Beautiful Bad

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

So many books recently have been trying to be "the next Gone Girl". This one comes close. A murder mystery told in 3  voices -- Ian -- the husband, Maddie- the wife, and the detective who responds to a 911 call that hints that something terrible is happening in a home and a child (and others) is in danger.

The story is revealed in a series of chapters alternating voices and time periods, so the narrative is sometimes a bit confusing, but the format is perfect in that it keeps the reader guessing about what is actually happening and who is actually telling the truth. I put some pieces together, but still was quite shocked by the actual outcome. I could not put this book down despite the fact that I didn't really like any of the main characters! A great psychological thriller that will keep you turning pages.
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This dark and bizarre thriller tells the story of Maddie and Joanna, young friends living and working  in the Balkans during the 90's. Joanna meets and befriends a British bodyguard, Ian, but the second he and Maddie lay eyes on each other, sparks fly. Joanna is violently opposed to Maddie having anything to do with Ian, but won't tell her why. What follows is years and years of this weird love/not love triangle causing problems for all three of them. 

I have mixed feelings about this book. At first, I was captivated. The author and I must be about the same age, and her early descriptions of Maddie's adventures overseas reminded me of my own live-abroad experiences in my 20's. I think maybe my issue with this book is the editing. Certain sections just flew by, only to be followed by a string of chapters that dragged so much I almost quit several times. I am glad I plugged on, though. The conclusion really was a surprise on several different levels. The opening scene is great, and the ending (the hardest part of a book to get right!) is very well done. It's the middle part--Maddie and Ian's back and forth, that I felt could have used some oomph. 

On a side note, the author does really have a lovely, and more literary writing style than what you typically find in this genre. I don't think this cover, or the title, really convey what's inside.
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A terrible fall and a traumatic brain injury starts this story.  But before we can find out how it ends, we have to go to the beginning, the very beginning.  Maddie and Ian met in 2001 in a war-torn country.  She’s a journalist and he’s a military man.  Not a lot happens during their relationship (can we call it that?) but they fall in love.  They part ways for 9 years (this part didn’t make a lot of sense) and then met up again and are glued to each other.  Their relationship spends the next 7 years alternating between always together and him away doing private security things.  I understand her resentment at being left in small town Kansas to be a single mom while he galivants (her view) around the world.  Ian suffers from PTSD and has lost his marbles a little bit.  He wants to take his wife and son away to a safe spot and hide from all the bad things in the world.  Maddie just wants to experience everything life has to offer.
The story is told from different points of view, mostly Maddie’s but sometimes Ian’s.  I did enjoy this but I found that the story moved a little too slow sometimes.  I rushed through it to get to the why.  We know the what going in but why did their story end that way.  I’ll let you find out on your own.
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward had great twists and the story was woven together nicely. Maddie, an American, and Ian, a Brit, bump into each other constantly overseas through a mutual friend. Their relationship grows and dwindles in the next 16 years, ultimately culminating in a horrific death.
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I know this is very weird ( and a bit morbid ), but nothing grabs my attention faster than a 911 recording. Whether in a documentary, Podcast or book ; I am immediately hooked. The panic of the caller, the operator struggling to remain calm but urgently needing info from the caller in order to help; there are few better ways to start a story and capture the attention of an audience. For this reason I was enthralled with Beautiful Bad by page three. Intense and filled with anxiety, Beautiful Bad will stick with readers long after they have finished reading. 

While visiting her best friend Jo in Macedonia, Maddie meets Ian. At the time Maddie is a teacher and Ian, a Soldier in the British Army working for the British Ambassador. There is an immediate attraction but also a few obstacles. A few years past before Maddie and Ian become an official couple and later marry. They settle in Kansas, Maddie’s home state, where she gives birth to a son, Charlie. Events which occurred while Maddie and Ian were apart have had a huge impact on Ian. He is not the same person she met years ago in Macedonia. Maddie notices the changes, but is convinced she can help him get back to the man she once knew. When she finally realizes just how damaged Ian has become, it is far too late to walk away. 

