Or Else by Joe Hart

Or Else by Joe Hart (Book Review)

A domestic thriller with a hopeless romantic as a lead character

Or Else is the first novel I read about the author. The main character Andy Drake is having an affair with his highschool crush Rachel. Then one day, Rachel and her two boys had gone missing.

I find the storyline lacking in depth and there were parts that dragged for a bit.

Nevertheless, I liked the book and would consider this as a light and fast read.

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes

The danger of a good book is that it swallows you whole and animals in the wild don’t read because if you get lost in a book, you lose sight of your surroundings. You don’t hear the predator.

Basic plot summary

Joe moved to an island in Puget Sound called Bainbridge. In my 5 years living in Seattle, we’ve been to several neighboring islands and one of them is Bainbridge. One needs to ride the Washington State Ferry to get to the island. A quaint town, nothing much to do when you get to the harbor. You have to bike, ride the bus, or have a car to go to the inner city. I enjoyed Vashon Island better. But I digress. Joe moved to this island from Los Angeles because, according to him, he didn’t have a choice. Love’s parents paid him a hefty sum of money to move far away and not see his son anymore. Joe is back in his stalking ways of seeing how his son and Love are doing on Instagram. In Bainbridge Island, Joe worked as a volunteer at a library. He didn’t need to work. He got lots of Quinn blood money. There he met his next obsession. You Love Me is the story of Joe and Mary Kay.

My thoughts on the book

After finishing Hidden Bodies in my hotel room in Atlantis Reno, I immediately started reading You Love Me. In the second book, I enjoyed the storyline of Netflix more than the book which is sad. But in You Love Me, I liked the book better than the storyline in Netflix You Season 3. It has completely shifted in the story though there are some similarities that the author was able to adapt in the Netflix series from the book. I just can’t get enough of being in Joe’s head. This book is much like the first book in the series.

I get that a lot of you may get irritated with the repetitive words or the pop culture reference to certain things or people. That is how Joe’s mind works. I actually Googled fecal-eyed, Murakami, Lemonhead, and Meerkat to understand what Joe meant. Though I do know what those words are, I wanted to understand why Joe referenced them the way he did. That’s how Joe is. He references a lot of lines from songs, books, TV, or movies to the people he encounters or to situations he is in. I think like Joe somehow which is why I get good retention of the details of the book. Because of the repetition, I remember the details better.

I can’t get enough of reading Joe’s story, New York, Los Angeles, his book references. After indulging myself in the You series, I had difficulty trying to read something else. It has that effect. Joe lingers. His thoughts linger long after you have listened to them. I got another treat, after this book, I watched Inventing Anna. Completely different character from Joe but I missed New York and she was there and she also moved to Los Angeles to Chateau Mormont. So it has that juxtaposition in the story.

Enjoyed the book through and through. What can I say? I enjoyed listening to Joe’s thoughts. It can get addicting.

Format

Immersive reading. Kindle ebook version and audiobook.

Genre

Mystery & Thriller

My star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
5 stars: I consider the book to be something that everyone should read. I would definitely read and listen to it again.

Title: You Love Me

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publication Date: April 6, 2021 by Random House

Date Read: February 19, 2022

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

I had the best experience on the first book and maybe I was expecting too much from the second book. Sometimes, when an author is asked will there be more to the story? They will have to make sure that the second compares if not better to the first book. And sometimes, it just has to end there. Still, I enjoyed more of Joe’s thoughts but this didn’t come out as good and as satisfying as the first book in the You series.

Book Summary

Hidden Bodies is the second book in the You series. Continues the life of Joe after Beck. Here comes Amy Adam, without an s, Joe has fallen in love head over heels again. This time it will be better. This time he is smarter. He couldn’t be more wrong. After giving his all to this new girl that he is obsessed with, one day she left and stole $23,000 worth of books from the bookstore. Joe’s hunt for Amy led him to move to the city if Los Angeles. That’s where he met Love. Both the person and the emotion. Hidden Bodies is the story of Joe and Love.

