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

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