The Other People by C.J. Tudor

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So C.J. Tudor is an author that I know a lot of thriller fans love. She has three novels out, and I've had some exposure to all of them. The first was The Chalk Man, which to me was solidly okay, but I only rated 3 stars. The Hiding Place came next which I attempted to read, but unfortunately ended up DNF'ing. When this third book, The Other People, came out, I thought it would help me finally get a good idea of how I felt about C.J. Tudor's work overall. 

The Other People starts with following three main story lines. Gabe's daughter has been taken, but no one believes him. Instead, everyone else believes Izzy to be dead. Not just dead, but murdered. For three years, Gabe trolls the interstate looking for the car he saw stealing his little girl away years ago. Katie works as a waitress in a service station, and often sees Gabe when he comes in. She sympathizes with him, as she too has lost someone unfairly...her father. Fran and her daughter Alice are constantly moving from place to place, running from people that pose a threat to them because of something that Fran knows.

I try to go into thrillers knowing as little as possible. I usually don't even read the synopsis. That's why I was pleasantly shocked to find out that this book prominently featured the dark web. This has always been something I've been intrigued by, and I haven't seen a lot of in thrillers up to this point. This book also had a few, dare I say, supernatural elements to it as well, which were a nice addition. Three story lines were a bit much to follow at first, and I found myself not being drawn to any of them. The book did pick up in the last third or so, but for a while there it was a lot to slog through. The ending was decent, but didn't really take my breath away or shock me.

As much as I had hoped this would give me a true read on my thoughts on this author (ie, I was hoping to absolutely love or absolutely hate this book), it just didn't. Like The Chalk Man, it was a completely middle of the road read for me. I didn't find myself reaching for it, but the story was interesting enough. I guess I'll have to wait and see what she puts out next to really make a determination!

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Ballantine Books for a finished copy of this read! The Other People by C.J. Tudor is out now!

The Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan

"The past is behind us. The future is ours. Figure out how you can change the world right now, and don't fear it. Do it."

―Kennedy Ryan, The Rebel King

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Yep, I did it. I jumped right into the second book of the All the King's Men duology. After really enjoying The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan, I knew I had to find out what happened next (uh, major cliffhanger!), so I picked up The Rebel King almost immediately. 

Without giving away too much, Lennix is facing something harrowing and dangerous at the end of the first book, and this book picks up in the middle of that event. The plot of this one was DEFINITELY more intense than the first book, if that was even possible. It was heartwrenchingly emotional at times and heart-poundingly thrilling at others. I could not put this one down and ate it up as fast as possible.

I loved seeing Lennix and Maxim become even more unapologetically themselves in the face of all the adversity the plot threw at them. I also loved seeing the growth and development of the minor characters as well. Once again, this book was very well-researched and Kennedy Ryan did an amazing job with her references to Native American culture. I really enjoyed the first book in this duology, but I actually loved this one even more.

This book as a whole was wonderful and I am so sad that this was only a duology. I need to see Maxim and Lennix changing the world! Even though I read both of these books via Kindle Unlimited, I'm actually considering picking up physical copies to have, just because I loved the duology so much.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan

"On rare occasion, you come across someone who just gets you, and you don't have to figure out your place. Wherever you are is okay."

Kennedy Ryan, The Kingmaker

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So I am not a romance reader. The closest I typically get to romance books are romantic comedies a la Christina Lauren. But I recently joined the book club of one of my favorite BookTubers, Chelsea Palmer, and The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan was one of the January reads. I saw it was on Kindle Unlimited, and since I finally have a working Kindle again I decided to take the leap and give it a shot. This story follows Lennix Hunter, a Native American girl set on trying to make things right for her people after her mother disappears and an oil pipeline is set on sacred land. At a protest for the pipeline, she meets Maxim Cade, a rich boy desperately trying to get out of his oil tycoon father's shadow, and sparks fly, but is he really who she thinks he is?

I loved how much this book touched on important relevant issues, like how indigenous peoples are treated and climate change. It was definitely political, but I didn't think this was done in too much of a preachy way. It was also clearly very well researched in relation to the Native American customs and traditions. There is so much passion in this story, and I don't just mean the steamy type. These two characters care immensely about their causes and it's evident in everything they do. I never expected a "romance" novel to get as deep as this does.

Until the last section of the book, I really thought it was going to be a 5 star for me. Unfortunately, a couple of things made me feel slightly differently. I suddenly saw Lennix dripping in brand name clothes, something that during the majority of the book you would have never thought she cared about, and it seemed to contradict the core of who she was. Also Maxim revealed himself to be slightly creepy with how he kept tabs on her. But neither of these things took away too much from the overall solid story.

