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A whip-smart psychological thriller from the author of Good as Gone (a  New York Times  Notable Book), in which a grad student becomes embroiled in a deadly rivalry that changes her into someone unrecognizable to her struggling family, her ambitious academic friends, and even herself   Claire “Mac” Woods—a professor enjoying her newfound hot-shot status at an academi A whip-smart psychological thriller from the author of Good as Gone (a  New York Times  Notable Book), in which a grad student becomes embroiled in a deadly rivalry that changes her into someone unrecognizable to her struggling family, her ambitious academic friends, and even herself   Claire “Mac” Woods—a professor enjoying her newfound hot-shot status at an academic conference—finally has the acceptance and admiration she has long craved. But at the conference’s hotel bar, Mac is surprised to run into a face from a past she'd rather forget: the moneyed, effortlessly perfect Gwendolyn Whitney, Mac’s foil, rival, and former best friend.  When Gwen moved to town in high school, Claire—then known as Mac, a poor kid from a troubled family who had too much on her plate—saw what it meant to have. Money, sophistication, culture, the very blueprints to success. Mac had almost nothing, except the will to change. Change she did, habitually grinding herself to work as hard as straight-A Gwen, even eventually getting admitted into the same elite graduate program as Gwen. But then Mac and Gwen become entangled with the department’s power-couple professors and compete head-to-head for a life changing fellowship. The more twisted the track toward success becomes, the more Mac has to contort herself to stay one step ahead—which deception signals the point of no return?  Jack-knifing between Mac’s world-expanding graduate days and the crucible of the hotel and its unexpected guests, BAD HABITS follows Mac’s reckoning between her hardscrabble past and tenuous present. What, exactly, did Mac do to get what she has today? And what will she do to keep it? With taut, powerful prose, Amy Gentry asks how far we’ll go to get what we want—and whether we can ever truly leave the past behind.


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A whip-smart psychological thriller from the author of Good as Gone (a  New York Times  Notable Book), in which a grad student becomes embroiled in a deadly rivalry that changes her into someone unrecognizable to her struggling family, her ambitious academic friends, and even herself   Claire “Mac” Woods—a professor enjoying her newfound hot-shot status at an academi A whip-smart psychological thriller from the author of Good as Gone (a  New York Times  Notable Book), in which a grad student becomes embroiled in a deadly rivalry that changes her into someone unrecognizable to her struggling family, her ambitious academic friends, and even herself   Claire “Mac” Woods—a professor enjoying her newfound hot-shot status at an academic conference—finally has the acceptance and admiration she has long craved. But at the conference’s hotel bar, Mac is surprised to run into a face from a past she'd rather forget: the moneyed, effortlessly perfect Gwendolyn Whitney, Mac’s foil, rival, and former best friend.  When Gwen moved to town in high school, Claire—then known as Mac, a poor kid from a troubled family who had too much on her plate—saw what it meant to have. Money, sophistication, culture, the very blueprints to success. Mac had almost nothing, except the will to change. Change she did, habitually grinding herself to work as hard as straight-A Gwen, even eventually getting admitted into the same elite graduate program as Gwen. But then Mac and Gwen become entangled with the department’s power-couple professors and compete head-to-head for a life changing fellowship. The more twisted the track toward success becomes, the more Mac has to contort herself to stay one step ahead—which deception signals the point of no return?  Jack-knifing between Mac’s world-expanding graduate days and the crucible of the hotel and its unexpected guests, BAD HABITS follows Mac’s reckoning between her hardscrabble past and tenuous present. What, exactly, did Mac do to get what she has today? And what will she do to keep it? With taut, powerful prose, Amy Gentry asks how far we’ll go to get what we want—and whether we can ever truly leave the past behind.

