Final Girls – Riley Sager

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10/10. Love this cover!

“Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…

They were the victims of separate massacres. Grouped together by the press, and dubbed the Final Girls, they are treated like something fresh out of a slasher movie. When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets.

And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, neither one will ever be the same…”

I downloaded Final Girls – and finished it – in one evening. After reading and loving In A Dark Dark Wood and Black-Eyed Susans, two of my favourite crime/thriller novels, I knew I’d love Riley Sager’s book, and it didn’t disappoint (even if it did leave me with very odd dreams).

Quincey Carpenter (slightly gimmicky name, but I’ll let it slide) became a ‘Final Girl’ when, during a weekend away with her friends in a remote house near a mental asylum, an escaped patient massacres them all – bar her. Constantly questioned over the years as to why she was the only one left alive, and nicknamed by the media along with two other sole survivors of mass murders, Quincey hates thinking about the past. She’s moved on, has a fun career and a steady partner – and is kept supported by Coop, the first police officer to find her at the scene of the crime all those years ago, and Xanax (washed down with grape soda). (Side note: I don’t know what grape soda is but it sounds DELICIOUS.)

That is, until, one of the other remaining Final Girls, Lisa, is found dead, having committed suicide, and the other, Samantha, shows up at Quincey’s house to talk to her. When it becomes clear that Sam has very little in her life, Quincey invites her in to her home and the two begin to grow closer – Sam encouraging the secret dark streak within Quincey that she’s never dared let out. But things take an even darker turn when Lisa’s death is ruled a murder, not a suicide, and Quincey embarks on an increasingly dangerous path to find the truth, which leads her back to the place that she nearly died and where she finally discovers all of that night’s grimacing truths…

Although I guessed the big twist of Final Girls from the get-go, it didn’t stop me enjoying this book immensely. Riley Sager is masterful at creating and keeping tension – hence why I raced through this book in a matter of hours. I know this is a novel that I’ll return to again and again – a compelling thriller full of nail-biting twists and turns. A must read!

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It Was You – Jo Platt

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9/10. Cute cover!

“Alice Waites has been happily single for almost two years. When her close friends in The Short Book Group gently question her current distinct lack of interest in men, she accepts that maybe it is time to deal with the past and open herself up to new possibilities. However, things soon unravel for Alice as she uncovers the secret heartache and hopes of those around her. And her most surprising discovery is the life-changing truth which she has kept hidden, even from herself…”

It Was You is a witty, warm, character-driven novel – a fun distraction, if slightly predictable (and a bit too heavy on the commas).

Platt brings us a cast of amusing, memorable characters. Centre stage is Alice, along with Miriam, a friend from university, her bubbly and forthcoming work friend Sophie, the sweet and sincere Abs and Connie (who I have to say we get to know the least). Notably absent is Lydia, who we meet at the beginning of the story – another university friend who sadly passed away years previously.

Others join the fray – Lydia’s widowed husband Jon, Connie’s husband Greg, Miriam’s husband Craig, her sister, Romy, and David, who Sophie and Alice work for. Single Alice, still somewhat recovering from an acrimonious split from Eddie years previously, contends good-naturedly with her friend’s matchmaking attempts. Abs’ friend Hugh turns out to not be a match made in heaven for her, but when Alice meets Greg’s friend Stephen, it seems like she may have hit gold…

Uncertainties linger, however, as Alice tries to deal with various things bubbling under the surface: her widowed father has a new girlfriend, Jon appears to have moved on with a new woman, and Eddie reappears on the scene with some unpleasant news… Will Stephen turn out to be The One or will an unexpected contender for Alice’s emotions prove more suitable?

It Was You is an enjoyable, sweet novel, driven along by a cast of relatable and witty characters. 

The Breakdown – B. A. Paris

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7.5/10 – I really like the cover, but I think there was a more suitable image that could have been used!

Reminiscent of The Girl on the Train, The Breakdown is a satisfying, gripping crime thriller that keeps readers guessing til the very last page – it was one of the best books that I read on my travels.

When a woman is murdered near the isolated house that Cass and her husband Matthew share, it sends Cass into a tailspin of guilt: not least because she realises she drove past the woman on her way home the previous night. At the time, she’d thought something might be wrong, but the weather conditions were too bad to stop – and the lane she passed her in was dark and dangerous. Fearful of a mugging attempt, Cass had kept on driving, planning to report the car when she got home – but she forgot. The next thing she hears, the woman is dead. Cass’ guilt intensifies when she realises that she knew the victim, Jane; she’d met her only recently and they had had dinner together. She’d thought it was the start of a close friendship. 

Jane’s murder sparks a chain of events that Cass can’t keep ahead of. Too scared to admit that she took the same route as Jane home – treacherous in bad weather, she promised both her husband and her best friend, Rachel, that she wouldn’t – Cass works hard to cover up the lie. Prone to forgetfulness, her memory lapses get worse and worse – and phantom phone calls, threatening and repetitive, continue, until she’s forced to turn to medication to deal with what she thinks is going on: that she’s being stalked by the murderer, convinced he saw her that night and hellbent on silencing her before she tells.

