Cover Image: Liar, Dreamer, Thief

Liar, Dreamer, Thief

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Member Reviews

I honestly went into this not knowing what it was about. I just loved the cover and decided to dive into it. It was giving me fantasy vibes and I don’t really read fantasy books so it was a bit of a slow start. But then it started to get interesting, Katrina was an interesting young woman. Her obsession with her co-worker Kurt was what kept me going because what in the world was I reading?! But then fantasy intertwined with mystery and thriller, all such a perfect combination. I genuinely did not see any of it coming. I was SHOCKED. I read 3/4ths of the book within a few hours because I couldn’t not know what was going to happen next. The book touches a bit on mental health because clearly Katrina struggles mentally, but at the same time - she’s so smart. Much smarter than other people think she is. Loved this. 10/10 recommend.

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Really not connecting with this writing for some reason. Maybe I’m giving up too soon, but it’s super hard to follow in a way that’s confusing and frustrating, not fun. The premise sounds incredible, but I’ve read the first 20 pages three separate times now and I don’t feel gripped or interested. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the future but setting it aside for now!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy in exchange for a review!

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The story was good but the protagonist was deeply unlikeable and you had no choice but to stay with her until the end. The mystery aspect seemed secondary

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Kirkus Reviews calls this “a fever dream of a book,” which is pretty accurate. I first heard about it via the short speculative fiction community, since I've seen Maria Dong's stories floating around. The conceit is that Katrina Kim is 24 and has many problems: she's struggling to pay the bills, works a dead-end job, and is struggling with her mental health. She sees and hears things that aren't there, and these visions are telling her that a random coworker she has named Kurt is suspicious in some way. Katarina felt very real to me while reading, and I was impressed at how Dong managed to pull off a happy ending.

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Wonderful debut novel. Excellent character development and an original plot. Wanted it to go on and on!

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Katrina lives in a wild fantasy world. She is crazy obsessed with some guy from work. His ultimate suicide he blames on her throwing her further into her fantasy world

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Thank you for the advanced copy of this book! I will be posting my review on social media, to include Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram!

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Liar, Dreamer, Thief by Maria Dong is a novel that blurs the distinctions between right and wrong, comedy and tragedy, and reality and imagination. It tells the story of Katrina Kim, a young woman who is struggling with mental health issues, and her interactions with Kurt, a man who seems to be the epitome of everything she desires but is ultimately not what he seems.

The book is written in a way that is both entertaining and disturbing, and it often feels as though the author is trying to be cynical about mental health issues. The characters are not particularly likable, and they all seem to be driven by their own compulsions rather than any sense of morality or common decency. This makes for an uncomfortable read at times, but it also adds to the overall feeling of unease that permeates the story.

Mental health is used as a thriller element and a plot twist, which I found to be exploitation at best and deeply insensitive at worst. Overall, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is an engaging read, but it is not without its flaws.

Overall, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is an engrossing and disturbing novel that blurs the lines between reality and imagination. It is an insightful look at the way in which people can be driven by their own compulsions.

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- thank you to NetGalley and grand central publishing for the eArc!

- Katrina has a little bit of an obsession with her co-worker, Kurt, to the point where she stalks his life and follows him around. But when Kurt takes his life, his last words imply that he knew Katrina was was stalking him, and that he stalked her back. Sent into a panic, Katrina reflects on her painful past and the choices leading up to Kurt’s death, trying to piece everything together.

- the synopsis had me hooked originally, but unfortunately, the story did not keep me hooked. The writing style was nice and comprehensible, but the characters lacked any substance and the descriptions of geometry thrown in and the snippets thrown in about the middle grade book Katrina liked threw me off. Katrina’s character was also difficult to read about, because she adamantly refused help and the way she was narrated was confusing to me.

- I wish I enjoyed this more, but nonetheless, I’m thankful for the access to the arc from the publisher and NetGalley.

