Author: Cassie (Page 2 of 12)

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Guests by Emma RousThe Perfect Guests by Emma Rous
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1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she's truly part of the family...until they ask her to help them with a harmless game--and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It's strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she'll be staying at, she figures she's got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she'd imagined--even with damage from a fire decades before--but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there's something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone...including her.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

No one had explained what was expected of me here; I didn’t even know how long the arrangement might be for. All Caroline had said was “You can be a companion for their daughter for a while, until I’m ready for you to move in with me.”

The Perfect Guests is the sophomore effort of Emma Rous. I really enjoyed her first novel, The Au Pair, and was excited to see she had a new book coming out. The synopsis got me right away, as I love nothing more than a secluded manor.

The book follows two perspectives: Beth Soames, a 14-year-old girl in 1988, who after the death of her parents is placed with the Averell family, who live in Raven Manor. The Averells have a daughter, Nina, who could use a sister-like figure and the girls develop an interesting bond.

“You are cordially invited to play a game at Raven Hall…”

The second perspective is Sadie Langston, a struggling actress who is invited to Raven Hall in present day to participate in a murder-mystery dinner over the course of a weekend. Of course, nothing is what it seems and strange things quickly start occurring.

I wasn’t really part of their family; I’d only ever been a guest.

I know it happens a lot in thrillers these days, but I thought the jumping between timelines really benefited this story. Because when everything comes totally together at the end, it just all makes sense. I really enjoyed reading things from both Beth and Sadie’s perspectives, as it felt like two totally different thrillers that then came together.

What if I wasn’t picked for this job at random? What if someone invited me here because of the connection between this house and my mother?

Emma Rous has cemented herself as an author I will certainly continue to read with excitement in the future. Her books are quickly paced but keep me on the edge of the page, needing to know what’s going to happen next. Overall, I was super happy with this book and felt everything came together as it needed to. 4/5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: The Mall by Megan McCafferty

BOOK REVIEW: The Mall by Megan McCaffertyThe Mall by Megan McCafferty
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The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.

Reading The Mall, by Megan McCafferty, was absolute joy. It felt like slipping on a worn-in sweatshirt and catching up with old friends, even though all of the characters and situations were new. The way McCafferty writes just invokes a lot positive feelings out of me and I always feel so deeply connected to her characters. If you can’t tell already, I loved the Sloppy Firsts series. I read them over and over again in high school. They held up when I reread them in grad school. They are warm and familiar.

The Mall continues in this way, even as it brings new characters and is set in an earlier time period (the 90s). There are a few easter eggs to characters from the Sloppy Firsts, which made me smile. But this story is unique and of its own and a great standalone novel that will appeal to current teens, as well as those of us who are bit beyond our teen years.

Troy had always loved that our names were heavily featured in Greek myths. Troy was the city fought over in the Trojan War. Cassandra was the princess of Troy, who saw visions of the future.

Clearly, I had not seen this coming.

The Mall is centered around Cassie Worthy, who is in between graduating from high school and going away to college. Her plan is to work at the mall with her boyfriend for six weeks before heading off on their next big adventure. But that plan is scrapped when her boyfriend breaks up with her and she’s left to figure out what she’s going to do next.

This bizarre and unwanted interaction was my first hint that 900,000 square feet was not nearly big enough to avoid all the people I never wanted to see again.

Cassie sets out to find a new job and eventually lands in a higher-end women’s fashion store with her former best friend. They slowly come around to each other (for the most part) but especially bond over a treasure hunt involving Cabbage Patch Dolls, basements, storerooms and maps. It’s a bit crazy and over the top, but also a lot of fun.

This made him smile, which made me smile. My parents would’ve recommended refitting a new retainer, but I liked his mouth just the way it was when it wasn’t smirking.

There’s a lot of fun and nostalgia to be had. For those of us who grew up with malls as the main source of entertainment and shopping, (Amazon did not exist my middle school days. I was also still listening to CD’s, since the iPod was still a year or two away) it was nice to go back to a different time when everything seemed shinier and simpler. My closest mall was a 45 minute drive, so it was always a day-long affair and a big deal.

I thought I’d avoided the vicious cycle of romantic mistakes, but I was no better off now than I was as the start of the summer: rejected and dejected. How could such a smart girl be so dumb?

