The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/13/21-10/15/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book includes instances of rape, criminal trials, and police corruption. If these are triggers for you, read at your own discretion.

Rachel has a podcast called Guilty or Not Guilty that focuses on a true crime where she breaks down the evidence to figure out whether the suspect is guilty or not guilty. She travels to Neapolis, North Carolina for her subject of season 3, a rape trial between a future Olympian and the granddaughter of the former chief of police. She continues to post podcast episodes throughout the trial, giving her audience the chance to be in the jury box.

On her way to Neapolis, Rachel discovers a letter from a fan, Hannah, who asks for Rachel to look into her sister’s, Jenny’s, death. While the official report is that Jenny died from an accidental drowning, Hannah is sure that is a lie. Telling her story over a series of letters, Hannah slowly lets Rachel in on Jenny’s death and why she thinks that Jenny died under suspicious instances.

Following a present rape trial while we follow the death of another rape victim, we slowly begin to investigate who is guilty, and how history repeats itself.

As I was looking through my TBR pile, this was the book that I gravitated to the most. There is something so modern and cool about following a podcast in a book. While I am aware that she chose to follow a rape case because she wanted as much attention as she could get, there is something that feels uncomfortable about the whole guilty or not guilty thing. Considering how difficult it is for women to be believed in sexual assault trials anyway, I don’t like the idea of basically saying “do you believe her or not?”. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

I do like the idea of Hannah’s storyline, but I don’t like that we don’t meet her until the end of the novel. It just feels like a really weird resolution that totally could have happened earlier in the novel. They also totally could have met before the final scene. It almost seemed like overkill.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this novel. I think I had slightly higher expectations, but it was a solid novel nonetheless. Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/12/21-10/13/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book has instances of murder of a child, a murderer who is a child, manipulation, death (including decay), gore, and suicide. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your discretion.

Ciara meets Oliver at a grocery store and go for coffee. They connect over their love of space travel, and quickly their connection leads to dates. Both of them feel like secrets are hovering over their relationship, but neither is willing to give in to what they know. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down Ireland, they decided to move in together for the 2-week lockdown, hoping that their secrets would stay out of the apartment. But as things go on, their secrets become stifling, and they have to make the hard decisions in order to keep each other.

56 days later, a body is found in the apartment. In an advanced stage of decay, the police can’t decipher who the victim is and whether it was a result of murder or an accident. They discover that the resident of the apartment is Oliver St. Ledger, a former child murderer. As they investigate, Lead Investigator Lee has a gut feeling that something more happened here, but she has no evidence to prove it.

As we switch between the past and the present, we slowly begin to unravel what happened in that apartment and relationship. But will justice be served?

This is the first book that I have read where the story is actually set during the pandemic. There are some authors who have claimed that they will never write a book in the pandemic times, but I think that the pandemic really opens up the mystery/thriller genre. Since so much of the pandemic feels like a horror movie, I hope that more thriller writers will write about this time in the future. I also am surprised that we haven’t had more adventure novels out since we have been stuck inside with only the opportunity to do nature activities instead of traveling. I feel like there are so many possibilities with the pandemic, and since there are so few books that are set in this time, each one will be so unique.

Anyway, this book is so brilliantly written. From the get-go, Howard sprinkles a little bit of doubt, then slowly regains control of the situation so that she can blow it up at the perfect time. It was so fun to read, and I cannot encourage you enough to pick it up and read it for yourself! I am going to go with 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/11/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book includes instances of murder, gore, manipulation, police investigation, poisoning, stalking, financial crime, and miscellaneous other crime. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

The 3 children and their partners attend Easter dinner. When there, they learn that their parents are selling the house, which Catherine dreamed of inheriting. Their father also went on a tirade, belittling both Dan and Jenna as well. They storm out of the house, but each of them have a gnawing feeling over the day’s events. Days later, the parents are found brutally murdered, and none of the children have an alibi for Sunday night. As we follow the investigation, we have to ask what we would do for our family, would we ever cover up a crime for the people we love?

