Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane ~ Book Review

Ask Again, Yes and cookies

Scribner
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

Ask Again, Yes was a very real book. It explored heavy topics, like, shooting your neighbor heavy, and I was not prepared. The story opens with the courtship of Francis and Lena, leading to them getting married and buying their first home. This segment was artful and descriptive and sucked me right in, but was not representative of the majority of the book (which is fine). The couple settles into their new home, and begins to have children, while a new couple, the Stanhopes, moves into the house next door. Brian, the husband, works with Francis on the police force, but his wife Anne, seems distant, rude, even troubled, despite Lena’s many efforts to be friendly.

Once the Stanhopes have a child of their own, Peter, he quickly befriends Francis and Lena’s daughter Kate, who is close to him in age. As neighbors, it is easy for them to see each other often. Their childhood friendship seemed predictable based on proximity alone. As they get older, a hint of romance worms its way into their relationship. One night, they plan to sneak out at midnight together. The idea is nothing beyond the innocent, just two teenagers bending a few rules, but the results of the outing are catastrophic, and catalyze the Stanhope’s moving away. Peter goes to New York City with his dad, and he and Kate fall out of touch.

The rest of the book follows Kate and Peter’s respective lives as they grow up. Kate’s family struggles with the aftermath of the trauma inflicted by Anne Stanhope, while Peter’s reality revolves around trying to visit his mother in a home he is repeatedly turned away from. His father eventually moves away and leaves Peter to live with his uncle.

As Kate and Peter went off to college and explored the possibility of other relationships, I couldn’t help but wonder what would bring them back together. I loved the details of Peter’s life, his financial struggles in the face of college, his interest in running, and his indecision surrounding his future career. 

This book covered a tremendous amount of time. Not only did Peter and Kate reconnect, we see them through their marriage, growing family, and many, many struggles. As Peter works through career changes and addiction, Kate tries to figure out how to reintroduce Peter’s mother into their lives.

The raw, real way that Keane writes about life hit home. Kate and Peter deal with, I’d say, a bit more in the way of hardships for a couple, but much of their story reflects what most people go through. Kean’s storytelling kept the twists and turns of their lives compelling. I’m not quite sure what genre I would put this book in, because it’s truly just the story of two lives that are inextricably intertwined. If you’re not afraid of facing all of life’s difficulties (times two) in less than 400 pages, pick up Ask Again, Yes, you won’t be disappointed. 

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Night Before by Wendy Walker ~ Book Review

The Night Before with Cookies

St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: May 14, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪

Laura Lochner borrows a dress from her sister Rosie, puts on an uncharacteristic shade of lipstick, and drives Rosie’s car into the night for her first date with a man she met through an online dating website. She is cautiously excited, aware that she is putting on an act, but clearly desperate to find someone she can share her life with. Her relationship with men up until this point has been tumultuous, beginning in high school when the police found her with a bat next to a boy she was dating (or thought she was dating at the time), who has been hit in the head and killed. Although she was not found guilty of his death, the event came to define her life, and is something she is always running from, and constantly goes back to in her mind.

More recently, Laura became involved in a serious relationship with a man named Kevin, until out of the blue one day, he texted her that he didn’t love her, and asked for her not to contact him again. Used to years of being similarly mistreated, Laura took the communication at face value and moved away from New York City and in with Rosie, Rosie’s husband Joe, and their son Mason. Rosie is concerned about Laura jumping right back into dating, and tries to stay up until Laura gets back from her date. By morning however, Laura has still not returned, and Rosie begins to panic.

From there, we watch as Rosie, Joe, and their childhood friend Gabe begin a large scale investigation of what could have happened to Laura, while getting alternating chapters depicting Laura’s date, and the red flags that crop up as her night progresses.

This book was twisty and unexpected. Laura’s difficult relationship with men throughout her life was heartbreaking, especially once the final twists were unveiled in the closing chapters. There were a lot of moving parts within the plot, from affairs to murder to mid-life crises and midnight pizzas. The ultimate antagonist was not someone I suspected until about three pages before he was revealed, and I was satisfied with the way the explanation tied everything together. I also appreciated that after that reveal, Walker walked us back through Laura’s past, to show how he had been acting against her for years.