I really loved watching Cassie grow, even if sometimes it was slower than I would have liked. But I realize she’s a teenager going through a lot of changes and expecting her to be perfect is unrealistic. I loved the summertime fling aspects and the friendships shown in the book as well. There’s a few cringe moments here and there, but I can overlook them.

If you’re looking for a fun, nostalgia-filled, trip back to the 90’s with a book that features a lot pop culture references, funny moments and a side of romance, then be sure to tie your hair back in a scrunchie and dive in.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen HamiltonThe Last Wife by Karen Hamilton
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Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.


I promised Nina I’d look out for her family. No matter what, I’m here to stay. I’m becoming more convinced that it’s what Nina would’ve wanted, even if some people won’t see it that way.

This was my second Karen Hamilton book and while I didn’t love it as much as her first one, I still enjoyed it. I’d call it more of a mystery/family drama than a thriller, which seems to be a trend right now, for better or for worse.

Being here no longer feels solely about survival and loyalty; it’s about entitlement.

The story is told from the perspective of Marie, who is a very interesting character. We learn a lot about her childhood and the struggles she has gone through over the years. Some of it was out of her control and other parts are of her own doing. She has attachment issues, especially around her best friend Nina.

As with most mysteries/thrillers these days, we jump around a timeline. There’s essentially the present (which is post-Nina, as she has passed away from cancer at a young age) and the past (mostly around a certain accident and the years that followed). We learn that Marie’s ex-boyfriend died in a tragic accident and that Nina and Camilla may know more than they ever let on. We also learn that even though Nina and Marie drifted apart as Nina began to have children and Marie struggled with her own infertility, Nina asked Marie to watch out for her family after she was gone. And how Marie took that literally.

“This is going to come back and haunt you, Marie. Everyone know what happens when you play with fire.”

I struggled with if I should call Marie an unlikable narrator. She is manipulative, selfish and has boundary issues. But I also feel for her at times, even when she makes the wrong decision. It does seem like her heart is in the right place sometimes, but she doesn’t know how to act like a “normal” person would.

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of family drama and a little mystery regarding the big accident from Marie’s past. It was a fairly quick-paced story and it kept my attention, but I could see how others could be turned off by the lack of intrigue and mystery. The ending does land a bit of a punch, but it takes a while to get there.

I’m entitled to something of my own. This is my story now.

About the author:

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. She is also the author of the international bestseller The Perfect Girlfriend.

Keep up with Karen:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

BOOK REVIEW: The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
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Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Told in alternating timelines, Thelma and Louise meets Gone Girl in this twisted psychological thriller about the dark side of obsessive friendship.

We were a forest fire, wild and full of rage. We were a galaxy unto ourselves, a million stars blazing and bright. Everything was possible then.

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu is another YA thriller that is full of potential but fails to execute on its premise. What could have been a twisty and dark story about toxic female friendships and how that can boil over into terrible consequences is more bark than bite. I almost DNF’d at 50%, when the pace of the book was still moving at an almost glacial speed, but wanted to see it to the end. The end picked up a little bit, but it couldn’t make up for the slow pace and repetitive scenes and conversations that plague this book.

I know she’s here somewhere. I can feel that invisible push and pull whenever she’s near, like she is a star and I am a captured object.

The Best Lies follows Remy Tsai’s life over a couple of months. The book jumps back in forth between the night her boyfriend, Jack, is killed and the beginning of her friendship with Elise. Elise meets Remy outside of a school dance right after Remy is dumped by her now-college boyfriend. They quickly bond over their screwed up family lives: both girls are dealing with a lot of heavy and serious issues at home and learn to lean on each other to deal with it.

At the heart of every good lie is the truth, that’s what Elise told me once. The best lies are at least half-true she said.

Elise is nothing like Remy. She is obsessed with justice for those who can’t fight for themselves, she is extremely loyal to those she deems is worthy of her loyalty and she impulsive and rash. Once she becomes fixated on something, she can’t let it go. Remy is more quiet and reserved, living in the shadow of her much more popular and accomplished older brother. She is kind of drifting through life, with a small social circle that she’s not really attached to. Elise and Remy are opposites attracting and a strong bond is quickly formed.

“What we have is real,” she repeated. “No one else has what we have. No one will ever love you like I do.”

