Book Review – Home Before Dark – Riley Sager

Reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Grief is tricky like that. It can lie low for hours, long enough for magical thinking to take hold. Then, when you’re good and vulnerable, it will leap out at you like a fun-house skeleton, and all the pain you thought was gone comes roaring back.

Riley Sager

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Genre(s): Thriller, Mystery

Publisher: Dutton Books

Goodreads Synopsis

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

Review

There weren’t any authors I’d auto-buy from until I read this book. I’ve now read three out of four of Riley Sager’s books (I haven’t got to The Last Time I Lied yet), and I can confidently say that I will pick up anything he writes now. I can’t get enough spooky twists and turns. Sager truly surprises me every single time. I wanted to squeeze this book into the last two days of June, and at first, I wasn’t sure that would be possible, but once I started reading this book, I didn’t want to put it down. I had to know what scary thing was going to happen next.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. It alternates between the present Maggie returning to her childhood home and chapters of the book her father wrote about their short time there. I’m a sucker for unusual narrative structures, and this book certainly delivers on that. The chapters from her father’s book vary in how reliable they are as the present-day plot continues, and you’re never sure what’s real and what isn’t until the end. It’s a thriller that I could definitely reread in light of the ending.

In addition to the chapters from the past not being reliable, our narrator isn’t reliable either. Maggie doesn’t remember anything from the twenty days she lived at Baneberry Hall, and it truly feels like you are piecing everything together with her. You never feel like she knows more than you, and that added so much to the excitement. 

Home Before Dark scared me in a way books never do, and as I’m writing this review, I keep hearing noises in my house and looking over my shoulder. It’s so creepy! I almost always get scared by movies but never from books; this really did it for me. Music from nowhere, eerie shadows, thudding noises all create an atmosphere that I felt like I was a part of the entire time. Not to mention that one scene with the snakes! I definitely recommend this book to people who like to be a little scared but maybe don’t pick it up right before bed 😉

June 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I somehow read thirteen books in June. It’s surprising to me, too. I don’t want to write a long intro because I have a lot of books to talk about so before we get to the actual books, I’ll just give a few stats.

Rating:

3 five-star books

6 four-star books

2 three-star books

2 unrated books

Format:

6 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I started Crazy Rich Asians at the end of May but didn’t finish it until June. I picked this up as an impulse buy at Harris Teeter and had a decent time reading it. I tell myself I don’t care about “rich people problems” but low-key I sometimes really do. I think Kevin Kwan did an excellent job mixing both superficial problems such as spending too much on outfits with more serious issues such as cheating and divorce. Speaking of Astrid, I really enjoyed her character, and I really wanted to see what would happen for her above pretty much any other character. I think the reason I didn’t completely love this book is because of the pacing. I feel like there were some really traumatic reveals at the end, and then the book was basically over. While the book is already pretty long, I still felt like there needed to be more. I realize this is a series, though, so it does set up for that really well.

