YA Book Review: Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Summer Cartwright is a 16-year-old influencer living a charmed Hollywood, California life. She’s rich, well-connected, and she just signed a massive book deal for an upcoming tell-all style memoir. When a new post from Summer’s Instagram account announces that the social media star will be dead in the next five minutes, the guests are her Halloween party think it’s just part of the entertainment. Her friends know different. That’s not Summer’s brand. Something is wrong. There were right-Summer was actually dead. As the police begin to investigate, those closest to Summer begin their own search for the killer. The suspect list keeps growing as the motive for the murder appears to be the book she was working on. If Summer was dead, would the book and the dark secrets it was set to reveal go away?

Told from the points of view of Summer’s bff, Grace, Summer’s ex-boyfriend Adam, Summer’s number one fan, Cora, and her one-time roommate, Lanie, Live Your Best Lie is a twisted, suspenseful debut. The narrator does an excellent job of juggling the various character points of view as well as flashbacks, but the inclusion of social media posts and comments, police interviews, and newspaper articles make for an interesting read. A delightfully wicked read as well as a timely cautionary tale-social media never tells the whole story and influencers only show what they want you to see.

Hand this to fans of Karen McManus and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes to solve the puzzle along with the characters. The clues are there for the clever reader, but so are the red herrings. Readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a final twist you won’t see coming.

Thank you to Netgalley, Disney Audiobooks, and Melissa de la Cruz Studios for an advanced reader copy.

Debut Fiction: The Cloisters

Today is publication day for The Cloisters by Katy Hays!

When Ann Stilwell is assigned to an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she’s expecting a ho-hum summer working with the curatorial staff. Instead, she ends up at The Cloisters, a renowned medieval museum filled with unique artifacts and eclectic staff members.

As Ann gets to know the staff, secrets come to light throughout the shadowy hallways of the museum. Curator Patrick shows a focused interest on a 15th-century deck of tarot cards as part of a special research project he seems to be conducting. Research assistant Rachel is everything Ann wants to be, and the two form a quick bond. The museum draws Ann into the world of under the table antique dealers, poisonous plants, and researchers willing to risk it all.

This book combines the mysterious world of 15th century spiritualism with 21st century intrigue. This debut academic thriller is bound to grab your interest if you liked The Secret History or Ninth House.

Photo credit: The Met Cloisters

If nothing else, reading this book serves as an introduction to The Met Cloisters. A spectacular setting for a novel, the real life museum is as intriguing and beautiful as described.

-Melinda

*I received a review copy from the publisher. This is my honest review. 

Scary Stories to Read in the Dark

The trick-or-treats haven’t started yet but it’s never too early to indulge in some spooky tales. Whether you fancy a recent thriller, a classic haunting, or creepy creatures, there are plenty of books to keep you sleeping with the lights on till next year.  

If you like a fast-paced psychological thriller, explore some of these titles: 

Kismet by Amina Akhtar

“A viciously funny thriller about wellness—the smoothies, the secrets, and the deliciously deadly impulses. Lifelong New Yorker Ronnie Khan never thought she’d leave Queens. She’s not an “aim high, dream big” person—until she meets socialite wellness guru Marley Dewhurst. But when the glam gurus around town start turning up gruesomely murdered, Ronnie has her answer: all is not well in wellness town. As Marley’s blind ambition veers into madness, Ronnie fears for her life.” 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley 

“Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead. The narcissistic bride, the unstable bridesmaid, the odd wedding planner and her husband, the resentful plus-one, the groom and his former schoolmates, who are revealed to be a pack of sadistic bullies. By the time the worst of them is found murdered, readers will not be sorry and might, in a Christie moment, have wanted to kill her or him themselves. This is one guest list no one would want to be on.” 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda 

“Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.” 

Interested in the classics? Here are a few to sink your teeth into: 

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

“For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.” 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

“Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and most dreadfully–and for Kipps most tragically–The Woman In Black.” 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 

“Idealistic young scientist Henry Jekyll struggles to unlock the secrets of the soul. Testing chemicals in his lab, he drinks a mixture he hopes will isolate – and eliminate – human evil. Instead it unleashes the dark forces within him, transforming him into the hideous and murderous Mr. Hyde.” 

