Book Review – The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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Title: The Last Time I Lied

Author: Riley Sager

Publisher: Dutton

Publication date: July 3rd, 2018

384 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads 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.

Review

“Boys can break your heart and betray you, but not in the same stinging way girls can.”

Riley Sager, The Last Time I Lied

As my second Sager book, I had high expectations but was prepared to be disappointed again – like I was after reading Home Before Dark. But, I absolutely loved this one. I had no clue what was happening at any point during this book. The main suspect in my mind changed chapter by chapter and I could barely keep up with all the intrigue that was happening. The only constant – feeling bad for Emma. She really went THROUGH it during this book, both in the flashbacks and the present day. To be fair, somewhat her fault for allowing herself to be lured back to the camp.

Personally, I adore books that have a boarding school/summer camp setting – the no parents, acting more like grown ups, having free rein. I’m always here for it. But I mostly read it in the young adult capacity – so since most of this book takes place when Emma is an adult, I wasn’t sure how it would track with that. Shouldn’t have worried. The kids made her feel and seem like less than an adult anyway!

I can’t say enough how great this mystery was. But THE ENDING is truly where it shined. Yes, the big reveal was a huge shock to me personally but the epilogue killed it even further. I almost fell off my seat.

For huge mystery fans, I’m sure you know Riley Sager as he’s one of the biggest names currently. I still highly suggest this to you if you haven’t gotten to it yet. For my fledgling mystery fans : start with this one.

Can’t wait to read more of Riley’s backlist and his most recent release, Survive the Night.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White

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Title: The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3)

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Delacourte Press

Publication date: December 7th, 2021

368 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere—it’s what’s been buried inside her.

Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.

Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past…even if it means destroying herself.

Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen—but what does it mean to be just a girl?

The gripping conclusion to the acclaimed Arthurian fantasy trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White finds Guinevere questioning everything—friends and enemies, good and evil, and, most of all, herself.

Review

I was pretty sure going into this final book in the trilogy that I wouldn’t be satisfied with how it ended. And whereas I was right, I do respect the ending for what it was and it is different than I had expected. Following up to The Camelot Betrayal, we head back to Camelot with Guinevere, Mordred, and Arthur. There are several new characters that come into play, that make a big impact in the plot line. Also, this one dives even further into questioning the patriarchy and women’s role in society and I’m always here for that.

This was a fast read, as the first two were. There is a lot that goes on in the course of these books, a lot of scheming and politics. Most of the gang are separated at the beginning so there is a lot to happen to find their way back to each other. There were some surprises and plot twists which I always enjoy in finales

I won’t speak much on the romance because it would be huge spoilers. I wasn’t happy with the romantic ending, personally. Doesn’t mean others wouldn’t like it, but I really had my heart set on another conclusion. I am glad I finished the series and appreciate the opportunity to read it early. It just further shows me that King Arthur retellings aren’t my favorite, and that’s okay!

Thank you to Delacorte Press and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

December TBR – 2021 Edition

Happy last month of the year! Still not sure how we got here, but I am ready for 2022 and all it will bring for me. I’m finally feeling hopeful and happy about life (outside the global personal pan pizza, obvi) so I’m ready to start a new year off on a great foot.

So, I’m actually not doing a typical TBR this month. I have plans to read ARCs, library books, owned physical books, and audiobooks – but I’m not planning the exact titles. I spent the last few weeks really fighting against what I was “supposed” to read based on my plans and really just wanted to mood read. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. So I’m just going to be picking up what sounds good to me in the moment, and whatever titles come through on my library holds. And it feels super freeing. I’m very excited to see where the month takes me in reading.

Like I said, I do have some plans. I want to read at least 10 ARCs (very normal number for me), but I’m not looking at release dates or which one’s I’ve had for longest. Just the one’s that speak to me in the moment. I also have a large stack of library books that I’d like to read, especially the one’s due sooner rather than later. And I have stacks and stacks of books around the house that I’ve broken into genre and type of book that I can just grab when I’m ready.

This is what is making me happy this month, and I’m rolling with it. I’m currently in the middle of 3 books that were not on the original “plan” for this month, but I’m enjoying them and have no regrets. And that’s really what reading should be, right? Sometimes I forget I got into the blog, booksta, ARCs life because I enjoy reading – not because I wanted to turn it into a job. So for the last month of the year, I will just enjoy.

Hopefully I will have some amazing reads, and I’d love to hit 30 books again (I have a lot of time off for the holidays and we’re traveling far this year).

I hope you all have a great last month of 2021!

Happy reading, folks!

November Wrap Up – 2021 Edition

Halfway through this month I threw my November TBR out because it wasn’t working for me and just read what I wanted to read. And frankly, it worked. I personally think I’m moody about WHEN I mood read – some months I love the strict TBR and planning, and other months I need to just throw it away and do something else. So I’m not even sure I’ll do a TBR for December because I’m still in this mood of just reading what I want.

I was able to read 27 books this month, and a couple were audiobooks so that is still going strong. I have a longer commute to work now so I imagine I will get through even more in December. So, see below for what I read this month!

PHYSICAL

  1. The Ex Hex (The Ex Hex #1), Erin Sterling – 3/5 stars
  2. All Stirred Up, Brianne Moore – 3/5 stars
  3. The Proposal (The Wedding Date #2), Jasmine Guillory – 4/5 stars

EBOOKS

  1. Battle Royal (Palace Insiders #1), Lucy Parker – 4/5 stars
  2. Dear Evan Hansen, Val Emmich – 1/5 stars – DNF
  3. The Cruel King (Royal Elite #0), Rina Kent – 3/5 stars
  4. Royal Elite Epilogue (Royal Elite #7), Rina Kent – 3/5 stars
  5. Beautiful Bombshell (Beautiful Bastard #2.5), Christina Lauren – 4/5 stars
  6. Beautiful Beginning (Beautiful Bastard #3.5), Christina Lauren – 3/5 stars
  7. Beautiful Beloved (Beautiful Bastard #3.6), Christina Lauren – 3/5 stars
  8. Hate (Madison Kate #1), Tate James – 5/5 stars
  9. Liar (Madison Kate #2), Tate James – 5/5 stars
  10. Fake (Madison Kate #3), Tate James – 5/5 stars
  11. Kate (Madison Kate #4), Tate James – 5/5 stars
  12. Scars (The Triad #1), Dana Isaly – 3/5 stars
  13. Liars (The Triad #2), Dana Isaly – 3/5 stars

ARCS

  1. Year of the Reaper, Makiaa Lucier – 5/5 stars
  2. Fools in Love: Fresh Twists on Romantic Tales, Rebecca Podos – 3.5/5 stars
  3. How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1), Cynthia Kuhn – 3/5 stars
  4. You’ve Reached Sam, Dustin Thao – 5/5 stars
  5. Bad Luck Bridesmaid, Alison Rose Greenberg – 3.5/5 stars
  6. The Kindred, Alechia Dow – 5/5 stars
  7. Hook, Line, and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters #2), Tessa Bailey – 5/5 stars

AUDIO

  1. A Pho Love Story, Loan Le – 4/5 stars
  2. The Passing Playbook, Isaac Fitzsimons – 4/5 stars
  3. The Wedding Date (The Wedding Date #1), Jasmine Guillory – 5/5 stars
  4. The Betrothed (The Betrothed #1), Kiera Cass – 3/5 stars

Happy reading, folks!

November Haul – 2021 Edition

Happy end of November! This has been a crazy month – I started a new job, my husband quit his job, and it’s been two years since hubs proposed to me. I also can’t understand how we’re only one month away from 2022! And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic with a new variant coming!! Goodness.

BUT IN HAPPIER NEWS I am loving my new job – my trainer actually encouraged me to bring BOOKS to work!!! How awesome is that? I’m very excited about the future now and where life is going, which I haven’t been able to say in awhile.

So, I let myself purchase some books this month to celebrate myself, and I got some fantastic gifts from publishers!

