Book review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz


She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

I read the first three books of the Millennium trilogy when I was in college, back when it was still a trilogy and before the news that David Lagercrantz would take over. I actually bought The Girl Who Played With Fire first. It was an impulse buy based solely on the cover and I didn’t even realize it was the second in the series. Imagine my surprise when I got the syllabus for that semester’s lit class — lo and behold, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was assigned reading.

The tables turned a couple weeks into said lit class. We were assigned slots for 75-minute presentations and I was assigned The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have a lot of anxiety and am, in general, very bad at public speaking, so I proceeded to have a bit of a meltdown as I tried to come up with 75 minutes of things I could say about that book. I did it, somehow, though I don’t remember a single sentence of what I said. Presumably, I did just fine, seeing how I passed the class. It probably helped that I really enjoyed that book.

I flew through the rest of the series and was thrilled when I heard that it would be continuing on through David Lagercrantz. I got this book for Christmas in 2016… and avoided it for the next year and a half or so. I’ve (obviously) finally picked it up and I’m just disappointed.

I’m not sure if it’s because I read the other books seven years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because of the change in author. I’m not sure if I’m maybe just not that into Swedish crime fiction anymore? But I was so bored while I read this book that I had to force myself to keep going. I kept zoning out and then I’d get to a part where it’s like, “THEN SHE TOOK HIS TROUSERS OFF AND TOLD HIM I’M GOING TO CUT YOU WITH A KNIFE” and I was like… Wait… What just happened…? How did we get here again?

There were a lot of characters in this book. Of course, I remembered Blomkvist and Salander. I didn’t remember a single other character. Or maybe the other characters weren’t in the previous books? Regardless, there’s a lot of time spent on characters that I cared very little about and hardly any time spent on the actual heroes of the story. Another issue that I had was that so much time was spent describing the scenery or the intricate details of Millennium’s operations that there was little time left over for the plot. This book felt so long, but what really happened? Not too much.

I’m glad that I can finally take this book off my TBR, but unfortunately, I have zero desire to read The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

#mm18: book to screen (the movie is set to release later this year)
#killingthetbr: one year, five months on shelf


Book review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

⭐ Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Imogen Sokoloff has disappeared.  She’s known as a flighty heiress, so nobody’s really all that surprised that she’s jetted off to some glamorous resort or tropical country. Everybody misses her, or do they? Her best friend Jule searches for her, or does she? In this twisty mystery, what’s true and what’s a lie?

Genuine Fraud was one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and I was so excited when it finally showed up in my library. I loved E. Lockhart’s books when I was in high school and when I read We Were Liars last year, I enjoyed that too. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t do it for me.

Lockhart’s writing is, as always, beautiful. I love her writing style.  Her dialogue always sounds natural. She’s also really great at building an atmosphere. The plot was… a concept, for sure, but I’m mostly just confused at what the heck I just read.

The most important thing to keep in mind about this book is that it’s told in reverse chronological order. This is fine in theory, and I love alternative formats, but the whole “five weeks before this” and “three days before that” type of chronology got to be very confusing. I wished there had been some kind of clear timeline at the back of the book so that I could’ve sorted everything out in my mind.

Now, I appreciate what Lockhart was going for. This book just wasn’t for me. I wanted to know what the motivation was. I wanted to know what happened in the end. Without those two things, I just wondered what the point was. (I know this is very vague but I don’t want to spoil the twists.) I think that maybe, in trying to be edgy, the book lost track of itself. I’ll still be happy to read Lockhart’s next book.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Book review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Accused of the cardinal sin of bringing their cell phones to class, five high school students end up in afternoon detention. There’s Bronwyn, the brain, Nate, the criminal, Addy, the princess, Cooper, the jock, and Simon, the… gossip. When Simon goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the middle of detention, the other four students become prime suspects in what’s now considered a murder. After all, everyone had something to hide, and Simon’s notorious gossip app surely would have made all their secrets public.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months and I finally got the chance to read it. I’d only seen glowing reviews, so my hopes were pretty high that I’d love it. The book was entertaining enough, but I just kind of liked it. (I definitely didn’t love it.) This was, I think, partially a case of my expectations being too high and partially due to some problems I had with the book itself. It’s going to be hard to keep this spoiler-free, so apologies in advance for how vague this review is going to be.

Let me start with the good:

  • The book is easy to read.  It flows nicely with even pacing.  I was interested from the first page to the last.
  • I’d never read a murder mystery quite like this one, so bonus points for that.
  • It relies pretty heavily on the tropes of The Breakfast Club, which is one of my favorite 80s movies, so it got some nostalgia points as well.
  • Addy, the princess, starts out as your stereotypical pretty, popular girl. Her character development was by far the best of the bunch and she finishes the book as much more than a cliche.
  • Nate, the criminal, was the one character whose life felt absolutely real, and my heart broke for him. He’s been dealt some terrible cards in life and I loved how he was given a backstory that doesn’t necessarily excuse his actions but does at least explain them.

