“The Trapped Girl” is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series, and while most of the books in this series focus on one case to be solved, so you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I always recommend that you do. Dugoni doesn’t overly explain or refamiliarize the reader with certain characters, so you’ll miss some of those nuances if you don’t read these books in order. That being said, much like the rest of Tracy’s books, this one is full of twists and turns, some of which I saw coming, some of which I didn’t. We start by finding a woman in a crab pot. Her identification is hard to decern given the state of the body, and made even more complicated by the fact that the woman has had extensive surgery to hide what she looks like. The mystery starts off complex, and only gets more so as the case unravels. Who is this woman? Why was she running, and from who? And is the person she was running from her murderer? The thing I always enjoy about Dugoni’s crime and mystery books is that it feels like reading an actual police case. As someone who loves true crime, I find that format best for stories like these, but it can read a bit dry, a bit too bland, for some people.
I read this novella in one day as part of a buddy read and let me tell you: that was an awesome decision. I went in knowing I was probably going to like the first book in the Murderbot Diaries, I just was not prepared for how much. In this short book, we follow a SecUnit who has gone rogue, the master of its own decisions. But it still has to pretend to be shackled to its original programs to the human’s it’s contracted to protect so they don’t realize that self-dubbed Murderbot is autonomous, and enjoys watching endless amounts of entertainment, and not talking to them. At least until a mysterious entity tries to get Murderbot’s humans killed. Then all bets are off.
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 honestly didn’t know that Middle Grade science fiction thrillers were a thing until I started “Frozen Secrets”, which follows young Max in a futuristic setting where the nations of the world are colonizing space. Max has a knack for trouble as any burgeoning teenager would, especially as Max really loves adventure and really wants to be a super-spy. He’s often the ring-leader with his friends, getting them to go along with his exploits, because if Max smells something even vaguely like a conspiracy or a new place to explore, this young man is going to insert himself into it, consequences be damned! It’s a very endearing story, and I think MOST actual middle grade readers will enjoy it.
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