What’s Ashley Reading?: Dead to Her

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

First line: The candle burns.

Summary: Marcie Maddox has fought hard for the life she has. She is the second wife of a rich and successful Savannah lawyer. Lunch at the Country Club and a giant house is her new normal. However, when her husband’s business partner returns from England with a young new wife, life in her social circle gets turned upside down.

Keisha, a young girl from London, married the rich William Radford IV. She is completely different from his first wife. It seems like being a rich wife will be an escape from her family and their poor life. But William plans to train her to be the obedient wife.

As these two women meet and become friends life starts to change for both of them. Weird appearances and pieces of dark magic start to surround them. Who or what is trying to destroy their lives?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this! I was worried when I started it that it would not live up to my expectations because of its low rating on Goodreads. But I was pleasantly surprised! All the characters are awful. There is no one that is likeable. They are all flawed and have dark pasts but that was one of the things I enjoyed the most. I had to find out how it was going to end.

This is a fun mixture of thriller, high society, and voodoo. What’s not to enjoy? The beginning centers on establishing the characters. We meet everyone and get snippets of what their lives have been to this point. And then it all comes to a point. All the secrets are released. So many suspects and theories. It was a wild ride that I highly recommend for a fast summer thriller!

FYI: Sexual content.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Look-Alike

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

First line: Sienna Scott nearly tripped over the body.

Summary: Sienna Scott finds the body of a young woman while walking home in a snowstorm from a study session. As she looks at the victim she realizes that the girl has a resemblance to her. Was she the intended victim? Or is she seeing things that are not there, like her mother? Her father decides to send her away to London to get her away from her mother’s delusions and the aftermath of the murder.

When she returns home she finds that life in Tranquility Bluffs has changed since she last lived here. But she is more shocked by the state her mother is in. With Sienna’s return her mother spirals as she worries that with her being home “they” will come for her. It does not help that the police have reopened the case of the murder that Sienna stumbled upon. Then strange calls and white unidentified vans driving by lead Sienna to believe that the killer is back and try to finish what they started years earlier.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Spindler’s newest thriller. It has several twists that throw the reader off but also hint at the ending. I had several different theories as I read but nothing that I was absolutely sure about. I liked Sienna’s mother. Having a character with paranoia is a good tool to change the reader’s perceptions as the story progresses. It definitely did affect mine.

This is not an overly complicated book or something mind blowing but it was just a lot of fun! I have recommended Spindler to readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries. They do not disappoint and make for a fast read.

FYI: Check out The Other Girl by Erica Spindler as well.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King

First line: Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.

Summary: When Jack Torrance gets the job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel it seems to be a dream. A gorgeous hotel with few distractions where he can finally finish his play. However, when the Torrance family move into the famed lodging they begin to notice that something is wrong with this place, especially their son, Danny.

Danny has always had a knack for knowing things no one else does. But life at the Overlook is more eerie than anything he has encountered in his five years. As the months pass while in isolation in the mountains of Colorado the Torrance family are finding out that the Overlook wants more from them then care taking.

My Thoughts: This is probably King’s most well-known novels. I read it several years ago and enjoyed it but I thought it needed a reread after reading the sequel, Doctor Sleep, this last fall. It was well worth it. I had forgotten many of the events of the book and how scary the story truly is. I really wish that they could make this into a movie or miniseries that would do the story justice. I think my favorite and the scariest scenes were the hedge animals. I do not think I will be able to look at any again without worrying about them coming after me.

And this is maybe a perfection book for quarantine. The Torrance family is isolated like many of us are in these uncertain times. It can be terrifying. King’s novel is one that will suck the reader in and make it easy to let the hours fly by.

FYI: After finishing definitely check out the movie starring Jack Nicholson.

*This is my pick for category #6 (A book that has been (or is being) adapted to the screen) for the ReadICT challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Family Upstairs

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

First line: It would be inaccurate to say that my childhood was normal before they came.

Summary: When Libby Jones turned twenty-five she receives and envelope telling her that she has inherited a house from the estate of her dead parents. She never knew who she was or where she came from but the answers are finally being revealed.

