Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | Book Review

★★★★★
October 30th

This book has been on the top of every list since it came out at the end of August last year. It’s received extremely high praise, and I’ve been on the list to loan this book from the library for about 30 weeks.

At first glance, this isn’t my type of book. I’m not usually into historical fiction, the cover screamed that it would be a somewhat slow-paced read, and I couldn’t figure out a time where I would be in the mood to try it. But the description hinted at a mystery, and I just can’t resist a good mystery.

I’m so glad that I read this book. It was heartbreaking, and beautiful, and dark, and scientific, and showed me that I can love historical fiction, I just have to find the ones right for me.

The novel is told in two timelines, one starting in 1952, following Kya, a young woman who is slowly abandoned by her Mother, siblings, and Father until she is living alone at the age of seven in a shack at the edge of a swamp in North Carolina. She learns to take care of herself, never going to school, and dodging any police or social services who come to try and take her away.

Kya is locally known as a bit of an urban legend, the Marsh Girl. The town believes she’s dirty, crazed, and won’t go near her, or help her for that matter. Kya eventually makes some friends, Tate, a boy a few years older than her who teaches her to read, write, and some basic math, and eventually a boy named Chase. At some point though, everyone seems to leave Kya. Though she’s a bit immature as a character from the amount of time spent alone, there’s a maturity to her actions and to her love of nature that’s really beautiful to read about.

In 1969, Chase is found dead and the local police force (and town) begin to suspect that Kya had something to do with it. The investigation is very one-sided, and the town seems more hellbent on pinning the death as a murder than in finding out the truth about what happened to him.

This book hurt to read. It was heavy and sometimes hard to get through, but the scientific aspects were a good way to pull the reader out of the hard-hitting plot. Delia Owens love of nature and animals definitely came through the page, and I wasn’t surprised at all to find that she had spent a good amount of time studying in Africa. Her fondness of the nature in the south is just as present in this book, and it quietly shows the importance of marshland to the reader, not just to those Kya interacts with in the book.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook. I listened to about half of the book this way, and it was a great way to get some of the pronunciations and slang that I was unfamiliar with.

I’m in awe that this is Delia Owens’ debut. I can’t wait to see what else she writes, and to also check out some of her non-fiction work.

-Siobhan

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 24th

The Turn of the Key is the fifth book by Ruth Ware, and the first that I’ve read by her. I definitely feel like I started off on the right foot.

This book was creepy. It had suspense, mystery, and an element which left you puzzling whether or not it was supernatural, or if there was a logical explanation for it. The main character we have is Rowan. Following a rough childhood, she became a nanny and began working at a daycare. After finding an advertisement for a nannying job with a salary she can’t say no to, she leaves London and moves to the Scottish highlands to work for a family in a remote, and extravagant house. The parents are aloof, busy, and flustered by the departure of the previous four nannies they’ve hired.

As Rowan starts her new job, she begins to wonder if the nannies left because of the parents, the slightly aloof and creepy children, or something more sinister happening in a house with a lot of history.

This book is told in an epistolary format, as Rowan writes letters to appeal to a lawyer she wants to represent her in the trial for the murder of one of the children. Most of the time that I was reading this, I forgot that it was written in this format, and liked the reminders of the jumps in time we were experiencing.

Maybe it’s because I read the book in one day, but I found myself so hooked into the plot and Rowan’s actions (and her assurances that she was innocent), that I didn’t have time to theorize or try and figure out what the twists were. I was along for the ride, and found the plot twists, surprising and very well executed.

This was the thirteenth thriller/mystery/horror book that I’ve read this year, and is definitely towards the top of the list. It’s the book that surprised me the most. From what I’ve seen and read about Ruth Ware’s other books, this is her best so far. I’m reluctant to go back and read some of her older novels, but if they have any similar twists to this one, I definitely want to give them a try.

-Siobhan

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 22nd – 23rd

Jules has no one left.