Zombies, vampires, and clowns keep you up at night? Hope these aren’t too creepy for you…: 

Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre  

“If you’ve ever wondered what ingredients to use to create a zombie out of a living person, your search ends with this one-of-a-kind novel. “I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life” so begins the testimony of Hadriana Siloé, a sensuous pale-skinned Creole woman who, on the Saturday evening of Jan. 29, 1938, collapses at her wedding altar. She had earlier taken a mysterious potion that induces living death. An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and véritable l’amour.” 

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

“Quinn and her father moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs to find a fresh start. But ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. The town is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.”

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 

“Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized. Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?” 

Enjoy…

-Linnea

I Read YA: That Weekend by Kara Thomas

That weekend was supposed to be a fun, secret getaway. Ditching prom for a weekend of hiking, camping, drinking, just Claire and her best friends, Kat and Jesse sounds like a dream. But something goes horribly wrong and Claire can’t tell anyone what happened. She has no idea why she was the only one to come down from the mountain where all three hiked. Claire struggles to regain her memories and as the months pass with no news of her friends’ whereabouts she grows more frustrated. Taking matters in to her own hands, she resolves to get answers. This was a fun thriller. Complex relationships, plenty of red herrings, and big twist will keep readers wondering about what really happened that weekend. If you like a slow-burning mystery and unreliable narrators and a whole lot of karma, check out That Weekend.

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2021

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley– An iconic work of early English literature is updated in Headley’s feminist adaptation, bringing to light elements never before translated into English.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben– A suspenseful, dark tale of family trauma, abuse of power, and the bonds of sisterhood that centers on supernaturally gifted twins Abby and Martha Waite and follows Abby’s choices after she discovers she has been diagnosed with late stage melanoma.

The Push by Ashley Audrain– A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family and one woman’s deeply affecting and difficult story of motherhood, womanhood, grief, and guilt.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith– Haunting and inspired, this novel looks at the stories of three women in Vietnam, weaving together Vietnamese folklore and themes of national and racial identity, women’s bodies and their burden, and sweet revenge.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca– A standout novella featuring an interesting combination of atypical structure, beautiful writing, and body horror about two women who meet in a queer chat room. This book, and the ending in particular, will keep you thinking long after you finish this short work.

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft by Samantha Silva– An amazingly well-crafted and beautiful historical fiction novel of Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world’s first feminist and one of the world’s most influential thinkers. Inspiring and enlightening.

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel– Perhaps my most favorite book of the year, this heartbreaking and remarkable novel is inspired by the life of McDaniel’s own mother. Set in rural Ohio during the 50s, readers follow Betty Carpenter, as she endures terrible discrimination, violence, loss, and love in this luminous and often emotionally difficult book.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling– A beautifully written gothic romantic thriller with a dash of magic and horror. Drawing inspiration from such classics as Bluebeard and working the dangerous bridegroom trope, Starling delivers an engaging and tense tale.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo– A skillful and fantastical reimagining of The Great Gatsby that reimagines Jordan Baker as a queer Vietnamese immigrant, embellishing upon Fitzgerald’s original plot  with commentary on gender, race, and  sexuality, set in a magical Jazz Age New York.

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke– A timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a society, delivered in a beautiful graphic novel.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager Review

Maggie Holt was five when her parents bought the sprawling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. The young family spent just three weeks in the house before they fled in fear, abandoning their belongs, never to return. The nonfiction account of the horrors and hauntings of Baneberry Hall, written by her father, was an international bestseller. While Maggie has no memory of the events that are outlined in the book, the story itself has haunted her for 25 years. She has never believed that the book was true, but she has never managed get her divorced parents to reveal to her what really happened in that house. When her father passes away she is shocked to learn that she has inherited Baneberry Hall. Why did her father still own the house? Maggie returns to a house she doesn’t remember with the intention of restoring it and selling, putting the nightmare forever in her past. Her arrival in town is not a welcome one. People that she knows a characters in the book are real people and they have stories of their own to tell. Maggie is interested in learning the truth, but as events outlined in the book begin to occur again in the house, Maggie is forced to consider that her father’s account may be more fact than fiction after all.

