Author: Cassie (page 1 of 3)

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied by Riley SagerThe Last Time I Lied Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or 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 New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

I smile, pretending they’re right. What none of them understand is the point of the game isn’t to fool others with a lie. The goal is to trick them by telling the truth.

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for stories that take place with summer camp setting. I went to one for several summers as a pre-teen, so I certainly have no trouble picturing it. There’s just something about breathing in those early breaths of independence and freedom. No parents, new people and new experiences that often don’t translate back to life at home. Because of this, I am thrilled when books have a summer camp setting, and this book DID NOT disappoint.

Fifteen years. That’s how long it’s been. It feels like a lifetime ago. It also feels like yesterday.

As the synopsis says, fifteen years ago four girls (Vivian, Natalie, Allison and newcomer, Emma) form a short but strong bond one summer. But one night, Vivian, Natalie and Allison go missing while Emma is left to fill in the blanks, which she does with varying degrees of accuracy and truthfulness.

In present day, Emma struggles with the events of fifteen years ago. She does her best to deal with the aftermath, using painting as a form of therapy. But when she is asked to return to the camp as a counselor and art teacher, she is drawn back into the world and begins to investigate what really happened so long ago.

But after my time at Camp Nightingale, I vowed never to lie again. Omission. That’s my tactic. A different sin entirely.

While this is certainly a thriller, at the heart of this story is female friendships, especially those made at the cusp of the change between being a girl and being a woman. It’s a precarious time of life; there’s a reason it’s written about so much – it is such a unique and major event in life.

The scenes between Vivian and Emma were fascinating. Vivian is older and more experienced at life and takes Emma under her wing. She serves as a surrogate older sister, which is both wonderful and terrible for Emma, as we the readers learn more about the events of that summer. While Allison and Natalie play a role, this novel really focuses on the relationship between Vivian and Emma.

Yes, boys can break your heart and betray you, but not in the same stinging way girls can.

As the book jumps back and forth between the summer of the girls disappearing and present day, more and more comes to light about the events of what happened and how that plays into what is happening to Emma in present day.

The author, Riley Sager, did an excellent job in creating sympathetic but complicated characters and keeping me guessing the entire time. I enjoyed his last novel, Final Girls, but was a little put off by the ending. However, that was not the case this time around. I was breathless up until the last page and I was left fully satisfied. I cannot wait for future books from Sager if his first two novels are an indication of what’s to come next.

I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to confess. Instead, I say, “Two Truths and a Lie. Let’s play.”

BOOK REVIEW: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

BOOK REVIEW: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno99 Days by Katie Cotugno
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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Julia Donnelly eggs my house the first night I’m back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything.

“Hey, stranger,” he says as I climb into the passenger seat, in a voice like I’m not one at all. “Wreck any homes today?” I snort. “Not yet.”

Here’s the thing, I really liked this book. I liked Molly, the protagonist of the book. With that said, Molly makes a lot of dumb mistakes in the book. She is far from perfect. Even when she thinks she’s learned from a past mistake, she makes it again. This is frustrating from a reader’s perspective, but how many of us have done the same thing or have a friend who makes the same stupid mistake again and again?

If you are averse to reading anything with love triangles, cheating or imperfect MC’s, walk away. This book isn’t for you.

Molly knows exactly what she did and spends the course of the book dealing with the aftermath, attempting to atone for those grievances and making more mistakes. She is 17, slightly self-centered and in need of growing up. But with all of this said, I still rooted for her.

He was my best friend. He was my first love. I had sex with his big brother. I broke his fucking heart.

I’m not spoiling anything by saying that Molly cheated on her first boyfriend, Patrick, with his older brother, Gabe. Following the news making its way around town, she is essentially ostracized for her mistake by almost everyone. It’s harsh and I appreciated the author making it very clear there is a huge double-standard placed on women in these situations. They are the homewrecker, the slut/whore, etc., while the man was tempted/coerced/etc. The woman should have known better, she made her choice, it was her fault, etc. Ugh.

Eventually, Gabe and Molly start to develop a real relationship when he is home from college, and as you can imagine, is awkward for many of the other characters, including Molly’s former friend/current tormentor and Gabe and Patrick’s sister, Julia. Despite how great things are with Gabe, Molly continues to have complicated thoughts and feelings about Patrick.

With Gabe I never feel like a walking, talking letdown. With Gabe I just feel like me. So why can’t I stop thinking about his brother?

I feel like a horror show, I feel like exactly the kind of nightmare Julia thinks I am – tearing through the Donnellys again and again like some kind of natural disaster.

While sometimes I just wanted to grab Molly and shake her, I then wanted to follow it up with a big hug. Does she cause a lot of pain for herself? Yes. But does she deserve everything that is given to her? Absolutely not. Besides the obvious focus on the romantic relationships, there’s some nice focus on friendships, a unique mother-daughter relationship and learning to find yourself at such a precarious age.

The author recently released a follow-up this book, 9 Days and 9 Nights, which I will be reading here shortly. I’m looking forward to meeting Molly and Gabe and seeing where their story is headed next.

“Why are you going to let people who are hell-bent on not forgiving you keep you from something that could actually be great?”

BOOK REVIEW: Sadie by Courtney Summers

BOOK REVIEW: Sadie by Courtney SummersSadie by Courtney Summers
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Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and the author, Courtney Summers, for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

“And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”

I finished Sadie almost a month ago and I’ve struggled how I wanted to review this book. I haven’t really read anything like it and honestly, after I finished the last page and closed the book, I was left feeling a bit sad and empty.

It’s a tragic story on every level. Sadie, our main character, hasn’t had an easy life. Her mother, who is both a drug addict and often absent, has abandoned Sadie and her other daughter Mattie, in their small rural town. Mind you, Sadie is around 17 when the story begins, who isn’t even an adult herself. And then Mattie is murdered, shattering Sadie’s entire paper-thin world. And with nothing left to lose, and no help from anyone else, Sadie begins her quest to get justice for Mattie.

Intertwined in Sadie’s story is investigative journalist/podcaster Wes McCray, who is working to figure out what happened to Sadie, as we learn she is consider “missing” by the small group of people who care about her. The format of the novel is ‘regular’ chapters from Sadie’s POV and transcript chapters from Wes’s podcast interviews. I really enjoyed this format and loved a true crime podcast as a vehicle for telling Sadie’s story, as there are so many great true crime podcasts doing similar work in real-life.

I also appreciated Summers giving Sadie an additional layer of complexity, as Sadie has an almost debilitating stutter that greatly affects how she interacts with others. It’s not something I’ve seen put into a story before, so kudos for Summers adding in that representation.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this is not an easy story to read. There’s not a lot of happiness or light-hearted moments. It’s a dark but realistic story, so just go in preparing to get heart stomped all over. Don’t let that deter you, but just be prepared.

I have risked everything for this kindness, or whatever it is, and that make me worry I’m too starved, too broken, to anything right.

Be sure to also check out Chelsea’s review and interview with Courtney Summers here.

BOOK REVIEW: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)

BOOK REVIEW: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
by Sabaa Tahir
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Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister's life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she'd have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias's devotion--even at the cost of his humanity.

Skies save me from the men in my life and all the things they think they know.

Hi, I’m Cassie and I’m new to this series. Like, three weeks ago, I still had the first book sitting fairly low on my TBR list. It seemed interesting enough, but not enough for me to move it up and finally get around to reading it. Well, not until my friend shoved the first two books into my hands and said READ THEM NOW.

I am SO GLAD she made me, because I love them. I totally get why everyone loves this series. It’s so good. It’s dark, like really dark, but so good nonetheless.

As much as I love the world and the stakes at hand, what’s kept me into this story so much are these characters, specifically Laia, Elias and Helene. There’s some great side characters as well, but I truly love these main three characters.

Love, I sigh. Love is joy coupled with misery, elation bound to despair. It is a fire that beckons me gently and then burns when I get too close. I hate love. I yearn for it. And it drives me mad.

After the events of A Torch Against the Night, none of our main characters are in a good place. And honestly, they aren’t much better after the Reaper. Laia, after getting her brother back, is looking to stop the Nightbringer, helping with the resistance and dealing with the fallout of Elias being, well, dead and the new Soul Catcher.

“I will not let you torment her to death, even if stopping you tears my own body to shreds. All the world can burn, but I will not simply leave her to suffer.”
“All things have a price, Elias Veturius. The price of saving her will haunt you for all your days. Will you pay it?”

I ship this couple so much. I’m very much worried what Sabaa is going to do them, but based on the Nightbringer’s flashbacks, I’m cautiously optimistic how their story could end. But seriously, the chemistry between these two characters, even in the middle of everything going on, is to die for. Ugh. My heart breaks for them, especially in that last scene, but I’m really hoping this is the dark before the light.

“You are cruel, Elias,” she whispers against my mouth. “To give a girl all she desires only to tear it away.”

And as much as I love Elias and Laia, I actually found Elias’s chapters to be the weakest. Mostly because of the limitations on his ability to move around in the real world, but also how little he comes to know. I felt he often slowed down the pace, as so much else was happening with the rest of the characters.

