Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Pubilication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Dutton Books
Rating: ★★★★★

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.

Review:

This was my second Riley Sager book and I was definitely not disappointed in this new release! This mystery was definitely that and it gave me all of the spooky vibes in the summertime. The main thing that this book gave me was the Haunting of Hill House vibes and I loved that.

Maggie’s father wrote a book called House of Horrors about the experience that him and his family had at Baneberry Hall. It took only three weeks before Ewan and Jess, Maggie’s mother, ran away from there for good. Or so Maggie thought. Maggie never believed anything from House of Horrors as she couldn’t ever remember what happened during those three weeks. Maggie finds that her father never got rid of the house or sold it and it is now hers to do what she wants with it. In the time that Maggie decides to fix it up to sell it, many things happen to make Maggie believe that her father’s book might have not been made up at all.

First, Riley Sager’s writing had me on the edge of my seat the entire novel. I was curious and had suspicions of what was going on, but by the next chapter, there was something else going on in my head. I found this to be exceptional writing as I had really no idea what was going on until the end of the book where the twist is. Some might say it was clear to see, but I didn’t see it coming at all. The fact that I couldn’t tell if this was going to end paranormal or not was actually quite fun.

I loved the fact that the book went back and forth between Maggie’s point-of-view and her father’s book. It was interesting to see the similarities between her and her father’s experiences. It was looking at current day versus back when Maggie was just a little girl. It was clear to see that she wasn’t even close to the same person.

Finally, I don’t think I could’ve found a flaw in this book if I tried. The characters developed in an amazing way, the story kept me interested the entire time, it was just overall an amazing book. I could relate to the characters as well, which is always good.

I need to read the rest of Riley Sager’s books. Both of his books that I read were five-star ratings for me and I will always continue to read what he puts out in the future. His writing alone is enough for me to want to read one of his books.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★★

Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other.

When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

Review:
Thank you to Robyn Carr, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this as a part of the Harlequin Blog Tour.

Robyn Carr really knows how to tug on your heart strings. I’m definitely someone who can get emotional easily, but Robyn Carr really got me with this one. This was a feel-good story about love, loss, and sisterhood.

First, Addie and Justine have a very interesting story. At 20 years apart, they never really had a sisterly relationship. Justine is a successful lawyer and her husband stays at home with their two daughters. Adele dropped out of college when she had a relationship go wrong and then she became a caretaker for her parents. This relationship was believable because there really are instances like that where there are significant age gaps between two siblings. The relationship that they had were more friendly than sisterly and I could really could see that happening in real life.

Now that Addie is done being a caretaker for her parents, she is in a panic of what to do with her life since that took up all of her time and she doesn’t have a degree. Justine’s life is falling apart around her as well and needs to decide on what she wants to do with her life. As they are going through similar life changes, the sisters really rely on each other. I loved the fact that this was a sister-friendly story. It was nice to see sisters relying on each other in such a hard time in their lives, especially because they are so far apart in their lives. Robyn Carr made both Addie, Justine and her daughters extremely relatable and I really liked that.

Robyn Carr did a great job identifying the issues in this novel and showing an ending to every single one of them. I didn’t have any questions at the end of who went where or how a situation ended up. This definitely was a feel-good novel about overcoming obstacles. There were many problems shown in this novel, but I didn’t think it was overdone or too much.

Finally, Robyn Carr wrote about something that isn’t mentioned enough. I won’t spoil it or give it away, but I was surprised to read about this situation. It was definitely unexpected, but a good surprise. This situation isn’t talked about enough and almost holds a “stigma” for it. I’m glad that this was written in here because it made this story that much more interesting!

The only reason why I didn’t give Sunrise on Half Moon Bay a five-star rating was the fact that there were somethings that seemed repetitive. There were somethings already explained or talked about, and they got repeated throughout the novel. I understand the concept of really driving it home, but this kind of took away from the story.

Overall, this was my first Robyn Carr novel, but definitely not my last. I fell in love with the way Robyn Carr writes, and how she makes everything in her stories come to life.

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Rating: ★★★

Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone’s Magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits – staff and guests alike.

But Tilly’s childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she’d ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning. Now, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies, Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unraveling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel and discovers that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all … Mothers and daughters … their story can be complicated … it can also turn out to have a happy ending.

Review:

Thank you to Ruth Hogan, HarperCollins & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I have heard great things about Ruth Hogan which had me requesting her new novel on NetGalley. I never read a novel of hers before, but I will say that if I choose to, I hope they’re as good as everyone says they are.

There were a lot of important topics that are in Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel. The themes of secrets, anxiety, depression and family were very hard to miss in this novel. If you have mental issues relating to mothers, high anxiety / depression, or other mental health related issues like OCD, I wouldn’t jump right onto this book. There wasn’t really anything appealing or “feel-good” about this for me, unfortunately.

There were two timelines. One is about Tilly, a young girl, and the other is Tilda, the same young girl but older. Tilly’s life is not good, and you can see it in Tilda when you read her side as the older woman. Tilda is quirky and lives a boring life because of what “Tilly” went through. I don’t mind a quirky character, I quite love it actually. However, I couldn’t really connect with Tilly or Tilda and I think this made reading this novel a little harder. When I think of quirky characters, I think of Eleanor Oliphant and this wasn’t anything like that.

I didn’t understand the background really. There weren’t explanations of some of the characters and that made it more confusing. Daniel, a guy in Tilda’s POV, was just too much for this type of novel. We didn’t learn anything about him except that he made food art. There were other people, especially in Tilda’s POV, where I questioned at the end whatever happened to them. It was very puzzling.

I honestly believe that if this story was just about Tilly, I would’ve liked it a lot more. Tilly was great and she was really the best part of this book. It really made it hard to read when the timelines and stories weren’t on the same wavelengths in gaining my attention.

