Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

The Photographer (ARC Review) by Mary Dixie Carter

Another day in July, another great book!

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the advanced readers copy and press box for The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter! I believe that I won this in a Shelf Awareness giveaway and am duly grateful and read it as soon as I could!

My favorite thing about ARCs is when there is an author or editor letter! In this case, even before reading the book, the executive editor had me excited for it! Her letter to the readers exuded genuine excitement and I really believe that every book deserves an editor to gush like so!

My main takeaway from the book is this question: in the theme of creating the images and digital content that we want to see, versus what we want others to see … What are we actually creating?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Photographer
  • Series: N/a
  • Author: Mary Dixie Carter
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books, 05/25/21
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟for psychological/suspense fans!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

Mary Dixie Carter’s The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.

WHEN PERFECT IMAGES

As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.

ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES

But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.

THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED

That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.

^ And oh WOW can Delta manipulate photos  I would definitely not want anyone with those skills taking pictures of me or my family!!  It was so interesting to read about the programs and ways that light and photography can be manipulated.  I am not sure how much is real but I’m sure there is similar technology out there.

This is just such a delightfully strange book.  It reminded me immensely of One Hour Photo – remember Robin Williams creeping out those parents but he was just a sort of creepy, really lonely old dude who was probably harmless?

In contrast, Delta Dawn is the high profile photographer of the elite and wealthy in this novel.  I don’t think she is intending harm but she is one of those memorable, strange, “just why” type of characters that makes me wonder what deep-rooted issues she has from her childhood.  There are hints about it, such as growing up in Disney housing with busy parents and living a very fictitious childhood, bur I really just wanted to know WHY!

A character remarks that Delta could in fact have a very wonderful and normal life, but that’s not what she wants.  (P.S. what actually happened to that character)?? She is pretty and smart and an absolutely elite photographer, but that wouldn’t make a good suspense novel now would it?

The complicated dynamic of the Straub family was interesting to see as well, there was a lot of dysfunction that allowed Delta to come in and start manipulating.  I liked how much detail was paid to the old dog in the house too, I just wanted to hug the poor dude.

Anyway- definitely recommend this one to lovers of psychological suspense, suspense in general, and anyone looking for a quick moving summer read.  The twist wasn’t huge but it did the trick for me to come to a solid 4!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I was so incredibly shocked and thrilled to receive an ARC box from Tor Books for The Echo Wife!! After a great giveaway on Instagram, I dug into the book and finally collected my thoughts on it!

One part science/medical fiction, one part domestic thriller, with some psychological and ethical thriller aspects too, I can safely recommend The Echo Wife for just about anyone!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echo Wife
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Gailey
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 253 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty…

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This book truly has so many interesting aspects, including clones, ethics, life falling apart, and obviously murder. It had me in a Black Mirror style mind kerfuffle, especially at the end, and it was great.

The Echo Wife is what you get when a cheating husband steals research and clones his wife, then makes a life with the clone.  How far outside of regular scientific ethics did he go?  Do ethics even apply to clones?

Martine, the “new wife,” eventually snaps and murders the husband in self defense, at which point Evelyn has to get involved to protect her research and her own skin.

This is so much more than a sci-fi murder fest though. Evelyn’s research is mostly about making cloned body doubles for politicians and then she exterminating the specimens. While the clone conditioning process comes across as brutal, in theory it make sense to create realistic doubles. Martine forces Evelyn to take a deep look at cloning ethics and whether or not they might be people.

There is also a look back at Evelyn’s childhood where abuse or at least fear of it is implied, and a sobering look at how marriages fall apart.  Why were they so silent in her childhood home? How does love turn to hate? These parts read a bit slowly but it felt very real, eerie at times, and it was interesting to see how Evelyn’s behavior is influenced by her upbringing, and maybe why she can see “murder” from such a detached standpoint.

Is Evelyn turning into her mother or her father, or parts of both?  Which would even be worse? This is a shorter book and while slower moving at times, gave me many scientific “what ifs” to ponder. The end is just 😳 omg, straight out of Black Mirror.

The Echo Wife is definitely a book that I can recommend for a wide range of genre fans!  Actual science fiction, medical fiction, domestic thriller fans, even some general fiction and literary readers might enjoy the perusal of human nature found here.

Thank you so much again to Tor Books for my early copy!!! The book is out 2/16 so preorder now if it sounds up your alley!!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!