I See You by Clare Mackintosh

i-see-youI sped through I See You by Clare Mackintosh like I was in a race. It was easy to get into, with a thrilling plot and conversational tone, so I couldn’t put it down beyond breaking for snacks.

As Zoe Walker is commuting home on the London Tube from her 9-5 job, she sees her photograph in the classifieds section of the newspaper. This both shocks and disturbs her because the advertisement seems to be for a dating service that she didn’t register for. The next day another woman’s photograph is in the ad followed by a different woman the day after that. When one of these photographed women winds up dead, Zoe begins to panic…

Readers are brought along on an eerie twist-filled ride as Zoe discovers what her photograph in the advertisement means and just how it got there without her consent.

A common theme in I See You is the idea of our routines, especially commuting to and from work each day. In particular, the things we don’t pay attention to because we’re each absorbed in our own thoughts as we’re trying to get from one place to the next, hopefully without delay. This really sparked my interest and Mackintosh spun a gripping story from it.

i-see-you-by-clare-mackintoshI had high expectations when I started reading because I loved I Let You Go (one of my favorite reads in 2016), which is another book by Clare Mackintosh. I See You did not disappoint, although the plot twist wasn’t quite as stunning as the one in I Let You Go.

I definitely recommend I See You by Clare Mackintosh and if you haven’t already read it, I Let You Go as well! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

the-last-good-girl-by-allison-leottaThe Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta hits home. These days the news is filled with stories of sexual assault on college campuses; Leotta has created a mystery novel that brings this issue to light through a gripping chase. I want to point out that this is the fifth book in the Anna Curtis series, however it’s the first one I’ve picked up and it was easy to read as a standalone.

Emily Shapiro, A freshman at Tower University, is excited to go to her first college party. A party filled with dancing, maybe a little drinking, and boys. Little does she know that the party won’t hold the happy memories she hopes for – instead she is drugged and raped. When Emily goes missing, prosecutor Anna Curtis is called in.

Emily was last seen on video running away from her accused rapist and the story spirals from there. The book is told from multiple perspectives. From Anna, from Emily’s video blogs leading up to the time she went missing, and from a freshman pledge in the fraternity where Emily was raped. These were really contrasting perspectives that gave the story some depth.

The Last Good Girl kept me hooked, because of the horrifying and terrible occurrences of sexual assaults on college campuses, and by the chase to find Emily. I definitely recommend this book (warning: there’s some graphic content) and would read another by Allison Leotta. I appreciate her ability to write a gripping mystery novel that brings attention to such a serious issue – for that, I want to thank her.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

you-will-know-me“She turned and, for the first time ever, he looked at her like he knew she was lying. Which she was, though she wasn’t sure why. But in that look, his eyes dark and sad, she knew something had ended, that great parental loss, the moment they realize you’re not perfect, and maybe even a little worse.”

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is one of the Book of the Month Club December selections. This story is about the Knoxes, a family that revolves around the gymnastics career of the daughter, Devon, who has dreams of going for Olympic gold. While Devon spends countless hours training for this dream, her family spends just as many transporting her to and from practices, events, and more. It’s a huge commitment and because of this, the gymnastics community is tight knit and gossip-filled. When a member of this group dies, it sends the community spiraling and threatens to ruin everything that Devon, and her family, has worked for….

Filled with lies, rumors, and betrayals, You Will Know Me is a fast-paced chase to find out how a man died and whether Devon has what it takes to make it to the top.

you-will-know-me-by-megan-abbottDespite the interesting dynamic of the ultimate gymnastics dream, this book underwhelmed me in the end. It was a quick read, which I appreciate in mystery novels, but the plot twists were a bit predictable and most of the characters (besides the youngest Knox child, Drew) were unlikeable to me. Overall, You Will Know Me is a quick-paced mystery from a unique perspective, but it wasn’t one of my favorites this year.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorI’ve been looking for a quick mystery novel that isn’t too dark or gory; The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was just the book I was in the mood for.

Marco and Anne Conti, new to parenthood, go to a dinner party at the house next door and leave their infant baby behind with a baby monitor. During the span of the party an awful crime is committed and as the story progresses, readers learn exactly what happened that night and what role everyone played, however unexpected.

What interested me the most in this book was the way that people can spiral out of control and dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole in an effort to save their own skin. Situations in this story drive people to commit acts they never thought they were capable of.

Each chapter flowed smoothly into the next, the whole story only spanning a week or so. The book is told in third person from the perspectives of many different characters. The narrator seemed very removed from the characters and I noticed that each of the characters’ names were used a lot, almost so much so that it started to distract me. This style of writing isn’t a favorite of mine, but I thought it worked for this book.

The Couple Next DoorFor me, The Couple Next Door is a plot driven novel, rather than character driven, and a quick one-time read.

Here’s a quote I marked from the book:

“She knows how judgmental mothers are, how good it feels to sit in judgment of someone else.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

still-lifeStill Life by Louise Penny is one of the books that has been waiting on my shelf for months and months. I finally had a chance to pick up this mystery detective novel and I’m happy that I did.

The story begins in the small town of Three Pines near Montreal when a well-liked woman is found dead in the woods. With an arrow wound on her chest, there’s no denying that her death wasn’t an accident…

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the lead detective investigating the murder and I was impressed by his intelligence and perceptiveness. As many great detectives do, Gamache has the uncanny knack for finding the hidden pieces of the puzzle and fitting them together. He brings his team to the small town of Three Pines to get to the bottom of what happened.

