The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Summary:
A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:
#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Book Cover

Review:
The Girls I’ve Been was exactly what it says in the summary. It was a twisty and slick story that follows Nora. Except before she was Nora, she was Ashley. And before that she was someone else. She was raised by a con woman that trained Nora to behave in a certain way to get money from powerful and wealthy men. We learn slowly about all of these girls that Nora has been (which yes, is where the title comes from. And yes, I loved that.) While we’re not learning about Nora’s past, we’re in the present where Nora, her girlfriend, and her best friend are currently in the middle of a bank robbery.
I really liked Nora. Her backstory was horrible but in a way that you can’t look away from. Learning about her past with her mother and how she ended up living where she was now with her sister was fascinating. But the bank robbery parts of the story were equally compelling. I like how Sharpe managed to make both parts of this story just as interesting. Nora was a character that had been through so much and her past was perfect to get her and her friends out of the situation they were in. But for being in the middle of a bank robbery, the story was surprisingly emotional. Her best friend, Wes, who is also her ex-boyfriend, knows about Nora’s past. But Nora’s girlfriend, Iris, doesn’t know anything about it. Nora and Iris haven’t been together very long. In fact, Wes had only just found out about their relationship (which added some great emotional tension). I honestly loved all three of these friends so much. They each have their own issues, but they all sort of bond over them. They learn so much about one another and their friendship only grows stronger.
Overall, I devoured this story. I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator (who I believe is the author, Tess Sharpe). I loved the chapter headings that shared all of the items they’d collected and potential plans, as well as, plans they’d tried and had failed. I saw a review that talked about this being a story about a morally grey bi girl and I love that so much. I am going to be reading more of Sharpe’s books in the future, for sure.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Summary:
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Book Cover

Review:
Here are five things I liked about Home Before Dark:

  1. I really liked that the story was told in alternating chapters. We follow Maggie, present day, but we also get excerpts from her father’s book (which is heavily talked about by Maggie in the present-day chapters). I thought this was a creative and interesting way to tell the story. I think it worked right up until the big reveal about the book.
  2. Along with how the story is told in both the present and the past, I thought it was really interesting how things that were happening to Maggie and Maggie’s actions were mirroring and reflecting many of the things that had already happened (or were claimed to happen in her dad’s book) in the past.
  3. I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked that I had no idea what was the truth and what wasn’t. I don’t usually like books where I don’t actually know what’s going on. But Sager did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and the suspense until the big reveal. I spent most of the book flip-flopping between firmly believing that the ghosts were real or that they were definitely all made up.
  4. I listened to the audiobook which has two narrators. I liked both narrators. The male narrator that read Maggie’s father’s book did a great job and I will absolutely be seeking out more book narrated by him. I liked the narrator for Maggie as well. I think she did a great job telling the story and keeping up the emotion and suspense.
  5. The big reveal. I liked it because like I said above, I went back and forth for the entire book between believing and not believing that the ghosts were real. So, to finally have confirmation one way or another was almost a relief. I liked how things all played out to put it vaguely so that I don’t spoil anything.

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not surprised since I’ve liked all of Sager’s other books I’ve read. I also discovered (partially because of this book) that I really like the ‘but are the ghosts real or not’ trope for horror and mystery books. I would definitely recommend the audiobook for this one to any audiobook fans, but I’m sure the physical or digital book was just as good.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Summary:
After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.
The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.
Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?

Book Cover

Review:
I’m going to make this a list review because I’m once again feeling a bit burnt out on reviews. But I really loved this book. So, I still want to get a review posted for it. Here are five things I liked about The Night Swim.

  1. I really liked the audiobook. We got a few sound effects and such for the chapters where Rachel was narrating her podcast. There was also more than one narrator. I think the audio was just all around well done and did a great job keeping me engaged in the story.
  2. This book covers some series topics like rape and sexual assault. I think it did those things really thoughtfully and kindly. But it also did them realistically, which was heart breaking at times.
  3. I really loved how the past of Hannah telling her sister’s story and the story of the present were woven together. I think this worked really well as a storytelling device. It’s not always a good way to tell a story, but it really worked for this book.
  4. I liked Rachel. She loved creating her podcast, but she didn’t love the fame that came with her success. I thought her desire for anonymity was really interesting compared with how well her podcast did. I liked her as a character as well. She wasn’t really the focus of the story, but it’s told through her perspective so we got to know her and a bit about her past.
  5. The pace of this story was excellent. I think because it’s about tough topics, I was immediately sucked in. But it was the way the story was told with the characters and the two different timelines that really made it feel fast paced. I listened to the audiobook in one sitting.

