First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday September 6, 2022

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

When books are your life–or in my case, your job–you get pretty good at guessing where a story is going. The tropes, the archetypes, the common plot twists all start to organize themselves into a catalogue inside your brain, divided by category and genre.”

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Goodreads Monday September 5, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past Week:

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 35% up from 21%

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Kindle book approximately 57% up from 46%.

Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey by Jenna Zark

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

Progress: 62 pages out of 212

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Progress: 18 pages out of 254

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The next electrifying novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo behind The Wife Between Us.

Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.

Avery is a therapist who lost her professional license. Still, it doesn’t stop her from counseling those in crisis, though they have to adhere to her unorthodox methods. And the Bishops are desperate.

When they glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger. 

Progress: Audiofile 1 of 10

Next Up:

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Number of Pages: 301

Goodreads Summary:

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive.

BOOK REVIEW: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead as a Doornail

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book Length: 295 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Horror

Read Start Date: July 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 26, 2022

Number in Book Series: 5

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My Review: Surprisingly, Sookie doesn’t really have a love interest in this book, so it’s mostly mystery and thriller. A sniper is going around shooting shifters, and of course the cops don’t know the connection between the victims. Jason, now a werepanther, is suspected by the Hot Shot community, even though he is dating one of them. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, Hot Shot is a community of (inbred) shifters who mostly turn into panthers. In the last book Jason was held captive by a Hot Shot resident who bit him numerous times (hence why Jason is not a werepanther).

Unfortunately, Sam is shot, and Sookie is sent to Eric to request a favor….someone to fill in for Sam at the bar. Introducing Fangtasia’s newest bartender, Charles Twining, a pirate vampire. Yes, that’s right. A vampire who used to be a pirate — and he still dresses the part. Now we know something is going to be up with this guy as the bartenders at Fangtasia always have something going on and usually end up dead.

Lucky thing Charles was staying with Sookie (she had a vampire hidey hole left over from when she was dating Bill) because he managed to kill the arsonist that tried to burn down Sookie’s house. Claudine saved Sookie from the fire. There’s something odd going on with this fairy godmother business but we don’t know what yet. For the most part Sookie’s house is okay, except for her kitchen, which in hindsight is great, because now no one will be able to find any forensic evidence from when Sookie killed Debbie Pelt (in self defense, of course).

Why was Sookie targeted? Does it have something to do with the shifters being attacked? Will they find the killer before he kills again?

In other news, Alcide is back in the story as the son of the next potential pack leader. (Colonel flood died). Sookie is dragged into werewolf politics, even though she doesn’t want to be. Things with Alcide get slightly complicated for various reasons that I will not give away, except to say that one of the reasons is that he finds out that she killed Debbie (Alcide’s ex girlfriend who he excommunicated from the pack).

And as if that wasn’t enough, Tara is in trouble, as she’s currently dating a dangerous vampire. To set matters straight, Sookie has to call in a favor from Eric, who requires in exchange for Sookie to tell him what he’s been after: the truth about the time they spent together when he had witch induced amnesia. Now that Eric knows they had a sexual relationship, and that Eric was willing to leave everything behind to become Sookie’s full time lover, how will their relationship progress and/or change?

Wow. So much happened in just one book! As always Harris spins a fun tale of mystery and fantasy that you shouldn’t miss.

I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Other Books in this Series

Book #1: Dead Until Dark:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out….Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

See my review of Dead Until Dark here.

Book #2: Living Dead in Dallas:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it).

The point is: they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favor, she obliges – and soon Sookie’s in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She’s supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave and let the humans go unharmed. But that’s easier said than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly….

See my review of Living Dead in Dallas here.

Book #3: Club Dead:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill’s sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own ..

See my review of Club Dead here.

Book #4 Dead to the World

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has only a few close friends, because not everyone appreciates Sookie’s gift: she can read minds. That’s not exactly every man’s idea of date bait – unless they’re undead; vampires and the like can be tough to read. And that’s just the kind of guy Sookie’s been looking for. Maybe that’s why, when she comes across a naked vampire, she doesn’t just drive on by. He hasn’t got a clue who he is, but Sookie has: Eric looks just as scary and sexy – and dead – as ever. But now he has amnesia, he’s sweet, vulnerable, and in need of Sookie’s help – because whoever took his memory now wants his life.

