Book Review: Careful What You Wish For

Go ahead and judge, it won’t bite

I admit it: the only reason I read this book was because I judged it by its cover. The old adage makes this sound like something bad to do, but it’s 2019; publishers have teams of people running through cover art and text styles for a reason: they’re trying to set a visual mood for what you’re about to read. And as such, you should feel free to judge a book by its cover, I mean, that’s what it’s there for.

I was browsing a list of available eBooks, looking for anything that called my name and Careful What You Wish For (by Hallie Ephron) did just that. Its black cover features large white text over a house beneath a night sky. There’s the silhouette of a person standing in a lit window. It states “A novel of suspense” above the title. Coming off a summer streak of Agatha Christie novels, this one seemed right up my alley.

So was it up my alley after all? Well, it began slow, and had a few eye roll moments, not uncommon in chick lit. If it hadn’t explicitly claimed itself as a “novel of suspense” I would never have guessed that’s what it was. The tension took a long time to build; I found myself expecting to be taken aback at any moment (because of that darn suspense claim) and it just never really came. Sure, there were a few cliffhangers and Hallie gave us all the pieces to the puzzle but I never felt genuinely enthralled and wondering what was gonna happen next, which in my opinion is the definition of “suspense.” I’d classify it as mystery and call it a day. Maybe if it was written in first person the suspense would have been more palpable but it was a bit lost on me, personally.

There was one thing about this book I will never forget, though, and that is the line, “He poured himself an inch of whiskey.” I thought, that is really cool: whiskey is served in a clear glass so an “inch” of whiskey is a great visualization. But this phrase turned up not once but 3 times. I believe the second time someone poured an inch of milk into their bowl of cereal, which I thought was weird. But the real kicker was when they poured an inch of milk into their COFFEE. Nobody can see an inch of milk sitting in a mug filled with dark coffee. There is no nice visualization going on there. Why the person didn’t just pour a splash is beyond me.

The other big annoyance came when a 30-something year old woman’s husband went missing and the cops show up at her place. Her reaction to seeing police is “uh-oh.” I don’t know if it’s just me but I don’t know a single person who says “uh-oh.” My son said “uh-oh” when he was learning to speak but the kid is 4 now and not even he says that anymore. I don’t know, just one of those things that made me roll my eyes and then some. No lie, I was saying uh-oh out loud in different ways just to hear how natural it sounded, and spoiler alert: it didn’t. Though I can appreciate its use for dramatic effect. Oh yeah, one more thing: a few people gave casual salutes, too. That’s also real natural (not).

So overall do I recommend this book? It depends, if you’re looking for a quick beach read you don’t have to think hard about and don’t have to pay attention, then sure this book is fine. But if you’re looking for substance, run don’t walk away from this one. I give it a 3/5 stars on the Goodreads scale. I enjoyed how all the pieces tied together because at first I couldn’t quite see the dots connecting so I appreciated that much and give that credit to the author. I save 4 star ratings for books I thoroughly enjoy and 2 stars are books that are readable but not great and this one sits right in between. So excuse me while I grab an inch of wine and uh-oh–I hope that’s not the cops at my door!

Originally posted September 25, 2019

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