Much of Beautiful Bad deals with the long terms effects of trauma. Both Maddie and Ian suffered near death experiences before they got married. These close calls have left them both extremely damaged. Dividing they're lives into before and after; leaving them both altered forever. I felt an extreme amount of sympathy for them both, more so with Ian. Ward portrays PTSD as a constant and daily struggle in which the person just wants to be who they were before the trauma. While I am aware of PTSD, the way Ward portrays the disorder is especially tragic. In Beautiful Bad we meet two people who have experienced a severe loss, a loss of their former selves. Being alive but not living and enjoying life ; I can think of nothing more frustrating and heart breaking. Readers will want to reach through the book to comfort Maddie and Ian.

Maddie’s and Ian’s relationship spans sixteen years and several countries. From Macedonia, Iraq, New York City, Balkans, and Kansas; readers experience the highs and lows of the world through Maddie’s eyes. In Macedonia in 2001 tensions were high between Muslims and Christians, the world wide effects of the 9/11 attacks, followed by the war on terror in Iraq. Remembering this turbulent time through Maddie was very engrossing: in some ways this time mirrors the world’s current state.

Beautiful Bad is told mostly through Maddie’s perspective. Switching between 2001-2010 and the twelve weeks before the 911 call. Maddie’s journal entries are featured as well. Although the story skips around frequently, I was able to follow easily. Each change in timeline provided clues to Maddie and Ian stories. Readers looking for an engaging, disquieting, suspenseful, yet heart-breaking read should add Beautiful Bad to their list of must reads.


Murder and Moore Rating:
4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
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Beautiful Bad is a psychological thriller that centers around three people, Maddie, Jo and Ian. All three spend a lot of time in war torn areas of the world. Jo is Maddie’s best friend, Ian sooner or later ends up married to Maddie and they end up having a son named Charlie. The story starts with Maddie looking for a writing therapist because she has extreme anxiety issues after a fall while camping with her husband leaves her face disfigured. 

The story pulls you in as you meet the characters and try and understand their relationships. It continually goes back and forth through time but isn’t difficult to follow. The plot is well designed and in the end you will never guess what’s coming. The author definitely reached her goal for what she intended. 

I really enjoyed the majority of this book, but was left very disappointed with the ending. I believe the book is need the way the author intended but was not an ending I enjoyed. I was left feeling disappointed and disgusted at the end. If you are looking for a happy ending this is not the book for you. If you enjoy psychological thrillers that are well written and don’t mind an indifferent ending you will love this book.
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A twisted thriller with characters who aren't what they seem. Perfect for fans of The Woman in the Window or the Girl on the Train, this psychological thriller is about a mysterious accident, murder and a crumbling marriage. A page turner for sure, recommended!
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Maddie met Ian while she was a travel writer overseas visiting her friend Jo. When a camping accident leaves Maddie disfigured, it also brings up questions about what really happened and was it an accident? She is scared for her son, Charlie and herself when Ian's PTSD really starts to become evident. This is a twisted novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
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Ahhh! This psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat and rethinking everything you thought was going on. Warning- you may even get a little pissed at the characters. Traumatic brain injury, PTSD, alcoholism, obsessions and love are the catalysts for this story that I could not put down until it was finished.
Ward’s characters are realistic, interesting, humorous and scary as hell. The plot is rich with multicultural details, current events, and toddler tv shows which leads through one doozy of a twisting tale. The pit of your stomach will drop out on more than one occasion and you may even shed a tear for the victim, but you’ll not get the full picture until the end.
This full bodied novel had me transfixed, and I ran through the gamut of emotions more than once. Damn, you’ve got to read this one.
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Kept me interested from start to finish. A solid good read. As in many books, we see different points of view of a killing.  In this case, Maddie, Ian, and the police officer. Could have edited the past a little bit but all in all I would recommend this. Will keep my eye out for more from this author.
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Beautiful Bad is a psychological thriller with a sense of suspense.  Right from the beginning you know that someone dies, but you don’t know who or what has happened.  From there we follow 3 timelines: Maddie and Ian’s story over the years before the killing, Maddie’s point of view and sessions with a therapist the months/weeks before the killing, and Diane, a police officer’s, point of view after the call to 911 was made on the day of the killing.  It is definitely a book that keeps you wondering and thinking throughout with some surprises along the way.  The “present day” timeline really captured me, but honestly I thought some of the timeline about the past was a little longer than I would have liked.  I did predict the main twist in the story, though there were other parts that managed to surprise me.  I never really found that I loved any of the characters in the story, and by the end there were definitly ones that I hated - I think this is part of the reason that I didn’t like the book more.

