An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I’m making my way through my backlog of books I read during Thanksgiving break, and I can’t believe that I haven’t shared this one yet. It’s a thriller for a thriller reader, the kind that keeps you up at night with more questions than answers.

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Title: An Anonymous Girl {375 pages}

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Summary:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

Review:

2018 was my big year of thrillers, mysteries, and horror, and I’m happy to report I didn’t read one book that I disliked. Amazing, I know. Still, out of all those books that I did read, An Anonymous Girl stood out, because, frankly, it made my brain hurt.

I cannot be the only one who reads mysteries and thrillers and shouts out every new accusation that pops into my mind, right? Good, because I did a lot of yelling during An Anonymous Girl. It was one twist after another, but with great hindsight, the twists were always there, I just chose to ignore the truth laid out in front of me. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen take you by the hand and lead you down a path, showing you the sights, giving you hints, until you’re ready to declare that you know everything. Then they shove you violently off that path and you’re left in the dark, wondering how you didn’t see this coming. They gave you all the clues, remember?

I quickly fell into Jess. She’s a hardworking twentysomething with bills to pay and a family that needs her help. When she stumbles – sort of – across an opportunity to make a little extra cash, she jumps on it. When that opportunity turns into something more, with a promise of a bigger payout, of course Jess is going to take it. It’s such a simple thing – running a few errands, answering some questions, making a few questionable moves – that it seems almost too good to be true.

And what’s that saying about something that’s too good to be true?

Jess ends up tangled in a world of lies and deceit, and she has no idea who to trust. She wants to continue working with Dr. Shields because the money is fantastic and it’s not like Dr. Shields is asking her to hurt anyone. Or, at least, that’s what Jess believe for awhile. Even when Jess meets Noah, she believes that she’ll be able to continue working for Dr. Shields and maybe cultivate a relationship with the cute boy from the bar. Of course, she’s going to have to tell him her real name for that to happen.

What’s even worse is that the reader is pulling into this tangle, too, and so trusting any of the characters you come across seems like a bad idea. And yet. Jess only wants to make some money so that her parents don’t have to take on the heavy load of caring – and paying exclusively – for their disabled daughter. Dr. Shields seems like she’s trying to do good in this world by setting firm boundaries regarding morals. Thomas, her estranged husband, although introduced badly, appears to be trying to make a better life with his wife. In reality, none of them are doing a bit of good, and there are some points in the story where none of them seem to care about the damage that they’re inflicting on the ones that they supposedly love.

Let’s be honest here, though: Noah is the only one of the bunch that deserves all of our praise.

Everyone in this world of An Anonymous Girl is dangerous and looking for the upper hand. Jess appears to be caught in the middle of the strangest, most dangerous tug-of-war in history, but that’s what I love most about her: she might just end up with the entire rope.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Ahhh, 2019. Here you are. You started out a little rough, but nothing we can’t handle. Besides, there are too many good books coming out this year for you to be terrible. The Gilded Wolves is one of those and such a start to the new year.

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Title: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) {464 pages}

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Summary:

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Review:

First off, go back up the page and take another look at that cover. Is that not the most gorgeous cover you’ve ever seen? I passed it on NetGalley, took a second look, took a third look, then finally checked out the summary. I had already been in just by the cover, and the summary pushed me over the edge.

Now, come on back down and we’ll jump right into the meat of the book.

Séverin, a young man hellbent on revenge against the Order of Babel. Enrique, his historian who wants to finally be home. Zofia, an engineer with a heart of steel, or at least that’s what she wants everyone to think. Laila, the kind of dancer that can bring men to their knees. Tristan, Séverin’s adoptive brother who wants nothing more than for his friends to be family. These are our gilded wolves, the kids who run the streets from behind the scenes. When they connect with Hypnos, the heir to House Nix, all hell breaks loose, but that’s the only kind of life that these wolves know.

I’m a sucker for fantasies, no matter how many times I’ve told myself I was going to stay away from them, and any fantasy set in France {or a French-like atmosphere, let’s be honest here} is a for sure in my book. The Gilded Wolves is so much more than a sumptuously told story in a beautiful locale, but imagining these gorgeous characters slinking through the shadows of France is too good to pass up.

Let’s get this out of the way, first: Séverin and Leila. Wooooo. {Imagine me fanning my face with a feather fan.} Whenever those two were in the same room together, I was honestly surprised that Roshani Chokshi’s next sentence wasn’t, And then the room burst into flames by the pure sexual tension pouring from these two. Like, for reals. There were times when I felt like I should ask if I should leave the room, because they were obviously so in love and they both knew they couldn’t do anything about it.

Oh, the stubbornness of former heirs and present dancers.

Enrique, Tristan, and Hypos were all fine boys. Sweet and cunning and smooth and severely extroverted, the three of them ran the gamut of characteristics. But we’re not here in this paragraph to talk about them. No way, we’re here to talk about the wolf of my heart: Zofia. The small girl whose inventions were breathtakingly original, whose life was hanging by a string held by her beloved sister, whose social skills were the same as a loose nail sticking up from a stair. She kept the wolves safe, but the real joy was watching her trying to interact with her friends, or the people that kept calling themselves her friends. She seemed to have no idea of camaraderie, because she only had her sister in her life, and even that relationship was upside down. Zofia was not so much a sister as a mother trying to keep her sister afloat and happy. But, oh, Zofia, how I love you. You made me smile and laugh by just being you, and I’m waiting patiently for The Gilded Wolves 1.5: All About Zofia.

Characters aside, the story surrounding these wolves was stressful and thrilling. Roshani Chokshi weaves the kind of tale that comes to life before your eyes, and you can practically smell the smoky dancing hall and taste Laila’s delicious desserts. With just a few words, Chokshi manages to wrap the wolves’ troubles around you, squeezing tighter and tighter until you feel like these are your problems now. She keeps the twists coming, all the way until the very end. By the time I reached the end of this novel, I was spent, torn between so many different emotions that I honestly sat there for five minutes trying to get my brain back together.

Yeah, The Gilded Wolves is that good.