When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Contemporary

I dip into contemporary YA only on occasion, and YA rom-com even less. So there has to be a really unique take on the genre to grab my interest. This one has been making the rounds in the blogosphere for months, and it definitely caught my eye when I first heard about it earlier this year. It turned out to be a fantastic pick to bring along on my June vacation!

Told from two different perspectives, When Dimple Met Rishi follows two Indian-American teenagers during their summer break after graduating from high school. Dimple is ready for a break from her family, and can’t believe it when they give her permission to attend an expensive summer program for aspiring app developers. Little does she know, it is all part of her family’s plan to introduce her to Rishi…the young man her parents have secretly arranged to be her future spouse.

Rishi is, almost refreshingly, a hopeless romantic. He knows all about the arrangement between the two sets of parents, and attends the same summer program as Dimple in the hopes of getting to know her.

Little does he know that Dimple has been left in the dark as to who he is or what has been arranged, and deservedly freaks out when he first introduces himself.

What follows is a cute romantic comedy, with two really fun and enjoyable characters. It is made even better because by branching out from just being a love story, as it also brings up questions of culture and tradition, family relationships, and coming of age independence.

When Dimple Met Rishi tackles a controversial tradition, that of arranged marriages. I believe this is the first book I have ever read that doesn’t treat arranged marriage solely in a negative light. I have enough Indian friends who are in some form of arranged marriage to know that, although there are many bad arranged marriages out there in which girls were forced into the arrangement and/or treated terribly, there are many good ones as well. It is a complex issue, and while I can’t speak to the cultural accuracy in the story, it appears to be very well done.

The other thing this book did was Make.Me.Hungry!!! When I lived in New Jersey, our apartment was in a predominantly Indian and Pakistani neighborhood, and we had 3 different types of Indian restaurants and a grocer just within a 1/2 mile walking distance. Oh, how I miss that! Khatta Meetha! Nom-nom-nom.

Speaking of food, there is an amazing bar mentioned in the story, 2 sisters bar and books. A bar with tons of books to browse while you sip, and Sandhya Menon makes it sound like an adorable and amazing bar to visit. So I looked it up to find out…this is a real place in San Francisco!! And it just closed it’s doors in March. NOO!!!!

Ultimately, I found When Dimple Met Rishi to be an adorable, heartwarming story about two Indian American teenagers finding their way in life.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Book Review – Every Day by David Levithan

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Book: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA

Book Blurb: 

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

I truly enjoyed Levithan’s writing in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and went into Every Day with high expectations. The potential was there for greatness, and I loved the concept. A contemporary/science fiction hybrid; to imagine a person without a gender, without a family, without a body, whose only consistency in life is that each day, they will wake up in the body of someone new.

Like I said, the concept is intriguing. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

Every Day is told from the perspective of A, a person who wakes up each morning in someone else’s body. The bodies are always the same age as A; when they were 3 they would always wake up as a 3-year-old; during the novel A was 16. A has never had their own body, the body shifting has been happening since birth. Therefore, A does not have a real name, and never forms attachments. To anyone. A can access the memories of the body they inhabit, but not the person’s feelings. The days have always blurred together for A, as time marches on.

Until A meets Rhiannon after waking up in the body of Justin. Justin is Rhiannon’s callous boyfriend, and A falls instantly in love with her during his brief tenure in Justin’s body. Which leads both to the biggest detraction and the most interesting question Levithan presents: Can love find its way around a seemingly impossible situation?

I can’t stand instalove books, and I rarely read them. I made an exception for this one because it was on my TBR for the 2017 Diversity Bingo Challenge, and Levithan was an author I wanted to further explore. Rhiannon is, I hate to say it, a fairly bland character, which makes A’s obsession with her even more confusing, especially considering the lengths he takes. The friendship between the two is sweet at first, and I give Rhiannon credit for being fairly accepting of what seems like an impossible situation. But, there are so many aspects of their relationship that really bothered me. The stalking, which started to become incredibly creepy. The idea that only A can see Rhiannon’s hidden sadness, and they are the only one who can see Rhiannon as she her true self. The obsession. It is disturbing behavior, which is barely addressed in the novel.