Overall, I would (and already have) definitely recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for just spooky season either. I think this would be a compelling and interesting story any time of year.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

Suummary:
In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.
Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.
Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player–a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.
But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve been really liking the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format that I’ve been using for some of my recent reviews. So, I’m going to continue that with today’s review.

What I Liked:

I liked Jill. She was a main character that I felt I could be invested in. She’s a senior at Gold Coast Prep. She’s a Player (Gold Coast’s ‘secret’ society). But when questions arise about who actually killed her best friend, Shaila, Jill’s point of view changes. I liked that she didn’t just accept the status quo. She thought for herself, even if that meant upsetting her friends.

The mystery of who killed Shaila was a good one, in my opinion. I didn’t guess the twist until just a few pages before it was revealed.

I liked the setting of Gold Coast and all the parts of the story that surrounded the Players.

The story goes back and forth between the past and the present as a way for us to get to know Jill and her friends and the things they’ve been through since Freshman year. I liked this, mostly.

I listened to the audiobook for this one and I’m very glad that I did. I liked the narrator. I think she did a great job telling this story and keeping me engaged.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t like pretty much any of the characters aside from Jill. Other than maybe Graham’s sister (I can’t remember her name). I liked her. But all Jill’s friends at Gold Coast we’re pretty terrible, honestly.

I liked some things about the story going back and forth between the present and the past, but I think because I was listening to the audiobook it wasn’t always clear when these jumps were happened. There were often clues I could pick up on, but I would have preferred a clearer distinction.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’m looking forward to Goodman’s new release that I’m waiting for from the library. I liked the prep school setting. I think the ‘secret’ society was fun. But really, Jill made this story what it was, I think.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

That Weekend by Kara Thomas

Summary:
Three best friends, a lake house, a secret trip – what could go wrong?
It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours.
Three went up the mountain, but only one came back.
Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that… nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing.
That weekend changes everything.
What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

Book Cover

Review:
I honestly remember little to nothing about this book. So, after refreshing my memory a bit by reading some reviews, I’m going to share what I liked and what I didn’t.

What I Liked:

I liked the pacing. I read this book in an afternoon while I was on vacation and it was wonderful. I wasn’t bored or easily distracted. I was interested in the story and it kept my attention.

I enjoyed the suspense. Claire doesn’t have any memory of what happened ‘that weekend’ and the suspense of not knowing, getting small details slowly revealed, was really well done in my opinion.

I actually liked Claire. Her friends were pretty awful. But I liked Claire.

That Weekend covered some heavy topics (such as domestic violence, death, and abuse.) I think these topics were all covered thoughtfully and with care, all except for that horrible twist at the end.  

What I Didn’t Like:

This book was incredibly forgettable. I’m writing this review about two weeks after having read the book and I had to go and read other reviews to remember anything about this book (aside from the fact that I really didn’t like the twist, but I still don’t remember what that twist was?)

Okay, I just read reviews until I found a really detailed one that jogged my memory about the twists. I liked most of them. But right at the end, there’s a horrible incest twist that is completely unnecessary and just awful. I would have liked this book so much more had that bit just not been included.

Claire’s “friends” Kat and Jesse were awful. The two are dating, but Claire’s been in love with Jesse for years. Kat is a horrible best friend and I just didn’t really like either of them.

Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did. There were some twists that felt like they were purely for shock value and others that I thought were pretty good. I would say that I have mixed feeling about this book, but I don’t really remember it enough to actually care.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Summary:
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)

