Author: Cassie (page 2 of 3)

BOOK REVIEW: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

BOOK REVIEW: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton & Lisa SteinkeGirls' Night Out by Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke
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Synopsis:

From the bestselling authors of The Good Widow comes a chilling novel of psychological suspense that will make you think twice about what your best friend may be hiding...

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it's time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls' getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they're reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they're hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls' night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she'd met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse--could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren's search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing--or too afraid--to admit.

Thank you NetGalley, the authors (Liz Fenton) and the publisher (Lake Union Publishing) for my free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

“What kind of girls’ night out does he not understand?” Natalie asked.

This is a perfect summer book. Do yourself a favor and find a body of water (pool/ocean/lake/etc.) and dive in. You’re in for a wild ride.

Girls’ Night Out switches between Natalie, Ashley and Lauren — three friends who are trying to repair old wounds during a trip to Tulum, Mexico. On their last night, Ashley goes missing and Lauren and Natalie are left to piece together what happened.

The book jumps back and forth between the night of Ashley disappearing and the events leading up to the night. Things are certainly tense between the women as there is a lot of history and hurt feelings coming from all directions.

Had she become addicted to how the anger felt, how it slid into the small chasms of her budding happiness, crushing it? Maybe.

“But you know what the difference is? You get to decide! You took that away from me. And I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for that.”

While this book is certainly a thriller, it also takes a deep dive at friendships and whether they can be saved, even after they’ve turned toxic or started to fall apart. I appreciated the author writing three complicated, but strong, women who are neither fully good or bad. All three are complex and we feel for them, even as they make poor choices. And I really didn’t see the ending coming – it truly had me guessing up until the very end.

Just FYI, trigger warnings for abuse (physical and emotional) and drug/alcohol use. Also some mention of rape, but only speculative.

All in all, this was a fun read and I would certainly recommend it. And as I mentioned before, bonus points if you have a cold drink and a warm, sunny spot by some water to read it near.

Girls’ Night Out will be released July 24, 2018.

BOOK REVIEW: After Nightfall by A.J. Banner

BOOK REVIEW: After Nightfall by A.J. BannerAfter Nightfall by A.J. Banner
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Synopsis:

Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.

Thank you NetGalley, the author (A.J. Banner) and the publisher (Lake Union Publishing) for my free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I read A.J. Banner’s The Twilight Wife a little more than a year ago and quite enjoyed it.

So when I saw she had a new book and I received a copy of it early, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped.

After Nightfall is from the perspective of Marissa, who is recently engaged. She is also working on repairing a fragile friendship with Lauren, who she had a falling out in college (reasons explained about halfway through). One morning after an awkward dinner party, Marissa discovers Lauren’s body at the bottom of a cliff, and from there, attempts to find out exactly what happened.

The book is focused on Marissa’s relationship with her fiance and his daughter, as well as her fraught relationship with Lauren. I think many of us can relate to friendships that at one point were everything to use, but later fall apart for various reasons. Sometimes opportunities present themselves to try and fix them, and I think many of us feel the need to try and recapture something that we dearly loved at one point in time. Banner did an excellent job of writing Marissa’s complicated feelings around this very thing.

He lured me in, so how was I to know what he would do?

I was intrigued by this story for sure. However, I found Marissa to be a difficult character to like at times. She made some very poor and confusing choices, but could other times be a great friend and mother-figure for her fiance’s daughter.

I enjoyed the reveal at about the 92% mark, but the last few pages of the book left me frustrated and a bit confused. It’s definitely not a clean ending and makes me wish for more closure to the situation.

 

While I certainly don’t mind unreliable narrators, I don’t enjoy confusing or unfinished endings, which is exactly what happened here. So while I did enjoy various parts of the story, overall, I was disappointed by this book, considering how much I liked the author’s previous novel.

Can a person be good and bad? Even me? Even you?

After Nightfall will be released August 7, 2018.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica SpotswoodThe Last Summer of the Garrett Girls Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

One summer will challenge everything the Garrett sisters thought they knew about themselves--and each other in this captivating new novel by Jessica Spotswood.

As the oldest, Des shoulders a lot of responsibility for her family and their independent bookstore. Except it's hard to dream big when she's so busy taking care of everyone else.

Vi has a crush on the girl next door. It makes her happy and nervous, but Cece has a boyfriend...so it's not like her feelings could ever be reciprocated, right?

Kat lands the lead in the community theater's summer play, but the drama spills offstage when her ex and his new girlfriend are cast too. Can she get revenge by staging a new romance of her own?

Bea and her boyfriend are heading off to college together in the fall, just like they planned when they started dating. But Bea isn't sure she wants the same things as when she was thirteen...

