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: 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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Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a twisted tale of long buried secrets and newly developed deceptions. Mostly set at a decrepit old estate property where the coldness gets under your skin, I think I enjoyed the setting most of all. I went into this hoping for a gothic atmosphere that would pull me into the story and that’s exactly what I got.

Our main character, Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway, is a very young woman down on her luck since the unfortunate hit-and-run death of her beloved mother. One day as she is believing she has hit rock bottom, she receives a letter in the mail announcing that her Grandmother, Hester Westaway, has passed and that she is due to the solicitor’s office to attend the reading of the will as she is named a beneficiary. Harriet, knowing there must be some sort of mistake as her Grandparents died years ago, decides to test her luck and go pretend to be the Harriet Westaway named in the letter. At most she is expecting a small financial payout that will allow her to pay off some debt and perhaps live a little more comfortably. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what would take place once she entered into this dangerous game.

I don’t want to say too much more regarding the plot as I feel it is best to go into it knowing as little as possible. I will say that the family she meets upon traveling to the Westaway estate, Trepassen House, is very interesting indeed and it was a ton of fun watching the truth unfold. Again, to me the setting and atmosphere of this were fantastic. I could picture the cold, the snow, the eerie lake, the attic room with the bars on the windows; the estate was brought to life within the pages. I live for that in a story. At times, I felt I knew the answer to the mystery and I was correct on parts of it, but it was so twisted it was hard to tell until the final reveal whether I was on the right track or not. Truly a lot of fun to read.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes some gothic vibes weaved throughout their mystery/thrillers. My only slight criticism was that the beginning was a little slow. I had this same feeling while reading, The Woman in Cabin 10, another one of Ruth Ware’s books but luckily, for me, the introductory portion of this story didn’t drag quite as much as that one.

In the end, I am so happy that I picked this one up and I will definitely continue reading Ware’s books in future. If this one is any sign, it’s that her works are getting stronger and stronger!

Original: Spookathon Book #2 (read a thriller) – switching up my initial TBR (as I ALWAYS do) and starting this before it’s due back at the library! Excited to start!

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Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Publication Date: May 1, 2018    |    Rating: 2-Stars

Wicked River. What can I even say? Firstly, I waffled between a 1- versus a 2-star rating. Ultimately, I decided on 2-stars because it makes me feel bad to give anything a 1-star unless it has offensive or inappropriate content. This one wasn’t offensive it was just not my cup of tea. At all. This book and I just did NOT get along. The good news, I actually made it through the entire thing, so there’s that.

I knew within the first 30-pages that perhaps this wasn’t going to be the strongest story for me but I trudged on because I had hopes that it would get better. The premise sounds great. The execution of said premise, not so much. It kicks off at the wedding of our two main characters, Natalie and Doug, which was cheese-factor level TEN and had me audibly scoffing over the dialogue and lame characters. Then they head off on the their honeymoon, a trek into the wilderness on a hiking / canoe trip for which I feel neither of them was even remotely prepared for.

The main characters dumbass choices aside, we also have a psycho guy living in the woods whose odd perspective we get every couple of chapters. Then there is a 13-year old whiny girl, Mia, the niece of Natalie, whose perspective we also get which was completely disjointed for me from the rest of the story. Oh, yah, and there is this totally unrealistic side plot involving Doug’s childhood friends that contributes to the story as well.

I don’t know, for me, the whole thing was just a mess. I couldn’t stand Natalie. She was so weak. All she seemed to care about was ‘her husband’ – she admits to losing any friends she ever had because all she cared about was being with him. She could barely scrounge together two bridesmaids for her wedding and tells us they were literally the bottom of the barrel who would probably disappear again into nothingness once the wedding was over. She let Doug make all of her decisions and just goes along to go along, I guess. She was horrible – I wanted her to be lost in the woods.

Now, let’s talk about the term ‘her husband. This had to have been in the book 1,027,432 times. If I ever hear that again, I am going to punch the speaker in the face. This is not a quote but to give you and idea what I’m talking about, it would go a little something like this, ‘her husband forged ahead through the trees. Her husband’s arms easily broke through the branches so much better than hers ever could because her husband was so much bigger and stronger than she was. Natalie felt so happy that her husband would be willing to go ahead so that she could drift along unscathed behind him.’ If reading this makes you go, what? Yah, it’s like that. This book is 464 pages long and I think it could have been edited down to 300 if the term ‘her husband’ had been taken out.

I have no clue who I would recommend this to – maybe someone who doesn’t read a lot or is new to the ‘thriller’ genre; although, I am not even sure I would classify this as a thriller. There was nothing really thrilling about it. It kind of took the suspense out of it when the 4th part of a 4 part book is titled, Saved. Really? No other word could have been chosen to title Part 4? You get there and are like, ‘geeeee, I wonder if Natalie and Doug will be SAVED????’

I would like to thank the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I do always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This one just wasn’t for me but as we all know there are readers for every story!

What’s the last book you read that you didn’t get along with? I want to know!  Leave a comment below or contact me through my social media links to the right – Cheers~

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 3, 2018    |    Rating: 5-glorious STARS

Riley Sager has done it again!! Thrilling from beginning to end. This one kept me guessing until the final pages!

When Emma Davis first went to Camp Nightingale she was late; her parents doing. Subsequently, she got stuck in a cabin with girls much older than herself. Luckily, the pretty and popular bunkmate, Vivian, quickly took Emma under her wing and she began to have a camp experience unlike anything the other girls her age were experiencing. Unfortunately, one night, on the 4th of July, her three cabinmates disappear, never to be seen again. That night continues to haunt Emma, even fifteen years later when we meet her. Now a successful painter living in NYC she continues to meld the haunting images of her camp experience into her work. Invited back to Camp Nightingale by the wealthy owner, Franny Harris-White, to be an art instructor, Emma begrudgingly accepts, thinking she can finally figure out what happened to her friends.

Once Emma returns to Camp she is reunited with many individuals who were also there her first time round; including the handsome Theo Harris-White, Emma’s crush from THAT summer. This story is darkly atmospheric and filled with mystery and dread. For me, Sager’s writing is so cinematic – as I am reading, the entire drama is unfolding in my mind with the perfect clarity of a movie – I felt the same way with Final Girls. His descriptions and feelings are so easy to follow and imagine and are definitely one of my favorite things about his writing.

As the story unfolds, there are multiple occasions where you think you know what happened all those years ago, but those thoughts are quickly dashed away by new information becoming available. The cast of characters was fantastic and past and present unfolded with such ease and excitement that it made this novel very fast-paced! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this book – I loved it – would read it again and would recommend to any thriller or horror reader. I cannot wait to see what Sager comes up with next! You better believe I will be waiting for it and buying it on release.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was a highlight of my year for sure and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

Review: Hangman by Jack Heath

Publication Date: June 12, 2018    |    Rating: 4-gritty STARS

WICKEDLY entertaining~ Sherlock Holmes meets Hannibal Lecter!!! I really enjoyed this one. It is so bizarre in theory but somehow it just works. Let me break this down: our main character is a cannibal (you read that right…a cannibal) who ends up making a deal with an FBI Agent that he will help with investigations in exchange for free bodies from death row inmates. Why? Why would an FBI Agent want this man working with him you ask? Well, the guy is a freaking genius of course! A modern day Sherlock Holmes with a photographic memory who obviously can see into the minds of criminals because, well, he IS one…oh, and of course, the cannibal knows about the Agent’s coke habit… Intrigued yet?

I would recommend this book to ANYONE who loves a new twist on the thriller genre. Obviously, you need to be a open-minded with the whole concept behind this but I tell you, that Timothy Blake (our MC) is pretty lovable. Honestly the first cannibal I have ever rooted for in a novel. But in addition to the weirdness of it all, this is actually a really taut crime thriller. There were a few times that I was convinced I knew what the answer was to the string of kidnappings that Blake was trying to unravel, but in the end, I turned out wrong every time and was surprised by the reveal. The writing style was fast paced and the mystery well developed. It’s definitely dark and gruesome, so if that is something you aren’t into, best to stay clear of this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review! I really hope that this becomes a series. I would hate to think that this is the last I am ever going to see of Timothy Blake. There’s more to his story, I can just feel it! I look forward to hearing other opinions on this book as well. If you have read it, what did you think??

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Publication Date: March 8, 2018    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

I liked this one. Some aspects of the story I really enjoyed and others were just okay for me. There were moments, toward the beginning in particular, that I was a little confused as to what type of story this was trying to be. Thinking back on those early chapters, I am still a little confused by them. A literary sleight of hand perhaps; they got your brain going in one direction which, at least for me, ended up being flipped completely on its head. The book follows multiple perspectives but the two main ones being, Anna and Murray. Anna is a young woman who recently lost both parents to suicide. Murray, is a semi-retired criminal investigator, who ends up looking into Anna’s parents suicides when she begins to suspect that foul play may have been involved.

There were plenty of twists and turns in this and the end in particular was so wild in bordered on ridiculous. This being said, ridiculously far-fetched plot points aside, it was also wildly entertaining. It did keep me engaged the whole way through; I was particularly drawn to the chapters from Murray’s perspective. Although his chapters were not as wrought with turmoil as Anna’s, there was something very relatable and likable about his character and experiences. I also liked the way this book took classic societal gender roles and challenged them; it challenged what the reader would typically expect to happen. I really enjoyed that actually. I felt like someone had played a trick on me which made it very unique!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity! I had some fun with it and really look forward to checking out other reader’s reviews now that I am done.

Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

5-STARS:  Bring Me Back, which hits stores on June 19th, is the third novel written by B.A. Paris – who has very rapidly become one of my favorite authors. Her first novel, Behind Closed Doors was published in 2016 and her second, The Breakdown was published last year. I have read all three of these and given them all solid 5-star reviews! I cannot tell you the last time I have had that kind of experience with an author.

This story, like the rest of her stories, starts off with a bang and NEVER lets up. To me, this is one of the most consistent and memorable parts of her stories – how quickly they get going. There is no time wasted, no numerous pages of filler to get through waiting for the excitement to start – you are in it, right away. For example, with this one, I made the following comment on Goodreads at page 6: “Just quickly, 6 paragraphs in…6! And just like that = intense! By paragraph 8, I am already yelling at our protagonist, you did what!? What!? B.A. Paris is queen!”