Review:
I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I thought there was going to be some fantasy or magical element, but I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t. The Inheritance Games is a delightfully mysterious story that follows Avery as she learns that she has inherited the fortune of Tobias Hawthorne, a man that she has never met. The only stipulation is that she must live in Hawthorne House for one year before she can receive this inheritance. The downside of moving into a big mysterious mansion? The other people that live in it. This starts the riddles, puzzles, and occasionally, nonsense that Avery must deal with.
Tobias Hawthorne had two daughters. One of his daughters has four sons. These four, Tobias’s grandsons, will be Avery’s biggest challenge. I liked the characters. I think they were all well developed and interesting (even the ones I didn’t like). It was never really clear who was on Avery’s side, or at least, who didn’t completely despise her. I think the mystery of this story was so well done. It’s a series, so there’s definitely some things that didn’t get answered, but I felt like enough of my questions were answered for me to feel satisfied. I think the Hawthorne grandsons were absolutely fascinating. Each of them had such different reactions to Avery’s new place in their lives. I think Barnes did an excellent job of leaving little bits and pieces of the truth for the reader to put together. There’s so much to make theories and guesses for and I really enjoyed this part. At times, it was easy to even doubt Avery.
The one thing I didn’t like was the romance aspect of it. It seemed like insta-love, which isn’t a trope that I care for. I think the romance absolutely was not needed in this book. I think the relationship could have stayed completely platonic, or if anything could have been a one-sided attraction. I don’t think the romance really added anything special to the story and I didn’t care for it.
Overall, I absolutely had a blast reading this book. I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down until I got to the last page. I really enjoyed the characters, even the bad ones. I liked the mystery. It kept me interested and wondering what the truth behind Avery getting the inheritance. I am very eager to get my hands on the sequel later this year.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Summary:
Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.
Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.
Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.
But she’ll have to.
Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.
In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship… forevermore. 

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Review:
McGinnis’ books have been hit or miss for me. I either absolutely love them or I don’t really like them very much at all. The Initial Insult was one I really, really enjoyed. It was dark and gritty. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and that absolutely comes through in the story. It follows Tress and Felicity in alternating chapters.
Tress and Felicity were best friends, but then Tress’s parents disappear late one night while they were giving Felicity a ride home. Felicity doesn’t remember what happened. She didn’t see anything, but vaguely remembers being carried away from the car. Since then, she’s become one of the popular girls in high school. She also has seizures that she doesn’t let anyone know about. I thought it was really interesting to see how Felicity deals with this. She uses drugs and drinks to excess. While I didn’t like Felicity for most of the book, especially after we flashback to story after story of her not handling things with Tress well, it was hard not to feel for her. She’s been pushed this way and that by her mother, her friends, even by Tress. The way her story ended was definitely shocking and I am very eager to see what will happen with her in the next book.
Tress was a very unlikable character as well. But in a different way. Her parents went missing and she was sent to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather owns an exotic animal zoo (think Tiger King). It’s certainly an adjustment for her, moving from a stable home with two parents to a trailer on land with incredible dangerous animals that she’s now been enlisted to help take care of. To say that Tress is unhappy doesn’t accurately explain her feelings. She has never gotten over her parent’s disappearance. This is what fuels Tress to trick Felicity into the basement and question her about what Felicity remembers from that night.
I think this story was a wild ride. It had so many different things going on, but it wasn’t too much. None of the plotlines took away from any of the others. I loved how dark this story was. Tress was a really dark character. She did illegal things to make money. She essentially tortures Felicity, who used to be her best friend. But also, I sort of loved her.
The way the story was told was really well done. We start in present day, leading up to the Halloween party where most of this story happens. But while Tress is questioning Felicity, we get flashbacks into the past that show us both Tress and Felicity’s points of view in these moments. I thought McGinnis did an incredible job getting me to like both of these terrible girls. They’re so different from one another, but they’re both terrible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think anyone that likes dark books will like this one. I loved the way the story was told, the characters, the mood and tone of the story. I loved it all. The ending matched the rest of the story by being totally wild. Also, I just have to mention the chapters from the panther’s point of view. They were weird and I completely loved them. I definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Summary:
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly  Jackson