All my sympathy and fondness for A went right out the window when they became obsessed and started stalking Rhiannon. I liked A at the beginning of the story, and I was very sympathetic to their plight. For much of A’s life, they are extremely selfless and careful with the body they inhabit. I can’t imagine how tough that would be day in and day out. Yet I just could not get past all the lengths A went to after falling in love with Rhiannon.

The part of the story I enjoyed the most was the diverse cast of people we meet when A inhabits their bodies for a day. These small stories were quite touching.

I wish Levithan would have gone more in-depth into the paranormal aspect, although I can understand why he did not. What I don’t get, however, is why there wasn’t a further examination of what it means to be male, female, or neither. I really liked having a protagonist that has no gender or ethnicity. Yet I found the writing lacking in terms of how Rhiannon responded once she knew the truth of A’s life. Rhiannon definitely had some prejudices and ignorance on her side lurking beneath the surface, but this was barely addressed.

I know there is a companion book to Every Day, written from Rhiannon’s perspective, called Another Day. I’m highly doubtful I will read it any time soon.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars.

 

Book Review – Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Title: milk and honey
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Createspace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism

These days, I don’t read poetry very often. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a book of poems. It has been years, other than a handful of Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou scattered throughout the last decade. Then, last month, I discovered my birth mother’s poetry. And it felt invigorating, soul-crushing, and uplifting…yes…all of that, all rolled in to one, when I read her words.

And it came back to me in a rush, how much I used to love poetry. Once upon a time, I wrote poetry. I wrote about being adopted, about boys and love, about sitting beneath a tree on a warm, sunny day. I waxed poetic, and my poems were never anything special….but I enjoyed the process. It was one of my college boyfriends, a guy who also wrote poetry, and who turned out to be a horrible person, that turned me off of the genre.

Well, I’m ready to reclaim it. So, when I got home from my trip to meet my biological mother’s family, with a basket of her letters, and a journal of her poems, I felt inspired. To take up a new genre, and explore it anew. One week after returning home from that trip in April, I went out and bought Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

And that is how I found myself reading it during Dewey’s 24 hour readathon.

it is your blood
in my veins
tell me how i’m
supposed to forget

Milk and Honey is about survival, and is split into 4 sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. The design of her poems are inspired by a Punjabi script called gurmukhi, in which words are written only using a period. There is no other punctuation; all letters are treated the same – no upper or lowercase. I loved this style, as it is often how I used to write my own poetry, only in my case, I was modeling e.e. cummings.

Rupi Kaur was born in Punjab, and moved to Canada with her parents at a young age, and through her poetry she provides a voice to other women of color who may be silenced in a patriarchal and/or colonizer culture. Before reading her poems, it helps to know where she is coming from, as she talks about in the preface:

my thoughts go to the sexual violence we endure as south asian women. we know it intimately. from thousands of years of shame and oppression. from the community and from colonizer after colonizer. by the time i am born i have already survived the first battle of my life. against female feticide. i am one of the lucky ones who has been allowed to live. we are taught our bodies are not our property. you will do with them as your parents wish until they pass the property onto your husband and his family. a good indian girl is quiet. does as she is told. sex does not belong to her. it is something that happens to her on her wedding night. our job is to lay obediently. not to enjoy. let him take.

our trauma escapes the confines of our own times. we’re not just healing from what’s been inflicted onto us as children. my experiences have happened to my mother and her mother and her mother before that. it is generations of pain embedded into our souls.

i read hundreds of books growing up. but none can explain this torment to me. i need access to words written by people who look like me writing about the things i am going through. at that moment i realize the importance of representation and know this must be different for my children. they must have access to their own literature.

Rupi Kaur’s writing is succinct; many of her poems are only a few lines. She is incredibly skilled in bringing her point across in a tiny amount of space.

our backs
tell stories
no books have
the spine to
carry
~ women of color

Some people describe her work as cliché, or simplistic. I disagree. Yes, there is a certain simplicity, a minimalism, but that does not make her words or message simple.

apparently it is ungraceful of me
to mention my period in public
cause the actual biology
of my body is too real

it is okay to sell what’s
between a woman’s legs
more than it is okay to
mention its inner workings

the recreational use of
this body is seen as
beautiful while
its nature is
seen as ugly

YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!