I received a free ARC copy of this book through NetGalley, but my review is voluntary and not influenced by that.
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I'm conflicted with this one. First half I disliked, second half I loved!  I found that about 50% of the book dragged on. I know the author was building the story and creating a slower reveal to lead to the dramatic ending, but I found it slow and it lost my interest quite a bit. BUT, having said that, the last half was thrilling, entertaining and had me flying through the pages, to the point where I couldn't put it down. So, like I said, conflicting. The writing was great, the pacing not so much. I had a love/hate relationship with ALL of the characters... Except for Charlie. Each character both irritated me and charmed me. The main twist I put together pretty quickly, but it still made for an entertaining reveal.
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Maddie and Joanna are best friends ever since they met in a summer program in Spain.  They both end up in Eastern Europe during a time of  civil unrest.  They are both employed in different positions in neighboring countries.  They visit each other.  They both meet Ian who is Joanna’s love interest at that time.  However they break up.  When Maddie expresses a romantic interest in Ian.  Joanna says no — stay away from him.  Why?  Maddie ends up going back to the United States.  Eventually Joanna and Maddie have a “falling out.”  PTSD Ian and Maddie do get married and have a son.  When they go camping Maddie falls and ends up going to the emergence room as the cut she has needs stitches.  She is asked if Ian did this to her.  She says no but they don’t believe her.  Maddie becomes afraid of Ian due to his paranoia and anger.  

The author opens the novel with a 911 phone call that abruptly ends. The story is told by alternating Maddie’s past and present.  The author doesn’t tell us what has prompted the 911 phone call until the latter part of the novel..  While  reading the novel following the twists and turns ofthe plot, I was kept in suspense wondering who and/or what happened to cause a murder.  The ending was not what I expected.  It was definitely a surprise for me.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Annie Ward for allowing me to read and review Beautiful Bad. I really enjoyed this novel and I'll be recommending it.
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My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A uniquely twisted thriller with characters who are not always as they seem.

BEAUTIFUL BAD is a smart and well-plotted psychological thriller showing the duality of human nature and of all the personalities involved. Ward explores the intricacies of who a person is and what makes them become who they are.

Let’s be honest. There is not much in the psychological thriller genre that has not been done before. Many times, I can see the ending long before I read it. However, for me, it is how the author uses the tropes and their particular story which keeps me reading. Ward expertly gave me characters and a tale I wanted to learn more about.

Living in the past and the present with Maddie, Ian, and Jo was addictive. Their lives were not only complicated by circumstances and careers, but also by their emotions and bonds with each other. If that isn’t enough to make the reader keep flipping, you add to that the twists, turns, and duplicity carefully placed within these pages all leading to that ending! I was spellbound by it all.

I cannot wait to read what Annie Ward gives us next. I hope it is just as dark and twisty as BEAUTIFUL BAD!!!
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Park Row and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Beautiful Bad.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Beautiful Bad is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, Maddie, who has suffered a head injury in a terrible accident and is trying to puzzle out what happened.  As she is reflecting on her past, especially regarding the relationships between herself, her husband Ian, and her former best friend Joanna, readers are given an insider's view to Maddie's psyche.  The problem is that the author takes too long to get to the heart of the story and then does not give enough background information to make the novel complete.  Maddie and Ian's conjoined plot line is really just thrown together, as the progression of their relationship in its early days is put out there without much explanation.  There are a few twists that are unexpected, but they did not make sense within the context of the novel.  Beautiful Bad kind of reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode, where the story moves along until a quick ending wraps everything up neatly.

Beautiful Bad had a lot of potential, with a good foundation for a psychological thriller, but the author just did not take it far enough.  Even unreliable narrators have to be likable and I could not form any kind of emotional connection to Maddie.  It was a good, quick read, but ultimately Beautiful Bad was a missed opportunity by the author to give readers a thrilling novel.
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Beautiful Bad had all the makings of the tense domestic thrillers I typically love. I'm fond of the alternating timelines and Annie Ward is a beautiful writer. 