Review:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi in her senior year of high school. She’s working on her senior capstone project. She has decided to solve a murder, though that’s not what she tells her school officials. Five years ago, Andie Bell was murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, committed suicide and confessed to killing Andie. So, case closed, right? Not so much since Andie’s body has never been found. Pippa remembers Sal fondly. He stuck up for her against bullies. He was best friends with Pippa’s best friend’s sister, Naomi. She doesn’t believe that Sal could have done this. So, she decides that she’s going to prove he’s innocent.
I have to mention that I listened to the audiobook. This is relevant because of the format of the story. This book is written with journal entries that Pippa writes for her capstone project. These entries include transcripts from phone and in person interviews that she’s done with people to gather evidence. So, these interviews are narrated with a full cast. There’s one narrator that tells the story, Pippa’s chapters and journal entries. But there are so many other narrators that read parts of interviews and other things. I think this was such a great audiobook. If you liked Sadie by Courtney Summers, you will probably like this audiobook also.
Now, Pippa. She’s an extremely smart girl. School and homework is basically her whole personality. She also is very family oriented. I loved the bits of the story that included her parents and her younger brother. She has a step-father that is Nigerian who she sees has her father. I believe this to be a big influence to why Pippa stands up when she sees racism or other discrimination. I think some may see this as her being a ‘white savior’ which I can understand, but I just didn’t see it that way. I think Pippa was raised to stand up for what is right and that’s what she did in this story. I thought it was really interesting to see Pippa, branded as a ‘good girl’, cross all kinds of lines (blackmail, cat phishing, breaking and entering) to find the truth about what happened to Andie. We see this mystery sort of unravel her and it was fascinating.
I usually liked to read YA mystery/thrillers because they’re easy and usually a bit predictable. This book wasn’t either of those things. It talks about racism (Sal was Indian, so in this small town it’s easy for everyone to think that he killed Andie. There are some pretty racist things said about Sal.) There is the death of an animal, which was upsetting because it didn’t really add anything to the story. I don’t think it needed to happen. There’s talk of drugs and characters being drugged. But the twists and turns were not ones that I expected at all. I think the plot and writing was so well done. Also, I learned just before writing this review, that the US version of the story was changed so that the story took place in Connecticut instead of the UK (where the author is from and where the UK version takes place). I just don’t see why that was necessary and I think the book would have been even better had it not been changed.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I definitely think the audiobook had something to do with that. I think all of the characters were interesting and added something to the story. There were so many little pieces that were put together to make this mystery what it was and I loved it. The suspense and wonder were really well done. I also have to mention Ravi, Sal’s brother, who helps Pippa to solve this mystery. I liked that they worked together. I also liked that Ravi called Pippa out when she was doing too much. I also liked that they had a bit of a romance, but not so much that it took away from anything else in the story. If you like YA mystery/thrillers, you should definitely listen to this audiobook.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Summary:
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.
Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?