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It’s difficult to write a review for this book because I know nothing I say will do it justice. Liar, Dreamer, Thief wasn’t at all what I was expecting, in the best of ways. It’s part mystery, part fantasy, part indie fiction, and completely original. It combines all my favorite genres in such a creative way. I loved that the main character dealt with OCD and how it was portrayed so realistically. She was scared and struggling but never wavered. I never saw what was coming from one chapter to the next. I laughed and I cried and I wrote quotes in my journal throughout. I’m so thankful I was able to get an advance copy and can’t wait to get a physical copy when it releases next year.

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Great voice and narrative flow that gripped me from the first page. The world and characters were intriguing and heartfelt.

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DNF 25% - No rating

There could be a good story here, the 4.79 Goodreads rating and 26 five star reviews would lead me to believe so anyways but I am struggling to get into this.

This book reminds me quite a bit of Carole Johnstone's book Mirrorland which was also a DNF for me.

In this Katrina Kim is a twenty-something that doesn't have her shit together at all and when times get stressful or her anxiety gets the better of her she retreats to her Kitchen Door World which is inspired by her favorite book and fairytale from when she was a child, Mi-Hee and the Mirror-Man. We get long excerpts from that book and I was not interested in the least. She is also obsessed with numbers and figures so The Magical World of Geometry is a prominent feature in which stellations, endekagrams , hendecagrams are discussed ad nauseam.

"Because 11 isn't a special kind of prime number called a Fermat prime, you can't construct a regular hendecagon with a compass and a straightedge - each point inside forms an angle of 147 and 3/11 degree, and 3/11 is one of those fractions that just stretches off after the decimal forever."

Um, what? 😵 And that's just a small snippet. There is a lot more of that and there is nothing thrilling about math to this reader.

I was expecting, from the blurb, that this was a story in which Katrina stalks her co-worker, Kurt, until she witnesses his suicide in which he blames her causing her to lose her mind. That's what I wanted to read about but that's not really what I got and I have totally lost interest in continuing.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for my complimentary copy.

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I enjoyed the mystery of this novel. I also thought the depiction of mental illness was realistic and well-done. This was a good read for me.

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Liar, Dreamer, Thief
This is the book that you didn’t know you needed.
They say there are no new ideas. Maybe that’s true, but this book felt fresh in an indefinable way. It was familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. I have no idea what to compare this book to. It’s a murder mystery/suspense/deep dive into living with mental illness WITHOUT stereotypes or judgment. It kept me on the edge of my seat and made me laugh at surprisingly odd moments. It was heartfelt and sincere, and most importantly, wildly entertaining.

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"Does it matter if the fire isn't real?"

Liar, Dreamer, Thief feels like one of those nightmares you can't wake up from, one that feels so real you start to wonder if you're asleep at all. The plot follows Katrina Kim--and follows is really the right word here, follows so closely it could feel voyeuristic but goes beyond that to a sort of mirrored intimacy--who is NOT a stalker, no matter what her roommate says about her. She obsesses over a coworker at her temp job and compulsively draws stellations to ward off unknowable disasters. At the center of it all is Mi-Hee and the Mirror-Man, a book from Katrina's childhood that now defines the way she sees truth. Mi-Hee escaped danger to a magical world through her kitchen, and when Katrina loses control, that kitchen-door world overpowers her own... And that's just the setup.

This book was a wild ride that I couldn't put down, and while I loved the powerful descriptions and the ever-twisting plot, the characters were the true heart of the story. Katrina's mental health is not sugarcoated or shamed. She, and others, struggle to do the right thing. Mistakes are made, and only some can be fixed. But everyone has their own stories they are telling themselves, and the details we get to see are compelling: cat-patterned trash bags, handwritten postcards, and vegan egg substitute won't feel like ordinary objects by the time you're done reading.

Race, class, and sexuality all play strong roles in the lives of the characters as they face oppression or leverage their privilege. Katrina is a Korean-American lesbian and that's important, not because her identity is a plot point (although it does affect the plot), but because this is her story and those identities are important to her and the way she sees the world and the way the world sees her. Maria Dong writes in such a way that I felt even the characters whose stories were not being told had similarly rich inner lives.

