ARC Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Rating: ★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Source: ARC via Netgalley
A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

In another installment of “ARCs I Should Have Reviewed Literally Years Ago,” we have The Wife Upstairs. I loved Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle series, so I was excited to see an adult novel from her. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never read Jane Eyre, nor do I really know what it’s about aside from the most basic plot summary, so I can’t comment too much on the retelling aspect of this book and I’ll be looking at it just on its own merits.

And, on its own merits, it was good. Not great, but definitely good. I was hooked from the beginning and wondered how Jane, having grown up poor and in abusive situations, was going to assimilate into this culture of super rich women whose biggest concern is the landscaping of their neighborhood. As Jane seems to effortlessly transform into your stereotypical rich housewife, it also becomes clear that there’s a lot more than just landscaping problems going on in this neighborhood. There’s a thread of unease that starts running through her interactions with the once perfect Eddie, and then there’s the whole unsolved mystery of Eddie’s wife Bea’s disappearance.

The book is told from both Jane’s and Bea’s perspective, which provides a lot of tension as we’re just waiting for Jane to catch on to what’s really happening. There are a lot of twists and turns as we get to the ending, some of which I liked and others that I felt were a little over the top. Again, I have not read Jane Eyre so I’m not sure how much of that was inspiration from the original and how much was brand new from the author’s imagination, so I’m not really sure how judgy to be about some of those twists.

Overall, this was a really fun book. though I can’t say I 100% loved this book, I flew through it and it made me want to go read some of Rachel Hawkins’ backlist.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of The Wife Upstairs in exchange for my honest review.

Previously: Rebel BelleMiss Mayhem

Have you read The Wife Upstairs? What’s your favorite modern retelling?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Hand on the Wall, More Than Maybe, and Sawkill Girls

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years. 

I don’t even know what I can say about the third book in a series about a murder mystery that’s not some kind of spoiler for something. But what I will say is that I felt this book was a satisfying conclusion to both the mystery of what happened years ago and the recent deaths that have surrounded Stevie. The great reveal might not have been shocking, but it was realistic, and I’d rather have a realistic ending that makes sense than have something nonsensical happen that just makes me roll my eyes.

And, as always, the anxiety rep was great:

Anxiety does not ask your permission. Anxiety does not come when expected. It’s very rude. It barges in at the strangest moments, stopping all activity, focusing everything on itself. It sucks the air out of your lungs and scrambles the world.

I’d definitely recommend this series.

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Source: ARC via publisher

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her? 

I was going to write a nice, long review of this one, but I think sometimes short and sweet is better. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book as part of my participation in the blog tour and I loved it just as much as You’d Be Mine.

I think my favorite thing about Hahn’s books is the way she can just casually insert a ton of music references, but it never feels over-the-top. Vada and Luke dropped a lot of song titles in this book and I loved every minute of it. I was particularly happy to see a bunch of my favorites make an appearance!

A brief selection of some of my favorite songs and bands mentioned in this book:

In short: I loved Vada and her blog, I loved Luke and his podcast, I loved Phil and his club, and I loved this book. I can’t wait for Never Saw You Coming.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

You may have seen me talk before about how Claire Legrand was my librarian up until I moved to Tennessee a few months ago. She’s super nice and approachable and I really wanted to love her books, but Furyborn just did not do it for me. I took a long break and then decided to jump back in with Sawkill Girls.

This was a completely different reading experience! Sawkill Girls is a little bit weird, a little bit mysterious, a little bit spooky, and filled with a diverse, well-written cast of characters. It’s about the mysterious death of girl after girl after girl. It’s about about girls helping each other and calling out bad behavior.

My only real complaints about this book are that the story got a bit confusing at times (though it’s possible that I only feel that way because I listened to the audio at work and get interrupted pretty frequently) and the pacing seemed a little off toward the end. Still, this book was much better than I’d expected and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for some murder and empowerment.