30 review for Bad Habits

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amy Gentry

    This is my favorite book from this author so far. ;)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Bad Habits firmly cements Amy Gentry as a novelist who writes powerful thrillers about the darkest corners of the human heart. Clare, known as Mac during her youth, wants desperately not to be poor and stuck in her dead-end town. And when dazzling, rich Gwen enters her life in high school, the two become fast friends, best friends. They decide to attend graduate school together, both embarking into a prestigious program called just that. The Program is both a skewering of academia and a deep, dar Bad Habits firmly cements Amy Gentry as a novelist who writes powerful thrillers about the darkest corners of the human heart. Clare, known as Mac during her youth, wants desperately not to be poor and stuck in her dead-end town. And when dazzling, rich Gwen enters her life in high school, the two become fast friends, best friends. They decide to attend graduate school together, both embarking into a prestigious program called just that. The Program is both a skewering of academia and a deep, dark dive into how far prople will go to get what they want and the damage it can cause to not just to others but to themselves. As always, Amy Gentry writes beautifully about the darkness that's hidden in all of us and what happens when it's unleashed and more frighteningly, how we can try and try to escape who we are and how that can never happen. For those (like me!) who love novels about the coldness of the human heart and the destruction it can bring-not just physically but emotionally/psychologically--this is an absolute must read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    How far would you go to protect the position you've worked so hard to achieve? Claire, formerly known as Mac, has been trying to be good enough, to climb the academic ladder, mostly to prove herself better than Gwyn, her best friend from college. Gwyn was wealthy and smart, the girl who had it all, while Claire came from a poor family with an addict for a mother and a special needs sister, and had to work hard to stay at the top in school, help her family, and to get an enviable position at a re How far would you go to protect the position you've worked so hard to achieve? Claire, formerly known as Mac, has been trying to be good enough, to climb the academic ladder, mostly to prove herself better than Gwyn, her best friend from college. Gwyn was wealthy and smart, the girl who had it all, while Claire came from a poor family with an addict for a mother and a special needs sister, and had to work hard to stay at the top in school, help her family, and to get an enviable position at a respected college. This jealous competition is deeply rooted. This story kept my attention and was a good thriller. I was surprised by some of the characters' actions and the story was captivating. Thanks to Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Netgalley for an advance copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of BAD HABITS by Amy Gentry in exchange for my honest review.*** Mac, a former child pageant winner until her father left the family, now a poor teenager often forced to care for her autistic sister, feels lucky to be befriended by Gwen, a wealthy, brighter girl. Later, Mac follows Gwen to a prestigious grad school called The Program. Ten years later, now called Claire, she encounters Gwen in a hotel bar and the former friends confront ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of BAD HABITS by Amy Gentry in exchange for my honest review.*** Mac, a former child pageant winner until her father left the family, now a poor teenager often forced to care for her autistic sister, feels lucky to be befriended by Gwen, a wealthy, brighter girl. Later, Mac follows Gwen to a prestigious grad school called The Program. Ten years later, now called Claire, she encounters Gwen in a hotel bar and the former friends confront the reason for their estrangement. AS GOOD AS GONE was one of my favorite books, so I was excited to receive an ARC of BAD HABITS. BAD HABITS is a better book than my enjoyment of it. For me the book started off strong. I empathized with Mac and her situation as a child and teen. She began losing me in grad school and by the time she was Claire, I didn’t like her one bit. BAD HABITS is purposeful steeped in academic pretentiousness, imbalances of power and lack of ethics, which I normally love. I prefer books that have someone to root, even if the character is unlikable. Claire had a coldness that prevented me from rooting for her. Amy Gentry wrote that descent into sociopathy in a completely believable and understandable way. Her meticulous attention to detail and character is part of her strength as a writer. BAD HABITS is another solid effort from Amy Gentry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Desiree

    A smart mystery thriller of economic class, ambition, personality, and to what lengths a person will go to fight, and keep, their hard-won position in life. Bad Habits is the story of Claire, a professor enjoying the pinnacle of her career with a noteworthy presentation at an elite hotel, when she is shocked to see her nemesis and former best friend, Gwen, in the hotel bar. Waking up the next day, addled from a serious hangover, Claire struggles to see through her foggy memory and what she may ha A smart mystery thriller of economic class, ambition, personality, and to what lengths a person will go to fight, and keep, their hard-won position in life. Bad Habits is the story of Claire, a professor enjoying the pinnacle of her career with a noteworthy presentation at an elite hotel, when she is shocked to see her nemesis and former best friend, Gwen, in the hotel bar. Waking up the next day, addled from a serious hangover, Claire struggles to see through her foggy memory and what she may have said to Gwen the night before. She needs to know “how much” Gwen knows. As her mind reels, Claire takes us back to her teen years when she first met the wealthy and sparkling Gwen, and to their post-grad college years, when everything fell apart. Well-constructed and well crafted, Bad Habits keeps the reader guessing as to what exactly Claire is so desperate to keep hidden and why. If there are any critiques about this novel, there are two small things that come to mind: 1) The lackluster title, which doesn’t intrigue a reader nor describe the novel’s content in any meaningful way; and 2) It suffers a bit in comparison to a similar story this reader recently reviewed, Susie Yang’s White Ivy. While the story line of Bad Habits is a lot more satisfying and sensical than White Ivy, it flagged behind a bit in both wit and sense of place. Sure to be a favorite of those who love a thriller that keeps you guessing, Desiree did find Bad Habits an enjoyable read that’s worth the reader’s time. A big thank you to Amy Gentry, Mariner Books, and NetGalley for providing a free Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for this honest review. Bad Habits is available February 2, 2021 in Hardcover, Paperback, Audio CD, and for Kindle. For a copy of Bad Habits, please consider purchasing from BookShop.org, the online bookstore that donates 75% of the book’s profit margin to independent bookstores. Desiree does receive a small commission if you purchase through this link, however, she shares this out of her enduring love for corner, indie book stores everywhere. #BadHabits #AmyGentry #MarinerBooks #HoughtonMifflinHarcourt #NetGalley

