Horrid by Katrina Leno | ARC Review

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ARC provided by The Novl
Publication: September 15th, 2020

“Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in order to fill their bodies with something other than the anger, the rage, that would otherwise consume them.”

I have loved Katrina’s books for so long and each of them are equal parts whimsically beautiful and intensely raw. From Summer of Salt and You Must Not Miss are still my favorites by her, but if you are looking for something very spooky, very introspective, and very profound this fall season, then I really recommend Horrid with my full heart. And this Agatha Christie vibe check will make so many of you happy, I just know it.

Jane has recently lost her father to a heart attack, and her and her mother are forced to leave their California home and move back to her mother’s childhood home in a very small town in Maine. Not only is the shift from west coast to east coast big, because LA and New England are so very different, but it is also the extra hurt from leaving everything she has ever known, and the mystery surrounding her family and the big house that she now has to call home.

Her mother made it a point for them to never travel out east to see where she grew up, and she is very secretive about her upbringing and the reason she left so quickly to the west coast. Yet, after people in town treat Jane a little differently when they realize who her family is (and where she is living), curiosity starts to be peaked. Oh, and especially because the house seems very haunted. From Jane seeing lights turn on upstairs by themselves, to hearing music being played by no one, to having mysterious object interacting with her, to the roses in the garden growing back regardless of how hard her mother tries to kill them.

“I think you’ve had a tremendous loss. And grief manifests itself in unpredictable ways.”

We get to see so much grieving in this book. People grieving their pasts, people grieving loved ones, people grieving the unknown, people grieving so loudly it feels palpable. It is very intense, and it feels very real, and very harrowing. There are truly so many ways to grieve, and so many ways to cope with that grief, and this book very much explores that. And this book very much talks about how the weight of grief can be all consuming and the most heaviest of all things to carry. And sometimes grieving isn’t only sadness and weeping, but it can be anger and violence.

“She felt like her hands didn’t belong to her, like her skin didn’t belong to her. Like the only thing real and true in her body was the anger.”

We also get to see Jane (and other characters) show their anger in very not okay ways. Jane does not handle her triggers in a healthy way, and we also get to see many flashbacks from the past that she has blocked out even. Jane has present day moments of blacking out that really makes her a bit of an unreliable narrator. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read where the main character is dealing (and suffering) from their anger management issues.

Ever since Jane was a young girl, and her feelings and anger were overwhelming to her, she sought comfort by eating pages out her books and then replacing those hollowed out books with fresh pages that she could journal in. Pica is disorder where a human will eat things with no nutritional value for a number of reasons, and there are so many components of this disorder and such levels (from ice to sharp objects to poisonous things!), and sometimes this overlaps with other health conditions (like OCD or anemia), but this is a main component of this book, and I have never experienced this before so I’m not sure how people will feel about how it was represented.

“She imagined the paper re-forming in her belly. She imagined the words dissolving off the paper and sinking into her bloodstream. She imagined her body filled with words. Made up of them. Words instead of blood, words instead of organs.”

I also think there is a discussion to be had about mental health and how genetics can very much pass down mental health issues. Also, how important it is for parents to recognize these signs and be in check with their own mental health, so that they can help their children get help if they need it. This isn’t an easy book to read at times, and I think people are going to feel a vast range of emotions for Jane and her mom, but I think their situation is very real and something that needs to be talked about a whole lots more. Depression, and anger issues, and unhealthy spiral grieving is a hell of a combination, but one that is a big reality for so many.

I have loved Katrina’s writing forever now. I feel like she just has such a gift, and her prose is some of the most beautiful in the whole entire world, truly. Yet, her words are so very raw and so very sharp every book. The combination is quite jarring, and the impact is felt very deeply, and her writing is very unforgettable. In addition to the imagery of this small town, or this extremely spooky house, of all these characters dealing with grief so very differently, the entire atmosphere of this story is perfectly done in my opinion.