Content warnings for:• death/murder
• loss of family members
• blood/gore
• abuse (physical and verbal)
• death of an animal
• misogyny
• acephobia (immediately challenged)
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Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA books recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Vanishing Stair, 19 Love Songs, & The Wicked King

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Much like with Truly Devious, I wasn’t really fully convinced by The Vanishing Stair until partway through. I was worried that this was going to be a filler book, one where the characters sort of just wander around looking for clues until we hit the final book in the trilogy, where everything finally happens. That worry ended up being unwarranted, because a ton of stuff happens in this book!

With any mystery, I’m kind of hesitant to get into details because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. I just want to say that Maureen Johnson has clearly thought everything through in this series and planned out every detail in depth. I can’t wait to find out what will happen next!

19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

The New York Times bestselling author of Every DaySomeday, and Two Boys Kissing is back with a short story collection about love–perfect for Valentine’s Day or year-round reading!

A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush.

A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.”

A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing.

19 Love Songs, from New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, delivers all of these stories and more. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here.

Witty, romantic, and honest, teens (and adults) will come to this collection not only on Valentine’s Day, but all year round. 

I’ve been reading David Levithan’s books since I was a teenager myself, so when I saw that he had a new collection of short stories out, I had to read it. Levithan has written some of my all-time favorite books (The Lover’s Dictionary, You Know Me Well) as well as some books that I’ve really disliked (Every Day, the Dash & Lily books). He’s also written a ton of books that I’ve felt indifferent about, and I won’t link all of those reviews here, but they’re all on my “all reviews” page.

The point is, I can go either way on Levithan’s writing, and I went both ways on the stories in this collection. When they were good, they were really good. I loved the story about Taylor Swift fanfiction, the story about being snowed in, the quiz bowl story, and the Santa story. I also loved all of the music references. The stories I didn’t love mostly left me bored. This isn’t really Levithan’s fault, because I’m sure there are plenty of people who connect more with those stories than I did.

Overall, I think this evens out to a three-star read for me. If you’re into Levithan’s writing, a lot characters from his previous books make appearances in these stories, so you might be pleasantly surprised.

The Wicked King by Holly Black
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Source: Borrowed

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Well, 89% of people on Goodreads have given this book either 4 or 5 stars, and I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this series or anything. I gave the first book four stars, mostly because it really grabbed me toward the end, but I definitely thought it had a rough start.

In The Wicked King, I had many of the same problems as I had in The Cruel Prince. Jude is less annoying than she was in the first book, but she’s equally dumb. Cardan is still mostly mean to Jude (that’s the point, I know) and I didn’t buy their “romance” at all. I found much of the plot boring, and the big plot twist at the end seemed so in-character for everyone that I wasn’t really surprised at all. In 336 pages, very little happens that actually advances the plot.

And yet. For however much I disliked this book, I still want to read The Queen of Nothing to find out how everything ends.

Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Jealous Revenge by Octavia Singleton

Jealous Revenge by Octavia Singleton
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
Literary Merit: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Goodreads
Publication Date: October 24, 2019
Source: Gift 
Mariah Calhoun is a soft, outspoken college student trying to get through her last semester. But when sister is kidnapped in the name of revenge, Mariah will stop at nothing to get her back. Betrayal, jealousy and deceit are only half the things Mariah must endure as she searches for her sister.

Buddy read with my boyfriend!

It all happened so fast: one minute my boyfriend was showing me an Instagram post about this great book called Jealous Revenge, and the next, it was sitting in my email inbox. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait. We jumped right in.

This book is an experience. I have never read anything quite like it and I doubt that I ever will again.

This is the story of Mariah Calhoun, who attends Brown University in Los Angeles, which is somehow right next to Atlanta. Yes, this is 100% relevant to a major plot point in this book. (Here’s a map for those of you unfamiliar with US geography.)

For reference, this is where Brown University actually is. (Only the other side of the country, no big deal.)

But anyway. Mariah Calhoun is a dedicated college student who is also raising her younger sister, Jayla, after their parents’ tragic death. Seemingly minutes away from graduation, Mariah’s professor attempts to coerce her into sex by withholding her rightful final exam grade. Mariah is understandably not having any of that, so she reports her professor for sexual harassment. Next thing she knows, her sister is missing.