Her parents have both died, and her sister has been missing since she was 19. Jules is living and working in New York City, struggling to stay afloat after losing both her job and her boyfriend (and therefore apartment) in one day. Enter an ad to be an apartment-sitter at one of New York’s oldest, most prestigious, and most secretive buildings: The Bartholomew. The ad is vague, but the rules are extremely strict. No nights away from the building. No bothering the tenants. No visitors. No photos inside. No exceptions.

But if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

This is Riley Sager’s third book, and the third one that I’ve read by him this year. At this point, I feel like I can immediately identify one of his novels. They’re very formulaic. There will always be a female main character, with a dark and twisted past that they don’t want to initially talk about. Their struggle will parallel the horror that they face. They’ll be wrong about something, or have a complete misconception about the events that have transpired in the past to them.

Lock Every Door is no different in this regard. Even though all of Sager’s novels have been standalones, beginning one feels like returning to something. I enjoy the tone that he conveys, his subtle clues at what’s going on towards the beginning, usually as a completely innocuous detail, which makes you go “Oh, that’s what that was about” after the twist is revealed.

I liked Jules’ character. She’s struggling, she’s alone, and she’s desperate. All of those things make her an easy target for the horrors she’s beginning to face. I enjoyed seeing how each of the characters in this book were involved in the mystery, and this book ended up surprising me and taking a sharp turn towards an element I thought was only slightly too far-fetched. My biggest complaint was how grand the scale of this book was compared to Sager’s first two books, and how a few of the elements towards the end were things which could really only happen in fiction. That sort of ending drew me out of the realistic setting, tone, and characters I’m so used to from Riley Sager’s novels.

Riley Sager announced his fourth book, titled Home Before Dark, which comes out in July of next year, and it’s definitely one of my most anticipated books of next year so far.

-Siobhan

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix | Book Review

★★★★★
July 24th – 26th

Horrorstör is the third novel that I’ve read by Grady Hendrix, and my favorite so far. I’ve previously reviewed We Sold Our Souls, and I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism back in 2017, prior to starting this blog.

This book is about weird happenings at an Orsk furniture store (like a knock-off Ikea). Every morning, couches are found with weird substances on them, wardrobes are broken, and glasses are shattered. Three employees work an overnight shift to find out what is happening, and the ride gets wilder from there.

One of my favorite things about Grady Hendrix’s novels are the simplicity of the horror. The underlying mystery is given a simple and satisfying explanation. The horror aspect of each of his novels mirrors the inner struggle of the main characters, and this book was no different.

Our main character is Amy. She’s been working at Orsk for a few years, and wants desperately to escape her clock-in/clock-out job and move onto something else. The problem is, she doesn’t know what to do with her life, or how to get it moving. After growing up through difficult circumstances, leaving college, and struggling to make ends meet, her biggest fear is losing her job at Orsk, as much as she hates it. When she’s asked to take the overnight shift, for double overtime, she begrudgingly accepts to help pay her rent.

Overnight, they find that the store keeps getting stranger. Meeting up with two other employees who are ghost-hunting inside the store at night, they investigate impossible graffiti, hallways that shouldn’t exist, and most of all the monsters that lurk in the shadows.

I loved this book. Grady Hendrix writes exactly the kind of horror that I love. I’m working through his older books (Satan Loves You is probably next), and recently received an advanced copy of his next book, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, which I’m beyond excited to have. (Thank you again, Quirk Books!)

-Siobhan

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 3rd

Pumpkinheads is an adorable graphic novel written by Rainbow Rowell, and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. This is the fourth Rainbow Rowell book that I’ve read, and was definitely the youngest feeling.

Deja and Josiah are two seniors in high school who work at a pumpkin patch every fall together. Josiah has had his eye on Fudge Shoppe Girl, a girl who works at the Fudge Shoppe, for all four years he’s worked there. This is their last night at the pumpkin patch, and together he and Deja try and make the most of the night and accomplish everything they can before the end of their shift.

