Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“The twelfth floor is special”

Lock Every Door is about a girl name Jules, who wakes up in a hospital after being hit by a car. She is twenty-five, recently single, and very much struggling with money. But then she gets an opportunity to apartment sit in a very rich and exclusive complex in Manhattan.

All of the floors in the apartment complex have four units, except for the twelfth floor, which only has two, and one of those units happen to be the one that needs apartment sitting. Basically, our main character, Jules, will earn 4,000 a month, for three months, but no one is allowed in the apartment besides herself, and she is also expected to not get close to any of the other tenants, since they are mostly high profile celebrities who value their privacy.

Jules accepts, without question, even though the secrecy does give her a strange vibe. The new endeavor also takes a strange twist when the author of the book that she and her sister (who has been missing for almost a decade) obsessed over, Heart of the Dreamer, lives in the apartment complex. But Jules quickly befriends a couple other apartment sitters, who seem to know more information about this too good to be true offer they have all accepted.

You quickly meet many of the residents of this apartment, but when one goes missing, you will start to question it all, right along side Jules. And my favorite part of this story, was getting to know all of the players in this game and trying to piece together their probable motives. And honestly? I really loved reading the twists and turns, right up until the very end, sadly.

I didn’t like the end of this book, which I feel like is a very unpopular opinion. I just feel like it took a lot of inspiration from a very famous, award winning movie. I can’t tell you which movie, without completely spoiling the twist, but it was just too apparent for my liking and honestly just really ruined the ending for me.

Overall, this was a fun reading experience for the most part. This was my second book by the author, and I feel like he has a very captivating writing style that not only keeps you on your toes with guessing, but makes it almost impossible to not read his book in one sitting, because you never want to put it down.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of being cheated on in the past, talk of loss of a loved one in the past, self-harm (fire + hand), talk of past suicide, talk of cancer, and murder.

[EXTRA:] Holy moly, Lock Every Door is going to be adapted!

Buddy read with Becky & Madison Mary! ❤

 

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

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“A girl from Pittsburgh came to Ellingham Academy and she wanted to see a dead body. She got her wish.”

Friends, you’d think a book that is centered around two different murders would be a lot more exciting and enjoyable to read. I know I sound harsh already, but I just really thought I was going to love this one. But I truly only ended up loving the atmosphere of the setting and the amazing anxiety rep. That’s it.

This story stars a young girl named Stevie, who just got invited to attend Ellingham Academy, a very prestigious, private school for the most gifted of children. Stevie has dreamed of being a detective her entire life and feels like this is going to be an amazing new adventure for her, because Ellingham Academy is also well known for a murder mystery that happened years and year ago, which was never solved, and one body was never found. The only thing that was found was a letter signed truly devious, which also quickly was destroyed.

Stevie thinks it will be so much fun to investigate the school (which is built into the side of a mountain, like, so freaking cool) but another murder soon happens to a person that she recently befriended. Now, she feels like she must get to the bottom of both of these mysteries, and she’s uncovering more and more secrets that were supposed to be kept hidden.

“Schools may be famous for many things: academics, graduates, sports teams. They are not supposed to be famous for murders.”

Trust me, I made that synopsis sound way cooler than the actual book. Stevie is a cool character though, and I liked seeing her dynamic with her very conservative parents, when she is in a much more liberal mindset. And as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Stevie has many anxiety and panic attacks throughout this story, and I honestly have never read a more realistic portrayal of how my attacks actually feel and I am still in awe of it. Like, I completely believe that this has to be an ownvoices portrayal, because it was so expertly crafted.

But another fun thing about this book is that we get to see Stevie interact with all the other kids at this private school, and they are all truly possible suspects. Yet, the reader will also be left guessing how this new murder will correlate with the one from the past that was never truly solved.

“When you have enough power and money, you can dictate the meanings of words.”

Going into this, everyone told me that the ending was going to kill me and probably make me the third victim of this tale, but honestly? It just annoyed me. Like, it was so far out there that I was just left completely flabbergasted. Especially after Stevie’s discovery prior to that wild ending. I don’t know, I just felt like it actually ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth, and for sure didn’t make me excited to pick up the next one.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me. But please take my review with a grain of salt, because almost everyone I know loves and adores this story. I also think a big reason why this might not have been a hit for me is also because I had just read A Study in Charlotte and completely fallen in love with that contemporary murder mystery. Maybe I was subconsciously comparing the two? I don’t know, but I just didn’t love this one, friends, even though I really wish that I would have!