I had that reaction quite a few times while reading her book. As a woman, as a feminist, as someone who has experienced trauma in my past, I could relate to many of her poems. And I found it a fascinating self-study to look back at all my post-it notes after finishing the book, and realize the poems I currently relate to the most were not in the sections about hurting or breaking, but in the chapter about healing.

This is a book about the human experience, and it is relatable on a wide variety of levels. It takes a lot of courage to write in such a personal manner, and I look forward to seeing what Rupi Kaur does next.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

I’m finally getting a chance to write up some reviews for the books that I read during Dewey’s readathon! This one was one of my favorites.

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Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+

This is the story of two Will Grayson’s that meet about 1/3 of the way into the story. One Will Grayson, written by John Green, is the son of two doctors, loving parents that aren’t around very much. His family is fairly well off, and his best friend is Tiny Cooper. Tiny Cooper is a HUGE person, both in personality and size. He literally lights up the page. This Will lives by two life rules: 1) Don’t care too much, and 2) Shut up.

Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does.

~ Will Grayson

The other will grayson, written by David Levithan, sees himself as a lowercase person (and his chapters are written entirely in lowercase). He lives with his single mother, struggles with severe depression and at the beginning of the story, has not yet come out to his friends and family as gay.

“maybe tonight you’re scared of falling, and maybe there’s somebody here or somewhere else you’re thinking about, worrying over, fretting over, trying to figure out if you want to fall, or how and when you’re gonna land, and i gotta tell you, friends, to stop thinking about the landing, because it’s all about falling.”

~ will grayson

They randomly meet one night when their paths converge in downtown Chicago. Will Grayson is shy and struggles with whether or not he wants to be in a relationship. will grayson found love on the internet with Isaac, and is trying to meet him for the first time.

Green’s Will Grayson is kind of geeky and adorable, but it is Levithan’s will grayson I relate to the most. It is will grayson’s storyline that is the most moving. will grayson is dark, and angsty, a bit of a loner, and written extremely well. When will grayson and Tiny Cooper meet, it is everything a reader could want and more. Really, Tiny Cooper is everything a reader could want in a character. I wish I had a Tiny Cooper friend!

Because in reality, so much of this book isn’t about the two Will Grayson’s. It is about Tiny Cooper. For a while I worried that Tiny Cooper would stay flat and clichéd throughout the whole story, but we really got to see more depth to him by the end of the story.

Some people call this book a love story, and it is a love story. A love story about friendship that is both emotional and hilarious.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Book Review – A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (ASOIAF, #1)

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Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy

I’m handling this review a little differently than most. I know I’m late to the game, but I also went into the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series with a bit of trepidation and wariness. Mainly in regards to the sexism and treatment of women. And to be sure, there are many women in Game of Thrones depicted as sexual tools; women who have no rights, and a hearty share of rape and sexual assault. There IS too much rape in this series, and as someone who is a survivor of sexual assault, sometimes this is a deal breaker for me. However, Martin’s female nipple obsession aside, I do feel that there is a hidden criticism of patriarchal society, feudalism and war hidden amongst the pages. Or, if there’s not, as a reader, I am going to create that criticism.

Do you know what can be hard? Being a progressive, intersectional feminist who enjoys all varieties of science fiction and fantasy, including the older stuff. Traditionally, these genres were not designed to be read by women. They are often filled with misogyny, female objectification and racism. Game of Thrones falls into this trap. There are some really cool aspects: this is highly creative fantasy, the world-building is incredible, the court intrigues and plot mysteries are addicting, but what I don’t understand and get annoyed about is the reliance on violence against women.

So why do I still plan on continuing with the series? Because I find it highly insightful to read Game of Thrones critically, keeping in mind its firm place in popular culture. Because some of the characters are incredible. Daenerys is tough and smart, Arya is a fighter. Jon Snow is…well, Jon Snow. And the stories of male violence that dominate so much of this story is something that needs to be discussed. Additionally, I always have a penchant for stories filled with twists, turns and surprises. A part of me hopes the series ends with Daenerys unleashing her dragons on the Seven Kingdoms, burning down every idiotic man in the process.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

The next part of the discussion contains spoilers for the first book in A Song of Fire and Ice. Consider yourself forewarned!

