We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

This is not my favorite Grady Hendrix, not by a long shot. I knew it wasn’t going to be, but what a bummer! I just really, really hate band books I think. This was no exception.

Spurred by a gap in her own personal sense of time, Kris Pulaski embarks to find what’s left of her Dürt Würk metal bandmates from the 90s. Believing their former lead singer to have sold their souls to “Black Iron Mountain”, she endeavours on an epic road trip to find all her former bandmates and stop Terry “The Blind King” before his Hellfest ’19 music festival: which Kris believes will bring the end times.

If this synopsis sounds like a bad trip, that’s because it is. I love Grady Hendrix’ creativity, but this one was so far gone to me I couldn’t keep up. Whatever it was, it made a lot of sense to the characters…but I guess I missed that critical point where everything was supposed to click. I got the general idea of things, like “Black Iron Mountain = bad”. But it just took things a lot further than my mind was willing to go.

Good god, I have absolutely no idea why I still try to read books about bands. Excepting Daisy Jones & The Six, which to this day remains one of my favorites ever, I can’t think of a single book about a band that I liked or cared about. That atmosphere, those types of characters: I really dislike everything about them. I should’ve known to quit while I was ahead when it came to Hendrix and this novel. It doesn’t alter my opinion of Hendrix as a writer, because I cannot objectively say this a bad book. My judgments here are heavily based on my bias.

And speaking of Hendrix, his horror writing skills remain top notch. Nothing about the scenes of horror in here were bad, I just couldn’t be bothered to care if the characters lived or died through them. Is that bad? I’m also very curious where they all found their wills to live, particularly Kris: her life had gone to complete crap, she finds out her former bandmate sold her soul for fame and money, and she’s like… “better go round everybody up and stop him”. I’d just lay down and cry, frankly. Even so, Hendrix remains one of few writers who can unfold a jump scare movie in my mind. Even if I did not care for this story, I cannot deny it is written with giving the reader the creepy crawlies in mind – and succeeds.

This book really did just…bore me. I hate saying it but it’s so true. I couldn’t stop zoning out, and the only character I was really invested in was Melanie. I can’t go any higher than 2.5 stars for good horror, but a bad story. I just didn’t like it for me, and I don’t think I’m the only one…no one talks about this novel when they talk about Grady Hendrix.

So thus concludes my thoughts, of which there are few, on We Sold Our Souls. I won’t say it’s not up to his standard; I just really, really didn’t like it. I’ve used a lot of really’s and very’s…point being, not for me.

Have a great week, peeps!

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 13. Includes a club, 15. A five syllable title, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 40. A book with photographs inside, 46. A job title in the title, 52. Published in 2022

My streak of meh books continues. I really think this is the improvement to Paul Tremblay’s work that I was looking for, but I still had to drag myself to the finish line on this one.

Art Barbara is not his real name, but this is his memoir. Beginning in the late 80s, after being told he needs more clubs and extracurriculars to get into college, Art starts The Pallbearers Club: a group that attends the funerals of the homeless, or older people with no one left. There, he meets Mercy, a girl of undistinguishable age, with a camera and a fascination for Art and his club.

Over the next twenty years, Mercy floats in and out of his life, but Art’s life revolves and progresses around the time he spent with Mercy. She left a permanent – and possibly harmful, supernatural – mark on his life that is nearly inescapable.

I don’t really know how to describe this book and I don’t think Tremblay did either. It’s a very, very weird book, but I think it’s kind of a good weird. It very much reminded me of Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick – my go-to recommendation for something oddly heavy. It feels like digesting a lot, which is why it took me longer than expected to finish these less than 300 pages.

The writing here is EXACTLY what I knew Tremblay was capable of when I read, and did not love, Survivor Song. It wasn’t his story, not in the sense that it wasn’t original but in that it was not his scene, not the setting for his storytelling skills. The Pallbearers Club is his story. This blend of 80s cult classic with 90s hopelessness and confusion is a perfect blend for his style and wordplay. This part of the book, at least, was top notch, and solely convinced me I would read another of his books if it sounded like the right one.

I think the characters and the story were also very distinct and interesting, and I liked all of it. They were extremely well-rounded; the relationships and exploration of them through dialogue and moments spent together were exactly what they should’ve been to relay their toxic friendship and increasing madness. It was an intriguing concept, but something about it feels like it could’ve been done better: I liked this book, but I couldn’t wait to be done with it, if that makes sense. It was dense in all the wrong ways. It felt clunky, yet the prose was so perfect. It’s hard to explain, but something about this was disjointed in a way that affected my enjoyment, but not so much my absorption of the point and the book itself.