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Content and trigger warnings for underage drinking, panic attacks, murder, and use of the word cr*zy.

Buddy Read with Alexa, Khouloud, Caidyn, Amy & Heather! ❤

 

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

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“I felt like I was being pulled through a dark, dank wardrobe into some boozy Narnia.”

This was the most unexpected treat! I thought that I might enjoy this one, but I never expected to fall completely head over heels for it, especially after reading A Study in Scarlet the night before starting this! This is a reimagining of Sherlock and Watson, but told in the perspective of their descendants, Charlotte and Jamie, in modern day! And, oh my gosh, this was just fantastic!

Jamie Watson recently left the UK to attend a Connecticut prep school because of a rugby scholarship, and he isn’t thrilled to be leaving his home away from his mother and to be closer to his father and his new family. Charlotte Holmes also attends this school, but she spends most of her days in her laboratory testing her genius and solving mysteries. And these two’s paths cross because (yeah, you probably guessed it) a recent murder that happened on campus. Oh, and they are both being framed for it!

“We weren’t Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn’t, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.”

But this book was for sure a lot darker than I was originally expecting. I mean, it obviously deals with murder mysteries, but it also deals heavily with drug addiction and sexual assault. And I just enjoyed how themes like rape and addiction were constantly at the forefront of the story, and how Charlotte is slowly reclaiming part of herself, while telling more and more of her truth. I just feel like themes like this need to be more normalized, especially in school settings, and I think it was really respectfully done, too.

I said this in my review for A Study in Scarlet, too, but with both stories I just think it is pure genius to tell the story in Watson’s perspective. And it really helps that Jamie Watson is the softest and sweetest boy in existence. But I just think seeing Charlotte through his eyes was so pure and just added something to the story that would have been impossible to achieve in any other way of telling the story. And just in general, this story is very character driven, and I easily fell in love with both of the stars, which was for sure something I wasn’t expecting going in.

“The two of us, we’re the best kind of disaster. Apples and oranges. Well, more like apples and machetes.”

Yet, the heart of this novel is for sure a murder mystery, and I was impressed by how much it kept me on my toes! I really didn’t see the twists coming, and the ending utterly surprised me. I truly loved it, and I thought it was expertly done. And I think Brittany Cavallaro really crafted something so smart and wove something so beautifully.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one! I am so excited to see how August Moriarty is going to come into play, especially with the title of book two being The Last of August! But I loved this reimagining, I loved these characters even more than who they are based off of, and I was completely enthralled with this dark story. I can’t wait for Jamie and Charlotte’s next adventure.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of suicide, talk of past sexual assault, talk of past rape, murder, a lot of talk about drug use, drug addiction, mild self harm (allowing glass to be pushed deeper in the skin), and drugging.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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“I don’t know why this is the thing I choose to say out loud because it hurts to say it, to feel the truth of those words pass my lips, to have them be real in this world. But she’s dead is the reason I’m still alive. She’s dead is the reason I’m going to kill a man.”

Sadie is worth all the praise and hype you’ve heard about it. I had a feeling I was going to love this book, but I didn’t know that I would give it a piece of my heart. This is such a bright light in 2018 releases, and even though it handles some really tough topics, I recommend it with my entire heart and soul. And I will never forget Sadie or her story, and I will never stop listening to, and I will never stop believing, the voices of girls who have their own stories to tell.

This story is told in alternating chapters between a podcast and Sadie. We follow nineteen-year-old Sadie who is on a mission to murder the person who she believes has murdered her thirteen-year-old sister. The podcast is about five months behind the steps of Sadie, but the two storylines come together so very beautifully. But again, this is a dark book and this review is going to talk about some of those elements, so please use caution. Content and trigger warnings for pedophilia, loss of a loved one, bullying, assault, sexual assault, murder, death, extreme parental abandonment and neglect, talk of suicide, drug use, and underage drinking.

We get bread crumb after bread crumb from Sadie, while she travels to get revenge for her sister, the only person she has ever loved in this world. And the story really is so expertly crafted with the podcast element. I will say that I did listen to this on audiobook because so many people recommend the story to be experienced that way, but I didn’t love it as much as most people. But then again, I do have a hard time with audiobooks. But I fell so in love with Sadie and her story, that I listened to this in one day and one sitting.

