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I really loved this <b>4.5 Star</b> thriller!! In the beginning I thought it would be a fun <i>caper</i> type of thriller, maybe along the lines of <i>Oceans 11</i> or the true story of those people who hung out with the Hollywood starlets and robbed them, but as the characters were further developed, is became more than that.
<b>SUMMARY</b> Nina and Lachlan are literally partners in crime. They have a well organized system which includes choosing a very specific <i>mark</i>, using Nina as bait and Lachlan picks up the <i>inventory</i> at a later date. Things were going along fine until the police begin poking around, forcing Nina and Lachlan to lay low. They decide to leave LA for a couple months until the police lost interest and moved on to the next case. When they are deciding where to lay low, Nina remembers a huge antique filled mansion on Lake Tahoe she had visited as a child. Should that be their next target? What could possibly go wrong???
I'm trying to be vague because this book is much more fun to read if you don't know a lot about the plot. Unfortunately, my vagueness is not doing the story justice but, trust me, this is a FUN book to read!!!
<b>WHAT I LOVED</b> The twists were what made the book!!! So many times I thought I had an idea where the plot was headed and it would change. I always liked the change more than the story like I was napping out in my head.
I LOVED the characters!! As soon as I would think I've figured out a character, a new side to them is revealed. Literally down to the very end. Although several of the characters were professional criminals, they were still likeable, not just black and white. Even the ones I thought I was going to not like at all had some redeeming qualities. Toward the end, some of the characters began to evolve into better people, at least better than I thought they were going to be, and some of them turned out much worse than I imagined.
I really loved the plot. It was never boring and not what I was expecting from the first chapter. There are several chapters which revisit Nina's past and explain her connection to the Tahoe mansion. Through these chapters we learn about Nina, who she is and her motivations.
The story is told from two points of view, Nina and the owner of the Lake Tahoe mansion, Vanessa. It was such a great way to tell the story because their points of view were so very different. I loved hearing their takes of the same events and their opinions of each other.
In addition to the plot, this book is a warning story about how impressions, even long held, firmly established impressions, of a person or situation can be wrong and harmful. It also talks about accepting blame for ones own mistakes and owning one's choices.
I loved the Lake Tahoe setting. I've visited Lake Tahoe once and always thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the US. Now, I want to go back again!!
<b>WHAT I DIDN'T LOVE</b> There wasn't a lot to not love. Although I really cannot think of any specific things I didn't like but I cannot give it my rare 5 Star rating. To be a five star for me, a book has to be very special. It must be unique, make me see some aspect of the world or myself differently, it must have no plot holes and it must stand the test of time- to be as relevant in ten years, fifty years or one hundred years as it is today. I really love this book, but in my opinion, it does not quite meet that criteria.
<b>OVERALL</b> If you're looking for a book that will keep you entertained, make you feel like you've been on a trip to Lake Tahoe and distract you from the annoyances in your life, I highly recommend reading this book! It's way better than suspenseful thriller needs to be!
Nina is a con artist with extraordinary talent. She learned from the best. As in her mother. Now, her mother is sick and Nina needs to step up and take care of her mom’s very expensive medical treatment. She has a surefire plan. This is Janelle Brown’s novel PRETTY THINGS. Vanessa, a wealthy young woman who once shunned Nina, now an Insta influencer, spends her time online surrounded by others just like her who post about their fabulousness draped in trendy jewelry, expensive clothes, and living a life most of which doesn’t even belong to them, all with a smile plastered on their faces alongside hashtags to set the tone that all is well in their world when it is just phony smoke and mirrors.
These two will meet and Vanessa won’t know how to separate virtual from reality. The thrill is real.
Nina Ross is an enigma of a woman. Using her exotic good looks, she seduces the filthy rich and vanishes into the night before they, too drunk and helpless, realize they’ve been robbed. Her life is a blur of one con after the other, until she sees the opportunity of a lifetime by stealing everything from a social media star whose family deprived Nina of better opportunities.
Pretty Things is an unsettling yarn about the undisclosed perks and pitfalls of social media. It is also a character study of sorts on cons, the lives of the rich, the destruction of a family, and mental illness. The novel starts with a bang, but as it moves forward, once the thieves set their trap, the pace slows to a crawl, and hence lies the main problem with this narrative, for it is much too slow for most of the book—too slow for its own sake.
I liked the characters in this novel. They resided in a too-flawed-yet-capable-of- redemption grey area. Take Vanessa, for example. She was pretty and rich, yet so vain and lost in life... One never knew for sure whether she was the cat, the mouse, or an unreliable narrator altogether. That made for an entertaining and interesting change in a story that could have been easily black and white. The same was true with Nina Ross. Was she a victim, a willing accomplice, or a mixture of both? Did she have a bit of goody-goody Ashley in her, or was her con true because that’s who she really was? Part of the journey is reading the novel to find out.
Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
My Thoughts: Pretty Things is a story about dreams, identity, and the fears that drive our journey. How Vanessa and Nina originally connect is at the heart of the story. Nina was a young girl exploring love and searching for her place in the world and struggling to separate from her con artist mom. That girl is tossed aside by the Leibling family, which fuels her rage and her resentments.