Liar, Dreamer, Thief is a mystery with magic, or a fantasy with crime, or a noir novel with unicorns. It feels like what people have told me Gone Girl is like and what the title of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke implies. What is real is not always as important as what is true, and the truth is that I loved this book.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a complimentary digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Wow, this was such a wild ride! Liar, Dreamer, Thief is a very multifaceted, complex novel that spans so many genres! It’s difficult to describe (and kind of hard to rate, as well). I’ll do my best to write a coherent review, but in short: check this novel out if you enjoy suspense, folklore, reading about mental health, or just want an incredibly unique, moving read!

The plot is complicated, and I don’t think a summary will accurately tell you what you’re getting into when you pick up this novel. But, I’ll attempt a quick overview of it. Katrina Kim is a 24 year-old woman working her third year at a temp job. Her parents have abandoned her, and she’s having a hard time making it through each day. She struggles with mental health, sometimes slips into an imaginary world based off of her favorite childhood novel, and is obsessed with a coworker. She watches him every day, but suddenly she starts to notice that something feels off. Is he monitoring Katrina, as well? Could there be a bigger secret lurking at her workplace, or is she just reading too much into everything?

The novel also has little snippets of a second story sprinkled in (the childhood book that Katrina hallucinates). In that book, the main character carries around a spyglass allowing her to see additional layers of reality. Reading Liar, Dreamer, Thief is sort of like looking through that spyglass… as the novel goes on, new layers are continually introduced which fundamentally alter the story. It is so neat. Although, it makes it difficult to properly review the book, because each segment of the story is fairly different. The first 25% is slow and focused on setting all of the important foundational elements up, the next 25% really starts the plot, a major twist changes the scope of the story around halfway in, and there is a shift in setting and tone in the last quarter. I think different readers will appreciate each part, but I’d highly suggest making it through the first 30% before forming any judgments, because (in my opinion) the story gets much more interesting and easier to read after that.

This is a very character-driven novel (which I love!). Katrina is so developed. She’s going through so much, and at times, she makes decisions that are hard to support. Through it all, though, I found her to be endearing. Even if I wasn’t loving her actions in the moment, I was rooting for her to make it through the story in a better place than she started. The novel portrays mental illness exceptionally well, and you can see that through Katrina. She’s completely wrapped up in herself and her issues, but that’s how it can be when you’re in such a dark spot. Particularly, with obsessions and compulsions, your brain forces you to follow the same loops. Maria Dong portrayed that so well through Katrina’s thoughts and actions. Also, I loved reading about a Korean, lesbian main character!

The writing is gorgeous, with many lovely descriptions. I could visualize the kitchen-door world clearly. Maria Dong also uses metaphors beautifully to help convey emotions. Occasionally, I felt as if some things were described in greater detail than I needed, but this is such an immersing read that it didn’t bother me. Often times, it was in those really detailed sections where a funny line would stand out or an interesting thought would make me pause. I found it to be truly worth paying attention!

The pace is the one thing in the novel that I wasn’t sure how I felt about. However, I read an interview with the author explaining that the pacing is actually more similar to Korean media. It did feel different than most books I’ve read, but not in a bad way. I would just note that the first quarter is difficult to get through— both because it’s slow, but also because that’s where Katrina is struggling the most with her mental health, so it’s quite uncomfortable, too. The pacing speeds up from there, but it’s not linear. There are moments where the pace will go quickly, and then slow down a bit, only to shoot back up, and so on. I found the pacing in the second half to be refreshing. So many suspense novels just get quicker and quicker and quicker, while this one took time to expand on some important themes near the end.

There is so much going on in this story, and somehow it all works. If I were rating this purely on its mystery/suspense, I’d probably give it 4 stars. What brings the book to a 5 star read for me is its depiction of mental health. Katrina is never diagnosed with a specific disorder, but she does acknowledge that she has compulsions. As someone with a lot of experience with OCD, it does appear that at least part of her mental health struggles are from that. I would put this right up with Turtles All the Way Down as one of the few books I’ve read which accurately portrays OCD and compulsions. It’s unflinchingly spot on, and I hope that this novel will help shine a light on how painful obsessions and compulsions can be.