I am fully confident that I was shoveling these Sweet & Salty Kitchen Sink Cookies into my mouth just as fast as I was flipping the pages of this book. The recipe takes a little bit of prep (especially if you can’t find Kraft caramel bits, and end up cutting up caramel cubes like I did) but they are absolutely worth it. People ask me for the recipe for these guys more than any other cookies I make (and that’s saying something)!

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪
The Night Before on Goodreads 
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Book Review, Fiction, Horror, Uncategorized

It by Stephen King ~ Book Review

It Book with Rainbow Sprinkle Donut

Viking
Release Date: September 15, 1986
Genre: Horror
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Honestly, I’m just proud of myself for finishing this book. At over 1,100 pages, it is by far the longest book I’ve ever read, and suffice it to say, I would not have completed it if I didn’t enjoy it. That being said, I’m not really a horror person. This was my first Stephen King read, and I was a little nervous about being horrified and/or scared to walk around my apartment after dark. I was pleasantly surprised by the content, however. There were absolutely, without a doubt, parts of this book that were pure horror, but it is such a big book, that they seemed more diffused throughout it, and I could handle them at this less concentrated level. 

The book follows the lives of The Losers, a group of seven misfits growing up in Derry, Maine. The chapters alternate between their childhood lives, at about twelve years old, chronicling how they all come together, and their adult lives, as they all return to Derry for the first time since moving away. I need to pause here for a moment to address setting in this story. Derry truly takes on a life of its own. King goes into great detail about the history of the town, as well as the types of people who live there, and a narrative surrounding the homophobia that exists within its borders. Having grown up in New England, and spent a lot of time in small-town Maine, I could picture Derry through King’s descriptions. I feel like I’ve been there, and that was maybe the most horrifying part of all for me.

Within the detailed history of this town, there was also, of course, the history of It, a horrifying being (more of presence really) that resides within the town and preys on children. Although its true form is never seen, it most often appears as a clown named Pennywise, who wears a suit with orange pompoms, and is accompanied by a bunch of balloons. Throughout the book, these pompoms and the balloons taunt the group of losers as a precursor to It’s appearances.

The return of the adults back to their hometown is initiated by Mike, who has remained in Derry all his life, working in the library. He realizes that It has returned to the town after a break of twenty some-odd years. As children, the losers tried, and nearly succeeded at killing It, and made a vow to return to Derry to finish It off should the violence start again. As they are called back to Derry after so many years away, they realize they had forgotten their childhood entirely, but the horror, as well as the camaraderie, all comes rushing back to them as they begin their return journeys. The terror is so great, in fact, that one of them, Stan, kills himself, rather than facing Derry and It once more. 

The sections and chapters through most of the book are quite long. King goes into details about different children who were killed in the town, and how they died, as well as introducing many friends and enemies of our seven misfits. He is able to go off on descriptions that are pages long about the smallest details (which accounts for the length of this book) but without making the writing feel bogged down. Towards the end, the chapters begin to flip-flop much more rapidly between present and past, showing how the kids tried to defeat It before, and how the adults are copying their past actions to do so again. 

My one complaint about this book is the length. Although I appreciate King’s descriptive style, I do feel there were sections and backstories that did not directly pertain to the narrative that could have been cut. I did read and enjoy the entirety of the book, but by the end I was ready to be done with it, if only to move on to a read that I could fit in my purse.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
It on Goodreads
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

The Au Pair by Emma Rous ~ Book Review

The Au Pair and brownies
Berkley
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
My Rating: 🍪🍪.5

I honestly don’t feel like I have much to say about this book. It was fine. Definitely not a ‘thriller.’ I guess I would bill it a mystery, and if I’d been aware of the discrepancy beforehand, I probably would not have picked it up. 

The story is split between two time periods. The earlier, follows the life of Laura, who arrives at Summerbourne estate to be an au pair for Edwin. His parents, Ruth and Dominic, also live at the grand house. Ruth learns that Edwin’s twin brother Theo died on the cliffs behind the house. The later portion of the book chronicles Seraphine’s journey to discover her true identity. Seraphine, along with her twin brother Danny, are the younger siblings of Edwin, who are not yet born during the majority of Laura’s storyline.

I think my favorite part of this book was the description of setting. I could perfectly visualize the grandeur of Summerbourne, with the ocean spreading out beyond it, and it made for a satisfying summer read. 