Vanessa, feeling unloved unless she is the star of her own dream world, creates fantasies and then believes they are her reality. But disappointments, loss, and rage lead her to seek revenge against Nina.
Nina and Vanessa’s stories are told in alternate sections, and as we begin to really know them, we think we have a handle on what they will do next. But there are just enough twists that we are not sure if we are being conned, or if we might trust the picture they are painting for us.
Throughout the journey, I felt empathy for each of them at different times, but never lost track of the damages at the heart of them. A core of vulnerability, mixed with the hardness created by time and numerous life injuries, made them intriguing…and potentially dangerous. Could either woman redeem herself? I kept reading, hoping to find out. 4.5 stars.
I am wavering between a 3 and a 4, but am ultimately going with the 4. I don’t usually love this type of book, and am often turned off by modern touches, like Instagram fame. At 70% in, I almost stopped reading. It hit that wall that many books in this genre hit. A little too formulaic and cliched. But something made me stick with it, and I’m glad that I did.
Her writing is solid. It took me a bit to get into the storyline. But once I got sucked it, I was hooked. She retold scenes from the viewpoint of several characters. At times, this became redundant, and I felt it could have been done better. But who am I to say?
If you like books with twists and turns, I would give this one a try. I look forward to watching for new releases by this author.
'Nothing is ever as pure as it seems at first glance; there is always something more complicated to be found if you peel back the unmarred surface of pretty things.'
After reading such mixed reviews from my fellow reviewers, I honestly wasn't sure what to think prior to diving into Pretty Things. Some of my friends loved it, others weren't fans. To begin with, I wasn't a fan either. This book was a slow-burner and it took me awhile to warm up to everything--the characters, the plot, the setting...so much so, I seriously thought about temporarily shelving it and starting another novel.
...but then the magic started...
The writing was beautiful, and I quite loved how the book was blocked into multiple-chapter sections of Nina's narratives, followed by those of Vanessa. I relished the way the story slowly unfolded, but from two very different perspectives. While at times the chapters seemed a bit repetitive, and the long flashback sequences were sometimes too much, I was, nevertheless, hooked.
This was my first Janelle Brown novel, and I was impressed by her tightly woven and well-placed themes--those of poverty, privilege, and mental illness. They seamlessly tied everything together and upped the amperage on the mystery at the heart of the story.
The conclusion, while fairly predictable, was immensely satisfying.
Overall, a fiendishly clever novel. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Brown's work.
The world of con artists is fascinating to me, and this book did not disappoint. The author gives enough detail for us to learn how Nina and her boyfriend Lachlan pull off their cons, focusing more on Nina and her backstory, allowing us to get attached to her as a character and not see her as a criminal. Most con artists feel they ‘deserve’ it, and this becomes a key theme when Nina gets into trouble and is desperate to get the next big take so she can finally end this lifestyle once and for all.
Vanessa is an heiress who has it all, everything at her fingertips, and as one does, decides to become an Instagram influencer. It appears outwardly that she has the best life, but little does everyone know, that is not the case. Her family has quite the mountain of secrets, and they have managed to keep them fairly well hidden all of these years. She has set off to her family’s estate, Stonehaven, on the shores of Lake Tahoe to deal with a broken engagement, and is losing a lot of her followers.
Stonehaven is where the three characters connect paths, and the book really picks up the pace. There are lies, deceptions, and twists galore. Some I never saw coming, some I did. Overall, I was thoroughly entertained and could not wait to find out what would happen and figure out how this could possibly end. I loved how there were some good lessons in here, the main one being that things are most definitely not always how we think they seem.
I really enjoyed this book, it was my first read by this author, it will not be my last.
A clever psychological story about greed and lies and how they shape your life. Whether you are the rich living in the mansion on the hill or a struggling family longing for what the people in the mansion have this book explores the consequences that come from wanting what others have so badly. With a small cast of characters the story weaves and bobs using the characters ' depth and circumstances to shape the story. With a few surprising twists the book is entertaining and an exciting read.
I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns that Pretty Things contained.
Nina and Lachlan aren't especially nice people. They swindle the ultra-rich out of their treasures. Nina feels forced to continue her high-stakes swindles since her mother's cancer has reappeared and her only hope is some experimental treatment and they have no insurance.
As the reader is taken back to Nina's childhood, and finds out about her dysfunctional mother, we find out about a relationship she had with Benny, in Lake Tahoe when she was a teen. Benny comes from a well-known rich family and when his father finds them in a compromising situation, he kicks her and her mother out of town.
There is more to the situation, but I don't want to give away too much. Lachlan and Nina decide to swindle Bennie's sister, Vanessa, who is a famous Instagram influencer now living at the family's old estate in Lake Tahoe. Things don't go as planned and the wheels come off. I don't want to say too much more.
The writing is interesting as we get the perspective of all three main characters and learn about their histories.
I love the characters, but with that said there is a lot of character development and setup before anything really happens. But that's probably why I love them. And I had to know what happens. And I never could have guessed all that happens. Which is also a good thing.
After "the marriage" (I don't want to be too specific) things really got interesting, secrets were revealed, the pace picked up, and I had a hard time putting Pretty Things down. And when I did, I was thinking about it.
Pretty Things was a win for me. If you like a twisty book about con games that go all different directions, and if you can be a little patient, you will certainly enjoy this one.