Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Summary:
When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.
But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.
As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. But I did actually end up listening to the finished audiobook that I borrowed from my local library.
I didn’t love this book like I thought it was going to. I thought that it was lacking in a few of my favorite things about mystery/thrillers. There was a real lack of suspense and little to no stakes for the story to just go “ha ha no one did it?” It felt like nothing happened the whole book. A murder mystery should have the stakes slowly raised and I feel like that didn’t happen. It felt like we just did a character-by-character investigation with a backstory with each of the characters. I honestly could have gone for a little info-dumping over the oversharing that I feel like we got with this story.
I still liked the idea of a competitive scrabble community. I’m sure this is something that exists out there and I love it. Really niche hobbies like this are really interesting to me. I really liked how the main character had turned her love for scrabble into an incredible vocabulary.
I did like Najwa. The way that she thought was really engaging for the story. She’s the reason that I finished the book even though I didn’t really love the story. I did I love the casual mention of putting her hijab on and things like that which we get a few times in the book.
While I didn’t love this one, I think it was an issue with my reading lately, and not the fault of the story. I will still be recommending this one in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Summary:
Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?
Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars.
Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself—or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . .and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. . .

Book Cover

Review:
I absolutely devoured the first two books in this trilogy, so to say that I was excited about the third is an understatement. As Good As Dead follows Pippa as she is once again solving a mystery. I don’t really want to share too many of the plot details (read the summary above for those if you want them.)
I chose to listen to the audiobook for this book just like I did for the first two books in the series and I just cannot recommend the audiobook enough. The cast for this series really does a stellar job telling this story and I loved that we got some more of the full cast and podcast elements that we didn’t really get in the second book. High fives all around to the narration team for this book.
The plot of this book was an interesting one. Pippa is back to solve another mystery, but that mystery leads in an opposite direction from the first two books. I think that was the strangest thing about this story compared to the first two. In those, Pippa is solving a murder and finding a missing friend, but in this one, she’s trying to solve a mystery to “save herself” and that mystery turns dangerous and wild about halfway into the book. The events in the second half of the book were a wild ride. They almost felt out of character for Pippa but the author made it so easy to understand how Pippa had gotten to the point she’s at where she’s making these choices. That sentence was incredibly vague and if you haven’t read this book it was probably confusing. But Pippa in this book is absolutely not the same Pippa we got to know in book one. She’s dealing with some serious PTSD and trauma, and not really coping with any of it very well. She’s convinced herself that she just has to solve one more mystery and she will go back to who she was before, which is absolutely not how stuff like that works. I think the character growth and development was really well done, but I do wish we’d gotten to see Pippa actually deal with some of her stuff outside of talking about her attempts with therapy that occurred between books two and three.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Pippa has changed so much in this series, it was incredibly compelling to see how those changes affected the choices she made in this book. I still think it’s interesting the way the mystery is sort of opposite from the mystery in the first book (and only people that have read this one will know what that means, sorry). I will definitely be reading more books from Jackson in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

Summary:
Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.
By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies . . . and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.
The perfect next read for fans of Mexican GothicTripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The story follows Lena as she’s just arriving back in Boston. She took a break from medical school and went to work with her Aunt in Italy working with plants that have medicinal purposes. But she’s returned to help her parents who are having financial issues. This leads to Lena getting a job as a doctors assistant for a very wealthy family. Lena finds herself entirely too involved with the family, and that’s she’s in completely over her head. But when she realizes the connections between the family she’s employed by and the downfall of her own family, she decides to take things into her own hands and seek revenge.
I really liked Lena right from the start. You could tell that she was super smart and passionate about certain things (like the work with plants she was doing with her Aunt). Her sudden idea and decision to position the man that employed her seemed a little rash for what bwe were shown was an otherwise thoughtful character. Lena seemed to try to think things through before making reckless choices, but the choice to attempt to poison Martin was a snap decision that felt like it took hold of her rather than her actually making the decision. Aside from that, I liked Lena. I didn’t totally understand why she was so enamored by Audrey and Jonathan, as neither of them were very likable characters.
Overall, this was an absolutely wild ride and I really enjoyed it. While I didn’t like all of the characters, I liked Lena. The writing of this story was absolutely beautiful. Mayquist’s prose was lyrical and mysterious, with beautifully described settings. I will be looking forward to whatever work Mayquist writes in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins

Summary:
England, 1865 : As one of England’s most notorious newspaper columnists, Lady Katherine Bascomb believes knowledge is power. And she’s determined to inform and educate the ladies of London on the nefarious-and deadly-criminals who are preying on the fairer sex. When her reporting leads to the arrest of a notorious killer, however, Katherine flees to a country house party to escape her newfound notoriety-only to witness a murder on her very first night. And when the lead detective accuses Katherine of inflaming-rather than informing-the public with her column, she vows to prove him wrong.
Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham’s refusal to compromise his investigations nearly cost him his own career, and he blames Katherine. To avoid bad publicity, his superiors are pressuring him to solve cases quickly rather than correctly. When he discovers she’s the key witness in a new crime, he’s determined to prevent the beautiful widow from once again wreaking havoc on his case. Yet as Katherine proves surprisingly insightful and Andrew impresses Katherine with his lethal competency, both are forced to admit the fire between them is more flirtatious than furious. But to explore the passion between them, they’ll need to catch a killer.

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins

Review:
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem follows Lady Katherine Bascomb, also known as Kate, who is a widow that owns and writes for a newspaper. When she and her new friend Caro, get involved in a murder investigation that’s been plaguing London by writing about a witness that wasn’t interviewed by the police, suddenly the police have found the killer. But what if they’ve found the wrong man?
I really liked Kate as our heroine. Often in historical romance, we’re reading about girls that are just debuting for their season in London and the whirlwind romance that follows. But Kate is a widow, so she has more freedoms than the typical heroine of the genre. She’s also headstrong and refuses to be controlled by any man again.
Enter our love interest, Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham. He’s just been demoted after Kate’s article proves that he’s not followed up on all the parts of the investigation that he’s delegated to others. But when another murder occurs that is similar to the ones that have supposedly been committed by someone that’s been arrested, Eversham’s given another chance and sent to investigate further.
So, there were a few things I liked about this book and a few that I didn’t. I liked what the author was trying to do with combining a mystery/thriller with historical romance. I really loved the murder mystery feel of the story. It set a really good pace for the story and wanting to know who the murderer was really kept me engaged in the story. But, at the same time, I think because of the murder investigation aspects of the story, I wasn’t able to find myself fully invested in the romance. There was so much build-up and detail about the investigation and backstory about Kate that the romance felt like it was sort of jammed into the story. Even though it was obvious that Kate and Eversham were going to be the romantic focus of the story, when things finally started happening between them it felt sudden and almost out of place. I really wanted to like them together, and I did, but not as much as I think I could have. I think they complimented each other as a couple and they had great chemistry. But the mystery and the murder investigation took up so much of the story that the romance aspect almost felt like it didn’t belong.
Overall, this was a fast-paced story. I liked all of the characters and I did enjoy the bits and pieces that were very obviously left to hint about the next book (and couple) in the series. I think the murder mystery aspect of the story was really well done. I didn’t guess who the killer was, and I was very interested in the twists and reveals. I just wish that I had liked the romance more. I liked it, but I don’t feel strongly about it one way or the other. It almost felt like the romance was an afterthought in the story. I think I’ll continue the series, but I’ll probably borrow the next one from my library instead of buying it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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.