My thoughts on the book

The reason why I read this book is because I immensely enjoyed the first book. It didn’t live up to the expectations I had. I am disappointed. It didn’t have the elements that it had in the first book and maybe Joe is evolving and it’s time for him to move on and get a life.

I finished the book when I was in the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada. I was woken by a couple having a fight at 3 in the morning. I played the audiobook loud enough to drown out the sound and ended up finishing it. I wrote my review in my hotel room the next day after having continental breakfast in the Concierge Lounge.

I am watching the Netflix series as well when reading this book. The Netflix story is so much different.

Pointing out some of the major difference between the book series and Netflix series. (Spoiler alert. Stop here if you have not read the book yet or watched the Netflix series)

Amy Adam is the fake name that Candace used on Netflix but on the book Amy Adam is a different character herself. Candace is not in book two at all.


Forty and Joe where kidnapped and brought to a fancy hotel to write the script for D-FOL, the posthumous book by Beck, on Netflix. In the book they went to Vegas and Forty is wasting his money away gambling.
Joe was held at gun point on his knees by Forty with Love on the scene and killed by Officer Fincher on Netflix. In the book, Joe tried to kill Forty by drugging him and drowning him in the hot spring only to find out he survived and was brought to a hospital by some girl in Reno. Forty eventually died being hit by a car by a girl from Boston. Forty was sober from alcohol and drugs at that time. Isn’t it ironic?


Love is not a murderer in the book series. However, I do like that Love is a serial murderer in the Netflix series. Don’t get in her way.
No childhood au pair in the book unlike what was shown on Netflix.
No childhood flashbacks about Joe in the book as well.

The story has completely shifted to a different direction which in this case I liked the Netflix storyline better than the book. However, they still included some stories from the book like the newly married couple and Forty was wasted and proposed to give them money if he kisses the bride right there in front of the groom and everybody.

I would recommend watching the Netflix series and reading it as well. See for yourself which one you like. The book gives me in depth access to Joe’s thoughts and help me understand the characters better. Netflix is much better in terms of the plot and storyline.



Format

Immersive reading

Genre

Psychological Thriller / Suspense Thriller


My star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️
3 stars: I enjoyed the book.


Title: Hidden Bodies (You #2)
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Published January 14, 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Date Read: February 9, 2022

You by Caroline Kepnes

You is the first novel I’ve read by author Caroline Kepnes. Ms. Kepnes, where have you been all my life? This book is a winner! Five stars times two. I can’t get enough of hearing Joe’s thoughts. This is the real page-turner. I am so immersed in Joe’s thoughts and narration that I literally left my reality at that moment and just let it all in. This is the book that is so satisfying but keeps you wanting more.

Book summary

You is about a bookseller that got obsessed with a coed MFA student. They met at the bookstore where he was working and it was love at first sight. The girl and the boy had a short interaction at checkout and the girl bought Desperate Characters by Paula Fox. The boy is in love. You is the story of Joe and Beck.

My thoughts about the book

There are so many elements in this book that I would like to pour my musings out to but that is something I am not comfortable writing for all the world to see. The juxtaposition of the story’s use of social media and stalking is the main reason why. I know I called my blog Nica’s musings but still, there are things that are not be to broadcasted on social media. That only my trusted and closest circle know about me. This book took out the words and thoughts that I have on my inner core that I felt like the author is inside my head. Kepnes is brave and she is a genius to come up with a book like this. I wish I would have. If I were an author. This book is something I would write.

I consumed the story through immersive reading. I both listened and read the book at the same time. Santino Fontana’s narration made me trust Joe very much. His cadence and tone make me feel that I can trust Joe. That I know Joe. He is a reliable narrator to me. I was afraid this would be ruined by a male narrator for having several female characters. I was so wrong. Santino Fontana was able to pull it all off. He is the perfect narrator for Joe and this book as Penn Badgley is perfect for Joe on Netflix. Santino Fontana brought this book to the pinnacle of an already genius masterpiece. Reading this book made me feel like I’m on a high that I’ve never felt before. I’ve never done drugs, not even weed.  This book is better than weed or any drug. This is my drug. My fix. My everything. Body and soul the story consumed me. I’ve never had this with my reading experience before.