The reason this isn’t a five star for me (even though it is so close) is because of the ending. Katrina is notorious for ending books in a way that makes the reader think for themselves and kind of pick the ending they want to see most. Which I do adore so much, but this was one I just wanted a tiny bit more from, because I feel like the ending was actually pretty straightforward for the most part. Like, I truly can’t say anything without completely ruining this spooky tale, and maybe it was the perfect ending for a thrilling tale! But I do know I will be thinking a lot about a teddy bear for many moons to come.

“She leaned into it gratefully, letting it fill her, letting it wash over her in a warm embrace. With it, she was not alone. She was never alone. She let it carry her into darkness.”

Overall, this is just the perfect read for this autumn season if you’re looking for something a little spooky, very beautifully written, with very important themes that I don’t see talked about as much as I wish they were. All of Katrina’s books are just bright lights in the YA genre, even when they are spooky thrillers with a maybe unreliable narrator! I never wanted to stop reading this, and when I wasn’t reading this I was thinking about it nonstop. I really recommend this one with my whole heart, and I can’t wait to see what will come next from one of my favorite authors of all time.

Trigger and Content Warnings: pica (mostly xylophagia/paper, but mention of hair and flowers, too!), loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a child, talk of hospitalization, intense grief depictions, intense depictions of anger issues, blood depictions, panic attacks, depictions of situations that could make one feel claustrophobic, underage drinking, brief mention of animal abuse in past, child abuse in the past.

4
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole | ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Publication: September 1st, 2020 by William Morrow

✨ Reviews you should check out: Bee’s, Jazmen’s, Carole’s

I have adored everything Alyssa Cole has written, so when I heard about this new mystery thriller I knew it would make my most anticipated releases of the year list! I enjoyed this immensely and I hope people read this and fall in love with this thriller, but I hope they also realize how deeply rooted racism and systems built on racism are still thriving because of racism.

When No One Is Watching switches back and forth between Sydney and Theo’s POV. Sydney is Black, recently divorced, and recently moved back to NY to help her mother who is ill. They have a brownstone in Brooklyn and the neighborhood and the neighbors mean a lot to her. Theo is white and recently moved into Sydney’s neighborhood and is currently living with his abusive ex-girlfriend while they try to renovate this home Sydney is trying to put together a more extensive compilation of the Black history from her neighborhood so she can do a tour, and Theo volunteers to help her. Meanwhile, more and more Black people in the community are going missing, and more and more white people are moving in acting as if they have always owned the neighborhood.

It is never a Black authors job to educate you, but Alyssa Cole truly and unapologetically talks about the privilege that white and non BIPOCs have. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different microaggressions they are forced to endure every single day. This book does not shy away from anything, and I hope it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and I hope they sit in that uncomfortably and begin to check their privileges.

This book has a lot of scary parts, but the scariest part of all is how this country really is still running on racism and slavery, just a different (more well hidden) kind of racism and slavery. From prison systems, to the police forces, to huge corporations and all their different investments. It’s not even well hidden, people just don’t want to see, because they don’t want to be uncomfortable, and they don’t want to change a system that is working in their favor too. But friendly reminder that you can’t be compliant with racism and racist systems and not be racist.

Overall, I really loved 80% of this book, but the ending was way too rushed for me. I just felt a bit unsatisfied with how a few storylines and character’s stories went (and I wanted to know so much more)! But I still think this was such a powerful read, and a shining star in 2020 literature. Alyssa Cole is a gift to this world (and all the genres) and I hope you all pick this one up!

Trigger and Content Warnings: gentrification, racism, so many microaggressions, talk of slavery, loss of a loved one, a lot of talk of financial debt, (medical) debt harassment, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, talk of cheating in the past (not the main characters), talk of domestic abuse in the past, themes of abuse and cycles of abuse, talk of institutionalization, murder, attempted abduction, brief mention of animal abuse, brief mention of suicide, forced medical experimentation, talk of drug addiction, threats of calling ICE and the police, and police brutality.

4
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Buddy read with Maëlys & Penny! ❤

 

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! ❤

 

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! 👻