I don’t really like rating non-fiction anymore, but I did generally enjoy this book. I listened to Gold Dust Woman on audiobook while playing Animal Crossing. This is another book that started in May and carried into June. This is a biography of Stevie Nicks, written by Stephen Davis. It goes through different stages of her career, including her time with Fleetwood Mac. As someone who hardly ever went to school and stayed home watching VH1 Classic documentaries all day, I enjoyed this book. I like learning about music and music history. I would definitely recommend the audio for this book, and others like it because the writing style can be a bit dry. It certainly made me more excited about Daisy Jones and the Six, which I will talk about later in this post.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Since I wrote a dedicated review for Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House here, I’ll try to keep this brief. I read this with a group of friends, and while I was reading it, I had a good time and initially gave it four stars. It was spooky, gripping, and well-written. As I continued to reflect on this book, though, I kept thinking about the significant number of trigger warnings and how some felt like they were added to push the “dark academia” aspect of the book. I also think Bardugo could have pushed the social commentary a little further since this book is intended for adults. It’s still a compelling read. I would recommend it if you want something a little creepy and dark but definitely check the trigger warnings because a lot is going on.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I think about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a lot. It masquerades as a simple children’s story, but I am convinced there’s more to it. The glasses at the Emerald City are part of it, but there’s definitely more. I just can’t put my finger on it. I read this as the first prompt for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, which was to read a book featuring an animal. I wanted something easy, and since I’ve been wanting to read the entire Oz series, I figured this was a good excuse to start. I always have fun rereading the first book because I keep thinking about Baum’s commentary on our society and the nagging question: Is the book better? There are scenes in the book that aren’t included in the film that I really enjoy, but there’s something so nostalgic about the songs in the movie. Anyway, my rating is blinded by nostalgia, but I really like visiting Dorothy and Oz every once in a while.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I also wrote a review of Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, which you can check out here. I will briefly say that I really enjoyed this book. This is a YA contemporary romance and definitely not something I’ve been known to read. Still, I think the cover is so gorgeous, and our main character, Alice, is asexual and Black, and that isn’t a perspective I’ve read from before. I also was incredibly stressed and sad, and I just wanted something fun and cute. This definitely gave me that, but it also gave me some discussions on serious topics. I also didn’t find the characters too immature, which is something that sometimes happens in YA for me. Kann gave me just what I needed, and I highly recommend picking this book up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My next audiobook for June was Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I had such a fun time listening to this, and Gaiman does such a great job bringing his text to life. I read a ton of Greek mythology as a kid. Still, my only exposure to Norse mythology was through general pop culture references. Gaiman’s version was compelling and had an adequate infusion of comedy to keep me invested. I’d enjoy picking up the physical book because I’m sure I missed key points while folding laundry or playing videogames. But generally, I enjoyed this experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the second prompt of the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, I read the manga adaptation of Ocarina of Time. This fulfilled the prompt to read a book with a foiled cover. This was also a nostalgic experience for me. Ocarina of Time was the first videogame I ever owned and had such much fun running around being bad at the game. I’ve played it a few more times as an adult, but revisiting it in this format was a first. I immediately picked up the DS remake of the game. If you know the game, it doesn’t add a ton, but it does have beautiful artwork. If you don’t know anything about the game, it’s a fun adventure story about Link trying to save a world he’s never really been to before. This made for a relaxing, fun afternoon.