Each and every character has their own story. Each and every character is distinctive enough to be remembered. The unfolding of the story is so intense that you won’t stop until you finish. Makes every scene cinematic. No wonder this was adapted to a Netflix series. I can’t get enough of Joe’s thoughts. He is intelligent and funny and brutally honest. He is also very vulnerable to the people he gets “in love” with. He gives them their all. If all men or would-be boyfriends are like Joe, more women will be happy and not called crazy. I am not romanticizing Joe’s character because it is creepy and obsessive. His intelligent sense of humor is a plus. There are so many human nature and social psychology at play in this book that I don’t even know where to begin. 

How better the world would be if we don’t hate ourselves a little each day.

“He doesn’t hate me. He hates himself. If people could handle their self-loathing, customer service would be smoother.”

On how we should be honest with ourselves and stop the ostentatious display of how others should see us.

“Everybody is always striving to be better, lose five pounds, read five books, go to a museum, buy a classical record and listen to it and like it. What they really want to do is eat doughnuts, read magazines, buy pop albums.”

Just realized that Kindle is porn.

And books? Fuck books. Get a Kindle. You know why Kindles are so successful?

“The Internet put porn in your home—” “And you didn’t have to go out to get it. You didn’t have to make eye contact with the guy at the store who now knows you like watching girls get spanked. Eye contact is what keeps us civilized.”

The irony of imprisonment and freedom.

“The only thing crueler than a cage so small that a bird can’t fly is a cage so large that a bird thinks it can fly. Only a monster would lock a bird in here and call himself an animal lover.”

People had no sense of privacy in public spaces. I’ve seen this a lot walking in parks, riding in buses and trains, and walking along the aisles of grocery stores. And I’m not just talking about music.

The reason I can hear her Elton John is that she has no regard for shared public space. Dignified respectful citizens of the world use earbuds or headphones to privatize their music.”

If you are a person that is interested in the why of human behavior. A social psychology student or is forever curious about human nature. This book is for you. I think everybody should read this book. We can learn a lot from this book whether we are a parent, a daughter, a son, a friend, a teacher, a therapist, etc. 

The Netflix adaptation did a great job and I can say that I liked the Netflix story more than the book but the book gave me an in-depth illustration of Joe and Beck’s character. I consider the book to be something that everyone who loves psychological thrillers should read. I would definitely read it again.

Format

Immersive reading. Read the Kindle version of the book and listened to the audiobook read by Santino Fontana.

Genre

Psychological Thriller / Serial Killer Thriller

My star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5 stars: I consider the book to be something that everyone who loves psychological thrillers should read. I would definitely read it again.

Title: You
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Published: September 30, 2014 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books; Media Tie-In edition (448 pages)
Date Read: February 5, 2022

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

N&J’s Book Club #6  

It’s been a long time coming and we’ve finally done our book club discussion of Anna Karenina. My best friend, Joy, and I were supposed to have this book for our book club in April last year! Because of job changes and moving to another state it was postponed to almost over a year after! 

The edition I read was the book with ASIN B08NXQLG69, Kindle Edition Published March 4th 2021 by ClassicBooks by KTHTK. However, this book was first published in 1877. What an epic read with 1,350 pages! 

I listened to the audiobook version as well read by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Released July 12, 2016 by Audible Studios. Consumed this epic novel in 35 hrs and 35 minutes.  Finishing this audiobook has earned me another Mount Everest badge in Audible. Mount Everest badge is all about the long haul. I’ve completed a title that is longer than 30 hours.

Basic plot summary

Anna Karenina is one of Leo Tolstoy’s works. It is about an affair between a married aristocrat woman with a wealthy Count set in the Imperial Russian period.

