ARC Review: The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 16 March 2021
Genre: Young Adult Thriller/Mystery

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Four days…
Trapped in a well, surrounded by dirt, scratching at the walls trying to find a way out.
Four days of a thirst so strong, that when it finally rains, I drink as much as possible from the dripping walls, not even caring how much dirt comes with it.

Six months…
Since my escape. Since no one believed I was taken to begin with – from my own bed, after a party, when no one else was home…
Six months of trying to find answers and being told instead that I made the whole incident up.

One month…
Since I logged on to the Jane Anonymous site for the first time and found a community of survivors who listen without judgment, provide advice, and console each other when needed.
A month of chatting with a survivor whose story eerily mirrors my own: a girl who’s been receiving triggering clues, just like me, and who could help me find the answers I’m searching for.

Three days…
Since she mysteriously disappears, and since I’m forced to ask the questions: will my chance to find out what happened to me vanish with her? And will I be next?

TL;DR: An intense young adult thriller told through alternating timelines that often had cold chills running up my spine throughout the read. This book has a very unreliable narrator that honestly confused me a fair bit because I really had no idea what was happening at times–the confusion and daze that engulfed Terra was palpable! While the story really reeled me in from the beginning, it kind of lost me in the middle and I felt the resolution of the mystery was a little underwhelming. Overall, I liked how the author explored aspects of trauma and healing but sadly found the execution lacking.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep by Laurie Faria Stolarz”

First Lines Friday – 30 October

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“She couldn’t remember the first book she had eaten.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 30 October”

Goodreads Monday – The Outsider by Stephen King

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is The Outsider by Stephen King. This is a psychological thriller that was published several years ago now (2017) and has a 4.05 star rating on Goodreads.

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – The Outsider by Stephen King”

Goodreads Monday – UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is UNSUB by Meg Gardiner. This is a psychological thriller that was published several years ago now (2017) and has a 4.05 star rating on Goodreads.

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – UNSUB by Meg Gardiner”

Review: The Ruins by Scott Smith

Note: I wrote this review in October 2018 but since this Top 5 Saturday was about plants/flowers on the book covers, I decided to share my review for this book (I honestly thought I’d already shared it before)!

Goodreads: The Ruins
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Panda Rating:


Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

*minor spoilers ahead*

We all know how much of a chicken I am, so while I did enjoy reading it, I know this isn’t something that I’ll be reading again! I’m writing this review directly after finishing it so I think I’m still feeling the lingering effects of the horror and nausea that were my constant companions for at least a good 50% of the book. I still find myself looking around in paranoia for any cracks in the wall and I’m keeping my feet lifted and well away from dark spaces, such as the one under my bed. Ya know, just in case there’s a killer plant/tree with acidic sap in its vines that will grab my legs and pull me under there to devour me.

I wanted to sprint through this book but the level of detail just wouldn’t let me. I would find myself trying to skim ahead but worried that I’d miss some important detail and so I’d force myself to slow down. I thought the pace at the start was good but towards the latter half of the book, as there was less “action” involved, the pace slowed down considerably. I also didn’t particularly latch on to any of the characters. I don’t know if it was intentional as the characters were on a beach holiday but I found that the characters were either extremes of passive and lazy or neurotic and overthinking and it didn’t make it easy to lend any sympathy. Although several times I did question how I’d react if I were in their shoes… Would I be the complainer? The proactive leader? The joker or the drunk? Or would I be the quiet one that decides that enough is enough and “get things over with” as quickly as possible? What would be my instinctive reaction?

While Scott Smith writes in a very simple and straightforward way, I found that sometimes his writing was unnecessarily detailed, to the point where I found myself really fighting not to skip ahead. I understand that Smith was trying to expand on the characters’ thoughts and how they were coping with their situation – the thoughts, rationalisations and emotions of a human facing imminent death (but being in denial about it) – but I feel that if much of this content was taken out, the story would still flow and you wouldn’t miss out on any crucial details. I have to admit that when we got to the end and still got no further information about this killer thing – how did it get there and how long has it been there? where did it come from? how many people had it killed? – I felt frustrated. Almost like I was robbed of this information with no chance of ever learning more. But I guess maybe that’s the appeal of these horrors?

