3.5 star, adult, buddy review

Buddy Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Maybe you don’t know your neighbors as well as you thought you did . . .

“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .



Welcome to our latest buddy review! Once again Andge and I have banded together to review another book, and will be providing our dual comments here! This book by Shari Lapena was a bit more of a different genre than we expected. While we have set up the review in our usual thriller format, we both found out that it wasn’t exactly the traditional type of thriller, and found it to be a hybrid between a mystery and a thriller. We will discuss more details below:

Pacing and Suspense Build-Up

Fives: I think Andge and I both agree on this, and it’s that the little synopsis given for this book is rather misleading. I was definitely under the impression that it was going to revolve around the boy and his breaking into homes. This was 100% not the case. The murder was really the whole contentious point in this story, and the source of all the drama and tension. Sweeping that aside, the pacing was very up and down. The problems and tensions that were introduced were often resolved fairly quickly thereafter. The tension wasn’t really a slow build until the end, though of course there were elements of that as well. I would say overall the book read mostly like a mystery novel, with elements of a thriller.

Andge: Yes, I’d have to agree. The pacing just didn’t work for me when we switch from one person’s perspective to another, sometimes featuring only a few paragraphs for one POV. This omniscient third person POV also made everything less mysterious in some ways since we know certain secrets before other key characters do. However, we do get to see how the revelation of such secrets unfold and that sometimes was quite juicy.

Plot Elements

Fives: This was actually probably my favourite part of the book. Though I did initially find it a bit strange how this book is a hybrid between a mystery and thriller, I did overall enjoy how it was executed. It doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of either genre (which is what I was originally expecting), but I think in its own right, it does well. There were many moving pieces in this whole story, and I felt that they were managed well. The plot was fairly intricate and though I may not have agreed with everything that happened, I think I felt like it was effectively executed.

Andge: I might be a bit pickier but this definitely was more of a mystery to me. It did read fast as it’s not a super long book, and the back and forth between POVs allows a perspective that seems to be always going somewhere. I like that we get introduced to many people within the neighborhood that knew the victim, which also gives us more viable suspects to potentially weed through. I can see the craftsmanship in the story elements, but sometimes it just didn’t fit together as well as I had expected from a bestseller like Shari.

Characters

Fives: Most of the characters were relatable and appropriately suspicious. Andge and I definitely had a hard time predicting what would happen in this book. We threw many possibilities out there but let’s just say we were not too convinced by anything we suggested. But the characters were all individually well-crafted to be unique and a meaningful part of the novel, with very few throwaways and at least some meaning in (almost) every character, I felt that the overall design was good.

Andge: What Fives said. Best not to give too many secrets away, hmm? But guessing in mysteries based on the people introduced, whether in large or small, is always my favorite part.

Ending

Fives: I wasn’t terribly convinced by this ending. I thought it was appropriate and did make enough sense at the end, but I wasn’t super impressed. If any of you remember our review on Don’t Look for Me, I found it to be a very similar situation where yes the ending was quite the surprise, but was it meaningful and impactful? Perhaps not. I wouldn’t say it was a bad ending, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I was hoping I would.

Andge: I’ll say I didn’t see the ending coming until near the end, and there were definitely parts that felt a little random like I couldn’t grasp this was happening. It’s not my favourite ending, that’s for sure. We also have a little tidbit thrown out at the absolute end that leaves me wondering why that was the chosen way to close out the book. But maybe that’s what some people enjoy, so who’s to say?


And that’s a wrap everyone! If there’s any other books that you’d want to recommend for the both of us to review together, please continue to let us know in the comments below. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next buddy read. Another Kate Quinn may be on the horizon…stay tuned!

3.5 star, adult

Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .



This was another one of those books I just randomly picked off the (library) shelf based on the cover and synopsis alone. Ironically, neither of which I find incredible – I almost just returned it without reading it, since I didn’t feel the strong urge to read it. However, just before it was due, I decided to just race through it, and honestly I’m fairly satisfied that I did.

