Book Review | The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager | Mystery Thriller

| Released: July 2018 |
| Publisher: Dutton |
| Genre: Mystery/Thriller |
| Length: 384 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Fifteen years ago, summer camper Emma Davis watched sleepily as her three cabin mates snuck out of their cabin in the dead of night. The last she–and anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the NYC art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings.. They catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of the very same Camp Nightingale–and when Francesca implores Emma to return to the camp as a painting counselor, Emma sees an opportunity to find closure and move on.

Yet, it is immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by surfacing memories, Emma is suddenly plagued by a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca, and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian apparently left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. And as history begins to repeat itself and three girls go missing again, Emma must face threats from both man and nature in order to uncover all the buried secrets–including what really happened all those years ago. 

My Thoughts

Last October I discovered Riley Sager. It started with Lock Every Door, and before I knew it, I had devoured three of his books in a month. But I was able to hold off one of his older releases to keep specifically for this October!

As I was reading I wasn’t sure how I was felt about it, that is until the final few pages just blew me away. As I was reading it, he made me believe he was using all of the classic thriller tropes, like ‘it was the janitor’, ‘it was the boyfriend’, etc. I fell for every red herring and in the end was completely shocked out of my seat.

At this point I’m convinced Sager can do no wrong. I am hesitant about his latest release just because I’ve seen mixed reviews, but I’m excited to read it (but also sad because then I’ll have no more new Sager books to read)…

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Exciting End of Year Book Releases | 2021

October 18th, 2021

Hi Readers!

We’re coming towards the end of the year but there are still a handful of new releases to get hyped for. Here are some of the most exciting ones…

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz – October 12th
In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys fell in love. Now they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown – November 11th
The highly anticipated second—and final—book in the immersive fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore that began with the New York Times bestselling A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, from author Roseanne A. Brown

Gilded by Marissa Meyer – November 2nd
Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan – November 23rd
The jaw-dropping conclusion to Girls of Storm and Shadow left the fates of Lei and Wren hanging in the balance. There’s one thing Lei knows – she can never return to the Hidden Palace.

You’ll Be The Death of Me by Karen M. McManus – December 2nd
Three former friends ditch school for old time’s sake – with horrible and deadly consequences.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen – Nov 4th
Simidele is one of the Mami Wata, mermaids duty-bound to collect the souls of those who die at sea and bless their journeys back home to the Supreme Creator.  But when a living boy is thrown overboard a slave ship, Simi saves his life, going against an ancient decree and bringing terrible danger to the mami wata.


The Fell by Sarah Moss – Nov 11th
At dusk on a November evening in 2020 a woman slips out of her garden gate and turns up the hill. Kate is in the middle of a two week quarantine period, but she just can’t take it anymore – the closeness of the air in her small house, the confinement. And anyway, the moor will be deserted at this time. Nobody need ever know.

But Kate’s neighbour Alice sees her leaving and Matt, Kate’s son, soon realizes she’s missing. And Kate, who planned only a quick solitary walk – a breath of open air – falls and badly injures herself. What began as a furtive walk has turned into a mountain rescue operation…

Never by Kenn Follett – Nov 9th
Visionary in scale, and the first contemporary novel in over a decade from number one worldwide bestseller Ken Follett, Never imagines the unimaginable: the imminent threat of World War Three . . .

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

| Released: January 2018 |
| Publisher: HarperCollins |
| Genre: Mystery |
| Age: YA |
| Length: 416 Pages |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

My Thoughts

Looking back, September was filled with disappointing reads, and this was one of them. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while now as I’ve heard so much about how it’s the perfect cosy read with a brilliantly plotted mystery and wonderfully crafted characters. Unfortunately, that’s not what I personally found.

This book definitely has the atmosphere, and the idea is there. But me and the writing just didn’t click. It had all the ideas that I love, boarding school, riddles, mysteries, hidden passages etc, but the writing just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t find it enticing or unputdownable. I didn’t really feel anything for it.

I also found the characters slightly unbearable. This school is meant to be for specially talented people but I just thought the characters were kind of annoyingly ‘quirky’. I also felt none of their relationships with each other. The friendships and love interests felt so forced.

I was aware of this before going into it, but it also doesn’t really solve the main mystery and whilst I know that’s supposed to entice you to continue with the series, I can’t say I feel intrigued enough. I may give book two a try next year, but for now I’m putting this series on hold.

