Review | Between the Lies, Michelle Adams

37912967In Between the LiesChloe Daniels wakes up after a car accident with no memory of who she is or how the accident happened. Her father happens to be a psychologist who specializes in memory, and he keeps her at home with their family, claiming that he’s helping her get better. However, as memories begin trickling back in, Chloe realizes that they don’t quite match up with what people are telling her, and she has no idea how to parse out the lies from the truth.

I love psychological thrillers, so this one seemed completely up my alley. It’s a compelling concept and a solid thriller, but it never quite gripped me. I sympathized with Chloe’s predicament. I thought her father was downright creepy, and the first few chapters revealed twist after twist, such that the reader is kept off-balance almost as much as Chloe is. Adams also does a good job in making it plausible how Chloe is unable to escape her family’s home and figure out the truth on her own. But I think after a while, it just got a bit much, and the revelations in the first half of the novel started to lose my interest.

The novel did pick up in the second half, when Chloe connects with a friend and starts delving into her own investigation of the truth. The bad guy and their motivation weren’t too difficult to pinpoint and while Chloe’s cluelessness was understandable, it also did get a bit irritating after a while. Still, it was a solid, enjoyable read as layers are finally stripped away from the truth, and the novel speeds on towards its conclusion.

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review | All This I Will Give to You, Dolores Redondo

36689501When Manuel’s husband Álvaro dies in a car crash, he learns that the man he thought he knew was actually keeping a lifetime’s worth of secrets from him. It turns out Álvaro is actually a marquis, and his family is one of the wealthiest, most powerful and most secretive in the region. An unofficial investigation into Álvaro’s death leads Manuel to dig deep into Álvaro’s life, and come to terms with the truth about the man he loved.

All This I Will Give to You won the Planeta Prize, and it’s easy to see why. The writing is beautiful, and the story and the characters compelling. I found myself easily hooked by Manuel’s story, and sympathising with him as he gradually peels back layer after layer of his husband’s story.

I’m a huge fan of mysteries involving family drama — which is why I’m such a big fan of Agatha Christie’s works. Redondo gives us a wonderfully complex web of family tensions and machinations. I enjoyed meeting the various characters in Álvaro’s family and community, and I thought the things that were revealed later on felt very fitting. I also really liked the way the character of the police detective developed, and what we learned about his family and their drama.

I also love how Redondo highlights the incredible influence and importance the Catholic Church has on her characters. This is not a religious book at all, but it does show the Church’s role on a cultural / social level. Having grown up in the Philippines, I know how much respect — and at times reverence — people can feel towards members of the clergy, and I love how pervasive their presence felt in the novel, even when they weren’t necessarily the highlight. For example, Álvaro’s funeral was conducted by a full team of priests — as a lapsed Catholic, Manuel was skeptical about this display, and I like that Álvaro’s childhood friend Lucas (himself a priest) contextualized the practice as a sign of respect for a powerful family.

The book did feel a bit long, and the middle dragged at times. The story also moves pretty slowly, and despite the compelling nature of the story, it wasn’t exactly a page turner. However, I really enjoyed the book overall, and found the ending satisfying.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | House on Fire, Bonnie Kistler

39322976I really liked House on Fire. It’s about a blended family whose bonds are challenged when Leigh’s 14-year-old daughter Chrissy is killed in a car crash caused by Kip, the 17-year-old son of Leigh’s husband Pete. Kip is arrested for drunk driving, and as the trial date nears, Kip makes the startling claim that Chrissy had been behind the wheel. Kip has a history of lying, so Leigh chalks this up as yet another lie, but Pete wants to believe his son is innocent. And with Leigh’s best friend signed on as Kip’s lawyer and bound by client confidentiality to keep information from Leigh, the tension between husband and wife becomes unbearable.

I loved the family drama, and I think the comparisons to Jodi Picoult and Celeste Ng are spot on. The story was really compelling, and while Leigh, Stephen and Kip are clearly the main characters, I love how the author showed us how the situation impacted other people in their lives, like Leigh’s best friend, Leigh’s twin sons, Kip’s mother, and so on.

I also love how the author showed that there were never any easy decisions. The more facts we learn about the night of the car crash, the more we realize how, whomever was actually behind the wheel at the time, culpability can always be shared. Even in the first few chapters, when see Kip drinking at his friend’s party, we also see him making the responsible decision to spend the night. Ironically, while Chrissy was the victim of the crash, she was also the reason Kip left the party in the first place, because she came to warn him their parents were coming home early and Kip didn’t want her to get into trouble. So, who really was at fault with regard to the accident? Kip, for drinking and going to a party without permission? Chrissy, for causing her brother to leave the party while drunk instead of sleeping it off? Or Leigh and Pete, for coming home early, or perhaps for leaving for the weekend in the first place? Perhaps it’s no one’s fault at all, and I love that the story shows how easy it is to fall into a spiral of blame, and how messy the idea of culpability can get.

I do think the subplots about Leigh’s clients got a bit out of hand, and while I see the thematic link of her friendship with the priest, I wish the book focused more on the main plot. I also wish we’d seen more of the courtroom drama, as the trial only took up the final section of the book. The final section of the book also got a bit too melodramatic for me, and in a bizarre twist, a lot of the melodrama came from subplots related to Leigh’s clients that the author managed to link back to the main plot, but that also felt unnecessary.

Still, overall, this is a good book, and a compelling read.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada and Netgalley for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.