I would still recommend this one. This is Tremblay in his element, I’m sure of it. There was a lot of good here to go along with the bad.

Have a great weekend!

Devil House by John Darnielle

Devil House by John Darnielle

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 1. A second-person narrative

Other Possible Prompts: 8. Involving the art world, 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author, 38. Don’t judge a book by its cover!, 52. Published in 2022

My bad book streak continues! Someone end my misery. Welp, by the time you read this, hopefully I will have read something worth giving five stars to again.

So to be completely frank: I have no idea what this book is really about. There are parts of it that I just…completely lost. I truly thought this was going to be a dark and creepy ‘Salem’s Lot-esque novel, maybe some Amityville touches, but this book isn’t so much horror as it is critical fiction. Here’s what I definitely parced plot-wise:

Writer Gage Chandler crafts tales of true crime by getting up close and personal with his stories and their history, and many of his works have even become movies. When his editor stumbles upon a random article from the 1980s about a satanic killing in an old porn shop north of San Francisco, he implores Gage to buy the home, move into it, and tell the real story.

Interwoven with one of his other tales, The White Witch, Gage tells the story of Devil House and all that he can parce truly transpired there…but as he unearths more of the story, he is left thinking about the true meaning and impact of his work as a true crime novelist.

Self loathing mid-life crisis much? I just felt like there was…a lot of author in this book. It feels like a reflection essay disguised as a tale of “horror”. Which, by the way, it wasn’t, really.

I chuckled as I included “Don’t judge a book by its cover” as one of the possible prompts (only the second book I’ve put on that list this year), primarily because I absolutely adore this cover and the content is…not great. I usually look at book covers as “someone enjoyed the book so much that they took the time to make a truly beautiful cover that reflects the art inside”. I love the cover of Devil House and it’s 90% of the reason I bought the book, actually, but the principle of the artist loving it cannot possibly apply here. I get Amityville Horror vibes, or classic cult fiction from the cover – and none of that within its pages. Soooo disappointing.

This book doesn’t touch at all on any supernatural horror, like I was kind of expecting from the cover art, but it does delve into a lot of true crime. Each moment is painstakingly laid out and can be somewhat gruesome. These parts, the actual horror parts, are admittedly written with care and precision that keeps it interesting – like a car accident you can’t tear your eyes from. Those scenes show skill.

When I rated the book on Goodreads and mentioned the full review would follow, I jokingly said “I wasn’t high enough to enjoy this”. But, um, there’s definitely some truth to that. This book feels a bit like a fever dream or a bad trip. Maybe if you were on the same wavelength as when Darnielle wrote it, it would make more sense, but as it was…big chunks of the book were not at all meaningful to me. I zoned out too easily and was jostled by the writing style.

The only reason this book is getting two stars and not one from me is because of *the point*. Large chunks of the book (that actually make sense) tell the tale of what happens when true crime gets written, to those who are left behind. This is why the tale of the “White Witch” is included – though it confounded me at first. It comes full circle when we talk about the story of Devil House. This book could be far more impactful and widespread if an editor had taken more pain to rein it it from the wild ride it currently is. The sad story behind every true crime is kind of an interesting take…and I liked this one part of it.

So, not recommending this, obviously. Don’t let that damn cool cover fool you, friends. You can skip this one. Have an excellent week.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Finally, after years spent on my tbr, I have finished Meddling Kids (thanks Audible!). My copy smells like its been living in a musty basement for several decades (not entirely inaccurate) and for the circa 1990s vibe it gives off, it absolutely could have been. I didn’t dislike Meddling Kids, but I think it did not meet my expectations and left a lot to be desired. Let’s jump in.

More than ten years ago, Peter, Nate, Andy, Kerri, and their dog Sean stopped the man with the mask in their final adventure as the Blyton Summer Detective Club. But present day, Peter is dead, Nate is in a mental institution, Andy’s on the run from the law, and Kerri and Sean’s great-grandson Tim are washed up with bad luck. The release of the man they captured from prison sparks something in Andy, forcing her to gather up the remaining members of the BSDC to tie up the loose end she thinks remain in Blyton Hills.