My thoughts on the book

Tolstoy’s use of a complex storyline, several characters, and too much emphasis on details made this epic novel a realistic story. There was so much going on in the lives of the Karenins in St. Petersburg, the Oblonskys in Moscow, and Levin’s rural life. And there was a lot of discussion about women’s rights and education, politics, and religion. Several parts in the novel dragged me to the point I couldn’t go on reading if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook. 

Maggie Gyllenhaal did a fantastic narration of the audiobook, especially the intonation and cadence of how one would portray their emotions as well as the French phrases and sentences in the book. The only thing that I didn’t like is she did not give enough distinctive voices to the many characters that a Tolstoy novel would have.

Tolstoy has captured the female perspective quite accurately in the novel. Especially the part when Anna just gave birth to her child with Vronsky. She experienced postpartum depression. I would imagine in the late 19th century, women behaved and talked differently than in our world today.

In the affairs in the novel, Tolstoy is more critical of Anna than of her brother Oblonsky or her lover Vronsky. 

This was how Vronsky’s mother described Anna after her tragic death.

“Yes, hers was the fitting end for such a woman. Even the death she chose was low and vulgar.”

“she was a bad woman. Why, what is the meaning of such desperate passions? It was all to show herself something out of the way. Well, and that she did do. She brought herself to ruin and two good men—her husband and my unhappy son.”

“She had set him free. But my poor son was utterly given up to her. He had thrown up everything, his career, me, and even then she had no mercy on him, but of set purpose she made his ruin complete. No, say what you will, her very death was the death of a vile woman, of no religious feeling. God forgive me, but I can’t.help hating the memory of her, when I look at my son’s misery!”

Kitty to Levin after Levin had met Anna.

“You’re in love with that hateful woman; she has bewitched you! I saw it in your eyes. Yes, yes! What can it all lead to? You were drinking at the club, drinking and gambling, and then you went…to her of all people! No, we must go away…. I shall go away tomorrow.”

It is a wonder why Tolstoy would entitle his novel Anna Karenina when Anna did not make up much in the story and she was not addressed by Tolstoy as Anna Karenina but Anna Arkadyevna for the most part. It was maybe his way of putting Anna on a pedestal in the beginning of the story but in the end fall into despair due to her affair with Vronsky. 

There were several different kinds of love that each of them was looking for. Anna and Vronsky are looking for passionate love. Something love-at-first-sight. One with the spark and chemistry. Physical attraction. Kitty and Levin are star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet. There was pressure from Kitty’s parents to marry Vronsky because of his status in society and how he had taken every woman’s heart in Moscow. There is an attraction between Kitty and Levin but she must marry Vronsky because that’s what her parents, and thus she, thinks would be best for her. Dolly and Stiva are in a loveless marriage but wanted to stay together for their many children.

There are ideals of love and marriage that conflict in this book. One where they wanted to stay together at all costs despite both of them being unhappy. The other gives in to their passion and would rather find love and happiness than wealth and be bound by duty to each other. One quality that would make for a successful marriage is trust. For without it, they have nothing. Anna after giving birth is always worried about Vronsky wanting another woman. Kitty is always jealous and insecure when her husband leaves their estate and would be gone for a long time. Trust is one quality that would make for a successful marriage.

After reading Anna Karenina my first reaction was that it is a tragic novel. How Tolstoy had placed Anna in high esteem then brought her down so low that she was never able to redeem herself. Even in her death, it was described as low and vulgar. However, it can also be seen as a hopeful one when one would think about the book’s ending with Kitty and Levin. When Levin finally married the love of his life. And despite the bumps in their first month as a married couple, embraces his love for his family and his faith in God.

Growing my vocabulary

1. Vacillating – verb — [no obj.] 1. alternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive

When we are in the period of transition, we are vacillating between the old and new beliefs.

2. Assiduously – adverb with great care and perseverance

I worked assiduously to get new business for the hotel.

3. Pecuniary – adjective ‹formal› of, relating to, or consisting of money 

I would like to gain a pecuniary advantage by prospecting more business every day.

4. Astute /əˈst(y)o͞ot/ I. adjective having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one’s advantage

The Blacklist, Raymond Reddington

Trust is so fragile. When it exists, anything is possible.