The story follows two main POVs through both present time and flashbacks. The narrative is expertly woven to keep you at the edge of your seat the whole way through. I had so many theories. ‘This is the answer. No, wait, that can’t be. Okay, okay, I have it, this is it. No?? What is happening???’

This story is not just psychologically intense but as with her other novels, I feel the character development is really strong. I find myself developing strong attachments to her characters, even the most unreliable narrators. I wouldn’t say they are always 100% ‘likable’ but they are definitely always believable! With her MCs especially, I feel like they are my friends – they are doing stupid things and making stupid, yet very human, mistakes and I just want to shake them (and frequently do scold them…yes, out loud, while I am reading…).

I feel it is best to go into her stories blind. The only thing you need to know about this is that it is a taut psychological thriller that will keep you frantically turning pages until the very END! And what an end it is – shook! So, yeah, in summation – I love this book so much. I CANNOT wait to see what she comes up with next – I am really hoping for a 2019 release to keep this beautiful rhythm we have going!

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review. It has seriously been the highlight of my year so far. To B.A. Paris, thank you so much for writing – you are my idol – the Queen of Manipulation!! xo

 

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

I really enjoyed this and would give it between a 4 and 4.5 ☆s. I was introduced to this book through Book of the Month Club (which, if you aren’t a member of, you should be) – although I didn’t select it in the month it was first offered, I ultimately got it in a later box after seeing it everywhere!

This is the debut novel for Krysten Ritter, most well known as Jessica Jones in the Netflix original series of the same name. I was skeptical going in, I will admit – that whole singers becoming actors, actors becoming writers thing…but was so pleasantly surprised with how engaging this book was. The story follows our MC, Abigail Williams, who is an environmental attorney in Chicago. Having ‘escaped’, quite literally it seems, her small hometown in a very rural area, she gets the chance to return in order to investigate Optimal Plastics, the largest employer in town. Once there, Abby is thrown back into her old life and memories arrive that lead her to start questioning events that occurred when she was still in high school. Through memories of the past and current events a vicious tale of corruption and betrayal is told. The pace of this book is excellent and I just flew through it. Due to the short length of the chapters it is definitely a book that has that, ‘just one more chapter…just one more chapter…’ way about it!

The format of the book itself is pretty standard mystery/thriller which reminded me a bit of John Grisham’s, The Rainmaker. There is nothing really groundbreaking or out of the ordinary about this book but it is very fun and overall, very strong storytelling IMO. I think this would be a great book to bring on vacation or to the beach. I hope Ms. Ritter keeps writing because I have a feeling her writing will mature and her books will continue to get stronger and stronger.

My only issue with the book, and it is a slight one, was that the ending felt a bit rushed. Personally, I think this could have been 20 to 40 pages longer in order to better explore the outcome of events that Abby reveals – both past and present. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys legal thrillers, particularly with an evil corporation twist!  What was the last book you read that pleasantly surprised you with how good it ended up being? Leave a comment below!

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

5-stars!! 

I finished ‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ last night right before bed so figured I would take the night to consider what I had read before formulating my review. Here I am, the next morning, still trying to wrap my head around this book. Firstly, what a unique way of telling this story. Unique and impactful. Mike Hayes, our MC, and narrator of this story is unhinged and you get a front row seat to obsession. Verity, the object of focus, is a young lady you struggle throughout the book to understand; at least I did. Mike and V were involved in a long-term relationship which began while they were in college and eventually ended. This story follows that break-up and relives pieces of it through the mind of Mike.

How much of his thoughts are reality and how much are fantasy. The author did a phenomenal job of keeping you guessing. Is Mike as crazy as he seems? Is he creating a fantasy or she is feeding into his behaviors somehow. I absolutely loved the format of this book and how the author never let Mike slip from character. You are full force in this ‘love story’ from start to finish gaining insight into his infatuation with this young lady.

The culmination of the tale takes place in a courtroom where we see side characters, as well as both Verity and Mike, be questioned by attorneys regarding the exact nature and events of their relationship. I will admit even I was questioning Verity and her honesty at that point – which to me is humorous – an extension of how women can be blamed or treated with suspicion when it comes to a man’s behaviors in regards to her. Questioning the victim, blaming the victim, shaming the victim – these are all prevalent occurrences in our society – and I myself was guilty of it. I didn’t trust V, the whole way, even though I was witness to Mike’s mental fixation with her. I questioned what she was doing to fuel that fire. I continually questioned her choices: why didn’t she tell someone, her husband, the police? Why did she continue to correspond with him?

This was an incredibly intricate, mind-shaking story that gave me chills on the regular. I applaud the author for this effort – it is a truly distinct book for the thriller genre. I would highly recommend it. I hope my thoughts on this make some sort of sense – I am still boggled by this one. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus & Giroux for providing me with the opportunity to read this book early and to provide my opinion. I cannot wait to see what other readers take from this one! What was the last book you read that really got under your skin? I want to know!  Leave a comment below!