I definitely enjoyed Laura’s part of this story the most. It was interesting to watch her come to terms with her life at Summerbourne, and struggle with her unreciprocated romantic feelings for Alex, a close family friend of Dominic and Ruth’s. It is clear from the start that there is some form of confused and mixed up identity going on, and that coupled with the sinister tale that twins never survive at Summerbourne, causes Ruth’s pregnancy to draw attention. Ruth appears to be struggling with some sort of instability, possibly triggered by the death of Theo, and those around her begin to fear for her unborn child. The back of the estate hosts cliffs that overlook the sea, and become, in essence, their own character. Everything can be traced back to the danger of the cliffs, which begs the question of why they stay at a home so near to them. I felt like I read the same paragraph about different people running off to the cliffs about five different times.

Au Pair straight on

Meanwhile, Seraphine and the people she goes to for insight into her past begin to receive threatening messages of various forms, telling them not to keep investigating. This whole section seemed like a clichéd mystery plot to me, and I had trouble not just skimming. I may have missed something, but I was also unsure as to why she started the entire investigation in the first place. Her father died in a sudden accident, but I don’t know why this would trigger her to question her identity so furiously. 

I didn’t feel like there was any big reveal, or strong conclusion to this novel. We don’t get a defined answer as to who’s responsible for much of anything, or a lot of motive for what we do know. Rous concludes the story with everyone getting together for what is expected to be a trepidatious family reunion, which was unbelievable, and also expected. 

My Rating: 🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ~ Book Review

Daisy Jones & The Six and Cookies

Ballantine Books
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

I saw a lot of hype surrounding this book prior to reading it, and that, along with having recently read (and loved!) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (also by Taylor Jenkins Reid), prompted me to seek out Daisy Jones & The Six from my local library. The extended list of people on hold for it ahead of me only increased my expectations. That being said, I didn’t really take the time to look up what the story was about before I cracked it open for the first time.

I’d never read a book in the format of Daisy Jones & The Six before: purely made up of an extended series of (fictional) interviews, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when I started. Since each person’s comments in the interviews were brief, the the book flew by– there was a lot of blank space on each page. Despite that, the book covered a lot as it explored the rise in popularity of Daisy, and The Six, respectively, and then how they came together. As a collective whole, the members of the band, and their extended circle dealt with a lot: from drug and alcohol addiction to love, marriage, cheating, rising to fame, and heartbreak. 

The stories of Billy, the lead singer, and Daisy, were most central to the book, and I felt their characters were explored much more thoroughly than the others. The tension that existed between them was well depicted, but not predictable. Their struggles with learning to coexist, were believable and heart wrenching, especially the narrative surrounding Billy’s struggle to remain sober in the presence of Daisy’s addiction, and her misunderstanding of his actions. 

It was harder for me to care about the other members of the band. I enjoyed Karen and Graham’s storyline, but the others all paled in comparison to Daisy and Billy, and I found it a little hard to distinguish between them. Eddie’s role especially seemed unnecessary. There was a lot of focus on his discontent without any actual conclusion. I wasn’t sure why this focus was necessary. I also thought it was a little random to reveal that the fictional author of this biography of the band was actually Billy’s daughter. This didn’t add anything to the story for me, and felt like a non-crucial moment that took away from the narrative.

Overall, the rise and fall of this band was engaging, believable, and easy to read. Although I admit that I didn’t take the time to read them, I thought it was a nice touch for Reid to include the lyrics to the band’s songs at the end of the book. I paired this read with a batch of M&M cookies, as varied and colorful as each of the seven members of Daisy Jones & The Six.

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My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides ~ Book Review

The Silent Patient

Celadon Books
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

The Silent Patient was, simply put, fascinating. It opens with our narrator, Theo Faber, taking on a role as a psychotherapist at a facility called The Grove, that houses dangerous criminals. He is particularly interested in one woman there specifically, Alicia Berenson, and seems to be pursuing this job purely to work with her. Alicia was accused of shooting and killing her husband, and since the crime, six years prior, has refused to speak. From the reader’s point of view, it seems that Theo is oddly obsessed with the idea of ‘fixing’ her, and getting her to speak, despite the fact that no one else at the facility has been able to do so. 

Before the murder of her husband, Alicia was a renowned artist. As part of her therapy, Theo convinces the rest of the staff at The Grove to let her paint (I found it a little unconvincing that this wouldn’t have been done earlier). Alicia immediately takes to painting, and Theo feels confident that he will soon have her speaking as well. In his spare time, Theo essentially stalks a number of Alicia’s friends and family members, interrogating them about Alicia’s mood and actions around the time of the murder. He slowly learns that she was increasingly concerned at the time that there was a man following her, and standing outside her house at night.