See my review of Dead to the World here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

56732449Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 8 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My Review: Apparently this is another “booktok” recommendation — I checked it out of the library as it was on the list of “global popular books”. I went into this not knowing anything about the book, or having any expectations.

I was torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. 3 stars because the banter between the characters annoyed me, as did the ridiculous conversation subject matters. It also generally annoys me when characters have very poor communication skills and hold back their true feelings or don’t discuss topics because of “misunderstandings” which could be cleared up in a matter of a few seconds but aren’t just to create tension.

Maybe this is just how rom coms are formulaically, but it just seems so contrived. Additionally, poor communication is a horrible foundation for a relationship. 

My Book Joy summed up the issue pretty nicely: “What kiiiiilled me though, was the reliance on the idiotic thing I often find myself screaming during these kinds of stories: JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!! STOP ASSUMING YOU KNOW WHAT THEY THINK AND WANT AND DID! GOOD LORD! COMMUNICATION, PEOPLE! It was particularly frustrating in this book for two reasons. The first is that they’re not high school age — 26 and 34 if I recall correctly — so I would kiiiind of expect them to be better with handling this. To be fair, it did mostly come from 26-year-old Olive who has very little romantic relationship experience. Still, with the other friendships she has, I’d think honest communication would have been a skill she picked up by now.”

It also got tiresome how Adam kept being described as “large”, “big”…if I heard about his “large hands” once, it was 30 times. We get it. He’s a big guy. By big I guess the author meant tall? Because we are also told he has a six pack so he can’t be overweight or bulky. Also, if I heard the words “fake dating” once, I heard it 100 times. I am NOT a fan of repetitive word usage. 

If I only gave ratings on the endings of books, I might have been persuaded to give the book 4 stars, because despite myself, by the end of the book I was listening to it because it was finally grabbing my attention. I won’t say too much here otherwise it would give away the story, but let’s just say things started to finally get interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, I guess? If you are the type of person who really loves the fake dating to real relationship rom com trope and can handle a lot of bad dialogue, then I would say go for it!

BOOK REVIEW: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

58909880Title: The House Across the Lake

Author: Riley Sager

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, Paranormal

Read Start Date: August 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 9, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night (“a master of the twist and the turn” – Rolling Stone) is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

My Review: I think the Goodreads synopsis on this book is pretty good, so I won’t go too much in detail regarding the plot. This book reminded me a lot of The Woman in the Window. Lonely / isolated woman who has trouble with alcohol, has nothing better to do than to spy on her neighbors. What she spies through the binoculars is a dysfunctional relationship, but she isn’t believed by anyone (mostly having to do with her alcohol consumption and the fact that she is spying.)

At some point the two books separate in theme, and the House Across the Lake takes it into a totally different and unexpected realm, where there are 2 twists at the end that I was not expecting at all!

I really liked The BiblioSanctum’s take on this book: “I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Whatever you might think is going to happen from the short synopsis I provided above, I guarantee it will be wrong. That’s because for most of the novel, Sager leads you to believe The House Across the Lake is going to be another one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill thriller mysteries with a perfectly mundane albeit exciting explanation that you would expect, if not perfectly predict. In reality though, it’s all just a ruse to make you feel all the more astonished and knocked for a loop when everything—and I mean everything—is turned on its head once he drops the big twist.

And it’s big. Genre-changing big. Without spoiling even the tiniest of details, I’ll just say that there is a supernatural element to this, and that is why I think reactions to the ending will be mixed depending on the type of reader you are. Even speaking as someone who enjoys fantasy and speculative fiction, I felt the twist was a bit too much, too sudden, and too in-your-face, so if you’re more into earthly non-supernatural thrillers, I can see how the bombshell might frustrate or even anger you.”

I got through this book pretty quickly, because I couldn’t stop listening to it (I was listening to the audiobook). If you like thrillers, murder mysteries and ghosts, then I’d recommend this!

Friday 56, September 2, 2022

Welcome to Friday 56! Hosted by Freda’s Voice, you turn to page 56 or 56% in any book or reading device and pick a sentence that grabs you.

