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 Therapist by B.A. Paris

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 46. A job title in the title

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective

This one really managed to give me the creeps. Lately I’ve been feeling like I rate books too highly, so I’m denying this one the extra half a star, but I really did enjoy this. It’s creepy and satisfying, and gives you the answers you’ve been longing for by the end.

Alice has just moved in with her long distance boyfriend, Leo, to an exclusive gated neighborhood referred to as “The Circle”. She’s excited to meet her neighbors, and happy with her move to London, until she discovers the real reason they got their home at such a steal: just one year before, it was the site of a brutal murder. A Nina Maxwell was killed presumably by her husband, Oliver, before he took his own life, wracked by guilt.

Driven by a loose connection to the death of her sister, Alice is determined to clear Oliver’s name. She doesn’t believe that the perfect marriage between two kind people could’ve soured so quickly, and so she launches her own investigation, learning from her neighbors while being haunted by the presence in her home.

You don’t really know how “the therapist” ties into this story until the end, really. So many pieces of this puzzle don’t come together until the final pages, and I love that because even when I’m 80% of the way through the book, I have no idea who the culprit is and I trust NO ONE.

My biggest pro-tip is to not finish this book right before entering a vacant home that’s been taken by the elements, where your current job is to open up the attic and crawl space. I’m back, sitting in my car, instead of that creepy ass home (and I pulled down the attic and ran, to be frank). It’s been quite a Wednesday.

I think my biggest complaint with this book is how little I cared for the characters; Alice’s neighbor Eve is really the only one I felt drawn to in any way. Everyone feels pretty disposable from the start, and I don’t feel that the events or revelations of the book make me any more dedicated to the characters, including Alice. I find Alice quite annoying, actually, and chuckled a bit when I saw a review titled “The Therapist: exactly what its main character needs”. By the end, I think they’re hoping you’ll be biting your nails to see how it plays out, but I was more drawn to the story than the characters. We get plunked right into the thick of things from chapter one, but we know very little about the major players until later on. I feel as though this is one of those British literature quirks, because this isn’t the first time I’ve said as much. I think a thriller gains a bit more from making you worry for our main characters’ survival, so that’s not a point in its favor in my opinion.

I’d heard a lot of good things about B.A. Paris’ books before, so I was pretty excited for the twists and turns of this one, but The Therapist plays the long game I think. It kept me guessing ’til the very end, but I don’t know as if it’s the twist of a lifetime. I guess it depends on how many mysteries and thrillers you tend to read, and what you sense about this cast of characters from the very beginning.

This is not all to say I didn’t enjoy it. My mouth was formed in a permanent gasp while I read this book – in less than 24 hours during a work week, no less. It was quite the rollercoaster ride. And I can also thoroughly appreciate that everything comes together with a neat little bow at the end.

I definitely recommend The Therapist, and I think I’ll be checking out some of her other books to measure this one against before I recommend this to people who have already enjoyed her work. I don’t think this is one of her more popular novels, so I’m curious what I’ve missed thus far.

You’ll also notice I switched some of my prompts around for this one – I think The Therapist fits number 46 a bit better than Weather Girl, though I have to admit I’m surprised I had more than one book to fill this prompt! I thought that one would be a toughie. I think my switching may start happening more often the farther I get into this challenge – which is why I’m glad I kept good track of all the possible prompts for each book. I like to read whatever, wherever the wind takes me – which has worked so far, but maybe not for much longer this year. 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely week, friends!

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 12. Set on at least two continents

Other Possible Prompts: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore, 8. Involving the art world, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now!), 22. An unlikely detective, 52. Published in 2022

Another great one!! This book is just, *chef’s kiss*. I thought I was in for a good mystery, but this book is unexpectedly great. Not good. Great. The surprising depth but all around intrigue of this one totally got me. It gave me Agatha Christie vibes…

The Woman in the Library is a book in a book in a book. Read it, read it again… terribly confusing to explain, but so, so good. The main narrative centers around Freddie, an Australian author currently residing in Boston on a fellowship. During a regular trip to the Boston Public Library, Freddie and three other strangers in the Reading Room are united by hearing a woman’s scream. Security initially turns up nothing, but the four later find out a woman has been murdered. Freddie leaves her lunch knowing she has just broken bread with a murderer. Could it be Handsome Man, Heroic Chin, or Freud Girl? She begins writing her novel with her new friends shaping her characters, and the mystery of the murder continues to unfold around them.

