Review Time: Before She Knew Him

“I had two lives before I met Henrietta Mazur, boh fo them simple, with their own comforts and rewards. And from out of nowhere she’s come along and turned those two lives into one. One complicated mess of a life.”

As Henrietta and Lloyd get settled into their new house in their new suburban town, they find themselves over at their neighbor’s house for a get-to-know-you dinner. It’s everything Hen, who is fresh off a bipolar diagnosis and manic episode, could have wanted — nice neighbors, potentially good friends, quite little life. But during a tour of Matthew and Mira Dolamore’s house, Hen notices something on the mantle that throws everything she knows into disarray. You see, during her most recent manic episode, Hen become engrossed in the unsolved murder of Dustin Miller, a high school student who happen to live in their former neighborhood. Hen knew Dustin’s case inside and out, so when she spotted what looked suspiciously like the high schooler’s missing fencing trophy in the Dolamore’s basement, she grew concerned. So concerned, in fact, that she went to the police. But here’s the thing. Hen had a history of unchecked bipolar, which unfortunately led to a few troubling accusations while she was in college. So while Hen was increasingly convinced that her neighbor Matthew had something to do with Dustin’s murder, there wasn’t a single person at the police station who would take her seriously. So, Hen decided to take the situation into her own hands. Which, generally speaking, is rarely a good idea. Who is Matthew Dolamore? Why does he have Dustin’s trophy? And what will Hen do to track down the answers she so desperately wants?

Before She Knew Him was my BOTM club pick for March and of course it suckered me with a tagline of “Catching a killer is dangerous — especially if he lives next door.” I mean, c’mon. And it was good. But I will say that it was a little slow. The whole beginning premise is that Hen wants to find out IF Matthew killed Dustin. Which, spoiler, she finds to be true in the first handful of chapters. So you know that Matthew is indeed a killer and there’s two-thirds of the novel left. I will admit that I spent a good 100 pages trying to figure out what the rest of the book could possibly be about. Eventually, though, things pick up and by the end, the spooky, icky, creep-o factor is out in full force. There’s a major twist in there that I am still thinking about — one of those twists that makes you say “well shoot, now I might have to start all over again and pay attention to the little cues I know I missed the first time.” All in all, Before She Knew Him was a fun read. Might not be the first book I reach for when someone asks for a recommendation, but something fun nonetheless.

My favorite scene: I liked the scenes towards the middle of the story in which we are first formally introduced to Matthew’s brother Richard. Richard is that oogey, creepy character that keeps murder mysteries alive. The character that you love to hate. His introduction brought back some zip into the story, and though what he does in those opening scenes is a major spoiler (and thus my lips are sealed), trust me when I say he’s a major shithead. And I was there for it.

Grade: ★★★☆☆

Review Time: Into the Water

into-the-water

I, like pretty much everyone else in the world, was STOKED for the release of Paula Hawkins’s newest thriller, Into the Water. Hawkins, of The Girl on the Train fame, doesn’t shy away from twisted stories, so this one was bound to be a page-turner. I was extra excited about this book because it was the first one I got from the popular Book of the Month club. If you haven’t heard of BOTM (unlikely), it’s a subscription service that curates a list of five books per month that you can choose from and it’s AWESOME. (Side note… Why didn’t I think of this!? SUCH a good idea and product.)

Women in the sleepy British town of Beckford have been dying in the Drowning Pool for centuries. Its first victims, way back in 1679, were suspected witches who were drowned to prove that they weren’t witches. Because we were smart back then. As the centuries rolled on, the witch drownings may have ceased, but the curse of the pool remained. Today, the pool is the site of an unsettling number of suicides, the latest being Nel Abbott. After Nel’s death, her estranged sister, Jules, is called back out to the town she  vowed to never return to care for Lena, her now-motherless teenage niece. Once there, Jules learns that Nel was working on a book about the Drowning Pool and its victims, including its most recent–Lena’s best friend Katie. Not everyone was on board with the idea of a book about the Drowning Pool, the loudest critic being Katie’s grieving mother and Nel’s most recent enemy. The evidence begs the question: did Nel kill herself in the storied Drowning Pool or did someone take her life from her?

This book is complicated. The story is told by myriad characters, not precisely in chronological order. There are SO MANY subplots to track, some of which didn’t actually end up leading anywhere and others I had trouble remembering in the moment. There’s a town psychic who I think thinks she’s a witch so she spits a lot? She just confused me. The moral is that it was just tough to keep everything straight with this one. As much as I wanted to love it, I only liked it. I’d recommend this one to anyone who has the time to read it in one or two sittings. Otherwise, you’re going to need a tracking sheet or two.

My favorite quote: “No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”

Grade: ★★★☆☆

image via

How to Find Your Next Read

books_header

image via Purewow

Finding your next read can be a battle unto itself. There are SO many options around every corner that it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what you want to read next. Mystery? Suspense? Romance? Thriller? Biography? Like I said… Too many choices. When I’m looking for a new book to add to my “Saturday Reads” list (which is so old that for the life of me, I can’t remember why I named it that), I rely on a handful of websites and newsletters to steer me in a direction that I know I’m going to like.* Check them out and see if they can help you find your new favorite masterpiece!

Purewow Books: Purewow is a lifestyle website that has a section dedicated to the latest and greatest titles. While they do have lists that contain some of the most recent best sellers, Purewow always spotlights a few lesser known titles that have unfortunately managed to fly under the radar. Some of the most interesting books I’ve read lately have come from Purewow’s spotlights. They also have a ton of lists, ranging from “40 Books to Read Before 40″ to “6 Essential Books for Graduates,” and I love all of them.

Book of the Month: As advertised, Book of the Month is a book subscription website that showcases five new books each month, selected by celebrity guest judges. The books range in genre from romance, to non-fiction to psychological thriller and you select one book each month to be mailed to you. Now I have to admit that while I love the idea of this service, I do not subscribe to it. I do, however, love all of the books they highlight and add at least three each month to my Saturday Reads list.

The Everygirl: The Everygirl, a Chicago-based culture and lifestyle website for women, is another one of my favorite places to find lists of books, short stories and internet reads. They always have different themed lists and I can always find something I want to read included in their roundups. They also do great recaps of some of the season’s hottest books that I love. I always find it so interesting to see how two people interpret the same story and The Everygirl’s recaps never disappoint.

#RWBookClub: While not a website and potentially a questionable selection tool, I find myself again and again engrossed in the books that Reese Witherspoon highlights with her #RWBookClub hashtag on Instagram. She recommends pop culture best sellers, but she also tends to stray a little darker with different psychological thriller novels which I am definitely all about.  I concede that #RWBookClub might be a bit of a skeptical selection, a good book is a good book and Reese knows how to pick ’em.

*I feel that it should be noted that while I am supportive of all genres of books, I tend to stay pretty mainstream with my selections, mainly so that I can engage in social media conversations about the latest “best seller” or “cultural phenom.” Thus, these lists showcase just those sorts of books and (the vast majority of the time), they do not disappoint. Happy reading!