Review Time: The Child

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“Who really knows someone else? You can scratch the skin, but you never get to the meat of someone else. Into their bones.” 

One day in little London Town, journalist Kate Waters happens upon an article about the discovery of a set of infant bones in a construction site in one of the city’s lesser-quality neighborhoods. Kate latches on to the story, confident that there’s a bigger tale to tell. Who is this baby? And why is it buried in a place like that? Meanwhile, around town, two other women see the same article — Angela, a mother whose infant daughter disappeared from the maternity ward mere hours after her birth, and Emma, a book editor with a penchant for anxiety and flair.

Angela thinks the baby could be her long-lost baby Alice, though both she and her husband know that this isn’t the first time the hope of finding out what happened to Alice has surfaced.

Emma, who hides her interest about the Building Site Baby from her husband, knows a thing or two about the neighborhood the baby was found in, but surely this couldn’t be a baby she knows anything about — could it?

As Kate digs deeper into the identity of the baby for The Daily Post, the lives of these three women become inextricably intertwined. Who is the Building Site Baby? What happened to baby Alice? What in the world does Emma have to do with anything?

I got The Child as part of my Book of the Month membership (hello best subscription service EVER) and was super excited to dive into it because mystery. I’m also a sucker for multiple-viewpoint narration, so this one brought a double-whammy to the table. The twist at the end is captivating, though it’s kind of hard to not see it coming after a certain point. And there are some points that just sort of unnecessarily drag on. And on. And on. But maybe that’s some people’s cup of tea. All in all, this one was a-okay, but not one that I’d go out of my way to recommend to someone looking for a twisty mystery ride.

My favorite scene: Emma spends a good deal of time looking for the man who was her most prominent father figure — one of her mother’s former boyfriends. Though it isn’t a huge aspect of Kate’s who-dun-it narrative, Emma’s search shows real depth and emotion and it made me care a little more about this anxiety-riddle, frankly kind-of-annoying woman.

Grade: ★★★☆☆

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Review Time: The Good Daughter

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“I’ve always preferred crazy to stupid. Stupid can break your heart.” 

Rusty Quinn didn’t have many fans in the small Georgia town of Pikeville. As a criminal defense attorney, Rusty was charged with helping accused criminals avoid jail and he was unfortunately pretty good at his job. It was therefore not quite that shocking when masked intruders broke into his house one night demanding justice. The night ended with Rusty’s wife Gamma dead on the kitchen floor, his eldest daughter Samantha buried alive with a bullet lodged in her brain and his youngest daughter Charlotte running for her life.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and family has moved on, except not really. Sam left Pikeville behind for the Big Apple (does anyone actually call it that anymore?) while Charlie stayed to follow in her father’s footsteps — criminal defense. After a raunchy and drunken evening with a stranger, Charlie finds herself back at her old middle school to return a phone that doesn’t belong to her when all hell breaks loose. Shots are fired and people are dead. Two people, actually — 8-year-old Lucy Alexander and the school’s principal, Douglas Pinkman. A small goth girl is found with a gun in her hand a confession on her lips. Of course, Rusty is summoned to represent the accused school shooter, Kelly Wilson, and Charlie is tasked with being his second-in-command. As their investigation unfolds, Charlie realizes that Kelly isn’t who she seems to be. And what happened to the Quinn family 30 years ago isn’t quite what they thought, either.

I enjoyed The Good Daughter, even if I never really understood what the title meant (though, admittedly, I didn’t really try that hard to figure it out). The dual murder mystery — the school shooting and the Quinn family drama — drew me in (duh) and kept me intrigued. I will say, though, that about halfway through the book I felt a little sorry for Kelly Wilson because it didn’t seem like anyone was paying her or her trial much attention. As the story arced, though, everything came full circle and Kelly (and Sam) got the justice they deserved. Just as I thought, I’m about to go down a long, dark Karin Slaughter wormhole. See y’all on the other side.