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

  1. Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights #2), Chloe Gong (OwlCrate)

GIFTED

  1. Never Fall for Your Fiancee (The Merriwell Sisters #1), Virginia Heath (Wednesday Books)
  2. A Psalm of Storms and Silence (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #2), Roseanne A. Brown (husband)
  3. The Burning God (The Poppy War #3), R.F. Kuang (husband)
  4. Heard it in a Love Song, Tracey Garvis Graves (St. Martin’s Griffin)

BARNES AND NOBLE

  1. The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3), S.A. Chakraborty
  2. Ravage the Dark (Scavenge the Stars #2), Tara Sim
  3. Illusionary (Hollow Crown #1), Zoraida Cordova
  4. The Hollow Heart (Forgotten Gods #2), Marie Rutkoski
  5. Defy the Night (Defy the Night #1), Brigid Kemmerer

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – How to Book a Murder by Cynthia Kuhn

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Title: How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1)

Author: Cynthia Kuhn

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: December 7th, 2021

336 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle, in award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn’s series debut, small-town bookseller and literary event planner Emma Starrs is out to close the book on a killer intent on crashing the party.

To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.

In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.

Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.

Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a cozy mystery, and I wanted to give this one a shot when it was Read Now. I’m going to have a hard time separating my thoughts on the plot of the book due to the formatting the ARC came in – it was extremely distracting and hard to read so my enjoyment was definitely impacted.

How to Book a Murder is set in the Starlit Bookshop, a family business in the Starrs family. Emma is working on improving the business and adding party planning to this list when her high school archenemy walks in needing services. Emma sets up a murder mystery party for Tabitha to celebrate her husband – but when her husband is found dead at the party, Tabitha tries everything to pin it on Emma and her family.

The ending to this book was masterful, I did not at all see the final reveal coming and I was actually convinced it was something else entirely. I love books set in bookstores or libraries, so that was a plus for me. And it’s the beginning of a new series so I’m sure there will more set in the bookstore. But, I really had an issue with the characters. Emma was a wet blanket, a pushover who was sticking her nose everywhere it didn’t belong. And Tabitha was awful – I had some girls I would never want to see from high school again but none would treat me like that. It was over the top.

To recap: plot – yes, characters – no. Would I continue the series? Hard maybe.

Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Bone Thief by Breeana Shields

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Title: The Bone Thief (The Bone Charmer #2)

Author: Breeana Shields

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Publication date: May 26th, 2020

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A deft exploration of the weight of grief and cost of revenge, Breeana Shields’s Bone Charmer duology reaches its spine-tingling conclusion in this high-octane fantasy-thriller.

Saskia returns to Ivory Hall to train in bone magic, determined to stop Latham from gaining the power of all three Sights—past, present, and future. But danger lurks within the fortress’s marrow. Trials are underway for the apprentices, and the tasks feel specifically engineered to torment Saskia, which is exactly what Latham wants.

As she grows increasingly more suspicious, her thirst for revenge becomes all-consuming. Together with the friends she can trust and the boy she loved in another lifetime, Saskia traces clues from Latham’s past to determine what he’ll do next. Their search leads them across Kastelia and brings them to a workshop housing a vast collection of horrors, including the bones Latham stole from Gran, and the knowledge that the future isn’t all that’s in jeopardy—but the past as well. 

Review

If you’re interested in reading this review, I encourage you to first read my review of The Bone Charmer as this is a sequel and the end to the duo. I don’t plan on any spoilers, but better safe than sorry!

Saskia’s life has been a whirlwind since the end of The Bone Charmer. Her life has been turned upside down and frankly, living in 2 different timelines is confusing when you’re the only one who knows what happened in the other timeline. Saskia has to navigate Ivory Hall all over again, with new challenges – including her relationship with Bram.

Truly, there were parts of this book that were so heartbreaking between Saskia and Bram. I can’t imagine remembering being in love with someone when that person didn’t experience it – but they are the same person. Very loosely reminds me of The Vow. My heart broke for Saskia every time she tried to recreate moments that brought them together in the other timeline. The plot was great, just like the first book, as Saskia has to learn how to use all of the Bone Magic without letting on her prior knowledge to her teachers. Saskia and her group of friends really went through it during this book.

