Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

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#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

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This is the second book that I have read from Karin Slaughter who is the mistress of crime dramas in my opinion. Although I am new to her, I have moved her to my top five favourite authors list.

My research has indicated that this author mostly writes a series, which has quite a few volumes in it. I’m not ready to embark a new series at the moment, so I am working my way through her standalones first. Pretty Girls is set in Georgia in the modern-day. It tells the story of a family that has been torn apart by tragedy and the two sisters who stumble across each other again now, nearly two decades later. At first I worried that this would be very similar to her book The Good Daughter, but this isn’t the case at all.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author regularly flashes back in time, to the years immediately following Julia’s disappearance. Here, we can listen to the narrator, speaking from Father’s perspective to his missing daughter, as if reading his journal. We experience how he mourns her. How he still searches for her, never giving up in his efforts, although, the same cannot be said for hope. How their child’s loss tears apart a family, a marriage, and the lack of a body denies any chance at closure.

I think this was a very emotional way to look back on the past and inform the readers of the characters’ backstories. It gives the Dad a voice, as he is deceased in the present. It also shines a light on why marriages tend to end following the loss of a child, how it tears them a part. Julia’s parents look at each other and see a father who gave his daughter rides on his shoulders, a mother who rocked her babies to sleep with a smile. Neither can look at the other parent and separate them from them from Julia.

I felt that Pretty Girls was a little slow in pace at first. This could be partially due to the fact that I would have made different choices than Lydia and Claire did as they started to investigate Paul’s actions. But the book IS nearly 700 pages as well. That is a lot of time to spend in one story. So, SO worth it though. This book kept me guessing and thoroughly engaged from start to finish. I’m already try to peddle it to friends and family because I think it is such a great book.

Ms. Slaughter is the Queen of twists and turns. Just as you think you know how the book is going to play out, there is a sharp left turn. I like books that allow me to think, to ponder different directions it could take, as long as I don’t always turn out to be right. The main thought that kept popping into my head throughout Pretty Girls was “do you really think that that was a coincidence, anymore”?

Pretty Girls is a fantastic example of domestic noir. Definitely a recommended read for anyone looking to sink their teeth into something a bit longer and darker than your typical fiction. This is one of those books that had me yelling out loud at my phone at times. It is a wild ride with graphic violence but the story is amazing.

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Bon Cop Bad Cop

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (the first and the sequel) are comedic Canadian bilingual movies. Yeah you heard me, bilingual movies. They feature an Ontario officer and a Quebec officer who have to work together to solve a series of murders.

There are English subtitles if you don’t speak French, and French subtitles for the English sections as well. Or if you’re real fancy, you could enjoy the movies sans subtitles if you speak both languages. Warning: they speak fast.

“Ontario” is a by the book, up-tight hardass who has trouble communicating with those be loves. “Quebec” is a rough and tumble, charming, good ol’ boy who pays little observance to the rules. Anyone who knows anything about Canadian politics knows that Ontario and Quebec don’t usually play too well with each other and this is personified in Colm Feore and Patrick Huard’s performances.

The first film is one of my favourite comedies and I would highly recommend it for anyone to watch. The sequel won’t really make sense unless you have seen the first one, but I guess it might be ok on it’s own. I thought that #2 was just as funny as the first, but there were a lot of plot holes in it which I felt brought down the entertainment value. This leads me to rate the first film five stars and the second film three stars.

At the end of the day, these movies are not meant to be taken too seriously. They provide funny caricatures of Ontarians and Quebeckers in the first film, and Canadians and Americans in the second.

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The Good Daughter (Karin Slaughter)

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Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

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The Good Daughter is the most recent crime thriller that I have listened to during this kick that I am on. And it was EXCELLENT.

It was the first time that I have picked up a book by this author, and I have to say that her stories are detailed with deep backstories for each character and a ton of depth. Every character had different facets of their personality, and each had at least one redeeming quality, or character flaw.

I started this book thinking that it was mostly about the school shooting and Charlie representing Kelly, trying to get her off the murder charge, but this storyline only serves to bring the Quinn family back together after nearly twenty years. The Good Daughter opens with the tragic events that destroyed their family 28 years ago, and flashes back and forth between that night and the present. The story is also told from both of the daughters’ perspectives.