As a cherry on top, there are many other important themes explored— capitalism and the poor working conditions it creates, race and racism, poverty, family issues, isolation, and more. While the book has challenging sections to read (particularly if you are empathetic to mental health), I appreciated that it also had lighter moments. There are many funny parts, and the story itself isn’t as grim and pessimistic as many other contemporary novels I’ve read lately.

I’d definitely recommend this to a wide array of readers! I think almost everyone will find something they like in it. I could see this one appealing to fans of mystery, suspense, fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. I would warn you if you’re coming in purely for a thriller that this book is probably not what you’re expecting, but that’s what made it so special to me.

5 out of 5 stars!

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What a crazy ride of a book!
Katrina is broke, unorganized, unmotivated and estranged from her family for mysterious reasons. Entering her mind, and experiencing how she deals with the world through number rituals is a jolt! But Maria Dong, paints a perfect picture of an unbalanced, struggling, but harmless young woman, someone you can't help but root for, no matter what bad choice she makes.

When it turns out that she may in fact be stalking her colleague at work, all of the carefully arranged life and
coping mechanisms are stripped away and Katrina begins free falling into mental illness...or does she.

This book is so many things, I can't begin to categorize it. It's beautiful, it's surreal and it's bittersweet and complex. If you like your thrillers mixes with speculation and fantasy, if you like the unreliable narrator, or if you just want to read something unusual and moving AND thrilling, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is for you! #LiarDreamerThief #MariaDong

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Liar, Dreamer, Thief is one of those rare books that perfectly blends its gorgeous lyricism and literary cleverness with both mystery and a hint of the speculative. I have a feeling it'll please fans of range of genres, and most especially anyone looking for works that play with those genres in new ways.

Without spoilers, Katrina Kim is a main character who feels especially relevant today--she hops from job to job, struggles with her place in a world that feels constructed to push her down, and finds escape through the fictional worlds around her (and which she co-constructs). I know for me, so much of what worked about Katrina was that she was a genuinely (and realistically) flawed person. There's a goofiness to her that's both heartwarming and relatable, even in the face of the darker aspects of the plot. This marriage of the weird and disturbing with the lighthearted was, for me, the backbone of the book.

If dark, twisty mysteries are you jam though, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is certainly that as well. The plot-twists are well-seeded and create a riveting reading experience that somehow manages to be both pulse-pounding and dreamy.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Liar, Dreamer, Thief.

I'm not a fan of the sci-fi genre, but the premise of this was so intriguing, I was pleased my request was approved.

Katrina Kim has a mental illness, and it may explain her obsession with her colleague, Kurt. When she witnesses his suicide, and eventually discovers he's been watching her, Katrina wonders just how much of her fantasy is reality. Or is it the other way around?

Sadly, this wasn't for me, for a number of reasons:

I found Katrina's obsession with her childhood book distracting, though I understand her fixation on certain objects and rituals is a part of her mental illness.

The mystery aspect of the narrative was unnecessarily convoluted, so much so that I almost lost the basic plot, Leoni's involvement, Kurt's predatory behavior, his obsession with Katrina.

At times, the writing felt like it was going around and around itself, like filler, though this may just be to indicate Katrina's frazzled mind.

The writing was great, beautifully crafted to demonstrate when Kat would enter a dream or fugue state or when her fantasy world bled into her reality.

What I did like was Katrina reconciling with her parents, their support and encouragement allowing her to seek professional help.

The ending was a bit neat and tidy, but who doesn't love a happy-ish ending?

This wasn't for me, but I think most sci-fi readers will enjoy an unique story with an original character that is Katrina Kim.

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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

DNF 10%-In looking at the review so far, I'm clearly the outlier on this one. I have a feeling this one just wasn't for me. While the premise sounded interesting, for me the writing was a little difficult to get into.

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