Far From You

Review:
Far From You is a mystery/thriller that follows Sophie. Sophie was in a car accident and as a result has pins in her leg and lives with lifelong pain. After the accident, she’s prescribed pain killers and becomes addicted to them. Now, flash forward and it’s been four months since her best friend, Mina, was murdered. Everyone thinks it was a drug deal gone wrong, but Sophie has been sober for almost a year and Mina never would have enabled Sophie to get more drug anyway. Sophie is sent away to a rehab program, which she doesn’t need. The story starts with Sophie getting ready to get out of rehab.
Sophie is determined to figure out who really killed Mina and why. But the story isn’t told chronologically. This was the only thing I really had trouble with. I listened to the audiobook, so the narrator jumping all around the timeline was confusing. It was hard to keep up with where in time things were until we got a bit of context, but in the beginning of the story I wasn’t familiar with all of that important context. So, I felt a bit lost. But once I got a grasp of the story and who was a part of the past and then the events of the present. I thought it was done really well. I liked this slow reveal of the story. I liked that we got to see Sophie’s struggle with addiction (well, I didn’t like it. But I appreciated it for her the development of her character). It felt like we got the whole story of Sophie’s struggle, not just the after. We got to know what Sophie’s relationship with Mina was like. We got to know Sophie before she was addicted to drugs. We felt her anger and her grief after she lost Mina and subsequently lost everyone else in her life too.
I think the mystery of who killed Mina was a really compelling one. I definitely didn’t guess the truth behind what really happened. I think the story told so well. The mystery was built up slowly, giving us time to know and care about the characters. It was full of slow build up that led to excellent action scenes.
Overall, I really liked this book. I think Sophie was a character that I could root for. She was determined, but we also learned what exactly made her so determined. We learned about her love for Mina. I couldn’t help but feel for Sophie. After all she’d been through with her recovery, people not believing that she was sober was devastating. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be looking to read more of Sharpe’s book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Summary:
Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleyReview:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for approving me for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Firekeeper’s Daughter, as the summary says, is a young adult thriller about a Native teen who witnesses the murder of her best friend by her boyfriend that was addicted to drugs. Daunis is no stranger to loss. She’s lost her father, her uncle, and her GrandMary isn’t doing very well. She’s lived a hard life. But she’s so strong because of that. She has such a big heart. But I think my favorite thing about Daunis was her brain. She’s so incredibly smart. I liked following her as she put the pieces together of the investigation that she’s helping the FBI with. Seeing her use her knowledge of the tribe and her culture to figure out what and who was bringing drugs into her community. It was a heart wrenching story about a community being changed by drugs, about losing friends you never thought would be involved, and how betrayal can come from those you thought closest.
I loved learning about Daunis’s experiences being Native. It was really interesting to see her life as an outsider that everyone knows isn’t really an outsider. The community she is a part of is one that has issues, like most, but is filled with so much history and culture that I really enjoyed reading about it.
I feel like I’m not accurately explaining how much I loved this book. It was heart wrenching, but I absolutely could not put it down. I definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves a good YA mystery/thriller. I had so many theories about what was happening and was almost never right. The story was complex, with several different things going on in the story. Daunis had family issues, there was the investigation, but there was also the question of her future and college and why she didn’t play hockey anymore. I think this was all tied together wonderfully, it wasn’t too much for one story, it was all connected. I really cannot say enough good things about this book. This is a new release you don’t want to miss.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Summary:
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
The Cousins by Karen M. McManusReview:
The Cousins is a young adult thriller that follows three mostly estranged cousins that work on their grandmother’s island resort, a grandmother none of them have ever met. I’ve read and loved all of McManus’s other books and The Cousins was no different. The big difference with this book was that all of the theories that I had while reading were completely wrong.
This story takes place on an island off of Cape Cod (which is where I grew up, so I was instantly sold when I started hearing places I knew.) This is the island where their parents grew up, and the place they were disinherited from, with one message, “You know what you did.” So, when the three cousins, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, are invited to work at the resort for the summer, everyone is surprised.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Milly and Aubrey learn more about one another and develop an actual relationship aside from seeing one another at the family reunion. I thought their friendship was well done and though Milly and Aubrey were very different people, they learned about one another and about themselves. I think the character growth all around was excellent, but the growth came with the developing relationships. Milly learns about herself and grows from her interactions with Aubrey. And it was the same for Aubrey. Being around Milly and their growing friendship, she learned to be more confident. Then there’s Jonah. His part of a story was a little weird and I can’t talk about most of it because of a spoiler. So, all three cousins have secrets, but Jonah’s is the worst for the situation they are in. I liked all three of them and I think they were all distinct and well-developed characters.
As for the story and plot, I did not see the big twist coming. I had many theories as I was reading (well, listening as I read this via the audiobook). I think McManus did an incredible job of leaving the reader wanting more, wanting to know all of the secrets, and keeping them invested in the story with little bits and pieces before the big reveal. I also really liked that we get Milly’s mom’s point of view, Allison, but as a teenager growing up on the island (sort of.) We get the story of what happened that final summer before they were all disowned. I think that added a great element of suspense with the alternating chapters of that final summer.
Overall, this was a slower paced story than her previous books. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery was well done, slowly revealed, but not one that I predicted. I loved the characters. Despite all being related, they were all very different. I just as a whole really liked this book. It’s one I’ll definitely recommend in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

GoodReads Summary:
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
The Woman in Cabin 10Review:
Ware’s books have been pretty hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed this one. It was interestingly formatted. The story starts with our main character, Lo, experiencing a break-in and assault (she’s hit by the intruder with her bedroom door) in her own apartment. This leaves her really unsettled. Her significant other is out of town and she doesn’t really have any other sort of support system. So, she’s obviously struggling after this event, but just days later she sets off for a week on a luxury cruise for her job. She’s not as excited about this cruise as she should be. Especially when she hasn’t slept more than a few hours at a time since the break-in.
The first night she spends aboard this luxury (but small!) cruise ship, she thinks she hears the guest in the next room (that she met before dinner) thrown overboard sometime during the night. She calls the head of security and they work together to try and figure out who went overboard. But when all the staff and guests are accounted for, the mystery remains. Instead of doing the job Lo was sent on this cruise to do, she becomes a little obsessed with solving the mystery of what she heard and saw.
While this story progresses following Lo, we also get a bit of outside information in the form of emails sent to Lo that she never received. We also, once the story gets going, start getting news articles that up the suspense of the story and bits and pieces of social media from Lo’s loved ones. I really liked this method of storytelling. We’re getting the beginning of the story and what we think is the end of Lo’s story, but the middle is a mystery. I think telling the story this way was a really effective way of keeping the reader in suspense and really wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was mysterious and suspenseful. The main character was one that I had a lot of empathy for. I really enjoyed the creativity of the story too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

