Book Review

Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: December 7th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called “Pastoral,” this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

WELL THAT WAS TWISTED.

If you have the option, definitely go with the full cast audio book. I’ve read Ershaw’s young adult books and liked the atmosphere, but often felt they were slow. Reading with the audio book helped speed things up and I think this was an awesome adult debut.

This story was wiiiiild. And so trippy. Started off really creepy and dove into things I didn’t see coming. I was actually blindsided by the twist at the end. An interesting choice, but I thought worked well in the case for the plot. Which is fine, I’m good with that. I thought there were plenty of likable characters. All of the main characters were easy to read their stories, I wanted to cheer for them and help them get out.

Very much bewitching, I liked the tidbits of magical realism too. It made sense and completed the story better than without those extra pieces. I liked this one soooo much better than her young adult books. This hooked me enough that I’m back to wanting to read whatever Ernshaw writes next. Always great writing, spooky atmosphere, and a small dash of romance and whimsy.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery / Magical Realism
  • Language: little
  • Romance: multiple vague open-ish door
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: suicide by overdose, grief/loss depiction, loss of a loved one, execution by hanging, physical altercations, manipulation and gaslighting

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead (Finlay Donovan #2) by Elle Cosimano

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Mystery + Romance
Length: 368 pages
Author: Elle Cosimano
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: February 1st, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From Edgar-Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead—the hilarious and heart-pounding follow-up to Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

“A funny and smart, twisty and surprising series.”—Megan Miranda

Finlay Donovan is—once again—struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of soccer moms disguised as hit-women, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC.

WILD RIDE.

Wow did I eat this up in a day. Even when I get frustrated with the story I can’t help but be charmed by the writing. It’s easy to consume and has a rollercoaster of events to keep things moving.

Finlay and Vero are at it again. Trying to solve the mystery of the hit put out on Steven. I couldn’t believe some of the things they were getting up to and some of the decisions being made. While I can’t fathom making some of them and have to suspend reality a bit (since it gets ridiculous at times) I still like how high stakes it feels. There’s many well timed moments and parts that I just couldn’t put the book down.

I don’t love Vero. Maybe it’s because I don’t fully trust her? I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop about her background and thank heavens all will be revealed [hopefully] in the next book because I NEED ANSWERS. Yes there’s more to come. A fact I didn’t know prior and want to state now.

I am alllllllll team Nick. ALL IN. This love triangle has also kept me intrigued and I like the push and pull from both sides. I want all the romance with him. I appreciate the many layers to this story and how deeper things keep going. It’s a bit twisted, with a good dash of humor and intense moments.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery + Romance
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: heated make-outs & light innuendo
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: attempted murder, gun violence, murder, kidnapping, loss of a loved one, extortion

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Book Review

Book Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Thriller/Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: December 1st, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

TWISTED.

McManus tends to keep me on my toes. This was once again the case in The Cousins.

A audio book tangent: I loved it. Had a full cast and great narration if you want to read it in this format!

Anywho, what a wild web that was woven in this story. There’s lots of twists, not a ton of action, and plenty of mystery. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I’m reading and don’t catch some of the twists. One of the twists really blind-sided me and I was like WHAAAAT. So that’s fun. I tend to base my ratings/thoughts on thrillers by how well it kept me in the dark. This did a pretty good job.

There’s many, many unlikeable characters. I think I came to like 2 or 3 of them by the end. And there’s flashbacks here too! I thought they fit in well to the story, even if I always think flashbacks kind of take you out of the present plot. These were necessary or honestly, I don’t know what would be happening.

Definitely an interesting story. I was entertained and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for in a read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery/thriller
  • Language: some
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: multiple murders, miscarriage, car wreck with a death, loss of loved one(s), alcoholism

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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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