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Reviews: THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLING

 

I know I said last week that we would be trying to do Thriller Thursday a couple of times a month, but even though I’ve had hardly any thriller review books for the past few months, somehow I ended up with two of them with February 2nd publication dates.  So I’ll be sharing those two ARC reviews today and Sharon will be back next week to share even more thrillers with you.  Thanks so much to all who gave her such a warm welcome last week. It was much appreciated. 🙂

 

Reviews:  THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLINGThe Project Goodreads

Author:  Courtney Summers

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Nineteen year old Lo Denham has been alone for most of her life.  Her parents died in a car accident when she was younger and her older sister, Bea, chose to abandon Lo to become a member of a special group called the Unity Project, a group known for their religious background and for their community outreach efforts.  Lo is suspicious about the Project.  Why would joining such a group make her sister choose to cut all ties with the only family she has left?  Lo becomes obsessed with learning as much as she can about the Project. As an aspiring writer, it is Lo’s goal to write an exposé on what she thinks the Project is…a cult.  When she meets and interviews the members of the Project and the founder, however, Lo gets way more than she bargained for and it becomes clear she’s in over her head in her pursuit of the truth.

I don’t really want to say anything else about the plot itself because I think following Lo’s journey and seeing it unfold without spoilers is the best way to fully appreciate it.  The Project is also hard to classify but it’s not exactly what I would consider a thriller.  There is definitely an element of mystery to it, but by and large, the story is an exploration of just how easy it is to get lured in by a cult.  It explores how a persuasive cult leader can get under your skin, by giving you precisely what you need emotionally and by making you feel seen.  This aspect of the book hit me hard because it’s so relevant today with groups like Q Anon.  You wonder how in the world someone can fall for something like that, but with The Project, Courtney Summers shows just how vulnerable we all can be.  The Project is a dark read and a sad, heartbreaking one at times, but a powerful read just the same.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLINGThe Unwilling Goodreads

Author: John Hart

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m a huge fan of John Hart’s novels.  I love them because even though they’re thrillers, they’re always so much more than that.  The Unwilling is the sixth book I’ve read from Hart, and yes, it’s a thriller, but it’s also a coming of age story, as well as a story about a family torn apart by war.

Set during the Vietnam War, The Unwilling follows the French family.  They’ve lost two sons to the war, Robert, who was actually killed in action and Jason, who turned to heroin and ended up in prison.  Their youngest son, Gibby, is all Mr. and Mrs. French have left, and they are terrified of losing him too.  When Jason gets out of prison, they’re determined to keep him away from Gibby.  Gibby can’t resist the allure of hanging out with his big brother though and so he sneaks out to see Jason and to meet up with some girls.  When one of the girls turned up dead soon after and Jason is named as the prime suspect, both Gibby and Jason find themselves knee deep in a bad situation that could cost them both their lives.

I loved so many things about this book!  First, I just became so attached to the French family.  It was so heartbreaking to think of all the losses they have suffered and their grief is just so palpable throughout the story.  I was especially heartbroken for the father.  As a police detective, he’s in an impossible spot. He wants to believe his son is innocent but has to admit that he’s not sure, primarily because of his son’s past misdeeds.  He loves Jason but he is also desperate to protect what’s left of his family.

I also really adored Gibby.  Much of the story comes to us from Gibby’s perspective and it is through him that we get the coming of age element in the story.  Gibby is torn between not wanting to upset his parents and wanting to break free from this sheltered bubble they have him living in.  He wants to have a relationship with his brother, he wants to date girls, he just wants to grow up and is frustrated at every turn by his parents.  I was really rooting for Gibby to come into his own and was really impressed by his growth as the story progressed, especially when he decides he’s going to prove his brother is innocent. I admired his determination, loyalty, and bravery.

The thriller aspect of the story as it relates to the murder is amazing too. I don’t want to give anything away with respect to that, but wow, what a dark and twisted tale it is.  Also, be forewarned that Hart’s descriptions of the violent acts in the novel are vivid and gruesome.  I know I won’t be forgetting the images I read about anytime soon!

If you’re interested in a riveting thriller as well as a heartbreaking story about the effects of war on a family, definitely check out John Hart’s The Unwilling. 4.5 STARS.

Review: THE HUSH by John Hart

Review:  THE HUSH by John HartThe Hush by John Hart
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve been a fan of John Hart’s novels for years, ever since I read his gripping thriller The Last Child so I was beyond excited to get approved for an ARC of his latest novel, The Hush.  My excitement grew even more once I started reading and realized that The Hush actually revisits the characters and landscape that I fell in love with in The Last Child.