I am personally not the biggest fan of horrors. I read this as a way to get into the “Spooky/Horror October” that many monthly reading challenges have centered on this month. I don’t dislike the genre but I just have a very, very overactive imagination that does not do me any favors when I’m trying to sleep at night. So although I don’t read them that often, I guess this book was filled with everything you’d expect from a horror – including plenty of blood and gore. I know that I’ll be imagining the scenes that played out in my head for at least days to come… Will I read another horror after this? Nope! Will I (eventually) read another Scott Smith book? Probably, yes.

Have you read The Ruins or is it on your TBR?

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Space, Psychological Thriller
Rating:

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth. Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity. Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

Holy wow, this was not at all what I expected… Hah! This story was full of thrilling twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and had me quickly flipping through the pages to find out just what the hell was going on! It was a much darker read than I thought it’d be. I admit to being initially confused by the details of space travel (I blame this on the fact that I started reading it way past midnight), but Lauren James did a good job of keeping the details as simple as possible throughout the story; which I greatly appreciated!

The focus of this story is Romy Silvers. She was the first baby to be born in space on The Infinity, the first manned aircraft bound for Earth II. She’s 16 going on 17 and after a tragic incident resulted in her parents’ death five years ago, she’s been living alone on the spaceship. She writes fanfiction of her favorite TV show, exercises, does homework, and loves pop music. Having to man a spaceship alone since the age of 11, she’s plagued by frequent and crippling panic/anxiety attacks, that she has been learning to manage with the help of her therapist, Molly, on Earth.

Her loneliness and yearning for contact with other people was a palpable thing. I can’t even begin to fathom what it’d be like in Romy’s shoes. Like, I honestly don’t know what I’d have done in her position. That kind of isolation can really do wild things to a person, especially when they’re haunted by the confined space that they live in. She is constantly overwhelmed by self-doubt, but she’s incredibly smart and when she springs into action, quick-thinking and so badass! Even though she’s in her late teens, her character’s voice comes off quite young and it’s hard to remember she’s not actually 12 or 13. While this normally would annoy me, I thought it did a good job in illustrating her isolated upbringing.

“I always told you that you were stronger than you realized, didn’t I, Romy Silvers?”

The build up of the story was terrifyingly awesome. Reading parts of this book *seriously* creeped me the f out and I thought it was brilliant psychological horror! At the same time, it was also an intense thriller kept me on my toes until the very end. I was soo impressed. This is definitely a book that you want to go into knowing less about and there’s honestly not much else I can say without giving anything away. Just know that whatever you think you’ll find in this book after reading the blurb, chances are you won’t anticipate what comes your way!

Have you read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe? Loved it? Hated it? Meh about it? Let me know in the comments and let’s have a chat!

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme, and this time it’s actually Sunday when I write this! 😉 This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

Today I’ve spent half the day in my reading nook with The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. I actually ended up finishing this book today and let me tell you, it was not at all what I expected! It’s YA science fiction but the author keeps the scientific details of space travel simple and to a minimum (as much as it’s possible in a book set in space), which I was really thankful for! This story was full of thrilling twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and had me quickly flipping through the pages to find out just what the hell was going on! You’ll definitely want to go into this one knowing as little as possible, but let me just say that whatever you think will happen after reading the blurb/ synopsis (below!), chances are you won’t anticipate what actually comes your way. Keep an eye out for my full review in the coming days!

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on theInfinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth. Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity. Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of theEternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

What book are you currently reading?

