Book Review: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night Book photo, surrounded by film noir on DVD and Alfred Hitchcock films

Book Cover Survive the Night

Title: Survive the Night 
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Horror, Mystery/thriller
Date of Publication: June 29 2021
Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton


Synopsis

It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Before the events of this book, Charlie’s best friend and roommate, Maddy, was brutally murdered by a serial killer named the “Campus Killer”. Charlie is wracked by guilt over the fight she’d had with her just before her disappearance. Having difficulty dealing with her grief, she realizes that she can’t stay at university any longer. She finds a ride back home with a fellow student, someone she hasn’t met before they cross paths at the rideshare bulletin board. Of course, because of this student’s schedule, they have to leave at night. It’s needless to say, (the book is called “Survive the Night”, but this is a book review, so I’m gonna say it), but this car ride is… intense.

Survive the Night is a classic film buff’s fantasy. The plot itself is quite simple, reminiscent of a Hitchcock film. The protagonist is named Charlie, after Teresa Wright’s character in the Hitchcock film “Shadow of a Doubt”. She’s studying film theory, and she is, quite literally, obsessed with movies. This becomes evident right from the very beginning, with the plethora of classic film references. The author mentions Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, and many film noirs and Hitchcock films.  There’s one point where Charlie comments that watching Singin’ in the Rain is the closest you can get to heaven, and I couldn’t agree more. But I digress. 

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Book Review: How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton

How Sweet it Is book cover

55898107Title: How Sweet It Is
Author: Dylan Newton
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: July 13, 2021
Publisher: Forever


Synopsis

Event planner Kate Sweet is famous for creating the perfect happily-ever-after moment for her clients’ dream weddings. So how is it that her best friend has roped her into planning a bestselling horror writer’s book launch extravaganza? But the second Kate meets—or rather, accidentally maims—the drop-dead-hot Drake Matthews, her well-ordered life quickly transforms into an absolute nightmare.

Drake Matthews is tired of the spotlight and tired of his reputation as the Knight of Nightmares. He’s really a nice guy! But he’s not prepared for Kate, a fearless agent of chaos in steel-tipped stilettos, or for that sweet sting of attraction he feels for her. She’s inspiring him to take his writing in a whole new direction—one that no one expects. Because now Kate and Drake are changing up the rules, and this plot twist might just surprise everyone . . . including themselves.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a sweet, zero angst, fun book, then this is the one for you! The plot is very much like that of a Hallmark movie–with some humor, the setting of a small town just outside of New York City, and adorable interactions between the hero and the heroine. 

Kate Sweet works as an event planner, and her primary focus is on planning Cinderella-like weddings for her clients. The book opens when her best friend, a publicist for a book publisher, reaches out to her for help. She has to plan an infamous horror author’s book launch party in only thirty days. Kate agrees to do this, but this type of event is a lot… spookier than what she’s used to…

Right off the bat, the first chapter sets the tone for the book. Despite the implications that the book’s description gives, there’s very little conflict in this book. It’s light and airy, and despite the hero being a horror novelist, there is absolutely no gore or scary bits (unless you consider accidentally making a child cry at a pumpkin carving contest horror).

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Book Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group book

Final Girl cover small

Title: The Final Girl Support Group
Author: Grady Hendrix
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Date of Publication: June 16, 2021
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group


Synopsis

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

I absolutely love meta horror stories, and this book takes meta to the next level. Even the chapter numbers are an homage to horror movies–each labeled as a “sequel”, with a subtitle that’s eerily similar to sequels in popular 80s horror movie franchises.

Hendrix casually adds depth to every scene he writes with dry humour and off-hand comments that simultaneously worldbuild, give insight into characters and their motivations, propel the plot forward, and send me into a fit of giggles. For instance, Lynette, the hero of the story, keeps a gun in her fanny pack. The imagery of this alone still puts a goofy grin on my face, and I finished reading this book days ago.

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Book Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop Book photo

one last smallTitle: One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: Romance, LGBTQ+
Date of Publication: June 1, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin


Synopsis

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

One Last Stop is outrageously hilarious, cleverly written, and incredibly romantic. The entire novel is written with such vivid imagery, some of which is so ridiculous that it shouldn’t work–but it somehow does. It feels like every second line of this book is quotable, like the author could take a line at random and plaster it on the cover of the book and sell thousands of copies for that reason alone.  

Now that I’m done gushing about the writing style, it’s time to gush about the characters. August is lonely, witty, a little pessimistic, and an extreme minimalist. She’s an introvert, and she’s quite reserved. She spent most of her childhood helping her mother search for her mother’s brother who went missing in the 1970s, and as a result, she’s basically a grown-up child detective. This personality trait comes into play at various times throughout the story–mostly when she’s trying to figure out what exactly is going on with Subway Girl. 

August is a reserved person, but when she sees the gorgeous girl on the subway, she suddenly doesn’t want to be that way anymore. Jane is outgoing and optimistic, and she regularly makes friends with complete strangers on the subway.  They’re opposites, and in many ways August and Jane complete each other. Jane doesn’t have any memories, but she knows exactly who she is. August has her memories but she doesn’t know who she is. They’re two sides of the same coin, yin and yang, dare I say, soulmates. Sigh.

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Book Review: Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Neon Gods book photo

5497small71Title: Neon Gods
Author: Katee Robert
Genre: Romance
Series: Dark Olympus Book 1 
Date of Publication: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca


Synopsis

He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell…
…he was, quite simply, mine.

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Neon Gods is the first in the Dark Olympus series, a modern-day, sexy and dark retelling of the infamous Persephone and Hades love story.

While I’m somewhat familiar with the story of Persephone and Hades, I mostly know about it from other retellings, since I never really read or even familiarized myself with the original Greek mythology. So my review won’t really be reflecting on her interpretations of the myth and modernization of it. That said, there were some parts that I found absolutely delightful, like the modern-day, non-magical interpretation of how Hermes, the messenger, gets her messages across.

Olympus is a modern-day city, separate from the rest of the world, where we know that places like California still exist. The Upper City and the Lower city are separated by the River Styx, which is painful to cross, so the citizens of Olympus rarely do so. The city is ruled by the Thirteen, and each of them controls a part of the city–for example: Poseidon runs the docks and “rules” the sea. Robert does a wonderful job of worldbuilding while never actually setting aside much time to do so. That said, I was a tad confused at times, since this is clearly a paranormal romance because of the magical barriers keeping Olympus apart from the rest of the world, and separating the Upper and Lower city, but aside from that, there weren’t any magical elements or superpowers. Olympus is filled with greedy and power-hungry men and women who will do whatever it takes to climb up the social ladder. 

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