I love digging up little details and analyzing them, and I have a feeling this first book in the series contains a boatload of foreshadowing. Here are some of my thoughts on what happened in Book 1, and what may be to come

The White Walkers. I don’t think it is a random fact that the White Walkers appear at the very beginning, in the Prologue. All of the attention right now may be on the inner turmoil and civil war in Westeros for the crown, but I have a feeling that will eventually be overshadowed by the return of the Others.

The wildlings are not as they appear. The wildlings are described as..well, as the name applies…wild people, cruel and savage. Descriptions of them are filled with superstition and myth. I would also guess we will get to know the wildlings much better in the future, for who they really are, not the mythology that surrounds them. I bet they are surprisingly normal people who are just trying to survive in a harsh landscape.

He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

The mother direwolf.The foreshadowing here felt as if it led up to the events at the end of this book. The deceased mother direwolf had an antler in her throat: the Baratheon sigil is a stag, and the Stark sigil is a direwolf. Did this scene foretell Ned Stark’s killing on Joffrey’s orders (Baratheon in name, if not DNA)? Or does it point to a future development, a downfall of the Starks at the hands of another Baratheon, such as Stannis or Renly?

A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.

Red Priests. The red priests are mentioned multiple times in the opening chapter for Daenerys, especially one in particular. Thoros of Myr, “a madman who shaved his head and fought with a flaming sword.” Thoros is mentioned once more towards the end of the book, when his name makes the list of traitors to the throne. It seemed out-of-place alongside Tully’s, Baratheon’s, and Tyrell’s. Who are the Red Priests?

Viserys. Boy, is he annoying! Although he may have been right about one thing, although not in the way he meant:

“When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight.”

Viserys says this the night that Drogo and Daenerys first meet. Except it won’t be his reign. I have a feeling that Daenerys will be the one worth writing about. And this was one character I was happy to see get the ax.

Starks. I really love the Stark’s, almost all of them – I have lukewarm feelings towards Sansa at the moment – and I am frustrated in both Catelyn and Ned Stark for trusting Littlefinger so easily and carelessly. But I really hope this quote from Ned Stark turns out true:

“The winters are hard,” Ned admitted. “But the Starks will endure. We always have.”

Tyrion. Despite his dalliances with “whores” (ugh, I hate that word which Tyrion uses ad nauseam), I have to admit to liking him. His kindness towards the Stark children shows a side of him he keeps well hidden – giving Bran a specially designed saddle, and his kindness towards Jon Snow at The Wall stand out. This is a guy that definitely plays the long game, and is not averse to playing dirty to get retribution. He’s filled with contradictions, which makes him an incredibly fascinating character.

“My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Okay, maybe I just like him because he reads so much.

Bran’s dream. There are many things I don’t understand about the dream Bran had right before he woke up. Are there seers in Game of Thrones? If so, Bran certainly seems like he is on his way to becoming one. In his dream he sees things that have happened while he was in a coma: the wasting away of his body into skin and bones, his mother in a cabin on a ship and the seasick Ser Rodrik, and his sisters’ grief on the Trident. The crow tells him to forget about the scene he witnessed between Jamie and Cersei, to “put it aside, put it away”, which he does forget upon awakening.

In his dream, Bran also sees shadows surrounding his family: one shadow dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. The third loomed over the others, a giant in armor made of stone, his visor filled with nothing but darkness and thick black blood.

I would put the Hound and Jamie as the first two shadows, but who is the third? Possibly Gregor Clegane, who is known as “The Mountain That Rides”. Whoever or whatever it is supposed to represent, it is bigger and scarier than the other two shadows.

Finally, the three-eyed crow – which has to mean something important – takes him beyond the curtain in the North, to look deep into the heart of winter. I can’t wait to find out more on what this means.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

What Arya overheard. I’m still mulling over the conversation that Arya overheard in the dungeons of the Red Keep. It is a conversation that is full of half-secrets. One speaker has the “liquid accent of the Free Cities”; I’m guessing this is Illyrio. The second speaker is likely Varys, based on the description. So does this mean that Varys supports the Targaryens? Or is he playing a scheming game? And who are his fifty birds?

Varys. Varys is another highly complicated, intriguing character. Just whose side is he on? Can you believe anything that comes out of his mouth (the same could be said for Littlefinger)? The Master of Whisperers is an extremely cautious and calculating man. At first, I took him at his word in his conversation with Ned Stark in the dungeons, but I am starting to second-guess that decision. This is a character that is designed to be untrustworthy, but for what end purpose?