White Rage is a non-fiction book by historian Dr. Carol Anderson. Anderson clearly shows that slavery didn’t truly end in the US, and it merely evolved. She writes in a way that is accessible to people who aren’t familiar with the subject, and while the subject matter is tough, it is relatively easy to follow what she’s saying. I was fortunate enough to go to a high school that taught some of these topics, but I still learned so much. I wish anyone who’s ever said “get over it slavery was 400 years ago” had to read this book. Even if you are familiar with the topics she covers, it is helpful to see in one text a timeline of how these systematic acts against African-Americans work to keep them from being successful. Required reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve had Daisy Jones and the Six on hold through Libby since April, and I thought it would be another couple of weeks before I get it, but it surprised me and became available early. I immediately started reading it and flew through it in two days. I LOVE this book. As someone who loves music documentaries of any kind, biographies about musicians, and Fleetwood Mac, this book really did it for me. I think the interview format was unusual and really added to the experience. I love the drama and the heartbreak and the rock ‘n’ roll of it all. Both Daisy and Billy had so much growth throughout the story. Camila and Simone added such great perspectives to the story as well. By including everyone involved with the band in the interviews, Taylor Jenkins Reid allows readers to see the story from all sides, and it’s always funny when characters contradict each other. It makes it feel so realistic. This book definitely didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I put The Hate U Give on hold through Libby way back in April. As June started, I still had a six-month + wait, so I went ahead and bought it during an impromptu trip to the bookstore. I’m so happy I finally got the chance to read it, and I’m even happier that so many people were requesting this book even before the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder. This book looks at the impacts of police brutality and racial profiling on a community and individual level. Given that this book is YA, its ability to send this message to teens is incredibly essential. The characters feel real and will be relatable to a lot of teens, but they are also mature enough that it’s enjoyable for adults to read. I also think this book gives insight into many different challenges Black communities face and does these topics justice. It would be easy to gloss over a lot of things, but Thomas is sure to spend time exploring everything she brings up. I am glad this book exists. I read this and the next two books as part of a self-imposed 48-hour readathon, so if you want to see what that was like, you can read about it here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I grew up watching the LOTR films constantly. They’re still some of my favorites today. I read The Hobbit in middle school (and I don’t want to talk about those movies) but didn’t read the trilogy for the first time until high school. I haven’t read them since because I was scared I wouldn’t enjoy them as much this time around. I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring this month for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon for the prompt to read a book featuring a magical battle. I can definitely say I still enjoy the experience of reading Tolkien. I did use an audiobook to read along with sometimes because I can have trouble focusing just in general, and that was really pleasant. I love reading about Frodo’s epic adventure, and his friendship with Sam is so wholesome. There were times when I would zone out some, and that could have just been me and where I’m at this year but overall, a great read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling was my last book for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, and it fulfilled the prompt – read a book with occult themes. This book follows an elemental witch, Hannah, who has recently broken up with her girlfriend, Veronica. When they suspect a Blood Witch is in town, they have to work together to stop them. This book is equal parts witchy and dramatic, and I had a pretty okay time. I enjoyed the plot of this book and wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to know what happened next. I think where this book lost me was with the characters. I didn’t feel super connected to them and didn’t even feel like I really got to know them (though Gemma was a delight). I was not a fan of the dynamic between Hannah and Veronica. Veronica is incredibly manipulative, and it was frustrating to read. I might pick up the sequel, but I’m not totally committed to it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m planning to write a more in-depth review of Home Before Dark by Riley Sager because I have so many feelings, but I’ll just say a little bit for now. This book follows Maggie, who has returned to her childhood home to prepare it for sale. Her father wrote a book about their time in the house, but she doesn’t remember any of it. When creepy things start happening again, Maggie must figure out the truth. I wanted to squeeze this into my month with two days left, and I did it! This book switches back and forth between present-day Maggie and chapters of her father’s book, which takes place twenty-five years earlier. I am a sucker for unusual narrative structures, and this was so fun to read. It was also terrifying; I kept thinking about snakes and ghosts and listening for sounds while I was reading. I don’t usually get scared from books (movies are whole other things entirely), but Home Before Dark really got me.

So, that’s all the books I read this month. I think I had a good reading month and enjoyed everything I read at least to some degree. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What did you pick up in June?

WWW Wednesday – July 1, 2020

WWW Wednesday

In an attempt to try and be more consistent with my blogging, I thought I’d try doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Since I don’t have any semblance of a posting schedule and don’t review every book I read, I figured this might be a way for me to give some quick thoughts about what I’m reading. 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Black Enough which is an anthology of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. I bought this along with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for the #BlackPublishingPower challenge. Black Enough contains stories by a multitude of black authors that speak to the experience of being black in America. I haven’t read much yet but I am excited to read from a perspective outside of my own and hopefully discover some new-to-me black authors.

I’ve finished a couple of books since last Wednesday. First was These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. This YA book about elemental witches got a high three stars from me and and finished it in just a couple of days. I really enjoyed the plot since it had an element of mystery and suspense. I think where it lost me was the characters. I didn’t really feel connected to any of them besides Gemma. Keep a lookout for my June wrap-up for more of my thoughts on this book.

Since last Wednesday, I also read Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark. I had two days left of the month and really wanted to squeeze in one more books. This one was SCARY, like I ran down my hallway the other night because I was so creeped out. Sager has a way of making you think one thing is going to happen and then throwing you for a loop but the ending of this particular book REALLY had me shocked. I am planning to write a dedicated review because it was definitely my favorite book this month.

Next up for me is probably The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. This is the second book in the Percy Jackson series and since I really enjoyed the first book in May, I’m really excited to continue the series. I don’t know anything about the plot and really want to go in blind so I’m just going to have faith that Riordan can create magic and enjoyment a second time. I didn’t get to read this in June even though it was in my initial plans but from here out, I want to try and read one book from the series each month and finish in October. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’m mad I didn’t read this series earlier.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

I participated in a self-imposed 48-hour readathon and here’s what happened

Reading Check-ins

I’ve been reading a lot this month but most of it was not on my initial June TBR. I am participating in the #MakeYourMythTaker Readathon but I also found so many other books I wanted to read that didn’t fit any of the prompts so I sprinkled them between my readathon books. That being said, on the 25th I wasn’t sure that I’d actually even finish the readathon at all. I had one and a half books left to read plus I was in the middle of another book I wanted to finish. So I set myself a challenge.

