The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

36626748  4 Stars

Riley Sager won many fans last year with The Final Girls. I also read the book and I liked it a lot. But personally, I liked „The Last Time I Song“ better.

Emma attended a summer camp as a young girl. There she made friends with the 3 other girls in her hut. Especially with Vivien. One night, Emma sees them sneaking out of the hut. When she wakes up the next morning, she is still alone. The three girls have disappeared and never came back. Emma blames herself and is severely traumatized. In fact, she was not entirely innocent that the girls should not return to the hut. As an adult she processes this traumatic experience by painting the girls disappearing into the wood with great success. The holiday camp then remained closed. Now the owner wants to reopen it. And she wants Emma to return as an art teacher. After initial hesitation, Emma sees it as a chance to find closure. But soon things will get out of hand again.

The book impresses above all by its eerie atmosphere. Emma feels that somebody is watching her. She starts to investigate. Vivien seems to have left her clues. There is something wrong with this camp, with the lake that once flooded the valley. Emma senses a dark secret that Vivien wanted to uncover and probably costs her life.

I liked this dark mood very much. The book is gripping and both narrative levels are interesting. We learn early that Emma is not entirely innocent. It was she who wrongly accused someone. Or was she maybe right? What kind of dark secret was Vivien uncovering? There are a lot of red herrings and twists. Emma is a difficult character. She is an unreliable narrator and not really likeable. Her paranoia and her erratic conclusions are always very impulsive.

Emma is the reason why I do not give 5 stars. Although she is a classic unreliable narrator, the further I read, the more unsympathetic she became to me. She is very impulsive and is chasing a new suspicion every day . She does not hesitate to make hasty accusations. She is obsessed with Vivien and what happened then. Personally, I find that she often overreacts and is a drama queen. I found her increasingly exhausting, and I’m not sure she truly deserves all the understanding she has received over and over again. But somehow it makes her a very interesting and human character.

„The Last Time I Song“ is a complex, gritty and thrilling thriller which I enjoyed very much.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Halcyon – Rio Youers

36343736  2 Stars

The blurb sounds exactly like a book for me. A creepy cult on a lonely island. A family decides to find their peace in this retreat after a tragic event, but soon realizes there is something unsettling behind it. That sounds promising. Unfortunately, the blurb does not mention that this story only begins after about half of the book. Before that there are two narrative levels around Valerie, the cult founder, and the family of Martin and how it came to the tragic event.

 

Valerie’s story has bored me right from the start. Unfortunately I could not connect to the family storyline either. This slightly supernatural element did not work for me despite the fact that I usually like this kind of stuff.

 

Reading this book felt like forever because it just did not grip me. In fact, I needed exactly one week to read it, and that’s really a long time for me. The internet is full of enthusiastic reviews, so I can barely understand why this book bored me so much. I still thought about stop at 70% into it. But then I decided I wanted to know how it ends.

 

For some reason, this book was not the right one for me. I could not connect with the story and this thing with Glam Moon and the supernatural aspect did not work for me unfortunately. I just did not get it.

 

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh

36217425  5 Stars

This is one of the few books that deserves a hype. So many mediocre books are hailed by book bloggers and I’ve fallen for so many. Aggressive advertising and blog tours hype up so many books that actually do not deserve it. „Thirteen“ is one of those rare but really good thrillers that are hard to find. It is a clever and intricate plot with unusual protagonists. I have just seen that it is already the 4th book in a series. But it works wonderfully as a stand-alone. At the very least, it is curious to find more books about the unusual lawyer Eddie Flynn.

The book is very suspenseful but rather slow. For me it was not necessarily a Pageturner from the beginning. But the tension keeps building up and is full of surprises. „Thirteen“ is an extremely clever and well-written court thriller that I can only warmly recommend

Der Wille zum Bösen – Dan Chaon

37803865 4 Sterne

 

German review

„Der Wille zum Bösen“ ist ein höchst ungewöhnliches Leseerlebnis. Der Klappentext beschreibt einen relativ normalen Thriller. Dustins Eltern wurden ermordet als er ein Kind war. Sein Adoptivbruder  Rusty sitzt für diese Tat seit fast 30 Jahren in Haft. Er und seine Cousine Kate, deren Eltern ebenfalls getötet wurden, waren die Hauptzeugen. Nun kommt Rusty frei, da ein neues Urteil ihn für unschuldig erklärte. Dustin ist inzwischen Therapeut. Einer seiner Patienten ist ein ehemaliger Cop. Er ist besessen von der Idee, dass ein Serienmörder schon seit Jahren sein Unwesen treibt und junge Männer in Flüssen ertrinken lässt. Vielleicht ist es aber auch eine satanische Sekte. Dustin lässt sich in dessen Verschwörungstheorien hineinziehen. Währenddessen zerfällt seine Familie nach dem Krebstod seiner Frau. Was auch in meinen eigenen Worten wie ein relativ normaler Thriller klingt, ist tatsächlich eine ziemlich bizarre Geschichte.