I was captivated from the early pages but then the novel and the plot lost me as it descended into a war-torn story spanning across a decade between a pairing that never had any good reason to be so in love with one another. I mean why was Ian so infatuated by Maddie?

 I understand the idea of "love at first sight" but we were given so little to go off of. I was so confused by several parts of the novel that depended me to believe on the emotional connection between the two because their relationship always seemed shallow at best. 

Then the story simply dragged on for hundreds of pages without adding to the actual mystery. Large swathes of the writing and scenes could have been trimmed down or cut out altogether in favor of scenes that would have built on the relationship in a more realistic way. 

Needless to say, I got bored and Beautiful Bad ultimately failed to leave an impression.
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Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward

Short Take: A twisty domestic thriller that happens all over the world.

(*Note: I received an advance copy of this book for review.*)

Y’all, I have been STRUGGLING the last few weeks. First I got hit with a gnarly flu, and then my old, out-of-shape nerdly body decided to up the ante with a bronchitis/pneumonia combo. The absolute last freakin thing I needed was something to take my breath away, but welp, the universe had other plans.

Upon meeting Maddie and Ian, the couple at the center of Beautiful Bad, I figured I was in for a cozy little domestic thriller. You know, where Something Terrible is happening, and one half of the couple is doing the terrible thing, and the other half can’t get anyone to believe them, or maybe isn’t sure the thing is happening at all.

And in a way, I got that cookie-cutter tale. Maddie and Ian have a lovely Pottery Barn kind of life, upper middle class in Kansas City, blessed with a lovely three year old son (Charlie) and her supportive parents living nearby. Ian’s lucrative work in security takes him all over the world, allowing Maddie to focus all of her time and attention on Charlie. But of course, Things Are Not What They Appear. Maddie has been badly injured in a camping accident, but was it really an accident? As she begins exploring her memories of that night with unconventional therapist Cami J, more and more of their history, both shared and separate comes to light, and it’s simply astounding.

Things weren’t always so calm and cozy for these two, you see. They met in the former Soviet Union, during some of the most tumultuous times in recent history, while she was working as a travel writer, and he was protecting the VIP’s from the people who were willing to die to kill them. 

Like, I want to go into detail about the incredible, gorgeous, horrifying, shocking depth and breadth of it all, but all I can do is make a PSHHHHH noise and finger-explosion gesture from the side of my head.

I blame the steroids. (side note: Prednisone is STRAIGHT EVIL.)

So even when the plot takes some cliched turns, there’s still something so exotic going on. Sure, you have the classic suburban dream world, but there’s also Bulgaria and Macedonia and Iraq and Greece and New York City. You have two people who might be just right for each other, but who never really fit into their own lives, or their own heads. Trauma and passion (and let me just add that there are some SERIOUS swoony scenes) are just the start. When a damaged person tries to be what they think someone else wants or needs, the results can be unpredictable. And volatile.

And oh yeah, the book opens with a murder, but who’s dead? And who killed them? And once all is revealed… is it really over?

The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and a nap. Because while I feel juuuuuuust strong enough to be cranky right now!)
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I have to be careful with this review, because I don't want to give ANYTHING away about this book. ;) It's the story of a woman named Maddie who falls in love with a mysterious man named Ian. Years later, someone is killed. Who is it? And who did it?

The story is told through flashbacks and alternates between memories and the day of the murder which has just occured. We slowly get clues along the way-learning more about the characters and forming our own opinions.

But can you trust those opinions? There is a big twist in the book. And then another one soon after. You won't know who to root for--or who to believe.
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I came into this novel with low expectations. I had read mixed reviews, and I am not a fan of war stories  And boy, was I ever blown away!! I absolutely loved this story. From the detailed history about the characters to the crazy twist at the end, everything about this story fell together perfectly. While none of the characters were overly likeable, their stories were engaging and interesting even to someone who isn't versed about war or foreign countries. 
This story revolves around PTSD, domestic relations, toxic friendships, war, motherhood and love. The ending is an unpredictable spin, making this a hard book to put down!
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