Together, they hit the road and try to piece together the remaining threads of what they left behind all those summers before. Something never quite added up, and it’s plaguing them. All of them.

Obviously this screams Scooby Doo in its entirety, but I really thought it would land somewhere closer to Scooby Doo for grown-ups, tripping, scared-out-of-mind… I genuinely thought this would be a haunted house of horrors that packed a lot more punch in the scare department. However, there’s a lot more magic and story behind it, and I don’t think it did it any favors.

In fact, I think this book draws on for far too long. The story was *over* developed, if that’s a thing I can say. The backstories of each and every character, their hopes and dreams, the whole mess of lore that goes along with it – the book would’ve been better and about 100 pages shorter if we had cut that out. It’s not even a long book, or a bad book, but I 100% think it loses its shock value the deeper we dove into everything happening here. It goes on. Too. Dang. Long.

Not to say I didn’t like the characters. In fact, I loved them all, in their own unique way. And they don’t really fit the Scooby Doo archetypes set forth for them, so I must admit a feat in creating such well-rounded characters for a group adventure from the ground up. This component is well done. The supporting characters are also wonderfully cool.

This book just lands somewhere closer to fantasy and farther from the gut-wrenching horror I was expecting and hoping for. He hasn’t made a fan out of me with this little bait-and-switch maneuver.

I didn’t dislike this one, but I wouldn’t pick it up again knowing what I know now. Take that as you will in the recommendation department.

Have a great weekend!

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 29. Over 500 pages long

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 9. A book that sparks joy, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

Wow…this. This is one of my favorite books of this year so far. And so, so unexpected. This review is going to be my crazy ramblings to my friends immediately after reading it, but somehow made (hopefully) readable – I’m here to sell you on this one! I am, however, going to completely break the usual review format because this book is extremely hard to describe.

I thought I was getting a haunted house book. Based on the side flap, that’s kind of what I was expecting. But that’s not what this is, like, at all. After the death of his father, Nate and his family return to his childhood home for a fresh start. Nate is glad his father is dead. Maddie needs new inspiration for her art, which has suddenly stopped coming to her. And their son, Oliver, is an overwhelmed empath who needs a new school and new chance to thrive socially.

Almost as soon as they arrive in their new home, though, there are strange and unexplainable occurrences. Nate sees his father everywhere, and strangers in the yard. Maddie blacks out while she creates and loses her art pieces. And Oliver makes a new friend, Jake, whose feelings he cannot see or feel like everyone else’s. This is a terribly oversimplified description of this crazy-ass book: there’s also cult shit and time travel and violence and friendship, but without ruining it for you? This is a book about a family.

Probably a great time to acknowledge that the two main characters share my SO and I’s names. I think I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but I was book shopping with my sister last year and picked up The Book of Accidents with absolutely no knowledge of what it was. I was standing there reading the side flap and said “Oh my god, the two main characters are Maddie and Nate!” and my sister said, “Well, now you have to get it.” The rest is history. It was a little odd at first, trying to settle into it, especially because the two characters started off really resembling us…but I got used to it after a while!

I also *have* to comment on how awesome Maddie and Nate’s relationship was. It was really nice to read a horror novel with an actually healthy example of a relationship in it. These two are a team. They communicate really well. They’re individuals, but support each other in all the right ways. Incredible example of love, strength, and support that comes through right to the end. For once, the horror isn’t how horrible their spouse is to them. The relationship between both parents and Oliver? Also awesome. Which, of course, becomes a big part of the story…

All the supporting characters in this book do just that: support. They add a lot to the story, and I love how round and human they are. No character is neglected, all sides are considered. Even if it’s just Oliver’s nature to see past people’s exteriors, this story does a great job fleshing out even the most minor of characters.

The writing absolutely makes this book. The story is wild, imaginative, and very enjoyable – but without Wendig’s wit and fantastic, swirling prose, it’s just another great book. His touch tips it over the edge of great into outstanding. I described it to my friends as “Stephen King, if he respected women and had an editor with a backbone”. Basically, it’s really, really well written.

I just can’t wait for someone to read this so I can talk about it with someone – I loved this social commentary disguised as a horror novel, and you will too!! Grab a copy. It’s out in paperback now!

Have a great week!