And I know a lot of people don’t love the ending, but I think it is one of the most powerful endings I’ve probably ever read in my entire life. Plus, I feel like the choice of the cover of Sadie is genius, because Sadie truly is a faceless girl. She is a girl like so many whose stories don’t get to end happily, a girl whose story rarely even gets to be heard, and when it does it isn’t believed.

Something that I think is a really easy concept, but is hard for so many people to understand, is that rapists and pedophiles can be kind, and successful, and funny, and pillars of their community, and it will still never take away from the fact that they are rapists and pedophiles. The other titles and attributes do not lessen the fact that someone is a rapist or a pedophile. And how we teach girls at a very young age that the crimes committed against their bodies, and against their wills, is something to feel shame over. And how we live inside a broken system where rapists can commit the same horrific crime over and over, because no one wants to listen or believe the victims, especially if they are poor and uneducated. And Courtney Summers really illustrates that point so very beautifully throughout Sadie. Because our own world proves every day that people would rather believe powerful men over loud girls. But Sadie takes action into her own hands, and reclaims her power, her body, and her heart, along with getting her vengeance. And it is one of the best journeys I’ve ever experienced.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I miss more; everything I’ve lost or everything I never had.”

I also want to talk a little bit about the representation in Sadie. First off, Sadie has a very severe stutter. I didn’t know this going in, and as a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the main character has a stutter before, but it was perfection. Heartbreaking perfection though, because seeing Sadie unable to get the worlds out when she was feeling extreme anger or sadness was so heart wrenching. But Sadie always got the words out, and she always got her hurt across, and it was so beautifully done. Also, I know the scene is brief, but Sadie is so not straight, if anything she sounds rather pan to me. Lastly, Sadie has some of the most realistic poverty rep I’ve ever read, and I still feel like in 2018 that is something that is hard to find.

And I obviously think Sadie is a masterpiece of a story, and the themes are so important and relevant, but I think the biggest reason I loved this book so much was because I felt so connected to Sadie because of what she felt for Mattie. I will be completely honest with you all, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without my little brother. Me and my brother are a bit closer in age than Mattie and Sadie, and we were never abused or neglected, but the pure unconditional love that Sadie feels for Mattie, and how responsible and protective she felt, it was so pure and so realistic and just completely ripped out my heart and left me feeling so raw and vulnerable. I would do anything in the universe to protect my little brother, and I feel like I fell in love with this book just because Sadie’s love for her sister resonated so strongly in my very soul. There is a line in this book about Sadie feeling alive when her sister comes home from the hospital, and how she laid a hand on her baby sister’s chest and felt her breathing, and I was uncontrollably weeping while reading it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the love I have for my brother depicted so closely than to that passage, and I know I will carry that inside my heart forever.

“I stood over her crib and listened to her breathing, watching the rise and fall of her tiny chest. I pressed my palm against it and felt myself through her. She was breathing, alive. And I was too.”

Overall, this book just really meant a lot to me. And even though this book is heartbreaking, it has some of the most beautiful quotes I’ve read all year. I read it with tears in my eyes for at least half, but I wouldn’t trade this reading experience for anything. And I am now going to read every single thing Courtney Summers has created. I truly loved this one, and I recommend it with my entire heart and soul, especially if you have a close sibling relationship, if you enjoy murder mystery podcasts, and if you also want to change the world so that more victims’ voices not only get heard but get believed.

Lastly, I want anyone who needs to hear it to know two things: First, if you need to talk to someone, RAINN is always there. They are completely confidential, and available 24/7. You can also call 800.656.HOPE at any time, too. Secondly, I believe you and your voice deserves to be heard and believed.

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Buddy read with Ashwini at bookwormmuse! ❤

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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“So much water. So much land. So many places to disappear.”

The Last Time I Lied was such a fun book to read during this spooky season. It really kept me on the edge of my seat, it was so thrilling, it was so chillingly atmospheric, and that ending was really unpredictable. I’m so happy I picked this book up this October! Also, to everyone who participated with us in #FridayFrightAThon, thank you so much! It was such an honor to read alongside so many of you! And hopefully this last book helped you get into the Halloween mood!

