Book Review: In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

Date of Publishing: August 3rd, 2021

Author: Ashley Winstead

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: Mystery Thriller

This story follows a college reunion where our main character Jessica Miller is all set to blow the crowd apart and show everyone that she had become someone of importance since graduating college. However, when old secrets dig themselves out of the past, Jessica and her six friends have to figure out who is behind the death of their former friend Heather. And when secrets come to light, Jessica’s own truth threatens to burst forth and tell the whole world that she’s not as perfect as she claimed to be. 

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way and say that I absolutely loved this story. This story was a roller coaster ride which started and ended with perfection. I have no idea how the author managed to pull this off but she did and for that I applaud Ashley Winstead, and I really need to learn a thing or two or ten from her about writing. 

From the start to the end I was hooked. There was not a single instant or moment where I felt the story dragging or found myself losing interest, I was glued till the end. I loved how the author brought everybody’s secret to light one by one and how they were all connected to Heather’s murder in one way or another, which just goes to show how actions cause a ripple effect which leads to the end result and often times as humans we do not understand the importance and implications of our actions and how they can impact another human being. 

Every aspect of the story was executed well. I loved the flawed and selfish characters, including our main character. I was super glad to read she was as messed up as the rest of them. I was glad the author didn’t make her perfect just because she’s the main character. 

Moreover, I loved how beautifully everything was orchestrated. The author did a fantastic job with the pacing and the setting. It really made me miss my college days and just how fun and carefree everything was. I loved the timelines shifts which took place between the day of the reunion and when they were in college. 

The events were messy. They drove me mad. But they were perfect in their imperfections. I enjoyed how the author gave us a glimpse of the dark side of college life. Yes, everyone is young and carefree and we’re all trying to fit in and find our group of friends, but the extent people go to in order to fit in and find that perfect group of friends can be really jarring and I just loved that this book gave us that. 

Furthermore, the climax really put the cherry on top. The plot twist and how as a reader I was forced to look at things from a different perspective really makes me want to applaud the author. She did a fantastic job building up the suspense and did not disappoint with the execution of the climax. It was jolting, it was shocking, it was absolutely amazing! 

The ending also did not disappoint. I thought the climax was the final unwrapping of this gift of a story but that last secret that Jessica finally reveals really made me question my sanity, and for some strange reason it made me love Jessica all the more. I wish I could say that she’s just a character in a book—because that’s exactly what she is—but all that she does in the story it actually made her appear so much more real. 

And let’s not forget our actual villain. I would say I kind of suspected who it was but it still shocked me when the identity of the villain came to light. Also, the reasons as to why the villain became the villain were sick and demented and so so relatable. Like, I could understand why he did what he did even if it made me sick to think about it. But yes, humans do insane things for insane reasons and you can’t even fault them for it because you understand it so well. 

I think with all my rambling above you guys can understand just how much I love this book and I wish I can find more books which are as amazing as this one. This is the first book I’ve read by Ashley Winstead but I shall be looking for more of her books and giving them a read. 

So if you guys haven’t read this book, then don’t let another minute pass by and purchase this book and read it immediately because you’re going to regret it if you don’t. I highly recommend everyone to read this book because this book deserves all the love it gets and more. 

Book Review: Killing November by Adriana Mather

Date of Publishing: March 26th, 2019

Author: Adriana Mather

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

This is book 1 in the series by the same name and follows November who’s father enrolls her in a school known as Academy Absconditi, a boarding school full of secrets and hidden agendas. For a girl who’s lived a normal life, Academy Absconditi is a completely new world and something she has a hard time navigating. But when your very existence is threatened and you realize that your entire life has been a lie, November has no choice but to fight for her survival and show the other students that she’s no underdog. 

I don’t have words for this book. This book blew my mind away. It kept me hooked from the first word till the last. The pacing, the storyline, the characters, and the climax everything was just perfectly executed. 

Academy Absconditi is a school I wished existed in real life. An academy that educates you in knife throwing and espionage is my kind of a school and I would love to be a student there. Learning the ways of the Strategia and following complicated bloodlines, this book is colored with intrigue. I actually wish I was a character in this book. 

Dark academia is a genre I’ve been wanting to get into for some time now and I’m so glad that I started with this book because now I’m now even more excited to dive deeper into this genre and get a better understanding of it so I can finally work on writing my own dark academia novel. 

The characters in this book were fleshed out to perfection. I loved each and everyone, with their complicated flaws and thirst for power, it really gives you an idea of just how crazy people can be. I loved Ash and Laila and how despite wanting to stay away they still help November battle through the onslaught of allegations and murder attempts. And in a place like Academy Absconditi one needs allies. However, what I liked about these characters is how morally gray they were. I love gray characters and Adriana Mather has done a stunning job of fleshing them out as such. These students do questionable things for the right reasons—at least they’re right according to them and that’s what makes them so exciting to read about. 

Moreover, the importance given to family and your lineage is an intriguing element in this series. The school might be for a particular age group, but your bloodline really spans generations and really has an impact on a student’s position in the school. So I like how the author has included this flavor, which is the perfect way to induce rivalry and enmity among the students. 

The climax was brutal and packed a punch. I kind of had a hunch who the villain was but wasn’t entirely sure, however, when the culprit did come to light I was excited and blown away at the same time; especially when his reasons for doing what he did were revealed, it just made me want to go back and read the book all over again. And the climax made way for the perfect ending with November wanting to go to her father and find out the truth about the events of her past and the past of the Strategia. 

Adriana Mather really knows how to portray relationships and with Ash and November, the relationship really is a challenge as they have to navigate through the history of their respective bloodlines and figure out if they really should be together. Loyalty is hard to come by when your own family can be out to kill you, so reading about their relationship was a roller coaster in itself. 

I am really excited to read the second book in the series. The only thing I’m sad about is that there are only two books in this series instead of seven or eight. I feel like no matter how much I read about this world of the Strategia I’ll never get enough, so it’s sad that I’d have to say goodbye to these character and this exciting world in the next book. I wish the author writes more books like this and I hope I can write as well as she does. And of course I would be reading the rest of the books written by Adriana Mather in the future. 

As for recommending this book to people, I literally want everybody to go and pick this book up. Everybody should read this book at least once in their life if not again and again. So pick up your copy of Killing November if you haven’t already and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.