I felt that the pacing to the story was timely and finished this book in four days. I did predict the ending and unravelled several points in regards to the past and the school shooting very early in the book but I didn’t find that this took away from my enjoyment of the story at all. I will definitely be going back to read more books by this author!

This audiobook is very pleasant to listen to. It is read with a southern accent which changes slightly for each character, something that is really helpful, especially since the book is told from several characters’ POV.

There are graphic descriptions of violence, murder and sexual violence in this book. Generally, the victims are teens at the time and this may be difficult for some readers to get through.

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A Stranger In the House

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He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

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After finishing The Couple Next Door in record time last week, I decided to jump straight into Shari Lapena’s new book, A Stranger in the House. It is another crime thriller and features the same investigators, Detectives Razback and Jennings, but an entirely new cast of characters otherwise.

The story flows smoothly and I found myself just as engrossed as I was in the previous book. There isn’t the same sense of urgency in my approach because the crime isn’t centred around a missing baby. My maternal instincts weren’t in play this time – fiction or not – and the murder victim isn’t nearly so sympathetic. I still wanted to know who had killed him though and whether Karen would get off.

The thing about twisty authors is that the reader learns their style and it can become easy to predict certain things from that habit. I had theories about the identity of the murderer of course, but as the chapters wound down, it was easier to predict the outcome.

*** Minor Spoiler Ahead ***

I will say that I really appreciate that the author named the murdered man Robert, and the neighbour’s husband Bob. This threw me off for awhile because I thought that Karen was referring to Bob when she was brought into the hospital, semi-conscious and rambling Robert’s name. I kept waiting for him to pop up as sudden suspect, or at least to take on increased significance.

I loved this book as well and will anxiously await the announcement of another coming from this author. On her website, I learned that she is a local author so I am going to try to convince the library I work at to invite her for an author visit event in 2018!

The only other point of note is that the audiobook has a different narrator than the woman who read The Couple Next Door. I like both voices but this narrator pronounced certain things differently, (read: wrong in my opinion!), such as Det. Razback’s name, and this annoyed me.

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Dark Hunter (Zeta Cartel #4)

Dark Hunter is the fourth book in the Zeta Cartel dark romance series by AJ Adams. You can read reviews for books onetwo and three on this website.

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Rip Marston is a merciless killing machine. After a decade of hunting his prey, Rip joins the Zetas. The job offers protection as he practices his dark arts, but the Cartel are wary of the monster in their midst.

Finding a badly beaten unconscious girl, Rip sees an opportunity. Posing as her saviour will please the cartel – and provide him with his very own helpless captive.

Isabella Maria Franco is beautiful, wilful and used to making hard choices. Having grown up in the comfortable but lethal embrace of the Gulf cartel, she rejected a life of violence. But when a dark presence from her past returns, her world falls apart.

Betrayed and beaten, she escapes, only to find herself in a living nightmare. Surrounded by her enemies, one man stands between her and death. Terrified by her sadistic captor, she has little choice but to submit.

But embracing his darkness leads to consequences neither anticipated.

WARNING: This bad boy dark romance contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence, sex and probably every trigger you can think of.

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Dark Hunter begins with a fairly significant amount of backstory to introduce two new characters into the Zeta Cartel series. This is helpful to fans of the series, but as a reader, I also wanted to just jump in with the main story and revisit old characters, so my impatient personality was also slightly frustrated by the seemingly slow start.

While Dark Hunter isn’t exactly a Romeo and Juliet story, Isabella is dang lucky that she wormed her way into the hearts of her new-found friends before they realized her parentage, because if not, they would have killed her on the spot just because of her last name. She is also supremely lucky that Rip needed her so badly to adapt to his new environment and that Rip’s skills were in particular demand at the time.

I’ve rated Dark Hunter four stars because Isabella is too similar to the previous two heroines in this series for my liking. All three seem to have the same dominant character traits. All are mouthy and hide their fear well from the Cartel, possess dubious backgrounds and fit right in with the outlaw lifestyle, and don’t take things personally. They are perfectly fine with murder and mayhem and don’t seem to have any moral qualms with the world they inhabit.

The heroine in the first book had some striking differences that separate her from these heroines, and in my opinion she probably had the hardest time adapting to her new life, but Dark Hunter felt like the third book in a row with nearly the same heroine. I am fervently hoping the author changes it up in the next book in the Zeta Cartel series, which I will still be eagerly awaiting.

