I usually write some lovely, full-length reviews for books I read, as you know. They are detailed and full of sparkling wit and charm. (Sort of). This … did not really happen in June. It took me most of May to get out of my reading slump, and in June I read fairly quickly, but unfortunately it meant that I went from one book to the next with no regard for any sort of review or review-shaped object. Now I owe you, the people, like 3 reviews. I do not want to write 3 full-length reviews. So I am going to do as my forefathers before me have done – mini reviews, baby.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
This was an interesting concept, but you had to suspend the hell out of disbelief for it. Had this not been a BOTM book, I probably would never have picked it up. Clocking in at right around 300 pages, The Last Flight is the story of what happens when two women on the run for differing (but nevertheless disturbing) reasons meet at an airport, and decide to swap flights. When one woman’s plane goes down (don’t come for me, it’s on the book flap …) suddenly the other woman is thrust into assuming her identity, trying to forge a new life for herself and figuring out what on earth this woman did that was so bad she felt she had to run.
Is this story plausible? Hell no. Is it an interesting feminist story that celebrates female independence and maligns spousal abuse? Absolutely. Will I remember the plot’s details in a year, or even six months? Nah. But it was fun to read, and quick, too. A fun library pick you could easily blow through in a socially distanced beach weekend or pool trip.
“If we don’t tell our own stories, we’ll never take control of the narrative.”
Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
Agnes is such an interesting story, and it has my favorite things – cults, thriller elements, dissection of religion. I loved The Book of Essie, and I also loved The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, so naturally when my friend Caro mentioned this one to me I had to have it and put it on my Amazon wishlist – it was purchased for me rather quickly! This is actually the book I christened my new Kindle Paperwhite with! Good times.
Anyway, Agnes is a young woman raised in a cult who believes truly that whatever their founder says is true. She struggles with being a sinner, with having a younger brother with Type 1 Diabetes she takes care of with modern medicine she sneaks into the woods to get from a nurse. The outside world is a dangerous place to her. And then one day, she learns of a plague – a virus that has taken over the outside. Suddenly, the apocalypse is coming and Agnes isn’t so sure about anything any more. To save herself, her brothers and sisters, her family, she’ll have to venture where she’s never been before – outside.
Agnes’s struggles with her religion really made me think about my relationship with God and mainstream religion, too. Agnes is a sort of modern-day prophet, and it was so interesting to see how she sees God in her own eyes. I had a lot of thinking to do myself when I finished this story, and as someone who does not read much YA these days, that was refreshing to see – usually YA contemporaries are a lot of kissing, but this one had a whole bunch of personal growth, too. And did I mention the cults?! I love a good cult.
“Sometimes, faith was best discovered in rebellion.”
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I adored Final Girls. I thought The Last Time I Lied was spectacular too, but I really thought that Lock Every Door fell flat. So it was with trepidation that I read Home Before Dark, afraid that Sager’s fourth novel would be worse than his third. I actually really liked this one, and would rank it my third favorite out of his four so far.
There will be a squillion reviews of this one because of how popular Sager is these days, so I’ll keep it brief: Ewan, Jess and their daughter Maggie once bought a decrepit mansion for way less than it was worth. Once they moved in, they realized it was because a lot of death and shady things had happened behind the manor’s closed doors, and the manor does not seem interested in forgetting its own history. After living there for 20 days, the family flees in the night, never to return again. Her father wrote a nonfiction book about those 20 days, making millions. Her parents divorced but she never wanted for anything. 25 years later, Ewan dies, and it turns out he still owns the mansion – he leaves it to 30 year old Maggie in his will, who doesn’t remember any of what happened there years ago, but she is convinced her dad made it all up for profit, so she moves back in to restore the house to its former glory before selling it. Turns out she might not remember the mansion, but the mansion sure remembers her – and it’s got a score to settle.
Will I always auto-buy a Sager novel? Yes, always. That’s the real point here – no matter what he sells, I’m buying.
“Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”