 

Die Story wird aus der Sicht von mehreren Personen und auf verschiedenen Zeitebenen erzählt. Gemein ist allen Figuren, das sie unglaubwürdig sind und an ihrer eigenen Sichtweise der Geschehnisse beharren. Aber auch im Stil ist dieses Buch ungewöhnlich. Dustin hat die Eigenart, seine Sätze nicht zu beenden. Deswegen enden seine Sätze in Buch tatsächlich einfach so. Ohne Punkt hört plötzlich sein Satz auf. Auch meint man manchmal Schreibfehler oder formale Fehler zu finden, wie z.B. zu große Wortzwischenräume. Das Buch verwirrt nicht nur durch seine seltsame Story sondern auch durch seine Umsetzung. Die Kapitel sind oft sehr kurz, nur 1-2 Seiten lang. Manche Kapitel lesen sich, als ob jemand im Drogenrausch sie erzählt. Andere sind wiederum sehr normal. Manche Kapitel sind in einer Art Tabellenform erzählt. Man muss erst die erste Spalte lesen, über mehrere Seiten, dann die zweite und dann die dritte. Das ist alles höchst ungewöhnlich.

 

Trotz seines seltsamen Stils hat das Buch mich die ganze Zeit gefesselt. Alle Figuren haben ihre eigene Art, mit der Wahrheit umzugehen. Besonders Dustin ist sehr geübt darin, Dinge, die er nicht wahrhaben will, auszublenden. Er traut seinen Erinnerungen nicht, denn Erinnerungen können beeinflusst werden. Das weiß er als Therapeut sehr genau. Er ist zudem ein sehr leicht zu beeinflussender Mensch. Er ist zu vertrauensselig und der Ex-Cop, der sein Patient ist, weiß das für seine „Ermittlungen“ auszunutzen. Leider bleiben zum Teil einige Fragen am Ende offen. Wer hier wen manipuliert hat, das muss der Leser dann für sich selber entscheiden.

 

Wer sich auf dieses Buch einlässt, muss auf jeden Fall bereit sein, sich von den üblichen Stilmitteln zu verabschieden. Belohnt wird man mit einem sehr ungewöhnlichen Buch, das sich von der normalen Thrillerkost extremst abhebt

Don’t Believe It – Charlie Donlea

36296238  4 Stars

With only two books, Charlie Donlea has made it to the top of my personal favourites list. My first book I read from him was Summit Lake. It did not quite convince me at the time and I only awarded it with 3 stars. That was 2 years ago. But I have to admit that I still remember the story very well. I could retell it to the end. That’s something I can not say about many books. „The Girl Who Was Taken“ was a 5-star read for me and I really loved it. And now „Do not Believe It“. This book also impressed me.

 

The story revolves around Sidney, a young filmmaker. She has built a reputation for true crime drama. She already helped 2 wrongfully convicted men to freedom. Now she has taken the case of a young woman who has been imprisoned for 10 years for the murder of her boyfriend. The murder happened while staying in St. Lucia and that’s why the young woman, Grace, is in prison there. Sidney soon realizes that the investigation has adjusted the evidence to suspicion. She develops a documentary where she presents her current research every week. Every week, the audience knows as much as she has just found out. The show is a great success and Grace will be released. But as soon as Grace returns to the US, Sidney learns things that questions her investigation.

 

It takes a while for the story to get going. I’m more excited about the complexity and originality of the book than the execution. That is also the reason that I only give 4 stars. The tension is unfortunately very slow. The book is a little lengthy. At the beginning I was also irritated by the chapters dealing with Gus, a man in a hospital. It takes a while to figure out what he has to do with the story. I felt some things as something too long-winded. Sidney’s work as a filmmaker is interesting, but often very sprawling. The work of the doctor, who helps Sidney, is explained in every detail. I am also not sure if Gus needed such an expanded storyline. A retired cop who gets bored would have done it. Personally, I would not have needed his long healing process after illness to such an extent. It does not contribute to the actual story. A big minus for me is also the end. After having had so much time for so many aspects of the story, everything suddenly goes very fast. I figured out some of the resolutions before. The conclusions for some of the characters are very carelessly and not completely explained.

