What’s Ashley Reading?: The Project

The Project by Courtney Summers

First line: She’s at Mrs. Ruthie’s house, eating one of Mrs. Ruthie’s peanut butter cookies, staring out Mrs. Ruthie’s living room window and waiting for her parents to come home.

Summary: After the death of her parents, Lo Denham, has spent years trying to find and reconnect with her sister Bea. As Lo was recovering from the accident Bea left and joined The Unity Project. The group preaches love, does charity work and helps out the community. They have slowly been growing but Lo has always been suspicious of them. Then one day a man comes into the office of the magazine she works for. He claims that The Project killed his son. Lo sees this as her chance to expose the group and finally find her sister.

My Thoughts: I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started it. It has dual timelines with different narrators and time periods. It was a little confusing as the story set out and took a little time to get going. But as Lo learns more about The Project the story gets more twisted. Things start to reveal themselves but like most thrillers, not everything you hear and see is true.

Cults are scary things. As I read, I could easily see how people are drawn into them. They are looking for something or someone to guide them. They want a community. Someone to understand them. But then there is always the dark underside. And the author delivered all this.

I had a hard time rating this book. I struggled at the start but enjoyed the ending. It was worth a read and kept me invested until the end.

FYI: Language, abuse and cults.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Goodnight Beautiful

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

First line: The door opens, and I look up as a man with ruddy cheeks and a crew cut walks into the restaurant, shaking rain from his baseball cap.

Summary: Newlyweds, Annie and Sam, have moved from New York City to Sam’s hometown to be closer to his ailing mother. He finds the perfect location for his psychiatric office in the extra room of an old house. Even though the owner seems to be a little strange he doesn’t let this bother him. Then one night after Sam leaves his office he goes missing. There is no sign of him. As Annie and the police look for Sam they discover thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Did Sam run away? Or is someone else behind his disappearance?

My Thoughts: Though I have never read Misery (but I plan to) I know the basic story line. This was very reminiscent of what I know of the story. Molloy fills her story with lots of twists and turns. Every few chapters something new is revealed. I really enjoyed how fast paced everything was. I would find myself trying to find time to listen to it whenever I could.

The one part of the audio book that I wasn’t too sold on was the voices. At the beginning I thought they did not find actors that fit the characters. And then as reveals happen it makes more sense. So it starts as misleading and then makes sense but also seems to hint at something to come. It helps and hinders the story.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Return

The Return by Rachel Harrison

First line: “What do you mean she’s missing?”

Summary: When one of their friends goes missing they are all shocked but Elise does not believe that Julie is dead. Even after a year and a funeral she still holds out hope that she will return. Then suddenly after two years she reappears with no memory of what happened to her.

In the hopes of learning what happened and reconnecting the friends decide to get together for a long weekend in a swanky new hotel in the mountains. Upon arrival they notice that something is wrong with Julie. She looks different. She acts different. But no one wants to bring up these changes. As the weekend continues Elise starts noticing strange happenings around the hotel. She cannot decide if it’s her imagination or something truly odd is occurring.

My Thoughts: I do not know how to feel about this book. I like it but something is not sitting well with me too. At the beginning I compared it to The Shining and Pet Sematary but as the story progressed it verged away from this. I liked the little hints of creepiness. I loved the strange hotel. But the ending was just not what I expected. It became more gory than spooky. And the final chapter was just kinda dumb.

The characters were a little bland. I liked Elise. I could relate to her. But I got two of the friends constantly confused and the fact that their names both start with M made it even more confusing.

FYI: A good start for a debut author.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Sun Down Motel

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

First line: The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.

Summary: In 1982 Viv Delaney is hitchhiking through New York when she is dropped off at the Sun Down Motel. That night she is offered the job of the night clerk for the motel. On her first nights she learns that not everything is as it seems at the Sun Down. The strong smell of cigarettes, doors opening and closing on their own and ghostly voices around every corner. Then one night in November Viv disappears without a trace.

Flash forward to 2017, Carly Kirk travels to the town of Fell, New York to find out what really happened to her aunt who disappeared from the Sun Down Motel in 1982.

My Thoughts: This was so much fun!! I read it in just 2 days. I loved the old motel, the people and the mystery. I always drive by old motels and wonder who actually stops there. This answered it for me. St. James’ descriptions of the place are just eerie. It is a place stuck in a time bubble. I can easily imagine the smell of the old smoke, the dirty carpets and the old bedspreads. Add to the creepy hotel a few ghosts and you have the recipe for a perfect story. The first time that Viv sees the woman it gave me chills.

FYI: If you love a good ghost story than this is for you!

What’s Ashley Reading?: I Found You

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

First line: Alice Lake lives in a house by the sea.