The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 42. An indie read

Other Possible Prompts: 17. A book picked based on its spine, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

This is my very first Darcy Coates novel and I have to say, I’m more impressed than I thought I would be! I’ve been reluctant to pick up Coates in the past because the cover art looked rather amateurish, or it just didn’t have the hype around it to make me think it was a good novel…and while this didn’t blow me away, it was a fun read and I will definitely pick up some more.

After the previous family residing at Marwick House leaves their home in the middle of the night to gunshots and never returns, Jo decides that the house next door really must be haunted. Months later, young and hopeful Anna moves in, fleeing a bad past and determined to make a go of it in spite of the home’s history. Despite Jo’s reluctance to be near Marwick House, she becomes fast friends with Anna and spends more and more time inside the Marwick residence…and it quickly becomes clear something isn’t right with it.

Through creepy encounters, mediums, and history lessons from their neighbors, Jo and Anna unearth the disturbing history of the Marwick House and the ghost that resides within it.

There really is nothing special about this book exactly, but I love that it reads like a good horror movie. Blumhouse could buy up a Coates’ novel and just hand them to their directors, honestly. As a fan of horror in both its literary and film forms, I was totally down for this. If this is what Coates’ other novels are like, I can see the draw and the appeal. I’ve seen plenty of them in bookstores, I just didn’t realize they were actually good…I like the cover art of this one okay, but I don’t recall caring for the others, so I never picked them up. I’ve just never been very interested in reading one, but I was at Book Warehouse recently and it was only five dollars, soooo…worth a shot!

I also wasn’t terribly attached to the characters, which I suppose is a good thing for a horror book. You never know who won’t make it to the end alive. However, I could visually imagine them, as well as the setting of the story, very easily. I think that was more important for the atmospheric horror that Coates was creating. The story never leaves the neighborhood, and so you have this feeling of being trapped in the presence of the house and its inhabitant, just like the characters, who tend be so blank-slate that you can step in and be part of the story very easily. The characters were flat but I think in this case, that’s totally fine. The history of the haunting and the ghost herself were very well fleshed out and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

I don’t have tons to say about this one. It’s an easy 230 pages, and if I had actually had time to read this week, I could’ve finished it in an afternoon. It’s very quick. I definitely think I will try another Darcy Coates based on this book; the premise of this one wasn’t even my favorite so I think there’s potential to enjoy another one more. Any recommendations from people who have read more?

Have an awesome weekend!

Misery by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 34. An author’s photo on the back cover

Other Possible Prompts: 8. Involving the art world (literature), 37. Set in a rural area, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

I feel like I’ve been contemplating reading Misery for a very long time, but I’ve only just now gotten around to it. I wasn’t missing much. I know this is considered one of his scariest works, but I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.

Bestselling author Paul Sheldon is celebrating the completed manuscript of his latest book with a trip to Colorado when he crashes in a snowstorm, left to die, if not for Annie Wilkes – his number one fan who happened to be driving by at the time of the crash. Unfortunately for Paul, he’s just killed off Annie’s most favorite character, Misery, in his novels. Now, she “nurses” him back to health following several broken bones in the accident, while he whittles away at a new novel that brings Misery back to life, just for her.

I don’t think much explanation is required on this front, as I think most people know enough about the Misery story to infer what I mean by “nursing”. While Annie Wilkes has medical training, it is never her intention that Paul be healthy enough to leave the room and home she keeps him captive in. This novel, naturally, is an extremely gory one for that reason.

So gory, in fact, that I was physically sick reading some of it. Some of it is just so horrifying. And while super gross, that’s kind of what keeps my rating from being much lower. At least these parts venture into horror; I know a lot of people are absolutely terrified of Annie Wilkes, but her manic moods just weren’t as alarming to me. She’s definitely scary. Uncontrollable. But she wasn’t the villain of my nightmares.

I think part of the problem there might be that I think of the Annie Wilkes from Castle Rock, too. I love Castle Rock, the Hulu show. The Annie Wilkes of that show (season two) is definitely unstable, but the actress plays her well, as mentally ill but not unfeeling. She experiences blackouts. She has manic moods. But she still appears somewhat well-meaning or her intentions clear. I think the Annie of Misery is supposed to appear more malevolent and truly evil at her core, but I could only see a mentally ill woman that people would rather shut out than help. And yes, (*spoiler alert*) I know she killed a crap ton of people…but my point still stands. She got no help, and no justice for her crimes, either.

