Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

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Name– The Night Before
Author– Wendy Walker
Genre– Mystery/Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Source– St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Katie’s case– 3.5/5

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Twelve hours earlier, she was…
Hopeful.
Excited.
Safe.
 

Now she’s gone. 

REVIEW: 

“If you keep leaving the herd, the wolves will come.”

The premise of Wendy Walker’s The Night Before is certainly a fresh one, diving into the modern world of online dating and its potential scares. I really enjoyed that this book focused on something so common in this day and age, but with more twists and turns as well as deeper issues. The plot starts simple, a blind date and a nervous girl with a damaged, and actually infamous past. The book focuses on more than the blind date, going into the territory of mental health, self awareness, and challenging upbringings. That’s all I really want to say about the plot itself, for fear of giving too much away, but just know its more than just a book about dating.

With that being said, I want to start out my review by saying that this blurb was PERFECT and should be a lesson to the whole thriller genre. The blurb was maybe five sentences, just enough to draw you in without giving a single plot line away. (Side rant: way too often I feel like I can basically guess the whole premise by just reading the long, drawn out blurbs and spoil the whole book for myself. Some blurbs give away the whole twist! OK end rant.)

As I said, I don’t want to give too much away about the plot itself, but I do want to share my thoughts about the other aspects of the book. I’ve actually been pretty torn on how to rate this one, because there were some parts I loved and some parts that I felt had potential but didn’t get all the way there. On one hand, I think the pacing was excellent and constantly kept me on my toes. This is going to be a huge hit this summer for the unique plot line and immersive writing alone. I actually had to force myself to turn off my Kindle and go to sleep- it’s that thrilling. I was constantly wondering what was going to happen, and who the real villains were.

Unfortunately I do think I figured out the plot twist a little too early for my liking, and would like to have been more surprised by the end, but that’s just personal preference. Some readers really love to use their armchair detective skills, so they would probably really enjoy this slow reveal. I think I just felt like the plot was a bit spoon-fed for me and tried to hard to make everything neat and perfect. Another possibility is that I read too much of this genre and can’t be totally shocked by what I read anymore, which is also just a personal issue!

Although I liked the pacing and the alternating perspectives, the other aspects of the writing fell a bit flat for me. I didn’t ever really connect with any of the characters, in fact, I didn’t really like any of them at all. I think they could use some more flushing out, maybe by making the book a bit longer and diving deeper into each of their histories? I don’t necessarily need likable characters, but I think I would have liked to see a bit more character development here. Although I do understand the book takes place in basically one day. Again, I really did love getting multiple perspectives on the same night and getting constant cliffhangers at the end of each chapter!

Overall, I think The Night Before is a fresh idea and I absolutely know it will be a hit this summer, I think it was just kind of middle of the road for me, and that’s ok. It was still a very fun read that I finished in a few sittings and would still most likely recommend to my other thriller friends! I will definitely be checking out Wendy Walker’s previous novels too.

Thank you NetGalley, Wendy Walker, and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC of this novel and the opportunity to enjoy early in return for my honest review.

Has anyone else read this? What were your thoughts? Comment below!

Friday Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag~~

It’s Friday, folks! Like I mentioned in my last post, I’m getting back into the swing of things after my incredibly drawn out winter break, which also means getting back into my regular blogging schedule. Which meeeeans- Friday book tags! I like doing book tags on Friday because they’re just fun and can be kind of silly, just like a total embodiment of a Friday.

I found this Seven Deadly Sins book tag from Crazy For YA and just had to do it. If you’re reading this, PLEASE consider yourself tagged because I want to share the Friday love with this fun tag.

1. Greed~ What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

My most inexpensive book was technically Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty because I swapped it with another bookworm! If y’all don’t know Ashley Spivey, I sincerely urge you to join her book club on Facebook! She posts the books she’s reading, her rankings, and created this space for people to do the same! For those of you who don’t know her, she’s a former Bachelor contestant who now uses her platform for activism and feminism. Can you tell I love her?! Anyway, she has a spin off group for swapping books, and I traded One Day in December for Nine Perfect Strangers. So yes, I count swapping Nine Perfect Strangers at no cost to me as my most inexpensive book!

Most expensive would probably have to be I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson, but let me tell you I did not “regret this” purchase. Sorry for the lame pun, but I absolutely adore Abbi from Broad City and Disenchantment so supporting her is my pleasure. I’m only a few pages in, but I can tell it’s going to be a really special read for me for many reasons, and definitely going to be worth every penny.

