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!

5 star, buddy review

Buddy Review: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…



Welcome back to another buddy read here at Down the Rabbit Hole! This time we are taking a dive together into historical fiction, a novel set in UK in the 1940’s, during World War II. And man oh man were we impressed. As we were reading through it together, we were already getting more and more excited. I was a bit hesitant through the first part, but Andge already loved it. I was completely on board after reading a tiny bit more. Both of us agreed that the book was heading to either a 4 or 5 Drink Me Potions rating depending on the ending. And as you can already see, the ending really delivered. Read more below to get a further breakdown of what we thought of The Rose Code!

Pacing and Suspense Build-Up

Yes I know this is technically not the heading you expect to see in a historical fiction, but this story played out a bit like a mystery/suspense novel, so here it is! This story takes place over two main time periods: during the war and after the war (“the present”). The author is intentionally quite vague in the present, leaving out many names and leaving us in the dark about the outcome of our three protagonists. There is also a mysterious incident that leaves the three of them estranged in the present day, even though they meet and become best of friends in the past. These different elements comprise the element of “mystery” that we as readers are so desperate to find out as we read through the book.

Overall the pacing of the book is very well done, at a speed that isn’t too slow and isn’t too fast either. We are introduced to a lot of information but it is fed to us at a reasonable pace. The suspense was even more well done. Even though Andge and I had continuous discussions trying to discuss what might happen in the book, we were still blown away when all was revealed. Sure we were able to guess a few elements, but there was also so much more that we were not expecting. Excellent pacing and suspense in this book gives a good sense of forward momentum in this book, something Andge and I both thoroughly enjoyed.

Historical Elements

I am no expert when it comes to historical fictions, but I think I have also been spoiled in my reading career, only having read historical fictions when I get a recommendation – which really limits the number of “bad” ones that I read. However, that being said, even I can tell that The Rose Code was meticulously researched, and the elements were slipped in so smoothly, we both felt like we had time travelled back to the 1940s when we were reading this book. The use of the old-fashioned terminology and terms of endearment, as well as the set up of the whole environment of the war and after the war felt super realistic. Serious kudos to the author Kate Quinn.

Another thing Andge and I really enjoyed was the perspective of history that this novel took. I personally normally have less interest in war novels, especially in the aspects of fighting the actual war. However, in this novel, we focus more on the tactical and strategic behind-the-scenes aspects of the war. Honestly this wasn’t even an aspect of the war I was very familiar with, and that gave it an extra spark of life as we learned about this secret world of code cracking. It was relatable too, as we could imagine ourselves to have probably been recruited to such a facility as well, should we have been alive during WWII. Being surrounded by these educated codebreakers definitely seemed like an environment that we might also have thrived in, which provided another layer of interest.

Characters

There were the three main ladies as our protagonists but as well as a wealth of other characters that appeared on their journey. It was truly a magical experience to journey through all their storylines. Each character came from such a different background and upbringing, yet each belonged at BP in their own special way. The way we got to see them come together and become billet-mates then best friends from strangers certainly took Andge and I on an emotional journey. And what was it that happened to trigger their estrangement? Aside from the whole backdrop of the war, the storyline of these three women was truly something to be invested in.

These three were lovable and personable even with all their individual quirks. And we as readers almost felt as if we were part of their friend group too, since we come so close to witnessing everything that transpires between them. In a world full of secrets and the sworn oath to the Secrecy Act, nobody knows who to trust. Every other character that you come across could be either friend or foe. This really created a whole element of tension and excitement, as you might find in a mystery book.

I wish I could tell you more, but I already feel dangerously close to giving away too much! The characters develop well and all three storylines are very intriguing and balanced, no throwaway POVs (thank goodness). One last thing I will mention though is the character (based on the real) Prince Phillip. Yes, you know the one – of England who has recently passed away. The only thing we found “weird” about this book was reading about young Prince Phillip – it’s hard to imagine any other image in our heads other than his…usual look. In other words, sometimes it’s hard to separate the real person from a fictionalized version when said person was someone in our own timeline. That aside though, the research into all the characters based on real humans in history was also very well incorporated – another point for the author here!

Ending

Again, an interesting header for a historical fiction novel but hear us out. Obviously no spoilers here, but given that there was a mystery and suspense element, of course we had to talk about how we felt about the ending! Andge and I were super excited by about 2/3 of the way into the book, talking about how it really could be up to a 5 Drink Me Potions kind of book, or possibly just a 4 with a very weak ending. But let me just tell you now, the ending had everything we wanted to see and more.

The finale was worth every part of the suspense that was built up, and it was an extremely satisfying ending. We were discussing that we would be okay with a closed or an open ending, and we won’t spoil which one we got, but I can definitely tell you even within the category, we got so much more than we bargained for. We thought that the ending (and the entirety) of this book was so good, we just might have to do another Kate Quinn for our next buddy read. Seriously, we highly recommend this one. Even if you aren’t a fan of WWII historical fictions, give it a try – I think you’ll like what you find!


book vs movie, buddy review

Book vs Movie: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn



Welcome to a book vs. movie review here at Down The Rabbit Hole! As anticipated, we have now finished watching The Woman in the Window together, as well as previously having read the book together in a buddy read (for which we gave a 5 Drink Me Potions rating!). We have decided to rate the movie adaptation at only 3 Drink Me Potions though, and we will discuss a bit below as to why. As usual, no spoilers will be given so don’t worry about that, and read on!

Plot Comparison

Overall, we thought that the movie did a pretty good job at staying true to the plot elements in the book, and the story was generally the same with regards to the build-up, set-up and finale. However, many things were also left out, possibly in the interest of time. Generally the feelings that were portrayed and the atmosphere that was set up was almost exactly as expected, and in fact, the house is more or less what we imagined (albeit a lot bigger).

Some major plot points that were different included her online agoraphobia group that she interacted with – this was not included in the movie at all. Although this was understandable, since this likely would have been more difficult to display on screen, and would take away from the dark mysterious atmosphere they create by only viewing the outside world through the lens of Anna’s house.

Continue reading “Book vs Movie: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn”