I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Full Review

I Know You - Annabel Kantaria
I Know You – Annabel Kantaria

Author – Annabel Kantaria

Publisher – Crooked Lane Books

Publish date – 11th June 2019

Genre – Psychological/Domestic Thriller

POV – First person, Past tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

You trust me. 

You shouldn’t. 

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Full Review

(Spoilers – I did try to keep as much of the details out as possible to avoid giving away too much but if you want to avoid spoilers read the Quick Review)

Taylor is pregnant and mostly alone in London due to her husbands work schedule. They moved for a fresh start. But the past isn’t quite finished with them yet. And Taylor is more vulnerable than she knows.

Told in tense, first person, I Know You was a fast yet somehow simultaneously meandering story that combined psychological and domestic thriller elements. Friendship, marriage, betrayal and a character driven plot, the book immediately felt like the makings of something I could easily love.

To its credit, it did a lot right. The chapters were short and flew by. The mysteries (who was the stalker, the stalked, who could and could not be trusted) had me realigning my theories again and again. The illustration of our complacency in our use of social media and how easily those private bits of detail could slip into the wrong hands and be used for ill intent had me majorly intrigued. The eerie stalker P.O.V Chapters hinting at the potential victim and at their potential identity so deliciously drawn out. And the tension built up and up and up, with little release.

But then… it goes on for too long without much actually happening, and once the ball really gets rolling it seems to veer onto an extremely sharp cliff that surprisingly, disappointingly, is a very short drop. The end is abrupt. The reveal feels a bit like cheating. The side characters all end up seeming like red herrings, only in the story for the purpose of throwing off the reader which doesn’t matter anyway because following any of the threads in the story wouldn’t have brought you to the true identity of the villain. Because other than the fact that we know Taylor’s husband is a cheating, lying, untrustworthy asshole there was nothing that really hinted at the conclusion other than the information placed in our laps at the last minute to tie it all together. It remained in the realm of possibility that in hind sight seems like a perfectly reasonable conclusion but really there was nothing of it in the book until it needed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But it wasn’t the kind of pay off I had hoped for. Not to mention that for a character driven book, this particular cast was, to me, mostly unlikable, untrustworthy or I found difficult to understand. Caroline was basically a rich bitch who happened to have lost a child. Sarah had absolutely no boundaries and flirted excessively with Taylor’s husband. Anna was aloof, unreliable and consistently hot and cold. Simon was lonely and kind of creepy with the lines he kept crossing with Taylor. And Taylor was constantly desperate, annoyingly passive and kind of weirdly stalkerish herself.

And the villains motivations… ugh. The story really boiled down to loneliness, jealousy, shitty relationships, betrayals and babies. And the fact that everyone wants Taylor’s husband was so incredibly frustrating.

It sounds like I hated it but for the most part I really think I enjoyed it. It was just the wrapping up of it all that left me feeling disappointed. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting – Perhaps more interesting play between the dynamics of characters, characters who played a role that did more than provide spaces for readers to place their suspicions. a more embedded and more thoroughly interesting and satisfying answer to all the mystery. A villain that was just a bit more than a jealous, hysterical person, something perhaps a little more different to what I seem to find over and over again in domestic/psychological thrillers involving two leading women.

What I keep getting are premises that seem promising and end up with big reveals that come out of no where purely to catch people entirely off guard, characters that are terribly unlikable or worse uninteresting and mostly there to just antagonize the main character and women fighting over men.

For all the ranting though the book has its moments. I really liked seeing Taylor’s husband drop all the pretenses and finally reveal his real ugly side when shit hit the fan. I loved some moments when the stalker called Taylor out on all her shit. Though I didn’t like the characters I could eventually empathize with a couple. Taylor’s isolation and desperation for friends was at times relatable. It certainly highlighted her vulnerability. I did feel for her feeling betrayed, and I still, despite all the negatives, finished the book in one sitting (for whatever that says).

*I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

3/5 – An intriguing, easy to consume, standard domestic thriller.

 

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I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Quick Review

I Know You - Annabel Kantaria Quick Review
I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Quick Review

I Know You – Annabel Kantaria Quick Review

Author – Annabel Kantaria

Publisher – Crooked Lane Books

Publish date – 11th June 2019

Genre – Psychological/Domestic Thriller

POV – First person, Past tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

You trust me. 

You shouldn’t. 

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

The Highlights:

  • Tense, intriguing premise
  • Short, easy to read chapters
  • Social media stalking
  • Lots of mystery and suspicion to be drawn in by
  • Stalker P.O.V chapters are eerie and at times entertaining

The Lowlights:

  • Not a lot seems to happen for a long time
  • Abrupt end
  • Out of no where reveal
  • Unlikable, uninteresting cast of characters (when most of the focus is on the characters rather than plot events)
  • Taylor’s husband is so desirable that no one can seem to stay away from him

*I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

3/5 – An intriguing, easy to consume, standard domestic thriller.

Full Review

Again, But Better – Christine Riccio Full Review

Again, but better cover
Again, but Better – Christine Riccio Full Review

Author – Christine Riccio

Publisher – Wednesday Books

Publish date – 7th May 2019

Genre – YA

POV – First person, Present tense

Rating – 3/5

Summary

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? 

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! 

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. 

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.”

Full Review

(Avoid spoilers – read the Quick Review)

 

A semester abroad in London is 20 year old Shane’s chance to fix her college mistakes. Binging Netflix, remaining friendless and unkissed, Shane is unsatisfied with her choices in life. London is her chance to push herself out of her bubble. A redo. But the reality of turning around her life is a difficult and complicated journey. One that will take all her will, some personal growth and a dash of magic.

Again, but Better is Christine all over from the moment it begins. Told in very personal first person, present tense, the plot follows Shane in 2011 as she goes to London on a semester abroad and spans through years of her life journey. All of it giving a sense of nostalgia and reminding me of myself in my teenage years.

The book is told in a slice of life style following Shane day to day through school, work etc on a loop and it could be a little mundane at times. Some parts of the book I really just wanted to flip past until something new happened, though, I think, Christine did well spicing things up and keeping things relatively tight. Another minor downside I saw with the plot was its sometimes obviously formulaic nature. There were times where it was blatant that something was being set up and I found myself guessing the why’s and resulting events before it was played out in the book.

Just when you start to feel deflated in the plot Christine utilizes a well used time skip. Things are fresh as we catch up with Shane again, and though she’s still thinking about Pilot in 2017 and still not following her dreams of writing, she has evolved somewhat from the 20 year old we first met at the beginning of the book. And then the time travel. God was it cathartic to see Shane regain that lost time and opportunity, that chance at her lost love and lost dreams.

The magic/fantastical element felt a bit, you know, so this is here and works, whatever, onto the romance! But its not really about the magic,so I sort of forgive the lack of details there.

The themes of self discovery, first love and self love were discussed with an authentic quality and progressed through the growth of characters. I could really feel for Shane through her struggle of figuring out what she could do with her life and struggling to give her passion of writing any legitimacy in the eyes of her parents who expect her to have a stable career and future. Her social anxiety and self doubt a running theme for most people. I appreciated that despite the magical redo, there was no quick fix. Everything she wanted to accomplish took work and continuing to push herself out there, and we see that, even if it didn’t all result in immediate success.

Shane (and I almost wrote Christine) is funny, insecure, naive, a little dramatic and a dash clumsy though in a way that resonated as endearing and relatable. Pilot is charming though he has some legitimate faults. The romance is sweet, warm, a little goofy (in a good way). I was quite convinced and taken with their chemistry.

I had no major qualms with the slight/but not really/but definite emotional cheating. Relationships and people are complicated, these things happen and I am the last person that’s going to berate an author for not creating picture perfect characters who either only make palatable mistakes or are made to be positive role models and influences rather than just fictional characters who in ways reflect us and the sometimes shitty choices we make.