I like that we get bits and pieces of the motives and what could have been used for the murder bit by bit. It does really add to the mystery to have little hints that something important was kept from everyone, not just us. I personally found the Audrey storyline really annoying, but I think it would have been less annoying if she was actually the detective. I think following the detective in this story would have been really cool since they knew about as much as we did anyway.

I do like the psychological torture element for the partners. It does add a lot of ambiance to the mystery aspect of the story. I kinda wish that Jenna had a more established partner, since Jake always was a peripheral character.

Spoiler Alert: I will say that the murderer is pretty obvious in hindsight. It’s almost like we were so pushed towards the other two siblings that we almost ignored the murderer throughout the book. I almost wish the book led us to Rose as the killer since she was such a surprise. But I also see how she was used as a red herring, which was also a really cool idea. I think Ellen would also be a really cool killer in this case, too.

I think that this is a really cool story that definitely had me invested from the beginning. There are things that I wish happened that didn’t, but overall, I would give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/15/21-10/16/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

When Maggie was a child, she lived in a house called Banberry Hall for 20 days. Her father (with support from her mother) wrote a true story memoir called House of Horrors, claiming that the reason the family left was because the house was haunted by the former residents. When her father dies, she gains full ownership of the house. Since she works as an interior designer, she wanted to go and refurbish the house in order to hopefully gain a bigger profit, but more importantly gain closure over this time she doesn’t remember.

Upon coming back to Banberry Hall, Maggie immediately learned that everyone in the town hates the book. She begins to investigate the clues that were left from her family’s time in the house. As she finds more and more evidence that confirms the events of the book, she begins to believe that maybe her father didn’t make it all up. Flipping between the House of Horrors book and Maggie’s adult experience in the house, we follow a journey towards discovering what is really haunting the house once and for all.

I was listening to this book while working and let me tell you, that was a mistake. I have talked about it previously, but I am not a paranormal person. Due to a childhood trauma, paranormal/ haunted tropes get to me more than I think any other. Give me gore and I’m fine; give me a ghost and I’m running screaming. As my coworkers slowly trickled out of the building, I became one of the last people at work. One of my coworkers, who is the sweetest grandmotherly-type person, often brings me chocolate at the end of the day, thinking that I would need the little bit of sugar to get through the rest of my shift. With no warning to her presence, I turned around and she was right there. I swear I almost pooped my pants. Lessons learned, not a good idea. But it created a memory that I am always going to associate with this book, which is always one of my favorite parts of reading. There is something so magical about that.

Anyway, I totally didn’t see the ending coming. I think that it is very humanizing, but I think that the book would almost been better if it didn’t come together with a perfect bow. I think that would have made it completely unique. In the same vain, I also see why we needed closure for who the ghosts are. It’s a really hard line to cross, and I also am very introspective today about books, so ignore me, I’m being weird.

OOOOOOOhhhhhhh, I almost forgot. I hate the title of this book. Where did it even come from? It 1) was not said at all during the book and 2) was not even implied in the book. Let’s be honest, I don’t know what I would have called this book, but I also hate when titles do not match the content of the book. Again, that’s a personal feeling, but it is something that bugged me when I finished it.

I think this book is good, but I personally would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. Trying to think in a non-biased viewpoint, I would probably bump it up to a 3.5 or 3.75. I would say that it is good, but I also don’t think it is as good as Sager’s other books.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 10/8/21-10/10/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book has moments that feature rape, sexual assault, murder, body dumping, manipulation, car accidents, and panic attacks. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

Emily and Kristin are backpacking through Chile when they meet a Spanish backpacker. Kristin takes him back to their hotel room where he attacks her. She ends up killing him. A year earlier, Emily was in the exact same position in Cambodia, where Kristin killed a South African backpacker after he attempted to rape Emily. In both cases, the two women worked together to destroy the evidence and get rid of the bodies. 

Following their return home from Chile, Emily felt a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. Kristin was not acting as if she was raped and killed in self-defense, she was acting like she had a completely normal trip. When Kristin moved back to Wisconsin from Australia soon after the trip, Emily couldn’t feel more stifled by their blood soaked history. As time continues, we watch as Emily becomes more and more paranoid and Kristin becomes more and more present in Emily’s life until we finally reach a breaking point.

