Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

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★★★

Delacorte Press | 2019

Opening Hook: Jamie Lee this Prom Queen ain’t.

Main Character: A Murderino Nancy Drew.

Plot Twisty-ness: Boiled chicken without seasoning.


Ughhhhhh…

Here we are again. Welcome to yet another edition of “Krystin tries to read YA!”

Aside from Undead Girl Gang, which I totally fucking loved, I feel like I’ve been trying for 84 years like that lady from Titanic to get into YA mystery/thrillers and it’s just one disappointment after the next.

That’s not to say that the books aren’t good. Okay? Calm your energy. I’m not here to shit on your genre of choice. In almost every case, it’s has been an “it’s me, not you” situation. I am just not the right audience for this genre.

I wish I was! I would love to relax with a YA thriller because the R-rated shit can get to be a bit too much. Being constantly inundated with the most heinous plotlines can warp a person who also watches too much news. This planet is a dumpster fire. Yes, I see a therapist regularly, thank you.

I feel like a YA thriller would really help me unwind. Alas, of the 55 books on my “young-adult” Goodreads shelf, I have like 3 of them.

THREE.

Overall, these books make me feel very much like…

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Review: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

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★★★★½

Mira | 2019

Opening Hook: That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.

Main Character: She doesn’t even go here!

Plot Twisty-ness: The limit does not exist.


I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure how much I was really going to connect with a novel about rich Mean Girls attending an all-girls prep school and doing outdated secret society rituals, but you know me, I have to read everything J.T. Ellison writes.

I’m pleased a punchy-punch to say this book was actually a twisty AF little thriller with a vibrant, creepy atmosphere and a steady pace that held my picky attention. I never felt like I had to skim a paragraph or skip ahead to some real action. Everything about the plotting was masterfully deliberate.

By the blurb, it could possibly be mistaken for YA – which just isn’t for me – but this novel is totally adult, full of mystery, interesting characters with shady side hustles and a little bit of death. These Mean Girls girls are worth the read.

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Review: Anything For You (Valerie Hart, #3) by Saul Black

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★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2019

Opening Hook: Body parts in the desert.

Main Character: Clearly written by a man.

Plot Twisty-ness: What it lacks in thrills, it tries to make up using oral sex.


First things first, if you’ve never read Saul Black before (aka Glen Duncan) do not get to know him by reading this book. I would suggest reading the very first Valerie Hart novel, The Killing Lessons, and if the style works for you, then you’ve got a new thriller series to read!

I say this because Saul Black is a graphic and gritty author with dark plot points and character arcs that flow from book to book. It’s important to understand the whole character and how he writes the plot around that character, to know whether or not his writing works for you. But it works as a standalone as well, if you’re okay with missing some character building.

There’s also a lot of descriptive sex and violence. So…..

Those of us with more delicate sensibilities would call Black crude or vulgar, and it will knock you off balance if that’s not the kind of writing you are expecting or like. The rest of us will be into his writing style because it’s honest and visceral, and we like gross shit.

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Review: Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

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★★★★

William Morrow | 2020

Opening Hook: Alien children???

Main Character: I would have divorced her.

Plot Twisty-ness: Off the rails but still moving.


Okay, listen, this book is weird AF. You’re either going to fall down the rabbit hole and have a great time with how nuts it gets, or you’re going to DNF that shit because you can’t take how unrealistic it is. It just depends on the kind of reader you tend to be or the state of mind you’re in when you read it.

For me, I am usually looking for something that’s so nuts and have never read before (fuck cliches!), and that’s exactly what I got, so I don’t mind too much that it was also off it’s goddamn rocker when it came to the plot.

This is my first novel by Sophie Hannah, but if this is any indication of the kind of crazy shit she can come up with, it won’t be my last.

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Review: First Cut (Jessie Teska, #1) by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

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★★★★

Hanover Square Press | 2020

Opening Hook: This autopsy table is dirty.

Main Character: A forensic queen in the making.

Plot Twisty-ness: Don’t bring Bitcoin into this.


If you read my review for Working Stiff by Judy Melinek, then you may recall that I am 100% a Melinek fangirl. This woman is amazeballs. I love everything about her.

Where before she recounted her real-life experiences as a medical examiner in NYC (during 9/11 no less,) in her non-fiction work, First Cut is a work of fiction that focuses on a new medical examiner in San Francisco, Jessie Teska.

Considering that this is a debut work of fiction, it’s top-notch.

If you love procedurals that rely on the science and forensic side of investigation than this is going to be a must-read. It might feel a little bogged down in medical details to the casual reader, however.

Melinek uses all of her real-life experience as a medical examiner to bring Teska’s job to life. Honestly, it’s so authentic I could probably dissect a dead body at this point. And I definitely wouldn’t forget what jar and drawer tissue specimens were meant to go in.

Considering we’re in a current moment in time where we’re talking about defunding police, I’m pretty convinced after reading Melinek’s work that medical examiners could probably solve murders a hell of a lot better than most cops.

Just saying.

Continue reading “Review: First Cut (Jessie Teska, #1) by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell”

Booknerd Wednesday: Twenty Black Mystery/Thriller Authors We Should Be Reading!

Alright, Nerds, this is going to be your one stop shop for all the books that will help you better diversify the mystery/thriller section of your bookshelves! I’m not going to lie, I fucking need this too! By no means is this comprehensive, but it’s a fucking good start.