Twenty-four years before the police were summoned to a mansion along the Thames. Inside were the three dead bodies and a baby girl in a crib. It appears to be a suicide pact as part of a cult ritual. But neighbors reported seeing older children in the house but none are found on the night in question. What happened at 16 Cheyne Walk that fateful night?

My Thoughts: I love Lisa Jewell! Every book I have read by her has been a lot of fun. This one is no exception. I really considered giving it a 5 star rating. It flipped between three characters. Libby, the baby, who recently inherited the house. Henry, who is telling the story of what happened in the house. And Lucy, who is struggling to keep her family afloat while living abroad in France.

Henry was by far my favorite chapters because we got to see how life at 16 Cheyne Walk changed over time. His story is told chronologically from the beginning to the end. It fills in the gaps that Libby is trying to uncover. But his narrative is much darker and more sinister than the others.

I struggled to understand that point behind Lucy’s chapters. It seemed like they were filler or a separate story. She lives in France with her children and is trying to find a way to get back to England. It just did not seem to fit with everything else.

But the ending. It literally gave me goosebumps and sent a chill down my spine. What a way to close a book. Great job again Ms. Jewell!

FYI: Perfect for fans of Shari Lapena and Gillian Flynn.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Escape Room

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

First line: It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning.

Summary: Vincent and his financial team from Stanhope and Sons is told to attend a team building exercise on a Friday night. When they arrive they enter an elevator that takes them up several floors where it stops and the clues begin. As the team tries to figure out how to get out of the escape room they realize that the clues are very specific. However, as the clock clicks on they are not let out of the room. Tension begins to mount and the team begins to let their fears and secrets come to the surface. Will they survive the escape room?

My Thoughts: Following a popular trend with thrillers now we have a book split into a two part narrative. We meet Sara Hall, a young business school graduate who is looking for a job. She lands the job of her dreams at Stanhope and Sons in New York City. She works on big accounts and makes tons of money. But the hours are long, the work is grueling and the people are not very nice.

The other side is the team in the elevator. It is a group of very unlikeable people stuck in a very tight space together. I really enjoyed these scenes as their true personalities came to the forefront. We find out what secrets they have and how truly terrible they are. I could honestly say that I did not care for any of them but I was very interested to see where their story ended.

Even though the ending was rather predictable it was loads of fun! Our staff did an escape room for our Christmas party last year. We had a great time. There are tons of clues and just a short amount of time to put them together. If you have a chance to try one you should but maybe not in an elevator. 😉

FYI: Great for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney

First line: You’re having that dream again, the one where you and Tim are in Jaipur for Diwali.

Summary: When Abbie wakes up in a hospital bed she has no memory of how she got there. There is a man who tells her she is his wife and that something terrible happened to her five years before. And through his determination and technological advancements he was able to bring her back. She is the prototype for a new technology called CoBots.

As Abbie acclimates to her new life she starts to wonder what happen to the real Abbie. Using Abbie’s memories, old text messages and the built in intuition she follows the clues to find out how and why Abbie disappeared.

My Thoughts: This was a lot of fun. It was modern day science fiction thriller. At the beginning there is a separate narrative by an unknown character who gives us a look into the past and the real Abbie. I was constantly trying to figure out who it was and I never would have guessed. I like the idea of being able to “bring back” someone who has died but it is also a little sad. I know that there is one person I would love to “see” again but this may make it harder too.

So many different scenarios were flying through my head while trying to figure out the ending. There were lots of twists and turns which make it a great psychological thriller.

FYI: Check out Delaney’s other books Believe Me and The Girl Before.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

First line: Dear Mr. Wrexham, I know you don’t know me but please, please, please you have to help me

Summary: Rowan Caine stumbles upon an advertisement for what appears to be the perfect nanny job. It is for a family with four children, in a big house in Scotland, and a yearly salary of fifty five thousand pounds. When Rowan arrives for her interview she is blown away and a little intimidated by the house. It is a smart house. Everything is connected to apps that can be managed from a cell phone.