This book really puts you right into it. While that is a huge plus in my eyes, there are always going to be people who wish they had time to ease into it. I think part of the reason why I immediately got into this book was because we began with action. That being said, your major conflict happens within the first 20-30 pages of the book, which does take away some of the novelty by the end of the book.

I think this is the most thriller-y book I have read in a while. I truly felt the feeling of paranoia and fear in a way that I haven’t felt in a book in a while. It was a super cool experience that kept me on the edge of my seat from page 1. For that reason, I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 10/16/21-10/18/21

How I Found It: Once Upon a Book Club

Trigger Warning: There are instances of home invasion, murder, occult (including seance and ouija boards), and violence. If these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

I am feeling in a spooky mood, so I decided to pick up this box! While I have no idea what is in the 5 gifts yet, I can go ahead and guess that there is a candle, purely by the overwhelming smell that comes out of this box. This thing has been stinking up my entryway for months until I have finally decided to pick this one up! That being said, this is April’s? YA box called “After School Fright Club” from Once Upon a Book Club.

Page 18

So right idea, just slightly wrong. The soap is definitely small but mighty. From what I understand from the brief glance I had of the soap, it is a completely natural soap without any of the chemicals that other name brands use. 

Rachel was in her bedroom when she sees a man outside her house. She looked away for a second, and he was gone. Alone in the house by herself, she begins to get frightened by the sound of footsteps downstairs. There were 2 intruders, one who instantly fled and the other who came straight for Rachel.

Now a year later, Rachel has moved to New York City with her mom. A junior in high school, Rachel’s mom is concerned that she doesn’t have many friends here. When Saundra, a new classmate, encourages Rachel to go to a party in an abandoned house a neighborhood over, Rachel runs into the most popular couple in the school in the middle of an argument. Trying to break away from the thoughts rushing through her head, she finds a random guy and kisses him.

I don’t think that this book will be necessarily scary, but there are obviously going to be some horror tropes touched on throughout the book. That being said, the prologue is a stroke of genius. I am hooked, and I want nothing more than to know more about that beginning scene. With that being said, I’m going to shut up and read, I’ll see you all at the next gift!

Page 67

There are so many moments that you feel like the story is going one way and it ends up driving off the road down a cliff and completely takes you by surprise. With that being said, never in a million years would I have expected to get a pair of scissors in one of these boxes.

Following the make out session with Lux’s (ex?-)boyfriend, the partygoers head to the main floor for a seance. When she realizes that it is a prank, Rachel begins laughing, which Lux assumes means Rachel is laughing at her. As Rachel begins to look into the prank to find out who is behind it, she discovers that there is a club, including who 2 of the members are. But Lux has also looked into Rachel, discovering that Rachel was looking at the Instagram of a dead boy, which leads us to our gift.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that I cannot tell you what is going to happen next. Every time I think I know where we are going, there is something that throws a wrench in the plan, which really draws me in. However, the flip side of that is at a certain point, that feeling will become a deterrent for some people. I can easily see the novelty wear off. Just a thought, but I will see you in the next gift!

Page 178

100% not what I was expecting to get! The gifts this time are so incredibly creative and out of the box (haha). It is a little on the flimsy side and the lid is a little weird, but I’m willing to try it out once to see what it is like!

Rachel inevitably joins this club, called the Mary Shelley Club, which is made up of Thayer,  Bram, Felicity, and Freddie. She learns that they complete challenges called “Fear Tests” where they will choose a target, then hone in on their worst fear until they can illicit a scream from them. These tests are designed by each of the members, and they grade each other’s test to ultimately decide a winner. At the point of this gift, we have seen Thayer’s fear test. On top of all of this, we are starting to see something going on between Rachel and Freddie, but not much has happened yet.

In terms of the idea for the book, this is pretty morbid. I’m not the hugest fan of the idea of the Fear Tests, and while I can totally see a limited series made out of this book, I seriously hope that it does not reach similar fame levels as Squid Game. We do not need copycats of this idea. But this is also incredibly inventive while being brutally honest that she is repeating horror tropes. I feel like I should praise the idea, but I also fear what this book could lead to. I don’t know, man, but I’ll think about that as we get to the next gift.