2. Wrath~ What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Definitely Gillian Flynn. It’s not that I love/have a hate relationship with her necessarily, but more of a love/fear relationship. Her books are so well written and compulsive, but they also genuinely terrify me in a way that I think can easily be confused with hatred. I usually hate how terrifying her twists are, hate the unlovable characters, and hate her gut-punch endings, but also admire her for these same abilities. So maybe I am just as twisted as her characters when I say I love to hate these sick aspects?

3. Gluttony~ What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

Since I have a TBR that’s a mile long, I don’t typically reread very often. I have enough trouble keeping up with my current reads and TBR let alone past books! I actually think the only book I have read more than once was The Awakening, but that was for different classes in high school and college. While I did eat this book up both times, I’m not sure if it necessarily counts since it wasn’t exactly of my own volition.

Instead, I tend to reread short stories and poetry the most. I reread Shirley Jackson’s short stories pretty frequently, I think because they always manage to give me chills even when I know what’s going to happen. I always gravitate toward the classic, The Lottery and The Summer People. I also have read a lot of poetry from Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and salt. by Nayyirah Waheed multiple times!

4. Sloth~ What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

Uhhh can I answer “my whole unread shelf?” Because I think it could be argued I’m too lazy to read 50% of the books I already own. In all seriousness, I’ve been picking up, reading 5 pages, and putting down the A Song of Fire and Ice series for probably almost 3 years now. It’s not that I don’t like it, or that I’m bored of it, I just have so many fast paced, compulsive, few-day reads that are so much more appealing in the moment than the daunting task of those loooong pages. I will say it is always the book I take to the beach though! A really perfect calm beach read.

5. Pride~ What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

This question made me laugh out loud, because everyone totally has a book they talk about to impress a certain crowd. For some crowds it’s The Bell Jar, for some it’s Pride and Prejudice, and for some it’s Anna Karenina, depending on what’s cool to that circle. When I was in middle school, it was definitely A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that was considered cool and smart for my crowd. In reality, I had NO idea what was going on in that book and actually haven’t picked it up since.

In recent years though, I think my answer would be The Handmaid’s Tale. When Hulu came out with the show and it was all the buzz, I would casually drop in, “well in the book…” like I was some Handmaid’s Tale expert, even though it was simply required reading for me in high school. Ha!

6. Lust~ What attributes do you find attractive in characters?

Oh my God I was in love with BOTH Tuck Everlasting brothers as a kid. I would have stayed young with them forever too…

7. Envy~ What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

Maybe this should be an answer for greed but, um, anything? I absolutely love book gifts. I received a really awesome Ravenclaw edition of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone from my fiance for Christmas and it’s a treasure! Honestly though, if I had a friend or family member who had a book that meant a lot to them, I would love to receive a copy of it. I love connecting with people through books, like reading the same pages and wondering what they thought or felt also reading the book.

This doesn’t feel envious at all… I feel like if I wanted to say something envious, I would say like, I wish I lived at Hogwarts and I’m jealous of all the witches and wizards there! Ok that’s envious and deadly sinful.

Well thanks for stickin’ around, Bookworms! I want to read your answers too! Copy and paste these questions, or just answer below if you don’t want to post. But just know if you read this, I want you to play too! Happy Friday~~~

Loved That? Look Into This! Part I

Afternoon bookworms! My mood today can pretty much be summed up by one of my favorite 30 Rock scenes:

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But at least that means it’s now officially halfway through the week! Yay! On this fine Hump Day I wanted to do a Part I of my new “Loved that? Try this!” series where I will be giving my recommendations based on books with similar themes, characters, or plots.

I’m going to start off my first edition by featuring some of my favorite thrillers from the last year or so. And with that, let’s begin!

LOVED All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda? LOOK INTO The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok I know, I know I’m kind of cheating with this pick here since it’s the same author, BUT hear me out and cut me some slack because it’s the first recommendation on this list 🙂 What I loved the most about All the Missing Girls was the ever-present sinister and creepy am-I-being-watched undertones throughout the novel. Megan Miranda does a phenomenal job of writing eerie and atmospheric scenes that make your skin crawl. It’s not even that the plot should be considered horror, but the way she describes the woods, the caves, and even the old creaky house, is truly something horrific.

Although I loved the plot too, and loved how the novel was uniquely set backward, it was this atmospheric aspect that truly captivated me in just one or two sittings. If this aspect is what drew you too, that’s why I recommend reading more of her work. It’s not because story lines for All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are similar. Instead, the tone of being watched and that increasing paranoia and anxiety is skillfully done in both books.

