Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.


Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Dutton
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: July 3rd, 2018
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two Truths and a Lie
1. This book kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
2. This is the perfect summer mystery read.
3. I’ll never read another Riley Sager book.

Obviously, the last one is a lie. I loved this so much that I need to get my hands on Riley Sager’s Final Girls.

The Last Time I Lied is about a girl named Emma, who went away to a summer camp when she was thirteen and stayed in a cabin with three older girls. She becomes very close to the queen bee, Vivian, who calls Emma her little sister and who Emma idolizes/obsesses over to the point of copying her every move. One night, the three girls slip out of the cabin without Emma and never return. Their disappearance is never solved. Fifteen years later when the camp reopens, Emma is asked to return as an instructor. Wanting to find the truth, Emma agrees, but it is obvious from the moment she arrives that something is very wrong.

There are plenty of generic mystery/thriller novels out there. They might still be fun to read, even as you see all the twists coming and make accurate guesses the entire way through. That wasn’t the case with The Last Time I Lied. This book will keep you guessing, but none of the reveals are obvious. I had so many different theories and none of them came close to the truth.

There are two timelines. One is from the perspective of modern-day Emma, while the other is the perspective of Emma fifteen years ago. They are interspersed in such away that we are able to see how the past is connected to the present. Everything comes full circle.

I also thought it was interesting to see how Emma’s obsession of Vivian extends into her adult life. She still wonders what Vivian would think as she reaches for a donut or buys a pair of sunglasses, which just goes to show how toxic friendships can be.

I loved the writing style of this book. It’s fast-paced, compulsive, and so, so fun. It’s deceptively simple. You’ll be sucked right in, and the atmosphere will creep you out in the best possible way (seriously, I had chills).

I would recommend this for anyone who loves mystery and thriller novels and is looking for the perfect summer read!

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.


Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is my second Ruth Ware book, and I’m starting to think she may be becoming the queen of the mystery/thriller genre.

Harriet (Hal) Westaway finds out that she will be receiving a legacy from her wealthy grandmother who has just recently passed. Hal has never met this grandmother, and after some digging, finds out that she is not the right person. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, and with piling bills and looming threats from a loan shark, Hal decides to pretend. She goes to the funeral and meets Mrs. Westaway’s three sons, all the while pretending to be the daughter of their estranged sister. Soon, she discovers that everything is not as it seems at Trepassen House, and finding out the truth may be more important than money.

Admittedly, it took some time for me to get into this book. The writing is phenomenal and the beginning was definitely interesting, but it is a slow-build book that only increases in tension the further along you get. There is an overwhelming sense of wrongness throughout the entire story, and the creepy, eerie descriptions only add to the foreboding atmosphere. You will sense that something the story is building to something big, and can I just say, you will not be disappointed. The story changed for me at around the 60% mark, and from that point on, I could not peel my eyes from the pages.

I was guessing every character’s motive. It was impossible to tell who to trust. Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? Truth and lies is a major theme of this book, and one that comes full circle. The chapters are interspersed with occasional diary entries from Hal’s mother, which gives you just enough insight to draw your own conclusions but not enough to give any sort of clarity.

I loved the tarot card readings and the way that the cards were used to predict and symbolize aspects of the story. I also liked that Hal never put too much stock in the cards, but rather used them to give herself and others the opportunity to find their own answers. Hal is a great main character. She’s strong, brave, and intuitive, and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfold through her eyes.

All in all, a great read. I didn’t know how much I needed a good mystery novel until I had this one in my hands. I look forward to reading more Ruth Ware books in the future!

Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?


Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre: 
Psychological Thriller
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source: 
Hardcover
Release Date: 
March 13th, 2018
Rating: 
★★★★★

There are three things you should know about this book:
1. There are three timelines.
2. The twists will probably melt your brain.
3. Not everyone will feel the same way I did.

Oh, you crazy little book. What is this mind-fuckery? Those twists. That ending. I feel like I just did mental gymnastics and I haven’t quite recovered from it.

“There is always a moment before an accident when you know you’re going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself. You can raise your arms in front of your face, you can close your eyes, you can scream, but you know it won’t change what’s coming.”

Amber is in a coma, but is aware of everything going on around her. She has no memory of the accident that put her in this state, but has her suspicions. Was her husband involved? Her sister? What about the mysterious man who visits her at night?

By listening to the voices around her, Amber tries to piece together the events that lead to her coma. The present day timeline is interspersed with the events preceding the accident, as well as childhood diary entries.

I’m usually pretty good (annoyingly so) at guessing the twists and reveals before they happen. That wasn’t the case with this book. This story is written in three different timelines, all of which tie perfectly together in a way that will keep you guessing. For me, everything was a surprise. As soon as I began to believe one thing, it would be crushed in the following chapter. All of the plot twists were so delightfully unexpected. None of the characters were particularly likable, even the narrator. You can’t trust anyone in this story. Everyone lies. Everyone has secrets.

“There are always ripples in the water before a big wave. I’ve learned already to just let it take me; far easier to surrender and let it wash me up when it’s good and ready. I fear one day the dark water will swallow me down for good, and I won’t always be able to resurface.”

I really liked that this book is relatively short (it’s less that 300 pages). The pacing was fast, instead of there being a drawn-out plot that would give you too much time to speculate, which I feel like is the case with many psychological thrillers. Every chapter is important.

With that being said, I think that there were some loose ends left for the imagination that may bother some people. I could have used a few more answers (and an explanation for that shocker of an ending) but this didn’t make the story any less mind-bending or enjoyable.

The less you know going into this book, the better.

Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

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When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.


Title: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Rating: ★★

I hate giving this book two stars, but it took me ten days to read it. I kept waiting to get sucked in, and it just didn’t happen.

It started off interesting enough, with the mysterious disappearance of Kristin and her two children. The night prior to the disappearance, Kristen and several other women from the neighborhood are drinking wine around a campfire. The next morning, Kristin is gone, and the neighborhood is left to speculate the cause. Was it about money? Was there something sinister involving her ex-husband, Paul?

The story is told through the two main perspectives of Clara and Izzy, two neighboring women. Interspersed between each chapter, there are very brief (one to two page) introspective chapters from Kristin’s perspective, describing what was going through her head and why she needed to disappear. These pages alone provide a mysterious and foreboding atmosphere, but I didn’t get that from the rest of the novel.

To be honest, I was just bored. The book wasn’t bad by any means and some parts were interesting, but nothing ever really hooked me. I was skimming so much toward the end that I almost missed the twist, which was surprising but didn’t affect the story all that much. There was never any real threat of danger, and the person I was lead to think was the bad guy was *shocker* the bad guy. Throughout the entire middle portion, I kept wondering if anything I was reading was actually relevant. It just… didn’t work for me.

Maybe this just wasn’t the book for me. I almost feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I was a mother, with the constant references to family life and the pains of raising children/being a stay-at-home mom. I think a lot of people will find these women relatable, but that wasn’t the case for me.

Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn

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Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?


Title: Anatomy of a Scandal
Author: Sarah Vaughan
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: January 11, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re looking for a riveting courtroom drama, this is it.

Rather than a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller, this book is more of a slow burn, with a few reveals along the way. It’s tense and character driven, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Anatomy of a Scandal is a very well-written, well-researched book about sexual violence; the gray areas that surround it, the way it’s treated in a courtroom, and the social ramifications on everyone involved. There are multiple perspectives which make the book well-rounded and gives you a glimpse into many different facets of the crime. The primary perspectives are of Kate, the sexual offense prosecutor, James, the politician who is on trial for rape, and Sophie, his wife.

Kate and Sophie are incredibly fascinating characters. I liked that Sophie didn’t blindly stand by her husband. She listened to the facts and questioned him along the way. Ultimately, she made the best decision for herself.

I will say that this book takes place in England and is very British. The law and political system is a little different and I didn’t understand some of the terminology, but the book did a fairly good job of making it understandable.

There is a twist around the halfway mark that I suspected pretty early-on, but I don’t think the reader is supposed to be too surprised by this revelation, anyway. Still, I enjoyed the way it was revealed, and thought that it was essential for understanding the motivation behind a particular character’s actions.

I would recommend Anatomy of a Scandal to anyone looking for a fascinating and unique courtroom thriller.

Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.


Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Vintage Books
Source: Paperback
Release Date: September 11, 1992
Rating: ★★★★★

I’m a little late on this one.

And when I say late, I mean about 26 years late. This book came out before I was born. When it was released, it was critically acclaimed and widely considered one of the best books of the 90’s. I’ve been hearing of this book for quite some time, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.

Honestly, I don’t know how to review this book. It’s the kind of story that stays with you well after you’ve finished reading it. It tells the dark and haunting story of a close-knit group of college students that commit the murder of their best friend. The murder isn’t a secret; in fact, it’s revealed in the first chapter. This book focuses more on the buildup and subsequent aftermath of the event.

The Greek program at Hampden College is a very small handful of students that are exclusively selected by the program’s mysterious professor, Julian Morrow. Richard is an outsider who gradually becomes a member of this group. Because he is from a different world (he is a poor California boy with distant parents, while the rest are pampered and wealthy New England elitists), we are given an interesting perspective on the events that unfold. None of the characters are particularly likable, but the story is compelling and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.

The Secret History is a slow-burn psychological thriller about intellectual arrogance, obsession and insecurity, and the lengths that people will go to cover up a murder. This is the kind of book that I could reread again and again, and always find something that I missed the first time.

I’ve never read anything like it, and I’m not sure that I ever will again.

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Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

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Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.


Title: The Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: William Morrow and Company
Source: Book of the Month
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a good mystery/thriller, the last one being The Girl on the Train. It’s not my go-to genre, but every once in awhile I need a little fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat read. And boy, did this one deliver.

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The unreliable female narrator seems to be a common trope in fiction these days, but it makes the story that much more interesting when you can’t trust the main perspective. Anna Fox has some serious substance abuse issues as well as severe agoraphobia (she never leaves her house), but as her backstory unfolds, it’s easy to see how she came to be the way she is. I found myself judging her, pitying her, and rooting for her all at once.

Anna is an alcoholic, severely agoraphobic woman who obsesses over the people in her neighborhood, and more specifically, the Russell family next door. She watches them, takes photos of them, and envies them from afar. One day, while heavily intoxicated on alcohol and pills, she witnesses something across the street. The rest of the story revolves around her desire to prove to herself and the people around her that what she saw actually happened, even though the evidence piles against her. Nobody believes that she saw what she claims she did, and she doesn’t even know if she can trust herself.

It took me a few chapters to actually get into the book, since the very beginning was all about establishing her lonely and monotonous way of life. Once the plot actually began, I couldn’t put it down. This book is fast-paced and twisty, and will have you second-guessing yourself the whole way through. While it wasn’t anything unique or groundbreaking, it was very well-written and kept me turning pages until late in the night.

I did find her constant classic movie references and rapidly changing thoughts distracting, but I think that was sort of the point. Understanding her mental and psychological struggles allowed me to become engrossed in her perspective and the situation that she was in.

(Side note: Why is it trendy to put Woman/Girl in the title of thriller books? There’s The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Woman in the Window, Gone Girl, etc.)