This is a story about a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Emma, who is still haunted by something that happened fifteen-years ago at summer camp. In present day, she is an artist that is finally having her first gallery event. But the thing is, all the inspiration for all the paintings at the showing were also inspired by what happened when she was thirteen-years-old.

Fifteen-years ago, Emma went to summer camp late and was forced to bunk with three older girls in a cabin. She quickly becomes close with one of them, Vivian, who treats her like a little sister. But she soon finds out that Vivian was keeping secrets from her. Yet, Emma never found out what those secrets were, because one morning she wakes up and the three girls are missing and are never to be found again.

This story is told with flashbacks constantly showing us what really happened all those years ago. And we slowly find out why Emma is unable to paint anything but those three missing girls. But Emma is offered some closure, when she is asked to go back to the camp, to teach art, and to maybe receive some semblance of closure for herself and for her art.

But once she goes back to Camp Nightingale, she learns that some people’s lives never went back to normal after that haunting morning. And Emma also realizes that some people aren’t going to let her forget that they blame her for whatever happened.

Again, this was so much fun to read. I was so surprised at how many different directions this story was able to take, and how I never saw which way the story was going. I also think the second person point of views were really well done and distributed throughout the story for the perfect amount. I honestly never wanted to put this book down.

But, not to get into spoiler territory, I hated the epilogue. Well, I loved and hated the epilogue. I actually think the last twist was such a work of genius. But I was absolutely appalled at the way Emma handled it. Therefore, the book was kind of left off on a sour note for me, sadly.

Overall, I really did enjoy this one. I loved going along with Emma and solving the present-day mystery and the mystery of the past at the same time. And, seriously, the summer camp setting was so perfectly spooky. I think I’m just a bit of a harsh rater with thrillers, honestly. But if you’re looking for something that you won’t be able to predict, and that will put you in a scary mood, I completely recommend this!

Lastly, something I want to bring up that in no way impacts my rating; I really do not like how this male author writes under a female sounding pseudonym. I also don’t like how there is no author picture and the author note and acknowledgements makes an effort to not have the reader know this story is written by a man. I get that Gillian Flynn was (maybe still is) the thriller queen for a while, but it just makes me feel grossed out that I feel like he is hiding that he is a man to try to sell more. Because white men don’t have it easy enough, you know?

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Content and trigger warnings for schizophreniform, anxiety attacks, loss of a loved one, alcoholism, slut shaming (a lot), peeping toms, many fatphobic comments, negative comments about food, talk of cancer, and sex between a sixteen-year-old and nineteen-year-old.

Buddy read for #FridayFrightAThon which I co-hosted with Amy @ A Court of Crowns and QuillsJen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

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“You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.”

This book is so haunting, so atmospheric, so gripping, and so perfect. And If you, too, love The Secret History by Donna Tartt then I recommend this book with every single bone in my body. Also, this is such a love letter to Shakespeare and all his work, so if you appreciate that I think you’ll also fall so head over heels for this story. I’m honestly not sure what I expected going into If We Were Villains, but it is now one of my favorite books of all time.

This story follows seven very pretentious theater students, going to a very prestigious and private college. They moved to Ohio to go to the university from all over the world, but they really made a found family with each other, while all living in what they call the Castle on campus. But one night their life completely changes when they all come together on a decision that alters their fate.

“Nothing mattered much after that morning. Our two souls—if not all six—were forfeit.”

Richard – has a bad temper and is the “mean” one.

Meredith – Richard’s girlfriend, and the “sexy vixen” type.

Filippa – The “cool” one, in my opinion. Mysterious home life. My second favorite.

Alexander – Gay, grew up in foster care, and I believe is Latinx. Yet, is the “stoner” one.

Wren – Richard’s cousin, and “the girl next-door” type.

James – The best actor and our main protagonist’s roommate. I’d say the “popular” one.

Oliver – Our main protagonist, who is nice, and who is sweet, and who just wants to keep the peace between his group of friends. Also, Oliver is totally pansexual and no one can change my mind on this.

“My infatuation […] transcended any notion of gender.”

Oliver is for sure the main character, and this book starts out with him getting out of prison ten years after the events of that frightful night. And he is finally telling the story of what actually happened. This book is also broken up in five acts, but we get to see the events of what really happened that night, a decade ago, and we get to see the ramifications of how that altered everyone’s lives in present day.

