The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge: 17. A book picked based on its spine

Other Possible Prompts: 1. A second person narrative, 15. A five-syllable title, 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 37. Set in a rural area, 41. Involves a second chance

Laughing yet again at the fact that Riley Sager’s books almost all fit the exact same prompts…clearly he doesn’t have a type or anything!

This is the very last Riley Sager novel I hadn’t read! I’ve now officially read everything he’s published, and loved most all of it. This one, surprisingly, lands near the top of my list, second only to Home Before Dark.

Fifteen years ago, Emma watched her three fellow campers – Vivian, Natalie, Allison – walk out of their cabin and into the night, never to return. Haunted by the loss and the lack of closure, she paints them – over and over, into all of her works. So when the chance to return to Camp Nightingale presents itself, even if it’s under strange circumstances, Emma jumps at it.

Now in the present day, Emma is determined to discover what happened to her friends. She hunts the camp for fifteen-year-old clues, and begins to narrow in on something sinister that Vivian seemed to be investigating the summer she disappeared. If one thing is for certain, no one at Camp Nightingale can be trusted.

This book held my attention all the way through, which is unusual for the Sager books I’ve read in the past (other than Home Before Dark). The story and the mystery and the *total lack of discernible answers* kept me so intrigued from the start that I could hardly put it down. I read this one in a day. I can’t believe we don’t really talk about The Last Time I Lied when we talk about Riley Sager!

The twist ending to this one is insane. Literally, the last ten pages will give you whiplash. And I loved it. I just need to know where I can find more writers with the skill in twist endings that he has, with the level of believability that he writes them with. I don’t like when it feels unnatural…but everything about this felt right, even if I wasn’t expecting it until it was unfolding.

This story is such a well-crafted whodunit, I could hardly keep pace with the number of suspicious characters. I don’t think I guessed the culprit, really, but I did always wonder why we weren’t looking at that particular character with more suspect. And then, of course, the twist. So yeah, this one’s pretty crazy, but it’s crazy all the way through.

I actually really liked Emma, too, for what it’s worth. I think she has some questionable moments, but overall, her drive to discover the truth and her guilt over her wrongs as a thirteen-year-old (of which there are many) are very compelling, and I think she’s caring enough to make you root for her happy ending. I don’t always feel that way about main characters in his books.

Which, also, can we talk about the fact that all of Sager’s leads are women? Every. Single. Book. I don’t understand this. He doesn’t write *bad* female characters, but they lack the depth and complexity a female writer would give them. Though admittedly, in a thriller context, I don’t think they necessarily need depth and complexity – but that’s besides the point. Endlessly intrigued by what the motive/reasoning is behind only writing female leads from a male perspective…and then having them continuously in grave danger. Weird hangup, but okay.

Regardless of our women in peril, I loved this book. Loved it. Now that I’ve read all of Sager’s novels I can see the progression in writing, which is wildly interesting. This, his second novel, lacks his staple paranormal element, but it also picks up way before the halfway mark, unlike his newer works.

Highly recommend. Hope you have a great week!

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! 🙂

Book List: My Most Anticipated Books for Summer 2022

Book List: My Most Anticipated Books for Summer 2022

I love when these particular lists come around, because it’s an easy out for thinking too hard. It’s always hard to narrow down what I’ve already read for a list, but naming things I want to read? Easy peasy. I’m all over it.

I wrote up a book list earlier this year naming all the books I was excited to read for the first half of 2022; and I was all set to address the second half in its entirety… but there’s tons coming out just this summer that never even made my original list. Because of that fact, I’ve decided to just hit the coming summer 2022 reads!

Let’s do it!

My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey

Tessa. Bailey. Is writing. A murder mystery?!? *Cries in bibliophile*. I NEEEEEEEED ITTTTTT! No but seriously, I’ll read anything this woman writes but especially this. After discovering a corpse in the bedroom of their vacation cabin, our heroine meets a brash bounty hunter out to catch the killer, and they form an epic sleuthing duo. This murder/romance sounds like the perfect book to bring on my vacation later this month, for a taste of all my favorite genres in one sitting. This “the grumpy one likes the sunshine one” story is everything I need! My Killer Vacation will be out June 6, 2022.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

I JUST discovered this one when looking through the upcoming summer releases by authors I’ve read, and I have to say, this sounds like it’ll be a good one. As I reflected on in my review of Survivor Song, I think Tremblay has clear talent, but the apocalypse genre wasn’t the right one for him. 80’s slasher-type deal? Definitely. And that’s the direction this seems to be taking; it sounds like it will be ripe with violence and gore, which I don’t usually like, but thought Tremblay did exceptionally well in Survivor Song. This sounds like the book that will give me a better idea of how I like him as a writer. The Pallbearers Club will release July 5, 2022.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This one has been on my list for soooo looonggggg. I would kill for a copy of this right now. After Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night, I’m kind of hooked on Moreno-Garcia. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure what The Daughter of Doctor Moreau was about before writing this paragraph, I just hit the “Want to Read” button on Goodreads so fast… but really, it sounds like a return to the dark fantasy elements I loved about Mexican Gothic, with the moral and ethical drama of Velvet Was the Night. Monsters and shady characters: this is going to be a good one. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau will release on July 19, 2022.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

I’ve yet to read anything by Sarah Gailey, actually, primarily because it typically leans more heavily toward fantasy, but Just Like Home will make its home in the horror genre. I’ve heard plenty of good things about Gailey, and this particular novel comes with recommendations from the staff at Gibson’s – so suffice to say, I need it. This book will follow our main character Vera as she returns to her family home…the same home her father, a serial killer, hid his crimes, and where they will come back to haunt her. Just Like Home will also release July 19, 2022 (looks like I’ll be needing July 19th off, amiright?).

The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling

I actually thought, when headed to the bookstore the other day, that The Kiss Curse was already out. I was all prepared to buy it, only to discover I’d be waiting another few months to get it. This late fall release will be the sequel to The Ex Hex, which I sort-of enjoyed but also had a lot of constructive criticism for, frankly. I need more witchy content and less bitchy content, lol. However, I’m more excited for The Kiss Curse because it follows Gwyn, Vivi’s cousin and an awesome supporting character from the first book. I liked her much better and see very few ways this could be screwed up, unless Sterling completely changes her snarky and sassy character. The Kiss Curse will be on shelves September 20, 2022.

Well, my reading tastes are anything but refined, but that will make for an excellent summer of reading.

Very excited for these! What are you most anticipating for this summer? Which books will be hitting the beach with you?

Have an excellent weekend!

Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another cute Ren Faire love story from Jen DeLuca! As evidenced by the fact that the next installment comes out in, oh, three weeks or so, I’m a little behind. But better late than never, I suppose! Just like last time, I really enjoyed DeLuca’s writing, as well as that charming Faire setting within Willow Creek. What a cute one.

Stacey is feeling stuck. While all her friends move on with their lives, getting married, having children, having the jobs they’ve always wanted, Stacey sticks to Willow Creek and to Faire. Not that she has a choice: ever since her mom’s first heart attack five years ago, she’s had to be there for her family, the dutiful daughter, just in case something happens.

Ready for a change and drunk on tequila and destiny, she texts her summer hookup, Dex MacLean, over Facebook. To her more sober surprise, she gets an answer – and it launches a year of emails and texts messages that have her falling deeper and deeper for a man she thought was shallow. But when Ren Faire season comes back around, it becomes clear that these messages aren’t from who she thought they were from…Stacey has been catfished.

I didn’t love Stacey. I thought her true and authentic self was lovely, and the moments she spends with her friends or just reading with her cat made me feel like I got her. It’s the fake smiling and the persona that made me dislike her, just a little. Stacey has managed to maintain a facade as a separate personality she thinks people want her to be, and it’s inauthentic and boring. The more time she spends getting closer to herself and who she really is, the better a character she becomes. And this story really isn’t just a romance: it’s a coming of age, where Stacey learns to love herself and smile for real all over again.

Something about a relationship that blooms through text and email brings me back to my teenage days. That’s certainly how my own romance began, but further, I think there’s a disconnect highlighted in this book by falling in love through a screen. This romance blossoms when our two main characters finally end up in the same room. Like, the sparks are electric. I certainly can’t say that DeLuca lacks that. But the fact that Stacey didn’t even know who was on the other end of her exchanges creates some big problems, and some big modern issues. It’s very well brought into our current age, but in a way that isn’t obnoxious or judgey, just cautionary.

I love a good Ren Faire read in the fall. I remember when I first read Well Met (see full review here) I was actually skeptical of the plot. I knew little to nothing about Renaissance Faires and wasn’t sure I wanted to know. However, after that first book, not only did I know more, but I was absolutely charmed. And here we are two years later, and my friends and I are talking about hopping in the car and attending one ourselves. It’s kind of a weird fall thing, but I definitely think it adds to the spirit. This series is like a fun way to explore the whole concept, if you’re interested but don’t know too much about it.

You’re going to love the end to this book. It’s sweet as pie and exactly what you’re hoping for. I hope you pick it up and come to love the characters as much as I do.

A copy of Well Played was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was released on September 22, 2020 (oops!). I do recommend the book, but what I really can’t wait for is Well Matched, coming October 19, 2021! Well Matched will be telling April and Mitch’s story. Stay tuned for that review…hopefully not a year late. 😉

Have a wonderful rest of your week friends, and I’ll see you on the flipside!