As my life often depends on it, I have become an astute judge of character.

5. Pertinacious /ˌpərtnˈāSHəs/ I. adjective ‹formal› holding firmly to an opinion or a course of action

Vronsky worked with a pertinacious determination to get Anna’s attention.

Genre

Russian Literature / Classic Literature / 19th Century

My star rating ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

3 stars: I enjoyed the book in general.


Title: Anna Karenina

Author: Leo Tolstoy

First published 1877

Date Read: February 1, 2022

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

A solid psychological thriller that keeps readers engaged through the very end.

Basic plot summary

A woman suffering from a repetitive dissociative fugue. Everytime she falls asleep and wakes up, she has forgotten everything except her life two years ago.

My thoughts on the book

A solid psychological thriller that keeps readers engaged through the very end.

Stay Awake is the first novel I’ve read by author Megan Goldin. This story reminds me so much of the movie Before I Go To Sleep (2014) starring Nicole Kidman. Same premise that a vicious attack has led to the protagonist to suffer from amnesia and unable to form new memories.

The story is told in the present within 24 hours through the main character Liv Reese’s point of view and detectives Halliday and Lavelle. While alternating past and future fashion until you get to the climax similar to How To Get Away With Murder. I do like this way of story telling however in this book it takes more concentration on my part as I have to remember what happened before the current chapter I was reading. And because the next chapter doesn’t flow from the previous chapter it gives the feeling of a cliffhanger each time you finish a chapter.

The author was able to put all the pieces together and make everything the clues, characters, and scenes make sense. Kudos to Megan Goldin. The part of the guerilla artist could be a story on its own. It was such a terrifying exhibit that there should be more to it but maybe it was used to throw the readers off and keep them guessing.

Format

I wrote this review based on a digital advance reading copy that the publisher St. Martin’s Press sent me via NetGalley.

Genre

General Fiction / Mystery & Thrillers

My star rating ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
4 stars: I liked and would recommend the book to friends.

Title: Stay Awake

Author: Megan Goldin

Publication Date: August 9, 2022 by St. Martin’s Press

Date Read: January 25, 2022

Every Little Secret by Sarah Clarke

Every Little Secret is the first novel I’ve read by author Sarah Clarke. A thrilling read that keeps you guessing until the end. Unreliable narrators that makes you wonder who is telling the truth.

Basic plot summary

Mom, dad, and a seven year old girl. In front of everyone else, they seem to be the perfect family. One day, the little girl fell two meters from a tree. At the hospital, the little girl made a terrifying accusation that the dad pushed her. The doctor attributes it to confusion caused by the concussion from the fall. There’s a tiny voice in the mom’s head saying this is ridiculous and that her husband would not hurt his daughter. Why then does the mom feel guilty about defending her husband when talking to the doctor?

My thoughts on the book

Told in past and present fashion from Grace in 2019, Marcus in 2005, and third person point of view. There were chapters in the book that dragged for a bit especially the part where Marcus is telling his story in the past to make sense of the present. Not a big fan of this format in story telling as it is hard to switch from first person to third person storytelling. I don’t mind several different characters but told all in first person.

It was hard for me to start and continue with reading this book. It may be due to the bouts of snow we’ve been having. Or work got in the way as we have started the ball rolling on the bridal show we are planning on having at the hotel. It was tough to bring my focus back to the book. Enjoyed it in general but I struggled to finish it.

Format

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher HQ for approving a digital advance reader copy. All opinions are voluntary, honest, and my own.

Genre

General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

My star rating ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

3 stars: I enjoyed the book in general.

Title: Every Little Secret

Author: Sarah Clarke

Published on February 25, 2022 by HQ

Date Read: January 22, 2022

The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin

A solid women’s psychological thriller that keeps readers engaged in every turn of the page. The Marriage Secret is the first book I’ve read by the author Carey Baldwin. This is by far the best psychological thriller I’ve pored over this year. This is my favorite genre and the author hit the nail in the head in all the right places. The plots and twists are satisfying in every way.

