Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release: February 1st
Author: Renee Shafransky
Received: Kindle First
I received a copy of Tips for Living from the Kindle First Program. There’s no obligation for me to leave a review, but I am choosing to do so.
I was intrigued about Tips for Living for multiple reasons; for one thing I’ve always been a fan of psychological thrillers (though sometimes I do find them to be a bit hit or miss). The other draw is that Renee Shafransky actually has a psychology degree to boast about. Naturally I got excited about this revelation. Can you imagine reading a psychological thriller written by somebody that actually gets the core reasoning for the way people act and react? I was thrilled (no pun intended).
It’s worth noting that this is Sharfransky’s first dip into the novel writing world, though she seems pretty accomplished outside of that (seriously, take a look at her Goodreads bio, it’s impressive). I usually try to give a bit of leeway to debut authors – they’re still trying to find their groove.
One last note before I start – the cover and title are a bit odd for me. When I was first looking at the Kindle First selections, I actually thought this was a self-help book. It certainly looks like one. It’s cute and cheerful with a helpful sounding title. Not something I’d expect from a thriller at all. To be honest, if it hadn’t said “psychological thriller” in bold letters right below the book, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to read the description. So perhaps some rebranding is in order?
Tips for Living has been getting raving reviews on Goodreads, so I feel a bit bad being the one to go against the crowd. I just couldn’t sink my teeth into this one, despite desperately hoping to do just that. The writing itself was clear and concise – I have no complaints about the style or anything technical like that. It just never connected with me, leaving me to pick up on all the little things that typically bother me when reading a thriller.
It’s kind of ironic that the main character (Nora) suffered from a sleeping disorder, as not only did she read as tired (obviously) but the plot did a little bit too. It felt like every twist and turn had been done already, and I never truly felt concerned for any of the characters either. It’s a shame really, as the author is clearly a talented person. I think if there had been less tropes in this novel I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
I think my biggest complaint is that despite the pain that Nora was in (which was completely legitimate and did a decent job of making her seem more human), everything else seemed to come pretty easy in this novel. The evidence, the saving, it all came out of the blue at the perfect time to keep the book going (or to end it properly). It didn’t have teeth, which is odd, since that’s what I typically look for in a thriller – I want to be swept up, conflicted and concerned, anxiously waiting for the next big revelation. I didn’t get that here, unfortunately.
While I’m disappointed I didn’t like this novel as much as I would have liked, I am happy to see somebody with Shafransky’s background diving into the writing world. I would love to see what she comes up with next, as I think with some time and thought she could come up with something truly outstanding.