and another who can’t let her live.

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