Now for the bad:

  • I figured out the murderer literally as the murder was happening. I don’t even read that many mysteries and thrillers, so I was kind of disappointed when I ended up being right. There are a number of red herrings as the book goes on, so I did question myself a little bit, but honestly, my assumption was the only one that made sense.
  • One of the big twists involves a character’s sexual orientation and I felt it was handled poorly. I can’t really get into this without getting into spoilers, but the reveal was very sensationalized and it took up more of the plot than the actual murderer reveal.
  • Again, it’s hard to keep this spoiler-free, but it seemed that every girl who was shown to be sexually active was vilified for it. Either she cheated or she was too promiscuous or something. Meanwhile, we have a prominent male character who carried on a long-term affair and it’s only mentioned in passing.
  • The mental health representation left a lot to be desired.

All in all, One of Us is Lying is an entertaining book with some pitfalls to keep in mind. I’d recommend it as long as you’re okay with the caveats above.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

ARC review: #Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid

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Jake Morrow is an undercover CIA operative currently posing as Peter Smith at a fancy boarding school in Colorado.  He’s flying pretty low under the radar until one of the girls at the school posts his picture to Twitter with the caption “See the pretty boy run.”  All of a sudden, #prettyboy is trending, not just at his school, not just in Colorado, but across the United States.

I love a good teenage spy novel.  I also have a complicated relationship with them, because sometimes I think I place a bit too much importance on the suspension of disbelief.  Now, of course, I know that books like this aren’t going to be realistic.  I know that there aren’t kids highly trained in military combat hanging out at high schools across the country.  I also know that foreign powers probably aren’t going to send out skilled assassins to take down a seventeen-year-old kid.  But when a book is written realistically enough that I can shut down that part of my brain, I’ll probably love it.

Unfortunately, my entire brain was screaming at me that Jake/Peter was the worst spy who ever spied.  I mean, the kid gets nauseated anytime he has to do something remotely spy-ish.  Every little thing makes him lightheaded.  I figured out who the “mystery hacker” was within the first 25 pages, but CIA kid took forever to put the pieces together.  He’s also a sassy little teenager who has zero respect for the chain of command.  (That’s me as an adult talking.)

I loved Katie and Bunker.  I think that the general idea of the plot was good.  I love the whole idea of #alexfromtarget being spun like this – what if he was an undercover operative?  How would he handle his face suddenly being everywhere?  I just thought that the plot was a little messy and I couldn’t get over the fact that the main character would actually make a terrible spy.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

I received a free ARC of #Prettyboy Must Die from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.

ARC review: Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

A secret’s not a secret if you tell someone, and guess what? No one knows what I’m doing.

Nothing bad ever happens in the picturesque seaside town of Cape Bonita. That is, at least, until one pretty, popular girl after another is found dead. Murdered.  Penelope Malone is friends with all of the murdered girls and, therefore, a prime suspect.  But Penelope has her own theories.  Maybe it’s her friend who’s been outspoken about how much she hated those girls. Maybe it’s the quiet, brooding bad boy with the dark past.  Who can Penelope trust?

This book was so different than Saving It, the last Monica Murphy book that I read!  I have a complicated relationship with thrillers but I did enjoy this one. I don’t really want to get into the details of the plot because I’ll probably accidentally give something away.  I did figure out (more or less) who the killer was by the 50% mark, but I was still interested in reading to find out how it would fit into the story and how everything would be resolved.

I want to talk about the characters for a minute, though.  Penelope and her friends belong to an elite group called the Larks, made up of the five smartest, prettiest, wealthiest girls in the junior and senior classes.  The girls are mean.  Imagine Regina George crossed with A from Pretty Little Liars on their worst, moodiest, hangriest day.  That’s a starting point for how cruel these girls can be.  They know that they’re the best of the best, and if they don’t want to acknowledge anybody else’s presence, they just won’t.  If they don’t want to talk to somebody, they just keep walking. They judge everybody, within and outside their circle. Nobody is safe from their comments or their wrath and they think nothing of it.

All of that begins to change with Penelope when her friends start dying off.  Penelope realizes that she doesn’t really want to act that way, although she still pulls her snooty card on more than one occasion.  She’s not a particularly likable heroine, which is definitely something that I had to adjust to, but I appreciated that she seemed to be trying.

Penelope’s love interest is also one of her prime suspects, the elusive Cass Vincenti.  Nobody knows much of anything about Cass, aside from his juicy backstory, but once her friends start dying, he’s eager to talk to Penelope.  She finds herself inexplicably attracted to him while also constantly telling herself that she shouldn’t be. I feel a bit creepy for thinking that I’d probably also fall for Cass, given that I’m probably at least ten years older than him.  What can I say? I have a thing for misunderstood lone wolves.

Overall, I enjoyed the story but found a lot of Penelope’s actions to be more irritating than anything else.  I think that the killer is fairly obvious, but if you’re okay with just going along for the ride, it’s an entertaining story.

Final rating: 3.5, rounded up to ★★★★☆

I received a free advance copy of Pretty Dead Girls from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.