Page 239

I am flabbergasted. Holy potato sticks! I swear this box is better than any I have opened in the recent past! I am so excited to try this guy out tonight!

Since the last gift, we watched Felicity’s Fear Test. And due to that, the shoe finally drops, causing memories of Rachel’s attack from the previous year to come at full force. 

Having tried this, I will say that I was never able to make the video not blurry. As great as this is, it is a little lackluster when you live in a time of 4k. But still incredibly cool and a fun date night addition.

Page 401

If you haven’t been around for a while, you might not know that I read The Shining last year (What’s that? A link? You should click on it!). This is definitely an incredibly cool gift, though it is a little too bulky for me. I am currently trying to figure out what I can attach this to so I can justifiably keep it!

Now, it has been a little bit since I finished the book, so bear with me. As we watch more people do their fear tests, flashes of moments from Rachel’s attack keep popping up. She is starting to realize that these “coincidences” keep piling up. When things go too far during a fear test, the group has to figure out whether or not they want to continue with the fear tests.

Overall

I think that the book was really good, but I personally felt like there were so many twists at the beginning that it kinda fell off by the end. I would rather there have been consistent twists throughout the entire book than for there to be such a chaotic beginning and boring middle. While there were some twists at the end, it takes a lot of reading to get there. And it just felt like we needed a little more consistency across the board.

I also think that for a book that this book is more accurately a contemporary YA novel with some thriller aspects. The horror wasn’t really there for me, and you don’t really feel the thrill except at the very beginning and the very end. All in all, I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Cold Hearted: A Tale of the Wicked Stepmother

Reminder: This review is of a series and not an individual book. While I will write a synopsis for each book, I will do my best to not give away blatant spoilers. With that being said, the end of one book more or less is the start of another, so information from the end of the previous book may play a role in the plot of the next book, thus I have to give away the spoiler. Read the synopsis at your own discretion.

Lady Tremaine travels to her best friend’s house to relax and unwind. She chooses to leave her two daughters behind after they had acted impishly, taking only her lady’s maid, Mrs. Bramble. While at the friend’s house, she learns that her friend has set Lady Tremaine up with Sir Richard of the Many Kingdoms. After a few conversations, Sir Richard proposes marriage and request Lady Tremaine and her daughters come at once to his chateau. While initially Lady Tremaine believed that she had found a love match and that she would get to live in the same manner as she did in England, she learns very quickly that Sir Richard has a completely idea. He only wants Lady Tremaine to be the glorified housekeeper while he spends her money he won upon their marriage. Slowly, Lady Tremaine begins to fall into a complete tailspin, which shows us that not only Cinderella was the victim in the situation.

Nanny and the Fairy Godmother receive word from Cinderella that she is concerned for her stepsisters. Looking back at the events that led to Lady Tremaine’s time in the chateau, they have to make the decision on whether they will help the two sisters or not.

I don’t think I have ever read a book where they make Cinderella out to be so mean. Listen, I get that in a lot of ways, that was caused by her father, but Cinderella was not the greatest person in the world as we were led to believe. Also, her father is a jerk. Like major jerk, trying to censor myself level jerk. I do think it is important to note, while I totally empathize with Lady Tremaine, I feel like we kinda ignore the stepsisters. I mean, they are colloquially known as the “ugly stepsisters” and that isn’t cool. It is interesting to me that we see that they had to go through all of the house cleaning and seem unempathetic to Cinderella doing ALL the work that the two of them did together. That to me says they don’t deserve the help they receive.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Evil Thing: A Tale of that De Vil Woman

Reminder: This review is of a series and not an individual book. While I will write a synopsis for each book, I will do my best to not give away blatant spoilers. With that being said, the end of one book more or less is the start of another, so information from the end of the previous book may play a role in the plot of the next book, thus I have to give away the spoiler. Read the synopsis at your own discretion.