However, the bond between Remy and Elise begins to fray. Remy is not comfortable with some of Elise’s decisions, especially related to her vigilantism. In a chance meeting after Elise abandons her at party, Elise meets Jack. Jack is her light in a dark world. He’s funny and caring and sees her for who she really is. Before long, Remy is spending more time with Jack and less with Elise. This is the main catalyst for many of the problems and crescendos up until the night he is killed.

I told myself I was running toward him and not away from her, but maybe that was just a convenient lie.

As I said before, this story had a lot of potential. The mini recap I wrote above shows how dark and twisted this story is and I liked the ideas presented by Lyu. However, I felt it fell very flat in execution. First off, it’s so repetitive. So many scenes and conversations are almost identical that I often wondered if my Kindle glitched and I was reading something I already had. Remy and Elise seem to have the same arguments over and over. They also are ALWAYS crying. I’m pretty sure one of them does not go more than five pages without being described as crying or sobbing or tearing up. I get there are a lot emotions happening, but it was too much. If there had been variety to the story, as well as better pacing with these scenes, I could have been more forgiving.

Overall, I’m in the middle about this book. I liked aspects of it. The subject of a toxic and dependent female relationship was new and different from a lot of other YA thrillers. I liked how Remy’s family life issues were handled and resolved. I really liked Jack and Remy and Jack’s relationship. Elise was an interesting character, who while flawed, kept my attention. However, I still can’t get over the pacing, the repetitiveness and the minimal twists in a thriller. 3/5 stars.

We believed our wounds made us special. We believed what didn’t kill you made you stronger. We believed our tragedies were romantic.

CW: Death/murder, physical abuse, verbal abuse, manipulation, cheating, lying

BOOK REVIEW: More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn

BOOK REVIEW: More Than Maybe by Erin HahnMore Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
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Growing up under his punk rocker dad's spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn't in front of a crowd, it's on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada's got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom's boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil's music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley's prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor's summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?

Thank you to Wednesday Books for an early copy of my book in exchange for an honest review!

I met my other half three years ago, and as far as I know … she has no idea.

More Than Maybe is Erin Hahn’s second YA book, which yet again, is focused on music and the role it plays in our main characters’ lives. It’s told through alternating POVs, shuffling between Vada, a music blogger, and Luke, a son of a former rock-n-roller, and current podcaster. Luke is also a secret songwriter/composer, but doesn’t want the same life that his father had. The setting is Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was a nice change than the typical LA/NY music scenes. I will always appreciate a Midwest setting, especially college towns in the Midwest, which are unique in their own right.

Through a school project and a shared love of music, Vada and Luke slowly get to know each other. Music is a medium in which they share how they are feeling and brought a lot of cool references to us readers. I’ll be honest, I only knew some of them, but it was still neat to read.

“It seems we both have our secrets, and I’m honored to be one of yours, Vada.”

There’s a lot of wonderful side characters, including Cullen, Luke’s brother, and Zack, Luke’s best friend and Cullen’s boyfriend. Luke is very supportive of their relationship, but he is definitely feeling left out of their world at times. Another great character was Phil, Vada’s boss and stand-in father, who is worlds better than her actual father. I loved her genuinely beautiful relationship with him and was thrilled every time he made an appearance. Both Vada and Luke have complicated family lives and thought the familial issues were written really well.

Music is my obsession, my life’s blood. It runs through my veins, coloring my skin. My natural inclination is to rock, but that’s not enough if I want to make music my career.

If you read Hahn’s first book, More Than Maybe, then you’ll recognize a lot of similar themes: music is ever present. You’re going to get a lot of lyrics, a lot of references and just a lot of general talk about how important it is. It’s not necessarily necessary to get these references, but I’m sure it helps. There’s also a lot of complicated family dynamics and relationships. There’s also mentions of religion, which wasn’t as prevalent in this book as it was in the first. The Luke/Vada relationship is both a bit of insta-love and slow burn oddly. I wish it would have had a bit more tension and angst to counteract the insta-attraction.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and even more so than You’d Be Mine. I really liked Luke and Vada, but I thought several of the side characters were really great. It was a cute story, with fully realized teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, with a great setting.

We stare at each other, the room erupting around us, but don’t move. I’m afraid to. At last I close my eyes, taking a picture in my mind. I want to live in this moment forever, and maybe I’d like it okay if Luke were here, too.

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