Basic plot summary

Holly Bancroft has it all – a handsome, loving, and successful husband, all the nice and pretty things she did not want for anything, and a baby girl on the way. Secretly, another woman is plotting a devious plan to take away all that Holly has. Zach, the husband, is the head of the OB-GYN department at a major hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. He may look like the doting husband on the outside but he is a monster and pure evil behind closed doors.

Zach is a controlling, pathological liar that does things to make Holly look like she’s losing her mind. Blame it all on the baby brain. From the ransom note to “forgetting” the baby monitor in the freezer, to canceling access to her bank accounts and credit and debit cards to taking her baby away twice without warning. Holly and Zach have leverage against each other. One is a secret to keep them together, the other is a secret to separate them forever.

My thoughts on the book

I read the dedication — For You The Reader Whether this is the first of my books you’ve read or one of many, I’m honored. I’ve never had a book dedicated to me before, the reader. I’ve decided that I’m going to like this author even before I started reading the first page.

This has the elements of a philandering husband and gaslighting to make the wife seem insane so she will lose custody of her child story. However, in this book, Holly, is a strong female protagonist and she knows that she is being lied to. Zach likes to flatter. But when Holly does something that Zach does not approve of he gives her the silent treatment then lavishes her with gifts or an expensive trip to Tahiti to make up for how he treated her so coldly. This type of dynamic between couples creates major cognitive dissonance, especially towards the husband’s behavior.

There are also a lot of women-helping-other-women elements in the book. I’ve recently joined the local Women’s Chamber in my state and our mission is to raise women in leadership and business. In the book, I like the portrayal of women’s friendship and how Holly has battled inner conflict on how she had acted when one of her friends lost her husband.

This book is a must-read for everybody, especially women. We can learn a lot from Holly, her friends, her best friend Tamara, Frances, Zach’s mom, her long-time friends, and the women Zach had affairs with. Now more than ever, we women should help each other and side with each other. Be there for each other.


“The way Tamara had carried herself, with such grace, after Tom died, even though her heart had been breaking, made Holly admire her. She realized she should’ve told Tamara that, but she’d been preoccupied with her pregnancy, and Tamara was so strong she didn’t seem to need anyone’s approval.”

The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin


This is very sad, I wish more women will support other women and be vocal about it.

“People are so wrapped up in themselves they don’t pay that much attention.”

The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin

And this one goes out to everybody. Nowadays, especially during this pandemic, the ME attitude is more pronounced. Let’s pause and go back to our reality. Let’s check on how our family, our mom, our dads, our brothers, and sisters are doing. Let’s ask how our friends are doing. Our colleagues at work.

I could go on and on. I encourage you, the reader, to pick up this book and start reading.

Format

Thank you so much to publisher Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me an advance reader copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Genre

General Fiction / Mystery & Thrillers

My star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5 stars: I consider the book to be something that everyone should read. I would definitely read it again.

Title: The Marriage Secret

Author: Carey Baldwin

Publication Date: February 11, 2022 by Bookouture

Date Read: January 15, 2022

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

“You have so much and you can do anything you want. I would live your life so much better than you, if I had your face.”

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha is a captivating story about four women—Kyuri, Miho, Ara, and Wonna—who live in the same apartment called an office-tel. The audiobook is narrated by Frances Cha as Wonna, Sue Jean Kim as Ara, Ruthie Ann Miles as Miho, and Jeena Yi as Kyuri. This book opens South Korean women to the world. Not to generalize them but to get a glimpse of what young women in South Korea are experiencing in present-day times.

You will read about the story told through the voice of each woman. Written in essay-style, each woman tells the story of their life, from childhood to the woman they have become. It may be shocking to people who are not aware of the K-pop, plastic surgery, the standard of beauty, and the patriarchy culture in South Korea. After reading this book, I get a glimpse of how extreme the standard of beauty turned out in the country, to the extent that it has become a necessity.