  6. 4 out of 5

    ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook

    I was expecting a thriller out of this but got more than I bargained for. Amy Gentry can write and write well. This was literary suspenseful, psychological fiction at its finest and it surprised me in the best way possible. I loved the before chapters that take us back to Mac and Gwen's toxic college days...sex for grades anyone!? I love Ms. Gentry's ability to take the written word and use them as weapons in the story. What I liked most about the story is the fact that I was reall I was expecting a thriller out of this but got more than I bargained for. Amy Gentry can write and write well. This was literary suspenseful, psychological fiction at its finest and it surprised me in the best way possible. I loved the before chapters that take us back to Mac and Gwen's toxic college days...sex for grades anyone!? I love Ms. Gentry's ability to take the written word and use them as weapons in the story. What I liked most about the story is the fact that I was really rooting for Mac when I first picked up the book. She comes from nothing with an addicted mother and a sister who has special needs, she has been supporting both most of her life. But then as the story progresses I learned to despise her without really noticing...page by page it crept in. I loved that, and the reveal alone is worth five stars...well done Ms. Gentry! Disclosure: Thank you NetGalley, Amy Gentry and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own. #BadHabits #NetGalley

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    Claire "Mac" Woods is now a well-respected professor in academia--making her the person she's always dreamed of becoming. But ten years ago, she was just Mac. A poor student at university: part of The Project, with her best friend Gwen Whitney. When Gwen moved to Mac's hometown, her life changed. Through the lens of Gwen's wealthy life, Mac saw another future for herself than one with an addict mom; a sick sister; and a deadbeat dad. But while part of The Project, Gwen and Mac are sucked into th Claire "Mac" Woods is now a well-respected professor in academia--making her the person she's always dreamed of becoming. But ten years ago, she was just Mac. A poor student at university: part of The Project, with her best friend Gwen Whitney. When Gwen moved to Mac's hometown, her life changed. Through the lens of Gwen's wealthy life, Mac saw another future for herself than one with an addict mom; a sick sister; and a deadbeat dad. But while part of The Project, Gwen and Mac are sucked into the power dynamics of a married professor couple, with disastrous consequences. Meeting by accident a decade later, the two are hashing things out--but will uncovering long buried secrets do anyone any good? This was a well-done and suspenseful book, but it took me a while to get into it for some reason. Mostly by design, the characters are incredibly unlikable and nearly impossible to feel any attachment for. Even Mac, our supposed protagonist, has her irritating and questionable moments. I think of this book as dark and twisted people doing dark and twisted things. But, there's some delight in that, sometimes, right? Because Gentry gives us really twisted people and what happens can be really dark. If you're someone who came up in academia, this book will really hit home, as most of our characters' motivations center around getting ahead in that world. Mac envies Gwen and her "easy" life more than anything. And the two professors? Well, I'm not sure I can even *explain* them without giving away any spoilers. Let's just say it's a cutthroat world out there. There are certainly some twists here--more at the end, where things pick up. There's an "event" that we know happened, and we don't really find out what transpired until near the book's conclusions. At times this is suspenseful; at others, frustrating. Is the power grab that's happening really worth it all? Only our characters can truly say, I suppose. Overall, this a dark and sometimes slow-moving novel, but it has its share of surprises. It will be especially intriguing if you love academia-themed novels and power-grabbing characters. 3 stars. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in return for an unbiased review. It is available 2/2/2021. Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ PaperBackSwap ~ Smashbomb

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Mary McKinnon

    Wow! In Bad Habits Amy Gentry deftly explores power struggles and their subtle—and not so subtle—shifts and consequences. As the truth of what happened one night a decade ago claws its way to the surface you’ll be switching your allegiances from left to right and back again. Whip-smart, and beautifully written, Bad Habits is one hell of an exploration of what can happen when friendship tangos with an insatiable appetite for success and control. This novel is unexpected, surprising and ha Wow! In Bad Habits Amy Gentry deftly explores power struggles and their subtle—and not so subtle—shifts and consequences. As the truth of what happened one night a decade ago claws its way to the surface you’ll be switching your allegiances from left to right and back again. Whip-smart, and beautifully written, Bad Habits is one hell of an exploration of what can happen when friendship tangos with an insatiable appetite for success and control. This novel is unexpected, surprising and has a diabolical ending I won’t forget any time soon.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lizp

