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

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens | Book Review

★★★★★
July 28th – 30th

I can honestly say that I’ve never read a character as different from me as  Billie McCaffrey. The tomboy daughter of her small Kentucky town’s preacher, she’s rebellious (something I am not) and religious (something that I am definitely not).

I thought that this was going to be a very typical “coming of age” story, and since I’m not usually one for YA contemporary, I really didn’t have high hopes. 40 pages in, I loved the group dynamic, and really enjoyed the plot itself.

Billie McCaffrey and her group of friends are trying to save her small town’s annual festival. That’s the basic plot at least. The book is more about Billie’s relationships with her friends, some of whom she wants more than friendship with, and how she loves all of them for different reasons. It’s about her growing up, becoming herself, and realizing exactly what that means.

This is one of those young adult books that I desperately wish I had when I was in high school. I’m so glad that I gave it a chance, and read in a genre that was outside of my comfort zone. I saw this book recommended on YouTube by booksandlala, so definitely check out her recommendations if you like spooky thrillers and heavy contemporaries.

I’m interested in Courtney Stevens’ other novels, and I hope she comes out with something like this again in the future.

-Siobhan

No Exit by Taylor Adams | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 27th

No Exit is a thriller. I don’t know why, but for some reason I was under the impression that this book was a mystery. Maybe it was the premise? Darby Thorne is a college student who’s driving to see her sick mother through a really bad snowstorm in Colorado. On her trip, she gets snowed into a rest stop with a few other strangers. One of these strangers has a child in the back of their van, locked in a cage.

I thought that most of this book was going to be trying to solve who had the child in the backseat, but I was totally wrong. This book was way more about the repercussions of Darby’s discovery, and what she does with this information.

The whole time that I was reading it, I had the feeling that this book was written for the screen. Less of a novel, and more of a screenplay. Even without a lot of long descriptions, I found the book very visual, and could clearly picture what was happening and each location. Reading into Taylor Adams a little bit, his film background makes that even more apparent, and makes the book make a bit more sense.

I felt on the edge of my seat the entire way through this book. I loved the pacing, and the book did a great job by continuing to thrill me and push me through. About 50-75 pages in, when I realized that this was decidedly not a mystery, I wondered if the author was going to be able to continue the thrilling momentum though the book. In my opinion, they totally did.

My biggest complaint about this book was the dual perspectives. I found it uncomfortable to go between Darby and Ashley, sometimes just for a few paragraphs, although I understood the necessary context that it provided, especially towards the end of the book. I think that it could have been introduced in a slightly less jarring way.

Overall, this was a great read. I’m definitely going to go back and check out some of Taylor Adam’s previous novels, as well as any thrillers he comes out with in the future.

-Siobhan

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 24th – 26th

We were liars is the type of book that I feel like I missed when I was a teenager. This book came out right after I graduated high school, and every time I walked into Barnes and Noble, I felt like I was missing something by having not read this. When I look at the book on Goodreads, basically everyone that I know has read it. So why didn’t I?

It’s not my type of book, to be completely honest. It’s contemporary, it’s about rich people on their own island, and it speaks to a very particular time in YA, a time when I was totally checked out of reading and was definitely not interested in this.

I found this book difficult to rate because of that. With increasing frequency, I’m having trouble rating YA. It’s not for me. I’m not the target demographic, so what validity do my ratings as a 25 year old human being have, on these characters who were 15/17?

There were parts I related to, and parts that I definitely didn’t. I think that the twist ending, though predictable, was done very well. Especially for this demographic, I can see how this may be the first time that someone of that age group encounters that twist, and I think this is a great way to introduce it. I also think that this is a great book for someone who reads mostly contemporaries to start delving into something a little more mystery/thriller.

What I’m most confused about by this book though (spoiler warning) is the possible paranormal aspect? As with a lot of the information in this book, it’s a little bit vague and open to interpretation. I took most of that with a grain of salt, since the main character was sick, but I would have liked some more clarification on whether or not there was a fantasy/paranormal aspect to this.

Definitely a good summer read, and I’m glad that I finally got to read this. I know that E. Lockhart has plenty of other books, but the next one I’m interested in by them is Genuine Fraud, so I may check that out soon.

-Siobhan

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 5th – 6th

I knew nothing going into this book. I had seen the cover, and a bunch of people I follow had read the book and rated it well. I didn’t know what it was about, or what genre it was even. But it was next on the list, so I decided to give it a shot.