At the end of the day, Kyle is still my first love and main squeeze among the Zetas.

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Dirty Dealings (Zeta Cartel #3)

Dirty Dealings is the third book in the dark romance series Zeta Cartel by AJ Adams. Click these links if you are looking for my reviews of book one or book two.

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Quique is having a bad time. Back in Mexico his marriage has fallen apart and his wife has made him a laughing stock by cheating on him. Now he’s in London and finding himself out of his depth with a complex commercial deal. To make things worse, Natalia Truelove, a chef and pub manager, is blackmailing him. Quique is ready to commit murder and he’s pretty sure who his first victim will be.

Warning: Dirty Dealings contains strong adult language and themes as well as graphic violence and fully depicted love scenes

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I somehow completely missed the release of this book last year. I just picked up and started book four and realized that Quique was now married to someone new, and went back to one-click this book. No wonder it seemed like such a long time between book releases in this series. I’m just a dunce.

Dirty Dealings features an antihero who is familiar to readers of the Zeta Cartel. Quique is a surprising revelation within the macho Latino world of the Cartel. He has a thing against hitting women, and is amazingly lighthearted and sweet when not in work mode. He also likes his woman to be independent, a partner in life, when most of his colleagues view a woman as an ornament.

This book is mostly set in Britain, with lots of dry Brit humour and colloquialisms throughout. The heroine is a tough, brash woman with a disreputable backstory and an extended family of ex-inlaws with reputations of their own. Natalia reminds me of a workhorse, in the nicest of ways. She just doesn’t stop. She doesn’t acknowledge the obstacles in her way, she is always looking for solutions, searching for better, and will drag her family along with her no matter how much bitching or feet-dragging they do. She truly cares about them and their BS, even when they treat her horribly and have been the cause of much past suffering.

I felt like Quique and Natalia were well-matched and once they got over being on separate sides of a business deal, they realized it as well. Bruja mala leche (evil, little witch) is one of my favourite insults to use IRL (and I’ve been known to call my sisters this) so I was vastly amused as Quique’s use of this term gradually changed from a hate-filled curse to an endearment.

Also, apparently my efforts in learning the Spanish language are having an effect because I could translate most of the Spanish bits without referring to a dictionary or the internet! Woot!

Dirty Dealings is very plot-driven, more so than the previous two books. I felt that the romance took a backseat, and should have been brought forward more. The couple don’t fall into bed together until nearly 60% of the way in, so if you like super steamy books, that is something to take note of ahead of time.

** getting darker … **

I also wish that the issue of rape had been examined more. Adams wrote Quique mostly as a dark hero, a baddy who would still drop everything to rescue a child, but he is also a high-ranking member of the most powerful Cartel in the world, and a former Guatemalan special forces soldier. He doesn’t like rape, but had used it in the past as a tool of war, of intimidation and interrogation. Unfortunately, this subject is examined in a couple of short, introspective paragraphs and I think it is something that should have more of a big deal in the plot. Hopefully Adams will bring it up again with a future character in the Zeta Cartel.

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Dark Places – book review

Gillian Flynn seems to be the darling of bookclubs and studios all over Canada and the United States. Everyone loved Gone Girl and 2015 is the year of Dark Places.

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Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars. Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. Who did massacre the Day family?

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If you are a regular reader of my blog (sidenote: do I have any of those yet???), then you will know that this is a deviation from the normal romance and erotica genres that I usually stick to. I’ve been trying to push my boundaries a little bit this year and I read some other books that have been hanging out on my goodreads TBR list for a long time. It’s good to expand your horizons and since I went back to uni full-time in February, I’ve kept my distance from my usual non-fic reads. I get enough of that with text books!

Hence, Still Alice and now Dark Places.

I listened to Dark Places on my Audible account this month and definitely recommend that you read this book. I will have to pick up some more by Gillian Flynn – she has a natural talent for writing twisted stories with multi-faceted characters, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

I hate to read a “mystery” where you know who the murderer is from several chapters out. I kept changing my mind as to who killed the Day family throughout Dark Places, marking it in my mind as an excellent murder mystery.

The performance by voice actors on the audiobook were great as well.

I didn’t realize it when I was reading … err, listening … but the movie that is based on this book will be released in theatres in North America on August 7, 2015.

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Can’t wait to see it. If there are significant deviations from the book, I will probably review it as well and edit this post to leave in a link.

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