I made the mistake of not reading “Seeing Redd” closer to when I finished the first book in this series. Which is my bad, but I really would love for more series to normalize having a recap of sorts because it took me a long time to remember what was happening in this Alice in Wonderland retelling. In “Seeing Redd”, Alyss is trying to navigate her way as the new queen of Wonderland while her queendom recovers from the brutal rule of her aunt, Redd, who Alyss usurped in a battle of imagination. There are new threats Alyss now faces in the form of a manipulative neighbor king, and the unsettling knowledge that Redd, while defeated, is probably not gone. This book, like this whole series, is supposed to be about Alyss and what she has to do to keep her throne, and her head, but rarely does “Seeing Redd” deliver on that.
I’m going to do my best to keep this review brief. “People Like Her” had so much potential: you have an influencer whose popularity has earned her a stalker that believes she doesn’t deserve any of the “happiness” Emmy displays on her Instagram feed. That she shouldn’t have her happy family, glamorizing skating by while raising two little kids. There was so much room in there to weave a complex thriller around the pitfalls of internet safety when you are a “public figure” as well as the danger of over curating your online presence, and how social media can often turn loved ones into props for the person doing the posting. The authors TRIED to do some of that, but they failed to deliver on the core of their story: a thriller with a plot.
Here’s the thing: both of the main characters were some of the most self-involved, whiny, and privileged characters I’ve ever read. You don’t see Emmy ever build her platform, where a lot of the struggles and pitfalls and the really dark side of social media come in. Instead, we see her as already famous; she has an agent, and is doing commercials and podcasts. She's already in a position where she can pay her mortgage with her “influencing” rather than struggling to figure out what to do with all the “free” gifts she’s given that she can’t actually use to pay her bills. I felt like the authors missed a big opportunity there, and instead just crafted two characters that I found completely unlikable. There was nothing redeeming about either of them. And the stalker is no better, like, of course obviously, they're the bad guy here, but their reasons for hating Emmy is teased out so slowly that I found myself just as annoyed and bored by them as the rest of the cast.
For a book that is about 275 pages, the first 200 pages are incredibly slow. How do you even do that in a thriller? All the characters do is go on rambling tangents about how their privileged lives are annoying with very little connected back to how the social media aspect of it plays a role in any kind of negative way. All of it reads as a very long humble brag which never sits well with me. All of the mystery and thriller aspects of this novel came pretty much in the last two chapters, which ultimately made me feel like this book was a waste of time as it delivered on very little of what the synopsis promised.
Also, as a word of caution, there are lots of discussions around child death and miscarriages, and fertility issues in this novel. So, if those are topics you find upsetting, just be forewarned. I can’t say how these authors treat those subjects as I haven’t experienced those problems, but I know it can be delicate for lots of people. That being said, I did like that last chapter of this novel, even if I really did not like the epilogue and the “reward” Emmy and Dan get. In fact, the one chapter where the book actually had the stalker acting on some of their long discussions of hate for Emmy is the only thing that is saving this book, and why I’m giving it 2 stars. There was just too little of this story I liked and felt utterly let down in terms of the “thriller”. Oh well, it’s a shame that this novel couldn’t deliver on its potential.
This is the first domestic, romantic thriller with alternating timelines that I’ve read in a very long time. In “From Fame to Ruin” we follow two characters, Ricardo and Carol, from when they meet at an airport terminal nearly 4 years in the past, to their current predicament in the present, where Carol’s son has been kidnapped, and her and Ricardo are thrust back together once again. Together, they try to uncover who would do such a thing, and why, all while the reader is given clues as to who it might be based on their past together. It’s a really interesting way to present the information, and the author does a great job of making sure the reader doesn’t get lost between past and present with clearly labeled chapter headings. Unfortunately, seeing how Ricardo and Carol are together in the present negated a lot of the sweetness that I otherwise may have felt from their romantic week together in the past. Which is where the book spends almost half of its time.
I am a big fan of fantasy, a big fan of crime and mystery novels, and a big fan of sarcastically dry characters. “Storm Front”, on the surface, absolutely ticks all those boxes. We’ve got a sarcastically dry wizard who consults with the Chicago police department when murders don’t make sense in the traditional manner. I absolutely love, love that premise! And I did go in knowing that Harry, as an MC, is written to be chauvinistic, and have been assured that he, as a character, gets better in that regard, so I tried to not let that bother me as I was reading. So why did a book that ticks so many of my boxes end up being kind of… meh for me?
I’m pretty picky about the WWII fiction I read. Probably because of my grandfather, who was a pilot during the war, and so I grew up with a direct, personal connection. It makes these books hard to read for me, and I almost always prefer the real accounts to those that have been fictionalized. But this is one of those WWII stories that is so highly rated, that so many of my reading buddies recommended to me, that I decided to give this historical fiction romance(?) featuring two sisters in occupied France a try. The sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, couldn’t be more different from one another, and it was interesting to see how these very different personalities handled the impossible situation they were put in. One joins the resistance, first because of a boy, and then, later, out of a genuine desire to aid her country, the other, a mother who keeps her head so far down in order to protect her daughter, that others are put at risk because of it. Ultimately, these sisters do the right thing, but there was one sister and her story, that I preferred over the other—even though one sister is based on the real-life hero, Andrée de Jongh. That aside, I struggled constantly with this book on many levels. Is this a case of “it’s me” and not the book? Let’s find out.
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