Sawkill Island is a small island off the Eastern Coast of the United States. For centuries, girls have gone missing there, each case tied to a mysterious family at the center of the island. Marion and her family have just moved there after her father’s accident. Zoey has lived there for years, suffering her own losses as her friend Thora became one of the missing girls. Val is responsible, the person at the center of everything, her family feeding a hungry power that feasts on the missing girls.

This book was weird, magical, and fantastic. I loved the representation brought to the surface, especially for Zoey, and her relationship with Grayson. I loved the mystery of the island and the intrigue of what was going on. The writing was fast-paced and kept me reading for hours. The descriptions of the island were beautiful, and I loved the imagery of the woods and the trees. There were a few times where the dialogue felt a bit clunky (especially with Zoey), but I find that I have that complaint with a lot of YA, so this wasn’t entirely surprising.

My biggest complaint was the fluctuating perspectives. I had a hard time determining the voices of each of the three girls, even though the book was written in third person. Within each girl’s chapter, there were also times where it would switch to show the thoughts or the feelings of a different girl, which I found hard to follow at times.

I also had a few gripes with the ending, mostly surrounding the resolution with Val’s mother, and how everyone was suddenly more willing to accept a supernatural situation into their lives without question. I suppose that’s a part of the suspension of disbelief though, considering how long these disappearances had been going on.

I’ll definitely consider picking up another Claire Legrand book. Her ideas are fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what else she writes.

-Siobhan

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 4th – 5th

This was the second book that I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I find myself asking how she creates characters that I instantly care so much about.

Evelyn Hugo is a hugely famous movie star. The novel follows Monique, a journalist struggling with her own personal and work relationships, as she becomes Evelyn Hugo’s biographer. Within the first few chapters, I was already hooked on finding out more about this person, her relationships, and all of the marriages that she had during her life.

I loved reading about this character. What I love about this author is how the relationships are so developed and so complex. I loved reading about her relationships with each of her husbands, and her overarching relationship with Celia. I liked the complexities of her relationship with her daughter, and I loved how much Monique grew as a result of listening to Evelyn’s life story.

This book handles a lot of things really well. Bisexuality first and foremost is a major component of Evelyn’s life and the way she identifies, and I think that it’s given the time on the page and the respect that it deserves. In addition, I think that the book handles her relationship with her first husband, a man who hits her, in a way that shows how complex difficult relationships can be.

This book was so close to being a five star read for me. My only criticism was that I didn’t like the “hooks” that kept insinuating at a mystery or a twist coming towards the end, and one which I felt was somewhat predictable. Though I don’t think I would have preferred for the twist to come completely out of nowhere, I didn’t need the bits at the end of the chapters which said things like “I was going to want to kill her by the end of this”, which I’m totally paraphrasing.

I’ve come to really love the way that Taylor Jenkins Reid writes, and though I probably won’t dive into the romance novels she’s previously written, I’ll continue to read new books she comes out with.

-Siobhan

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix | Book Review

June 27th – July 3rd
★★★★☆

This is the second novel that I’ve read by Grady Hendrix, the first being his super weird, super awesome, super eighties novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I read that one last year after seeing it recommended in my local bookstore and immediately after, I knew I’d read whatever Hendrix wrote. So here’s this book, in all it’s weird, amazing metal glory.

I’ve been on a symphonic/viking metal kick lately, (which is probably one of the weirdest sentences I’ve written on this blog) so now seemed like the perfect time to pick up We Sold Our Souls. The story goes like this: Kris’s band Dürt Würk almost was famous. They came very close to their big break, and then everything fell apart (or so we’re led to believe). Now Kris is working miserably at a Best Western and hasn’t played a note on her guitar in six years. She’s in her fifties, and she’ll never have her chance at glory.

When her former bandmate Terry Hunt’s band Koffin (a hugely famous metal band) announces a farewell tour, Kris goes a little nuts and goes to visit her former bandmates. We learn about Dürt Würk’s album, the one they almost made, as well as what happened when they were all offered contracts to be a part of Koffin.

But this is where Hendrix’s books have a tendency to go off the rails, in the best possible way. There are UPS men who act as covert assassins, coverups, conspiracies, prophecies, and a lot of metal references. The mystery and suspense is one of the best parts, so I really don’t want to give too much away.

I loved this book a lot. Kris was a fun character, and was probably the oldest female character I’ve read from the perspective of. I loved the interplay between her and Melanie, whose dream is just to start over. I liked the supernatural aspect of it, and the lyrics from Dürt Würk’s never published album being interspersed to tell Kris where to go and what to do.

It was a super enjoyable read, and I’ll keep reading everything Hendrix writes.

-Siobhan