    “Every year, I know which of my students is going to get the Joyner. My students don’t know, but they know I know. I have never been wrong about who was the best fit. Not once.” She tented her fingers in front of her. “Some might say I have a knack for choosing the right horse.” This is a quote from Machiavellian Bethany, graduate professor of students Mackenzie and Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn is the uber clever, ultra rich, beautiful, cultured friend of MacKenzie, the poor girl; the scholarship kid who “Every year, I know which of my students is going to get the Joyner. My students don’t know, but they know I know. I have never been wrong about who was the best fit. Not once.” She tented her fingers in front of her. “Some might say I have a knack for choosing the right horse.” This is a quote from Machiavellian Bethany, graduate professor of students Mackenzie and Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn is the uber clever, ultra rich, beautiful, cultured friend of MacKenzie, the poor girl; the scholarship kid who is desperate to achieve, prove herself, and do well. The girls met in high school when Gwen moved to their town, arrived at school and overwhelmed MacKenzie and others. It was then in high school that MacKenzie became competitive, working ultra hard to get all As and be as good as Gwendolyn, who excelled academically and always got As. All MacKenzie has is a strong will and perseverance. Her mum tells her that she gave her an unusual name as she wanted her to be special and successful. Her hard work pays off. She gets into the same elite graduate programme as Gwen. Then at graduate school, Bethany prompts her to behave in ways she normally wouldn’t with the lure of the prestigious and sought after Joyner prize. Bethany manipulates MacKenzie by telling her that Gwen is the smartest student she has ever taught but that MacKenzie is stronger than Gwen, and because of that she could sweep the Joyner prize from under her nose. MacKenzie and Gwen compete furiously to gain this coveted Joyner prize. MacKenzie is now a professor, enjoying her superior status as she attends an academic conference. She feels elated and invincible as she has achieved the acceptance that she has craved for so long. Others envy and admire her. In the bar, she meets her old friend and rival, Gwen. This is a shock to her as she is confronted with the memories of the tactics she engaged in to win the Joyner prize. Has the past well and truly caught up with her? Could she be exposed and possibly lose all that she has fought so hard to gain and now holds dear? This is an engaging psychological thriller. I found it absorbing and I recommend it to others. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for a frank review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Riya Reads

    This was a good, fast paced read on a cozy winter/rainy night when you have trouble going to sleep. It is a story about friendship, ambition, toxic behaviour and the toll that a toxic person can take on the bearer. Mac (a successful hotshot professor) runs into Gwen after 10 years at a hotel bar. They had been good friends once but have grown apart and this coincident meeting turns out to be a blast from the past for Mac. Mac has supposedly risen from the ashes and carved out a great and successf This was a good, fast paced read on a cozy winter/rainy night when you have trouble going to sleep. It is a story about friendship, ambition, toxic behaviour and the toll that a toxic person can take on the bearer. Mac (a successful hotshot professor) runs into Gwen after 10 years at a hotel bar. They had been good friends once but have grown apart and this coincident meeting turns out to be a blast from the past for Mac. Mac has supposedly risen from the ashes and carved out a great and successful life for herself inspite of domestic troubles and emotional and financial setbacks back home. Mac is driven into a rage filled rivalry with Gwen (who is just impeccable in her eyes)and it changes her completely. It drives her into a downward spiral which ends up incapacitating her. Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the e ARC in exchange of an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandi

    I read alot and rarely find one that grabs my attention but turns out to be so disappointing. Did NOT finish, I read to about 70% and it occurred to me that I wasn't enjoying myself, it wasn't an escape, I didn't like a single character or care what happened to them. Reading it was depressing. Life is too short!! Here's my thoughts on what I did read: It's obvious the author is very smart because the professor's ramblings are so 'deep' that even the MC is confused. Not the place for that, unless I read alot and rarely find one that grabs my attention but turns out to be so disappointing. Did NOT finish, I read to about 70% and it occurred to me that I wasn't enjoying myself, it wasn't an escape, I didn't like a single character or care what happened to them. Reading it was depressing. Life is too short!! Here's my thoughts on what I did read: It's obvious the author is very smart because the professor's ramblings are so 'deep' that even the MC is confused. Not the place for that, unless you want to make your readers feel dumb? Do you know what an ethnomusicologist is? That's the sort of thing you will learn in this book. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC. The opinions expressed in this Review are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara Murphy

    I raced through this Secret History-esque dark academia thriller that combines the realistic details of grad school -- the free food after a job talk, the not-a-question-but-a-comment Q&A sections, the hunger for acknowledgement that brews tension among classmates and professors alike -- with the twisty, electrically charged suspense of all my favorite thrillers. Mac's thirst to prove herself and the complicated questions of class and money, and how these unspoken issues factor into an Ivy Tower I raced through this Secret History-esque dark academia thriller that combines the realistic details of grad school -- the free food after a job talk, the not-a-question-but-a-comment Q&A sections, the hunger for acknowledgement that brews tension among classmates and professors alike -- with the twisty, electrically charged suspense of all my favorite thrillers. Mac's thirst to prove herself and the complicated questions of class and money, and how these unspoken issues factor into an Ivy Tower setting that's supposedly 100% cerebral and "above" such matters, make this an unforgettable read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    BAD HABITS is everything I love about Amy Gentry's work: smart, thrilling, engrossing, dark, twisted, and brilliantly written. For me, it was also a window into the fascinating and deeply disturbing world of competitive academia. I highly recommend Gentry's other books as well! BAD HABITS is everything I love about Amy Gentry's work: smart, thrilling, engrossing, dark, twisted, and brilliantly written. For me, it was also a window into the fascinating and deeply disturbing world of competitive academia. I highly recommend Gentry's other books as well!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary G.

