Author: Cassie (page 1 of 6)

BOOK REVIEW: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

BOOK REVIEW: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma BerquistMissing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.

Thank you Edelweiss, Greenwillow books and Emma Berquist for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Shoulders bump mine, and I grit my teeth as deaths wash over me in a sticky gray wave. I only get flashes, but it’s enough; all these plump, dimpled cheeks, thick hair, and painted nails, I glimpse the way it ends. Throat cancer, aneurysm, pneumonia. They beam even white teeth, and all I can see are the skulls smiling beneath.

What drew me to this book was this unique setting: Lexi can see anyone’s death with a simple touch. And if that was not hard enough, she can also talk with, touch and expel ghosts to the “other side.”

Lexi is a tough girl, who has a soft spot for her grandfather, who has the same powers as herself and Trevor, a teenage ghost who hangs around Lexi. She works at a bar with others who have a wide array of powers, but which are only featured sparingly in the book. However, the bar plays a large significance overall. Lexi also has an on and off relationship with Phillip, who also works at the bar, but struggles to be with him due to her ability to see his death every time they touch, which is an understandable downer.

Because being with you makes me lonelier than being alone. Because I can’t stop picturing your body on a cold metal table.

One night, Lexi accidentally bumps into a girl outside the club named Jane. She sees that Jane will be murdered that night, but doesn’t do anything about it, because as she has learned, there are serious repercussions for interfering with fate.

Jane then reappears as a ghost, and convinces Lexi and Trevor to help her figure out who killed her and if it is related to other killings in the area. Lexi does her best, but her powers weigh on her mental health heavily. Several times over the course of the novel, she is forced to check herself into a psych ward just to tune out the world and get some much-needed sleep. I really appreciated that this was included, as it rings incredibly true. Someone with this kind of power, who could not shut it off, would probably be overwhelmed. These scenes also lead to a small but cute relationship she develops with a doctor at the hospital.

Even without turning around, I can sense Jane behind me, feel the gravitational pull of her. I can’t escape it; she’s like my compass, like a lodestone. I always know where Jane is.

As Lexi and Jane work to solve Jane’s murder, they also become far closer to each other and begin to develop feelings for each other. While I certainly enjoyed their relationship, I was also struggled with the world-building that allowed for physical interactions for Lexi and Jane. You always see ghosts as corporeal, which Jane and Trevor are 99% of the time, except with Lexi. I wish I could put into better words why this slightly missed the mark for me, as I did like Lexi and Jane together, but ultimately I didn’t love them together or the fact that romance was such a major factor in this book. I guess I could have been OK if it would have stayed as mostly a creepy thriller book with just a small emphasis on a love story.

I loved the premise of this book so much. It was such a cool idea and unfortunately I think it was squandered away a little bit, focusing too much on romantic relationships and tying up the ending with a big shiny bow. This easily could have been a really cool and creepy series – there’s so many directions this could have gone and areas to be explored, especially all the side characters with different powers – but it just ended up being a very narrow story. I just wanted more from this and ultimately left feeling OK, but not great.

This book will be released on May 21, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Guest House by Megan Miranda

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Guest House by Megan MirandaThe Last Guest House by Megan Miranda
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of - but that's just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.

Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable - until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can't help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie's brother Parker, who blame her. Someone known more than they're saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.

Thank you NetGalley, Megan Miranda and Corvus for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Megan Miranda is back with her newest adult mystery/thriller and as much as I’ve enjoyed her previous works, this is easily my favorite from her yet.

I’m sorry. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.

One year ago, Avery Greer’s best friend, the affluent Sadie Loman, is found dead on the night of the infamous end of summer party. The police determine it was suicide and close the case. Avery, after having a rough start at life – losing her parents to a car accident and her grandmother to illness – stays in Littleport to oversee the Loman rental properties.

Around the one year anniversary of Sadie’s death, strange things begin to happen around Littleport and the Loman rentals. Homes are rummaged through, candles lit but not by the renters, etc. Avery is sure these are connected to Sadie’s death and begins to raise questions with those who were at the party the night of her death.

The biggest danger of all in Littleport was assuming that you were invisible. That no one else saw you.

The books jumps back and forth between present day and the night of the party, but all through Avery’s point of view. We learn a lot about Avery and what brought her and Sadie together, as on paper, they had very little in common and not a lot of reasons to become as close as they did, even closer than Sadie was with her older brother, the handsome and charming Grant Loman. This even leads fellow a Littleport resident to say this to Avery: “She created you. A mini-Sadie. A monster in her likeness. And now she’s gone, but here you are.”

As with all Megan Miranda novels, all the layers of the story are peeled back until there’s a clear picture of exactly what happened. The ending was a doozy and I loved it. I definitely did not see everything that coming but was elated when it was put in front of me. I was very satisfied with the whole story and was sad when I got to the last page.

As I said up top, this was my favorite Miranda novel to-date. I loved Avery, the main character, and really liked a lot of the supporting cast. It was well-paced and kept me enthralled the entire time. This story would make a perfect summertime adaptation for HBO, a la “Big Little Lies.” The setting – an almost private and exclusive sea-side town in the summer, with a colorful cast of characters and slow-burning mystery and a touch of romance – would really lend itself well to the small screen.

When this comes out in May, be sure to pick it up and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I stared once more down at the article in my hand. The truth, always inches away, just waiting for me to look again. The unfinished sentence, our paths crossing over and over, unseen, unknown.

The Last Guest House will be released on May 2, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

BOOK REVIEW: The Au Pair by Emma RousThe Au Pair by Emma Rous
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Something strange happened here on the day they were born.

The Au Pair is good mystery novel, centering around the Mayes family. Years before, Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were born, and in a matter of hours after their birth, their mother dies from what is considered suicide. Following the death of their father when they are adults, Seraphine finds a family photograph that raises a lot of questions about the fateful day. With her grandmother unable to clarify the events of her mother’s death, Seraphine begins to look for the au pair that was with the family at that time.

Why did they pose for a family photo with only one of their new babies?” I ask. “Why do they looks so–so normal, Mum and Dad, and yet a few hours after this was taken, Mum was dead? I don’t understand how it happened.

Naturally, Seraphine’s attempt to dig into past is met with resistance by many around her, including her brothers and her grandmother. She speaks with many people in the small, sea-side town, including the next door neighbor/childhood friend and his father, who spent a lot of time around the estate.

As with many mystery/thrillers, this book utilizes a split narrative and timeline. In present day, we follow Seraphine as she peels back the layers of her family; in the past, we follow the Laura, the Mayes’ au pair, and slowly learn about what happened and how it came to be.

I want to go back to the way things were before I found the photo. I want to be left to mourn my father without questioning whether he was my father.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the story. To many avid thriller readers, there probably isn’t a lot new here. I didn’t find the twists to be fairly obvious, but I wasn’t overall shocked by it either. I also had just come off reading, (spoilers for those who may have read this book first) View Spoiler » However, that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. I really liked Seraphine, and especially enjoyed her relationship with her brothers.

I thought the story line wrapped up nicely and I wasn’t left with a lot of lingering questions, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. I will definitely check out what Emma Rous writes next.

“Why did you go looking for her?” His voice is quieter now but deeper, scratchy. “Why did you do this to us?”

BOOK REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

BOOK REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. CraigHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

Thank you to Netgalley, Delacorte and Erin A. Craig for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly can’t believe this book doesn’t come out until August, because all I want to do is shove it in people’s hands and make them feel all the same magical feelings I felt when reading this phenomenal novel.

It honestly had everything I love in a book: Castles. Royalty. Strong family ties. Unique but not overly complicated world. Strong female lead. Swoon-worthy romance. Creepy atmosphere. Supernatural entities. Heart stopping peril. A book cover to die for.

Once there were twelve of us: the Thaumas Dozen. Now we stood in a small line, my seven sisters and I, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a ring of truth to the grim speculations.

From the very opening scene, which was a funeral for one of the Thaumas Dozen sisters, I was immediately taken into this world, where (originally) twelve sisters, their father and their stepmother live in Highmoor, a grand castle near the ocean and rule over the land, but always in touch with the sea.

Unfortunately for Annaleigh, after her mother passes some years ago, her older sisters keep dying in mysterious and unfortunate ways until she is suddenly the second in line to take over the throne after her father’s passing. While several of the deaths could be attributed to accidents or suicide, Annaleigh is certain her most recent sister’s passing has something more sinister beneath it and is determined to figure out what is happening to her family. It is on one of her sleuthing missions does she meet the wonderful Cassius, who Annaleigh comes to befriend and trust.

I couldn’t help but smile, remembering their confrontation at the ball. “You sound jealous!”
“Hardly. And do you know why?” I shook my head. “Because I’m the one whispering in the corner with the prettiest girl in the room.”

Even with a blossoming romance to contend with, Annaleigh is determined to figure out what is causing members of her family to die. And here is where it starts to get creepy: one Annaleigh’s younger sisters starts drawing incredibly disturbing images she shouldn’t know anything about, Annaleigh experiences vivid dreams/moments that she can’t figure out if they are real or not, and all manner of spooky things are occurring around the house. Plus, more death.

I shook my head, as if warding off a buzzing mosquito.
None of this is real, it persisted. No one else sees it because it’s not really here to see. You’ve gone mad, my girl.
No. that wasn’t it. That wasn’t possible.
I wasn’t mad.
There had to be another explanation.
Does there?

The story continues to climb and build until everything comes crashing together at the end. And let me tell you, what an ending it was. Some things I had kind of guessed relatively close, while others I didn’t see coming at all. So many different plot points were so expertly tied up that I felt exhausted when I finally finished the last page. So much happens at the end and I just want to talk about it. I have so many feelings! I need to reread it, honestly, because I’m sure I missed things as I raced to see who made it out alive.

I loved Annaleigh’s dedication to her family, even when it meant putting others’ feelings ahead of hers, but at the end of the day, she had the ultimate say in what what would make her happy. Her relationship with her sisters was complicated, but full of love, and the same can be said of her relationship with her father. I adored Cassius and the wonderful aspects of Annaleigh he highlighted. His arc was super interesting and only added to the awesome world building of the story.

I’m honestly surprised this is the author’s first published novel, as it was so well done. I truly do not have enough good words to say about it and am already looking forward to reading it again, probably closer to the fall when the atmosphere will perfectly lend itself.

In case it wasn’t clear, I adored this book and almost all that it entailed. I will say, there are two scenes that involve an animal (a turtle). They aren’t the worst I’ve ever read, but they are disturbing, albeit short. As this is a major trigger for me, I feel it’s only fair to give others notice as well. So just be warned, but it’s easy to skip. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did!

“All my years of imagining you,” he murmured, leaving a trail of kisses across my face, “and you are so much more than I ever could have dreamed of…”

This book will be released on August 6, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Thank you to NetGalley (for granting my wish!), Casey McQuiston and St. Martin’s Griffin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to try and make this review as coherent as possible, but not promises. I’m honestly just so filled with emotions and glee and joy from this book. I have so many highlights from this book and they are all SO GOOD.

Welcome to 2018 and in a far better timeline than the one we currently find ourselves in (*sob*), the successor to Barack Obama is democrat President Claremont, a divorced and re-married bad ass lady, who made two wonderful, half Mexican-half American children in Alex and June.

We start this story in the months leading up to her reelection bid. Alex, the first son, makes a fool of himself, as well as his sworn enemy Henry, at Henry’s brother’s wedding. In attempt to show that there is no animosity between the countries, Henry and Alex are forced to show the world they are indeed, close friends. And cue the start of the enemies to lovers trope, in the best way possible.

“I think it’s amazing,” Nora says. “Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”

“Shakespearean in that hopefully I’ll get stabbed to death,” Alex says. “This sheet says his favorite food is mutton pie. I literally cannot think of a more boring food. He’s like a cardboard cutout of a person.”

As you can imagine, as Alex and Henry are forced to spend time together, their feelings begin to blossom. While Alex had only been with women up until this point in time, I appreciate McQuiston not dragging out Alex questioning if he could possibly like other men. Alex pretty quickly accepted that he was bisexual; while I can totally appreciate this is not easy for many, it kept the story moving along nicely with Alex’s quick acceptance.

While Alex and Henry’s relationship is very much rooted in friendship as they put on a carefully cultivated PR trip in Great Britain, things really get going with Henry’s visit to a New Year’s Eve party in D.C. It eventually leads to one of the best first kisses I have ever read. There’s so much tension leading up to it and I devoured every interaction between the two.

“C’mon, it’s like in the hips. You have to loosen up.” He reached down and put both hands on Henry’s hips, and Henry instantly tenses under the touch. “That’s the opposite of what I said.”
“Alex, I dont’–“
“Here,” Alex says, moving his own hips, “watch me.”
With a grave gulp of champagne, Henry says, “I am.”

I mean, be still my swooning heart. I was a little surprised how quickly Alex and Henry got together (not that I’m complaining!) as I expected a little more build up. However, I really liked how much attention was given to the complexity of navigating their relationship. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments – I know I was grinning like a fool like 85% of this book.

How dare Henry come into Alex’s house looking like the goddman James Bond offspring that he is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like he didn’t slip Alex the tongue and ghost him for a month.

He kisses Henry until it feels like he can’t breathe, until it feels like he’s going to forget both of their name and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake.

While most of the attention is on Alex and Henry’s relationship, there’s a lot of great subplots happening and excellent side characters. I absolutely adored June, Alex’s sister, and Nora, June and Alex’s best friend and Alex’s sometimes girlfriend. They are both wickedly funny and smart and incredibly real. I also adored Zahra, Amy, Bea, etc. There are so many excellent characters in their own right, even if they revolve around Alex and Henry.

There’s some also serious issues brought up, like the fact that Alex struggles with his mixed heritage, Henry struggles with anxiety and both struggle what it means to carry on a high profile family legacy.

If there’s a criticism to be made (besides giving me more books in this world), is that you can fairly easily guess the major plot points. There’s nothing terribly unpredictable about them, but honestly, I didn’t find myself caring all that much. They needed to happen and I was more interested in how these characters were going to handle them.

Take for instance Alex’s mother learning of his relationship and her immediate reaction was to make a powerpoint to lead their discussion, including this title for the ages:
EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND?
She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles.

If I didn’t love Alex’s entire family already, this would have certainly sealed the deal. The ending, while a bit cliche, was still entirely wonderful and really tied up the book nicely. As I said, before, I would love a follow-up book in the future to see what all these amazing people are up to. I truly did not get enough of them in fantastic 432 pages McQuiston gifted us.

While I certainly have started to read more romance stories in the last few years, I still would not certainly consider myself a big reader of this genre. I tend to only like contemporaries and they definitely need to be well-done and bring something different to the table. I’ve only found a few so far that fit this billing that I’ve enjoyed and Red, White & Royal blue is certainly at the top of these.

I can’t wait to get this in printed form and read it whenever I need a pick-me-up. I cannot say enough positive things about this book and from everything I’ve seen, just about everyone else who’s read this agrees. It’s sexy, it’s funny and it’s emotionally heart-warming.

“You are,” he says,” the absolute worst idea I’ve ever had.” Henry’s mouth spreads into a slow smile, and Alex kisses it.

Red, White & Royal Blue will be released on May 14, 2019.

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