The Perfect Girlfriend turns the “crazy ex” thriller on its head a bit by taking us inside the mind of one of the craziest ex’s you’ll ever meet.
Since Nate asked Juliette for some time and space, she’s been more than willing to give it to him. Eventually, he’ll realize what Juliette has known since they first met — they are meant for each other. In the meantime, Juliette still has Nate’s keys, his passwords, and multiple social media accounts to keep up with all his moves. She wants their paths crossing again to look completely natural and not planned down to the last detail.
Karen Hamilton’s debut novel puts us inside Juliette’s head, getting to know her motives and justifications in her lifestyle makeover and pursuit of Nate. Early on, Juliette hints there may be things from Juliette’s past in play that make the whole game to win Nate back a bit more twisted and devious than it might appear at first. Hamilton walks a fine line between creating sympathy for Juliette and readers being horrified at the lengths she will go to in order to win Nate back.
The first three-quarters of the novel unfolds with a growing sense of dread, tension, and growing horror at just how far Juliette is willing to go. But in the first quarter of the book, things begin to slowly break down as revelations surface and narrative threads come together. And it’s at this point that the book begins to lose a bit of its momentum and comes to a close that isn’t satisfying. The actual ending of the book is a bit abrupt and really left me wondering if there wasn’t an extra chapter or two somewhere on the cutting room floor.
No one here is exactly what they appears to be….
That quote from the first season of Babylon Five applies in spades to the trio of protagonists in Michelle Sacks’ debut novel You Were Made for This.
When Sam inherits a house from his Swedish aunt, he and his wife Merry decide it’s the perfect time to move and set-up the perfect home for their newborn son, Conor. As Merry delves into becoming the perfect stay-at-home mother, Sam pursues his passion to become a filmmaker. But lurking below the surface are secrets that each is hiding from the other — whether it’s Sam’s real reason for fleeing his job as a professor or Merry’s true feelings on becoming a mother.
Enter into this scenario a visit from Merry’s oldest friend, Frank. Frank knows Merry better than anyone else and her visit begins to slowly shatter the illusion that Merry and Sam have built up. It also exposes some older, deeper wounds and resentments that Merry and Frank harbor from growing up together. Continue reading
The President Is Missing is the literary equivalent of a blockbuster action film — better when you sit back, turn your brain off, and just go along for the ride.
President Jonathan Duncan faces attacks from all sides. As he faces impending impeachment hearings in Congress, Duncan is made aware of an attack on the United States that will send our nation back to the stone age. Duncan is forced to go rogue to try and take down the threat before it comes to fruition and to ferret out who in his inner circle is leaking vital information to his enemies.
Promising “insider secrets only a president could know,” The President Is Missing is less a political thriller and more a political fantasy. At multiple points, you can’t help but wonder how much Bill Clinton would have given to shake off the threat of impeachment by going John McClain to save our country from an attack and then riding that to astronomical approval rating.
And that may be the biggest thing that holds the novel back from being a “bubble gum for the brain” thriller. I kept looking for clues as to which author wrote which part of the novel.
This novel also reminded me why I’ve stopped reading James Patterson novels. His novels feel a bit formulaic and rushed to press. And that’s how this one ends up feeling as well. Staccato chapters, quick pacing so you don’t have to ponder the implications of things as the develop, and a lack of room for any substantial character development add up to a disappointing novel. The final third of the book piles on absurd twist after absurd twist until I felt like crying, “Enough already.”
The President Is Missing feels like a missed opportunity. With a former president co-authoring and able to offers insights into the office and what might really happen if our president vanished for a significant length of time, the novel instead is told mostly from the first-person perspective of Duncan, thus negating the title early and often. I’m not sure what I expected, but this one didn’t fit the bill.
On what should be the happiest day of her life, Major Brooke Grant’s world is shattered when a terrorist sets off a car bomb just seconds before she walks down the aisle. Seems that Brooke has ticked off the terrorist leader, the Falcon, who has declared a jihad on Brooke for events in a previous installment of this series. And while a fluke saves Brooke from destruction, the Falcon’s bomb is able to wipe out her friends, family and the president of the United States all in one fell swoop.
The Falcon then decides to make sure the United States knows what it’s like to feel terror and uses a high-profile Arab reporter to issue a threat to wipe out three U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, several U.S. citizens are seized for possible connections to the plot, putting an Islamic Congressman in a precarious position and the newly installed U.S. president wanting to make sure that the U.S. hits back and hits back hard. Continue reading
The runaway success of “Gone Girl” has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these days cover blurb touts it as being in the “same vein as ‘Gone Girl.'”
And while there have been a few books that have come close to capturing the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn, there have been more than a few that felt like pale imitations of the original.
For the first third of “Distress Signals,” it feels like Catherine Ryan Howard has tapped into the same vein Flynn did with “Gone Girl.” Only to see it all fall apart the more Adam Dunne digs into the disappearance of his fiance, Sarah. Continue reading
As a rule, I don’t peak ahead at the ending of novels.
But there are some books for which exceptions have to be made. And Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door turned out to be one of those.
When their babysitter cancels at the last minute, Marco convinces his wife Anne that they can leave their infant daughter home alone while they attend a dinner party next door. If they take the baby monitor with them and take turns checking on their daughter every half hour, nothing could possibly go wrong.
Coming back home from the party, they discover the door ajar and their baby kidnapped. The police are called in and things just aren’t adding up on how and who could or would have kidnapped the little girl. As the investigation deepens, secrets about not only Marco and Anne are revealed but also about their neighbors and Anne’s parents. In short, everyone has something to hide when it comes to the kidnapping.
I have to admit that about a tenth of a way into the novel, I had to skip ahead and see how certain events played out. I didn’t want to ruin any of the twists or character revelations (I luckily didn’t) but instead wanted to find make sure the baby didn’t come to any harm. As a new parent, the idea of someone kidnapping an infant daughter gave me the cold sweats and I didn’t want to continue the story if the outcome was extremely negative. Continue reading
In the literary world, Harlan Coben’s novels are the equivalent of a summer popcorn thriller — fun in the moment but not necessarily having much replay value or holding up well to much (if any) deep scrutiny.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you. There’s always room for that fun, don’t think too much about it, bubble-gum for the mind type of novel that serves as an escape for a few pages.
Veteran special-ops pilot Maya Stern suffers from PTSD from her time in combat. She’s also haunted by a decision that she made during that time that went viral thanks to the power of social media. She returns home to try and begin a normal life with her husband, but that plan hits a few stumbling blocks when her husband is killed in an apparent mugging attempt.
But in the midst of Maya’s grief, her new nanny-cam makes a shocking discovery — her husband comes home to visit their toddler and is caught on tape. Could he still be alive and why would he fake his own death? Answers aren’t easy to come by from his rich, insular family nor will they come easily from the people in Maya’s life she”s come to rely on and trust.
The set-up Fool Me Once is a solid one even if the pay-off isn’t necessarily the best. The more Maya digs into the conspiracy (and starts to appear crazier to her friends and family), the more Coben asks the reader to take a huge leap of faith in suspending our disbelief. By the end of the novel, the leaps become so eye-rolling that the novel loses any crediblity or momentum it had in the early goings. It’s the type of story that the more you just turn off your brain and go with it, the more fun you’re likely to have.
It’s a good escapist thrill ride, but not necessarily anything more.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. You can find get other reviews over at GoodReads.
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