“How tremendous the agony of unmade decisions.”

And each act, to me, really highlights a different Shakespearean play, that really sets the tone for what is unfolding in that act. From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to Julius Caesar, to King Lear, to Romeo and Juliet, to so many more; the honoring, appreciation, and celebration are all there and it truly makes for a read like no other. This book is a love letter to theater. And this book is structured so perfectly, written so expertly, that I really think that R.L. Rio crafted something beyond genius.

“It’s easier now to be Romeo, or Macbeth, or Brutus, or Edmund. Someone else.”

Friends, I feel like this is a book that won’t be for everyone, but if it is for you then you will love it with the sum of your being. This was perfection for me, and completely made my October this year. If you’re looking for something haunting, and thrilling, and so very atmospheric, then please give If We Were Villains a try. And that last line? It is going to haunt me forever with its beautiful perfection.

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Content and trigger warnings for: death, murder, physical abuse, slut shaming, a transphobic comment, a onetime use of the slur for Romani people, a homophobic comment, drug overdose, PTSD depiction, depression depiction, suicide, self-harm, and mention of an eating disorder (and a poor taste comment about it).

Buddy read for #FridayFrightAThon which I co-hosted with Amy @ A Court of Crowns and QuillsJen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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“Seven for a secret, never to be told.”

This was my first Ruth Ware book, but sadly it wasn’t a hit with me. But looking at my friend’s reviews, I do think I might be in the minority with my feelings. I will say that the atmosphere was eerie and perfect. I will also say that the writing and prose was beautiful. But I’m not someone who reads a lot of thrillers or mysteries, but even I could see all the reveals in this one coming a mile away.

“One for Joy. One for love. One for the future.”

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a story of a girl named Hal who has been grieving the loss of her mother for the past three years. She has had to take up the mantle of her mother’s psychic readings and tarot spreads for the community, making ends meet, and barely being able to hide from the loan sharks who she received money from when she was desperate. But she thinks her luck could change the day that she receives a letter, letting her know about the death of a woman she has never known and an inheritance that could not only solve her money problems, but change her life forever.

Hal feels like she is good enough at reading people, and telling them what they want to hear, that she might actually stand a chance at convincing them that she is a long lost relative, deserving of a fortune. So, Hal uses the very last of her money to attend the funeral of this mysterious woman she has never known, and travels to the estate, Trepassen. But she soon realizes that her mother has visited this place before, and Hal desperately tries to find out what went on over two decades ago that eventually led to her mother not only fleeing, but to never mention any of her past to Hal.

“Never believe your own lies…”

We also are able to see actual glimpses of the past, and events that happened at Trepassen that help piece together everything a bit more. And Ruth Ware is able to add some really amazing, and really creepy, parallels that make you feel really unsettled while reading. Again, the atmosphere of this book is really well done, and I couldn’t help feeling claustrophobic in that attic myself.

This all sounds super good right? Possibly haunted house? Unsolved murders? Family mysteries? Tarot readings? But that’s about where the coolness ends; with the premise. Hal leads the reader to believe she is so very perceptive, but she literally ignores every single thing that would help her unravel this mystery. And not to get into spoiler territory, but you couldn’t have paid me enough to stay in that attic! Especially after the light, the window, the attempted murder. Like, Hal just ended up being another, typical, stupid character in another typical, stupid murder mystery. And I’m extra let down because I felt like this had so much potential.

And this story wraps up with so many loose ends! What happened to the loan sharks? What happened with the will? What happened with the rest of the family? What were her future plans? Why would a certain somebody help her when they had no real motive? I don’t know friends, but this was just a big letdown for me.

Overall, this was just an okay read for me. I didn’t dislike it, but I disliked more things about it than I liked. But again, I am totally in the minority with my feelings based on the Goodreads reviews I’ve been seeing. Another thing I’ll say is that this reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel, another author I’ve never really enjoyed. So, if you do – then I’d probably really recommend this one to you, too!

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Content and trigger warnings for harassment, anxiety, loss of a loved one, parental abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, captivity, and murder.

Buddy read for #FridayFrightAThon which I co-hosted with Amy @ A Court of Crowns and Quills, Jen @ Pinot and Pages, & Chelsea @ Chelsea Palmer! 👻