There are definitely a few similar themes in the novels, and themes I typically gravitate toward- the mysterious and enigmatic best girl friend. I love books that focus on a mystery surrounding one person’s secrets and the main character having to uncover who they really were. Miranda definitely seems to like this theme too, as it’s present in both novels, and another reason why if you liked All The Missing Girls you eat up The Perfect Stranger too.

One last aspect that I really love about these books- and please don’t laugh or judge- the covers of these books are so soft and I just love holding them while I read. If you read this in print, you must know what I mean!

And one more last, LAST thing. She has a new book coming out Jan 29, 2019! I can’t wait!!

LOVED The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent? LOOK INTO Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

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I’ve previously written about these two in short, but never explicitly connected why they are so perfect for readers of a very specific theme. When you break it down, The Memory Watcher and Only Daughter both focus on someone lying or putting on an act of someone different than who they really are for their own benefit. I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory on either of these, but that’s basically what you need to know about both books.

If you were entranced in how the narrator in The Memory Watcher assumed her role as a nanny to watch over the neighbor’s baby, you will just as much love how the woman in Only Daughter assumes her role as a girl missing years prior. Both books share webs of family secrets, deception, and twisty climaxes. And when it comes down to it, I could just really see both main characters in each book getting along. Maaaaybe it’s because they both have a knack for manipulating and deceiving, but hey I never said it would be a healthy friendship.

Similarly to my recommendation for All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger for their tones, The Memory Watcher and Only Daughter had the same undercurrents of lying, as well as very flawed main characters and very flawed family relations. Both of these books surprised me by how much they, well, surprised me- both incredibly underrated twisty page-turners that I recommend to all psycho-thriller-lovers, and especially for fans of each respective book.

LOVED The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager? LOOK INTO Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

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At first glance, or first back-of-the-book-synopsis, these two books may seem like they have nothing in common. The Last Time I Lied is about a woman returning to her childhood summer camp and reliving the lies, terrors, and traumas of her past the night her friends disappeared. Little Monsters, on the other hand, is about a small town struck by tragedy and unanswerable questions when an average high school student goes missing after a party. One obvious similarity here is the disappearance and search for a missing high schooler, but the themes go so much deeper than that; because let’s face it, most all thrillers these days have a missing girl. However, these are not just stories of a missing girl- they’re stories of past trauma, teenage angst, young bullies, and childish nostalgia- and the missing girls are honestly just a coincidence in this case.

While reading both of these novels, I felt a creeping nostalgia and attachment for aspects of my younger self in a way I haven’t before. Both have all of the usual teenage suspects: angst, crushes, cattiness, and lying. It’s not exactly a positive nostalgia that I feel for these situations, but more of an emotional familiarity to these forgotten feelings. In The Last Time I Lied, I felt like I was traveling through space and time to my own camp days where all kids want to do is hang out with the older, cooler kids. The main character gets assigned a cabin of older girls who quickly show her the ways of the camp while also quickly losing some innocence. Just like in All The Missing Girls, I love the stories where there are enigmatic and flawed friends who you just can’t help but be drawn too. In the same way, The Last Time I Lied draws you into these older girls, make you want to be a part of the group, and most importantly know their secrets, all while feeling an odd sense of familiarity for teenage years as a girl. Plus there is a good ol’ mystery of what was the fate of these teenagers, and you know I was on the case for that part too, of course.

So yes, there is also the disappearance of a teenager in Little Monsters, but again it’s not just solving a mystery that’s important in this one. If you liked that sense of nostalgia for being a teenager with secrets and lies then Little Monsters is also a must-read. Instead of being taken back to my camp days in this one, I was taken back to those high school student-packed hallways, parties, and sneaking around. (I promise Mom I only snuck out once! I honestly think I was so un-sneaky that you even knew too!) The  familiar feeling of being a teenager who just wants to make friends, get your crush to notice you, and deal with rumors was all too real in this one. Don’t get me wrong, even though it’s YA, it’s not some vapid high school story. It is a story of grief, trauma, and growing up. And yes! A nice twisty and shocking mystery!

In both books, you really get a deep understanding of the inside of a teenage girl’s mind, and really see what teenagers can be capable of amidst the lies and hardships of growing up. There is also a fun sense of a creepy and foreboding force, but I promise it’s all still realistic! So if you enjoyed these themes in The Last Time I Lied, you will devour Little Monsters just as eagerly!

