Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game: A NovelThe Lying Game: A Novel by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg’s Ware Ratings

1. The Woman in Cabin 10: 3-stars
2. The Death of Mrs. Westaway: 4-stars
3. The Lying Game:**4.5-stars**

When Isa Wilde receives a text from her old boarding school friend, Kate, that states, ‘I need you’, she packs her bag, her infant daughter, kisses her husband goodbye and boards a train. Destination = the idyllic ((but remote)) coastal town of Salten.

There she is reunited with her ole’ school chums Kate, Fatima and Thea. Think Mean Girls but nastier.

But Kate has more in mind than a reunion. A local woman out walking her dog has just uncovered a bone, most likely human, and Kate is petrified of what the repercussions of this find may be. She calls her friends because they are the only ones who know. They all have a secret. A dark secret that they have been holding for many years, but as we all know, secrets very seldom stay buried forever.

I have previously read two of Ware’s other books, The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I can easily say I enjoyed this one the most out of the three. I think basically it boils down to the fact that boarding school stories are my jam. The fact that this had a present day time line weaved together with flashbacks of boarding school days did it for me. I love boarding schools, I love mean girls (fictionally) and I love secrets that just won’t stay secret. It was like this story was made for me. I know it won’t be for everyone, I can tell that from the ratings…

For me, it was great. Thoroughly enjoyable and now I feel like I have to read In a Dark, Dark Wood so that I may fully rank all of Ware’s works. After I finished The Death of Mrs. Westaway I took all of her other books off my tbr so I am super glad that I, on a whim, decided to give this one a try. Lesson Learned: Never give up on an author, every work is different and everything deserves a good honest try.

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Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.

The above line perfectly captures the spirit of the literary puzzle (aka. MIND F**K) that is The 7 1/2 Deaths o Evelyn Hardcastle. This book is bloody FANTASTIC!

Never have been so excited about being so confused whilst reading a book!

Turton is a Master. This was completely original and completely out there and completely compelling. I was so absorbed in every moment and….well, CONFUSED.

There is really not much I can say about the plot of this novel without getting all spoilery and stuff; something I am not looking to do. Go into this knowing nothing besides the fact that it is okay to be reading it and not understanding anything that is going on. The longer it goes, the more info you have and the more confusing it can become. It’s exceptional in its detail. I had so many theories, some panned out, others didn’t but I never stopped guessing, right up until the very end.

If you are looking for a completely unique mystery to get you through the holiday season, look no further! Stop right here! This is the book you need to read. I cannot wait to read more from Stuart Turton. I am already fangirling over him after one book. I love his ingenuity and style. Yes, I do! Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me a copy of this to read and review. I am blown away!!!

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Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every town seems to have that group of kids who can get away with anything. Inexplicably, no matter what they do, nothing seems to stick to them. In Kate Marino’s town, that is the ‘River Point Boys’, prep school hot shots who host the wildest parties and seem to have their hands in every cookie jar. But can they really get away with everything? Even murder?

After an all night party where a lot of grievances were aired, the River Point Boys decide to go hunting. On no sleep and still a little drunk and high, this seems an excellent idea. Grant, Henry, Shep, John Michael and Logan walk into the woods that day…only 4 walk out. No one is talking. They didn’t see anything. They don’t know who did it. This is THEIR story.

Under the suspicion of murder, the remaining boys are forced to leave their cushy prep school and head off to ((GASP)) public school!

Our protagonist, Kate Marino, is a high school senior, an avid photographer and an intern at the local DA’s office. Brought in to help the DA prep the case, Kate is more involved than anyone knows. She knew the victim. They had a relationship via text for some time prior to his death. Kate throws herself into her work, hoping to find justice for the slain boy. However, not all is as it appears and before she knows it, Kate is hit with a truth bomb that the boy she thought she knew…isn’t really the boy she thought she knew.

Elston’s writing is top notch in this genre. A solid YA Mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved the pace of this and the investigatory elements woven throughout. Kate was likable and relatable and I was definitely rooting for her the whole way through. I am trash for Elston’s writing at this point and cannot wait to see what she puts out next. If you haven’t read this book yet, please pick it up. It is perfect for this time of year. Highly recommend for YA mystery fans!

Original: SWOON

I love Ashley Elston’s writing soooo much. Does she have a to-do list I could buy? ‘Cause I would buy that, for real! Full review to come tomorrow…stay tuned!

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Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

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Review: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When James ‘Jamie’ Watson gets shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut he is sad about leaving his life in London behind. It doesn’t take long however before he is elbows deep in intrigue and thinking nothing about shoddy old London (totally joking on the shoddy part, obviously). You see, Charlotte Holmes, the descendant of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, also attends this very same boarding school. Coincidence? I think not.

Jamie, the descendant of John Watson ((the one who penned those cute little Sherlock tales)), has heard all about Charlotte Holmes and wants nothing more than to get in her good graces. In the flesh, Charlotte is beautiful, edgy and addicted to opiates and he wants to get to know her better. Before long they are seeing one another on a regular basis and Charlotte really seems to be warming up to him. That’s something because she’s not particularly warm with many other human beings.

After a fellow student, one that Charlotte has a very messy history with ((putting this SUPER mildly)), ends up dead and another on the brink of death, Charlotte and Jamie need to work together to prove they are innocent of these crimes. They are being framed and in ways reminiscent of cases the original Sherlock and Holmes investigated.

This was a pretty good story. There was nothing bad about it but it never really reached a level where I was compelled to read it either. I read it, it happened and then it was over and I moved on very quickly. I guess I was hoping for a little more if I am being honest. I’m not sure if I will continue on with the series. I may read the synopsis of the next and some of the reviews to see if anyone like it better than this one. For now, if I had to choose a YA Mystery series to continue with it would be the Stalking Jack the Ripper series over this one, as I just finished the first one in that series in October.

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Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying WoodsThe Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lying Woods follows teenage protagonist, Owen Foster, in the aftermath of his Father being exposed as a white-collar criminal. Mr. Foster steals millions of dollars from his company – the largest employer in town – and leaves Owen and his mother behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. People in the town are furious, they believe Owen’s Mom knew what he was doing and they begin threatening her and Owen. Forced to leave his posh private school when they can no longer afford the tuition, Owen returns to his hometown public school where he finds it close to impossible to fit in. A great number of the students come from families directly effected by his Father’s crime. Luckily, Owen is able to rekindle a relationship with his old friend and neighbor, Pippa. Through her guidance, Owen begins to understand the destructive scope of his Dad’s actions.

Angry and confused, Owen vows to learn the truth about what happened. How can the Father he knows and loves actually have done this? He is having a hard time grappling with what seems to be a secret side of his Father’s personality. When he first returns to town, Owen secures a job on a local pecan farm and quickly learns that his Dad once worked there as well and and even lived on the property. The owner for the pecan farm, Gus, was not only his Dad’s employer but also a mentor to him. Owen feels if he sticks around the farm long enough he may be able to piece together his Father’s past; he hopes this will help him to understand the present.

This story reads like a hard-hitting contemporary but there is a strong mystery element that runs throughout. The format was great because you get half of the book from Owen’s present day perspective and the other half from his Dad’s perspective at the time that he worked on the pecan farm and first met Owen’s Mom. You get to see their relationship build and learn about the obstacles they overcame to be together. I liked this structure a lot as I felt it was a very creative way to reveal the truth at the heart of this story.

Elston’s writing is smooth and organic. She is really a fantastic storyteller. You sit down to read a few pages and the next thing you know hours have gone by. I truly felt drawn into these characters and this story and I needed to know how Mr. Foster could have done what they said he did. It seemed so out of character with the person you meet through his own perspective. The major twist in this gave me chills. It was completely unexpected and then everything unraveled to the truth very quickly.

This is a story of first love, redemption, discovering who we really are and what is truly important in our lives. I loved the dual perspectives and also thought it was interesting to explore white-collar crime as a topic in YA. I don’t think I have ever read something like this before. Elston has very quickly become one of my ‘autobuy’ authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early and provide my opinion. I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on this so I can finally discuss it with some of my book buds! This is definitely going on my favorites list for the year.

Original: Starting tonight!!! One of my most anticipated books of the year. I am actually proud of myself for holding off until release month. A feat I frequently FAIL at!

I love how they kept the cover to this along the same vein as This is Our Story even though they are completely unrelated. They’ll still look great next to each other on my shelf!

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Review: Abandoned (Max Revere #5) by Allison Brennan

Abandoned (Max Revere, #5)Abandoned by Allison Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Investigative reporter, Max Revere, sets out to solve the most important cold case of her career in this 5th installment of the Max Revere series. Abandoned by her Mom at the age of 9, Max was left in the care of her very wealthy grandparents. Eventually her Mother stopped sending postcards on Max’s birthday (always belated) and withdrawing from her trust fund; she disappeared without a trace. Now aged 32, and a successful television personality and author, Max is finally ready to uncover the truth behind her Mother’s disappearance.

This is actually the first book I have read in the Max Revere series and I don’t think that diminished my enjoyment for this book at all. You could definitely pick this up as a stand-alone novel if you wanted. After reading this, I am absolutely interested in reading the other books in the series. I loved Max as a character. She was smart, strong, independent and not afraid to make it through life on her own. No matter how dangerous her investigation became she never backed down. She was willing to do whatever it took to get to the truth and I respect that.