There are also excerpts from Theo’s personal life and his increasingly tumultuous relationship with his wife, who he discovers is cheating on him. As we witness their interactions, and his life at home, as well as his obsession with Alicia’s past, it becomes clear that there is something ominous about Theo. He starts to follow his wife every time she leaves the house, hoping to catch her with the man she has been sleeping with. The more disturbed he seemed to become, the more I wondered what his true intentions were in trying to treat Alicia.

I absolutely did not guess the ending of this thriller, but I did start to piece together how a few things were related, which made me ever more excited to learn all the intricacies and details at the end. Although portrayed as a dangerous criminal throughout the entire book, I felt a semblance of pity for Alicia by its conclusion, as I was able to see how misunderstood and out of control of her own actions she had been for so long.

Tagalong Bars with The Silent Patient

The varying storylines within this narrative wove together seamlessly, and allowed for connections to be identified slowly and creatively. I read a lot of domestic thrillers, but this one was able to transcend the usual themes I find running through this sub-genre, and present a wholly original story. 

Along with this book, I devoured these tagalong bars, which were able to almost exactly replicate the taste of the Girl Scout Cookies for which they’re named. One tip in storing these: keep them at room temperature rather than refrigerated, so the shortbread base stays soft and chewy.

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My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough ~ Book Review

Cross Her Heart with Cookies

William Morrow
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

Ava is just trying to live a normal teenage life. She goes to swim practice with her three best friends, spends time at parties, and hangs out with her boyfriend, Courtney. Ava has a secret though. She is engaged in an online relationship with an older man she has never met. Whenever she gets the chance to sneak away from her friends, she is messaging him, and praying for the day when they will finally get to be together. Ava’s mom, Lisa, is very protective of her daughter, overbearing, in Ava’s opinion. Lisa constantly texts to check up on her daughter, and is always handing off money to her, as if trying to overcompensate for knowing she is being annoying. When she’s alone, Lisa succumbs to flashbacks and nightmares about a little boy named Daniel who is no longer alive. As the story delves further into the lives of the mother-daughter duo, we see a picture of a normal family unit emerging. Lisa has a successful career, and a best friend named Marilyn, she’s developing feelings for one of her clients, Simon, and considering going out with him. The everyday details of their lives were interesting enough to keep me glued to the pages, and, as the flashbacks to Daniel became more frequent, I knew there was a big twist coming. And boy was there ever. In fact, ‘twisted,’ is exactly the word I would use to describe this plot.

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
After Ava saves a little boy from drowning, and she and her mom are featured in several newspapers, Lisa’s true identity is leaked. Her name is actually Charlotte, better known as the child killer. She was found guilty for the murder of her two year old brother, Daniel, at age eleven, and once she was released from her sentence, was given a new identity in order to start fresh. Of course, once she is identified, neither she nor Ava are safe as who they are. They are forced to change their appearance, and assume new identities. Ava is unwilling to fully part from her past, mainly because, she had plans to meet the man she’s been speaking with on Facebook. Unbeknownst to her mother, Ava slips away in the night to do just that.

The second half of the book is a wild mixture of present and past. Charlotte escapes in a desperate attempt to find her daughter, and is ultimately able to convince Marilyn and Simon to help her. The flashbacks to Lisa’s childhood are heartbreaking and horrifying. Her mother pays little attention to Charlotte, doting upon Daniel instead, and her mother’s boyfriend Toby is abusive. Eventually, they go so far as to use Charlotte’s body to make a profit for the family. The only person Charlotte has to rely on is Katie, her best friend. She and Katie are full of angst and anger, and both detest their families. They spend their days drinking and taking pills, and planning to run away together. Despite the paralleled evil that seems to run within both of them, Katie’s family is respected and well off, and when Daniel’s death is discovered, she gets away unscathed, despite the reader’s suspicion that she was involved. As the reader, we are unsure until the very end if she was indeed involved in this at all.

In present day, Charlotte is convinced that Katie has somehow infiltrated her and Ava’s life by masquerading as someone they know and trust, and has thus been able to lure Ava away. The ending of the story saw these many loose ends tied up as Charlotte pieces together what has happened, and some additional insight is added from the chapters narrated by “Her.” 