My favorite scene: As one of the first steps in Charlie’s investigation of Kelly, she ends up at the Wilson’s family home in a poorer part of town. The girl’s mother is distraught and confused as Charlie searches the house hoping to find some clues as to who Kelly Wilson really is. What Charlie finds — items that point to a girl that is the opposite of the goth kid sitting in a hallway with a gun in her hand — make you realize just how troubled the girl truly is and gives you all the feels because something is just not right.

Grade: ★★★★☆

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Review Time: Three Wishes

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“It was always like that. They never said sorry. They just threw down their still-loaded weapons, ready for next time.” 

Cat, Gemma and Lyn are triplets and best friends (or mortal enemies, depending on the day). Lyn is a wildly successful entrepreneur who has a penchant for micro-managing her, and her sisters’, life. Gemma is a free spirit who has some serious commitment issues after the way her last relationship ended. Cat wants nothing more than to start a family — but her husband has other plans. And they just turned 33.

Their thirty-third year brings quite a bit of drama into their individual and collective lives, beginning with a revelation from Cat’s husband, Dan. (not-so-spoiler alert: he’s cheating). As Cat tries to grapple with the fact Dan has thrown a wrench in her family plan, Gemma has to try to downplay the pleasure she gets from her newest boyfriend, Charlie. As chick-lit is wont to do, a string of coincidences brings underlying tensions to the surface during what turns out to be a rather eventful (and messy) Christmas celebration. While Cat and Gemma hash out their differences over the next few months, Lyn tries to reign in her surprise parking-lot-induced panic attacks and the women’s parents, divorced since the kids were 6 years old, decide that maybe they don’t want to be so divorced any more.

Three Wishes was a lighthearted departure from my usual murder mystery and I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was fun and flirty and flippant and just a good ole time. There weren’t any characters that I didn’t care for, but some of Cat’s inner turmoil got a little tedious in places — but that’s life, isn’t it? Charlie was precious (especially at the end — heart-eye emoji), Dan was a total asshole (especially at the end — eye-roll emoji) Cat’s former flame was the worst of all. But, as Cat would say, he got what was coming for him, eh?

My favorite scene: The book opens with Lyn, Cat and Gemma at dinner to celebrate their 34th birthday at a classy seafood joint. Instead of being told what happened, the reader is taken on a bit of a “telephone” ride (remember that game? where you passed a single sentence around the circle and what came out at the end was not at all the sentence the game started with?) and as the narrator says, “Of course, no two [stories] were the same.” The sisters are having having a grand ole time until they’re suddenly not. They start fighting and one sister ends up with a fondue fork stabbed into her pregnant belly, one faints to the floor and the other is left to clean up the mess. The story of what started the fight is eventually retold within the context of the narrative, but I love that the story started with some serious drama and gossip. Because who doesn’t love a good goss session?

Grade: ★★★★☆

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Review Time: The River at Night

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“There’s nothing wrong with a little fear. Keeps you sharp.”

For years, Wini and three of her best friends have taken a vacation together to escape their grueling, everyday lives. This year, Pia — the group’s unofficial leader — has talked the women into hiking and rafting in Maine’s Allagash Wilderness. After a sufficiently creepy start to their trip involving a deserted road and an uncomfortable bathroom encounter, the women make it to their final destination — a beautiful lodging campus in the middle of the woods, only a short distance from the raging river that they’ll be rafting in the coming days with their college-aged tour guide, Rory.

The rafting portion of the trip get off to a rocky start when Pia decides to spend a special night with Rory, causing a tension between the women that they find hard to overcome. Not long after they launch their raft into the water, the group experiences a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad accident that leaves them stranded and helpless in the wilderness. As they try to navigate their way back to safety, they stumble upon a sign that help could be near. But (as these things tend to go) safety comes at what cost?