So, this book kind of drags, waiting for the next horror to be inflicted or escape attempted. I also don’t really care for the interspersed pieces of Sheldon’s novel that he’s writing in captivity. It eventually comes full circle to be relevant to the current reality, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it added much to my reading experience. Another case of “King could use a better editor”. Like me. Hire me Stephen.

I have to say that the ending actually made me gasp out loud. I will not spoil the ending…but if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Audible gasps as I read Annie’s fate. That gave it like, at least one more star in my book. It was a good ending and not at all like the King endings I’m used to that often feel real but unsatisfying.

I think that will about do it for me. I’m dying to hear other opinions on this one! I think for most people it’s like a formative horror story, and it can do no wrong, but having read quite a bit of King I just don’t think this is his best.

Have a great week!

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t dig this one. The art style, the flow of the story…none of it was for me, though clearly it’s not bad – as evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews and ratings.

10-year-old Karen comes home from school one day to find that her upstairs neighbor, Anka, has been murdered. Anka didn’t entirely have her wits about her, having experienced a great deal of trauma during the Holocaust, but when her death is ruled a suicide, even Karen knows there’s something afoot. Now, with her mother sick and her brother acting strangely, monster-loving Karen sets out to discover the truth about what happened to her neighbor.

This book takes a long while to settle in. The story gets there eventually, and becomes easier to follow, but I really felt like I jumped into something from nowhere. I think Ferris also makes a lot of unnecessary comparisons and analogies both through her text and her art that do not contribute much to the story. It’s an twisting narrative to try and track, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, once I finally sunk into it, it was over: the big secret is not revealed, the story not complete, with a second novel to be released (looks like it’ll be out September 22, 2022…five whole years after the first publication!). Sadly, I don’t think it held my attention well enough to have me waiting for volume two with bated breath.

I really didn’t enjoy this art style. I can 100% acknowledge the talent – the pen and lined-paper drawings are nothing short of impressive, but it really didn’t do it for me. Based on the cover, I was kind of expecting more of a dots/comic book style, which I might’ve preferred, especially in this noir/crime/horror genre. Still very impressive, but notably not my cup of tea.

Anka’s story is the most riveting piece of this book, and I do believe it was always intended to be the focal point. Her life history and her story in Berlin is wildly interesting to follow and includes some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book. The point of tracing her steps is, of course, to find motivation and suspects for her suspicious murder. Anka lived a troubled life, to say the least, and there are plenty of people in her story with motive. I would read this snippet as a full novel, easily. It’s Karen that kind of ruins it for me.

I know Karen is supposed to be representative a lot of things; her narrative is supposed to connect the past and present – but I just don’t like her very much. While she’s pitiable, she’s not relatable. She’s passing through life rather than living, which makes her a better vehicle for telling Anka’s story. I feel bad for saying it, though.

It’s really hard to criticize this book in a way that makes sense, because I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Well that was meaningful because…” – and I don’t disagree. That’s the hard part: I can see what Ferris was trying to do here, I just didn’t really like it. I guess that’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time. I can see why people enjoyed this, but I can also see all the reasons why I didn’t. It was 100% not what I was expecting, and I’m definitely upset that I’m in it for two books if I want the full story (that was unexpected, and I’m very sorry for the books original 2017 readers!!).

So no, I’m not recommending this one today. I hope I have a better review for you next Tuesday! Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 37. Set in a rural area

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now), 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 41. Involves a second chance, 52. Published in 2022

I’m laughing just a little realizing that both the Sager novels I’ve read this year fit the exact same prompts, for the most part. He definitely has a genre.

Banished to the family lake house in the wake of her husband’s death and her subsequent drinking binge, actress Casey Fletcher is bored (and drunk) out of her mind. After saving her wealthy neighbor Katherine Royce from drowning, she begins to pass the time by watching their glass-walled home across Lake Greene – but she quickly discovers not all is as it seems in the house across the lake. When Katherine inevitably goes missing, Casey quickly believes her husband, Tom, is to blame.

As she works to uncover where Katherine may have gone, or whether she’s alive at all, Casey uncovers a trove of secrets surrounding the banks of Lake Greene. It seems there may be a lot more lies below the surface…and no one can be trusted.

Like I mentioned when I reviewed Lock Every Door, Sager starts slow. I got, like, halfway through this book before things truly started getting wild. Before that, it’s just Casey spying on her neighbors and stumbling around her house, to be honest. But THEN. This book is a deep well of WILD that never seems to end. The slow beginning is what knocked it half a star in my book, because pretty much every other part of this book is incredible and a crazy ride. I thought, initially, that the subject matter didn’t sound like my jam, so if you’re in the same boat, I urge you to give it a try anyways. It was a lot different than I expected from the synopsis and went in a very different direction ultimately.

