ARC Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton for allowing me to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: Lock Every Door

Author: Riley Sager

Pages: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Rating: 5/5

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Goodreads

The two things I loved the most about this book are the pacing and the creepiness level. Out of all three of Sager’s books this is the one that legitimately creeped me out the most. The whole premise of this story is so genius and it kept me guessing the entire time. I could never have figured out the ending and I loved how dark and twisted it was. The atmosphere of the story really added to the creepiness factor. I love how everything was described and I was able to clearly imagine everything that was happening. Lock Every Door takes place over six days. I love this because it really amped up the suspense knowing that things were going to happen quickly. But at the same time nothing ever felt rushed.

My only complaint about this book is that out of all three of his books I felt the least connected to Jules. You know how in some movies you are yelling at a character that they shouldn’t do what they are about to do because it’s obviously not going to turn out good. Well, that was me with this character. She had a couple of moments where I was like what the hell are you doing/thinking?! But at the same time I think that it adds to the fun of it all. Think Scream when Stu is watching the movie and Ghostface is behind him. We are all yelling (or thinking) look behind you! Those kinds of things are what can make horror fun (or maybe that’s just my perverse love of horror) and I liked the element that it brought to the book.

This book cemented my belief that Riley Sager is one of my top favorite authors of all time. Sager’s books are the exact type of horror/mystery that I absolutely love. I will forever read his books and I honestly can’t ever picture myself giving anything he writes less than five stars. I feel confident that anyone who loves thrillers/mysteries will love them as well.

~Cassie

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

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Title: Ordeal By Innocence

Author: Agatha Christie

Pages: 198 (The edition shown above has 288 pages. The book I read has a plain hardcover and I thought the show tie in version was more appealing.)

Publisher: Bantam Books

Publication Date: November 3, 1958 (first published)

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 4.5/5

Accused of bludgeoning his mother to death with a poker, Jacko Argyle had maintained his innocence throughout his trial, claiming he was hitchhiking on the night of the murder and had been picked up by a middle-aged man in a dark car. The police were never able to locate this mystery man—until he shows up a year later. But Dr. Arthur Calgary arrives too late to substantiate Jacko’s alibi. For after serving just six months of his life sentence, Jacko dies behind bars following a bout of pneumonia.

Feeling a sense of duty to the Argyles, Calgary is surprised when his revelations reopen old wounds in the family, leaving him to wonder if one of them is the real murderer….  

Goodreads

Every time I read an Agatha Christie novel I am blown away by how well she could weave a story together. She wrote such interesting characters and such compelling plots. I read this book in two days because I was so engrossed in the mystery. I was slightly disappointed with this one though because this is the first Christie novel that I have read where I figured out the killer pretty early on. The journey to the reveal was so good though and I was constantly second guessing myself. I didn’t see the motive coming at all either so that was still surprising.

This book was written in the late 1950’s so a lot of the thinking on certain topics is pretty outdated. The main two being how a mixed race character was talked about/described and also adoption. If you are someone who stays away from classics that don’t age well (aka problematic) then I would suggest you try a different Christie novel. If you can look past it, this is a well done mystery that any fan of the genre will enjoy. Also, there is a miniseries based on this book on Amazon Prime. I haven’t had a chance to watch it but I plan to do so soon.

~Cassie

Review: The Seven and a half deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Title: The Seven and a half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Author: Stuart Turton

Pages: 512

Publisher: Raven Books

Publication Date: February 8, 2018

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 4/5

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

Stuart Turton has woven together an incredibly complex and well thought out mystery that I am in awe of. I can’t even imagine how long it took him to put all the pieces of this puzzle together. I am excited to re read this knowing the ending going in. I really think it will add a whole other layer to the story.

One of my only criticisms of this book is that there are just too many characters. I kept having to refer back to the invitation at the beginning to see who was who and what their profession was. I think there were too many side characters and it made getting to know the main characters more difficult. However, I think that the story is so big that taking away from it might make it fall flat.

The reveals were perfectly paced out and I love how twisty this story is. Even the broader reveals about the world this book is set in were well done. The science fiction aspect of this mystery is one of the reasons that this book is so compelling. I was so intrigued how time is used as a plot device to help solve the murder. The ending of this book was fantastic and I loved how everything came together. I gave this book four stars but I can see myself rating this higher upon a reread.

I think that this book is a perfect bridge between science fiction and mystery. I would also strongly encourage anyone who finds the synopsis compelling to pick this book up. You will not be let down.

~Cassie

Mini Reviews #7

I’m back with my latest installment of my mini reviews series. This one will mostly consist of all the smaller books that I have recently read.

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Archie Vol. 1: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, Veronica Fish

I loved this! When I was younger I was obsessed with the older Archie comics. More specifically Betty and Veronica so I was excited when I saw my library carries these graphic novels. It was a little weird in the beginning because so much is different but the overall feel of the comics is still the same.

