2018 Book #55 – Believe Me by JP Delaney

41bWssVS-9LTitle: Believe Me
Author: JP Delaney
Date finished: 7/1/18
Genre: Fiction, thriller, psychological suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions.

The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap?

But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read The Girl Before by JP Delaney last year and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to get the chance to read his new release. And it did not disappoint! This was a really great book, it was dark and mysterious and honestly entrancing. I didn’t want to put it down. The reader really gets drawn into Claire’s character and mindset, and while she can be somewhat of an unreliable narrator, her character was fascinating. I also loved how the dark poet, Charles Baudelaire, played such a critical role in the plot of the book. Baudelaire was an actual French poet, and his most famous work, Les Fleurs de mal, is a dark exploration of sexuality and death. And so too, this book is a dark and twisted exploration of reality and relationships. We as the reader are dependent on Claire’s version of reality, which alternates between seemingly clear and downright delusional. I did not at all see the ending coming, this was one of the few gasp-worthy endings I can remember experiencing. This was really a great book and I would highly recommend giving it a read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2018 Book #27 – What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw by Leah Stewart

51FTCr4LCSLTitle: What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw
Author: Leah Stewart
Date finished: 4/8/18
Genre: Fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The celebrated author (whom The Boston Globe compared to Anne Tyler) of The Myth of You and Me explores an untraditional love story through the lens of a character actor who must finally become the hero of her own story.

After a series of missteps in the face of his newfound fame, actor Charlie Outlaw flees to a remote island in search of anonymity and a chance to reevaluate his recent breakup with his girlfriend, actress Josie Lamar. But soon after his arrival on the peaceful island, his solitary hike into the jungle takes him into danger he never anticipated.

As Charlie struggles with gaining fame, Josie struggles with its loss. The star of a cult TV show in her early twenties, Josie has spent the twenty years since searching for a role to equal that one, and feeling less and less like her character, the heroic Bronwyn Kyle. As she gets ready for a reunion of the cast at a huge fan convention, she thinks all she needs to do is find a part and replace Charlie. But she can’t forget him, and to get him back she’ll need to be a hero in real life.

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Ever wondered what it was like to be an actor? It’s not something I ever really thought much about, but still while reading this book I found myself interested in a lot of the thought process that goes behind the acting gig. I’m an accountant myself and have never really been much of an actor (I really am an awful liar and am somewhat terrible at secret-keeping) but after reading this book I can say that I identify with some pieces of the job. I also tend to be overly sensitive and emphatic, which gets me into trouble sometimes just like it did Charlie. And while I could resonate with his character on this specific idea, there were a lot of other parts of this book that got lost in translation for me. It felt to me like there was a limited amount of action thrown in between inner monologues and flash backs and character changes, all of which didn’t have much transition and multiple times I had to go back and figure out where the switch happened. While I really did enjoy the plot and I loved the ending, I found the book to be overly wordy and I had to struggle a little to make my way through it. This book has gotten some great reviews though and I did like the characters and the plot a lot so I would definitely still recommend checking it out!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #26 – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Date finished: 3/26/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a group of fourth year theater students attending Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite college for the arts that has a slightly unorthodox approach to advancement. Each year only certain students are allowed to advance to the next year’s level, which for this particular story resulted in a group of 7 unusually close senior year theater students. In this particular group, the line between friend and enemy is continually blurred and tensions reach new heights. The story is narrated by one of these seven students, Oliver Marks, who when we first meet him is at the end of his 10 year prison sentence. We meet him as he begins to tell the story of what actually happened a decade ago to Detective Colborne, his arresting officer. Colborne has been haunted by this case the past ten years because he never believed that Oliver was actually the killer. And as the story of that year unfolds, there are many layers to be peeled back before the truth can be uncovered. There are heroes and damsels, tragedy and comedy, lovers and friends. And in the end, there is more than one villain.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I thought it was so different and so interesting. As the theater student’s curriculum centers mostly around Shakespeare, there were many different passages from his various works woven into the story line and the conversations, and I just loved it. You could feel how young the group of them were, even though they were dealing with such intense adult problems. And Oliver was perhaps the most innocent of them all, and seeing the story through his eyes added that extra layer of naivete. After the murder Oliver and his remaining friends fall to pieces, each of them dealing with their own feelings of guilt and responsibility in different ways. Centered within Oliver’s story is his best friend, James, and his love interest, Meredith. The roles here even are oftentimes blurred, as Oliver’s feelings for James are not so easily categorized into the label of “friends.” That was one of the things I loved most about this book was how well it portrayed that love and hate are on the same spectrum of emotion, and if you feel one it is very easily turned to the other side of the spectrum when a person is pushed to their limit. I also thought the character development in this novel was really well done, I could feel everything that Oliver felt with such strength that I felt sucked into the story itself. The story was heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one and while I was a little surprised at the ending I really just enjoyed this book so much. I would most definitely recommend and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future!

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This is the coat of arms for Dellecher Classical Conservatory mentioned in the novel. I found this picture on the author’s website and thought it was a neat addition!!

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. I loved that quotes from Shakespeare’s plays were interwoven so skillfully throughout the text and I loved the strength of emotions portrayed by all the characters in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #8 – Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

514djmp1kl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: Everything You Want Me to Be
Author: Mindy Mejia
Date finished: 1/29/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense/thriller
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.
High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.
Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about the murder of Hattie Hoffman, a high school senior less than two months from graduation who is found murdered in an abandoned barn near a lake in her very small town. The whole town is rocked by this grisly murder, and fearing that there is now a psychotic murder somewhere in their midst the town is demanding answers. Del is the sheriff, and although the mayor is putting a lot of pressure on him to find out what happened Del’s real motivation is his best friend Bud, Hattie’s father. Del is desperate to find out what happened to his friend’s sweet daughter, who he thought he knew well. But it turns out everyone can hide secrets if they’re dark enough, and Hattie’s secret is a doozy. The reader knows that it somehow involves Peter Lund, a teacher from Hattie’s school, before the book even gets going since he has such an important role in the book. And Peter is in fact somehow involved, but the ending, and the murderer, is something that the reader won’t see coming.
Overall this book rocked. I loved the way that the story was presented, with the three separate points of view. The story line itself was riveting and I loved the way the author wrote this book, there were so many passages that stood out to me and really just made me stop and think about how wonderfully this book was written. Hattie as a character jumps off the page and really just comes so alive for the reader. And the murderer really is just not someone that I would have expected at all, I loved the way the ending was done because it keeps the reader guessing until the last minute. The whole thing was just overwhelmingly sad but I loved that the author didn’t shy away from this either. The book includes not only the suspense of what happened and trying to resolve the mystery but also deals with the raw grief that comes from losing a child and of the community that is left to deal with the aftermath of the murder. I loved this book and I would highly recommend it!

Favorite quotes: 
“I took a step closer, compelled beyond reason toward this girl who kept shedding masks like a matryoshka doll, each one more audacious that the last, a psychological striptease that rached me with the need to tear her apart until I found out who or what was inside.” (Peter)

“It wouldn’t matter if I never saw her again, never hugged her. I would cut off my hands and feet just to know her heart was beating.” (Mona, Hattie’s Mom)

The bottom line: This book was awesome, I loved the plot and the way the story was presented with the three points of view. Though jumping back and forth between past and present can be hard to follow at times, I think it was absolutely the best way to present the story. This was a great thriller and I would highly recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page