Two rather incompetent detectives take the case, sort of flailing around as they tell Mariah that she can’t report an actual minor missing until she’s been gone for 48 hours, even with evidence that she’s been kidnapped! They decide to go out to eat before following a lead. They nicely ask to be let into the suspect’s house because they wasted their time going out for a nice meal instead of getting a warrant. It’s a mess, really. It’s a wonder any detectiving gets done on this case.

The writing is… interesting. The author will, without fail, change tense at least ten times per page, sometimes even within the same sentence. The punctuation is completely off, with commas being added in the most random places and everything just being crazy as soon as any quotation marks enter the picture. It also felt like the author read an article one time that said you should minimize how many times you say “he said” or “she said,” so she often goes out of her way to use other words, like “stated” or “mentioned” or “wondered” or “questioned.”

I would like to bless you with some quotes from this book:

Suddenly, a voice that didn’t belong to Monique or Jayla said, “I can help you”. “Who said that”, Monique wondered. “Me. I’m in here. In the vent.”, the voice said.

And on Monday morning, she was going to take over as the CEO of her parents’ business, with her newly earned bachelor’s degree.

Mrs. Wilson opens the door and says, “My husband isn’t here.”, she said to the detectives.

Have you heard of the podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno? It’s this guy sitting around with his friends, reading and commenting on this really terrible erotica written by his dad. While reading this book, I seriously entertained the idea of starting my own podcast because I had so many thoughts.

Now, I’ve talked a lot about what I didn’t like. I think I’m ready to get to the part that I did like, and that was the entertainment value. This book was so entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat! I had to know what would happen next! Would Mariah fire a perfectly capable, perfectly qualified employee who’d worked at her parents’ business for at least a decade because she and her new bachelor’s degree were ready to take his job? (The tenacity!) Would someone from Atlanta end up in Los Angeles with no recollection of how they got there? (The intrigue!) Could Mariah’s little sister become captain of the cheerleading squad after never having cheered a day in her life? (The talent!) Would people get shot just to walk around like nothing happened two pages later? (The strength!)

I never knew what was going to happen next. I was formulating all these wild theories with my boyfriend (“what if Jayla got kidnapped because she got the cheerleading captain position when she wasn’t qualified?!”) and let me tell you, they were all wrong. This might not be a piece of classic literature, but it was sure a fun read.

I don’t know what this author is going to write next, but I need to read it.

Have you read Jealous Revenge? Are you as sad as I am that the author took it off Amazon?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

I remember opening up my computer one day last year to find what seemed to be the entire book blogging world reviewing ARCs of Sadie. The love for this book seemed to come out of nowhere, and there was no one who didn’t love it. I, of course, was apprehensive about reading it. Not only does hype usually scare me away, but the themes in this book are very, very dark. I usually avoid books that deal with topics like pedophilia, child abuse, and sexual abuse, but something made me check out this audiobook from the library.

I’m glad I did.

To start, I would say that if you have the choice between reading a physical copy of this book and listening to the audiobook, go for the audiobook. It is so well-done and since a large part of the book is a podcast, I think it lends itself to audio more than print. (That said, I’m sure the physical book is also amazing.)

Now, I’m not going to say a ton about the plot because I think it’s better to learn that for yourself as you read. But, overall, this book is about the murder of a little girl, Mattie, and how her older sister, Sadie, resolves to find and kill the killer. Sadie ends up disappearing and is featured on a podcast called The Girls, which recounts West McCray’s investigation into her disappearance. The book is split between Sadie’s and West’s perspective and I was sucked in from the beginning. This was one of those audiobooks that I would only reluctantly put down and then pick back up as soon as I got the chance.

I can see how the ending might be a little controversial. I was briefly upset by it, but then I told myself that, honestly, it was the only ending that made sense. I think any other ending would have detracted from the whole point of the book, so, in the end, I’m okay with it.

I don’t think I can say enough good things about this book. I would highly, highly recommend Sadie as long as you think you’ll be okay with a dark book like this. It was heartbreaking, but so, so good.

Have you read Sadie? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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