Thursday at 11:00 AM, I decided I would start a 48-hour challenge to see how much I could read. I needed to read half of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, half of The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, and get a good start on These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. 

I started the readathon by reading The Hate U Give. I was on page 200 and had about 240 pages to go. My goal was to finish the second half in one sitting. The plot was escalating and I was really invested in Starr and her journey. I completely forgot about lunch (which, to be fair, is VERY common for me) but around 2:30, I had to eat something. I took a fifteen-minute break to eat and then finished the book by 3:00. I really enjoyed this book and it was easy to sit and focus on. That’s a big issue for me; I’m not that great at focusing on one thing especially when my hands are still but this book really kept my attention particularly in the second half.

It was around this time two people in the hallway outside my apartment decided they were going to talk about politics and COVID for actual hours (“You watch. This virus will disappear as soon as the election is over”) so it was a perfect time to put on my headphones and read along with The Fellowship of the Ring audiobook. I like to read along with audiobooks especially when the text is a little dense or when I am generally having a hard time focusing on one thing and this method really helped me with The Fellowship this time around. I got through about 80 pages before I really needed to charge my phone so I took a little snack break and watched The Golden Girls

My partner asked if I wanted to ride to the store with him and we picked up dinner on the way home. By then it was 8:30. I only had about fifty pages of The Fellowship left so I listened to those. I love the ending of this book because it really gets you excited for what’s next. I hope I can get to the rest of the trilogy before too long!

I then immediately started These Witches Don’t Burn but I only read about 30 pages before I started falling asleep. I decided to put it down and fell asleep around midnight. I was certain that I could finish this book before the end of the 48 hours I’d allowed myself. I was feeling ambitious but confident. I was wrong.

The next morning, I read about 50 pages before I got in a mood. During the pandemic, I have been more prone to times where I will just zone out with the TV on and do absolutely nothing for hours. I did this yesterday. I was very aware that I was wasting time and accomplishing absolutely nothing. I felt bad about it but not bad enough to actually read, or write, or take an Instagram photo. I just sat there. Early in the evening, I did get a good chunk of reading done before having dinner. Afterwards, I read quite a bit more before feeling drained and I just sat around until I went to bed.

I had a few hours to read this morning and I took full advantage of them. I’m currently 73% through These Witches Don’t Burn and am very happy about that. I’ll definitely finish it before the end of the month and I *might* have time to start Home Before Dark by Riley Sager too.

So here’s what I learned. If I stay off social media, I can actually read a lot. Who would have known?!? I am really good at keeping up reading stamina for 24 hours but the second day is probably going to get me. I might start trying to dedicate 24 hour chunks to reading more often. When I go back to work in August, that will definitely not be possible as often but I do want to try as much as I can. 

PS – If you read all of this, you’re a saint and I appreciate you.

WWW Wednesday – June 24, 2020

WWW Wednesday

In an attempt to try and be more consistent with my blogging, I thought I’d try doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Since I don’t have any semblance of a posting schedule and don’t review every book I read, I figured this might be a way for me to give some quick thoughts about what I’m reading. 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading both The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. 

I put The Hate U Give on hold through Libby back in April and June came along and I still had over a six-month wait. I’ve been trying to buy fewer physical books but when the #BlackPublishingPower challenge was happening, I thought it would be a good time to buy this book. (I also bought Black Enough which is an anthology put together by Ibi Zoboi). I am only about 140 pages in but already it is very impactful especially considering the target audience is YA. Getting these messages to people when they are younger is vital to change in future generations.

I am also reading The Fellowship of the Ring right now. This is for the #MakeYourMythTaker readathon prompt to read a book featuring a magical battle. This is a reread for me; I haven’t read this since high school. Since I don’t typically read fantasy, it is a bit dense but I’m listening to the audiobook while I read along and it’s been a good time. I’m a little over halfway through (just past the council of Elrond). I still have one book after this for the readathon but I’m not sure I’m going to finish on time. Oh well.

