3 star, YA

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne High begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

For a horror book, this isn’t the worst I’ve come across (among the few I’ve touched). But in reality, this book could’ve been a lot better too.

Makani Young was a good protagonist to follow. Although we get the omniscient POV wherein we witness the last moments of each victim of the brutal killer in Osborne, there are still some things we don’t know. Like Makani’s mysterious past that led to her exile from Hawaii to the Midwestern US. Things like her secret definitely kept you on your toes and wanting to reach the end sooner than later.

I also really loved the pacing. This was such a fast read, and it doesn’t feel like a lot of time has passed to get through it. I read it in one sitting (late at night, unfortunately), and the flow kept me going when I otherwise probably would’ve set it down.

The mystery behind the slasher is also interesting enough. I absolutely had no suspects in mind. But the identity of the culprit is given away around the mid point of the book and that is either something you really like or don’t. There was a reason for it, but the book then morphed from a whodunnit to a manhunt. The suspense was still present – you never know when the killer would strike next regardless if you know the name/face – but the atmosphere of the book definitely changed.

I’m normally a girl who loves guessing the culprit in mysteries, but what kept me from getting bored (besides a still-active killer loose) was trying to guess the motive. To predict who could be a next potential target, one needs to think like a killer. *insert theme song of Criminal Minds*

There’s also romance in this! I’m not sure if that’s normal for this genre but I enjoyed the interactions between Makani and Ollie. Sometimes death and the scary stuff in life can show us what’s important to grasp now than save for later. At least these moments were great respites from all the death and chaos.

But in all honesty, horrors aren’t fully my thing, especially slasher horrors. The descriptions of the murders weren’t super graphic but they weren’t nothing either. Also, I don’t love the needless amount of slayings that occurred. Sometimes I reached a page and thought, noooo, not this person too.

The ending felt abrupt and unexpected. The climax delivered, I will admit, but the fall from that peak just cut off so quickly. I was so surprised to reach the Acknowledgement page because it didn’t feel like I had closure with these characters, especially Makani. How does one deal with the aftermath of such colossal tragedy in a small town like this? An epilogue here would’ve been great, you know?

Maybe I’m just not cut out for this genre and everything I’ve nitpicked was my own bias. My rating does reflect that it was enjoyable enough for a horror so if that’s what you’re purely looking for, Stephanie Perkins’ jump from cute and swoony rom-coms to slasher horrors was done well enough.

Overall Recommendation:

There’s Someone Inside Your House is your common slasher horror book with plenty of gruesome deaths and suspense dripping throughout. Our MC, Makani, has her own sordid past to unravel as we follow her through the aftermath of these tragedies. But with her own life potentially at risk of the killer’s path, it could be anyone who is out terrorizing this small town. Not to fear that it’s just endless killing, there is also a sweet romance between Makani and Ollie as they face everything together with her group of friends. There were too many unnecessary killings in my opinion at times, and we figure out the culprit earlier than I expected, but this wasn’t the worst of horrors that I’ve come across. It holds up in this genre if that’s what you like, so if that’s your thing or you want to explore the genre a little, I’d say this book isn’t a bad one to browse.

3 star, YA

Review: As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3

The highly anticipated, edge-of-your-seat conclusion to the addictive A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series that reads like your favorite true crime podcast or show. By the end, you’ll never think the same of good girls again.

Pip’s good girl days are long behind her. After solving two murder cases and garnering internet fame from her crime podcast, she’s seen a lot.

But she’s still blindsided when it starts to feel like someone is watching her. It’s small things at first. A USB stick with footage recording her and the same anonymous source always asking her: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? It could be a harmless fan, but her gut is telling her danger is lurking.

When Pip starts to find connections between her possible stalker and a local serial killer, Pip knows that there is only one choice: find the person threatening her town including herself–or be as good as dead. Because maybe someone has been watching her all along…

Save herself to save herself.

Where do I even begin? If you’ve read my reviews of book 1 and book 2 in this series, you’d know how much I absolutely adored Holly Jackson’s writings. Both were a 5-star rating and I guess my expectations just soared too high in a way. Even after taking a day or two to process my feelings, I think this is the best way that I can articulate it all.