The Sanatorium takes place at a newly constructed building located in the Swiss Alps, once a sanatorium turned into a fancy hotel. Elin, our protagonist, is there to celebrate the engagement of her estranged brother. However, quickly things start taking a dark turn. People start going missing, the weather gets worse and worse, all poetically coming up to a big climax as the tensions continually increase.

Although the story revolves around our protagonist, the first portion of the novel actually takes us through a series of different perspectives. This I found to be a little bit distracting, as the novel quickly introduces us to more and more characters, making it a bit hard to focus on the main story. I think I remember maybe 3-4 storylines? I suppose part of the suspense is sometimes not being able to remember every part clearly, but it also takes away some of the tension and suspense that is built when it is too diverging.

The characters in this story were quite good and well-developed. People were consistent in their character and actions, and suspicions were easily cast around as new information came to light. This really helped captivate me in the story, as each character seemed like a reasonable suspect, and each had their secrets to hide. Being a little bit invested in each character is an important aspect of a novel to me, as it really helps bind the story together (e.g. not skipping parts about characters you don’t like), and I felt that that was pretty well done here.

The suspense in this story was well done, but nothing too dramatic. There was kind of an underlying tension and suspense that was growing throughout the story, but over all, each little arc of tension and resolution weren’t too heightened. Even at some of the most tense moments, I found that the resolution came fairly quickly, and perhaps I was let off the hook almost too easily. This is obviously just personal opinion, as to how much suspense “should” take place, but for me personally, I was expecting more from the resolution of the tension. I was often left thinking: oh that’s it?

Now for my biggest gripe: the ending. Yes, it was fairly unexpected and I didn’t totally see it coming. However, that didn’t mean it was quite satisfying either. Similar to our buddy review for Don’t Look For Me, where the ending was completely unexpected but also seemingly a little bit out of nowhere, I found the ending in this novel to not give me the satisfying “aha” moment. The best moments in these kinds of suspenses and mysteries are when you finally come to the realization of how everything has panned and played out, and how everything has come to lead up to this exact moment. Let’s just say that in this novel, there is an explanation yes, but it just all seemed like explanations for explanations, and covering up loopholes, as if everything was explained in hindsight, rather than being planned from the beginning. Does this make sense at all? All in all, this ending just really didn’t do it for me.

I would say overall I did enjoy the story though. The suspense was good, the characters were good, and there was good tension in general. The story and history woven in were good, and the general intrigue was well-executed – I enjoyed all the little details of how everything was put together. Perhaps I’m just a little bit too much of a stickler for the ending, if anyone else has read this, what did you think?

Overall Recommendations

The Sanatorium takes places in a beautifully constructed new 5-star hotel (once a sanatorium) in the Swiss Alps, where our protagonist, Elin, is visiting with her boyfriend to celebrate her estranged brother’s new engagement. While seemingly luxurious in its minimalistic design, more and more strange events begin to happen at the hotel: starting with the bride-to-be going missing. What exactly is going on here at this new hotel and who is behind it all? With the heavy storm incoming, how much danger exactly has Elin walked into? This novel had good characters and decent suspense throughout the whole novel, and I would recommend it to any mystery/thriller reader who likes to focus on those elements.

3 star, adult

Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.


“We all have a book that changed us forever,” I said. “One that let us know that we’re not alone. What’s yours?”

The Paris Library lived up to its name, bringing bursts of sympathy and wonder in equal measures. With a deep look into Odile’s past during the Nazi Occupation in Paris and her current life in the States, the biggest question one can ask is, how do the two points in her life connect?

I came in thinking this was going to be equal, alternating POVs between Lily and Odile, but it definitely focuses on Odile a lot more in the past. Lily’s story fills in the gaps and gives us glimpses into who Odile somehow becomes while pieces of the puzzle are still missing. I will start off by saying that I docked off stars because it does get slow in the middle at times, and the flow doesn’t always propel me to flip through the book as fast as possible. It meanders and lets us laze in the pages like we are going out on a stroll or browsing aimlessly in a library. But this is the only reason why it’s anything less than 5 stars, let me tell you.

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