Besides which I found Shane to be a positive influence anyway, if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. I was surprised by her growth and her ability to think of herself and her own life, needs, aspirations and relationships outside of her romance with Pilot. That feels sad to say but YA characters can be a little overly involved in their romances. It was a wonderfully surprising growth in the character that emphasized living life first for yourself.

I will say though that personally I found Pilot a little difficult to like at points. Some of his actions toward Shane and his girlfriend felt cold, a little cowardly and a little indecisive. Still, 16 year old me would be into Pilot. 28 year old me was put off.

The rest of the characters were interesting and a diverse group (perhaps for the sake of being diverse) but since so much of the plot does end up being romance and Shane’s issues with herself and her parents, we don’t see them develop or too much of them at all.

For a debut I felt like the book was decently written. I was prepared for and dreading disappointment but I, well, wasn’t. There was an authenticity and bright, engaging feel to the whole book that screamed Christine, and if you’re a fan of Christine that’s a plus. The ending is positive and fluffy and feel-good. Everything wraps up nicely, and I was left contented and entertained. While there were some minor hindrances for me on the way to that end, ( I have to mention the over-stuffing of pop culture references that felt a little ‘how many of Christine’s favorite books, shows, musicians and authors can we mention in every chapter?’) I have to hand it to her, the girl can write a decent book. I am already anticipating her future works and improvements.

I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

– 3/5 A charming slice of life with a dash of magic.

Buy it – Again, but better

The Night Before – Wendy Walker Quick Review

The Night Before - Wendy Walker Quick Review
The Night Before – Wendy Walker Quick Review

The Night Before – Wendy Walker Quick Review

When her relationship comes to a sudden end, Laura Lochner escapes city life for her sisters house in the suburbs. Despite the lack of luck she’s had in love, with the support of her sister Rosie, Laura pushes herself to try again. She’s met someone online. When she doesn’t return from her date the morning after, Rosie is left trying to piece together what could have happened to Laura… or what Laura could have done to her date.

The Night Before is separated between Laura’s past therapy sessions, Laura’s present POV, Laura’s POV from the night before and Rosie’s present POV. It sounds like a potentially clustered mess of chapters but I promise you, it is very easy to follow and the different POV’s worked well to serve the purpose of the book.

I could not stop reading this book. I flew through it all in one night, pulled in and consumed by the mystery. It was all the qualities I tend to fall in love with; emotionally resonant themes, characters and events, an unreliable narrator, intriguing twists and turns that had me changing my perception again and again and again.

Though I am new to Walker’s work, I could see her skill at evoking unease and dread, keeping the suspense and mystery building. Using carefully drawn out personal details and past events to color the characters and add to the way the readers view their actions. The subtle word choices that could be read as honesty or guilt or innocence or as a threat. The troubled girl who could be victim or predator just as easily. Who is the dangerous one? Laura? Jonathan Fielding, a stranger that Laura met online, who she’s alone with and vulnerable with, who she could potentially know nothing about? Are we being led to disregard Laura’s ability to be a victim because of how she and others perceive her?

There is no shortage of clever misdirection utilized. Honestly, I suspected several people, almost everyone, in turns which made the revelations at the end satisfying and the extent of it all surprising.

The two POV characters are convincingly their own voices. The rest felt mostly like background characters as the focus was for the most part on the two women and told in first person.

The one thing I had some trouble with (which I won’t go into much as I don’t want to give anything away) were some of the character decision making and opinions that felt kind of like odd leaps. There was also a lot of backstory, internal monologuey, telling but it was used well and definitely helped with some aspects of keeping up the story’s mystery.

This was a great read. I really recommend it. It’s short, it’s compelling and it’s psychologically dark.

*I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

– 4/5 The Night Before checks all of my psychological thriller boxes. It’s twisty, tense and the writing pulls you in and makes you question everything.

Buy it – The Night Before