The plot and pacing

The writing (at least for the first half of the book) was just as splendid and well thought out as I’ve come to expect in Holly’s previous books. It was definitely darker than the first two books as now Pip, our favourite amateur detective, is potentially a victim of a crime than just objectively investigating one.

Likewise, this made the pacing go by quite quickly as she tries to outwit the stalker who first made a minor appearance in book 2. I particularly loved how so many little things that popped up in her first two cases can be somehow linked back to this most personal case yet. Things that made sense in the course of her investigations for the other crimes can still create new mysteries for this current one. Talk about full circle moments! Pip is always going on about that, but it’s so true. Everything that has brought her to this point in her life is tied to what is happening to her now, and I absolutely loved it. Holly Jackson is a genius plotting this.

The format is more like a regular book instead of the cool texts and interview formats that were more present in her other cases. Regardless of this, the writing was excellent here and I was on edge to find out what’ll happen next.

Then the second half of the book hits and it’s…different. The suspense immediately dies down because, well, the story isn’t a whodunnit anymore. That’s my favourite part in mysteries, by the way, and the previous books in the series didn’t show their hand so quickly.

The rest of the story drags a little in my opinion. It’s a lot of Pip’s meticulous brain planning and all of this clearly marks the end of the series since it’s so different from how her other cases resolved. A part of me even wanted to take a break from this book because it was dark and conflicting.

Characterization of Pip

This brings me to Pip herself. I loved her as a protagonist. She’s brilliant for an 18-year-old and carries herself like she’s on equal footing with all the adults she interviews. She’s confident and bold, loyal and empathetic. She’s a good girl who loves her family and works hard in her studies.

Now, I know some people really enjoy morally grey characters in their books. I’m not necessarily opposed to that. It’s interesting to dive deep into a morally grey character’s thoughts up front. But I think it’s different when the trajectory of the character arc goes from “good girl” to morally grey without it turning into a villain arc. And here is where I’m conflicted.

I understand in the aftermath of the 2 previous cases how that unsettled her, changed her, and left her rather traumatized. In fact, she’s hiding a lot of her PTSD from her family, friends and even Ravi. I get her motivations, I get where she’s coming from.

So do I see how her character arc turned this way? Yes. But do I think it had to be the only way her story could’ve gone in order to end this series realistically? Not necessarily, but for the most part, I accepted it as I continued along.

Romance with Ravi

Let’s take a little breather to talk about romance! Like the other books, it’s definitely not a focal point by any means but sometimes less words is more. I love the secret way Pip and Ravi communicated that they loved each other. They understood each other. Even though so many bad things had to have happened to bring them together, they were meant to be.

This third book showcases maybe even more so than the others the lengths their love for one another goes. I personally LOVE Ravi. He’s sarcastic, uses humor as his fear tactic, and is loyal to a fault. He wears his emotions on his sleeves and loves Pip with all he’s got. Who wouldn’t want a Ravi in their life? And As Good As Dead doesn’t ruin this one beautiful thing.

Now onto the ending (without spoilers, of course)

I don’t have many words to share without spoilers except that I was disappointed in some ways. I shed a tear or two. I thought Pip’s decisions were just driving things towards a pretty sad ending.

While I don’t think it is necessarily a sad ending by any means, it is a bit open-ended so I don’t feel like I have the closure I would want for Pip and co. I loved following her, Ravi, her family, Cara, the Reynolds brothers, even Nat throughout all the books. These were the people she helped, the ones she fought for, the ones impacted by the cases she followed. Do I feel like I got to see how this final case impact everybody? No, I don’t.

Do I feel like Pip dealt with all the baggage her cases dropped onto her? Heck no.

If I was a tiny bit upset at the mid point, the ending didn’t make it better. I’d like to imagine what would happen after the actual ending because I still feel frustrated that I turned the page and there was no more. I normally enjoy open endings if they’re done well, leaves things up to the imagination of the reader. This is more about closure and not receiving much of any.

Final words

Kudos to Holly Jackson. She took a creative idea and really took it to such great heights. What a feat! There is so much imagination and creativity in here, the depths of research to write some of the subject matter, the well-thought out plot points across THREE books.

