3 star, adult

Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

Although I have heard my share of woes over this one, I did have one friend who asked me to read it, so I did it. Unsurprisingly I didn’t enjoy it that much. It wasn’t horrible by any means but if compared to his other book, this one definitely pales in comparison!

The Maidens has an interesting premise whereby there is our main character is who already gung-ho set on a professor being a murderer. It’s fair, since he has a group of young female students whom he calls “The Maidens.” Of course they are all young, rich, and beautiful, and Edward Fosca seems to have them all within his grasp. Our protagonist, Marianna, also faces her own demons from her past as she navigates a new series of murders at her old haunts. Too many coincidences add up…maybe she should get out before it’s too late.

The characters, on their own, were fairly well-crafted and I enjoyed this aspect of the book. Full of clearly flawed characters all trying to get by, while keeping too many secrets, I thought the tensions in the book were excellent. There was even mention of the main character of his other book, and the conversation was so much more chilling having read that book already. But I liked the link between the two books! However, the relationships between the characters might have been a little bit too unbelievable. Without spoiling too much, it just felt like the relationships were more convenient for the plot than out of what was believable. I forgot to mention I just couldn’t really get behind the main character either, she’s just a little bit too paranoid and stubborn for me. You’ll see what I mean about that.

The plot was also okay. I am not a fan of these kinds of stories where you start off having a huge focus on this professor being the murderer and basically never deviating from this story. It felt so forced (because it was), and whether it turns out finally to be the professor or not, either way it wouldn’t be satisfactory. If it was the professor, then we knew it all along; if it wasn’t, it was obvious from the beginning that it wouldn’t be. See how that is kind of lose-lose (at least for me) here? The suspense was fine, but I think as the plot went on it kind of felt like it wasn’t going to go anywhere exciting. I wanted some fireworks kind of ending, and it just kind of fell short of my expectations, unfortunately.

The ending definitely was too unbelievable for me. If anyone has read it, you probably know what I mean. I just didn’t buy it. It wasn’t deus ex machina, but honestly, I felt that it was pretty close. And the punchline that was supposed to be chilling and be that kind of final hit on your psyche didn’t land at all on me. Instead it made me just feel kind of confused. I could see how it could work to be scary and thrilling, but it just totally missed the mark for me. I don’t particularly recommend this one beyond just the face value of it being a thriller suspense novel; in that sense it was good!

Overall Recommendations

The Maidens is a story of a serial killer running loose at Cambridge University. Our protagonist is sure she knows who it is and chases them down. Full of suspense and dark intrigue, the story is certainly full of suspenseful moments as the paranoia within Marianna’s mind builds up more and more up to its finale. For me, there were a few too many moments that were not believable for me to fully enjoy it. Maybe I’m just a little bit too picky, and you may have more luck with it than me!

5 star

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

A couple of people have recommended this one to me and boy did it not disappoint. I had no expectations going in and honestly I didn’t even know it was a thriller until I started it. Overall it was a fantastic surprise and I can say it really was one of the best (or at least most exciting) thrillers I’ve read in a while, that really elicited some emotional reactions.

Verity is a story of a struggling thriller writer who is suddenly whisked away to write for a an author (Verity) renowned for writing thrillers from the perspective of the villain. Our protagonist, Lowen, arrives at Verity’s house to do research for the upcoming writing projects, but the home is the site of many recent tragedies, including the death of their twin daughters followed by Verity’s accident, leaving her unable to finish writing her series. Lowen finds Verity’s autobiography, detailing the events of meeting her husband and even through the deaths of her children, hidden away in her office. The house gives Lowen an eerie feeling, and maybe or good reason. Just what happened with Verity, and is there something much more sinister lurking behind each corner? What is the truth, and do we really want to know what it is?

The characters were all great in this book. Honestly I found most of them at least some base level of despicable. However, it was still written in such a way that I really enjoyed reading and I struggled to put it down (though I did, explained later). Usually in a book where I can’t really relate to any character or “get behind” their perspective, I usually don’t enjoy the book. However, the characters in this novel were all flawed in believable ways, and it just made me feel like an innocent bystander who couldn’t help but watch the train wreck unfold. For a thriller, we got a lot of time to dive deep into many of the characters because of the nature of having the autobiography retelling everything. This was definitely unique to the book and I really enjoyed the dual perspectives.

The plot was very good. I was instantly enraptured and it was really hard to put it down, because I just needed to know the ending or at least discover what the truth was. The suspense was extremely well executed. Just enough paranoia, mixed with the protagonist’s sleepwalking history, mixed with the accident-prone family, and the fact that the deal was too good to be true really had me suspicious from the very start. The book really leads you down a path which seems normal at first but with each page becomes more of a shocking horror. Kudos to the author for genuinely spooking me with this book (in a good way!)

The ending was also phenomenal. One of the best thriller endings I have ever read to be honest. On the spectrum of too much left hanging versus everything tied up too well, it reached a very very happy medium. Overall it just really baffled my mind and was a type of ending that I really didn’t see coming. The author really took the train of thought I had and then turned it around halfway and jammed it onto itself–can you tell I was really affected by it? Anyway, I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, but I really felt that it added a whole extra level of horror that I haven’t experienced in a while.

Overall Recommendations

Verity is a suspenseful thriller novel revolving around a struggling writer, Lowen, who gets asked to finish a famous series of thrillers written in the perspective of the villain. As Lowen enters into the headspace of the original author, Verity, especially by reading her unpublished autobiography, dark things begin to become clear. What is the truth behind the tragedies in Verity’s life and is it more sinister than what it appears to be? Find out in this exciting thriller that you won’t want to put down!

4 star

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

I know I’m pretty late to the game on this one, as there’s a movie out for it and everything already. However, if you haven’t read it already, I can definitely recommend it! It’s been on my TBR for so long and I’m glad to have finally gotten around to it. It didn’t disappoint! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enjoyed this one.

The Girl on the Train revolves around a few of the characters in the thriller. A lot of it takes place in Rachel’s POV who is probably the closest thing to our protagonist, though I struggle to really say that she is. Nevertheless we mostly follow her storyline as she watches a house day by day on her commute on the train; longing after a life she once had as she watches a couple from the train every day.

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