The It Girl by Ruth Ware #mystery and Upgrade by Blake Crouch #scify #thriler || #bookreviews

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “claustrophobic spine-tingler” (PeopleOne by One returns with an unputdownable mystery following a woman on the search for answers a decade after her friend’s murder.

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

“The Agatha Christie of our generation” (David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author) proves once again that she is “as ingenious and indefatigable as the Queen of Crime” (The Washington Post) with this propulsive murder mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

The It Girl by Ruth Ware is a compelling story about a campus It Girl and her murder ten years ago. After the man imprisoned for her murder dies of natural causes in jail, doubt is cast about his guilt. Her college roommate and best friend, Hannah, feels like she must figure out who did it once and for all.

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

My initial expectations are based mainly on the reputation of this author’s works. I’ve never had an opportunity to read a book by Ruth Ware, and I’ve very much wanted to do so. I like the cover, but it doesn’t seem to give much away about the story. It reminds me of how things look when seen from a moving car. The blurb mentions Oxford, which is always a great setting for me. The murder is an old case from the main character’s college years, which intrigues me, as does the deceased’s personality. It’s always the outgoing, vivacious ones that get murdered, isn’t it? I’m expecting an exciting mystery about the murder of a popular girl from all of this.

Actual Reading Experience:

The aspect of this novel that I absolutely loved the most is the locked room mystery. I adore a good, locked-room mystery, and this one is excellent. I never suspected the person until right before the reveal, and the reason was the last thing I would have ever guessed. I enjoyed that the murderer didn’t reveal the why too. It seems small, but it frequently happens, so when the murderer refuses to divulge why I wanted to applaud. Let’s face it, we all think that would never happen in real life – only in Scooby-Doo and Agatha Christie novels. Of course, someone who knew more about the murder’s secrets reveals the reason, so the reader gets the satisfaction of the story coming together at the end.

The fact that the book is a slow burn and over 400 pages was a mixed bag for me. As a rule, slow burns are not my favorite. This one, however, is told in a dual timeline. I enjoyed the story from the past, so I easily remained focused during those chapters. The present timeline wasn’t nearly as compelling for me. As it dragged on, I did find my attention span wandering as it often does during slow-burn stories. I would have loved that specific part of the story to be streamlined by about 50-100 pages. But that’s just me. As I often mention, I have the attention span of a gnat, so it’s much harder for a story to hold my attention than it is for it to not.

What It Reminds Me Of:

It’s reminiscent of In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead, which came out last year.

To Read or Not to Read:

If you love slow burn or locked room mysteries, The It Girl is just the mystery you are looking for.

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

“You are the next step in human evolution.”

At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep.

But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.

The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy.

Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.

Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human.

And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?

Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Upgrade by Blake Crouch is an action-packed thriller about a secretly started Genetics War on humanity. Suppose people are made more intelligent, stronger, and faster. Does that mean they will make better decisions on a global scale, or do the forces behind the human upgrade have it all wrong?

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

The cover looks science-like, and the blurb on the back of the book confirms that the story is a sci-fi thriller. I love the premise. I find genetics endlessly fascinating, and it seems like the story will be about upgrading humans on a genetic level.

Actual Reading Experience:

I loved the premise mostly because I love studying genetics and believe that messing with nature always has unintended consequences ranging from mildly undesirable to catastrophic. So, you can see where a story like this would immediately draw me in. And it definitely did – even when the narration became so technical that it went in one ear and out the other (metaphorically speaking). That just added to the authenticity, which in turn added to the scariness of the story.

The pacing was a bit discombobulating for me. It alternated from fast-paced, violent action scenes to almost overwritten in-between periods to a highly technical discussion on genetics. So, sometimes the pages just flew, and other times I got bored with the inaction. Then, I would hit the technical parts. My reading dramatically slowed as I tried to use my most basic genetic knowledge (gleaned from a college class on genetics many moons ago) to grasp what I was being told.

However, I found that the family dynamics/story grabbed my attention even more than the gene manipulation story. The family story is more reflective of the human condition. However, the Gene War tale provided an excellent foil that better shined the spotlight on the missing part of the Upgrade plan.

To Read or Not to Read:

Overall, I found this book endlessly fascinating to read and contemplate. I don’t know that I agreed with the main character’s conclusion, but it gave me a lot of food for thought about my actual opinions.

24 Replies to “The It Girl by Ruth Ware #mystery and Upgrade by Blake Crouch #scify #thriler || #bookreviews”

    1. The characters are so well developed that it’s the better of all the slow burn mysteries but it’s very long, so that can make the slowness feel even slower. Such a mixed bag!


  1. I finished Upgrade yesterday – Crouch never disappoints me. I agree with you about lots of technical details way above my pay grade, but I also think this would spark some fascinating conversations in a book club. Fascinating concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With Past and Present timelines I often find myself enjoying past more than present. This sounds intriguing but slow pace and long book with mystery can be frustrating at the same time. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting reviews! I was disappointed by Upgrade, the technical bits were off-putting and the pacing weird. Not sure about The It Girl, I have read one of Ware’s before and wasn’t keen, I have another of hers on my shelf to give her a second chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you like slow burn, you will enjoy The It Girl. It’s a well crafted mystery. And I agree about the Crouch book. The pacing was all over the place.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Both of these are wonderful reviews. I love how you break it down and say exactly what you liked and didn’t like about these books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Both excellent reviews, Tessa. Ruth Ware has been hit of miss for me but I do like what she does with a locked room mystery. I am hoping to read it eventually. Blake Crouch is a bit too Scifi for me. I read one and although I liked it, it didn’t captivate me. I may try Upgrade as it sounds like there is more to it than the science stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crouch seems to be very knowledgeable about genetics- more then my poor brain can handle but this story also has an interesting family story within it that is compelling.

      Liked by 1 person

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