Book Review: Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire

Closer Than You Think

Closer than you think book cover

Title: Closer Than You Think
Author: Lee Maguire
Series:
Broken Minds Thriller #1

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: October 22, 2018
Publisher: TCK Publishing


Synopsis:

In the first instalment in this “Broken Minds” mystery series, we’re introduced to Dr. Bryce Davison, a psychologist with his own broken mind.  His marriage is on the rocks, his insomnia is threatening his livelihood, and now he has a stalker. Someone who’s been watching him for a long time and is determined to destroy his marriage, his career, and his mind…

Plot

Dr. Bryce Davison is a mental health professional.  When he realizes that he has a stalker, the list of potential suspects is quite long.  This makes for an interesting mystery. I could immediately tell that the author works or has worked in the industry, because the writing has an authentic feel that permeates through the setting, the plot, and the way that Bryce talks about his career and his patients.

Maguire jumps right into the story with little explanation as to who the characters are. This made it a little difficult to get into and to understand. (For instance, it took me a few pages to figure out that “Max” was his dog).  That said, it’s definitely worth pushing through those first few chapters, because the excitement starts up pretty quickly and doesn’t let up for the whole book.  There are many twists and turns that make this book a one-sitting read.

There are quite a few matter-of-fact-style descriptions of Bryce’s conversations and his work day. This book might not appeal to those who aren’t at all interested in the daily struggle of psychologists.  I genuinely enjoyed Bryce’s interactions with coworkers and the “disturbed” youths that he deals with.  Although, I did think that the author could have skipped some scenes to get to the juicier stuff. It reminded me a little of Patricia Cornwell’s early Scarpetta books. You get a peak into what it’s like to work in that profession, even when some of the things being mentioned don’t directly relate to the plot. That said, Maguire ingeniously takes these opportunities to casually insert clues as to who Bryce’s stalker is, which makes these chapters even more interesting to me, a self-proclaimed amateur couch sleuth.

There are quite a few flashbacks throughout the novel. It’s not immediately clear how they’re relevant, but Maguire ties them into the overall character arc quite nicely.

Characters

Dr. Bryce Davison strikes me as highly paranoid right from the get go. I was surprised by how quickly he figured out that he was being stalked.  I find strange smells in my apartment on the regular, and I never assume that it means that someone was in my apartment. (Although, now I’m starting to worry about that! I mean, I know that I don’t smoke cigarettes. Who’s been coming into my apartment to smoke cigarettes?!).

That said, Dr. Davison is very smart and does all the right things that he should have done when being stalked, i.e. Call the police. That’s really the most important thing to do, in my opinion.  He also keeps a record of all the things that are being done.  While the stalker clearly wanted to put his personal life and job at risk, I was never too worried about him losing his job, because of the way he was meticulously keeping the police informed of what was happening to him.

Language

The writing style is a little stilted at times, particularly in the way that the teenagers talk. It pulled me out of the story a little bit, but the plot was so darn compelling that I kept reading anyway.

Closer Than You Think

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an intriguing psychological thriller featuring a psychologist whose mind is just as broken as those he’s sworn to help.

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*Thank you to TCK Publishing for the review copy*

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Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood book cover

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books


Synopsis:

Alice has never met her grandmother, infamous fairy-tale writer Althea Prosperine.  Althea earned her fame decades ago by penning a single collection of fairy tales about a strange place called the Hinterland.  Afterwards, she isolated herself in her enormous estate, the Hazel Wood, cutting herself off from the rest of the world.  Alice has spent her seventeen years of life on the road; her mother moves them from place to place as mysterious bad luck seems to follow them wherever they go.  But when Althea dies, Alice’s mother is happy. Ecstatic, even. She says they can finally settle down and place roots in New York. But this decision might have been a tad too hasty.  Alice’s mother is kidnapped by someone who claims to be from the Hinterland.  Now Alice must team up with a fellow classmate–Ellery Finch–who just so happens to be an expert on the stories that her grandmother wrote. Together they will go to the Hazel Wood and uncover the truth about the Hinterland

Plot 

The Hazel Wood reads like a fairy tale, but set in a gritty, modern world with iPhones, baristas, and high school classes.  Melissa Albert writes with a beautiful, lyrical style that is quite unique. Because of this, I was able to get into the head of the protagonist, Alice, quite quickly. I found myself understanding her and her predicament almost immediately.   

The plot and pacing of this book is phenomenal.  Albert lays out clues like bread bread crumbs, but I still didn’t know where they were leading until the twist smacked me in the face. That twist. Omg. Now I know why people were raving about this book last year. I’m doubly embarrassed for not reading this sooner. But how are you supposed to know what books are ‘must-reads’ until after they’ve already been out for a bit? 

Characters

Alice isn’t like your typical protagonist. She’s sarcastic with anger issues and she isn’t against dropping the occasional F-bomb.  She isn’t what you’d expect the main character of this type of book to be like. She’s been raised on the run–from the “curse” that seems to follow her and her mother–and her relationship with her mother is an interesting one. She loves her, while at the same time she resents her for keeping her away from her infamous grandmother and her legacy.  

Ellery Finch is a perfect love interest.  Their romance isn’t in-your-face, like you usually get in fairy tales. Ellery and Alice spend a lot of time getting to know each other, particularly while on the road trip to rescue her mother, and Albert provides so much intricate detail that it felt like I was in the car with them. As I mentioned in the Plot section, Albert has a way with words, and this is especially evidence in how she gets us invested in these characters within mere pages of their introduction.

The Hazel Wood

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a modern-day fairy tale that’s like the original Grimm, not at all like the sweet and disarming Disney adaptations.  While there’s some romance, the focus is on the mysterious Hazel Wood, the Hinterland, and the ethereal fairy tales that may or may not be fiction…

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