Buster cut his eyes to the dead man, who had risen from his slump against the wall. Ted stood on his knees, gaping at his living boss with the same milky, listless eyes and slack jaw that he’d been wearing when Buster first walked in. In the thickness of the solidifying blood pooled beneath him were distinct handprints and smears where the dead man had propped himself up and shuffled his calves under his butt so he could sit on them.”

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne

The above quote is 56% of the way through the book. The body of Ted Gilliam, the abusive loser husband of Donna Gilliam, has been found. Earlier in the day, Ted was killed by Donna after he abused her and their new born son, Theo. Good riddance, in my opinion. Strange things have been happening since then, precipitated by the hellish creature taking refuge from the storm at Beard’s General store. This is the first indication that we see that the reach of the creature goes beyond the walls of the store.

BOOK REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover

59344312._SY475_Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Review: This book was such a mind f***! From the first sentence this book grabbed my attention. I found it very hard to put down, which was a problem since I was reading this book in order to fall asleep. I have read other Colleen Hoover books before (e.g. Ugly Love (see my review here), It End With Us (see my review here)), but this is by far my favorite one.

The main character Lowen Ashleigh is an author who hasn’t had much success — this is mostly because she doesn’t do book readings or tour — she is a self described introvert. This is a shame, because she is in fact a really good writer. Her luck is about to change.

On her way to a meeting with her agent, she witnesses a fatal car accident. Covered in gore, she is approached by a good Samaritan, Jeremy Crawford, who lends her his shirt, so that she doesn’t have to wear her blood soaked shirt anymore. Sparks fly during this encounter, but it doesn’t matter because she is never going to see him again anyway. Right?

Wrong! Fast forward to the meeting, she learns that Jeremy is attending the same meeting. What’s more, he is the husband of best selling author Verity Crawford, who after suffering a near fatal accident, is essentially in a waking coma. Jeremy wants to hire Lowen to co-author the remaining 3 books in Verity’s hit series. Taking this job would change Lowen’s life forever. Verity’s series is already wildly popular and Lowen will be paid a large sum for her work. This is the break she has been waiting for. Despite this, Lowen has some reservations — she does not do book tours.

Lowen, following the slow and emotionally draining death of her mother, is broke and has been recently kicked out of her apartment, so she accepts the job, with the caveat that she doesn’t have to do public appearances, and travels to Jeremy’s home to go through Verity’s office to try to find notes / outlines that will help her write the next books. What she finds is something all together different — a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, in which she reveals some disturbing things about herself, her relationship with Jeremy, and the circumstances surrounding the death of their twin daughters.

Regarding the alternating story line between Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s perspective, which added layers of plot: Zainab Chats! writes in her review that “It really felt like each secret that was revealed may have both a literal and deeper meaning to Lowen in regards to how she felt about Verity. And it was very unique because it seemed as she read more and more of Verity’s manuscript she seemed to be even more frightened, of a helpless woman with traumatic injuries.”

I loved the layers of complexity created by this dual narrative.

Verity’s novels are so popular because Verity writes in the villain’s point of view. So what is the truth? Is she really a monster and that is why she can write the part of the villain so well? Meanwhile, Jeremy and Lowen are obviously falling for each other, but then strange things start happening around the house. Door are locked when they shouldn’t be, Crew (Jeremy’s and Verity’s son) talks about his mother as though she is awake, and Lowen even sees an apparition of Verity on the stairs.

What is the truth? What is happening at this house??

What I liked most about this book: It was a total page turner. I wanted to know what happened next. The author kept me, the reader, engaged in the story. I loved to hate Verity as her autobiography was truly heinous–she writes about abusing her kids as babies, about loving one twin over the other etc. Would Lowen and Jeremy finally get together, or were they always going to be stuck in platonic world, seeing as Jeremy was still technically married? What really happened to the twins? Was Verity involved in their deaths? The twist at the end was totally unexpected. It was great!

There was a few downsides about the ending though that left me a little unsettled. Ruminative Philomath says it best: “I don’t understand Verity’s end. It felt forcefully concluded…like there was so much story build-up around her but it turned out to be nothing.”

There’s a reason why this book has been highly recommended on Booktok. I second this recommendation!