Still Life is well written and kept me curious throughout the story. I will definitely read more of Louise Penny’s books!

My favorite quote from the book:

“Oscar Wilde said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing. What stops us from doing horrible things isn’t our conscience, but the fear of getting caught.”

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All The Missing GirlsWhen I read the description of All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, I jumped at the chance to review a mystery novel that’s told backwards. This writing approach is really unique and although I was a bit skeptical about how it could be executed, Miranda has done something really special here!

When Nicolette’s best friend Corinne disappeared one night, Nic fled from her hometown. 10 years later, Nic has moved on and is living in Philadelphia with a job, fiancé, and 4-year degree. As soon as Nic returns home to help her father, another girl named Annaleise disappears under similarly mysterious circumstances as Corinne. Nic is quickly pulled into a whirlwind chase to find the girl and comes face to face with the ghosts of her past. As the story winds backwards from Day 15 to Day 1, the night that Annaleise disappeared, we learn more about Nic’s history and the events that led to both Corinne and Annaleise’s disappearances.

I really like this writing approach and was completely gripped by the story even though it was revealed in a different sequence than usual.

All The Missing Girls 2I’ve realized that I definitely have different reviewing criteria for each genre. I really value character development and relationships in the books that I read, but I also look for shocking plot twists and complicated motives in mystery novels. All The Missing Girls is a cleverly constructed mystery novel that is easy to fall into!

Author interview: Mary Kubica

Mary KubicaI can barely contain my excitement for this post. Today I’m sharing an interview with Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl.

Mary, welcome to Dream by Day and thank you so much for joining us!

Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel, Don’t You Cry, for those who aren’t already familiar with the story?

Don’t You Cry begins in Chicago when a young woman named Quinn awakens one morning to discover her roommate, Esther, missing. While snooping through Esther’s room in search of clues that might help her find Esther, she comes across some questionable items that lead her to wonder how well she really knows her roommate. Meanwhile, in a small Michigan town about seventy miles outside of Chicago, a teenage boy named Alex discovers a mysterious young woman in the café where he works – one bearing a striking resemblance to Esther. He’s taken with her at once and the two becomes fast friends, though as Quinn starts to uncover the secrets behind Esther, we wonder what Alex, seventy miles away, is getting himself into.

Where did you get the inspiration for Don’t You Cry?

I was initially intrigued by the juxtaposition of a woman’s disappearance with the mysterious appearance of a woman in a different locale. When I began the novel there was much I had yet to figure out: who would tell these stories, whether this was one woman or two, and how the lives of all involved would eventually intersect. But I was excited to explore the idea on the page and see how the story unfolded over time.

Were any characters easier to write than others? Why do you think that is?

I find it more difficult to write any of my characters when I first begin a novel, whether male or female, young or old. They’re new and I’m unfamiliar with them, and the dialogue or their inner thoughts and voice are sometimes hard to discern. But after a few chapters, I begin to grasp who they are and the process of bringing them to life becomes easier. That said, there are always characters who resonate with me more deeply, or who tug a bit more on my heartstrings. In Don’t You Cry, that’s certainly the character of Alex, who is a reliable and whip-smart kid who’s stuck at home caring for his alcoholic father after his friends have graduated from high school and left for college. He’s alone and lonely, and easily smitten with the mysterious new arrival to town, a woman he nicknames Pearl for a bracelet she wears. I believe Alex is the type of special character who will stick with readers after they finish the book and leave an indelible mark on their hearts as he has mine.

What drew you to the mystery thriller genre as an author?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though my first published novel, The Good Girl, was the first manuscript I wrote that had any sort of suspense element to it. I focused on women’s fiction before that time, though not very successfully. I’d start with an idea I thought was brilliant and then lose interest in the manuscript partway through. Something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I got the idea for a kidnapping tale, and though I didn’t go into The Good Girl with a concerted effort to make it more of a thriller than my previous works, I knew right away when those twisty elements fell into place that all along this is what my other manuscripts were missing. I’ve been writing thrillers ever since and adore the genre.

Do you have any particular practices that help you write? Can your share your process with us?

I wake up early every morning and begin writing around 5am. It’s my favorite time to write, and the time when I feel the most clear-headed and focused. I find that I’m easily distracted by noise, and so have to be certain the TV and radio are off when I write, and that my husband and kids are either asleep or off to work and school. Other than that I don’t need much to write, though caffeine comes in handy – that and the company of a few cats.

You have published three novels; do you feel particularly attached to any of the characters you’ve created in particular?

Each novel has one character I feel particularly attached to. In The Good Girl, it was Colin. In Pretty Baby, Willow, and in Don’t You Cry, it’s Alex. These are the characters who have the most moving stories for me, who are feeling lonely, neglected or abused. They’re the ones who keep me up at night, worried for their happiness and safety, and who stay with me long after I finish getting their stories down on the page.

Do you have any knew projects in the works?

I’m just finishing up my fourth novel which begins when a young father is killed in a car crash with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat, completely unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident until the coming days when the little girl starts having nightmares about a car following and pushing them from the road, and the man’s widow sets off to find her husband’s killer. This one is still untitled, but keep an eye out for it in 2017 – more details coming soon!

What are you reading when you’re not writing?

My favorite genre to read is also suspense. I’m a big fan of Megan Abbott, Kimberly McCreight, Carla Buckley, Lisa Scottoline, Heather Gudenkauf and SJ Watson, amongst others.

To learn more about Mary Kubica and her books, you can visit her website here!