Book Review | Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

You know whose writing I absolutely love? Riley Sager.

You know whose books I’ll always buy, before even reading the synopsis? Riley Sager.

You know who might very well be my favorite thriller author of all time? You guessed it.

RILEY FRICKIN SAGER.

This man honestly blows me away with his writing. He hooks me. Ropes me in even, and makes it damn near impossible to focus on anything else BUT HIS BOOKS when I have a crapload of school stuff I should be doing.

So yeah, I guess you can say I’m obsessed with this man’s work, but hey. If you love something, you love something.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Alfred Hitchcock meets American Horror Story

Let me shoot it to you straight for a second. This book was basically the equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock directing a season of AHS (pre-Coven, of course). It’s scary and disturbing and everything that I would expect in this season of AHS. 

But seriously, it gives off really creepy vibes that I was living for while trying to solve the mystery of the Bartholomew. 

Predictability factor

Look, one of the main things I go into thrillers looking for is predictability. It was not difficult for me to figure out who was in on the secrets of the Bartholomew. What was hard for me to figure out was exactly what was going on in the building. I couldn’t figure it out and it was a definite surprise to me at the end. 

Buuuttt I wish it had ended differently… 

Yep. I didn’t like the end of this novel. There were some open storylines that I didn’t like and I definitely didn’t like the weird, boring turn of events AFTER Jules thought she figured out what was up at the Bartholomew. I wish Sager had stuck with what she thought because it would’ve been a much more thrilling closure to an otherwise interesting novel. I’m not mad, just disappointed. 😝

Character development

As usual, Sager developed lifelike and believable characters. Not only did he spend time developing Jules, it clearly shows he spent time developing characters who don’t dominate the story (i.e. Chloe). This is yet another reason I love his novels.

I would consider this book very character driven and I liked that. I also enjoyed not really getting physical descriptions of characters. It was much more interesting to see the characters through the eyes of Jules in what they were wearing, rather than build, skin-tone, and eye color (i.e. Leslie Evelyn and her Coach suits). I liked this aspect of the story a lot. And sure, there were some physical descriptions, they just didnt dominate the storyline.  

Generally speaking

This story didn’t really disappoint me. I enjoyed the ride. Sure there were things I’d change, but it didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the novel. I wouldn’t say I love it like I love The Last Time I Lied – I still think about this one every day – but it was enjoyable nonetheless. 

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

It doesn’t quite live up to my expectations to get that 5 star, but it was still soooo good. Mr. Sager still sits firmly on his throne as King of Thrillers for me and I will continue to automatically buy every book he publishes.

Let’s chat!

What books are you most looking forward to in the remaining months of 2019? Have you read any really good thrillers this year? 

Book Review | The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

In February, I opted for two selections via Book of the Month. One was a release from December 2017 (I think) and the other was a new release. My mother in law and I decided to buddy read the new release toward the end of the month.

I thought The Winter Sister would end up being one of my favorite books from the month, but it wasn’t. In fact, it might be my least favorite book from the month. We’ll dive into it more in depth further into this review, but for now what you need to know is this book was average at best.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

Not Quite Riley Sager

Look, it’s not really a secret that my favorite book of 2018 was The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager. I read it in July and I’m still obsessing over it months later. I love Sager’s writing and he really knows how to create a thriller that I’m invested in. At one point in this book, I had a flashback to The Last Time I Lied and felt pretty pissed because I thought Megan Collins was going to rip off his work (thank goodness she didn’t).

Here’s the thing: Sylvie (our main character) is an artist. She also behaves pretty similarly to our main character (Emma) in The Last Time I Lied. The parallels stopped there, but boy, was I worked up for a minute!

Annie is the Worst

There are fewer things I despise more in literature than horrible mothers. I’m coining it a trope though because I’ve read more than my fair share of bab mom books. Quite literally, Annie O’Leary might top that list of bad moms though. She is the absolute worst.

Not only does she care unequally for her daughters, she emotionally shuts down when Persephone goes missing. I understand the grief one must feel over the loss of a child, but just because you’ve lost one child doesn’t mean you can emotionally abandon the living child. That’s the most surefire way of fucking a kid up – and Annie does exactly this to Sylvie. I hated her character. She didn’t even have a single redeeming quality.

Sylvie is childish…

The story starts out when Sylvie is 14 and flashes between memories of when she and Persephone were growing up and present day. Present day Sylvie is 30 goddam years old, but acts like she’s about 16. It’s annoying. I felt myself more and more frustrated at her.

Sure she felt as if her actions AS A CHILD came into play when Persephone was murdered, but at some point, I expected her to get over the guilt. She couldn’t let it go and at no point was therapy for Sylvie mentioned. She clearly needed it!

Impulsive and Predictable

A lot of this book seems to be built on impulsiveness. At one point Sylvie point blank accuses Ben of murdering her sister even though the police say it wasn’t him. While this is technically a spoiler, I firmly believe that if you actually read this book, you won’t even suspect Ben.

This leads me into the predictability portion of my review. I had two theories about this book. One was mostly right and I figured it out around the middle of the novel. When I realized I actually was right I almost didn’t finish the book because it didn’t seem worth my time at that point. (But given I was almost at the end I did end up finishing, hence the review).

It was a well written story, but it was just a little too predictable. Throw me some curveballs, Megan!

Concluding Thoughts

Though this is a well written novel, I found myself increasingly frustrated and angry with the characters. I don’t think there was a single character I liked, except maybe Jill, and overall the narrator didn’t behave the way a 30 year old woman is expected to. She was too childish and not quite sleuthy enough for my liking. As for the predictability element, I could’ve used a few twists. Everything I expected to happen, did happen.

I guess I just feel like this book didn’t challenge me enough. I need something to surprise me in the mystery genre and this fell short for me. However, one thing I will say I didn’t think this was a debut novel, but it was!

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

It could have been better, but it could have been much, much worse. I enjoyed the writing and would recommend to people who want to feel like Sherlock Holmes in their deductions. (I’ve been bingeing Sherlock lately, if you can’t tell!)

Did you read The Winter Sister? What were some of your thoughts?

Book Review | Still Me by Jojo Moyes

By the time I picked up this book, my anger at Me Before You had almost subsided, but then Jojo Moyes decided to continue to stab me in the heart with Louisa’s story.

I’ll say this, Me Before You was probably my favorite book in this trilogy, but that isn’t to say I disliked the other two. My rage simmered throughout After You and Still Me because Moyes writes such likeable characters. I was shattered after Me Before You and I still kind of can’t let go of my sadness.

Still Me was the closure to Louisa’s story that I needed. And it was definitely a whirlwind.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you find the courage to follow your heart–wherever that may lead?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she discovers who she is and who she was always meant to be–and to live boldly in her brave new world.

Ambulance Sam

Part of the reason this book was so frustrating to me was Ambulance Sam. I really like him for Louisa, but the problem with their relationship is starts off while she’s still grieving and then they only have like three months together before she leaves for her new job in New York. I know they love each other but a lot of the turmoil they faced throughout this novel could have been avoided if they’d just put a stopper on their relationship until she returned to England. I feel like when Lou arrived in New York she really limited herself – or held herself back – because of Ambulance Sam.

I understand why Moyes had their relationship struggle to survive the long distance. It made the story work.. I just didn’t necessarily like all the trouble Lou went through in this one. It’s just like – why can’t this woman catch a freaking break?!

Oh and all that shit with Katie. Unnecessary. Sam and Lou went through it enough on their own – Katie was an unnecessary, underdeveloped character. I can’t even really remember much about her other than she was obsessed with Sam.

The New Employer

The Gopnik’s have their problems. I mean Agnes is the same age as Lou and Leonard is probably in his sixties. Safe to say he’s old enough to be her father. I’m not judging – love is love, but the issue I have with their relationship is that Agnes has built it on secrets and lies. She could have just told him about her issues with her family in Poland and saved everyone a lot of trouble.

It’s not shocking that Agnes loves Lou as a friend. She ends up not defending her to protect herself toward the middle of the story which isn’t surprising. It’s just not very friend-like. It was messed up how quickly Lou was dismissed, yet in true Lou spirit, she didn’t give up.

Margot De Witt

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of this story is the relationship that blooms between Mrs. De Witt and Lou. The old woman was a fashion mogul in her younger years so, of course, when Lou realizes it, they really hit it off. Her pug, Dean Martin, also helps forge a really lovely friendship between the younger and older women.