I enjoyed the slow beginning half of this book just as much as the crazy, twisty second half, which speaks to the quality of Pinborough’s writing. Some of the layers of the ending seemed a little farfetched to me (I was dubious of the double identity with Katie) but for the most part, this book was fantastic, if not much, much darker than I initially anticipated. Pictured alongside this book are a batch of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (which, in my opinion, are very under-appreciated, and delicious). Keep in mind that this recipe does recommend chilling the dough before baking, so the overall process takes some time!

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott ~ Book Review

The Three Beth's and PMS BarsThe Three Beths by Jeff Abbott
Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Genre: Thriller 
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Most of the thrillers I read are clear cut domestic thrillers, so although being in line genre-wise with what I read most regularly, The Three Beths had a different feel to it. This book is definitely set up as more of a murder mystery (or, ‘disappearance mystery,’ since there are no bodies to speak of), and the central plot-line revolves around Mariah, as she seeks to figure out what happened to her mother, who vanished without a trace. This is the first Beth we are introduced to: Beth Dunning. Mariah’s father, Craig, has long been suspected of being behind the disappearance, and has largely isolated himself from the outside world as he continues to get threatening phone calls and messages from neighbors who want him out of the area. He disapproves of his daughter’s continued obsession with trying to crack the case, and believes it is preventing her from being able to move on with her life.

One day, Mariah is perusing the website of Chad, who she went to school with. Chad has created a real crime podcast and prefers to go by his pseudonym: Reveal. Reveal’s website has a one-off comment about the disappearance of Mariah’s mom, and another Beth in the area, about six months apart. This is enough for Mariah to feel as if she has some sort of lead, and she meets up with Reveal to discuss the possibility of a connection. From there, we are thrown into the whirlwind of Mariah’s investigation. She meets with Beth’s mom, Sharon, and fiancé, Jake, as well as several friends. She quickly learns that Beth was struggling at work, suspected of embezzlement, and dealing with substance abuse in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. She appeared to be spiraling out of control, and was planning to leave her husband, eventually boarding a flight to Houston never to be seen again. 

From the get go, we know that Sharon is hiding something. She keeps a gun on hand, and is clearly scared of Mariah digging into the life of her and her family. She believes that Jake is behind her daughter’s disappearance, but Mariah is not as quick to jump to conclusions, slowly growing closer to Jake as they talk through Beth’s life leading up to when she went missing. Mariah learns that Beth made a new friend during this time, Lizbeth Gonzales, the third Beth. 

The number of characters and tiny plot details woven into this mystery was staggering. At times, it was a little hard to keep everyone straight, and to follow all the connections being made, but by the end, I was thoroughly invested. There was no way I could have figured out how everything fit together on my own, but I loved seeing the picture get filled in, and making realizations along with Mariah. During Mariah’s intense investigation, her father is dealing with more frequent threatening messages being left in his yard, and even an attempt on his life. This subset of the book seemed pretty random and unnecessary to me, and I think most of that could have been cut (it’s a hefty book as is, so it wouldn’t have felt watered down at all without these extra chapters). This was my first Jeff Abbott read, and although a little confusing at times, I am definitely intrigued in looking into more of his books.

(For the recipe for these bars, see my review of Pieces of Her).

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine ~ Book Review

The Last Time I Saw You Book

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
Harper
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪.5

Before getting into the meat of my review, I have a bone to pick with the authors/editors/marketers for this book. This is the second book by the author team that uses the pseudonym Liv Constantine, and after the wild success of their first thriller, they decided to write another. Makes sense, however, what exactly was going through their minds in terms of the title here? Did they think ‘Hey, The Last Mrs. Parrish did well, let’s just reuse half of that title and call it a day?’ Was there really no better option? I’m still not even sure why this title is relevant to the story, but I digress.

The Last Time I Saw You tells the story of Kate English, whose mother is found murdered in her home. We open with Kate attending the funeral, standing by her distraught father’s side, and suddenly seeing Blaire. Kate and Blaire were best friends growing up until they had a falling out following Blaire voicing her disapproval of Kate’s marriage, which kept them apart for the following fifteen years. Blaire quickly reintroduces herself into Kate’s life, and all is forgiven. (This, in and of itself, seemed unbelievable to me). Kate begins to receive threatening text messages from someone we presume to be her mother’s killer, indicating that she will be the next victim. Additionally, the mysterious someone leaves little ‘gifts’ around Kate’s house — dead mutilated animals with nursery rhymes that have been altered to reference Kate’s impending death. This seemed weirdly extreme but also clichéd to me (all in all, not a good combination).