That’s a wrap for Part I of “Loved this? Look into that!” I swear I don’t only read books about missing girls, but would it be so bad if I did?!

Have you loved any of these and recommend looking into something else? I always want to hear from you guys! Comment below!

My 5 Monday: Required Reading

Happy Monday my bookworms! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been slowly settling back into my second home, NYC. Coming back to NYC is always a little like riding a bike, I fall right into my old ways like no time has passed: waking up to my cat’s meows, standing at my favorite end of the subway platform, going to the same place for my favorite oatmeal, and of course, listening to an audiobook through it all.

Because it’s Monday and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs a little pick me up, I wanted to start a new weekly blog post called “My 5 Monday” which is a top five of my favorite bookish things. And this Monday I wanted to talk about some of my past favorite books, specifically my favorite required reading from my school days. My fiance is in grad school, (working his butt off and making me so proud I may add!!) and it sometimes makes me think back to my school days and all the reading that was assigned. In fact, some of the books I was required to read in college actually became a few of my favorite books of all time, and wanted to share “My 5” favorites.

In college, I was a Geography major, and have always been a lover of maps. Senior year though, I returned to my first love, reading, and took a few literature classes. I took Latino Lit, focusing on POC narrators and authors, and Classic Lit, where we read classic literature but with more intersectionality: feminist and LGBT+ focused specifically. I learned so much in these classes; both of them shaped a lot about what I know and think today, and I even got some favorite reads out of it!

And with that, here are My 5 Monday: Required Reading edition.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel that doubles as a memoir of Alison Bechdel’s growing up. Don’t be deceived by the title or the fact that this is a graphic novel, it is not necessarily fun and lighthearted. Although she has a knack for comedy too, Fun Home illustrates the dysfunctional and darker family issues such as internalized homophobia and death. I love how Alison Bechdel can lets us into these family issues and hardships in a, well, fun, way such as a graphic novel. If you want to know the woman behind the Bechdel-Wallace test a little more closely, this a great and quick read, yet also full of rich meaning.

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I don’t really think I could accurately sum up such a classic in a few sentences, but this book really changed my outlook on a lot of aspects of life and religion. It also happened to take place in some of my favorite Californian scenery- San Luis Obispo County. The first 200 page description of rolling hills may not appeal to everyone, but it really holds a special place in my heart. I finished this book in a few sittings, despite the length of the book; ok maaaaybe I finished because I was approaching some deadlines, but I like to think that it was really just that compelling. The ending brought me to tears (probably the first time that had ever happened to me) so this book is really special to me, more than I could sum up on this fine Monday afternoon.

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

It’s kind of funny that this book is number three on my list, because that’s the exact amount of times I’ve had to read it for different classes. I love this book for many different reasons, but it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated this book the first time I read it, I think I was too young to really grasp it. By the third time this was assigned, I was enthralled. I feel like this book has grown up with me through the years, I read it at three different stages of life, and each time it meaning something different to me. This is a quick read that I will staunchly defend as important feminist literature with themes in: free will, love, and ultimately being a woman in the Victorian era.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I promise I’m not being biased when I place this as my second favorite required reading even though it DID assist me in winning a regional competition in literature when I was in middle school. I read this book numerous times, wrote essay upon essay, and was even tested among other students on my knowledge of it. So to say I know this book like the back of my hand is an understatement. You would think with how many times I read it, this book would grow tired and boring. However, reading this book over and over again actually added to my love for it. This book was probably one of my best friends in middle school, and think what you want about me for saying that 🙂 This book was stuffed to the brims with important life lessons that kids and adults alike can benefit, and Scout will always be my little heroine.

1. The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

To say this novel, read in my Latino Lit class, changed my outlook on life is a complete understatement. Told in three different perspectives, and set during prominent historical moments, this book intertwines politics, love, history, and war. Partly set during the Guatemalan Civil War, Red Scare, and the Rodney King riots, this book covers so many important topics that will make you want to scream and cry and hug your loved ones all at once. This book impacted the way I think, and it made me love reading again after a very long dry spell of books. Whenever someone wants a reading recommendation, this is the first one I go to, and one I will always hold dear. It’s a tough read, but it will teach you in ways school doesn’t, and is an incredibly important required read.

Honorable mentions: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

Before I started my love of thrillers and mysteries, I loved my required reading. These are some of my first loves and ones I will carry with me for a long time. Thanks for reading about some of my favorites- now I want to hear yours! What are some of your required reads that became favorites? What about ones you read but couldn’t stand? What do you think we should all be required to read in schools?