Matthew, patient at first, begins to get frustrated with her – and Rachel also deals well with the forgotten lunches and appointments that Cass misses, but things start to come to a head when Cass receives a letter saying she might have early on-set dementia. It’s the same horrible fate her mother suffered in her mid-forties and what Cass has been terrified of. Aware that her marriage is becoming increasingly fractious and worried that her friendship with Rachel is at breaking point, Cass suddenly makes a shock discovery that throws everything – even Jane’s murder – into question. 

As the tension increases, page by page, so does the reader’s – I read this book on a train and started in a relaxed position, then moved to being upright and alert as I raced through the story, unable to put it down. Truly a fine mastery of the unreliable protagonist genre and perhaps the best book I’ve read this year so far! 

A Day at the Office – Matt Dunn

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9/10. Great cover – just not very Valentine’s themed!

This novel would perhaps have been better suited to the title of A Valentine’s Day at the Office, given that it revolves around one February 14th at a dot-com company. 10 of the company’s employees are looking for love – in various guises. 

The novel is character driven, featuring a cast of excellently-drawn office workers – even the women are authentically portrayed, which can be hard for male authors to achieve (and vice versa). Sophie, having broken up with Darren and moved to London from Eastbourne, worries that she’ll never find love again. Nathan, who got dumped three years ago to the day, whilst down on one knee with a ring in his hand, still hasn’t got over Ellie. Callum, a nervous singleton who is forever trying to make himself as appealing to the opposite sex as possible, has got a first date tonight – but he has no idea what his companion looks like. Judith and Mark shared a drunken kiss at the office party but haven’t discussed it since. The former has a somewhat unusual lovelife scenario, whereas the latter hasn’t managed to get the night out of his head since…

This Valentine’s Day, the entire cast embark on their own romantic journeys to find who they hope will be The One. Though the story follows fairly familiar rom-com-lit patterns, Dunn occasionally throws in a curveball or two to keep readers guessing. An entertaining read no matter your relationship status!

The Travel Auction – Mark Green

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8/10. A little busy, but sums up the book well.

After Jonathan Cork finds his girlfriend cheating on him, he realises that their plans for a three-month trip – all paid for upfront – are about to be wasted. Suffering from a severe nut allergy, Jonathan can’t travel alone – and he can’t change the name on his companion’s ticket. In a last-bid attempt to keep his plans – made as a promise to his mother before she passed away – he advertises on eBay for a travel companion with the same name as his ex-girlfriend: Kate Thornly. No-one seems to fit the bill, until the seemingly perfect woman comes along: she’s a nurse and can administer adrenaline should be accidentally ingest nuts. But there’s just one flaw; she’s blind.

Jonathan, who needs someone to look after him and not the other way around, nearly backs out at the last minute – as does Kate, offended by his reaction upon realising that she’s visually impaired. However, spurred on by the thought of keeping his plans, Jonathan and Kate (who eventually becomes nicknamed KT2, then Angel) decide to give it a go. Not all is fair in love and travel, however: from meddlesome ex-girlfriends and estranged husbands to paparazzi and Jeep crashes, Jonathan and Kate are about to have a much more exciting trip than they originally planned for…

The Travel Auction is a funny read, especially perfect for those travelling, that will keep you turning the page with its unexpected turns of events. It’s hampered in places by bad grammar and poor spacing, but all in all it’s a decent, funny read.

Entangled – Nikki Jefford

Entangled“Two months after dying, Graylee Perez wakes up in her twin sister Charlene’s body. As a witch, can anyone blame her mother for attempting to bring her back to life? Now Gray’s stuck sharing her sister’s body every 24 hours. Raj McKenna is rumored to meddle in the black arts, not to mention he’s after Gray’s invisibility spell and worse—her heart. But Raj might be the only one powerful enough to save Gray from fading away forever… The race is on for Gray to find a way back inside her own body before Charlene purges her from existence.”

Charlene and Gray are two twins, identical in personality but completely opposite in all other regards. When it comes to boyfriends, clothing and their abilities – educational or magical – they wildly differ. Gray is struggling to cast spells, until she realises that Charlene is blocking her power, a discovery that hints at Charlene’s cruel nature. But the depths of her malice don’t become apparent until she ‘accidentally’ kills Gray. Distraught and desperate, their mother tries finds a way to bring Gray back to the life – but the only solution is for both twins to share Charlene’s body.

Gray struggles to adjust to the change, forced into Charlene’s revealing outfits and to keep up appearances with Charlene’s smarmy boyfriend. As time goes on, she realises that Charlene is none too happy with the arrangement either – so much so that she’s planning to purge Gray from her body completely, which will kill her. The only one who can help is Raj, a seemingly twisted, self-centred and arrogant schoolmate who has connections with a powerful warlock. Will he be able to get Gray out of Charlene’s body before her sister removes all trace of Gray – forever?

Entangled has an interesting and fresh concept. It’s tied up a little hurriedly, but is on the whole a well-written novel from a promising author.

Many thanks to Nikki Jefford and NetGalley for the review copy.