Book Review

Book Review: The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Fiction
Length: 260 pages
Author: David Baldacci
Publisher: Warner Books
Release Date: November 4th, 2001
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

The Christmas Train is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief … and shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.

WHAT A RIDE.

Am I clever yet?

I didn’t have any sort of expectations going into this. I picked it up at a free little library years ago, and chose this past Christmas to finally read it. I also listened to it on audio and thought it was well read there too. It had fun train sounds between chapters that added to the atmosphere.

This book had its ups and downs. I liked Tom and thought the concept of riding a train during Christmas was a solid idea. I’ve never ridden one so it was fun seeing how everything is set up for a passenger train. Tom ran into a large cast of characters on his travels. Some of it felt a bit scattered, but things came mostly together by the end to not leave wide plot holes.

I liked the soft second-chance romance. It sweet and fit in nicely. I thought they had chemistry and were clearly still into each other. I thought Tom and Ellie were able to finally communicate and work things out together which was was nice to see.

The ending was a bit improbable, but I guess with the other antics and hijinks of the story it worked out well enough. This felt Christmas-y and was a quick read. A nice holiday choice.

Overall audience notes:

  • Christmas Fiction
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, some innuendo
  • Violence: avalanche, theft

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Book Review

Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Thriller
Length: 384 pages
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: June 30th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

INDEED, IT WAS SPOOKY.

I have officially decided this is my second favorite of Sager’s (The Last Time I Lied being the first). It freaked me out, had some interesting story lines, and was overall a good spooky thriller.

The ghosts and haunted manor setting had me reading in the day time. I do NOT do haunted houses. Regardless of ridiculousness, I still found myself totally on edge. This is a slow-burn kind of haunting. It felt like a movie, slowly amping up to the climax of all the weird things going off at once.

I liked the alternating chapters between the Dad and daughter, Maggie. Though I think I leaned more towards her Dad’s more horrific tale. Which lead me to being let down by the ending. I almost wanted more ghost-y-ness (is that a word?) then having every single answer laid out. I have a confused mix of how I feel about the end. I liked how things were overall solved, but still, just something, *something* was missing for me.

What also had me out of the book from the beginning was the ease at which this entire book wouldn’t have existed if she sold the house. And I always love a character who sprints towards the danger rather than away.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller
  • Language: occasional
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: murder, physical altercations
  • Trigger warnings: multiple discussions a murder-suicide and of multiple children being murdered

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