When I first visited Seoul, South Korea, in January 2014, I was mesmerized by the cosmetics and plastic surgery advertised everywhere in the city. Almost everybody, at least the younger generation, is wearing makeup (BB creams) or have done facial surgical procedure. Reading this book gave light to why they look similar. One Korean girl living in the Philippines became famous when she won a Pinoy TV talent show contest called Star Circle Quest in 2004. Pinoys gave her the official title “Pambansang Krung Krung” because she’s eccentric but in a funny way. We, the Filipinos, loved her dearly! We were saddened when she eventually moved back to South Korea with her family. She joined an all-girl K-pop group while gradually had completely transformed. She is beautiful even before the cosmetic surgeries. Because of the fame and fortune, she had changed her face and body to achieve the South Korean standard of beauty. With all the surgeries, her face is characterized by having perfect symmetry and proclaimed as one of the most beautiful women of all time. Being aware of these things a long time ago made me appreciate Frances Cha’s novel even more.

There are parts where I felt it dragged a little bit. However, once I get in the author’s writing style and flow, the story made more sense as I read further. 

Kyuri works as a room salon girl at a high-end place called Ajax. Miho is the artist who spends most of her day painting and studied art in New York. Ara is the mute hairstylist and obsessed with Taein, a member of a Korean boy band called Crown. All of them lived on the same floor in the office-tel. Downstairs is where the pregnant Wonna lives in a tense relationship with her husband.

Yes, there is a lot of plastic surgery talk. That, however, is not the core of the story. It is about the friendship of these four women. In the end, all four of them bonded together that formed a strong friendship more women must have to prevail in such a brutal culture. More stories about women’s friendship and women supporting other women must be penned by more authors and spread the word.

I did not find any issue that would necessitate a trigger warning. In my opinion, the trigger warning I had was indignation at how women were treated in their culture.

Set in South Korea, subjects about beauty, plastic surgery, friendship, women, culture, patriarchy, financial hardship, coming of age, marriage, family, pregnancy, hopes, and dreams, are what you find interesting or curious about. This book is a must-read for you.

“It’s basic human nature, this need to look down on someone to feel better about yourself. There is no point in getting upset about it.”

“I know I will not get this job—nothing in this life is this easy. But as long as I am trying, doesn’t that mean something?”

“In a way, I will be glad when we are almost home and the scenery will turn into rice fields and rich farm plots, and I will be reminded of how far I have come, instead of what I cannot reach.”

My warmest thanks to publisher Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, and author Frances Cha. I’ve participated in the Goodreads Giveaway for If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha and won a free Kindle copy of the book in April 2020.

Title: If I Had Your Face

Author: Frances Cha

Published April 21, 2020 by Ballantine Books

Date Read: October 12, 2020

Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz

This is the second book I’ve read by the author. The first book was the Prodigal Son in the Orphan X series. This is also the first audiobook I’ve listened to by narrator Scott Brick.

Basic plot summary

The daughter of a major drug-dealer in south of Texas was kidnapped by his enemies. He sought the help of Evan Smoak to get his daughter back. But the kingpin needs to convince why Evan should help him when he is a bad man.

Audiobook review and my thoughts on the book

Narrator imbues his narration with dramatic and characteristic delivery to give life and personality to all the characters in this book. Kudos to him for doing the best that he can. It is so impassioned that it’s almost amusing. The narration aligned with the story’s sense of humor.

It is tough to give a distinctive voice to so many characters. In general, I’ve enjoyed listening to the audiobook.
Once caught up, I would like to read the series from the beginning. Evan Smoak, from Orphan X, to Nowhere Man. I’m excited to learn his adventures from the beginning.

Format

This review was based on a complimentary pre-release audiobook copy approved by Macmillan Audio via NetGalley.

Genre

Mystery & Thrillers

My star rating ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐

4 stars: I enjoyed listening to the audiobook in general and would recommend to already fans of the Orphan X series.

Title: Dark Horse (Audiobook)

Narrated by Scott Brick

Author: Gregg Hurwitz

Will be published on February 8, 2022 by Macmillan Audio

Finished listening on January 14, 2022

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