Blaire quickly becomes Kate’s rock through the whole messy ordeal. We get some insight into their childhood, and witness how Lily, Kate’s mother, also acted as a mother figure for Blaire. As Constantine piled on the ‘Blaire-is-an-overly-concerned-friend details,’ I was quite literally rolling my eyes. Her obvious role as the ‘wronged friend seeking revenge’ was clear from page one, and had me extremely frustrated. After being wonderfully shocked by the twists and turns in The Last Mrs. Parrish, I couldn’t understand why the majority of this story was so predictable.

The ending added a bunch of previously unimportant neighbors and family friends who were suddenly involved in the death of Lily, and that plus the revelation about Blaire’s biological versus adoptive family seemed like way too much. I was utterly unimpressed with this book, and finished it merely to make sure I wasn’t somehow missing an incredible twist that would change my mind — I wasn’t. For a much more satisfying experience, I highly recommend baking yourself a batch of these Sea Salt Caramel Chip Chocolate Cookies.

My Rating: 🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson ~ Book Review

The Other Mrs. Miller with cookies

G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

The title of this thriller immediately made me think of The Last Mrs. Parrish, and I was definitely getting similar type vibes throughout. It helped that I could see a dark black dividing page right near the middle of my book, so I knew there was going to be some kind of big narrative jump (in hindsight, I think having such an obvious marker was probably a bad call on the part of the publisher, although I did read an ARC, so I suppose that’s still subject to change). In any case, this book pulled me right in, as I was introduced to Phoebe Miller, who spends her days resigned to her home (ah yes, the old reclusive-female-at-home-alone-in-a-thriller trope). Phoebe’s late father Daniel, recently became the center of a sexual assault scandal, and as a result, Phoebe chooses to hide her face for a time, and remain in her home, comfortably surrounded by reminders of the wealth she inherited from her dad. Her relationship with her husband, Wyatt, is clearly strained. Although we don’t get much insight into what their marriage was like when they were happy, they are now sleeping in separate rooms and obviously misaligned in their views about children, and their future.

While Wyatt goes off to work each day, Phoebe looks out her window, voyeur-esque. She notices a blue car stationed outside her house day after day, and becomes increasingly concerned that someone is watching her. That is, until Phoebe notices something across the street that’s more interesting to her: the Napier family, moving in across the street, and specifically, Jake, the hot teenage son of Vicki and Ron. Phoebe, in the throes of a midlife crisis, quickly becomes infatuated with Jake, and makes every excuse to spend time near him. She quickly befriends his mother, and hires him to do odd jobs around her house. Jake, an attractive, uprooted 18 year old, suddenly without any friends and insecure about his plans to go to Stanford at the end of the summer, falls quickly for Phoebe. I didn’t find this totally, completely believable given the frumpy way Phoebe is depicted when the reader is first introduced to her, however, after learning how intensely dysfunctional Jake’s family is, I began to see how the Phoebe’s stability might be appealing to Jake from a mental health standpoint

As Phoebe’s relationships with both Jake, and Vicki grow stronger, Dickson includes alternating chapters titled ‘Interlude’ that are narrated by Nadia, the driver of the car that idles outside Phoebe’s house. Nadia slowly unveils her interest and intent with the Millers, but her real involvement in the story doesn’t come until the second half of the book (remember that black page I told you about?), when she and Wyatt become an unlikely team, as they struggle to convince the Napiers that life at the Miller’s house is fine, after a series of unfortunate incidents. In the interest of not giving away the entire twisted narrative, I will just say that the second half of this book was a whirlwind. The depth of the characters and their issues (think medical malpractice, blackmail, murder, identity theft…) was intense and unexpected, and kept me ripping through pages while frantically yelling at my roommate to pop some frozen cookie dough into the oven for me, because you don’t have time to bake when you’re dealing with the insanity that is the Napier household. The continuation of the ‘Interlude’ chapters in the second half of the book with a different, unknown narrator, kept me guessing until the very end, and the final pages had the classic, good-thriller feel, when you still have no idea how the story will conclude. All in all, a very solid read.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
The Other Mrs. Miller on Goodreads
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