But THAT CLIFFHANGER THOUGH. So glad the second book is already out (and on Kindle Unlimted as well!) so I can pick it up sooner rather than later. I'm definitely glad I gave this book a shot, and it taught me that I need to be a little more open-minded when it comes to picking books.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I know it's only January, and I might be jinxing myself here, but I'm calling this as one of my favorite books of 2020. The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler was a fantastic thriller that kept me engaged the entire time. 

When Sienna Scott was in college, she stumbled across a dead body during a snow storm. She's shaken, but isn't too worried at first. But soon her mother's delusions start to get to her, and Sienna begins to believe that she was actually supposed to be the one killed that night. 

Fast forward about 10 years later, and Sienna returns home to help take care of her mom. But those old fears start to creep back, and things begin to happen that convince Sienna that she (and her mom) may have been right all those years ago.

I absolutely adored this read! I completely flew through it and couldn't get enough. There is a lot about mental illness in this book, just as a heads up.  I appreciated the inclusion of the flashbacks to when Sienna found the body, and actually enjoyed the smaller side plots (which I'm normally not a fan of). I enjoyed the small town setting of Tranquility Bluffs, Wisconsin as well. Overall I thought this was really well-written and incredibly believable for a thriller.

While I did guess one small element, I was not expecting the final reveal at all! I love when thrillers can still shock me, even after reading so many. I've never read another Erica Spindler book, but now I am definitely going to pick up more of her work.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of this read! The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler comes out this coming TUESDAY, January 28th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've had this book in my possession for a while, but was never really motivated to pick it up. Last week, however, when I was looking for a short, light read, this one jumped out at me so I decided to give it a go. And it was SO GOOD. Sourdough by Robin Sloan is an adult contemporary with a few fantasy elements mixed in.

This story follows Lois, a software engineer living in San Francisco. Lois primarily subsides on food from a local sandwich shop, so she is distraught when it closes. That is, until the brothers who ran the shop bestow upon her the gift of their sourdough starter when they move away. But Lois knows nothing about baking bread. Through a comedy of errors, she learns to care for the sourdough starter and bake her own bread. Eventually, she even takes it as far as attempting to sell her bread at farmer's markets, and lands a spot in a futuristic, experimental farmer's market that opens her eyes to a whole new world.

This book was just so good. From the somewhat magical sourdough starter to the Mazg brothers and their odd music, and the experimental farmer's market to the Lois club, everything in this book was an enjoyable inclusion. I loved getting to see Lois thrive by doing something that she loved in becoming a baker. I appreciated the inclusion of technology in everything, including the pros and cons that go with that. And all the side characters in this story really brought something of their own to the table. It's short, at only 259 pages, and reads extremely quickly.

And this book passes the Bechdel Test, which is always a plus.

While I am not nearly ambitious enough to try to bake my own sourdough bread, I DID go out to Whole Foods and buy a loaf after finishing this read.

If you love bread and baking, integrating technology into our everyday lives,  farmer's markets, or bread starters that might possibly have a mind of their own, this book is for you. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
So I absolutely ADORE the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. This series of portal fantasy novellas is thrilling and magical with all sorts of representation. You can find more of my reviews on the series here.  The last few books have come out in January, so I am always excited for the new year to hit so I can get my hands on the next installment in this series. Being that this book is pretty deep into the series, I don't want to give anything away by going into a plot synopsis.

This installment, book # 5, goes back to the sister characters Jack and Jill, who's door took them to the Moors, a land that's basically the stuff of black and white horror movies. Think vampires, mad scientists, and crazy lightning. Being a horror fanatic, I absolutely love this world and was excited to have more of it. 

Unfortunately, this is the first book in the series that I haven't given a 5 star rating. I thought the big climax scene at the end was rushed and I was disappointed at how quickly it came and went. It also seemed far too simple considering the build up. But please don't let that fool you: this book, and the series overall, are still absolutely excellent. This particular installment just didn't deliver quite as much as I was hoping for.

There should be three more books in this series, and I can't wait to see what additional adventures we'll get!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

I decided that in 2020 I wanted to read more adult books and less YA. Not that YA isn't awesome, I just found that I wasn't enjoying the genre overall as much as I used to. One of my favorite adult genres is the thriller genre, so I was eager to pick up this Danish crime thriller as one of my first reads of the year. The Tenant by Katrine Engberg takes place in Copenhagen, and follows detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner as they try to solve the case of young torture and murder victim, Julie Stender.