    Maybe you think your grad school experience was bad - Mac and Gwen's was definitely worse. These high school friends ended up at The Project, an elite graduate program with the prize of a lifetime: the exclusive Joyner fellowship. As Mac and Gwen go head-to-head academically and personally, Mac has to start playing dirty. Years later, Mac has reinvented herself as successful professor Claire...but the problems start anew when she runs into Gwen at a conference. Having spent 4 years in grad school Maybe you think your grad school experience was bad - Mac and Gwen's was definitely worse. These high school friends ended up at The Project, an elite graduate program with the prize of a lifetime: the exclusive Joyner fellowship. As Mac and Gwen go head-to-head academically and personally, Mac has to start playing dirty. Years later, Mac has reinvented herself as successful professor Claire...but the problems start anew when she runs into Gwen at a conference. Having spent 4 years in grad school, I love a good academic novel. The Program is a perfect grad school dystopia: unintelligible lectures, cutthroat faculty, and inappropriate professor-student relationships. Mac is clearly in way over her head. I liked that Gentry covered Mac's difficult childhood and showed how much easier academia is when you come from means, like Gwen does. The drama and twists keep coming, making this a cross between a thriller and a character study. I enjoyed the book, but the ending was a bit over the top, making this more of a 3.5 star read for me rather than a 4 star. Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Suzanna

    I've read Amy Gentry before so was really excited to be able to read her newest book before it releases, but was a little disappointed with the overall story. The premise was great, but I think the greatness of what the story could have been got lost in the details and in the unlikeable characters; I just didn't like any of the characters, there was nothing redeemable about any of them. So ... that's that, I guess. I've read Amy Gentry before so was really excited to be able to read her newest book before it releases, but was a little disappointed with the overall story. The premise was great, but I think the greatness of what the story could have been got lost in the details and in the unlikeable characters; I just didn't like any of the characters, there was nothing redeemable about any of them. So ... that's that, I guess.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Megan Collins

    Once again, Amy Gentry has written a book I could not put down. BAD HABITS is a rich, compelling story about ambition, privilege, and the toxicity threaded through academia. The protagonist, Mac, was born without the wealth or advantages of her best friend, Gwen, but when she follows Gwen to grad school, she believes she will finally carve a place for herself among the elite. What she finds, instead, is a tortuous program, shifting allegiances, and dangerous mind games. All of it comes to a head Once again, Amy Gentry has written a book I could not put down. BAD HABITS is a rich, compelling story about ambition, privilege, and the toxicity threaded through academia. The protagonist, Mac, was born without the wealth or advantages of her best friend, Gwen, but when she follows Gwen to grad school, she believes she will finally carve a place for herself among the elite. What she finds, instead, is a tortuous program, shifting allegiances, and dangerous mind games. All of it comes to a head one night when tragedy strikes—or is orchestrated—creating a memory that Mac works to put behind her for the next ten years. But the past comes roaring back when she runs into Gwen again, and old secrets threaten to upend the successful career that Mac has built for herself. This book is filled with deliciously complex characters, each with layers upon layers that keep revealing themselves right up to the final page. Amy’s writing is impeccable, each sentence sharp and precise, cutting to the bone every time. I really enjoyed the narrative structure of the book—cutting back and forth between the past (Mac’s time in “the Program”) and the present (scenes at a hotel where Mac is forced to confront what she’s tried to bury). Both storylines are taut with tension, intersecting in ways that skillfully illuminate the novel’s themes. If you love dark academia, you will devour this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    I have been a Twitter fan of Amy Gentry for a long time, but due to my bad habit (haha, see what I did there) of prioritizing ARCs, I hadn't read any of her published work yet. So I jumped at the chance to download this forthcoming release, and I'm so glad I did. I will now be prioritizing her backlist. BAD HABITS is a deep character study, with professor Claire/Mac Woods as its center. As the novel opens, Claire is a professor who has just finished giving a keynote at a conference. She's at the I have been a Twitter fan of Amy Gentry for a long time, but due to my bad habit (haha, see what I did there) of prioritizing ARCs, I hadn't read any of her published work yet. So I jumped at the chance to download this forthcoming release, and I'm so glad I did. I will now be prioritizing her backlist. BAD HABITS is a deep character study, with professor Claire/Mac Woods as its center. As the novel opens, Claire is a professor who has just finished giving a keynote at a conference. She's at the hotel with a young graduate student she plans to take back to her room - when she spots her ex-best friend, Gwen, at the bar. After years of not seeing Gwen, Claire wants to reconnect. But there is a sordid reason why they haven't been in touch - and the story is unfurled in flashbacks, when Claire went by her first name, Mackenzie/Mac. The women grew up together and went off to the same school, Dwight Handler University, to study an esoteric field called "Emerging Studies." But the magnetic woman who ran the program - Bethany Ladd - drove a wedge between them. And Mac realized just how far she could go to get what she wanted. There is so much good stuff in this book - from the deft, surprising writing to the subtle turn of the plot. Tension simmers on every page, from Mac's background of growing up with a mother on drugs and a sister with special needs, to the secrets Bethany carries with her that seed the entire Emerging Studies program. There's also humor, highlighting how ridiculous academics can get when they get all up into their own thoughts. The thrills are a slow burn, but once the suspense ratchets up, readers will be glued to the pages. I'm excited to recommend this one to my fellow writers and library patrons.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jill Burgin