After her initial interview she is offered the job which seems like a dream come true. However, she does not realize that appearances can be deceiving. On her very first day she is left alone with the three younger children while the parents are at a weeklong conference. The adjustment for the girls is not going as smoothly as she had hoped but she is trying her best to befriend them.

When strange happenings start to disturb her nights she begins look into the history of the house and what could be causing these strange noises in the attic. With each new night she gets less and less sleep as the mysterious sounds gradually increase. Will she be able to make it through her first week or will she leave in the middle of the night like the other nannies before her?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s previous novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, but I think this one blew it out of the water. I seriously considered giving this 5 stars because it was very hard to put down. There was the perfect mixture of spookiness and suspense.

I love how the house appears to be a big old Victorian but inside it is very modern. I love the idea of a smart house but at the same time it is also a little scary. I completely understand Rowan’s unease with the cameras and app enabled features. And the fact that this house is basically out in the middle of nowhere. Anyone could easily be spooked by any sounds in the night.

I enjoyed the way that the novel was laid out. It is done in a series of entries in a letter from Rowan to a solicitor while she is in prison for the death of a child. She eludes to what happens but we do not get the full details until the end.

This is full of twists and turns. When you think you have had the big reveal another one appears. I loved every minute of reading this. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for something that they cannot put down. Trust me. I had to force myself to sleep instead of reading one more chapter.

FYI: Warning: a child does die in the book.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Recursion

Recursion by Blake Crouch

First line: Barry Sutton pulls into the fire lane at the main entrance of the Poe Building, an Art Deco tower glowing white in the illumination of its exterior sconces.

Summary: Barry Sutton is a New York cop who witnesses the tragic effects of False Memory Syndrome when a woman jumps from the forty first floor of a skyscraper.

Helena Smith is a researcher looking for a way to save and record memories to help Alzheimer patients.

As the world around them begins to unravel because of the mysterious FMS, they must team up to try and learn how to stop the phenomenon from continuing to plague the world. If they cannot not it can lead to the possible end of the world.

My Thoughts: From the very first page this story is off and running. There is no build up or major character development in the first twenty pages like most novels. Crouch puts us immediately into the story. This is by far one of my favorite parts of his writing. It is very easy to lose interest in a book that drags its story out too long.

When we meet Barry we also hear about False Memory Syndrome but it is not really explained. For a while it was difficult to understand what is happening to those that are affected. However, once I understood what the disease entailed it became obvious why it could be terrifying to contract.

There are several time hops which makes it very important to pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each new section.

I love how fast paced his story telling is. I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

I was never very good with science. Give me history or literature any day. Even though Recursion is very much a science fiction thriller it was not bogged down by the technicalities. When I tried reading The Martian by Andy Weir, the science is what killed the book for me. I just did not get it. But Crouch does a great job of having it as part of the story but not making it overwhelming for the everyday reader.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Just give it a try. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.

FYI: Pick up Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It is just as thrilling!

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?: Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

First line: Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke.

Summary: Alex and Suzette are the parents of a beautiful seven-year-old girl named Hanna. With her father she is his sweet little girl. For her mother she is complete opposite. After having been expelled from several schools in the last few years Suzette has had to home school Hanna but as the months pass the tension between mother and daughter continues to escalate. Suzette truly does love her child but she also fears her a little bit. Whenever she tells Alex about Hanna’s behavior he thinks she is overreacting. How can his perfect little angel be as bad as Suzette says?

My Thoughts: There is something truly wrong with this child. I could not decide between a 4 or 5 star rating mainly because I did not know if I could say I loved a book about such a scary little girl. I was completely terrified of her. Even though I was cringing and shocked by the events of the story I could not stop reading.

In alternating chapters we see the perspectives of Hanna and Suzette. I kept telling Suzette (in my head of course) to leave. Just leave. How can a person live in a house with a child who seems to want to kill her mother? Suzette though tries everything she can think of to try and help her child. I think what makes it even scarier is that Hanna does not speak. She cannot or will not tell her parents what is bothering her.

FYI: Not for the faint of heart. I have to say that I had to put this down several times in order to breathe a bit.