Rating: 5/5

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Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire

This was so disappointing. This book is only 174 pages with larger print and spacing so a lot of the themes of this book felt so overdone. I appreciate the different characters and what they represent but it took over too much of the story. This story is more of an adventure quest which I really like but that story was so rushed because we kept getting inundated with Cora’s thoughts and insecurities about being fat. While what she was saying was important I also feel like it shouldn’t come at the expense of the story. There were numerous times where the characters were just going along and then all of sudden we would have a page or more of Cora having these thoughts but most of the time nothing was happening in the story to warrant them. I feel like McGuire really let down Cora’s character because what she has to say is important representation but the writing prevented it from having the impact that it should have.

Rating: 2/5

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This books should be taught in schools. What a powerful essay on feminism and how even if some people don’t want to see it that it is real. This is actually on excerpt of a TED talk that the author did and I definitely want to find and watch it. This the first work of Adichie’s that I have read and I cannot wait to read more.

Rating: 5/5

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In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

This book totally redeemed how much I didn’t like the third book in the series. This one had such an interesting portal world that felt so fleshed out and I loved learning more about it as the story went on. I also like the progression of time this book goes through which made me fall in love with Lundy’s character so much more.

Rating: 5/5

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The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass

The first book in this series I really liked the main character, America. As the series has gone on she has gotten more and more annoying. I liked seeing more of the world building in this one and I wish the book had focused more on that. Instead the book kept pushing the love triangle aspect which stopped feeling believable after book one. The way America flip flops on everything and believes in herself less and less as the books went on was irritating. There was also so much over the top drama at the end of this book that it was borderline aggravating. With all that being said, I do think I will eventually read the spin off books because I am intrigued by this dystopian world.

Rating: 2/5

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookotoure for allowing me to read this book early in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: The Honeymoon

Author: Rona Halsall

Pages: 314

Publisher: Bookotoure

Publication Date: June 7, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5

‘I’m your husband, Chloe. We’re a partnership now and we do what’s best for us as a couple. Staying here is going to be the best option.’ He picked up his drink and took a sip. ‘It’s not open for discussion. We’re not going home.’

Chloe had the dream wedding. Dan is her perfect man. They haven’t known each other for long, but as she walked down the aisle and saw him standing by the altar, tears glistening in his eyes, she knew this was forever.

Later, as they relax on a beautiful island, settling in to their new married life together, they congratulate themselves on their lovely wedding day, and Dan jokes that he’d like them to stay there forever.

But as the honeymoon goes on, he becomes increasingly adamant. They shouldn’t leave. In fact, he won’t let her…

An utterly gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Clare Mackintosh, and The Wife Between Us.

Goodreads

This is a better than average domestic thriller. I really liked the way the main character, Chloe, is always questioning and rationalizing her thinking when it comes to her husband Dan. She knows that things are wrong and instead of blindly going along with it she stands up for herself. Sometimes, it feels like too much rationalizing on her part but overall I think the author, Rona Halsall, does a good job of not making Chloe a doormat. Chloe and Dan’s relationship was definitely rushed but at the same time it felt authentic. I fully believed that Chloe loves Dan and I could feel her pain and confusion over what was happening.

In the beginning of the book there are flashbacks and I didn’t like that it didn’t continue throughout the whole story. If you are familiar with my reviews you know that I am big on how a story is formatted. I would have preferred for the book to keep the same flow throughout the story. Also, there were a few times where there were flashbacks within flashbacks and I didn’t find them necessary.

I enjoyed the bulk of the story from when the honeymoon starts until the ending. It was well paced and I liked all the revelations that came out. The ending felt a bit over the top for me but it was still a fun read. I also really enjoyed the whole character arc for Chloe and the growth that she makes as a character. The unpredictably of Dan made the book very suspenseful as well because I was never quite sure what he was going to do or how far he was going to go.

I think that a lot of people would enjoy this book. If you are a fan of romance and/or thrillers then I definitely suggest you check this book out. It does a fabulous job of pushing the limits on what seems like a basic domestic thriller.

~Cassie

The Inspection by Josh Malerman

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Title: The Inspection

Author: Josh Malerman

Pages: 400

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: March 19, 2019

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3/5

Boys are being trained at one school for geniuses, girls at another. And neither knows the other exists–until now. The innovative author of Bird Box invites you into a tantalizing world of secrets and lies.

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, who think of their enigmatic school’s founder as their father. And his fellow peers are the only family J has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, but their life at the school is all they know–and all they are allowed to know.

But J is beginning to suspect that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

In Inspection, the masterful author of Bird Box crafts a sinister and evocative gender equality anthem that will have readers guessing until the final page.