    Bad Habits is a riveting character study of a driven woman, Mac, consumed by jealousy of her best friend, Gwen. Certainly not a likable, ethical, relatable nor trustworthy person but yes, definitely fascinating. As is the plot - set in the modern day (for one eventful evening only) at a hotel for a conference Mac runs into Gwen after many years of estrangement. Now with appropriate flashbacks we learn of their friendship since childhood, relationship through school and college and their lives up Bad Habits is a riveting character study of a driven woman, Mac, consumed by jealousy of her best friend, Gwen. Certainly not a likable, ethical, relatable nor trustworthy person but yes, definitely fascinating. As is the plot - set in the modern day (for one eventful evening only) at a hotel for a conference Mac runs into Gwen after many years of estrangement. Now with appropriate flashbacks we learn of their friendship since childhood, relationship through school and college and their lives up to this evening. I enjoyed the first half better when I was unsure of the outcome which could have gone in a myriad of directions. Some of the college scenes seemed repetitive and their pseudo Intellectual conversations seemed unnecessary. Not so much a thriller as promised, it held my attention until the last 20 pages or so which built to a disappointing contrived and rather implausible ending. Perhaps I expected more after the authors previous novel which I enjoyed so much more.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Johnna Whetstone

    This was a pretty fast paced thriller, focused on academia profession and all the chilling, disturbing, competition, and absolutely insane lengths people will go to make it! It was well written, chilling in parts, a bit shocking and disturbing! I couldn’t give a full 5 stars, because it didn’t quite give me that unputdownable thrill I get with my 5 stars! I did find it to be an original and generally unique story, which shows that no matter where you get you will never be happy, unless you first This was a pretty fast paced thriller, focused on academia profession and all the chilling, disturbing, competition, and absolutely insane lengths people will go to make it! It was well written, chilling in parts, a bit shocking and disturbing! I couldn’t give a full 5 stars, because it didn’t quite give me that unputdownable thrill I get with my 5 stars! I did find it to be an original and generally unique story, which shows that no matter where you get you will never be happy, unless you first feel happiness and content with yourself! I loved seeing this theme in every arrange of socioeconomic, races, sexes, and education! It was very thought compelling! Sure to give you a few good chills and gasps! Will make sure to buzz it around and use low Amazon reviewer number on release date!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linden

    This book is such an excellent examination of class and status and power and people, and it explores how all of that plays out in the toxic structures of academia. Considering my own traumatic experiences in grad school, I found it a healing read in its own fun little way. This is Gentry at her finest, sharp and crackling and incisive. I love Mac, in all her ugly, ruthless glory. Thanks to the author for giving me an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Dyer

    Round up to 3.5 stars. Review to come at AAR.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara Zarr

    Deliciously dark, funny, and I did not see the ending coming AT ALL. The author is an upcoming guest on my podcast, This Creative Life with Sara Zarr. Find it in your favorite podcast app!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Bad Habits. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** Bad Habits is not so much a thriller than it is about an ambitious young woman struggling to overcome her childhood obstacles and emulate her BFF, a young woman born into wealth and privilege. Claire Woods is a respected professor, but over a decade ago, she was Mac, a scrappy teenager with a druggie mother and a mentally challenged sister. Gaining admittance into a prestigious school and pursuing her academic drea Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Bad Habits. ** Minor spoilers ahead ** Bad Habits is not so much a thriller than it is about an ambitious young woman struggling to overcome her childhood obstacles and emulate her BFF, a young woman born into wealth and privilege. Claire Woods is a respected professor, but over a decade ago, she was Mac, a scrappy teenager with a druggie mother and a mentally challenged sister. Gaining admittance into a prestigious school and pursuing her academic dreams has led Mac down a road of corruption, jealousy and spite and she will do anything to keep what is rightfully hers. And rightfully taken. For the most part, the writing was good, but the content was dull. I was not interested in reading about students studying snotty subjects and the backstabbing politics and hypocrisy in academia. I didn't like Mac, but I didn't dislike her. I admired her for her loyalty and devotion to her sister, supporting her family when she had so little support of her own. I felt her dependence on her BFF, Gwen, was a cliche of so many of these types of books, the standard trope of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks envying the friend who has everything; money, privilege, good parents. I was looking for a standard mystery/thriller but the narrative is about Mac and how she survived the rigors of the fancy schmancy school, her dealings with a manipulative professor and how she got to where she is now. There are some coincidences including the true identity of Mac's father that was hard to suspend disbelief in. This wasn't for me but I think some readers will enjoy it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Hiatt