GoodReads Summary:
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?
I Killed Zoe SpanosReview:
If you need a mystery/thriller for spooky season, this is the one you need to pick up. This book is almost 400 pages but I had to keep reading until it was finished. I needed to know what really happened and how the story ended. I didn’t love how it concluded, but I loved everything else.
I Killed Zoe Spanos follows a few different perspectives. We get to see ‘now’ and ‘then’ chapters. The story starts with our main character Anna in a juvenile detention center. But then we go back and see her spending her summer in Herron Mills working as a nanny. I think this was of storytelling was so effective. We get to know a bit of the present and a bit of the past and are left wondering the details of what happened in the middle. Frick did an amazing job of giving little bits of the relevant details here and there, just enough to leave the reader wanting more. I don’t usually come up with theories or predictions, but with this book, I had so many that were constantly changing. My first theory that I was so sure was right was completely wrong, but I did have a second one that turned out to be true.
I really liked Anna. She’s a girl that’s let her life get a little out of control. She parties too much and has more nights that she can’t remember than she would like to admit. This is something I can relate to because parts of high school were like this for me as well. So, she moves to Herron Mills for the summer to try to get away from it all. She needs a break and this is her chance. But while she’s there she gets a weird sense of déjà vu, like she’s remembering things that she shouldn’t know. I thought she was an interesting character. She wanted to do the right thing, which led her to get arrested for Zoe’s murder.
We also sort of follow Martina who is best friends with Zoe’s younger sister, Aster. Martina has a podcast all about what happened to Zoe. We get some chapters that are transcripts of the podcast, which I really enjoyed. Martina interviewed people and gave a new perspective to the mystery of what really happened to Zoe. I liked Martina too. She’s Aster’s best friend, but they have issues about the podcast, especially in the later episodes. We also get to see Martina and Aster in the past when they meet Anna for the first time and hang out with her at other points.
Overall, I liked this book so much. It was so good. The different aspects of the story kept me sucked in. I also thought it was interesting that the story for Anna’s ‘then’ chapters were in the first person, but all of the chapters for ‘now’ were in the third person (until the past catches up with the present of course. I am just so impressed by this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

GoodReads Summary:
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?
The Night Olivia FellReview:
I’m having a hard time while thinking about this book. I don’t think I would say that I enjoyed it, but I really needed to know what happened. I think the author did a good job writing this story. The twists and turns were not ones I predicted. I think I would have liked this book if Olivia had just died. But her being in the hospital with no brain activity, but being kept alive because she was pregnant made me uncomfortable. I think that’s because I have a daughter and since having her, I have a tough time with bad things happening to kids.
I liked that the story went back and forth between Olivia’s perspective in the past and Abi’s perspective in the present. I thought this was a good way to create more suspense. We follow Abi as she tries to figure out what happened to Olivia, but we also get to see the events from Olivia’s point of view leading up to that night.
Overall, this was a well written and interesting story. Certain parts didn’t sit well with me, but that’s a personal thing for me. The book was suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down until I knew exactly what had happened. I was also really happy with the ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

GoodReads Summary:
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Final GirlsReview:
Final Girls follows Quincy who is the most recent ‘final girl.’ Ten years later, she mostly has her life under control, but she still doesn’t remember most of what happened the night her closest friends were murdered. She currently works from home, baking for her popular blog (yes you can expect a Books & Baking post from this book). She lives with her boyfriend, Jeff. She has a pretty good life. But when Lisa, the first final girl, is found dead things start to change. Sam (final girl number two) shows up on Quincy’s doorstep and upends her life.
I liked Quincy for the most part. It was clear that she wasn’t actually okay and Sam brought out the worst parts of her. I liked that she had coping mechanisms, but they’re not working. I also wasn’t totally invested in her relationship with Jeff. He was mostly supportive but I just didn’t care about them. When Quincy starts to remember bits and pieces of what happened that night is when the story really gets interesting.
Overall, this story was a wild ride. Quincy does things that she probably never would have without Sam’s influence, but it also teaches her about herself. She learns that she is not as alright about her past as she thought she was. She’s also remembering what really happened that night, remembering things that changes everything. The ending of this book is not one that I saw coming (though I think others might have). I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. This is a great one for the spooky season because it’s a little bit confusing, but also pretty dark.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.