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.

Blogtober Day Twenty-Two: Spooky Book Covers

Hello, lovelies! I was running out of blogtober ideas and then I realized I haven’t done a post (outside of a Top Ten Tuesday) about book covers in quite a while. So, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite spooky/creepy covers that I love. I’m a sucker for a good cover and there are definitely some that have drawn me to mystery or horror books when the summary probably wouldn’t have grabbed me.

The Arsonist and Spellbook of the Lost and Found were absolutely books I bought because of their covers. They were also books that I enjoyed very much when I read them.

Please just look at these stunning purple covers. I’d recommend all of these for spooky season based on the cover alone (but the stories inside are also good spooky season stories).

Creepy weather. Creepy teeth. Creepy animals. Seriously, what more could someone ask for from these covers? Nothing, they’re absolute perfection.

The Valley and the Flood cover is the only reason that I read this book. It’s weird and I just had to know more about the story inside. The Inheritance Games is such a good cover because there’s so much going on that you don’t know where to look (which is really telling of the story inside). Mexican Gothic is such a simple cover, but damn does it make a statement.

Who knew that flowers could be horrifying? Well, they only really are for Horrid. Those flower eyes will haunt me. The other flowers are totally pretty, but with the other elements of the covers, there is a mysteriousness about both These Vengeful Hearts and Whichwood.

There are some books that I haven’t read yet that I wanted to share their covers, too. For some of them, the covers are absolutely the reason that these books are on my radar in the first place.

For the Throne has a stunning cover, much like the first book in the series. I’m reading it because I loved the first book, not because of the cover. But it’s cover was just released and it’s so beautiful that I had to include it. The Last Laugh is also a sequel that I’ll be reading either way, but oh jeez that cover. Lakesedge is one that grabbed me from the synopsis and the cover wasn’t released until very recently. There’s just something that screams spooky and atmospheric about it.

I don’t usually like books with faces on the cover, but these are creepy as hell and I’m absolutely living for it.

The Forest of Stolen Girls has what looks like two girls drowning in flowers and that sounds absolutely horrifying. I’m honestly not sure what is going on with The River Has Teeth but I just borrowed a copy from the library and I’m about to find out. Where the Drowned Girls Go is part of the Wayward Children series which I love, but that random door in the ocean is mysterious as hell.

What are some of your favorite creepy and weird covers?

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 Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

Summary:
The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.
Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.
But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.
Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.
But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

Book Cover

Review:
The Box in the Woods is a standalone Truly Devious mystery. I really loved the Truly Devious trilogy, so I was beyond excited to read this one. I chose to listen to the audiobook. I was going to save it for an 8-hour drive that I had coming up, but I started listening to it the day before my drive while I was packing. I ended up listening to more than 50% of the book before I even got in the car. I just couldn’t put it down. Being back with Stevie and some of her friends, it was really such a joy.
Stevie is spending her summer working at a grocery store and studying dollhouse crime scene replicas. Sounds thrilling, right? Yeah, Stevie didn’t think so either. When she gets an email from the CEO of Box Box (a company that sells…boxes) asking her to come be a summer camp counselor at the camp where the Box in the Woods murders took place, how could she say no? She has Nate and Janelle tag along with her for the summer. She’s supposed to be working with the camp’s owner to create a podcast about the Box in the Woods murders. But as she talks to the owner and to some of the locals, she starts working on her own. I liked Stevie, Janelle, and Nate just as much as I did in the trilogy. It’s a murder mystery so, there’s obviously high stakes and suspense. I think this was well done, just as it was in the trilogy. I think Stevie did a great job finding new details and putting the pieces together.
Overall, I really liked this book. I wasn’t at all surprised by that. I want a million more standalone Truly Devious mysteries, please and thank you. I loved the summer camp setting and the bits of the small-town setting that we got. I just really had a good time listening to this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Legacy by Nora Roberts

Summary:
Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.
Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.
A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.
But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins… 

Legacy

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for an eARC of Legacy in exchange for an honest review.
This story follows Adrian, who is a fitness/lifestyle influencer. When she was a child, her father showed up to her house and tried to kill her and her mother. He was the one that died instead. This is where the story starts. We follow Adrian as she grows into an adult and eventually come to present day where she’s working from her grandparents’ home and running a successful company that’s under the umbrella of her mother’s fitness company.
Roberts is a comfort author of mine. I think that’s because her stories lean toward predictable and are a bit formulaic. I found myself being reminded of her past books while reading Legacy with the way certain characters speak and just the overall way the story is told. I don’t want this to be taken as a negative thing because Roberts is a comfort author for me, so sometimes I just need those books where I know everything will be okay and there will be lovable characters along the way.
The characters are really what stand out in this book. I don’t know that I actually like Adrian, but she was so well developed and we got to see that development happen so it was hard not to be invested in her story. But there were many great characters. We follow them for such a long period of time, that it’s hard not to care for them. But because we started the story so early in Adrian’s life, the ending felt a bit rushed. The romantic relationship didn’t feel like there was enough time to be as in love as they were.
Overall, I enjoyed this book while I was reading it. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were well developed and lovable. But the plot felt a bit missing. I will always love Roberts books. But this one just fell a bit flat for me.

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.

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.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Summary:
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Review:
Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers.
I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her.
So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes.
I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed.
Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Project by Courtney Summers

GoodReads Summary:
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
The ProjectReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Project is one of my anticipated release for 2021. Summer’s books have been hit or miss for me, but the premise of this one had me very intrigued.
The way this story was told was very interesting. There are a few different points of view that tell the story. The first is Bea, told in the third person, as her younger sister (Lo) is born. Then it flashes forward twelve years, still in Bea’s perspective, then forward again six more years, where the story changes to a first-person narrative, but now it’s Lo telling the story. This was a little bit confusing at first. The change from this person to first was abrupt and the jumps forward in time left me wondering who the story was following now and what had happened in the last six years. As the story went on, I ended up really enjoying the fact that the story was told this way. It continued to go back and forth between Lo’s present perspective and Bea’s perspective in the past. The way their stories ended up so similar, with one big difference, was absolutely fascinating.
I think both Bea and Lo were such compelling characters. Lo has so much anger in her but still ends up on a similar path as Bea. Bea on the other hand was filled with gratitude that led her to her downfall.
Overall, I don’t know that I would say I liked this book. It was an absolutely riveting story. One that I had to read in one sitting, staying up way past when I should have gone to bed of course. But it was filled with things that made me uncomfortable. There are relationships with large age differences, not that this itself is bad, but the dynamics of the two relationships were gross (as was the intention, I think). I went into this book unsure what to expect and ended up sucked into the story and left with one question: What the fuck?

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.