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Mini Review – Saga Vol. 1 & 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

I have to admit to my heart not being into writing book reviews for the past few weeks. My life has been quite topsy-turvy this month. I’m currently dealing with all the emotions that followed meeting my biological family for the first time, only to come home to one very sick kitty.

Our older cat, Isabel, has been struggling with a lot of gastrointestinal issues over the last seven days, and has needed a lot of love and attention (as well as multiple trips to our beloved veterinarian, and one stint at the ER vet). We’re currently waiting for the Prednisone to kick in and hopefully help ease the symptoms, as our vet thinks we are dealing with inflammatory bowel disease. If she isn’t any better by Monday, they will probably want to do a biopsy to rule out cancer.

Also on Monday my father will be entering the hospital for a 3-day stay for a heart catheterization after cardiac symptoms recently re-appeared. Hopefully we will know by Monday afternoon if he needs a stent, or another bypass.

Needless to say, this will be a short review!

Saga, Volumes 1 & 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction

Marko and Alana’s love story reminds me of an intergalactic Romeo and Juliet. Alana is a soldier from Landfall, a planet this has been at war with the citizens of its moon – Wreath – for…well, for a very, very long time. The Moonies are magic wielding and the Wings are brutally nationalistic and militaristic. Within that context, you have this duo that are so funny and lovable that you can’t help but root for them as they hustle to try to get out of danger and protect their newborn child. They love each other. They argue and bicker, they get on each other’s nerves. But the love they share is pure and true, and is an inspiration, considering their people hate each other’s guts.

Most definitely not for a young audience, you never know quite what you’re going to see when you turn the page. Ghost children/babysitters missing the lower half of their body, Robotic royalty with TV heads, a lie detector cat, torsoless sex workers, there is definitely some odd stuff in this graphic novel series! If Saga were a movie, it would be directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The grandparents come on the scene in Volume 2, and the family dynamic is oh-so-wonderful! In Volume 2, we also get the back story on how Alana and Marko met…it was definitely not instalove.

The narrator in both volumes is their daughter Hazel, which is brilliant. And also a relief, her narration makes it quite clear that she lives at least into young adulthood. You see, one of the main reasons Marko and Alana are being chased is due to Hazel. Her very existence undermines the ongoing war, and defies the odds, as it had been believed that a “Moonie” and a “Wing” could not conceive healthy children together.

The cast of supporting characters are equally interesting: freelancers The Stalk and The Will, Robot Prince IV, Marko’s scorned ex-girlfriend Gwendolyn, and Marko’s parents. It makes for quite an adventurous….Saga.

ARC Book Review – The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

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Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

About the Book

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Megan Miranda’s latest release, The Perfect Stranger, will make for an excellent beach read this summer. While it doesn’t have the punch of All The Missing Girls, I was still caught up in the story and characters, especially in the second half of the novel. This is a slower-paced thriller, which isn’t for everyone, but really hooked me by the halfway point. I love the quiet, sleepy Pennsylvanian town that Megan created, especially since I grew up in Pennsylvania!

There are quite a few mini-mysteries going on in this novel: what exactly happened in Leah’s past, and the strange mystery surrounding Emmy being the two biggest. While I figured out certain aspects fairly early on, other parts of the mystery definitely caught me off guard twoards the end!

Leah is an interesting character, albeit occasionally annoying, and you really get to know her as the plot progresses. She’s a strong woman that doesn’t give up, and the whole storyline brings up some interesting questions. Does the end justify the means? Can you ever really “start over” somewhere new, in a new life? Kyle, the police officer assigned to Emmy’s missing persons case, is one of the weak links in the story. He seemed to be written to be a likable, good guy….but I wasn’t a fan. I do wish his character had been flushed out a bit more. And then there is Emmy, always in the background, a big question mark that is slowly unraveled.

My absolutely favorite part of The Perfect Stranger was the last chapter! I won’t say anything to spoil the ending,  but it was definitely a perfect way to end the book.

If you like mysteries/thrillers that take place in quiet, sleepy communities that hide their secrets well, you’ll probably enjoy The Perfect Stranger.

Rating: 4/5 stars.