I’m going to be honest here… I didn’t love The River at Night. I’ve been trying to put a finger on why and I think it boils down to the characters themselves. I found the female characters — especially the narrator, Wini — to be frustrating. Yeah, okay, so your friend slept with a dude on what was supposed to be a “girl’s weekend.” Get over it, girl. You’re a grown-ass woman. You don’t need to pout about it for days. (I mean, I probably would pout just as long,  but I annoy even myself sometimes.) The other reason I didn’t love this book was due to the Amazon tease that prompted me to read this book in the first place. The tease mentioned the women’s “supposed saviors” and the suspense that surrounds the search to find out their true intentions. Which sounds awesome. The book, though, takes about 100 years to get to that point and, while this is where the majority of the book’s excitement comes from (for me, at least), it’s not nearly as suspenseful and spine-tingly as I thought it was going to be. Which is, admittedly, my own problem, but it just didn’t live up to the hype I had for it. Sorry, Charlie.

My favorite scene: It’s hard to come up with a way to describe my favorite scene without giving away pivotal surprises and plot twists. But my favorite scenes come towards the end of the novel when, (shocker) the women’s potential saviors show up and they are forced to put aside their own preconceived notions and ideas about how and when help will arrive. Because nothing rounds out a suspense novel like a little of the unexpected.

Review Time: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things.”

As you may remember, pretty much everyone in my life was thrilled that I put my murder-mystery streak on hold for a week to dive into something new. Hey… I love a good who-dun-it. I will say, though, that I wasn’t sad to break the streak with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It promised to be gossipy and dramatic — and it definitely delivered. But what I wasn’t really ready for what the depth of the story and the light it shone on the lives of the people we love to watch on screen.

Evelyn Hugo was Hollywood’s “It” star in her heyday. She was talented and smart and sexy. Everyone wanted a piece of her. The final piece, though, would be her memoir, shared on her own terms. Monique Grant, a rather inexperienced journalist, is stunned when she gets word that THE Evelyn Hugo wants her to write the coveted memoir. She knows it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for her and she’s going to make the most out of it.

As Monique already knows, Evelyn’s had an interesting (and gossip-worthy) life. Born to a poor family in Hell’s Kitchen, she rose above her neighborhood (and terrible father) to forge a path for herself, even if it meant trading a few things on the way to Hollywood stardom. As Monique gets to know the real Evelyn Hugo, a picture begins to emerge of a woman who did what she had to do, and hid what she had to hide, to make a name for herself.

Evelyn knows that the real question her fans want answered is which husband she considered to be her “true love.” So she starts at the beginning, from her road trip out to Hollywood to her abusive first husband and continues through them all one at a time, painting a portrait of a woman with unlimited depth, cunning ambition and unimaginable strength. By the end of Evelyn’s story, she reveals the two things she’s held closest to her heart: which husband was her true love and why she chose Monique to write her story. And the answers to both questions with break your heart. Mine did.

My favorite scene: One of Evelyn’s seven husbands was the kind-hearted Hollywood staple Harry Cameron and their love story is the one that I haven’t been able to forget. Their lives are glamorous — and not without pain — but they manage to navigate them in a way that makes you root for them, despite everything you know (and by this point, you know a lot). Love you, Evelyn. And Harry too.

Grade: ★★★★★

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Review Time: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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“Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

We’re introduced to our unnamed narrator with the revelation that she’s thinking of ending her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake. As she describes it, it’s a thought that popped into her head and one she can’t shake. To make matters worse, as these thoughts swirl around in her head, she’s embarking on a road trip with her boyfriend to meet his parents.

Jake is a scientist. He toils away, day after day, in a lab. He’s fond of speaking about the abstract. He used to live out on a farm way out in the middle of nowhere. And he’s excited for his girlfriend to meet his parents.

The girlfriend (it feels so weird calling her that, but she doesn’t have a name) enjoys philosophizing with Jake, discussing the deep and abstract for virtually the entire car ride. She gets very odd and very scary phone calls from her own phone number on a semi-regular basis. She’s a little bit all over the place.

Jake’s house is creepy AF. His parents are super odd. The meal they serve isn’t conducive to the girlfriend’s vegetarian palate. The basement door appears to be covered in what looks like frantic scratch marks. There are super odd paintings down in the dark and damp basement that she decided to explore alone (who does that?!). The farm is just weird and she wants to get out.