I went in to this book blind. I have read and enjoyed other books by Riley Sager, so I assumed I would also enjoy this one, despite my terror of haunted houses. Thanks, dad, for letting 5 year old me watch Amityville Horror. Totally scarred for life. But I digress…Anyway, we have a haunted house with a nonbeliever living in it. I want to be a nonbeliever, so I was onboard with Maggie’s goal to disprove the validity of her father’s book. Also, side note, I love a book within a book. But dang it, if that house isn’t creepy and probably haunted and it turns out a lot of the things in the book ARE true. Will Maggie finally learn why they fled in the middle of the night? You bet she does. Did I see the answer coming? NOT. AT. ALL. This is a perfect spooky season (aka, October) read that left me questioning everything to the very surprising end.

If you are into spooky, haunted houses, you should join us for Novel Scares, a horror book club. This month we are talking about another cursed how, The Good House by Tananarive Due. Register now to receive the Zoom link.

Happy Spooky Reading!

~Megan

The Nothing Man by Catherine Howard Ryan

Eve Black was twelve years old when her family-mother, father, and little sister-were murdered in their home. It was only chance that spared Eve. She spent the rest of her childhood with her grandmother never speaking of the events that destroyed their lives. As an adult, Eve became determined to find the serial killer known as the Nothing Man. A college assignment turned into her true-crime memoir, the first step on her journey. Now, she’s on a book tour that takes her back to the scene of the crime and seemingly everyone is reading about her trauma, everyone including the Nothing Man himself. With every page he reads his rage and panic grows. His only loose end has come back to haunt him.

This book ticks all my boxes!

  • A book within a book
  • A true crime “memoir”
  • Pursuit of justice
  • Surprise twists
  • A potentially unreliable narrator
  • An Irish setting and Irish audiobook narrators

The story of the Nothing Man is told from two perspectives. Readers experience Eve’s memoir along side Jim Doyle, the sixty-something store security guard who killed the Black family nearly two decades ago. The memoir portion reads as an homage to Michelle McNamara and her quest for the Golden State Killer, while Jim’s unraveling ratchets up the tension. This is a must read for fans of true crime and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced audio copy of this book.

~Megan

Imagine Your Story – Books

I may have mentioned that I’m finding it a bit hard to stick with an entire book right now. So when I find a novel that compels me to read it in one sitting, not only do I want to celebrate, I want to share!

darcy

My eBook for Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell became available on Saturday morning and as soon as I started it, I knew my chore list was shot. This fast-paced and suspenseful domestic thriller stars unreliable (and mostly unlike-able) characters who have shady pasts and who make many bad choices and stir up plenty of family drama.

Floral shop owner Charlotte has the perfect life, including money, a fabulous apartment, a beautiful daughter named Daisy, a handsome husband and a super successful business. Unfortunately, she is wracked by anxiety, is overprotective of her family, and can’t always sleep at night. Adding to her woes is her brother Rocco, who barely has his life together and whose taste in girlfriends has always been horrible, each one less tolerable than the last. But when Charlotte meets his newest girlfriend Ruth, she thinks maybe this time Rocco got it right.

In Ruth’s eyes, however, it is Charlotte who isn’t perfect. Ruth, who didn’t have a good relationship with her mother, thinks that Charlotte doesn’t appreciate what she has. Ruth longs for a daughter just like Daisy–or maybe even Daisy herself. Before too long, Ruth will turn Charlotte’s life upside down and will take readers on a journey filled with twists, turns, and plenty of juicy secrets.

Like cotton candy, this novel won’t overly fill you up or ruin your appetite for your next read, but it sure tastes good as a treat. If this sounds like your type of read, place a hold in our catalog here.

Megan’s Favorites of 2019

It’s that time of year, again-the time when we reflect on our year of reading (mostly murder) and make a favorites list (so much murder). I have given up all pretense of creating a Top Ten List and have abandoned descriptions (follow the links for book details), which has helped ease some of my anxiety around this task. If you like mysteries, suspense, and thrillers there are quite a few here!

YA Fiction

Adult Fiction

Nonfiction

Middle Grade

Happy Reading!

~Megan