I recently finished reading Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Libby said I had another three weeks to wait on this book but just as I was about to go to bed, I got an email saying it was ready. Needless to say, I stayed up quite a while reading. I will talk about this more in my monthly wrap-up but I loved the experience of reading this book and devoured it in less than two days. Amazing.

Next up for me is These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. This will fulfill the last prompt for the readathon I’m participating in this month – read a book with occult themes. I am excited to read this book though I know there are some mixed reviews floating around. I might not finish it in June but I will still carry it into July because I’d really like to get to it soon. After that, I am going to try to read Black Enough and Home Before Dark by Riley Sager since I got both of them this month. We shall see!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

May 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I can’t believe May is over already. To think I was still in school at the beginning of the month AND the official launch of this blog! So, welcome to my first wrap-up! I read so much more than I expected. There are some in-depth reviews on my blog, but I want to share some brief thoughts about the other books I read this month. I read ten books, so this might be a little long, but here we go!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book I finished this month was The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I wrote a review of this book here. This thriller was a strong start to my month. I gave this five stars because I thought the cast of characters were well developed and also because Foley has a way of leaving little hints in each chapter until Foley reveals the ending. I read this book so quickly and just had to know what happened next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I finished was another thriller – Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I also wrote a dedicated review for this book, which can be found here. I gave this book four stars because I never knew what to expect, and the social commentary Sager provides is exactly the type of thing I want to read. The only reason this wasn’t a five-star read is that I wanted to see some more development of the relationships between characters, and our main character ignored some major red flags early on. Overall, still such a fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third book I finished this month was a group read with some friends –  Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick. Since I did not write a dedicated review for this book, I will talk a bit about it here. This book follows Ilya, who leaves Russia to come to Louisiana for a year of high school. In addition to navigating a new school and a new culture, Ilya is leaving behind his family. Their lives have been turned upside down because his brother, Vladimir, has been arrested for and confessed to murder. This book is both heartbreaking and complicated. Sometimes characters are unlikable, but I also think they are very realistic. I usually don’t enjoy reading from a teenage male POV, and there were some awkward, cringey moments, but the story is still powerful. I gave this four stars. cw – drug use/abuse, murder

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The last book I posted a dedicated review for is A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. You can read it here. I gave this 3/3.5 stars. I was initially nervous about this book because I thought it would be a typical legal thriller. Still, the plot has a lot to offer and has some serious domestic thriller vibes. As two seemingly unrelated mysteries start to converge, I found myself unable to put this book down. I enjoyed jumping between Amanda’s and Lizzie’s POVs and slowly learning about both of their lives. I also really loved to hate one character in particular. Some things didn’t work for me, though. I didn’t really understand why most of the couples would have even married each other in the first place. I also found myself having just to accept some things without much development.

The next book I read in May was a nonfiction called The Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin. This book documents the history of vaccines and the rise of the anti-vaxx movement. Mnookin writes in a way people without a science background can understand, and I greatly appreciated it. It is also incredibly enlightening when it comes to the ways the media allows misinformation to spread. I don’t like giving star ratings to nonfiction, but I do highly recommend this book – just maybe not right now. It is a bit frustrating.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The next book I read was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. This book is a Pride & Prejudice retelling that takes place in modern times (think yoga instructor Jane). I am a sucker for Austen retellings. I enjoyed seeing how Sittenfeld updated certain aspects of the story for a modern US setting. She also chose to end by talking about Mary. In both the original and this retelling, the other characters don’t understand Mary and are mean to her. I’m not too fond of that in both cases, but Sittenfeld gives us a little more about her after the story, and I think that might be a way of giving her a little kindness as the author. I appreciate that.