A snow storm begins as soon as the couple gets back on the road, but that doesn’t deter Jake from detouring to Dairy Queen for a sweet frozen treat. With treats in hand, they start their trip again, though they make another detour a few minutes later to throw away the cups before they cause a mess in the car. LOL WUT? They end up at a deserted high school in the middle of a snowstorm in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

And that’s when shit gets really weird.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things was creepy from the first page to the very last. The couple’s soliloquies about random things during their car ride served to demonstrate their level of intelligence and compatibility, but good grief were they annoying. So many decisions they made, so many things that happened, just made you want to shake both of them. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU NIMROD?!? But I suppose, in the end, those decisions made sense. Those decisions led to what will most likely go down as the weirdest and most WTF ending I’ve ever read. Seriously. You’ll see. It’s a total mind-warp and I think I need to read it four more times to really piece it all together. It toys with your emotions and messes with your mind and really just shakes you up. I finished this one a few days ago and I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking about just how weird it was. But like… in a good way. Good weird? Is that a thing? It is now.

My favorite scene: Throughout the whole book, there are little excerpts of conversations from people talking about some vague crime that happened, something that totally shocked the community. These little snippets, as vague and disconnected as they are, really serve to push the reader forward with the story. What happened? What are they talking about? Who could they be referring to? Is it Jake? The girlfriend? Who?! Those passages, more than anything else in the story, sucked me in and propelled me forward. Ah, the promise of drama.

Grade: ★★★★☆

Review Time: Since We Fell

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“We live in a world of disposable memory, nothing’s built to last, not even shame.”

Rachel Childs was the next big TV news star. Until she wasn’t anymore. And nothing was ever the same.

Meet Rachel. Her mother is an overbearing one, a best-selling author of relationship advice with scant romantic success to her name. Her father is non-existent, a ghost of a man who left while Rachel was still in the womb–a man her mother refused to acknowledge or introduce. Her husband is an emotionally distant man who cares about image over attachment. She is a hard-working reporter and, like most of us, is a little bit damaged, no thanks to the people in her life.

While covering the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Rachel finds herself stretched a little too thin, with too many people watching her fall apart. Finally, after a particularly brutal experience that haunts her for the rest of the story, Rachel reaches her breaking point. Unfortunately for her, it happened on live television and went viral within a matter of minutes. She’s forced to return home to Boston, to a marriage that’s unraveling as quickly as her breakdown went viral and to a career that stopped existing as soon as the camera cut off.

There is a silver lining to her trouble: a wonderful man named Brian who always happens to show up when she needs him most. She first met him while she was trying to find out the identity of her father, then again after her breakdown in Haiti. He was the glue she needed to mend her life, until–you guessed it–he wasn’t anymore .

One rainy afternoon, Rachel happens to see a man that looked strikingly similar to Brian enter a hotel in Boston–but it couldn’t have been Brian because he was on a flight to Europe. Wasn’t he? And so starts the mystery. Does Rachel know who Brian really is? Does she trust herself enough to do what it takes to find out?

All in all, I enjoyed Since We Fell. It was a little slow at the beginning and a little choppy at times, but the story kept my attention. I’ll be honest — I found Rachel to be a little annoying. She’s agoraphobic, which took up a lot of real estate in the book, and her internal struggles started to get repetitive after a while. The action at the end of the book was a little WTF and I wanted to punch everyone in the face at one point, but it was a fun read. Even if I wouldn’t want to be friends with any of them.

My favorite scene: After Rachel thinks she sees Brian in Boston, she concocts a scheme to find out what’s really going on with her husband. She rents a car and follows “Brian” across the city, weaving in and out of traffic, imagining all the horrific scenarios that could explain who this man is. Her chase leads to more questions than answers, but it’s a fast-paced, c’mon-just-tell-me-who-this-guy-is sequence that serves as the jumping off point for most of the book’s action.

Grade: ★★★☆☆

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