I will always point people to this series, even non-readers. It’s just that good. I may not have agreed with everything she chose to end in this book, but I can understand the vision she had for it and at least accept that. Because I love the art of it, I kept my rating a little higher than I initially thought I would go.

This may be more of an unpopular opinion and you may end up loving Holly’s vision. If so, even better. As Good As Dead may not have been the conclusion I had envisioned, but it’s a remarkable enough finale to keep readers thinking (and discussing) about it for ages to come.

Overall Recommendations:

As Good As Dead concludes the trilogy with a conflicting and darker story as Pip now deals with a personal crime of her own. The formatting is more like a regular story, but the excellent writing and pacing still shines through. I was so tense throughout the first half of the book! When the story took a different turn, I can’t say I loved the morally grey character arc Pip was given, but I understood why it happened this way. I might’ve preferred a different second half, particularly the ending, but I can appreciate the full circle moments Holly Jackson incorporated from all the books in this series. Regardless of my personal feelings on this last book, I highly recommend A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series to anyone looking for a good read.

My copy of As Good As Dead (@downtherabbithole_blog)
5 star, YA

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Timesbestseller, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder! More dark secrets are exposed in this addictive, true-crime fueled mystery. 

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

When the first book blew you out of the water, it’s probably a smart idea to tamp down expectations for book 2 in case it just disappoints you altogether. I have too often felt that way about first books of series I loved.

But I can’t lie. Good Girl, Bad Blood equally astounded me with its plot line, compelling characters and writing style.

After solving a formally closed case in her small town, Pip is done with solving crimes. She has witnessed how the aftermath has impacted those around her, including people she is close to. Even with the success of her podcast about her crime solving, there seems to be equal parts love and hate for her in the comments. I felt SO bad for her at times because the cost of fame is allowing people everywhere to judge you in ways they have no understanding of.

When her friend Connor’s brother goes missing at the memorial for Andie and Sal, it takes a lot of begging from her friend to dive into crime solving again. Pip lost more than people could understand in book 1 to solve the mystery, and I was even more infuriated when others, including friends, accused her of faking a crime to further the success of her podcast.

Nonetheless, this sequel is just as gritty as we follow Pip down a criminal’s mind. The pacing was excellent, albeit in a different way. Since this is a potential kidnapping crime, every moment counts and you can feel it in the chapter headings as the days go by. I couldn’t put it down as clue after clue was investigated.

I enjoyed the way old characters from book 1 were still very much present. They weren’t just throwaway people who didn’t ever matter but individuals who became more focused in this book based on this crime. I loved that this included Connor, someone we only met briefly in between major scenes in book 1, and now is a major part of the investigation with Pip for his brother.

In the sphere of romance, I enjoyed that this takes a slight backseat to the crime at hand (I mean, you would think romance shouldn’t be the highest priority when someone’s missing), but I did miss more Ravi-Pip interactions that we got in book 1 when he was more involved.

Likewise, the continuity of crimes that TV shows don’t always portray is the fact that criminals don’t always face justice. Without giving anything away, an arrest from book 1 is now moving into the courtroom and the reality is, the jury doesn’t always get it right if they aren’t presented with all the facts in an emotionally wrapped story. While it makes me indignant there’s always the possibility that catching the bad guy doesn’t equate to justice served, I’m glad Holly Jackson addresses that in some aspect here.

And as always, Pip was an amazing protagonist to follow. She’s inquisitive, empathetic and smart (both street smart and intellectually). I couldn’t have asked for a better MC’s POV.

I can go on about this book and its series but needless to say, the hype is well deserved and I cannot wait for the conclusion. Good Girl, Bad Blood is an exemplar mystery piece that balances the heavy topics and realistic characterization.

Overall Recommendation:

Good Girl, Bad Blood proves a second book in a series doesn’t have to be dull or overhyped. With yet another potential crime occurring in their small town, Pip comes out of her self-imposed crime solving retirement to help her friend Connor find his missing brother. Faced with online scrutiny and a criminal who seems to know exactly who she is, Pip, her boyfriend Ravi and Connor set out to investigate before it is too late. Every moment counts when it comes to a missing persons case, and the suspense is ramped up in typical Holly Jackson style. I couldn’t put this book down, even late into the early hours of the morning! The characterizations were absolutely excellent and I wouldn’t change a thing about this book.