Goodreads

To me this is actually a two star read but the actual idea of this story is so compelling to me that I just felt like I needed to give it a three. Also, when the book is actually focusing on giving answers to what is happening it really shined and if the book had been more of that I probably would have given it a four. So my compromise with myself is a three and I feel comfortable with that.

The pacing was really off in this book. There were so many unnecessary pages of details into what certain characters were thinking that it really started to take away from the story. This book would have been a much better story with at least 50 pages cut. I also wish that the characters were older than 12 because it made certain things that happen later on in the story very uncomfortable for me. This is might just be a me thing though because my oldest is a few weeks away from being 10 so it hit pretty close to home. I think 14 would have been a more believable and appropriate age for the kids to be. Also, this whole experiment hinges on the fact that the opposite sex is a distraction preventing us from reaching our true potentials but it is never brought up that there are plenty of people in this world who are attracted to their own sex. It is disappointing that a whole group of people are never even mentioned in this book.

My favorite part of the book was the end because of all the action. I have read one other Malerman novel (Bird Box) and I noticed he did the same thing at the end of that one too. The story just goes along with tiny sprinkles of action throughout the bulk of the story but the end is almost constant action. I would love to read one of his other books and see if he does the same thing in those ones. I’m not against it and I actually think it would be pretty cool if that was his style of writing because I feel like the suspense the reader would be in just knowing that the ending is going to be full of so much horror, action and answers would be a fun reading experience.

I have seen some people classify The Inspection as a dystopian but to me this is a straight up horror novel. Beyond the actual horrific acts that happen or are alluded to the real horror of the story is how these boys and girls are being raised. If you like the Hunger Games or the Divergent and are interested in something darker than I suggest this book to you. Or, if like me, you find the synopsis interesting then I think you will be happy that you picked this one up.

~Cassie

Mini Reviews #6

April was a crazy busy month for me where my family and I did three separate road trips. So, while I wasn’t able to post as much I did do a lot of reading. And my last road trip started me on an intense need to read and I have already finished 10 books this month. A lot of shorter stuff, one I dnf’d, but I’m still pretty impressed with myself. I do have a lot of reviews to catch up on now especially since I finished 8 books in March. Of the 18 I have already reviewed 6 and dnf’d 2. The remaining 10 I will be splitting up into a couple of these mini reviews posts and also hopefully keeping up with reviewing as I finish books so I don’t get behind again (fingers crossed).

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The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

This has the distinction of being the first book that I have ever dnf’d. I made it 20% in and I just couldn’t do it anymore. This book was so painful for me and all of the characters were terrible and I didn’t care to find out who killed who for what reason.

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Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis

This is a collection of mostly essays from various women all centering on the idea of feminism. Unfortunately I didn’t connect to a lot of the essays and there were only a few that I absolutely loved. What I really liked about this was that it presented all the different ideologies of feminism side by side. It really cemented to me that I am a liberal feminist but at the end of the day a feminist is a feminist is a feminist and I proudly stand with all of them.

Rating: 3/5

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I was seriously underwhelmed by this book. I really liked Ng’s writing and I liked how everything connected together in the end. However, the ending really annoyed me and left me feeling like what was the point. I do hope to pick up her debut novel during the next round of the buzzword readathon so fingers crossed I like it better.

Rating: 3/5

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The Silent Picture by Alex Michaelides

This was a fantastic thriller. I absolutely loved the twist in this story and I didn’t see it coming at all. It’s also incredibly fast paced and I loved the mystery of finding out what really happened with Alicia.

Rating: 5/5

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The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zghibe

This is a heartbreaking story of a woman at an inpatient eating disorder clinic. It tells the story of how she got to where she is and also details her dysfunctional relationship with food. This book could be pretty triggering so just be aware of that if this sounds interesting to you.

Rating: 4/5

~Cassie

ARC Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for letting me read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Pages: 425

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Queer

Rating: 5/5

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of romance but when I read the synopsis of this book I instantly wanted to read it because it is such an original idea. And it definitely delivered. I am obsessed with the romance between Alex and Henry and I loved how real their relationship felt. I can honestly spend pages gushing about how freaking cute the two of them are together but I want you all to discover that all on your own.

In fact, all the relationships in this book are incredibly well done and realistically told. All the flaws felt so real and the characters were all so well rounded. Also, this gives such a positive spin on politics and politicians and it was a breath of fresh air from the world that we live in. The characters were all working towards making the world a better place and it was done in a really non confrontational way.

This is a world that I want to live in. I was crying at the end of this book because I so badly want this to be the kind of world that my boys have when they are older. Where all our differences are celebrated and it’s ok to love whoever we want. Where people are strong enough to push past old ideas and ways of thinking. But it’s done from a place of love and compassion and not from a negative place.

Honestly, this book is just amazing and I really hope that everyone gives it a chance. This is such a positive book with an amazing love story that I think so many people will relate to. I liked how much Alex grew as a character throughout the story and watching him fall in love with Henry was one of the sweetest things I have ever read.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

Thank you to Netgalley and St.Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2.5/5

First dates can be murder.

Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control.

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

Goodreads

This is my second Wendy Walker book and I think she does a fabulous job writing characters. She does such a great job of putting the reader inside the character’s heads and making them feel so real. There were obviously some things I didn’t like about this book but her characters were a high point.

For most of the book I thought this was going to be a three star read because while I do enjoy her characters I didn’t connect to the actual story the way I wanted to. There were a few things that I didn’t see coming but I figured out the final twist pretty early on. Since I figured out the end twist so early I was really just anxious to get to that point so I don’t think I enjoyed the lead up to there as much as I could have.

The pacing of the story is really well done though so I feel confident that most of my problems with this book are an “it’s me not you” situation. The story is told from both Laura and her sister Rosie’s perspectives as well as parts of Laura’s therapy sessions. All these different parts helped tell the story in a suspenseful way. Things would build up to something and then it would switch to another perspective. Because of that this book just flies by and I really liked all the different reveals.

Some of the things that I didn’t like would be spoilers so I can’t really go into them. I can tell you that I knocked half a star off at the very end because I really don’t like when authors booksplain (I heard this recently and thought it was genius). I don’t need pages at the end of the story to explain things to me. If an author feels it is necessary than maybe a paragraph at the most but any more than that and it comes across as lazy storytelling. Sorry if that seems harsh but booksplaining is one of my bookish pet peeves.

Overall, this is an average (average doesn’t equal bad!) thriller that I think anyone who is a fan of thrillers will enjoy. I know I rated it low but I did enjoy 99% of this book. I also think that someone who enjoys women’s fiction would also like this book because a lot of Laura’s story has to do with dating and relationships. I am also going to link the other Wendy Walker book that I read because I gave that one four stars and I do think she is so great at fleshing out characters. Also, if you aren’t familiar with the name Wendy Walker I bet most of you have heard of her last book Emma in the Night. I think she has written five novels and I plan on reading all of them.

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

~Cassie

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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Title: Dead Letters

Author: Caite Dolan-Leach

Pages: 332

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3/5

Ava doesn’t believe it when the email arrives to say that her twin sister is dead. It’s not grief or denial that causes her scepticism – it just feels too perfect to be anything other than Zelda’s usual manipulative scheming. And Ava knows her twin.

Two years after she left, vowing never to speak to Zelda again after the ultimate betrayal, Ava must return home to retrace her errant sister’s last steps. She soon finds notes that lead her on a twisted scavenger-hunt of her twin’s making.

Letter by letter, Ava unearths clues to her sister’s disappearance: and unveils harrowing truths of her own. A is for Ava, and Z is for Zelda, but deciphering the letters in-between is not so simple…

Goodreads

This book had a premise that I absolutely love. The whole thing involving letters from her sister while she is missing gave me serious Pretty Little Liar (season 1-4) vibes and I knew that I had to buy this book. Unfortunately, this book fells short on delivering what I was hoping for but it was still a really solid debut novel and I can’t wait to read more from this author in the future.

This book was pretty fast paced and the mystery kept me hooked but all the unnecessary tangents the main character, Ava, goes on in her head started to really annoy me. This book could easily have cut 30 or more pages out and not lost any of the story. Most of Ava’s inner monologue was her thoughts and opinions on random things and it ended up feeling like the author’s ideas and opinions on things.

I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. None of them were particularly likable but I also don’t think they were meant to be. My problem was more that I didn’t really care how the characters ended up. I think that may have been due to the author not having a good way to transition into the next letter. So, sometimes Ava would be doing the most random things completely out of the blue so that the author could have it lead to her finding the next letter. This would take me out of the story and I would just be thinking this girl is so dumb and other times I would think she was being so callous. Instead of Ava’s character having a set kind of characteristics her character became a plot tool to move the story along.

I also really didn’t like the ending. The ending left me wanting so much more and I really felt like it was going to build to some kind of resolution but instead it just fell flat. I did like the journey to get to the end though so I still think this is a decent mystery. I do want to give a trigger warning for alcohol abuse because a majority of the characters are alcoholics who run a winery so there is almost constant talk of it. Also, the characters don’t seem to care that they are alcoholics which I think could be really harmful for some so please be aware of that going into it.

The author, Dolan-Leach, has a new book coming out July 2 and I am so excited for it. It is another book where the synopsis sounds right up my alley. I am going to link it here for you to check it out if you are interested. If you are a fan of mysteries I highly recommend you check out this author’s work.

~Cassie