    I wonder how she can keep looking at me when I'm not there anymore. Not a person. Nothing. This book is labeled as a psychological thriller, but I find it is more accurately described as a character study. The story follows the life of Claire 'Mac' Woods from childhood into present adulthood. Her life has been wrought with tragedy and manipulation. That manipulation started with her mother, a woman desperate to live her pageant queen dreams through her daughter. Sadly, Mac never evolves from tha I wonder how she can keep looking at me when I'm not there anymore. Not a person. Nothing. This book is labeled as a psychological thriller, but I find it is more accurately described as a character study. The story follows the life of Claire 'Mac' Woods from childhood into present adulthood. Her life has been wrought with tragedy and manipulation. That manipulation started with her mother, a woman desperate to live her pageant queen dreams through her daughter. Sadly, Mac never evolves from that vulnerable girl and that vulnerability allows herself to be manipulated by the intelligent and charismatic Bethany. As an adult, Mac has changed her name to Claire and is destined to be the success story she always wished for herself and finally leave behind a past of mediocrity. Unfortunately, despite the name change, the prestige, the academic success, she is never able to evolve past that fragile little girl we meet in the beginning. There is great intellectual insight in this story and the characterization of Claire makes this a powerful story. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Bad Habits is the story of Mac aka Claire, who will stop at nothing to live out her dream of becoming an academic. I just laughed out loud while I typed that sentence, but this book was pretty good overall. There are parts of the premise that are kind of shaky, but give me a sordid college drama any day. The book flashes between the present day, when Claire runs into her former best friend (rich-and-perfect Gwen) at a conference, and her childhood and college years. I really enjoyed the college Bad Habits is the story of Mac aka Claire, who will stop at nothing to live out her dream of becoming an academic. I just laughed out loud while I typed that sentence, but this book was pretty good overall. There are parts of the premise that are kind of shaky, but give me a sordid college drama any day. The book flashes between the present day, when Claire runs into her former best friend (rich-and-perfect Gwen) at a conference, and her childhood and college years. I really enjoyed the college years portions of the story and her majorly dysfunctional relationships with her professors, but didn't feel that the sum of her younger years really added up to who Claire turned out to be in the end. Recommended for someone looking for a smart, character-driven psychological thriller.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I've read all of Gentry's books to date, and this one is by far my favorite. It's by turns a taut psychological thriller and a gripping family drama packed with suspense and poignance. The best part about it, though, is how deeply personal it feels - a testament to Gentry's tightly woven story and fascinating characters, to be sure, but most of all to her mastery as a novelist. Highly recommended! I've read all of Gentry's books to date, and this one is by far my favorite. It's by turns a taut psychological thriller and a gripping family drama packed with suspense and poignance. The best part about it, though, is how deeply personal it feels - a testament to Gentry's tightly woven story and fascinating characters, to be sure, but most of all to her mastery as a novelist. Highly recommended!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Faith Hurst-Bilinski

    I've been to grad school. It wasn't like this. The description for this book is of two grad students getting caught up in the middle of the marriage of two professors and it goes wrong. I was hoping for a good thriller. Instead I got a soap opera. Sex and gossip can be part of a story but they can't be THE story. At least not for me. For many others that is exactly their niche. Mac (or Claire) and Gwen become best friends (?) in middle school, go to different colleges, and then meet up again as g I've been to grad school. It wasn't like this. The description for this book is of two grad students getting caught up in the middle of the marriage of two professors and it goes wrong. I was hoping for a good thriller. Instead I got a soap opera. Sex and gossip can be part of a story but they can't be THE story. At least not for me. For many others that is exactly their niche. Mac (or Claire) and Gwen become best friends (?) in middle school, go to different colleges, and then meet up again as graduate students in The Program. As far as I ca see The Program is a 6 year, at least, post grad program in which unqualified professors mess with their students, body and mind, until they are through with them. Then they release them on the world of academia to do the same to a new group of students. Why? Who knows? I am left wondering if this is what you get from a tiny New England college. If so, how glad am I that I got my post grad at a state school?! I had courses that helped me with my vision of the world, how the mind works, pedagogy, and actual useful facts that are important to my teaching. I swear to every reader that not all graduate classes are made up words by people who had to prove themselves to other pretentious people to justify their salary. I also swear that I know A LOT of teachers and professors and it is not this common to sleep with students. I've heard about it on the news but it is not something most would even consider. I liked Amy Gentry's previous book, so I would try her work again. I just kept waiting for a payoff in this one and it simply never came. I know this will be right up the alley of some readers. It just wasn't up mine. It wasn't horrible and for the first half I was really hopeful. It got repetitive and drawn out and by the climax it was hard for me to care. Most of the stars are for the first half and the promise.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon L.