The ending wasn’t as satisfactory as I would have liked. It is somewhat wrapped up, but I felt like I needed an epilogue to see how life continued for them after the events.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Fools in Love by Rebecca Podos

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Title: Fools in Love

Editor: Rebecca Podos

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Publication date: December 7th, 2021

288 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Fake relationships. Enemies to lovers. Love triangles and best friends, mistaken identities and missed connections. This collection of genre-bending and original stories celebrates how love always finds a way, featuring powerful flora, a superhero and his nemesis, a fantastical sled race through snow-capped mountains, a golf tournament, the wrong ride-share, and even the end of the world. With stories written by Rebecca Barrow, Ashley Herring Blake, Gloria Chao, Mason Deaver, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Malinda Lo, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Rebecca Podos, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, and Julian Winters this collection is sure to sweep you off your feet.

Review

Fools in Love is a short story compilation focusing on teen LGBTQIAP romances, contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction. Each story is separate with no connections to other stories in the anthology. Some are better than others, as one could assume – but overall it was an enjoyable time reading these stories by some amazing authors.

I definitely suggest this for those readers who need more LGBTQIAP in their lives and adore simple, romance tropes. As with most short stories, they are… short, so don’t expect fully defined plots and huge character growth – these are short, fun, and include other levels of diversity as well. One of my favorites included was a story featuring Jewish MCs.

Thank you to Running Press Kids and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

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Title: Dial A for Aunties (Aunties #1)

Title: Jesse Q Sutanto

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date:

299 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What happens when you mix 1 (accidental) murder with 2 thousand wedding guests, and then toss in a possible curse on 3 generations of an immigrant Chinese-Indonesian family?

You get 4 meddling Asian aunties coming to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—”Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!“—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Review

“I’m basically driven by a mixture of caffeine and familial guilt.”

Jesse Q Sutanto, Dial A for Aunties

Dial A for Aunties is completely ridiculous but absolutely hysterical – a mix of murder, romance, and wedding drama. I listened to this one in audio, and it was a great experience. Right off the bat Meddy accidentally commits murder (it was self-defense, okay?) and has no idea what to do, so she takes the body to her Ma and Aunties. But the next day, they were supposed to be on an island for a huge wedding as the vendors, and everything need to go well. Then, Meddy’s college ex happens to be the manager of the resort. What else could go wrong?

I was laughing during this book so much, it was ridiculous in a great way. I had no idea what was going to happen next and what crazy antic the aunties were going to get into. The love story is a very sweet second-chance romance and there are themes of family ties and being independent. I’m so excited to read the sequel when it comes out and see what the aunties and Meddy get up to next.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters

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Title: The River Has Teeth

Author: Erica Waters

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: July 27th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Natasha’s sister is missing.

Her car was found abandoned on the edge of a local nature preserve known as the Bend, but as the case goes cold, Natasha’s loss turns to burning anger.

She’ll do anything to find answers.

Della’s family has channeled magic from the Bend for generations, providing spells for the desperate. But when Natasha appears on her doorstep, Della knows it will take more than simple potions to help her.

But Della has her own secrets to hide.

Because Della thinks she knows the beast who’s responsible for the disappearance — her own mother, who was turned into a terrible monster by magic gone wrong.

Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose.

They are each other’s only hope.

Review

Told in alternating POVs, The River Has Teeth is magical realism meets mystery novel. Natasha’s sister goes missing in a string of missing women. Della’s mom turned into a beast that she thinks is eating the missing sisters. Together, they are a very unlikely pair – but their interests align and sparks fly. But can they stop whatever force is attacking the Bend? And can they learn to trust each other along the way?

I read this during spooky season and it was the perfect time to pick up this book. The setting is a magical, creepy wood and there’s monsters and mystery – definitely the right time to pick it up. The magic was very interesting throughout the book, but this is not a magic system that gets explained in detail. You just have to go with it and not ask too many questions. Also, there’s a lot of LGBTQ rep in this book, which I love to see and I’ve been focused on reading more of as I recently came out as bisexual myself.

My main issue with this book is how Natasha was portrayed and the emphasis on her being privileged. It really didn’t have any bearing on the plot of the story, but she kept thinking it over and over again, unprompted. It just seemed like wasted words and that difference between Della and Natasha really didn’t play that much of a role. It was just weird after the first 5 times it was brought up.

Happy reading, folks!