Overall, this is a very solid mystery with strong investigatory elements. There were a lot of leads to follow as there is so much going on in this book: family drama, small town secrets, art theft and forgery, con-men/women and more! I usually do enjoy mystery/thrillers where the protagonist is a journalist but this one is especially well done in my opinion. The story leaves off with a lot of changes going on for Max so I definitely think this series will be continuing and this won’t be the last time I read about Max Revere. That’s for darn sure.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Max is just the kind of protagonist I love so I had a really great time reading this!

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Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

An Unwanted GuestAn Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lapena redeemed!!

An Unwanted Guest is the second book I have read from Shari Lapena. To say I was less than enthusiastic about the first I read, The Couple Next Door, would be to put it kindly. I was left scratching my head as to what people seemed to like so much about it. I have some really great book friends who love her books though so I said I would give her another shot and I am glad that I did. Go me!

I knew going in that this book would be more in my comfort zone being a ‘locked room’-style mystery. Basically, a cast of characters shut in a confined space, bodies start dropping, whodunit? This had the formula of a classic Christie tale: you meet the cast quickly, all in the beginning, none of them are particularly likable, they all check-in to a fabulous, secluded old hotel, interactions begin, someone gets killed and then another and then another…

The setting for this was a family-run hotel where our guests go to escape from the world, reconnect within their relationships and unwind. However, when a powerful ice storm hits and the power is knocked out…oh, and the MURDERS begin, these weekend warriors get much more from their holidays than they initially anticipated.

As I mentioned previously, none of the characters were particularly ‘likable’ in the traditional sense but they were definitely interesting. Everyone seemed to be hiding something and I had absolutely had no idea who the killer was. After ‘hidden information’ was finally revealed all fell into place. I liked it. I really liked it. There was a special little twist at the end that I felt was really fun and satisfying. Overall, I am super glad I gave Lapena another shot and I will definitely pick up more books from her in future!

Original: Alright, alright, alright. Let’s see if Ms. Lapena can redeem herself for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Couple Next Door ((to put it mildly)) but have heard good things about this one. ‘Locked room’ mysteries are some of my favorites so I think this could be right in my wheelhouse!

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Recommendation: Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

Hallowe'en Party (Hercule Poirot #39)Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hello Reader Friends!! Are you still trying to find that perfect Halloween read?

Maybe you aren’t a fan of horror or don’t want to be afraid but still want the feeling of the Halloween season? If this is the case, than this may be the perfect book for you!

I read Hallowe’en Party last year on Halloween night and I had a lot of fun with it. This is one of the Hercule Poirot books and if you are a fan of him, his calm and efficient manner in solving mysteries, than what are you waiting for? Pick this one up!

The main plot revolves around a children’s Halloween Party and what one child claims to have witnessed during that party. A murder ((dun dun dun)) Is this kid full of it or what? The atmosphere is definitely Halloweenie but without being frightening and intimidating. Perfect for fans of Christie’s classic ‘whodunit’ formulaic (not meant as shade, I personally find them relaxing) mysteries!

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Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Stalking Jack the Ripper is the first book in the series of the same name featuring young protagonist Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her charming friend, Thomas Cresswell. Audrey Rose is a great character, although at times a little flat, I liked the idea behind her. A young lady who doesn’t buckle under the pressures of conventional society. Audrey Rose wants to use her mind and more specifically, she wants to use it to study forensic medicine and thusly, crime.

She apprentices with her Uncle, which she has to keep secret from her father and the rest of the world. Her Uncle, who happens to be a forensic scientist, teaches at a local college and advises the local law enforcement on crimes. When the Jack the Ripper killings begin the bodies are brought to her Uncle’s laboratory to be studied and due to that, Audrey Rose becomes interested and tangentially involved with the case. It is during this early stage of the investigation that she first meets Thomas and a sort of hate-to-love relationship begins – one of my favorite YA-tropes. The banter between them is really sweet and Thomas stole my heart as well along the way!

The setting is Victorian London, one of my favorite settings, but for me this didn’t really feel that way. I felt like it could have been set anywhere. The atmosphere wasn’t as rich as I hoped it would be and that is my only real gripe with this book. Well that and the fact that I thought certain sections dragged a bit or were slightly unnecessary.

Overall, I thought the mystery was fun and I liked the risky situations that Audrey Rose put herself in. I definitely plan to continue on with the series. In fact, the last page of this book probably bumped my star rating a half star. I loved how it leaves you off in the perfect spot to have you strongly anticipating the second book. The next book features the legend of Dracula so, totally my aesthetic!

Original: FINALLY getting to this one which I bought when it was a new release a million years ago. This is my first book I am trying to complete for
Spookathon
which will meet challenge #3 to ‘read a book not set in our time period’. Victorian London is my aesthetic and forensic science, yes please! This should be a good one for me!

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