I do want to note that I do have some concerns about this book. Sittenfeld includes both black and trans rep in her writing. While I get that they are probably trying to use these characters to both challenge the conservative beliefs the older Bennets hold and to tackle tough issues, I can’t help but get the feeling that her attempt at representation might have reduced the characters to simple plot devices. Some of the writing felt very late 90s – early 2000s, and it was weird to read some of these sections.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While reading Eligible, I also listened to the audiobook for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This is a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and tells the origin story of President Snow. You might know that there has been a ton of mixed reviews for this book. I am here to add to the confusion. I rated this a true three stars because I didn’t care either way about this book. I actually decided to DNF this book before picking it up again a few days later. For me, the pacing was a huge issue. I think the exciting and interesting plot points were breezed through while the less interesting things seem to drag on forever. I also don’t think the social commentary was as sharp as the original trilogy. It could have been more.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next, I picked up a short story collection by Oscar Wilde called The Happy Prince and other Stories. This is a collection of five short stories, each of which had appealing qualities. The connections between these stories are pretty clear; each story deals with themes of privilege, selfishness, and using your privilege to help those who are less fortunate. It was a wholesome read, and I gave it four stars. My favorite stories from this collection are “The Selfish Giant” and “The Devoted Friend.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My next read was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When we were growing up, my brother loved the Percy Jackson series, but I was a bit older and never really got into the books. With the excitement of the upcoming TV series, I decided I would finally give them a try. This first book made me regret not picking them up sooner. I won’t say a lot because I want to have a blog post talking about my feelings over the whole series, but I do want to say that Riordan creates an immersive, fun world with interesting connections to history, dyslexia representation that is important for the target audience to see, and fantastic environmental commentary.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My last read for May was the audiobook for Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix. This book follows the employees of Orsk furniture store (think Ikea) as they try to figure out who is breaking and destroying merchandise at night. When spooky occurrences start to become horrifying, they realize they might not be dealing with regular vandals. I had such a fun time listening to this book while playing Animal Crossing. It was a fairly quick listen but full of excitement and scares. It also makes you think about your relationship with buying items and consumerism. If you don’t already know or can’t tell, this is the type of content I eat up! Four stars!

Just like with my June TBR, if you’re still here, thanks! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What did you read in May? Let’s talk in the comments! Also, if there are other blog posts you’d like to see from me in June, let me know!

Book Review: Lock Every Door – Riley Sager

Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Because here’s the thing about being poor—most people don’t understand it unless they’ve been there themselves. They don’t know what a fragile balancing act it is to stay afloat and that if, God forbid, you momentarily slip underwater, how hard it is to resurface.”

Lock Every Door is about a young woman named Jules, who is asked to apartment sit at Manhattan’s most luxurious and mysterious apartment buildings – The Bartholomew. She’s offered an incredibly tempting sum of money to just to follow a few simple rules – don’t talk to the residents, spend every night in the apartment, and no guests. When another apartment sitter goes missing, Jules must solve the mystery of the Bartholomew.

I went into this book a little nervous. I’ve read Sager’s Final Girls and enjoyed it, but I knew people were divided on Lock Every Door’s ending. It didn’t take me long to become intrigued by the characters and the Bartholomew. Jules’ habits that surfaced and were attributed to her growing up and not having much money really felt realistic and resonated with me. Additionally, Sager creates an atmosphere where things feel almost normal. Still, there’s definitely a buzzing of danger that remains in your ear the entire time you’re reading. There’s a dumbwaiter in Jules’ apartment that made me uneasy from the beginning.

There were a couple of things that kept this from being a five-star read for me. I think the relationship between Jules and Ingrid could have had a little more time to develop. I would have liked to see them interact another time or two before the major drama takes off. I also think there were some major red flags about the job given very early on. The fact that Jules didn’t even think twice about some of the interview questions either right away or as things started to unfold was a little strange to me.

As far as the ending goes, I thought it was brilliant. I really want to talk about my thoughts, but of course, I can’t do that without spoiling anything, so from here on, a spoiler alert is in place.

Spoilers ahead!

When Jules was doing research at the library and thought everything going on in the Bartholomew was related to a cult, I was incredibly turned off. I like reading about cults, but I don’t think there was enough in the previous chapters to set that up adequately. Thankfully the truth was revealed shortly after (did we really need the cult suggestion in the first place?). I mentioned Jules’ habits before, but I remember thinking early on when she was talking about buying groceries and her relationship with money that I was so glad Sager went there. It was really relatable, and sometimes people write characters that come from poor backgrounds, and it feels so out of touch. I read part of that early passage to my partner because I was glad to see a character that thought like me.