I've always enjoyed books about books, and an unpublished thriller manuscript plays a huge role in this story. It did start off quite slow, but after pushing through the first 100 pages or so I found that it did pick up a little bit. On the flip side of that, I found the ending to be rushed. The reveal was also quite complicated. I did appreciate that I wasn't able to figure it out, since I do find a lot of thrillers to be predictable.

I typically don't read a lot of police-centric thrillers because I usually find the detectives to be pretentious and the plot to be dry. That being said, I loved the duo of Jeppe and Anette in this read! I would have liked to have seen more of Anette's perspective, as the majority of this read was focused on Jeppe and his personal back story. I thought it was a little unbalanced, since he had so many personal things happening in addition to the plot. Maybe since this appears to be the first in a series following the duo, we will get more of Anette's story in the next book. You also got the points of view of a few other characters in this story as well, which helped give further insight into the case.

I don't think I've ever read a Nordic crime fiction before, but from what I've gathered from other people's reviews, they tend to have certain characteristics that are distinctive of the genre. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about them to determine whether or not this book is true to the genre! I can say that the writing flowed well, and I couldn't tell that this book wasn't originally written in English.

Overall it was a solid read, but there were those few things I thought could have been done better.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Scout Press for a finished copy of this read! The Tenant by Katrine Engberg releases TOMORROW, January 14th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This book was INTENSE. That's honestly the best word to describe All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell. Intense and dark and raw. Before I even hop into this review, definitely placing a huge trigger warning on this for rape/sexual assault. One thing I absolutely loved about this book was that it had a trigger warning for this right in the very first pages, as well as resources related to this in the back. This one is a YA contemporary with a few thriller elements mixed in.

Ava experienced something as a child that no one should ever have to go through, and she even has a large scar on her face as a result. Now seventeen, she is mostly content with her life: her tattoos, her best friend, and now maybe even a love interest. But when she stumbles across a body in the woods, Ava starts to be haunted again and her life suddenly doesn't seem as solid as she thought.

Again, this book was intense. It was beautifully written, hauntingly so, which really allowed the reader to enter into Ava's thoughts and stream of consciousness. This is an own-voices novel as well, with the author using her own personal experience as the basis for this story. I loved how this addressed rape culture, and Ava many times talks about how bad experiences happen to you, you don't make them happen (referencing how many individuals wrongly blame the woman for "inviting" rape by their actions). I appreciated the LGBTQ rep in this one as well. 

There's honestly not too much more I can say about this book, other than that if you are looking for a hauntingly real read that will stay with you, pick this one up.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to a rep at Harper Teen for sending me an ARC of this read! All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell is out now.

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I absolutely ended 2019 on a high note when it comes to reads. I didn't know anything about this book until my TBTB Santa (Katie!) sent it to me as part of my gift, and I decided to take it with me on my cruise at the end of the year. I am SO SO glad she sent me this book because it was incredible! Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau is the first book in a new series, The Beast Charmer series. It's a fantasy romance touted as Assassins Creed meets Fantastic Beasts, and that is spot on.

Leena is a charmer, a person who can charm and control wondrous beasts. Unfortunately, Leena has been exiled from her homeland and forced to sell some of her beasts to survive, something unspeakable by Charmer standards. Soon she finds that there is a bounty on her head for her actions. Enter Noc, the enigmatic head of Cruor and its assassins. Leena bargains with Noc, offering to capture beasts for him in exchange for her life. But things just can't be that simple.

I really enjoyed this read! I've mentioned on here before that I'm still slowly dipping my toe into the world of romance, having started with romantic comedies just last year. I don't read a ton of this genre so I can't be much of an expert, but I thought there were surprisingly few explicit scenes, which is perfectly fine in my book!

The plot was incredibly thrilling and I was so excited to pull this book out by the pool and on the beach on my vacation. It is told from two different points of view, both Leena's and Noc's, and I really enjoyed seeing their different perspectives on things. I loved all of Noc's brotherhood as well and they provided some fantastic comic relief. I definitely agree with the Assassins Creed meets Fantastic Beasts comparison, but I'd throw a little bit of Pokemon in there for good measure as well!

Interestingly enough, it appears that there is also a YA version of this book out, which I would assume removed the explicit language and sex scenes present in this version.

I'm so excited to get my hands on the next book, The Frozen Prince, when it comes out. I think this book definitely opened up my eyes to the fantasy romance genre, so I'm definitely going to be researching some more books along these lines to check out!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars