Author: Cassie (page 1 of 4)

BOOK REVIEW: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

BOOK REVIEW: Even If I Fall by Abigail JohnsonEven If I Fall by Abigail Johnson
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Synopsis:

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.

Thank you to NetGalley, Abigail Johnson and Harlequin Teen for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review.


“I’m not allowed to feel bad in front of you. I’m not allowed to feel bad in front of anyone, but especially not you, and I don’t know how to stop.”

“Even If I Fall” by Abigail Johnson is a hauntingly beautiful YA novel about love, family and forgiveness. As I described it to a friend, it reminded me of a more tragic, YA version of Mariana Zapata’s “From Lukov with Love.”

As the synopsis says, the story follows Brooke, who (along with her family) become social pariahs following her brother Jason’s murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke’s family is shattered, and each member struggles to deal with the loss of someone who is still alive, but admitted to committing an unspeakable crime. Also dealing with the loss of a brother, enter Heath, Cal’s younger brother.

“I resist another urge to press my back against my door. Not because I’m physically afraid of Heath, but because I’m afraid of what he might say and how his words could shred me if he wants them to.”

One day, Brooke offers Heath a ride into town. And that’s how the story of Brooke and Heath begins. Both are struggling with the loss of a brother, though Brooke knows Heath’s pain comes from the decision of her own brother. There are so many layers of loss, sadness and struggle. There’s also a good deal of anger and resentment. It’s a lot for our main characters to deal with, but I thought it was all very realistic and thoughtful.

After several other encounters, Brooke eventually asks Heath with his help training for an ice skating tour, as Brooke is an excellent skater. Heath ultimately agrees and they being spending more time together, but not before agreeing to keep it a secret from their respective families.

We keep trying to not hurt each other. But I did and he did. We are.

While it was fairly obvious what some of the main plot points were going to be, it didn’t make the story any less enjoyable. I adored both Brooke and Heath and their slow-burn relationship. It was so well done and the build up was great. I also enjoyed the cast of characters around Brooke. They were all well-defined and added so much to the story. I would love to see a novella or long-form epilogue some day, as I’d love to see what everyone is up to after some time has past from the book’s ending.

As steady as his arms are, my heart is beating wildly. And he just keeps holding me in the air like that, like I weigh nothing and he can go on holding me forever.

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen HamiltonThe Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton
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Synopsis:

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She's even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it's worth all the pain...

Thank you to NetGalley, Karen Hamilton and Wildfire for my free ARC.


I loved him and yet I’d been unable to stop him making the biggest mistake of his life. He was mine.

Juliette loved Nate. Nate decided to end his relationship with Juliette. Juliette cannot let Nate go and will do anything to get him back. And thus begins our story.

Once upon a time, I could walk up to him and hug him any time I pleased. Now, I am not allowed. Those are the rules. I have not been given any choice or say in the matter.

Juliette is both highly problematic and also sympathetic in moments. After being dumped by Nate, an airline pilot, Juliette becomes a flight attendant to worm her way back into his life. She is methodical, disciplined and tries to stay three steps ahead of everyone else. It honestly sounds exhausting, but Juliette is nothing but dedicated.

He thinks he doesn’t want me, but he’s proving that he does. It’s all up to me to help him come to terms with his feelings so this whole mixed-messages thing stops.

This book is very much along the lines of Kaira Rouda novels or “The Last Mrs. Parrish.” I found it hard to put down because I wanted to see what Juliette would do next. I think my mouth dropped open as some of the pieces fell together at the end. I felt like I should have seen it coming, but I was so invested in what was in front of me, I wasn’t really trying to piece it together like that.

Some people may hate the ending, as it is not the cleanest, but I didn’t mind. After all the events of the book, it seemed fairly realistic. It thought this was very well written and while Juliette was far from a good person, I did have sympathy for her, especially as we learn about her background. I didn’t want her to succeed, but I did want her to get the help she very much needed.