I thought that would be the end of the class commentary, but oh boy, was I wrong. Everyone in the Bartholomew felt so self-important and entitled that they just preyed on working-class people and harvested their organs. A thriller that tackles the rich exploiting the working class to maintain their livelihoods? Sign me up. I was reminded of Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” in that both texts have an underlying “money makes me better than you” tone. 
Overall, Lock Every Door provided the social commentary I desire and am thinking about so much during this pandemic (and always, if I’m being honest). Not to mention, it played on one of my previous huge fears – getting my organs harvested. 😅

May 2020 TBR

TBRs

I’m only a week or so late, but to be fair, I’ve been finishing my last semester of my Master’s program 🙂

My TBRs are usually made up entirely of backlogged books but since renewing my Book of the Month subscription and having so many Libby holds, I’ve changed up my process a bit. If I’m expecting a hold to come in, of course, that takes priority and I try to read my BOTM selections either in that month or the next. I only like to put four or five books on my list each month so I don’t feel bad when I don’t make it through everything on my list.

That being said, here are my five selections for this month:

My first three books are from BOTM.

My April BOTM pick is The Guest List by Lucy Foley. This is a thriller about a wealthy couple having their wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. Everything is perfect except for the weather and the guests. When someone winds up dead, we are left to figure out both who is dead and who killed them.

I’ve already read this and I’ll post my thoughts on it a little later but the reason I chose this book is because I’m a sucker for a murder mystery. I like the uncertainty, the misdirection, and the creepy vibes. I recently read The Line That Held Us by David Joy and was in the mood for another thrilling read.

I chose Lock Every Door as my May BOTM add-on. This is another thriller but instead of a creepy island, this one takes place at the Bartholomew apartments in Manhattan. Our main character, Jules, has a job as an apartment sitter in this mysterious, high-profile building. But there are a lot of rules – don’t talk to the residents, don’t have any visitors, and don’t spend the night away from the apartment. When apartment sitters begin to go missing, Jules has to solve the mystery.


I chose this book for some of the same reasons that I chose The Guest List; I love thrillers, but I have also read and enjoyed Riley Sager before. I read Final Girls quite a while ago loved the writing and general plot. I also own The Last Time I Lied but haven’t got to it yet. I *probably* should read that one first but *shrug.*

My last BOTM pick is Kimberly McCreight’s A Good Marriage. This is a thriller (are we sensing a theme?) about Lizzie, a woman who works at a law firm. She gets a call from an old friend asking for help. He is in prison but has discovered that his wife is dead. Lizzie is left to determine what happened and slowly discovers that the marriage might not be as good as it seemed.

I’m excited to read this book because I don’t usually read a lot of legal thrillers. I think this might be a good way to branch out within the genre. We’ll see how it goes!

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick is a literary fiction novel about a Russian boy, Ilya, who comes to Louisiana for a student exchange program. He is leaving behind a chaotic life; his brother has been arrested for murder and Ilya is not convinced he did it. Now Ilya must try to put the pieces together while living in another country.

I am reading this book with a group of friends so I’m not really sure what to expect. It still has mystery/thriller vibes though and is sure to fit well with the rest of my TBR this month. This is a debut novel for Fitzpatrick and I am excited to see where this book will take me.

The last book I have on my list for this month comes from my TBR envelope. It’s called The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and is a historical fiction retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in the final months of WW2. Two children are left behind by their father and stepmother; they must assume the names Hansel and Gretel to disguise their Jewish heritage. They eventually stumble upon the house of an old, eccentric woman who takes in the kids. She must protect them from a new German soldier who moves into the nearby village.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction from nearly any time period. I think this book will offer an interesting perspective because it is a Hansel and Gretel retelling. Paring the fairy tale backdrop with such a devastating time in history might make an interesting dynamic but I do see room for some issues. We will see!

So, that’s all I’m officially planning to read for this month.I’m hoping I can get through this and maybe pick a few more from my TBR envelope at the end. Let me know what you’re reading this month or if you’ve read any of these before!