If this part of the narrative whodunit isn’t enough to pull you in: Freddie’s story as a novelist is written by another character, outside of that story, by the name of Hannah. Hannah’s a famous novelist from Australia herself, conversing via email with her Bostonian friend and colleague, Leo. After each chapter of Freddie’s story, written and sent by Hannah, we read Leo’s feedback, and his advice for making the book more authentic including Boston locales or American lingo. I absolutely refuse to ruin any of this plot line for you. But please know, there’s so much going on in this book…so many layers…and holy smokes, are they amazing.

Like I said, this book took me by surprise. It just wasn’t what I thought I was jumping into, but now I see why it has such incredible early reviews and ratings. There’s an added layer of depth to this mystery that I find fun and so creative, while at the same time intriguing and nail-biting-worthy.

Not to mention, when it comes to the actual whodunit, I had literally no idea. I was kept guessing the whole frickin’ time. But I’m not going to lie, I’m not great at guessing the murderers or twists in books and movies usually anyways. Which is kind of annoying, because I read and watch so, so many…but regardless, Gentill had me totally thrown off from the very start. Not only is she incredible at building characters and creating depth within them that left me guessing, but adding Leo and his own observations of who the murderer could be also added a back and forth as I was reading. Bottomless depth to this one, and so much fun to read.

The only thing preventing me from giving this the full five stars was Leo’s piece of the story. I wish I had more information. You’ll see what I mean, but again, I don’t want to give too much away. All of that had me gasping in surprise, so I can’t ruin it for you, for sure. But the end to that part of the narrative leaves something wanting in regards to this. Maybe we’re in for a sequel?

Yeah, so in case it wasn’t clear from my review: I highly recommend The Woman in the Library. You should definitely give it a read! I received a copy of The Woman in the Library from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will release on June 7, 2022. Pre-order it asap! 🙂

Have an awesome week, friends!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 15. A five-syllable title

Other Possible Prompts: 25. A wealthy character

I’m on a thriller kick lately! I’ve actually been knocking out a lot of my boss’ book recommendations, which included The Couple Next Door. I finally got around to things she told me to read months ago… so without further ado, welcome to your March bonus review. 😉

Anne and Marco Conti make a quick decision one evening to leave their sleeping baby home next door while they attend a neighbors’ dinner party, checking on her routinely until they leave at just after one in the morning. When they return, their six-month-old daughter, Cora, is gone.

The call to the police launches an investigation into her kidnapping that begins to unravel a carefully threaded web of lies, twists, and turns that will keep you guessing until the very, very end.

This is another one of those stories where I’m PETRIFIED that just telling you what the book is about is going to ruin the whole thing. Because it’s like a well of crazy, all the way down.

The perspective of this novel alternates back and forth primarily between Anne, Marcus, and Detective Rasbach, the lead detective on the case – with some other characters interspersed. You’d think, being in the head of just about every character, you may know more about where the story is going…but Lapena keeps it well hidden until she’s ready to reveal each individual detail. Every time something new came to light I gasped a little, thinking that must be where the ~wildness~ ended, and it never was.

One thing that annoyed me from the very beginning about the turn of events is that the detective immediately suspects Anne and Marcus of wrongdoing, and carries out his entire investigation as if they are at fault. He narrates that this is usually the case, that the child is likely already dead, that the parents likely have a hand in it…but it just didn’t sit right with me, even until the very end. It didn’t make me dislike the story, though, and it’s a necessary element of the plot – but it is certainly depressing. It just made me think.

I can’t tell you *which* characters I disliked, because it’ll ruin it for you, but I think the moral judgments of this cast of characters is really intriguing. I think it’s one of the strong points of the novel, similar to Diane Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes (keep your eyes peeled for that review at the end of April). Like, some of these characters did some dumb stuff, even borderline horrible stuff, but is it enough to make you hate them? Enough to make you want to see them suffer some consequences? It’s kind of an odd book that might have you changing your mind to the very last page on that front, truthfully.

I’ve decided not to try and fit this one into a prompt for the moment, which is why I only listed possible prompt suggestions. I did finish it in 2022…in fact, I finished it yesterday…but I’ve already filled my two prompt suggestions, so I might only go back and fill it in for 48. Redo one of this year’s prompts but with a different genre if I have to. I’m sticking it on the back burner for now!

I definitely recommend The Couple Next Door, though I apparently don’t have a ton to say about the book! I’m trying to think of some other comments I have, but coming up empty handed. I kind of want to read Not a Happy Family now, and might pick it up at the library next week.

Have an awesome week, peeps!