 

Despite my criticisms, I liked the book very much and above all very unusual. The story will stay with me, I am sure of that.  Charlie Donlea tells unusual and impressive stories. Very often, after a short time, I no longer remember the plot of many books that I read. Some I just read and forget quickly. This is not the case with Donlea’s books. They remain in my memory for a long time. Maybe because of those things that I have criticized. He just writes very intense and memorable. He writes in his own way very impressive stories. Even though I have my points of criticism, „Do not Believe It“ impressed me very much.

The Broken Girls – Simone St. James

cover132106-medium  5 Stars

There is something strange going on in a small town in Vermont. No one likes to go near the slowly decaying girls‘ boarding school. For decades, the school, which was intended for “troubled” girls, closed. It is said that there is a ghost. For the journalist Fiona, the place has particularly bad memories. 20 years ago her sister’s body was found there. She was beaten to death by her boyfriend and left there. He’s been in custody since then but Fiona does not let it go. Her family never recovered from the tragedy. Something gnaws at her and does not let her rest. Now the school has been sold and the new owner wants to reopen it. The corpse of a young girl who has been there for more than 60 years is found on the property. Fiona is fascinated by the strange coincidence that a murder has been committed on the property where her sister was found dead. She begins to investigate the story.

 

In the beginning I had a little trouble warming to Fiona. As much as I can understand her and her grief, I saw her problematic fixation on murder. It seemed to me she did not want to get over it. This murder defines her life and relationship with other people. The perpetrator was convicted and his guilt was never seriously debated. But even this fact did not help her to continue with her life reasonably. In the course of the story, I slowly warmed up for her. And that’s because of the writing talent of the author. The story is complex and does not involve confusion at any point. At a second time level, we get to know 4 young girls who lived in the boarding school. One of them is later murdered and she is the corpse found many years later.

 

The book is a mixture of ghost story, thriller, historical novel and family drama. It keeps the balance surprisingly good and none of the storylines falls flat. Many themes are interwoven into a complex story. The book is never boring and I could hardly put it down.  In fact, it is a very sad story. „The Broken Girls“ is an atmospheric, very well-written book that confidently trades its various levels of action. Thank you, Simone St. James, this was a high-class entertainment.

 

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Favorite Sister – Jessica Knoll

36967019  3 Stars

I must confess that I did not like this book by Jessica Knoll quite as much as „The Luckiest Girl In The World“. Actually, I’m even not sure if I liked it at all. Nevertheless, it has entertained and bound me in some way. But there are some crucial criticisms for me.

 

I’m not a big TV watcher. Reality TV is not my cup of tea. But of course I have heard about it, occasionally even zipped in for a few minutes. But I’m not a fan. Nevertheless, this book interested me for that very reason. You get a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes in such a show. All the characters in this book are unappealing. All are selfish, sneaky and out on their own profit. At least one of the characters in my opinion even has a serious personality disorder. At first I liked Brett, but that too changed over time.

 

My biggest problem was that the book is very American. I am German, but have been reading mainly books in English for years and now I am well-versed in that. I had no linguistic issues here, but I do not live in the US and the many references to American television culture and public figures that we do not know here in Europe were difficult to understand. There are also many expressions that I first had to think about, such as the abbreviation POC. I think it means „person of color“. But with terms of this kind that are not used where I live, my direct understanding of the story is interrupted and thus my reading flow. There are often comparisons made with people who are well known in the US, but I completely unknown to me and therefore I could not draw the comparison. Such a strong effect had so far no book of an American author on me. In a German translation, a good translator might iron things out, put it in context with German comparable stuff but in the English original the book was a real challenge for me for these reasons. I have the feeling that I have not understood a part of the book because I lack the necessary knowledge of certain American society-typical facts. I’ve never experienced that so much in a book.

 

All characters are very unusual personalities and in no way pleasant as a person. But at the same time they were very intriguing in their own way. The characters are a clear plus for me. I was a little bothered by the slightly aggressive language of the author. It’s not so much about strong expressions but rather style. Of course it suits the story somehow, but personally I found it less enjoyable to read.

 

Eventually, I did not like to read the book, even thought about stop reading it in the beginning because I found it hard to get into it. So many people at once and I struggled quite quickly with my understanding problem described above. In retrospect, however, I’m glad to have finished it. It developed a certain dirty pleasure. Probably as reality shows and trash TV do. And so it was a very consistent implementation of the story. But I think it should not be labelled as a thriller. It is a drama, but no thriller at all.

 

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review