Thanks For Reading, Jess X

Book Review | Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz

October 12th, 2021

| Released: October 12th, 2021 |
| Publisher: Simon & Schuster |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Age: YA |
| Length: 544 Pages |
| Not Rating |

Synopsis

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

My Thoughts

*Beware! Spoilers for book one Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

I wouldn’t say this was one of my most anticipated books of the year. Despite it’s predecessor being one of my favourite books of all time, I did have my reservations when it was announced that this sequel was in the works. But I still felt excitement for it, and I did have faith Saenz could create another, beautiful story with these two beloved characters.

I guess I’m disappointed that my initial thoughts ended up being right. I never felt this story needed a sequel and when he announced there would be one, I felt it unneccessary, and there was nothing about Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World that convinced me otherwise.

Because of my undying love for the first book, maybe I am being more critical of this sequel than I would any other book. It picks up right where book one leaves off where Ari and Dante have just revealed their feelings for one another. We continue to see them in a relationship, and we see Ari coming to terms with his sexuality. He becomes very aware of the AIDS pandemic he sees on the news, and the fact that he and Dante will never marry.

I did appreciate that this book explored those issues so poignant to the 80’s gay community. I like that Ari’s relationship with his parents and himself continued to strengthen. Honestly, if it had dived deeper into this and explored these themes more, maybe I wouldn’t have left this book feeling it had wasted my time.

Unfortunately it went in directions that made me wish this book didn’t exist. I can’t say what direction that was, because that would be a spoiler, all I’ll say is I hate books that make me feel emotionally distraught. I’ve got enough sadness in my life, and I don’t need to seek that in my books.

This might seem harsh, but I am going to act like this book just doesn’t exist. I’ll continue to love book one, but book two just didn’t happen in my world…

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge | TBR

October 11th, 2021

Hi Readers!

I recently shared my intentions to attempt to read the Rory Gilmore Book List and I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I plan to read in the next couple months. As it’s spooky season I’m going to choose a few of the books that seem the more spooky/Autumnal, and I’m also going to include a couple of the books I plan on rereading…

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – A reread, but also not really as it’s been six years and I have no memory of reading this, other than I remember the ending. But I think it will be quite interesting reading this book and knowing who the killer is so I’m looking forward to that…

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – This is one I’m particularly intrigued by. I’ll admit, me and true crime haven’t really gotten along in the past but I figure, if there’s any true crime I’m going to like, it’s going to be this one.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Another reread, I’m planning on annotating this book this time around, which I’m also planning on doing with…

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – …this one. I’m annotating all of the Austen books over the next few months and this will be my second. This is of course her satirical take on the gothic horror genre and it’s one of my personal favourites because the main character is an avid reader.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Oh, and I’m annotating this. I’ve already started and I’m loving it. I find I pay much closer attention to the writing when I annotate and the writing in this book particularly is spectacular.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – I read all of the novels over the Summer, and now I’m moving on to her non-fiction, this of course being her most famous work. I did read this back in school, but I remember just being uninterested because it felt ‘outdated’ but now I’m obsessed with Woolf I’m going into it with a more open mind.

Wicked by Gregory McGuire – I mean, of course I have to read this in October. It’s a book about witches and magic, it couldn’t be more perfect. However I would also like to read the orignal The Wizard of Oz book first, which I’m thinking would be perfect for the dewey’s readathon happening later this month…

There are more books on the Rory Gilmore list I definitely see myself reading in Autumn, but I don’t think I’ll be getting to them this year as I’ve already got quite the long TBR, so I’ll save them for next year.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

October 8th, 2021

| Released: March 2020 |
| Publisher: Blue Box Press |
| Genre: Fantasy Romance |
| Length: 454 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

My Thoughts

After devouring the ACOTAR series this Summer, it’s reignited my interest in fantasy, so I thought I would try this one as it’s been compared to Maas’s fae series. And rightfully so. There are a lot of similarities between the two in style, themes and just overall feel.

I went into this hoping it would take my mind off ACOTAR. I did not expect it to be as addictive and fun as it was, and I ended up loving it. I literally struggled to put it down. Each chapter ends in a way that makes you want to, need to keep reading. It’s a long book, but I ended up speeding through it in three days.

The story was just so exciting with excellent plot twists. It had me guessing the whole way, coming up the craziest theories (most of which became true but I was still shocked when they happened). I loved that the love interest was this mysterious, brooding type and that the romance was forbidden.

However it is a bit of a confusing story, one that gets even more confusing in book two (which I have already read). Armentrout has created a long, complicated history for this Fantasy world and the characters trying to explain it did leave me a bit bored. There’s also a lot of words I didn’t understand and didn’t think were well explained. It left me wishing there was a glossery or something to help me understand better.

