Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land, a psychological thriller, is SO eerie! The story is told by the daughter of a serial killer, Milly, and begins when she turns her mother into the police. That’s right, this particular serial killer is a female. Surprising huh? At first they didn’t believe Milly, what are the odds of a murderous mother? But the police are quickly convinced when Milly shares her terrible trauma.

 

While Milly prepares to testify against her mother in court, she stays with a foster family. Mike, Saskia and Phoebe, a fellow teenager, take her in and saying that Phoebe and Milly don’t get along is putting it mildly. As Milly settles into her new life, we see glimpses into the horrors that Milly’s mom put her through. Land was able to convey these awful experiences without being too graphic or gruesome, which I found to be impressive.

It’s very clear that Milly is battling against herself, her good self and bad self. Between who she feels she is and who she wants to be. She struggles to be normal, but is constantly reminded of the lessons her mother taught her and consistently speaks to her mother throughout the story, addressing the audience as “you.” The true question Milly longs to answer is whether she’s her mother’s daughter after all…

This debut novel from Ali Land is well written and chilling. If thrillers are your thing, I definitely recommend it!

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Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets

Imagine that you’re alone in the woods with no way to contact help and it’s starting to get dark. This is where Amy Raye, an experienced hunter, finds herself during Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets.

When Amy Raye sets out alone to track a bull elk during the last weekend of the hunting season, the weather takes a turn for the worse. Before long, she’s lost and it’s getting dark. Amy Raye’s two fellow hunters report her missing, which launches a search and recovery mission to find her. Throughout the story, the perspective shifts from Amy Raye to Pru Hathaway (a member of the search team) and we learn about the perseverance of each of these women as the conditions go from bad to worse.

Breaking Wild is filled with vivid descriptions of the Colorado wilderness as well as detailed hunting explanations. While I don’t have any experience hunting (or any interest in it really), it was a unique perspective to read from and Amy Raye’s survival skills are beyond impressive. It’s inspiring to read about a character with such a strong will to survive.

Although the book wasn’t a thriller like I thought it might be; it was still a race to the finish.  I recommend this book as the weather turns colder and we find ourselves bundled up inside!

Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison

Every year, I save the mystery books on my to-be-read list for the cooler, crisp months. This year, I picked up Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison as the first mystery thriller of the season (cheers to fall!).

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are both successful authors and they’ve had a hard year. After losing a child, working through an affair, and both of their careers taking a bit hit – they’re feeling the pain. One day, Ethan finds a note in their kitchen from Sutton saying that she has left and doesn’t want to be followed. Unsure what to do, Ethan waits. And waits. And waits until the hours pass by and something feels off. It doesn’t feel like Sutton is taking a few days for herself, it feels like something more.

With Sutton missing and the police asking tough questions, Ethan starts to lose his sanity. What happens next is a chase to find Sutton before it’s too late.

At first, I thought that this book was trying too hard to be like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn with the whole wife-frames-the-husband situation. Turns out that it’s a different story entirely! Overall, I enjoyed this layered story (with unexpected twists) and it’s definitely gotten me in the mood for more thrillers.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I read and review many wonderful books, but it’s not often that I want each and every one of you to read one book in particular. What’s this stunning, eye-opening novel that I think everyone should read? This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel!

Before I dive into why I think this book is so important, I’ll share an overview of the story. Rosie and Penn live in the Midwest with their five lively, adorably chaotic and curious boys. Meet Claude, the youngest son who loves to bake and listen to fairytales. When he grows up he wants to be a girl. Claude’s parents and siblings are supportive and want him to be happy. However they’re not sure how to support him in a world that doesn’t seem to understand. To protect their family, a secret unfolds and grows until it becomes so large that it threatens to suffocate them all.

One of the most important impacts of reading (besides enjoying the stories) is how it fosters empathy. This book makes that very clear. In a heartwarming tone, This Is How It Always Is discusses a topic that a lot of people aren’t familiar with in a very eye-opening and relatable way. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and would love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it!

What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney

“We’re all waiting to die aren’t we?” – What You Don’t Know

What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney made my skin crawl. It’s one of those stories where almost every character is disturbed and quite interesting at the same time. It’s all very dark, but that makes for a good crime novel right?

Detective Hoskins and Loren are looking for a serial killer. They’re unlikely partners, but Hoskins is the only one who can put up with Loren. The book begins as they arrest Jackie Seever, a man who had done unspeakable things. Seven years later, people begin dying again in ways similar to Seever’s victims. The problem is that Seever is still in jail and detectives are stumped.

The book switches between quite a few points of view including detectives, reporters, and even the wife of the serial killer. Everyone is a suspect and as the story moves forward, some of them move further from reality.

The pace of What You Don’t Know was a little slower than I would have liked, but I was intrigued by the dark story and twisted ending.

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

Before reading The Shattered Tree, a Bess Crawford mystery, I was unfamiliar with the mother-son writing pair, Charles Todd. Charles and Caroline Todd come from a family filled with storytellers and write books together!

Bess Crawford is an English battlefield nurse during World War I and one night, an injured officer is brought to Bess’s station. He’s freezing, bloody, and was found besides a shattered tree. As Bess stabilizes him she’s surprised to learn that the officer isn’t British, he’s actually wearing a French uniform and speaks fluent German. Her curiosity and suspicion spark the story that unfolds in The Shattered Tree.

Soon after, Beth is wounded and sent to Paris to heal. It turns out that this mysterious man is also in Paris although his whereabouts are unknown. Beth can’t shake the thought of him; what if he’s a spy? She goes on a mission to find the man with the help of American Captain Barkley.

I thought Bess was pushy and nosy although her determination was impressive. She had very little connection to this officer and mystery she stumbles upon. Despite this, she pushes her way in. Throughout the story there was a sense of urgency, however I didn’t feel it as a reader.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time engaging with the story although it was an interesting idea.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Sometimes a book is so endearing and nostalgic to teenage years that you can’t help getting brought along for the ride. For me, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is one of these stories. The book feels like a shout-out to all the teenagers  who feel out of place and awkward.

Billy is a fourteen-year-old teenager who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends, playing video games, and thinking about girls while also avoiding them. Despite having terrible grades in school, Billy’s brilliant with computers and has taught himself to code his own games.

When an edition of Playboy is released featuring Vanna White, Billy and his two best friends will do just about anything to see the photos. Because they’re under eighteen (and cannot legally purchase the magazine), they develop an elaborate plot to get their hands on a copy. In the process, Billy meets Mary Zelinsky and everything changes. She’s an expert programmer and together they develop The Impossible Fortress, a video game, to enter in a large competition. Of course the plan gets off track and Billy finds himself torn between what he knows is right and peer pressure.

One of the major themes of the book is sharing what it feels like to be a teenager when anything feels possible and you’re at the beginning of rest of your life. I really felt for Billy, a shy, hopeful, and at times, naïve kid. Despite his principal openly telling him that his future is drear and video game programming isn’t a career option, he works even harder to complete The Impossible Fortress. I was rooting for him!

In the end I was a bit confused about Mary’s motivations (Jason Rekulak, I have a few questions for you!) that I don’t feel were well explained, but overall this book is really good! The Impossible Fortress shares many similarities with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which I really liked as well) and I recommend both!

I thought this quote sums up Billy’s teenage temperament well:

“I didn’t try to compete with either of them. All I knew was that I didn’t know anything.”