Especially Helene. Our dear Helene. Who continues to suffer so tragically. I feel so badly for her and yet she continues to remain strong and keep some sense of morality. She loves her family and would do anything for them. And she does care for those she’s working closely with, especially Harper. Ugh. Not quite the level of Elias and Laia, but I still love them together nonetheless. Even with *that scene* near the end, where I wanted to slap some sense into her, I hope Helene can find some happiness by the end of this series. And I can’t wait until Elias and Harper finally meet!

I witness myself through his eyes: angry and cold and weak and strong and brave and warm. Not the Blood Shrike. Helene.


But last but not least: The Nightbringer. I’m on the fence about him. I’ve seen a lot of people say they really came to feel for him, etc. I get it. He does have a more tragic backstory. But it doesn’t mean that what he’s doing is OK either. I certainly hope there’s some kind of compromise to what our characters are fighting for and what the Nightbringer wants, because if not, it seems like it just ends with even more death (if that’s even possible?).

I know love better than any other creature alive. Certainly better than any other creature alive. Certainly better than a girl who gives her heart to whoever happens by.

All in all, I’d give this a 4.5/5. It was great being able to pick it up just after finishing the second book, but now I’m dying for the fourth, which is easily 1-2 years away. These books certainly aren’t for the faint of heart, as so many bloody and tragic moments. I thought the pacing was a little off on this one, and I think it may have had to do with Elias’s storyline. It was a bit jarring compared to Helene and Laia’s.

I’m really hoping there are some happier days ahead for our protagonists in the next book, after everything they’ve been through in these first three. I think Sabaa has laid some groundwork for that to happen, but as we’ve seen, anything can happen to just about anyone.

“In truth, you shall find freedom. Let me free you, Laia of Serra.”
“I don’t need your truth.”


BOOK REVIEW: Furyborn (Empirium #1) by Claire Legrand

BOOK REVIEW: Furyborn (Empirium #1) by Claire LegrandFuryborn by Claire Legrand
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Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.

We all have darkness inside us, Rielle,” he said, his voice rough. “That is what it means to be human.”

Whew. This book was a beast to tackle. It comes in at a whopping 512 pages of non-stop action, following two kick-ass women: Rielle Dardenne and Eliana Ferracore. The book jumps back and forth between Rielle and Eliana and a span of 1,000 years.

From the very start, we are off and running, as we see Rielle handing off her daughter to a young boy before dying by the hands of someone named Corien (more about him later).

After that opening, we jump back to follow Rielle performing in trials to prove she is the Sun Queen, who was foretold in a prophecy.

Two queens will rise. One of blood. One of light.

Through these trials, Rielle is aided and supported by her two friends: Audric and Ludivine. I adored both of these characters. Ludivine was a fantastic supportive friend and very much cared for Rielle. And Audric, oh Audric, was Rielle’s forbidden love. He was entirely swoon-worthy and I enjoyed watching as Rielle and Audric grew closer. During Rielle’s story, we also meet Corien, who at first appears as only a voice in her head and who meet later on in-person. What a fascinating character Corien was — we know what he ultimately does to Rielle based on the prologue, but it was engrossing learning how Rielle and Corien came to know each other.

And then there’s Eliana. I’ve seen a number of other reviewers say they enjoyed Rielle’s story more, but honestly, I was more attached to Eliana’s story. She was entirely unapologetic about who she was and what she was doing to keep her family safe (until she couldn’t); I was also completely enamored with her back and forth with Simon.

“Have you always been this unspeakably irritating?”
“Has your face always looked so temptingly carvable?”

While I definitely enjoyed Eliana’s relationship with her little brother, Remy, and her newfound friendship with Navi, I was very much invested in the complicated relationship between Eliana and Simon. A LOT happens between when they first meet and the end of this book, but I’m very intrigued by what will follow.

But Simon only smiled. “Oh, Eliana,” he murmured, his voice no longer playful, “I want so much more than simply a peek.”

A few other things of note:
-There are some important TW: abuse (child and adult), death/gore/violence, sexual content, slavery, torture, and my VERY least favorite, animal death (I will say, however, the main character does feel quite terribly afterword…but still, UGH)
-I think this book explored what loss means and how that can shape your actions very well. Both Eliana and Rielle experience death early on and it has a large impact on their future decisions and life out look. I really appreciated the subtle nuances for each character as she dealt with her grief and guilt.
-I’m still deciding how I feel about the ending. Obviously there are more books to come, but it just didn’t end how I expected. Especially for Eliana.

All things considered, I really enjoyed this book. I’ll be honest, after the prologue, I found myself struggling to get started from the beginning, especially the drastically different timelines. But once I got near the 40% mark, it started to pick up and as I approached the end, I was very much into it. I look forward to the next installment!

“You are so like her,” he muttered darkly. “I am like myself,” she hissed, “and no one else.”

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