As I’ve said I have also read book two, and whilst she starts that book going over those words again and trying to help you understand better, that book quickly went downhill for me. It was slow, all they did for a lot of it was talk, and it felt like they were talking in circles. It ended up being such a disappointment I went from giving book one 4 stars, to giving book two 1 star, and now I’m not even sure if I’ll continue with the series…

Thanks For Reading
Jess X

Magical Readathon | Novice Parth Wrap Up

October 5th, 2021

Hi Readers!

I had so much fun doing this readathon this month. It’s such a creative, interesting one with challenging (but not too challenging) prompts, and it’s just the beginning. I was able to complete all of the challenges (mostle with Virginia Woolf novels, lol) and I also did the character building challenges…

Also, just to warn you, I wrote this with a rotten cold. I wanted to get this up but I’ve already decided Blogtober just won’t be happening…

Anyway, here’s what I read with links to their reviews if they have one.

The Novice Path Entrance: A Book With a Map
Persuasion by Jane Austen
This was a reread I was planning on reading anyway, but I was delighted to find my edition has a map of Bath in it so it could fulfill this challenge. I’m getting a lot out of my rereads this time around as I’m annotating!

Ashtorn Tree: A Book That Keeps Tempting You
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book never ever disappoints. Despite some slightly annoying quirks it has, it still remains one of my favourite books.

The Mist of Solitude: Read A Standalone
The Years by Virginia Woolf
One of my last Woolf’s and probably the only of her novels I haven’t fallen in love with. I don’t know why, but compared to her other books, this one was just a little bit of a disappointment.

Ruin Of the Skye: A Book With Supernatural Elements
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
I was craving a fun fantasy after finishing the ACOTAR series, and I’ve seen a lot of people compare this to Maas’s series, which they were definitely right to do. I ended up flying through it, and I’m now on book two. I’ll post a full review soon.

Obsidian Falls: A Thriller Or Mystery
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
I’ve been wanting to read this for a while now and it was just as cosy as everyone’s been saying. I really liked the mystery part, but the characters and their relationships with each other were a little underdeveloped in my opinion. Again, I’ll post a full review soon.

Tower of Rumination: A Five Star Prediction
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Technically a reread, and I decided to read this as my five star prediction because the first time I read this I gave it two stars. I was sure my feelings were going to change so I gave it another try, and I was right. Honestly the first half would have been five stars, it just lost me a little bit in the second half.

Orilium Academy Arc: A Book With A School Setting
Maurice by E.M. Forster
I’m not sure what to make of Forster. His books seem to be hit or miss with me…

Background: Wildling – A Book Set Largely Outside
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
Possibly one of my favourite Woolf’s. The prose are beautiful and the concept is perfectly executed. It’s just unlike any other book I’ve read.

Province : Irtheria – A Book With Fae Characters
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
My new obsession for fantasy is thanks to this series, so any High Fantasy that’s heavy on the romance, please, send it my way!

Heritage: Earthling – A Book With Elemental Magic Or An Element Word In The Book Title
Aristotle And Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz
I will share a full review of this sooner to publication but I do have quite a harsh opinion on this, and that is that I’m just going to pretend this book doesn’t exist…

I’m now going to lie down under a blanket with a hot drink and pile of tissues. Hope your weeks going better than mine!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Persuasion by Jane Austen

October 4th, 2021

| Published: 1817 |
| Genre: Classic |
| Themes: Romance, Class, Society |
| Length: 249 Pages |
| Source: Own |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

This book, true to its name, follows the theme of Persuasion. In the beginning of the book we’re introduced to the Eliot’s, an aristocratic family falling on hard times. They must economise and, following the advice of friends, plan to move to Bath.

Our protagonist Anne however is not a fan of the idea and decides to stay with her neighbour and friend. She wasn’t to know that this decision would reacquaint her with a man whom she was engaged to, until her family persuaded her to break it off due to his being ‘unworthy’

My Thoughts

Published posthumously six months after her death, Jane Austen would never know the praise this book would garner. From readers to scholars, this is widely regarded as her best, most maturely written work about the powers of persuasion and how it can effect young love.

Anne Elliot is older than Austen’s other protagonists which definitely makes the tone of this book stand out from the others. Anne’s maturity means she is a lot more sure of herself and aware of others. She’s observant and composed, not self-possessed like Emma or proud like Lizzy.

Her word had no weight – she was only Anne.

Persuasion

Her ex-betrothed, Captain Wentworth, is a character worthy of Mr Darcy praise. Again, he’s very different to Jane’s other love interests. Wentworth is a self-made man who cares little for title or aristocracy. He’s very likeable and I would’ve liked to have seen more of him on the page.

We also have the classically Austen comedic characters in the form of the other Elliots. Whilst Anne is sensible and self-aware, her family and too proud for their own good, and they think much to highly of themselves. I had a good time laughing at them!

This is the last novel Jane completed. It ended up being her shortest but, in my opinion, her most well written story. As in her other novels she brings a lot of attention to social status and made very clear her own opinion of it. She really puts a lot of herself in her writing…

It’s thought Austen wrote this after she played a part in persuading her niece to reject a marriage offer. Whether she felt guilty about this or whether she wanted to justify it I honestly can’t determine. Whilst it’s clear Anne Elliot’s family were wrong about Wentworth, Austen does attempt to defend them by saying that any questionable match should rightfully be questioned by the family.

I also think this could have been Austen’s way of giving them a happy ending. This book is all about second chances and the idea that, if two people are meant for each other, they’ll be together eventually. It’s almost a fairytale romance set in Georgian England.

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.”

Persuasion

This may not be her most famous work with a big Hollywood adaptation, but it’s still a must read for any Austen fan.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

October Spooky TBR

October 1st, 2021

Hi Readers!

Who else is excited for spooky season? I love October and yes, I will be attempting Blogtober (I have so many Autumnal posts I want to share with you!) but I will either be taking Sundays off. I’m going to make the most of this season and read lots of dark atmospheric books, and I have some (hopefully) good ones lined up.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – This is her satirical spoof on the gothic genre, and I always get the urge to read it in Autumn. I reread Persuasion recently, and I think I’m going to be continuing until I’ve reread all of them. I just love her books!

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Another classic with a spooky atmosphere and story. I have read this before, but it was a couple of years ago now. I just bought a cheap, secondhand copy and I look forward to rereading and annotating it!

Wicked by Gregory McGuire – I love the musical adaptation of that (who doesn’t?) and I did give this a try a couple of years ago, but I absolutely hated it. I’m honestly not sure why though, so I want to give it another try this October, especially because it’s on the Gilmore Girls reading list.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – Honestly, I have no idea what it’s about. But I saw it on display in the library and the cover gives me major dark academia spooky vibes. I’ve seen a lot of praise from this from other bloggers as well.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – This has such mixed reviews. It seems quite a marmite book, people either love, or hate it. It’s definitely intrigued me, so we’ll see which category I fall under.

Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager – I read my first Riley Sager book last year and it was the highlight of spooky season for me. I know he also released a new one this year but to be honest I haven’t heard the best things about it. I’m glad I kept this one back for this year.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Another one off the Rory Gilmore challenge. This ones definitely intrigued me but I haven’t had the best experiences with true crime stuff. I’ll give it a try but I won’t force myself to read it if it’s creeping me out too much.

The Whisper Man by Alex North – I was actually fortunate enough to find this in a little library book exchange, so I’ll definitely be reading this in October and then maybe I’ll return it when I next visit. I don’t normally buy/keep thrillers just because I don’t typically reread them.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – Another thriller. One my mum actually bought last year during lockdown. She really enjoyed it and I have read a Ruth Ware before, so I thought I’d give it a go myself.

From Ash and Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout – So I actually started this in September and I ended up reading it in three days. So I guess I’ll be reading the rest of the series that’s out in October… (I’m obsessed…)

Truly Devious Books 2-4 by Maureen Johnson – Another series I’m now obsessed with. I’ve been wanting to read these for a while now and the series hasn’t disappointed so far. Perfect Autumnal reads!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Maurice by E.M. Forster

September 30th, 2021

| Released: 1971 |
| Publisher: W.W. Norton Company |
| Genre: Classic |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 256 Pages |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Maurice is heartbroken over unrequited love, which opened his heart and mind to his own sexual identity. In order to be true to himself, he goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.

My Thoughts

This book has such an interesting history and story behind it. Originally written in 1914, but not published until 1971 because of it’s inclusion of homosexuality, the fact that this exists is extroadinary. Forster wrote this knowing it would end his career, knowing it could never published (within his lifetime) because he could have been prosecuted for it.

But he wrote it anyway because he ‘was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows’. For me, that’s the most impressive thing about this book. Writing this content in that time was brave, and I admire Forster so much for that.

The story of Maurice, however, I just didn’t engage with. It was a combination of a lot of things really. The writing felt stilted and just straight to the point dull. The characters had no character, the plot felt messy, and the themes just weren’t explored enough.

There were some points where I thought ‘oh that’s a beautiful quote’ or a line would take my breath away. But they were few and far between.

So yes, I think the main impressive thing about this book is that it exists. That it’s a book written in 1915 by a gay man about two gay men falling in love. But I’m glad I read it. It felt like reading an important part of gay history.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X