    A story of “Grad School Gone Wrong,” BAD HABITS is a sharp and suspenseful addition to the campus crime genre, aka “Dark Academia.” Mackenzie (“Mac”) is initially thrilled when she and her high school best friend Gwen are both admitted into a highly competitive grad school program. Gwen comes from money but Mac is from a working-class family with a special-needs sister she is trying to support. Because of this, Mac desperately believes the advanced degree—and a potentially lucrative fellowship—a A story of “Grad School Gone Wrong,” BAD HABITS is a sharp and suspenseful addition to the campus crime genre, aka “Dark Academia.” Mackenzie (“Mac”) is initially thrilled when she and her high school best friend Gwen are both admitted into a highly competitive grad school program. Gwen comes from money but Mac is from a working-class family with a special-needs sister she is trying to support. Because of this, Mac desperately believes the advanced degree—and a potentially lucrative fellowship—are her one shot at the financial stability, education, and sophistication she’s craved. However, as the competition for the fellowship and the flirtatious machinations of a faculty power-couple begin to erode their friendships, Mac begins to question how far she will go to succeed. The plot moves briskly between two timelines, the stress-filled days at “The Program” and a chance meeting ten years later at a swanky LA hotel. From the beginning you know something UNSEEMLY happened in grad school (affairs, betrayal, murder??) and as details get doled out in small salacious bites I found myself reading at a fevered pace. Author Amy Gentry turns a satirical—but not unaffectionate—eye towards the grad school (in the humanities) experience. More than once, I had to do a Google search on a philosophical concept mentioned or class description (“Feminist Diasporas”??) to determine whether it is real or invented. (And I write this as someone who cares deeply about this world and the students within.) The dense and clever plot does encounter a few hiccups at the end, but an earlier review tipped me off to these items so when the less plausible points arose, I was able to take them in stride. In the end, I found this to be a highly suspenseful read, and once the hook was set I could not turn the pages fast enough. Slightly over-the-top but still character driven, this novel may appeal to fans of THE SECRET HISTORY and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. I’m hoping this novel continues to garner attention, because I found it to be an engaging and propulsive read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I requested this book after reading a CrimeReads.com article Amy Gentry wrote about the "Dark Academia" genre, which she describes as "...the gothic, bookish online aesthetic that adopts The Secret History as its foundational text. We are now living, belatedly, in the age of Tartt." HELLO, YES, PLEASE. I first read The Secret History while jammed up in a crappy loft bed in a college dorm room in 1993, and despite having read one zillion books since then, I can still remember how blown away I was I requested this book after reading a CrimeReads.com article Amy Gentry wrote about the "Dark Academia" genre, which she describes as "...the gothic, bookish online aesthetic that adopts The Secret History as its foundational text. We are now living, belatedly, in the age of Tartt." HELLO, YES, PLEASE. I first read The Secret History while jammed up in a crappy loft bed in a college dorm room in 1993, and despite having read one zillion books since then, I can still remember how blown away I was when I read it. Foundational, indeed. ANYWAY - From the very start of Bad Habits, you know Claire/Mac has done some terrible things in her pursuit for academic glory. Her family life is garbage -- her dad vanishes never to be seen again, her mom is a manipulative narcissist with a drug problem, and her younger sister requires constant care. Mac is desperate to reinvent herself to escape the constant, looming threat of failure, and uses this fear and her tumultuous family history to justify the many. MANY shady choices she makes on her quest for improvement. She uses her best friend, the always perfect Gwen (smart, beautiful, charming, with a wealthy, intact family), as her aspirational goal, while resenting Gwen's charmed life at every turn. Everyone in this book (except Tess) is unapologetically terrible, and I loved it. My only (minor) complaint is that the final sneaky reveal at the end felt unnecessary -- the story and characters were strong and layered enough without needing an extraneous "twist" thrown in, but whatever - FIVE STARS. * thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for the review copy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Sharpe

    This is my favorite of Gentry's works so far. I went in expecting a thriller but ended up getting so much more. I love this genre of fiction so much, but I do often find myself wanting more from the plots and the characters than the formulaic sameness that is too often all that's on offer. But this book is so grounded in the often toxic world of academia that it feels very organic. Characters navigating the world of the book are shaped and sometimes warped by this arena they're all contending in This is my favorite of Gentry's works so far. I went in expecting a thriller but ended up getting so much more. I love this genre of fiction so much, but I do often find myself wanting more from the plots and the characters than the formulaic sameness that is too often all that's on offer. But this book is so grounded in the often toxic world of academia that it feels very organic. Characters navigating the world of the book are shaped and sometimes warped by this arena they're all contending in. There are also many passages in the book focused on the narrator's childhood and a particular close female friendship from this childhood. Gentry beautifully captures how all-encompassing and passionate and co-dependent these friendships can be. Another complaint I often have about thrillers is the predictable twists toward the end, but I can say that I definitely didn't see this one coming. Such an enjoyable read. So nice to get everything I want out of a book marketed as a thriller (that is really so much more).

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