Lake Greene makes an absolutely stunning summer backdrop for this story. Living in New England myself, it was easy to picture Lake Greene in all its glory, and it gave me the nostalgia feelings of late summer evenings that project a false sense of calm. Much like Lock Every Door, this novel is atmospheric, playing on the setting to add to the creep-factor.

Despite Casey’s self-destructive tendencies, I was attached to her. She makes very poor decisions, but as was confirmed for me by the ending of this book, she has a strong conscience and heart beneath her stony exterior. She’s headstrong with a purpose. She’s loyal. I wanted better for her. Katherine, too, is magnetic. I loved her character, and the push-and-pull drama that falls around her makes her even more alluring. I can picture both of them in my mind, Casey and Katherine, absolute polar opposites, but this novel draws them together through tragedy.

While I was reading this, I just kept hitting walls where I would get really into it, decide I was going to bed at the end of the chapter, and then A HUGE CLIFFHANGER would get dropped on me right on the very last page. There are a lot of cliffhangers, especially in the latter half. It’s a wild ride.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, I was fortunate enough to get an advance readers copy of The House Across the Lake in exchange for my honest review! It released on June 21, 2022 (and here you are, getting your review a month later).

I hope you all have a wonderful week! 🙂

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 25. A wealthy character

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Every time I doubt Riley Sager he manages to pull it out, somewhere around the middle…Lock Every Door was one of his more popular novels, I believe, and I can see why. It has all the great makings of gothic horror but pulls out all the stops in modern twists and turns.

Left jobless, boyfriend-less, and homeless all in one day, Jules can’t believe her luck when she finds a job posting for an apartment sitter. Despite the weird rules provided by the manager, Jules can expect $1,000 at the end of each week she spends on the twelfth floor of the famous and mysterious Bartholomew apartment building – so she eagerly accepts the job.

While the other tenants living at the Bartholomew provide intrigue enough, Jules manages to befriend one of the other apartment sitters, Ingrid. When Ingrid goes missing, however, far more of the “quirks” she enjoyed about the Bartholomew before are cast in a new light. As she struggles to locate her new neighbor, the “haunting” of the apartments comes to a head.

Really, this book is about the ambience. The Bartholomew is a stunning setting for this gothic horror with a modern vibe. The novel is rich in details about the building and I could absolutely see it in my mind as I read. This is definitely something Sager excels at that I don’t see in many of his novels, but wish I did – I’m a sucker for a good setting in a horror novel (The Return, anyone?).

Like many of Sager’s works (which I will get around to later when I review The House Across the Lake) Lock Every Door starts real heckin’ slow. The first half of every Sager is just setting you up to believe that you know exactly where this is going, that we are on a predictable train ride to the full conclusion. But no. No no. The second half will have your head spinning, and the last twenty pages always damn near knocks your head right off your shoulders. Like I frequently say of Tessa Bailey, I was in doubt, but I have learned better: never doubt. Sager impresses me, and I like his writing style that’s easy to fall into and enjoy.

On a similar note, this book is masterfully crafted. Each and every detail, every offhand remark has a point. Do you ever read a book and wonder if it could’ve been written backwards? The mystery is just too perfect, the hints just too well placed. I think that impressive plotting is part of what made this book such an instant hit, and the reason people have been hooked on Sager for years now.

I liked that each and every character was complex and enjoyable. It is truly quite a cast, and it gives me Murder on the Orient Express vibes for sure. Just really unique characters with their own distinct story and ~vibe~. I loved Ingrid, the other apartment sitter, despite not wanting to. Her happy, bubbly personality is not only charming, but necessary to the story, in order to make Jules drawn to her and concerned by her disappearance. I liked Jules, too, but her character veers toward outgoing where I think I would be more reserved in the same situation. She’s not unlikeable, but for me, she wasn’t totally relatable, either.

All in all, I think it’s pretty clear I’m recommending this book! It wasn’t my favorite of his, hence the four stars, and I think that’s partly because the beginning was so dull in my eyes. I was waiting for things to get interesting, and thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did. However, overall, this is a damn solid mystery thriller, and I loved it!

Have a most excellent weekend, peeps!