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, make them.

BOOK REVIEW: Evermore (Everless #2) by Sara Holland

BOOK REVIEW: Evermore (Everless #2) by Sara HollandEvermore (Everless #2)
by Sara Holland
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.

Thank you Edelweiss, Sara Holland and HarperTeen for my ARC! Evermore will be available on December 31, 2018.


When I was a child, Papa told me my dreams could never hurt me – but he lied. Two weeks ago, the girl tore out of my nightmares and stepped into the world.

Evermore was an excellent bookend to its companion, Everless. I remember flying through Everless, but not 100% loving it. I definitely didn’t have the same feeling this time around, as I absolutely loved this book!

Evermore picks up right after the events of Everless. If you thought life was get any easier and less tragic for Jules, think again. This poor girl keeps losing those she loves to Caro’s (the Sorcerer) desire for revenge on Jules (the Alchemist), which has spanned many lifetimes.

However, Jules is not alone. Liam (who is so definitely not evil) is right by her side, as well as two excellent new excellent characters, Elias and Stef.


Elias’s teeth flash again in that smile. “Don’t you know, Jules? Everything worth doing is dangerous.”

Throughout the book, Jules struggles to what it means to be the Alchemist, and rightfully so. For so many years of her, albeit, short life, she has only known her father and friends and her life as Jules Ember. And then to find out she is so much more, that she is the latest reincarnation of the Alchemist and has flashbacks of her past life, is something she deals with almost the whole book. While I did feel some of the flashbacks slowed down the pacing of the book, it did provide context for the past relationship between Jules and Caro.


If the Alchemist stays sunken in me forever, revealing herself in shards of broken memories, never whole – who am I then? Not Jules Ember. Not anyone.

But as much as I loved the friendships and other relationships, I really loved Jules’ growing love towards Liam. I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel strongly toward him in Everless. But my mind was completely changed in this book. He was sweet and strong and stubborn and smart and a little rash sometimes. But at the end of the day, he cared for Jules and wanted her to succeed and be her own person. I loved Holland making him a big book nerd and getting very excited about research and history. It was a small touch but went a long way in making him his own character.


In this moment, I’m not the Alchemist. I’m only Jules, alone and frightened and hoping and wanting, and Liam Gerling is reaching out to me, a hand across the dark.

I honestly wish this wasn’t a duology. I know there’s a lot of three and four book series, and not so many duologies, but I wanted more time with Jules and Liam and Ina and Stef and Elias. Holland also set up some interesting world-building that there just wasn’t time to explore. But most importantly, I really grew to enjoy these characters and want to know what they will do next. And also more romance, because, again, I am so here for Liam Gerling.


“Nothing is unstoppable, not really,” I say quietly, slipping the dagger into my belt. “You only need to find something stronger.”

BOOK REVIEW: #Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1) by Gretchen McNeil

BOOK REVIEW: #Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1) by Gretchen McNeil#Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1)
by Gretchen McNeil
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

“Fifty million people are about to watch me die.”

From the very first line of this book, I was hooked. Two years ago, I read McNeil’s book Ten and was left underwhelmed. The plot was good (I know it was borrowed, but still), but was not impressed by the characters. There was marked improvement in the character development, which made me enjoy this book more.

If you are squeamish, I would not recommend this. While this a YA book, there are fairly graphic descriptions of death, starting with the very opening pages. I thought the opening chapter set the story up splendidly: Dee, our protagonist, has been convicted of her step-sister’s murder and has been dropped off onto Alcatraz, where she has been sentenced to death in a government-sanctioned murder reality show. Think Survivor + The Hunger Games = The Postman app.

But instead of being murdered in the first few minutes of her time on the island, Dee fights back and kills her would-be killer. From then on, she is left to survive on the island with a group of other convicted killers, while all the while trying to prove she is innocent. And on top of that, Dee is still dealing with PTSD from the time she was kidnapped and kept captive by a deranged girl a few years prior to the events of the book.