What I like most about this friendship is the encouragement Margot offers to Lou during what I’ll call the dark days. She encourages her to be herself. To not shape herself to any man. To embrace her own sense of fashion. In particular, I enjoyed the moment Lou refuses to change out of her bumblebee tights for a night out with the Corporates because of Mrs. De Witt.

In the end, Lou and Margot end up being really great friends for each other despite the age gap. Lou helps Mrs. De Witt reach out to her estranged family and Mrs. De Witt enables Lou to figure out her dreams, while also enabling her to remain in New York.

Josh (His Last Name Doesn’t Matter)

However much he looks like Will. He. Is. Not. Will. Traynor.

Dude’s the biggest, most pompous asshole ever. I’ll leave it there.

Lily

I liked Lily MUCH more in this one! Not only is she doing SO MUCH better by living with Mrs. Traynor, she’s also playing matchmaker (and well).

I don’t have too much to say about Lily as she plays such a minor role in this book, but as far as character progression and growth goes – Lily nails it!

Concluding Thoughts

For me, this was a neat conclusion to Lou’s story. I’m not left wanting more because I’ve created a nice little story for Lou and her fella in my mind. I don’t actually want to read more from Lou even though I adore her. In my head, her story has concluded. I’m happy with the ending of this series (if it is, in fact the end). If there were to be another sequel, I can’t say with confidence I wouldn’t read it, but I’m about 90% sure I’d let it slip past. Like I said, this conclusion was lovely.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟💫

Honestly, there was a bit in the middle where I felt like Jojo was adding chaos for the sake of making the book more lengthy. There’s such a thing as drivel in literature and some of the chaos of Lou’s life in the middle was drivel that could’ve been left out. I really believe this book could’ve been at least 75 pages shorter without compromising the ending. This is the reason it didn’t get 4 from me.

Have you read any of Moyes’ other works? I found myself loving her writing style so I’m hoping for some recommendations for other books by her I should read. Drop me a recommendation in the comments… not that my TBR can handle much more haha.

Book Review | Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Book of the Month is my favorite way to get new books. Not only do they select pre-releases, they also have introduced me to some of my favorite books at a fraction of how much they’d cost me in stores. I have no complaints and honestly, one of my favorite days of every month is carefully browsing through the five selections to ensure I pick the best book for me.

Occasionally, I pick a flop (for ME). Most of the times though, I end up with a newfound favorite book. Golden State by Ben H. Winters was my January 2019 Book of the Month Selection. It’s definitely a book I’m glad I picked!

Book of the Month describes Golden State as a fast read, action packed, and movie-ish. I can agree… slightly.

It was kind of a slow build for me. There was tons of action and I really liked it, but it took me as long to read this book (319 pages) as it did for me to read Clockwork Princess (570 pages). This being said, I can see this being an really great movie!

Lies are a physical thing

Speculative Service members can, quite literally, choke on lies. Our main character, Laszlo Ratesic is a 19 year veteran of the Speculative Service. His brother, Charlie, was also a member of the Service. The story centers around the fact that Laszlo and his brother were incredibly different Speculators. I can’t quite explain this without giving spoilers. Trust me, it’s interesting!

1984-esque

If you told me to pick my favorite dystopian novel, I would without hesitation say 1984. I read it my junior year of high school and have read it multiple times since. I almost wrote my senior thesis on the book! With that being said, I definitely drew some parallels between the Orwell classic and Winters’ more modern dystopian thriller. For starters, EVERYTHING is monitored in Golden State. There are cameras (not called cameras in the book) everywhere and members of the Government actually wear them on their persons. Nothing goes Off Record because it’s against the law. There was so much detail that went into the concept of this novel, I really admire Winters as a writer.

Twisty, Turny, Unexpected Ending

The ending is one I never saw coming! I was shocked and actually had to rewind and re-read a couple of pages because I was certain I was imagining the ending. It was really unexpected (for me, a thriller lover). The lies, secrets, and betrayals were everything I look for in novels like this.

Conclusion

This book is for you if you’re a fan of dystopian novels. If you haven’t read 1984 and read this and like it, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Orwell novel too. It’s really fun to be able to draw parallels between the two novels. This is very much how I imagine 1984 would look if written in modern times. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟💫