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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Book Review

Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Thriller / Mystery
Length: 327 pages
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 18th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

DEFINITELY CREEPY.

Another thriller that I immensely enjoyed. Even as my Husband asked multiple times in the last 50 pages if I was okay. I was that enthralled and NEEDED TO KNOW.

What creeped me out most about this book was that relevance of it all. How easily this can and does happen to women. It was freaky to think of being watched, of being chose “just because” and disappearing without a trace.

The alternating story lines worked really well. I occasionally found them repetitive of each other, but overall, they kept the story moving. I was equally interested in both stories and thought they connected at the right time to tell the newest timeline.

I’m usually not into ghost stories, but this worked so well!! I was spooked by them, but they also played their own part. They definitely added to the ambiance and vibes of the whole book and gave me the heebie-jeebies multiple times. Remind me to never work at a run down motel in a small town. NOPE. That ending with all of the information rolling out was like WHOA. I loved finding out who was all included in what really happened in 1982.

Generally, thrillers slow down to where I feel like I need to just skim and get it over with. I never felt that way here. I found it easy to want to keep reading and the pages really flew by. An all out great thriller for it being a lesser read genre for me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller / Mystery
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: murder, physical altercations
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of rape victims (no full scenes), harassment, kidnapping, stalking

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Book Review

Book Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Mystery/Thriller
Length: 371 pages
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: July 3rd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

WELL, THAT WAS THRILLING.

Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

ANYWAYS. This really was a fantastic thriller. Probably the first one in awhile to really capture my attention AND hold it the entire time.

What really worked for me was the setting. The creepy camp where girls disappeared? Totally works. I found myself spooked at times and really questioning what was happening and how reliable the narrator was. The blame rotates well and makes it hard to figure out who truly did what.

The final reveals were practically a blindside. I had my eyes one character who I assumed was the culprit and was surprised when the truth started rolling out. It was WILD. The background information and history woven behind the camp added so well to the overall vibe of this mystery.

And those last few pages? Sealed the deal. It took this book to a whole other wicked level and I was freaking out and loving it.

I usually have a hard time staying invested in thrillers, by about halfway I start to skim for the final reveal. I felt The Last Time I Lied, held my attention well and was letting out just enough details to keep me going while also adding some odd and bizarre antics to the story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller / Mystery
  • Language: some
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs
  • Violence: a scene where a character “peeks in” on a love scene, physical altercation, murder
  • Content warnings: mental illness, gas-lighting

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Book Review

Book Review: The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Rating: ☆☆
Audience: Thriller/Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Corvus
Release Date: June 18th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of – but that’s just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.

Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable – until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.

A LET DOWN.

This book disappointed me so much. Honestly, I don’t think I would have finished it if it wasn’t for the fact I joined a Buddy Read for it and wanted to still contribute.

I felt like from the beginning there was too much time spent on inner thought and description. I wasn’t drawn into the setting or story initially and it kind of all went downhill from there. I found myself scanning way sooner than I generally feel the need too.

Things were occasionally creepy and did make me look around my house once or twice. Messing with people’s houses is always something that gives me the spooks. A lot of the side plots and stories didn’t weave well back into the murder mystery which left me wanting more.

I was kept guessing about who had done what though. The blame was tossed between many characters and I could easily see how it could be them. I did appreciate the mystery was kept alive. By the ending when things were revealed it was surprising, but nice to see how all the pieces fit together.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery / Thriller
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses; a closed door scene
  • Violence: murder, physical, house fire, car wreck (resulting in death)

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