Summary: When Alice notices a man sitting on the beach behind her house in the rain she wonders what he could be doing there but decides not to get involved. Several hours later he is still sitting there. When she takes out a coat to the man she starts to talk to him and learns that he has lost his memory. With no idea who he is or how he ended up on the beach, Alice invites him to stay in her guest house for the night.

Lily Monrose has been married for three weeks. Her husband loves her very much but one night he does not come home. The police look into who he is and where he might have gone. As they search they discover that her husband, Carl Monrose does not exist. Lily is determined to find her husband and get some answers.

My Thoughts: I enjoy everything I have read by Lisa Jewell. Her books have a fun mystery with twists and turns. The story always moves along quickly with intriguing characters and situations. However, I was a little disappointed in this one. I enjoyed the story but it was really predictable. I kept hoping that the ending would have an OMG moment like her newest books have had but it did not. It wrapped up nicely and everyone ended up “happy”.

I did enjoy the characters and the events of the book. I really liked the flashbacks to 1993. It was dark and disturbing. It was the typical Lisa Jewell. Maybe I need to stick to her newer books rather than trying some of her older ones. But if you like a good story than this is one.

FYI: We have an audio version available on Hoopla.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

First line: Ginny gazed up at the building, her feet planted firmly on the sidewalk but her heart as wide and churning as the sea.

Summary: The rules at the Bartholomew are strict. No visitors. You must spend every night in the apartment. And no disturbing the other residents. Jules believes that even though the rules a little ridiculous they are worth the large sum of money she will receive as an apartment sitter. After losing her job, her boyfriend and her apartment she is desperate for a new start.

Shortly after she moves into the apartment she meets a fellow sitter, Ingrid. But when Ingrid mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night, Jules decides to do some digging into why and try to discover what is going on at the Bartholomew. In her research she learns about the dark past of the building and some of its former residents. With this new knowledge she is determined to get out before she meets the same fate as Ingrid.

My Thoughts: Riley Sager has become one of my favorite thriller writers. This is his third book and it was fantastic. The suspense and mystery are perfectly blended. I was easily creeped out in the first couple of chapters. I mean who wouldn’t be tempted by a high paying job as an apartment sitter? But once strange things start happening? Nope. I’m out.

I did find the middle of the story a little slow. It seemed to stretch out a little too much as Jules looks into the residents and the history of the building. I assume that Sager was just trying to give us some more little clues or hinting at the sinister past but it seemed to be rather overdone.

And holy cow! The last few chapters are great! My heart was beating so fast and I could not read fast enough. As I finished it I was on an adrenaline high and had to start another book in order to calm down a bit for bed. Read this. It is worth it.

FYI: Sager’s first two novels, Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied, are just as thrilling.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

First line: Those months, the months before she disappeared, were the best months.

Summary: Fifteen year old Ellie is the golden child. Then one day she disappears without a trace. Ten years later her mother, Laurel meets a man in a coffee shop. He is charming and appears to be the perfect man. As her relationship with Floyd progresses she meets his daughter who bears a striking resemblance to her missing daughter, Ellie. What happened to Ellie? After all the years of wondering Laurel is determined to find out.

My Thoughts: Lisa Jewell is a new discovery for me. I recently read her latest book, Watching You, on the recommendation of Dawn (who writes our Lit Pairings blog posts). I was hooked immediately. Her novels are fast paced filled with lots of twists and turns. I was pretty sure I had everything figured out early on in the novel. However, I was wrong. Things continued to get more twisted as I read.

The book was divided into different parts with different narrators. As the story progressed we got different looks at the events of then and now. I was very shocked and little saddened by the ending. If you read it you may understand. There were lots of pieces that are very hard to read. But Jewell is an amazing writer. Even if the story had been less intriguing her writing would have saved it. I will definitely be on the hold list for any more of her upcoming thrillers.

FYI: This is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.

Book Review: The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

First line: The cat under the front porch was at it again.

Summary: Leah Stevens was once a reporter in Boston but when a story she wrote ruined her reputation she decided to pack up and move to a small town in the middle of the Pennsylvania wilderness with an old roommate.  However, the sleepy town is anything but.  First, a woman, who looks strikingly like Leah, is attacked and then her roommate, Emmy, disappears.  Very little is known about either woman.  Leah uses her skills as a journalist to help her find her friend and get the answers to who attacked the woman in the woods.

Highlights: Creepy.  Stalkers and mysterious voices on the phone.  Roommates with secrets.  A lookalike attacked nearby.  I was filled with many theories but each seemed to fall through as each new detail was revealed.  Megan Miranda has once again delivered a great psychological thriller that is hard to put down.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): The last chapter was a little anti-climactic.  It wrapped everything up which was good but at the same time disappointing.  I wanted to be left with a “didn’t see that coming” feeling.

FYI: It is number two in the All the Missing Girls series but it does not have to be read in any order.  The stories are completely unconnected.