Told through four alternating points of view, readers will laugh, cry, and fall in love alongside the Garrett girls.

Thank you NetGalley, the author and the publisher for my free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Maybe this is the way things are now. Forever. Dread washes over her at the thought.

Meet the Garrett girls: Kat, Bea, Vi and Des. The four girls lost their parents to a tragic accident and now live with their grandmother in a Stars Hollow-esque town. The book shifts between the four characters’ POV over the course of a few weeks. The girls range from early high school to early college ages and each of their stories, I felt, were appropriate to their specific age.

TW: eating disorder, drug use, cheating

I enjoyed getting to know each of these four girls as they dealt with their own unique set of challenges, though three of the four really centered around love. There was also a big emphasis on friendships and sisterhood.

Of all the girls, I probably enjoyed Bea’s story the most, as I could relate to her the most. She has a long-term boyfriend and getting ready to graduate high school and head to college, but she’s suddenly feeling like her planned out life isn’t what she wants anymore. I related hard to the idea of having things going well and being planned out, but finding it to be suffocating as well. With that said, I did honestly enjoy getting to know each Garrett girl. There are a lot of really sweet and cute moments throughout the book.

It was clear the author made a point to focus on intersectionality in this small sea-side town, which was great to see. A lot of issues were brought to the fore-front, but never in an after-school special kind of way. There’s a lot of focus on grief, growing up, love and figuring out what you want out of your own life.

If you’re looking for a cute summer read, with a special emphasis on diversity and intersectionality, look no further than this book.

 

“But that’s-it’s not what I want. It hasn’t been since before I met you. I know I haven’t been honest with you. But being here, with you-it’s the only time I don’t feel like I’m falling apart. I am such a damn mess right now. I don’t know how you can like me. I don’t like myself very much, honestly.”

He rubs a hand over his stubbly chin. His shoulders relax a little. “You’re not so bad.”

BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma ScottIn Harmony by Emma Scott
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Synopsis:

The root of all madness is an unbearable truth…

At seventeen, Willow Holloway’s life was torn apart. The happy, driven girl is gone, and she is left wracked by post-traumatic stress her body remembers even if she does not. When her father suddenly uproots the family from their posh penthouse in New York City to the tiny town of Harmony, Indiana, Willow becomes more untethered and lost under the weight of her secret. On a whim, she auditions for a part in the community theater’s production of Hamlet and unexpectedly wins the role of Ophelia—the girl who is undone by madness, and her love of Hamlet…

Isaac Pearce is from the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ The town bad boy. Girls pine for his attention and guys are in awe of him. That he’s an acting prodigy only adds to his charisma. Isaac utterly disappears into his characters; the stage is the only place he feels safe from his own traumatic home life. He wants nothing more than to escape to Broadway or Hollywood and leave Harmony behind for good.

No one can play Hamlet but Isaac, and when the director pairs him with Willow in acting class, they clash again and again—neither willing to open their hearts to anyone. But clashing leads to breaking, breaking leads to the spilling of terrible secrets, and soon Isaac and Willow find Shakespeare’s words mirroring their lives. When they are cruelly torn apart, neither know how this play will end—with madness and heartache? Or healing, love, and the discovery of who they are truly meant to be.

In Harmony is a standalone YOUNG ADULT/NEW ADULT love story, and is intended for readers 18 and up. PLEASE NOTE, this book contains sensitive material such as physical abuse, and the aftermath of sexual assault (off the page). Reader discretion is advised.

Thank you NetGalley, the publisher (Trillian) and the author, Emma Scott, for my free copy in exchange for my honest review.

5/5

I was completely blown away by this book. I had never read Emma Scott before, so I had no idea what to expect. But I’ve been pretty down lately and was looking for something to bring me out of my funk and this seemed like a good one to try. I’m so glad I did, because even with the heavy subject matter, I was so drawn and invested in these characters.

Long review below, because this book deserves it.

I searched book after book of Celtic legend and lore, but I couldn’t find the tale of Little Light. Instead, the dark found me. Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday.

Meet one of our main protagonists, Willow. I adored Willow. Here was this girl, who had something absolutely terrible happen to her and was doing her best to deal with it, especially with fairly absent parents who refuse to acknowledge how seriously their daughter is in turmoil. In the middle of her senior year, her father is moved from NYC to a small town outside of Indianapolis and Willow is the new girl at school. (Side note: Hooray to a small Indiana town not being painted in totally terrible light!) Even in a new location, Willow struggles to understand and deal with the trauma of her ordeal from the year prior.

I tried not to let myself think of him. He didn’t even have a name in my reckoning. He didn’t deserve one. Names are for humans.

On day one in her new school in Harmony, Willow meets two very important characters in this story: Angie, an amazing side character, and other other damaged protagonist, Isaac. I loved Angie. She was quirky but unabashedly herself. She goes out of her way to help Willow, even when Willow does not always return the favor. Their friendship was lovely and I really enjoyed when they were on the pages together.

And Isaac. Dark, dreamy, damaged Isaac. Isaac, who is a phenomenal actor and lives in a broken down trailer with his alcoholic father. Isaac who is determined to use his talents to get out Harmony and help those who he cares about.

After a brief but memorable meeting at the school, Willow decides to audition for the local production of Hamlet, which Isaac will star in. I really liked the author’s emphasis on using art as a way of healing for both Willow and Isaac.

I didn’t care whether I got the part or not. All that mattered was that for the first time, I’d told the truth. Cloaked in other words, but still my truth.

Willow ends up getting the part of Ophelia, opposite of Isaac as Hamlet, and that’s really where their interaction begins. And I was here for it.

He shoved his shoulder against mine playfully, not looking at me, but his Oedipus curtain call smile slipped out, and it put a crack straight across my block of ice.

If you’re looking for a slow-burn YA contemp romance, you have come to the right place. Because there is a lot both Isaac and Willow have to deal with in their personal lives, as well as their feelings for each other. I really appreciated nothing being rushed and the small moments and interactions as they got to know one another. It honestly felt so real and natural, which is exactly what I love.

Take this interaction for example:
I swallowed hard. “It doesn’t matter.” “Matters to me,” he said, his voice gruff. “It fucking matters to me Willow.”

And this one:
“You’re not dead,” I said, crouching down. “You’re not dead, Willow.” I won’t let you die. “Not all of me,” she said, sleepily. “But a part of me is dead and gone. And I’ll never get it back.” And that hit me in the heart a thousand times harder than her screaming rage at the sky.

The scene in the graveyard killed me. It was so good. Definitely one my favorites in this book, and there were a handful I could have picked from as a favorite.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you want to laugh, smile, cry, be heartbroken and then whole again, look no further. There were a lot of important themes to this book and some heavy topics, but I thought they were handled in a good way. Just FYI, TW for: rape, PTSD, physical abuse, verbal abuse, use of slurs (though it is acknowledged it is wrong) and underage drinking. It’s also definitely a mature YA novel, so just be aware.

Overall, I loved this book and I loved these characters. Any little issues I had are completely overwhelmed by everything else. This book was wonderful and if you are even slightly thinking you might be interested in it, you should absolutely do so.

BOOK REVIEW: All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor

BOOK REVIEW: All of This is True by Lygia Day PenaflorAll of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

MIRI loves the novel Undertow like it's a living being. So when she and her friends get the chance to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they plot a way to get closer to her. As for what happened with Jonah ... Well, obviously none of that was Fatima's fault.

SOLEIL wants to be a writer herself one day. She can't believe it when Fatima asks them to hang out with her - and having Jonah there makes it even better.

PENNY is more than the party girl everyone thinks she is, and she's willing to share her darkest secrets with Fatima to prove it. But what will happen when Fatima finds out about Jonah?

All of This Is True is a story of obsession and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness, and the devastating result of a secret that didn't stay buried.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I was engrossed in the storyline and enjoyed the different ways the story was shared (interviews, emails, texts, journal entries, etc.). On the other hand, it wasn’t quite what I expected. From reading the blurb, it came across as something along the lines as One of Us Is Lying, which was one of my favorite books of last year. But it really wasn’t like that at all.

The story centers around four high schools students who befriend a young author.

Fatima told us to share our precious truths. But that wasn’t my precious truth to tell! I didn’t know she would write about it!

While there is a small twist as you get near the end, the book is more about high school friendships and relationships. The book rotates from the perspective of the three teenage girls (Miri, Soleil and Penny), looking back at how ‘everything’ started. Chapters of the fictional book the author, Fatima Ro, wrote based on their lives are also sprinkled throughout the three girls’ recollections. I honestly found the fictional chapters to be the weakest part and enjoyed the interview chapters the most.

This book had a lot of promise and I did enjoy it. I just find myself wishing there had a been a bit more, though I guess I can’t say exactly what. I guess I was just thinking it would be a bit more thriller/mystery, when it really was more about friendships and toxic relationships.

But that night in the courtyard I knew the year was going to be better; sharing the sky with Fatimo Ro was the start of that ’cause I got to do something with my friends that wasn’t shopping or Snapchat, you know? It felt, like … important.

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