The Hush takes place ten years after the horrifying events that rocked the lives of both thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon and the rest of the folks who lived in Johnny’s hometown.  Over the years, even though he has shied away from the spotlight, people have written books and tried to exploit Johnny’s story, so whether he wants the attention or not, he has become somewhat of a local celebrity and is both feared and revered by those around him.  When the novel opens, Johnny is now 23 years old and, desperate to retain some element of privacy in his life, is living as a recluse in the middle of 6,000 once-sacred, wooded acres known as The Hush.

Johnny’s only real connection to his former way of life is his childhood friend, Jack Cross, who has just finished law school and landed his first job as an attorney. I don’t want to spoil anything from The Last Child so I’ll just say that what these two boys went through in that novel has made their bond of friendship stronger than ever.  Jack would literally do anything and give up everything for Johnny, and I think Johnny feels the same way about Jack.  Even though I’d classify this book as a mystery/thriller, it is a moving story about friendship as well.

There is something strange and ominous about the place Johnny now calls home, however, and Jack senses its hidden dangers.  He tries to talk to Johnny about it but Johnny doesn’t want to hear anyone speak ill of his beloved Hush.  It becomes more and more clear that what happens in The Hush is not normal.  Most people cannot navigate the wooded, swampy land.  Landmarks seems to disappear or flat out move about, strange mists appear and lead to people getting disoriented.  In fact, many who attempt to travel into The Hush don’t come out alive.  Because he lives there, Johnny of course is immediately considered a suspect every time something happens.  Jack knows his friend is innocent and makes it his mission to prove Johnny’s innocence, but big questions remain:  What the heck is really going on in The Hush? Who else is interested in it and why are they willing to pay so much money for it?

One element of the story I liked right away is that, without completely rehashing the plot of The Last Child, Hart provides his readers with just enough background information to remind us why Johnny would choose such a secluded way of life.  In that sense, The Hush works quite well as a standalone novel.  You don’t need to have read The Last Child to follow along with this story.  (I definitely recommend reading it though, just because it’s a fabulous read.)

I loved The Last Child so much, so it was also just a thrill for me to revisit this story, and especially the characters, Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross, who were both just such compelling characters.  It was wonderful to meet these boys again and see what kind of young men they have grown up to become and that Johnny has attained an almost mythic quality in the years since we left him.  The mysterious events that are taking place in The Hush also have Johnny pitted against local law enforcement, who seem eager to pin something on him, so legendary as he is, Johnny is also cast in the role of underdog in this story, and I’m always one to root for the underdog.

Hart drew me into this story, not just by revisiting some of my favorite characters, but also with the mystery of The Hush.  Johnny loves this place so much that even though he is on the verge of losing it if he can’t come up with the money to pay his taxes, he still won’t part with a single acre of it, not even when someone offers to pay him 10 times what it is worth.  The connection between Johnny and The Hush is almost surreal – Johnny is literally one with the land, and the land is one with him.  This intense connection captivated me immediately and had me zooming through the pages because I wanted to know how and why Johnny could have such a connection to the land, especially since it seemed to literally chew up and spit out anyone else who tried to venture onto it.

I’m also a huge fan of Hart’s writing style.  It’s a given that it’s filled with exciting twists and turns by virtue of the fact that it’s a mystery, but what I love about Hart’s writing is his gorgeous prose.  His descriptions, in particular of the landscape, are so lush and vivid that it’s easy to feel that you are right there with the characters.  What I love most is that he achieves this without making it feel forced or flowery; the descriptions are fluid and effortless.  I know he’s a writer so duh, but John Hart just really has a way with words.  His descriptions of The Hush were especially well done and just so atmospheric, especially when someone besides Johnny ventured in.  It was so beautiful and yet so creepy and ominous; I literally had goosebumps on my arms and felt like I was looking over my own shoulder for signs of danger.

Lastly, because I really don’t want to give anything away, I just want to say that I also love that Hart is willing to challenge himself by trying something different.  Whereas most of Hart’s novels are straight mystery/thrillers, The Hush actually ventures over into magical realism territory and is infused with a bit of the supernatural.  This was new and unexpected since that’s not what I’m used to with a John Hart novel, but I thought he did a fantastic job with it overall.  It kind of felt like a mashup of a typical John Hart novel and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and since Beloved is a favorite of mine, it was a great fit for me.