I think we’ve all become aware over the last few weeks that black authors get lower advances, lower marketing and less readership because of it. And I’ve seen the push in the book community to really make a change.

When I was putting together a book stack for Pride Month I realized I have a very white, very straight physical bookshelf. (I’ll get to queer authors in next weeks post.)

The truth is, I was never the kind of reader who gave a second-thought to who was writing the book. If the cover caught my eye and the synopsis sounded like it was up my alley, I’d buy it, borrow it or download it.

While I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with being that kind of reader, it’s also important to realize how book publishing works and why, nine times out of ten, you’re likely to pick up books by white authors.

The only way to create a more equitable bookshelf in this moment in time is to actively seek out that author diversity.

And let’s be honest, if you’re mostly into mystery, thriller and horror genres, book store shelves are not exactly overflowing with anything except white people…and James Patterson (*shakes fist at my arch nemesis*)

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True Crime Tuesday: Let’s Talk Statistics #BLM

If you’ve arrived at today’s post expecting to read about some grisly psychotic true crime murder, I’m sorry to disappoint you dear reader, but there are more pressing matters happening in the world right now that deserve a little #tct attention.

Hopefully you’ll stick around and learn a little bit about the data behind an uprising happening that will likely go down in the history books as the moment that changed the way policing is done in North America, particularly in the U.S.

And honestly, let’s be real, police killing black people over suspected forged money or loose cigarettes is pretty fucking psychotic.

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Forensic Friday: The (Very Brief) History of Forensics

Hey, booknerds! Welcome to the inaugural post of my new feature, Forensic Friday!

But before we get into it, how’s life? When’s the last time you wore real pants? Makeup? Saw other human beings besides the ones living within your four walls?

I’m not going to lie, quarantine is getting to me. I’m going a little stir-crazy. Cabin fever gets worse every day. It doesn’t help that the weather has been jacked the fuck up, too. One day I have a sunburn (I’m gardening a lot to distract myself) and the next day there’s an inch of snow on the ground.

I appreciate every front-line worker, every essential worker, and I recognize how fortunate I am to have been working from home for the last couple of months without suffering any dents to my income.

But at the same time, THIS WHOLE THING SUCKS.

Tig Notaro Quarantine GIF by Team Coco

And it’s really affecting my reading. Is anyone else having a hard time? I just can’t get into it. I finally have all this time on my hands to read, only to be stuck in an endless Groundhog’s Day slump. The vibe is all off and it’s not conducive to tackling my TBR.

Continue reading “Forensic Friday: The (Very Brief) History of Forensics”

Review: The Great Pretender – The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

“Psychiatry at its best is what all medicine needs more of—humanity, art, listening, and empathy—but at its worst it is driven by fear, judgment, and hubris.”

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★★★★

Grand Central Publishing | 2019

Opening Thesis: Everyone needs drugs.

Main Diagnosis: SCHIZOPHRENIA!

Plot Researchy-ness: Up to your eyeballs in straight FACTS.


Before you go into reading this book, you must first understand the true premise. It is NOT a history of psychiatry and psychiatric hospitals, though those things are discussed to fully understand what Dr. David Rosenhan was doing. But this book is almost totally about Dr. David Rosenhan and his study from the 1970s that looked to expose how psychiatry was functioning away from public knowledge.

I admit I was kind of disappointed once Nellie Bly was discussed for only a couple of paragraphs because that is shit I showed up for. I was expecting a novel that discussed people like Bly more in-depth. I was expecting something a bit more sinister and historical. Like, give me some Geraldo Rivera at Willowbrook kind of drama.

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But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Once I got passed my assumptions, I did get into this nonfiction work, but not as much as I was hoping I would. It’s a pretty dense read, full of medical jargon, medical history (seriously, you go through the creation of all the DSM volumes) and a complete dissection and recounting of Dr. Rosenhan’s study, On Being Sane in Insane Places.

Continue reading “Review: The Great Pretender – The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan”

Review: The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan

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★★★

Spiderline | 2017

Opening Hook: Just hanging around.

Main Character: Seeming guilty might be a fetish.

Plot Twisty-ness: Too much soda.


Okay, so this wasn’t exactly a grab-you-by-the-tits kind of thriller. If that’s what you’re expecting, temper your expectations accordingly. This is slower, but eerie, like a guy walking behind you – he just gives you the creeps but it’s not like he’s done anything but be a man alone on a sidewalk. Depending on your mood, this is either going to hit you as slow and boring or as a slow-burner that is chilling and twisty.

For me, when I read this, it was slowwwwwww like watching a sloth cross the street, which in any other circumstances I would love to do because sloths are my favourite.

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That said, I feel like it’s totally on me being in a bad headspace for a slow-burning thriller considering I’ve been stuck in the fucking house since mid-March. I can’t do slow or boring or any combination therein. I need my thrillers to be genuinely thrilling, mysterious and wild if I’m going to forget I’m looking at the same walls every day, all day. HOW MANY MORE WALKS CAN I TAKE MY DOG ON? We’ll find out…

Listen, I’m very grateful for all the people doing the front-line and essential work. But also, I’m getting cabin fever so let me express that, thank you and fuck off.

Continue reading “Review: The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan”