2020 Bookish and Blog Goals

Before we get too far into the month I want to share what some of my goals are for this year. My aim in sharing this is so you can see the direction I’m going in for the year especially with the books I am picking to read. I also share just a few blog goals that I have and I think are realistic for me to achieve.

Bookish Goals

  1. Read 120 books this year.
  2. Read more big books. I was doing ok with this last year but then I dropped off toward the end of the year. I don’t have a specific number in mind for how many books I want to read, instead I just want to stay consistent with it and not shy away from reading them just to hit my target number of books.
  3. Keep reading a variety of genres. I genuinely enjoy so many different types of books and I want to make sure that I’m not getting stuck in only one or two genres.
  4. Going along with the one above I want to read more plays and poetry this year. I have never read a play for pleasure and I am interested to see how I like it. I obviously read some in school and I didn’t mind it but that was more than a decade ago. Also, I really do like poetry when I do happen to read it but I want to make it more of a priority.
  5. Part of the #ClassicsCommunity 2020 challenge is to read at least one classic per month and I definitely want to make sure that I’m doing that. More than one per month would be a bonus.
  6. I really want to read all the books that I pick for my monthly TBR’s. I have so many books and I get sidetracked but I would love to accomplish my monthly to read list every month. I already started this with the books I picked in my January + Magical Readathon TBR by only choosing six books per month.
  7. Kindle Unlimited is obviously something that I pay for every month but last year I was not good at all about using it every month. Which is beyond ridiculous because I have a huge running list on my phone of all the KU books I want to read. I hope to read at least one per month but I would love to be able to read more than one if I can fit it into the month.
  8. Hand in hand with the one above is I want to try to read more books that I have bought on my Kindle. I have so many amazing books that I buy on there and then never prioritize them. This is definitely something that needs to change this year.

Blog Goals

  1. Update my blog consistently. My goal is to always post on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but I don’t always do that. I want to get back to doing that every week plus adding in more content as I can.
  2. I would really like to do a full review for every book that I read. While I know that doing that 100% isn’t completely feasible I do feel confident that I can do this 80-90% of the time.
  3. This will probably be a forever goal but there are always things that I want to tweak and add to my website so I hope to implement more of those during the year.

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

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I’m back today with a super cute YA romance that I think so many of you will love. Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for including me in this blog tour!

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Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. 

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. 

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. 

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Early Praise


Tweet Cute delivers in every possible way: a perfect enemies-to-lovers romance, a whip-smart plotline, and endearingly real characters. I devoured it.” – Francesca Zappia, author of Eliza and Her Monsters

“Sweet and fun! An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist.” – Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

“A witty rom-com reinvention for the Twitter age, Tweet Cute pairs delicious online rivalry with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up. This fresh, funny read had us hitting ‘favorite’ from page one.” – Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest 

Buy Link

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/tweet-cute/

Review

This is an adorable YA contemporary romance. It feels so fresh and relevant and I am in awe that this a debut novel. Pepper and Jack are both characters that I immediately connected to and was rooting for. They are both going through a lot with trying to figure out what they are going to do with their lives since they are Seniors and also trying to  navigate some family drama.

The is a classic slow burn romance where I was dying for Pepper and Jack to finally get together. I really love how their relationship started out and how they navigated all the drama surrounding them together. They really became friends first and then we saw their feelings for each other start to grow. I really appreciated that the author, Lord, chose to do this because it made it feel much more realistic. Especially because YA tends to have more insta love and I think this book is a great example of a relationship between teens.

Family dynamics and conflict was very heavily woven throughout this book. As a parent it made it a little difficult to read at times because I was so irritated by the parents and their actions or inactions. Teenage me would have related so much to what Jack and Pepper are dealing with that I know I would have appreciated and related to them so much.

Also, I have to just mention all the amazing baking that happens in this book. Wow, was I so jealous of the characters for getting to eat all the delicious sounding baked goods. I wish there had been a part at the end with recipes for some of the goodies. There are also a few bits dealing with a baking blog which I obviously loved as well.

I do feel though that this book had a lot going on and the ending still had some strings of story still left undone. I wish this book had been more focused on the romance and just one or two other of the side conflicts/dramas that happened. By having so much in the story it made it almost impossible for Lord to wrap it all up in a cohesive way.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves YA and also to any romance fan. Emma Lord has done an incredible job with this story and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future. If you want to check out a small excerpt from the book then don’t forget to keep scrolling and enjoy!

Emma Lord

Social Links

@dilemmalord (Twitter/Instagram)

Excerpt

JACK

“Look.” I glance into the classroom, where Ethan is thoroughly distracted by Stephen and no longer keeping an eye on us. “I may have . . . overreacted.”

Pepper shakes her head. “I told you. I get it. It’s your family.”

“Yeah. But it’s also—well, to be honest, this has been kind of good for business.”

Pepper’s brow furrows, that one little crease returning. “What, the tweets?”

“Yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck, sheepish. “Actually, we had a line out the door yesterday. It was kind of intense.”

“That’s . . . that’s good, right?”

The tone of my voice is clearly not matching up with the words I’m saying, but if I’m being honest, I’m still wary of this whole overnight business boom. And if I’m being honest, I’m even more wary of Pepper. If this really is as much of a family business as she claims it is—to the point where she’s helping run the Twitter handle, when even I know enough about corporate Twitter accounts to know entire teams of experienced people get paid to do that—then she might have had more of a hand in this whole recipe theft thing than she’s letting on.

The fact of the matter is, I can’t trust her. To the point of not knowing whether I can even trust her knowing how our business is doing, or just how badly we need it.

“Yeah, um, I guess.” I try to make it sound noncommittal. My acting skills, much like my breakfast-packing skills, leave much to be desired.

“So . . .”

“So.”

Pepper presses her lips into a thin line, a question in her eyes.

“So, I guess—if your mom really wants you to keep tweeting . . .”

“Wait. Yesterday you were pissed. Two minutes ago you were pissed.”

“I am pissed. You stole from us,” I reiterate. “You stole from an eighty-five-year-old woman.”

“I didn’t—”

“Yeah, yeah, but still. You’re them, and I’m . . . her. It’s like a choose your fighter situation, and we just happen to be the ones up to bat.”

“So you’re saying—you don’t not want me to keep this up?”

“The way I see it, you don’t have to make your mom mad, and we get a few more customers in the door too.”

Pepper takes a breath like she’s going to say something, like she’s going to correct me, but after a moment, she lets it go. Her face can’t quite settle on an expression, toeing the line between dread and relief.

“You’re sure?”

I answer by opening the container she handed me. The smell that immediately wafts out of it should honestly be illegal; it stops kids I’ve never even spoken to in their tracks.

“Are you a witch?” I ask, reaching in and taking a bite of one. It’s like Monster Cake, the Sequel—freaking Christmas in my mouth. I already want more before I’ve even managed to chew. My eyes close as if I’m experiencing an actual drug high—and maybe I am, because I forget myself entirely and say, “This might even be better than our Kitchen Sink Macaroons.”

“Kitchen Sink Macaroons?”

Eyes open again. Yikes. Note to self: dessert is the greatest weapon in Pepper’s arsenal. I swallow my bite so I can answer her.

“It’s kind of well-known, at least in the East Village. It even got in some Hub Seed roundup once. I’d tell you to try some, but you might steal the recipe, so.”

Pepper smiles, then—actually smiles, instead of the little smirk she usually does. It’s not startling, but what it does to me in that moment kind of is.

Before I can examine the unfamiliar lurch in my stomach, the bell rings and knocks the smile right off her face. I follow just behind her, wondering why it suddenly seems too hot in here, like they cranked the air up for December instead of October. I dismiss it by the time I get to my desk—probably just all the Twitter drama and the glory of So Sorry Blondies getting to my head.

“One rule,” she says, as we sit in the last two desks in the back of the room.

I raise my eyebrows at her.

“We don’t take any of it personally.” She leans forward on her desk, leveling with me, her bangs falling into her face. “No more getting mad at each other. Cheese and state.”

“What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter,” I say with a nod of agreement. “Okay, then, second rule: no kid gloves.”

Mrs. Fairchild is giving that stern look over the room that never quite successfully quiets anyone down. Pepper frowns, waiting for me to elaborate.

“I mean—no going easy on each other. If we’re going to play at this, we’re both going to give it our A game, okay? No holding back because we’re . . .”

Friends, I almost say. No, I’m going to say. But then—

“I’d appreciate it if even one of you acknowledged the bell with your silence,” Mrs. Fairchild grumbles.

I turn to Pepper, expecting to find her snapping to attention the way she always does when an adult comes within a hundred feet of disciplining her. But her eyes are still intent on me, like she is sizing something up—like she’s looking forward to something I haven’t anticipated yet.

“All right. No taking it personally. And no holding back.”

She holds her hand out for me to shake again, under the desk so Mrs. Fairchild won’t see it. I smile and shake my head, wondering how someone can be so aggressively seventeen and seventy-five at the same time, and then I take it. Her hand is warm and small in mine, but her grip is surprisingly firm, with a pressure that almost feels like she’s still got her fingers wrapped around mine even after we let go.

I turn back to the whiteboard, a ghost of a smirk on my face. “Let the games begin.”

~Cassie

 

 

December Wrap Up + Stats

It may be the 20th of January but I decided that I wanted to put together my December stats and share my wrap up of the month with you. I don’t think I did this for every month last year but it is definitely one of my goals for this year. The majority of what I read last month was Christmas romances but maybe if you see one you like you can add it to your list to read at the end of this year.

Wrap Up

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This is a Nordic crime novel that won the best Swedish Crime Novel award in 2016. It has also been adapted into a Netflix show that I haven’t yet watched. However, I absolutely loved this story and the way Giolito told the story. It is a book where the timeline ebbs and flows which enhanced the suspense of what was going to come to such a high degree. This is a dark story about a girl who is in jail because she is accused of helping her boyfriend kill their fellow classmates in a school shooting. The book does not shy away from the darkness and is an absolute masterpiece of storytelling. The build up to the shooting and the aftermath with the trial taking place are told in such an impactful way that I know I will think about this book for the rest of my life. I also feel like I learned a substantial amount about about Swedish culture, politics and economics which I thought was incredibly fascinating.

Rating: 5/5

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Holiday Romance: All Wrapped Up for the Holidays

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Holiday Blog Tour: Christmas in Silver Springs by Brenda Novak

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Holiday Blog Tour: Cowboy Christmas Redemption by Maisey Yates

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Holiday Blog Tour: Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow

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Holiday Romance: Santa’s on His Way

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I absolutely LOVE Clue so when I saw that this book had recently come out I immediately bought it and read it. I am so happy that this is the first in a series because I loved this book. It is a modernized version of the classic game/movie/books but still keeps the heart of Clue at the center. The only downside to the story was how long it took for things to actually start happening. I can’t find anything online about when the second book is coming but I hope it is sometime this year!

Rating: 4.5/5

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I only read the first few books in the Shopaholic series (well, the first book I have reread a few times) and I forgot just how amazing Becky Bloomwood is. She will forever be one of my favorite characters to ever grace the pages of a book. This book had me laughing out loud, it had me cringing in embarrassment, it had me crying and basically it just gave me everything you could want in a book. Add all the Christmas hijinks to it and this just might be a book that I reread every holiday time. I love the message the story leaves us with as well and it could not have come at a better time for me. This Christmas was a struggle for me because the symptoms of my disease started roughly two weeks before actual Christmas and this book was definitely cathartic to me. I aim to read more of Becky this year and more of Sophie Kinsella in general.

Rating: 5/5

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I won this ebook from the authors Instagram and I’m so happy because this was a great small town holiday romance novella. Although the hero in this book is no longer a solider so that was a little off putting but the romance between the two main characters was very sweet. While it was sweet it also at times felt juvenile because they are in an intimate relationship and yet they never seemed to talk to each other about anything important regarding their relationship. They just never felt as serious as they kept proclaiming they were.

Rating: 4/5

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Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Kindle Unlimited Readathon Wrap Up

Stats

Author                                                               Pages

Anthology: 2                                                     1-299: 3

Female: 10                                                        300-499: 8

Rating                                                               500+: 1

1*: 0                                                                  Total Pages: 4,240

2*: 0                                                                  137/day

3*: 2

4*: 4

5*: 6

Genre

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Crime: 2

Romance: 8                                                               Year Published

YA Thriller/Mystery: 1                                             ARC/Publiser sent: 4

Adult Contemporary: 1                                           Older Release: 4

Book Format                                                            2019: 4

Owned ebook: 8

Library ebook: 1

Owned Physical: 2

Library Physical: 1

~Cassie

Barnes and Noble Book Haul

Today my oldest son, Connor, and I went to Barnes and Noble to spend some time together doing something we both love. It makes me so happy (and proud) to have a kid who loves books and reading just as much as me. We can literally spend hours browsing and talking about books together. We were both thrilled when we got there to find out that Barnes and Nobles is doing some amazing sales right now. I really restrained myself and we only got five books but man it was hard. Especially when they rang up to only be $30!

*All links are to Goodreads

Connor Picks

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This paperback was only $4.99 and after my membership discount it was only $4.49!!

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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A fresh and fun graphic novel series spin-off of The Baby-sitters Club, featuring Kristy’s little stepsister!
Karen Brewer lives next door to Mrs. Porter, who wears long robes and has wild gray hair. Mrs. Porter has a black cat named Midnight and always seems to be working in her garden. Karen isn’t supposed to spy on her neighbor, but she’s determined to prove that Mrs. Porter is a witch named Morbidda Destiny!

Mrs. Porter is getting ready to have a special meeting at her house, and Karen is sure the meeting is for witches. Are they going to cast a spell on Karen? Or will she be brave enough to send them away — once and for all?

Karen’s Witch by Katy Farina

My Picks

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This book and the next were both in the front in the bargain book section. When I got to the register they were marked down to 2 for $4 and then with my discount they were $3.60 each. 

Written with the narrative tension of The Road and the exquisite terror of classic Stephen King, Bird Box is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat horror thriller, set in an apocalyptic near-future world—a masterpiece of suspense from the brilliantly imaginative Josh Malerman.

Something is out there . . .

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

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I wanted to lose myself in the small town of Pelion, Maine. To forget everything I had left behind. The sound of rain. The blood. The coldness of a gun against my skin. For six months, each breath has been a reminder that I survived — and my dad didn’t. I’m almost safe again. But the moment I meet Archer Hale, my entire world tilts on its axis . . . and never rights itself again.

Until I trespass into his strange, silent, and isolated world, Archer communicates with no one. Yet in his whiskey-colored eyes, something intangible happens between us. There’s so much more to him than just his beauty, his presence, or the ways his hands communicate with me. On me. But this town is mired in secrets and betrayals, and Archer is the explosive center of it all.

So much passion. And so much hurt. But it’s only in Archer’s silence that we might just find what we need to heal . . . and live.

THIS IS A STANDALONE SIGN OF LOVE NOVEL, INSPIRED BY SAGITTARIUS.

Fall in love with this emotional New York Times bestselling romance between two tortured souls who find their chance at happiness in the most unexpected way.

Named one of the “Top Romance Novels of All Time” by Goodreads!
A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller!

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

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This hardcover was 50% off! They had a ton more hardcovers that were half off as well but this is the first one that I saw that has been on my TBR for awhile. 

On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman

~Cassie

Hades Hangmen by Tillie Cole

I mentioned in my last post that I read the entire Hades Hangmen series by Tillie Cole in the span of a week. 7 books and three novellas and I absolutely loved the entire series. I am so excited that book number 8 comes out next month because I am dying to know what is going to happen next.

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Here is the link for the Valentine’s novella that takes place between books 2 and 3. It is no longer canon but it is still a fun read for the first two couples in the series.

Hades Hangmen is a DARK romance series based on a motorcycle club (MC) and a horrific cult that they become entangled with. The world of the MC is so fascinating and I loved how complex and fleshed out it was. There is so much history to the characters and the club which is slowly revealed throughout the entire series. It is one part of what makes these books so compelling. The other big part of that is the men who are so not good people at all but at the same time totally swoon worthy and amazing. Cole is an thrilling author because I fell in love with almost every character in this series and I am rooting for all of them to get their happy endings.

These books are extremely emotional reads and all the characters felt so realistic that my heart bled for them. There were a couple of characters that I didn’t connect to as strongly but almost everyone else had such brutal backstories that I shed many tears over them. I usually don’t do trigger warnings because I think they tend to spoil the story but one I want to mention is rape. Please do not read these books if you are at all sensitive to this topic because it is on page, at times frequent, and difficult to read. There are many other trigger warnings for this series so if you like to know what you are getting into with a book I highly suggest you check out each books Goodreads page.

The women in these stories are so incredible. They are strong and broken. Fragile and loyal. I admire these women so much for what they have gone through and how fierce each one is in their own way. All the women in this series have been sheltered in some way and to see them find their own freedom was beautiful. I am in awe of Tillie Cole and how she was able to write a series that has me so utterly invested in the characters. I cried with them, laughed with them, hurt for them and at the end of the day they are just words on paper. Yet when you read these books you are transported to their world and it feels so real.

As amazing as everything I just gushed about is, hands down the best part of this series is the romance. WOW. I cannot get over how amazing, perfect, and absolutely beautiful these love stories are. The connection between the hero and heroine are some of the best that I have ever read. Each character has gone through some dark stuff and the way they are able to heal together and love each other is remarkable. All of the terrible things that happen and all of the darkest things that are done to them just made the love and devotion they have for each other that much sweeter and more intense.

If you are a fan of romance and think you can handle the darkness I cannot recommend these books enough. They are definitely not for the causal fan of romance. For that I would suggest Cole’s A Thousand Boy Kisses which is a tear jerker YA romance. I recently watched an IGtv that the author did and she said that she is also planning on coming out with the ninth book in this series toward the end of this year. So if you read these and become obsessed with them like  me at least know that the story isn’t ending anytime soon!

~Cassie

Life Update + Giveaway Winner

Hey! I have been thinking about updating this space the past couple of days because I know that I went radio silent once the new year started. I had so many posts planned with my end of the year/start of the year content but unfortunately life has gone not according to plan. Last month I starting experiencing some symptoms regarding my legs and they got worse and then stayed relatively the same so I went to a walk in clinic (there is surprisingly no Urgent Care in my small town) who referred me to the hospital for tests. I ended up spending a couple of days in the hospital at the start of the new year where they ran a lot of tests. One of which is a lumbar puncture, which I hope none of you have experienced, but that by itself had me in my in bed for days recovering. I have found out that I have an autoimmune disease and we are working on confirming exactly which one. I feel fairly confident I know what it is but without an official diagnosis I don’t feel comfortable sharing what it is. My main goal right now is just to get that diagnosis so treatment can start. I wanted to share what I have been going though so that if this space goes quiet you will have an idea of what is going on.

Going forward I am not sure how much of my content that I missed I will be posting. It is getting further into January and at some point that content will be outdated. I will try to get some of it out in a timely manner but I also have a lot of current content that I am excited about. Like an entire series that I read (Hades Hangmen) starting while I was in the hospital and finished a few days after I got home. I have read 12 books so far this year which is incredible even if it is for a not great reason. Once I recovered from that horrid lumbar puncture I picked up my first physical book of the year, Little Women, and I have been really enjoying that.

Before I leave you here I just wanted to let wanderingsofabookbird know that she won my Holiday Giveaway. Please email me at bookswithcassieblog@gmail.com so I can get your book sent to you!

I will try to be back next week with my normal Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday posting. And maybe some bonus days with some content I missed. ❤

~Cassie

January + Magical Readathon TBR

*Today is the last day to enter my holiday giveaway. Leave a comment on this post and make sure you are following my blog <3*

I know I’ve mentioned it a few times but seriously how did this past year go so fast?! 2019 was a pretty great year but I am really excited to see what 2020 will bring. This year I want to try to make my TBR posts more achievable for me to actually complete. I like having a structured TBR but I also like the freedom of being able to mood read. To that end I will only be picking 6 books per month to complete which I feel is a good number because on average last year I was reading 10-12 books a month. Of course this month is a little different because I also have a different set of books that I picked during the month of December based on G from Book Roast on Youtube’s Harry Potter themed Magical Readathon. She made the coolest interactive website so if you haven’t checked it out then you definitely should! My goal from this list is to complete half of them this month and then half in February. I feel like that will give me enough time to be caught up for her next readathon.

January TBR

I have picked six categories that coincide with some of my bookish goals (which I will go over in an upcoming blog post) and I will be using these categories every month.

Kindle Book

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“For fractured souls are like magnets.
Drawn to collide into an impossible bliss…”

Labeled a ‘Cursed’ woman of Eve from birth, Maddie has endured nothing but pain and repression at the hands of The Order’s most abusive elder, Moses. Now living with her sister in The Hangmen’s secluded compound, finally, Maddie, is free. Free from the suffocating faith she no longer believes in. Free from endless years of physical and mental torment.

Just… free…

At age twenty-one, the timid and shy Maddie is content to live within the confines of her new home—safe from the outside world, safe from harm and, strangely, protected by the Hangmen’s most volatile member; the heavily pierced and tattooed, Flame.

Flame.

The man who ceaselessly watches over her with his midnight dark and searing eyes. The man who protects her with a breath-taking intensity. And the man who stirs something deep within her numbed heart.

But when circumstances conspire for Flame to need HER help, Maddie bravely risks it all for the broken man who has captivated her fragile soul.

The Hangmen’s most infamous member, Flame, is ruled by one thing—anger. Plagued by haunting demons from his past, an all-consuming rage, and isolated by an abhorrent hatred of being touched, Flame’s days are filled with suffocating darkness, pierced only by a single ray of light—Maddie. The shy, beautiful woman he cannot purge from his thoughts. The woman he has an overwhelming need to possess…
… the only person who has ever been able to touch him.

Flame’s mission in life is to protect Maddie, to keep her safe. Until a trigger from his troubled past sends him spiraling into madness, trapping him in the deepest recesses of his disturbed mind.

His Hangmen brothers fear that Flame is beyond saving.

His only hope of salvation: Maddie and her healing light.

Dark Contemporary Romance.
Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language, and very mature topics.
Recommended for age 18 years and over.

Kindle Unlimited 

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Erika

I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession.

His name is Michael Crist.

My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me.

But I noticed him.

I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away.

Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore.

Because he’s finally noticed me.

Michael

Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika.

My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.

Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college.

In my city.

Unprotected.

The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out.

We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.

***Corrupt can be read as a stand-alone. No cliffhanger.

Book of the Month

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The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Five Star Prediction

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Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

Goodreads TBR

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Classic

The first two weeks of 2020 are a classics readathon as a part of the #ClassicsCommunity 2020 group. The first round of Smutathon 2020 is this weekend so I will be pausing my classic during that time but other than that I will be trying to read primarily classics. I’m not going to do a TBR for it though because it might take me the whole two weeks to read this book.

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Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Womenbrought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

Magical Readathon 

Read a book with 500+ pages

I read a very large chunk of this book in 2019 and put it down and never finished it. I am annoyed that I am going into the new year with some partial read books so I will be trying to read this one this month so I can just be done with it. I am really loving it but it the story changed and I decided to prioritize other things instead.

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What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.

Read an urban fantasy 

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The only purebred vampire left on the planet and the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who killed his parents centuries ago. But when his most trusted fighter is killed—orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate—Wrath must put down his dagger and usher the beautiful female into another world.

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of the Brotherhood and blood frighten her. Yet his touch ignites a dawning new hunger—one that threatens to consume them both…

Read a paranormal book

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Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Read a book that starts with S

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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?

Read a book with an author who’s last name starts with T,M, R

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Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Read a book with a winged creature or feathers on the cover

I don’t know why you can’t see it on this picture but on my copy there are little black birds in the white part of the book.

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The Redbreast is a fabulous introduction to Nesbø’s tough-as-nails series protagonist, Oslo police detective Harry Hole. A brilliant and epic novel, breathtaking in its scope and design—winner of The Glass Key for best Nordic crime novel and selected as the best Norwegian crime novel ever written by members of Norway’s book clubs—The Redbreast is a chilling tale of murder and betrayal that ranges from the battlefields of World War Two to the streets of modern-day Oslo. Follow Hole as he races to stop a killer and disarm a ticking time-bomb from his nation’s shadowy past. Vogue magazine says that “nobody can delve into the dark, twisted mind of a murderer better than a Scandinavian thriller writer”…and nobody does it better than Jo Nesbø! James Patterson fans should also take note.

Read the first book you think about

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On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

Read a book shorter than the one you just finished

For this I just picked one of the smallest books on my shelf. I really want to read it and I know no matter what I read it will be smaller.

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The place is Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, an enclave of rigid piety huddled on the edge of a wilderness. Its inhabitants believe unquestioningly in their own sanctity. But in Arthur Miller’s edgy masterpiece, that very belief will have poisonous consequences when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft-and then when those accusations multiply to consume the entire village.
First produced in 1953, at a time when America was convulsed by a new epidemic of witchhunting, The Crucible brilliantly explores the threshold between individual guilt and mass hysteria, personal spite and collective evil. It is a play that is not only relentlessly suspenseful and vastly moving but that compels readers to fathom their hearts and consciences in ways that only the greatest theater ever can.

~Cassie

 

Kindle Unlimited Readathon Wrap Up

The past weekend was the Kindle Unlimited Readathon and I had a lot of fun participating. I was only able to read two books which was a bit of a bummer because I was hoping for at least three. I loved the two books that I did read though so overall it was a great readathon. If you are interested in what other books I have on my KU library I will leave that here.

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I freaking LOVED this book. It is a DARK romance though so if that is not your thing then I don’t think you will like this at all. I however really enjoyed all the emotions I felt reading this. It surprised me how much I connected with these characters considering how they are not good people. I especially felt this way about Preppy. He is a guy that I consider so disgusting but wow did my heart bleed for him and his story. I can’t wait to get to the three books later on in the series that are centered around him. This book does a fabulous job of showing so clearly how people can have both good and bad sides. I also really loved King and Doe’s love story. It was dark, twisted, sexy, sweet and heartbreaking at times. This book left off on a crazy cliffhanger so I immediately returned this book and “checked out” the second book in the series. I hope that I am able to get to it in January!

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This is book features a bad guy who has put a wall up due to different circumstances in his life so he treats everyone horribly. I love the character arc that Vicious had during the book and how he still was him but with his darker side tamed just a tiny bit. I also really appreciated how Emilia didn’t make excuses for her feelings for Vicious. She knows better than anyone how cruel he can be but she also knows him better than anyone else and we didn’t have long drawn out explantations of her defending her love for him. Which is not to say that she was meek because she is definitely able to hold her own against him. Their connection and interactions were amazing and I love them together. I hope that we get to see more of them as the series goes on. I gave this one four and half stars but I feel like if I hadn’t read this right after King that I would have given it five stars.

~Cassie

Best Books of the Year

I have read a little more than 130 books this year and I really wanted to put this post together to share what I consider my top books of the year. I will have a post coming up soon where I share my best, worst, surprising etc but today I really wanted to share my love of these books with you. My goal was to come up with a list of 20 but I actually came up with 30. So I went back through and picked my top 20 of the 30. I then attempted to rank the twenty but that was impossible for me, so they will be in no particular order. I do have a favorite book but that will be in the post I was referring to earlier.

*All links are to Goodreads

Honorable Mentions

Top 20

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King by T.M. Frazier

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Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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The Stranger by Albert Camus

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The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

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My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

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Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

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All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I couldn’t choose between the two Riley Sager books that I read so I added them both. The Last Time I Lied is still my favorite of his three books but I absolutely love all of them.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

~Cassie

Blog Tour: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

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I’m so excited to be sharing my review of Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison with you today. This post is in partnership with Harlequin Trade Publishing for their Mystery/Thriller Winter blog tour. I also reviewed The Last Affair by Margot Hunt for the blog tour and both books are amazing!

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Good Girls Lie

Author: J.T. Ellison

ISBN: 9780778330776

Publication Date: 12/30/19

Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Summary:

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

Review

This book is a dark exhilarating thriller of a ride. This book was almost impossible for me to put down because there was always something that was happening that I couldn’t take myself away from the story. The high speed pacing of this book along with the breadcrumbs of truths that we get kept me enthralled all the way through. The gothic setting of the story along with the social structure of the school added so much depth to the story that I was captivated from the beginning.

The structure of the book was also unique in that each chapter has a headliner that signified what was going to happen. I love that the author, Ellison, chose to do this because it amped up the suspense so much. This is probably the biggest reason that I read this book in practically one sitting.

The characters in this book are all so dark and complex that I never knew who was doing what or who was in on what or who was hurting or helping someone. I love books like this where you are never sure exactly what is happening. Even when you do think you know something it turns out that you didn’t know everything and I really appreciate when an author is able to do that.

The ending of this book was just as spectacular and didn’t let me down. I will admit that I was a little worried that things were getting tied up a little too neat but there was still some stuff thrown in there that kept me just as hooked as I had been all the way through. Good Girls Lie is hands down the best thriller I have read this year and I cannot recommend this book enough to you. If you want to either end or start your reading year off right then I highly suggest this book. It is a masterpiece of a thriller and is definitely one of my top books of the year.

Please scroll down and read the first couple of chapters of this amazing book. It is obviously just setting up the story but it really gives you a feel for how twisted of a book this is. Also, if you live on the east coast J.T. Ellison is doing a book tour for you lucky people and I so wish that I could go and meet her. All the info for that can be found at the very bottom of this post. I am so excited for you all to read this book and hopefully love it just as much as me!

JT Ellison Author Photo credit Krista Lee Photography - vertical

Author Bio:

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville’s premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @thrillerchick

Facebook: @JTEllison14

Instagram: @thrillerchick

Goodreads

BookBub

Excerpt

1

THE HANGING

The girl’s body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school’s entrance. A closer examination shows the ends of a red silk tie peeking out like a cardinal on a winter branch, forcing her neck into a brutal angle. She wears her graduation robe and multicolored stole as if knowing she’ll never see the achievement. It rained overnight and the thin robe clings to her body, dew sparkling on the edges. The last tendrils of dawn’s fog laze about her legs, which are five feet from the ground. 

There is no breeze, no birds singing or squirrels industriously gathering for the long winter ahead, no cars passing along the street, only the cool, misty morning air and the gentle metallic creaking of the gates under the weight of the dead girl. She is suspended in midair, her back to the street, her face hidden behind a curtain of dirty, wet hair, dark from the rains. 

Because of the damage to her face, it will take them some time to officially identify her. In the beginning, it isn’t even clear she attends the school, despite wearing The Goode School robes. 

But she does. 

The fingerprints will prove it. Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school’s gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell. As word spreads of the apparent suicide, The Goode School’s all-female student body begin to gather, paying silent, terrified homage to their fallen compatriot. The gates are closed and locked—as they always are overnight—buttressed on either side by an ivy-covered, ten-foot-high, redbrick wall, but it tapers off into a knee-wall near the back entrance to the school parking lot, and so is escapable by foot. The girls of Goode silently filter out from the dorms, around the end of Old West Hall and Old East Hall to Front Street—the main street of Marchburg, the small Virginia town housing the elite prep school—and take up their positions in front of the gate in a wedge of crying, scared, worried young women who glance over shoulders looking for the one who is missing from their ranks. To reassure themselves this isn’t their friend, their sister, their roommate. 

Another girl joins them, but no one notices she comes from the opposite direction, from town. She was not behind the redbrick wall. 

Whispers rise from the small crowd, nothing loud enough to be overheard but forming a single question. 

Who is it? Who? 

A solitary siren pierces the morning air, the sound bleeding upward from the bottom of the hill, a rising crescendo. Someone has called the sheriff. 

Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown, huddles behind its ivy-covered brick wall. The campus is flanked by two blocks of restaurants, bars, and necessary shops. The school’s buildings are tied together with trolleys—enclosed glass-and-wood bridges that make it easy for the girls to move from building to building in climate-controlled comfort. It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things. 

The headmistress, or dean, as she prefers to call herself, Ford Julianne Westhaven, great-granddaughter several times removed from the founder of The Goode School, arrives in a flurry, her driver, Rumi, braking the family Bentley with a screech one hundred feet away from the gates. The crowd in the street blocks the car and, for a moment, the sight of the dangling girl. No one stops to think about why the dean might be off campus this early in the morning. Not yet, anyway. 

Dean Westhaven rushes out of the back of the dove-gray car and runs to the crowd, her face white, lips pressed firmly together, eyes roving. It is a look all the girls at Goode recognize and shrink from. 

The dean’s irritability is legendary, outweighed only by her kindness. It is said she alone approves every application to the school, that she chooses the Goode girls by hand for their intelligence, their character. Her say is final. Absolute. But for all her goodness, her compassion, her kindness, Dean Westhaven has a temper. 

She begins to gather the girls into groups, small knots of natural blondes and brunettes and redheads, no fantastical dye allowed. Some shiver in oversize school sweatshirts and running shorts, some are still in their pajamas. The dean is looking for the chick missing from her flock. She casts occasional glances over her shoulder at the grim scene behind her. She, too, is unsure of the identity of the body, or so it seems. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth. 

The siren grows to an earsplitting shriek and dies midrange, a soprano newly castrated. The deputies from the sheriff’s office have arrived, the sheriff hot on their heels. Within moments, they cordon off the gates, move the students back, away, away. One approaches the body, cataloging; another begins taking discreet photographs, a macabre paparazzi. 

They speak to Dean Westhaven, who quietly, breathlessly, admits she hasn’t approached the body and has no idea who it might be. 

She is lying, though. She knows. Of course, she knows. It was inevitable. 

The sheriff, six sturdy feet of muscle and sinew, approaches the gate and takes a few shots with his iPhone. He reaches for the foot of the dead girl and slowly, slowly turns her around. 

The eerie morning silence is broken by the words, soft and gasping, murmurs moving sinuously through the crowd of girls, their feet shuffling in the morning chill, the fog’s tendrils disappearing from around the posts. 

They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery. 

Ash. 

Ash.

Ash.

 

2

THE LIES

There are truths, and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened, which is where you and I will meet. My truth is your lie, and my lie is your truth, and there is a vast expanse between them. 

Take, for example, Ash Carlisle. 

Six feet tall, glowing skin, a sheaf of blond hair in a ponytail. She wears black jeans with rips in the knees and a loose greenand-white plaid button-down with white Adidas Stan Smiths; casual, efficient travel clothes. A waiter delivers a fresh cup of tea to her nest in the British Airways first-class lounge, and when she smiles her thanks, he nearly drops his tray—so pure and happy is that smile. The smile of an innocent. 

Or not so innocent? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Soon. 

She’s perfected that smile, by the way. Practiced it. Stood in the dingy bathroom of the flat on Broad Street and watched herself in the mirror, lips pulling back from her teeth over and over and over again until it becomes natural, until her eyes sparkle and deep dimples appear in her cheeks. It is a full-toothed smile, her teeth straight and blindingly white, and when combined with the china-blue eyes and naturally streaked blond hair, it is devastating. 

Isn’t this what a sociopath does? Work on their camouflage? What better disguise is there than an open, thankful, gracious smile? It’s an exceptionally dangerous tool, in the right hands. 

And how does a young sociopath end up flying first class, you might ask? You’ll be assuming her family comes from money, naturally, but let me assure you, this isn’t the case. Not at all. Not really. Not anymore. 

No, the dean of the school sent the ticket.

Why? 

Because Ash Carlisle leads a charmed life, and somehow managed to hoodwink the dean into not only paying her way but paying for her studies this first term, as well. A full scholarship, based on her exemplary intellect, prodigy piano playing, and sudden, extraordinary need. Such a shame she lost her parents so unexpectedly. 

Yes, Ash is smart. Smart and beautiful and talented, and capable of murder. Don’t think for a moment she’s not. Don’t let her fool you. 

Sipping the tea, she types and thinks, stops to chew on a nail, then reads it again. The essay she is obsessing over gained her access to the prestigious, elite school she is shipping off to. The challenges ahead—transferring to a new school, especially one as impossible to get into as The Goode School—frighten her, excite her, make her more determined than ever to get away from Oxford, from her past. 

A new life. A new beginning. A new chapter for Ash. 

But can you ever escape your past? 

Ash sets down the tea, and I can tell she is worrying again about fitting in. Marchburg, Virginia—population five hundred on a normal summer day, which expands to seven hundred once the students arrive for term—is a long way from Oxford, England. She worries about fitting in with the daughters of the DC elite—daughters of senators and congressmen and ambassadors and reporters and the just plain filthy rich. She can rely on her looks—she knows how pretty she is, isn’t vain about it, exactly, but knows she’s more than acceptable on the looks scale—and on her intelligence, her exceptional smarts. Some would say cunning, but I think this is a disservice to her. She’s both booksmart and street-smart, the rarest of combinations. Despite her concerns, if she sticks to the story, she will fit in with no issues. 

The only strike against her, of course, is me, but no one knows about me. 

No one can ever know about me.

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~Cassie