There was only one time when I had any kind of an issue with The Hush and that was towards the end.  I can’t really go into any detail without spoiling the plot, so I’m just going to say that it revolved around the supernatural aspect of the story.  It’s hard to even explain what my issue really was except that it’s along the lines of me being willing to suspend disbelief and see where the author wants to take the whole supernatural thing, but then reaching a point where I’m like “Nope, too far.  Reel it back in.”  If you read The Hush, you’ll probably know the exact scene that I’m referring to as soon as you get to it.  Aside from that one moment, I thought it was a fantastic read.

With his memorable characters and gorgeous prose, John Hart continues his streak of well-crafted stories with The Hush.  If you’re looking for a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end and can open your mind to supernatural possibilities, The Hush should be right up your alley.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The only writer in history to win consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel, New York Times bestselling author John Hart returns to the world of his most beloved novel, The Last Child.

Building on the world first seen in The Last Child (“A magnificent creation” —The Washington Post), John Hart delivers a stunning vision of a secret world, rarely seen.

It’s been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon’s life and rocked his hometown to the core. Since then, Johnny has fought to maintain his privacy, but books have been written of his exploits; the fascination remains. Living alone on six thousand acres of once-sacred land, Johnny’s only connection to normal life is his old friend, Jack. They’re not boys anymore, but the bonds remain. What they shared. What they lost.

But Jack sees danger in the wild places Johnny calls home; he senses darkness and hunger, an intractable intent. Johnny will discuss none of it, but there are the things he knows, the things he can do. A lesser friend might accept such abilities as a gift, but Jack has felt what moves in the swamp: the cold of it, the unspeakable fear.

More than an exploration of friendship, persistence, and forgotten power, The Hush leaves all categories behind, and cements Hart’s status as a writer of unique power.

four-stars

About John Hart

John Hart is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, THE KING OF LIES, DOWN RIVER, THE LAST CHILD, IRON HOUSE and REDEMPTION ROAD. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, the Southern Book Prize and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in over seventy countries. A former defense attorney and stockbroker, John spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia, where he writes full-time.

Top 10 Books I’d Rush to Buy if Given a Fully Loaded Gift Card

top ten tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card.   This has probably been the easiest Top Ten Tuesday for me to do since I started participating because I ALWAYS have a long list of books that I’d buy if money were not an issue. A list I might add that is inspired by all of the wonderful reviews and recommendations of my fellow book bloggers. 🙂

Top Ten Books I’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed Me A Fully Loaded Gift Card

 

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

01
Goodreads Synopsis: A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising “half-caste” children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon, before being shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery. (Read more…)

2. And I Darken by Kiersten White

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Goodreads Synopsis: This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy. (Read more…)

3. This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads Synopsis: Synopsis: There’s no such thing as safe. Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be. August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided. Their city is crumbling. Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something. But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which? (Read more…)

4. Redemption Road by John Hart

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Goodreads Synopsis: From the bestselling and prize-winning author of The Last Child and Iron House comes this long-awaited new thriller that will appeal to all fans of Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane.

Elizabeth Black is a hero. She is a cop who single-handedly rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot two brutal kidnappers dead. But she’s also a cop with a secret. And she’s not the only one…Set in an America of desperate small towns and uneasy and remote landscapes, REDEMPTION ROAD has all of John Hart’s trademark evocation of the abandoned and the derelict and sense of place. With descriptions so chilling and a story so full of twists and turns you cannot stop reading, it marks a new high point in the writing of this very talented author. (Read more…)

5. Falling by Jane Green

05
Goodreads Synopsis: The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House,Jemima J, and Summer Secrets presents a novel about the pleasure and meaning of finding a home—and family—where you least expect them…

When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either. (Read more…)

6. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

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Goodreads Synopsis: For fans of The Princess Bride comes the comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger—and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong. (Read more…)

7. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Goodreads Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…(Read more…)

8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

harry potter
Goodreads Synopsis: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. (Read more…)

9. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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Goodreads Synopsis: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two. (Read more…)

10. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads Synopsis: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. (Read more…)

* * * * * *

So, my fellow book lovers, what books would you rush out and buy if someone were kind enough to hand you a fully loaded gift card? And OMG, doesn’t just the thought of a fully loaded gift card to go book shopping with just give you warm fuzzies?