When Cruella is growing up, she wants nothing more than to be someone her mom is proud of. However, her mom is Awful (capital A worthy). On the other hand, her father was a gem. He tried to encourage Cruella to not become like her mother and become a kind and welcoming person. When her father passed, he chose to give Cruella his entire estate rather than giving it to Cruella’s mother, with the only condition that she keep the De Vil name. Her mother tried to actively come up with ways to regain control of the money, mainly by manipulating Cruella’s emotions. During this time, Cruella found comfort in her friend, Anita, as well as her staff. When Cruella’s mother finds her a husband, Cruella can’t believe how lucky she was to find her match. But when things take a turn in her life, she begins to slowly fall apart more and more until she eventually reaches the point we see her in 101 Dalmations.

If you look at any other reviews of this book (which why would you when mine is so good?), you will probably see that this book is really a stand-alone one in the series. I’m going to go farther than that, I think that this book, while under the same initial concept as the other books, is really its own completely separate entity. There is a very vague connection to the other books, mainly through the “fairytale” of Tulip and Poppinjay, but Valentino was unable to bring Cruella into the same universe as the Odd Sisters (which can you imagine how chaotic that would be?).

In a lot of ways, this book reminds me of The Series of Unfortunate Events series. Especially the author’s note where she talks about writing the book based off of interviews and stuff. While a really cool idea, it completely changes the pattern of the series. This isn’t a bad thing, it feels very jarring after 6 books in a different template.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Odd Sisters: A Tale of Three Witches

Reminder: This review is of a series and not an individual book. While I will write a synopsis for each book, I will do my best to not give away blatant spoilers. With that being said, the end of one book more or less is the start of another, so information from the end of the previous book may play a role in the plot of the next book, thus I have to give away the spoiler. Read the synopsis at your own discretion.

As Snow is reading the fairy tales book, she discovers that there are pages missing from the Odd Sisters story. She and Circe go back to Miss Tiddlebottom from the previous book to see if the pages were in Gothel’s belongings. When they learn that Gothel’s sisters, Primrose and Hazel, returned from the dead, they head back to the Dead Woods to try and help them understand what was going on. While there, they learn of the biggest secret of all, who exactly the Odd Sisters are. Meanwhile, the Fairy Council are meeting to figure out how they are going to punish the Odd Sisters for all of the damage they have caused.

In a lot of ways, this book feels like the end. However, it also feels like it ends on a cliffhanger. There is clearly more to the series, but I feel like this will be the end of the Odd Sisters playing a critical role in the villain’s backstory. What does concern me is that everything felt so wrapped up that it felt almost forced to continue the series.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Mother Knows Best: A Tale of the Old Witch

Reminder: This review is of a series and not an individual book. While I will write a synopsis for each book, I will do my best to not give away blatant spoilers. With that being said, the end of one book more or less is the start of another, so information from the end of the previous book may play a role in the plot of the next book, thus I have to give away the spoiler. Read the synopsis at your own discretion.

Gothel is living in the Dead Woods with her 2 sisters and her mother, the Queen of the Dead. When Gothel wants to gain more of her witch powers, her mother forms a celebration to give her more of her blood. But when things take a turn, her mother ends up dead, forcing Gothel and her sisters to make some tough decisions. But as her sisters start to take a turn for the worse, Gothel is willing to do whatever it takes to keep them in her life. When they die, Gothel’s grief is so intense that the Odd Sisters put her to sleep until she was ready to take on the world. However, the King in the neighboring kingdom is searching for the rapunzel flower, which is the key to Gothel’s youth and power, for his wife. When the King uses the flower in order to save his wife with child, Gothel steals the babe, whom she dubs Rapunzel, and keeps her so she can continue to use the power of the flower inside her. When an incident happens on her 8th birthday, Rapunzel is forced into a long sleep until her 18th birthday when she might be strong enough to resuscitate Gothel’s sisters from the dead.

I was not expecting this to be as sad as it is. While yes, it was extremely selfish for Gothel to want her sisters alive again, it is almost a better reaction than the original idea from the movie where she just wanted her youth. Such a heartbreaking story, and it changed by opinion of the movie (although maybe don’t kidnap anybody. That doesn’t sound like a good idea).

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!