“‘I Scream’?” Dee said, reading the name of the shop. “You’ve got be kidding me.”
“You’ll find an abundance of dark humor on the island.”

While I liked Dee well enough, I thought the side characters and the world building were even better. Nyles, Griselda, Blair, Ethan and Mara were all great characters and I enjoyed getting to know more about them and their stories. I also thought McNeil did a great job setting up the game and the island. It was intricate, but not overly bogged in unnecessary details. I especially enjoyed the brief pages of the user board messages and the detail around the infamous killers who were hired to take out the inhabitants of the island (for the most views of course!).

So where did this fall a little short? As with McNeil’s other work, I found the romance shoe-horned into the story line a little bit. I don’t mind romance in perilous situations, but I never felt the spark to make me overcome the oddness of romance against the backdrop of the story. And while I enjoyed the characters and world-building, the writing was a little stilted and simplistic in nature. Also, the ending is bit a cliffhanger, although it appears the author has confirmed there will be a sequel.

I’m interested in where this is headed, especially how it was mostly wrapped up at the conclusion of this book. I’m also curious if the author will explore the fallout of these characters being forced to kill before they were killed themselves. It is briefly touched upon in the book, but because of the action leading up to the ending, it is moved to the back burner.

Had Dee, in some way, become a Painiac? The idea mad her breath catch in her chest. No! She wasn’t like them, would never be like them. She was fighting for survival. She was different.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunting Party by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

Thank you to Edelweiss, HarperCollins UK and Lucy Foley for my ARC!

 

That’s the thing about old friends. You just know these things about them. You have learned to love them. This is the glue that binds us together.

The first time I tried to start “The Hunting Party” by Lucy Foley, I was baking in the Florida sun on vacation. Suffice to say, a book set in a remote winter setting didn’t quite gel with my current situation and I couldn’t get into the story.

Fast forward another week, when I was back in the cold Midwest and I began attempt number two. Bundled under blankets, I fell easily into the story.

The book takes place from multiple perspectives. It took me a little while to get each person straight and their relationship to others. Some characters are much more utilized to others, but as the story develops, I found myself totally engrossed.

There are a lot of relationships to untangle here. There are genuine friendships and romantic relationships, as well various toxic friendships, frenemies and not-so-healthy romantic pairings.

But here I’m in the middle of nowhere, with no one except my closest friends. The silence here, the expanses, seem suddenly hostile.

As with many mystery/thrillers, the setting is that of a remote getaway for a group of friends, plus a few others. There is a death, but help cannot reach the group, as a blizzard has made the group totally inaccessible for some time.

The narrative jumps forward and backward, from perspective to perspective. As I mentioned before, once you figure out who is who and how they relate to the others, the timeline jumping shouldn’t really affect one’s ability to understand the story line. Sometimes, it feels like authors use different perspectives to muddy the waters so it’s not clear what the big reveal is. However, I found the different perspectives brought a lot of great character development and insight into this fascinating friend group that we would not have otherwise received from a singular perspective.

I look straight back at her, as I tread water. I hate you, I think. I hate you. I don’t feel bad anymore. You deserve everything that is coming to you.

And not for the firs time-but with much better reason now-I think: I do not know this person at all. I do not know what he is capable of.

While the story starts off a little slow, it truly goes full throttle into the ending. Layer by layer, characters’ feelings and intentions are revealed until we finally understand what happened and why. I’m happy to say the whole story is nicely wrapped up – no cliffhanger or unclear ending. I had my suspicions about who was dead and who did it, but I was still definitely surprised at all the revelations!

Overall, I was very happy with the book and enjoyed it. I certainly look forward to Foley’s next thriller novel!

But that’s the thing about old friends, isn’t it? Sometimes they don’t even realize that they no longer have anything in common. That maybe they don’t even like each other anymore.

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