It’s a cute, quick read. I finished the full novel in about an hour. It’s not something that you’re going to get a lot of depth from, but it’s a cute story with these two seasonal best friends. The best part of the novel is the illustrations. Faith Erin Hicks’ art style is adorable and complemented the story very well. The illustrations did a lot to add to the atmosphere of the pumpkin patch, and Halloween.

I think that I enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s adult novels more than her YA novels, but I’ll still read anything that she puts out. I’m also going to be checking out Faith Erin Hicks’ other work in the future too.

-Siobhan

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendrix & Sarah Pekkanen | Book Review

★★★★☆
August 6th – 7th

This book was a weird ride for me. I loved the beginning, thought it fell flat in the middle, and then picked back up towards the end. Most of my disappointment came from me having guessed a different first twist, and then being wrong when the twist was slightly more stereotypical than I was hoping for.

The Wife Between Us starts as a dual perspective novel. Vanessa is recently divorced, and isn’t dealing with it well. She spends most of her days recovering from the previous night’s bottle of wine, or taking more sleeping pills than she should to push away her insomnia. Her reactions only get worse when she finds out that her ex-husband is engaged to be married again. Nellie is a pre-school teacher who’s engaged to be married, but someone is calling and breathing heavily on the phone. Someone is following her, and she’s starting to get uncomfortable, thinking that it’s her husband’s ex-wife.

What’s interesting about the book is that Vanessa’s chapters are told in first person, while Nellie’s start as third person. I thought this book did a really great job using editing and perspective differences to tell the reader what was going on. Though I found the twists somewhat predictable, I thought that they were pulled off in a very clever way.

I found Vanessa’s character very difficult to relate with. There’s a trend that I’ve noticed in most domestic thrillers where the wife has an attitude that I find extremely off-putting. I’ve seen it in so many thrillers, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train are other good examples of this, where the wife, or ex-wife has this “I’ll make him pay” mentality. Usually they’re women who used to be pretty, or used to be in shape. Many times they depend on drinking or overusing prescription medication to help them cope, but that mentality is very off-putting to read for me.

That being said, that mentality in this book was really only in the first half. After the first reveal, there was a lot more characteristics of a psychological thriller, which made me happy.

I’m definitely going to check out An Anonymous Girl, the other novel by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen later this year to see how I like it.

-Siobhan

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager | Book Review

★★★★☆
August 3rd – 5th

The Last Time I Lied is the second novel from mystery/thriller writer Riley Sager, and the second that I’ve read by him.

In this one, we follow Emma Davis, an up-and-coming painter in the New York City art scene. Fifteen years ago, Emma attended a sleep away camp called Camp Nightingale, where all three of the girls who shared her cabin vanished and were never seen again. Now, Camp Nightingale is going to be re-opening, and Emma is going back for answers.

Sager does a great job at depicting Emma as an unreliable narrator from the beginning. The reader knows she lies about some aspect of the case fifteen years ago, and feels tremendous guilt about it.

Emma sneaks around camp, discovering clues from fifteen years ago which could lead to answers about what happened fifteen years ago. But someone else knows that she’s lying, and knows what she did. Someone is spying on her, making her feel uneasy, and installing a camera pointed at the door of her cabin.

This book was great. I loved how it was written, since like Sager’s first book, it includes chapters of what happened in the past intermixed with what’s currently going on. My only complaints about the book include spoilers, so there’s a warning there.

My biggest problem was with the end of the novel. When the three girls go missing from Emma’s cabin (again) they’re later found in a house. We know that there have been search parties covering every acre of land, but when Emma calls out to them, they respond to her in the house. I suppose it’s possible that they hadn’t gotten to that area to search yet, but it felt like they should have been found.

In addition, at the very end we find out that one of the girls from fifteen years ago is responsible for the death of the other two, and that their bones are in an asylum that’s buried underwater. Again, this place is supposedly so secluded that no one knows it’s there, but the entire property has been searched.

Other than those two small complaints, I loved this book. The pacing was great, and I couldn’t put the book down from the halfway point until I finished it. I’m really excited to read Sager’s third book, because so far both of his novels have been really great thrillers.

-Siobhan