Who here can believe we’re already pretty much hitting the middle of July?! I know I can’t and I’m honestly still trying to figure out what I do with all my days! Although I haven’t been very productive this weekend, it was a pretty great reading weekend! Actually, this whole month so far has been pretty great for my reading, especially considering that I spend my weekdays at the office wishing I was in bed with a book! I think I’ve read 10 books so far and I hope to keep this streak going! I’ve struggled the past few months to really jump from one book to the other without taking at least a one-day break in between, so the fact that I’ve been able to consistently finish a book and pick up a new one right away, makes me feel good! But it also means that I’ve been slacking off a bit with writing my reviews… Oops? I’m working on it though!

That said, here’s a list of the posts I’ve done this week, just in case you missed it!

Review: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Review: The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Friday Favorites: Books Outside My Usual Genre
Graphic Novel Review: Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel
Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
#WWWWednesday: 10 July
Mini-Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Field Notes On Love & I Hate Fairyland
#TopTenTuesday: Bookish Characters I’d Like to Befriend!
Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

How has your reading and blogging week been?
Come let me know in the comments and let’s have a chat 🙂

ARC Review: The Women by S.E. Lynes

Goodreads: The Women
Publisher: Bookouture
Publish date: 22 May 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Panda Rating:


The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls. Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication. But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her. And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger? You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.

This was a fascinating, slow-burn psychological thriller that packed a powerful punch and tackled a very important issue. The author illustrates well the power of charm and sophistication, and how abusers can manipulate you, get under your skin and into your head before you even know it’s happened.

The story starts off at the end, so we already know that something bad is going to happen. Through the characters’ words and actions, we also know that there’s a deep underlying current of tension, anger and guilt. Peter’s ugly character already begins to shine through in this first chapter, and I knew right off that he’d be the worst kind of character. But on the surface, Peter wasn’t seen as a “bad guy”, which made him one of the most dangerous types of people out there. The ones that can charm and disarm. The ones with a seemingly thick layer of sophistication and perfection that only just masks the teeming ugliness that’s slick under the surface.

The characters were well developed. As we got further into the story, more and more layers of Samantha’s and Peter’s characters are peeled back like layers. When they first meet, Peter is a charming, handsome, and intelligent history professor that has a reputation as a ladies man, but surprises Samantha with how courteous and respectful he is. Their “relationship” moves very quickly; from Samantha visiting his house that first night, to sleeping with him the next, and then moving in with him very soon after that. Peter is persuasive and showers Samantha in compliments and assurances that he has never met someone like her and that she’s his one. However, Peter’s actions slowly become more manipulative and controlling, and I was shocked at the ease in which it happened. Samantha unknowingly relinquishes her autonomy to him and very quickly lets him dictate all aspects of her life. I particularly enjoyed how Samantha’s character grew–going from this naive young woman, to someone dogged by paranoia, anger and shock, and then she takes all that emotion and strengthens herself with it to undertake the “final act”. Her empowerment and determination after meeting “the women” who survived Peter’s abuse, made me feel somewhat giddy, just as much as it made her feel excited and emotionally high in the novel. There were many twists and turns as more of Peter’s past is revealed, and although it wasn’t very unpredictable, I was hooked and wanted to speed through to find out what happens to lead them to that final scene.

What made this book frightening was how realistic the situation is. The relationship between Samantha and Peter sady isn’t uncommon. There were times that I found myself frustrated that Samantha was defending Peter and seemed unwilling to open her eyes to his scumbag ways; but then I realized that in real life, this is the dynamic that exists in these relationships. The abused have their views so warped by the abuser, that they’re unable and sometimes unwilling (for their own sanity) to believe that something so perfect from the start could actually be the worst thing to happen to them. I thought this book was well-written and covered the topic well. Although until recently people haven’t openly spoken about the issue (at least to my knowledge living in Asia), that’s even more reason why it needs to be given greater attention. Especially with the current “Me Too” movement. I was very pleasantly surprised by this story, and I’m looking forward to reading other books by S.E. Lynes!

Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read The Women or is it on your TBR?