Wednesday, September 26, 2018

An Anonymous Girl (Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen)

Authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekannen already had a blockbuster to their names with the bestselling The Wife Between Us. They're sure to have another one with the upcoming An Anonymous Girl.

Let's face it -- psychological thrillers (especially those that build on lies) are a dime a dozen nowadays, and you can pretty much be guaranteed a hit by just putting the words "girl" or "woman" in the title. But Hendricks and Pekannen manage to create a world that's entirely different in An Anonymous Girl, and the results are deeply unsettling (in a good way).

Jessica Farris signs up for a psychological study with the mysterious Dr. Shields. The questions start off innocently enough, and Jessica can't believe she's being paid so much just for her answers. But when the questions become more intrusive and she is asked to do things she is uncomfortable with, Jessica wants out. But will Dr. Shields let her go?

I have to be honest -- as I was writing that last paragraph, An Anonymous Girl didn't sound all that scary. But it is. I think what's most effective is that Jessica and Dr. Shields alternate narration. Dr. Shields narrates in second person and passive voice, which creates a sense of even more invasion into Jessica's life. Hendricks and Pekannen have finally created something different in the psychological suspense category; I highly recommend it!


Monday, September 24, 2018

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Jaron Lanier)

Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is fitting in the era of headlines being made by and on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media companies. Lanier is a Silicon Valley pro who has spent a long time working with technology and data; and yet, he does not use social media himself. In his declaration of grievances with Twitter, Facebook and the like, he offers ten reasons why we should cut the social media tethers immediately.

Lanier compares one crux of our relationship with social media to that of an addiction -- the need to be liked, amplified, and followed by others. For some, that relationship has a reasonable balance, but for many others, it reaches an unhealthy level of dependence.  Lanier’s arguments range all over the map and dive into things that are common complaints about social media (politics, internet mobs) to the more psychological (personality based) and even philosophical (free will) tenets.

Each headline provides a legitimate source of ammo to uninstall those social media apps, but the supporting reasons are, at times, woven with political themes and biases. A few other points dive far into the technological and Silicon Valley weeds; this makes the book difficult to comprehend unless you have a pretty solid background in technology. The book is strong when Lanier lays out a six-point methodology on how social media companies can influence our behavior, often not for the better. 

This author is not the only individual to argue against social media in our current times and is not the first with a technological background to do so. While his ten arguments are strong, the supporting evidence sometimes gets a bit too deep and unwieldy to provide a definitive case that could be amplified to the masses.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Her One Mistake (Heidi Perks)

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks takes the reader on a thrilling ride and has a killer twist I didn't see coming. As books often do, it fizzles out in the last few pages with an unsatisfying ending, but I did quite enjoy getting to that point.

Harriet is an overprotective parent who would never dream of leaving her little girl, Alice, with any babysitter. Her best friend, Charlotte, persuades Harriet to let her take care of her for a few hours so Harriet can take a bookkeeping class. In Charlotte's care, Alice disappears into thin air. While Harriet, her husband, and the police desperately search for the four-year-old, Charlotte cannot let her guilt be eased, wracking her brain for where she went so terribly wrong.

The reader will never see coming what really happened to Alice; the remainder of the book follows the repercussions of the reveal. The ending of Her One Mistake did not provide the closure I was hoping for and felt rushed, but with Perks's exciting writing, you can almost forgive her for it.