Towards the end, I actually started to enjoy this novel. At about three-quarters of the way through, I wanted to just see how it would end. Ruth Hogan’s writing did pick up towards the end which is where my three-star rating came from.

Overall, I will give Ruth Hogan’s book another try, but I sincerely hope they aren’t so up and down like this one was. I don’t know why Tilly and Tilda’s characters are the way that they are, and I think that it’s a problem since that’s what the book was trying to explain.

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: ★★★

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

Review:

Thank you to Christina Lauren, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This wasn’t my favorite Christina Lauren ever. As sad as it is, the last two have just been meh for me. There’s some winners with these authors and unfortunately, there’s some that don’t live up to the “Christina Lauren” expectation.

I’m not sure entirely what wasn’t my favorite about this novel. I think it was just a mixture of things. The pace of the book..the characters..I can’t really just pinpoint one thing.

The beginning of this book focuses mostly on the Tripps and it was a little slow to get through. When I got to the middle of the book, it definitely picked up for me. Then, it progressively got slower towards the end. I feel as though the ending seemed slow, but also felt rushed.

The relationship between Carey and James didn’t feel developed enough throughout this novel and that’s why I think I had the hardest time with it. I loved when their romance began, but other than that, it seemed very forced and I had a hard time reading their relationship that I wasn’t sure was even based on a underdeveloped chemistry.

Overall, I hope that two of my favorite authors can make another book come to life soon. Their last couple books haven’t been the best in my eyes, but I won’t hesitate to read their next novel.

Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Rating: ★★★

You Can’t Stop Watching Her.

Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy-vlogger, with three young children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold.

Until the day she’s no longer there.

But one day she disappears from the online world – her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to her?

Review:

Thank you to Charlotte Duckworth, Crooked Lane Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This book’s synopsis definitely grabbed my attention. Being in a society that is essentially run by social media, these types of books really show the dangers of what can happen in real life. However, a lot of these books are coming out, especially within the last few years. After reading them all, they all start to sound the same mystery wise. Someone disappears, they have a social media presence..yadda yadda.

I didn’t hate this book. I really didn’t. I thought learning about Violet and what happened to her and why she deleted her social media without a trace was pretty interesting. I just think that the background details just were kind of meh. I didn’t feel any specific way towards that, but I did enjoy the thrilling aspect of it. This honestly could’ve been classified more as a thriller than a mystery in my eyes.

My favorite part about this book was that two fans were trying to figure out the mystery of what happened to their favorite Youtuber. Usually, watching the news or reading a story about it, if something happens to someone with a social media presence, it’s a crazed fan that did something to them. Don’t get me wrong, these two were definitely obsessive over Violet, but it was nice to read something that wasn’t like the others in that aspect. I really liked the difference of story there.

The difference in point-of-views had me a little confused at times. Throwing Violet’s husband in there to separate things was very smart on Charlotte Duckworth’s part because I was able to distinguish the multiple feelings of this story.

Overall, this was interesting but it didn’t WOW me. The writing was alright, there were definitely some attention-grabbing parts, but I just didn’t have the best time with this novel. The conclusion was just alright, but if you’re looking for a fast-paced story to read while you’re staying inside, this is a good one that’ll take up a day!

 

The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ★★

Willa Parker, 646th and least-popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life. Did she choose this life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and Willa has no intention of fitting in. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit in. When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel Remy spinning right out of her grasp.

Review:

When I read the synopsis and first started this book, I thought it had a lot of promising qualities that really could have me interested. The cover is what really got me. Harper Teen really put out a beautiful cover on this one. As I got in to it, I really had issues with a lot of things going on and I frankly feel like this book failed to deliver. I will say I read this book all the way through to see where it was going to go. I did find that there was a story, but it was in the beginning and then about 60% in and then it fell off again. This one was a struggle.

The main thing I had an issue with about this novel was the writing. The writing was short and to the point, and while that’s not always bad, I felt like I was reading a book that had been transcribed from a reading or audio. There wasn’t much detail, I feel like I was thrown back and forth a little, and I had to restart pages because I was just plain confused. I don’t think that the trope was bad or even that the story was bad, but I think the way that it was explained was a little confusing to me.

On the other hand, I will say that Remy was the most exciting part of this book. I loved every part of her. I was very interested to see where her story was going to lead which is where the book finally started to pick up for me.

I gave this book two stars because Andrea Portes does have some underlying dark tones in her book. I really think she handled them with care. I am someone who really can’t do substance abuse or drug abuse in books, but she did well with this and really took care of her readers when it came to that.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite YA. I did struggle a lot with the writing and wish it was a little more in-depth instead of short and choppy. I would definitely give Andrea Portes another chance and hopes that the writing is a little different in the next one.

 

 

 

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★

An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

Review:

Thank you to Jude Deveraux, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an  honest review.

The synopsis of this story is what drew me to this book right away. I thought that the idea of having a couple disappear never to be seen again sounded very real. There’s actually a story local to me about a couple that disappeared 15 years ago in Philadelphia and still have not been seen or found in that time. It hit a little close to home. I really liked that it was at a later time too that they were brought back to solve the case. There were a lot of questions surrounding the case, and it was cool to see after over twenty years, that there was still so much interest. There was a long list of suspects and they all had a motive so that made it exciting to see where this was going to end up.

I had a lot of interest in the story, but the details and the writing fell a little flat for me. I think this was a very good mystery for it’s genre, but the writing just wasn’t the main point of excitement here. I think if the details were a little more in depth and the writing was the bigger part of interest with dialogue, etc., this book would be a five-star rating from me.

The characters weren’t as big of a point for me in this book as they should have been. As this is a series, I wasn’t sure if I was missing a part of these characters due to the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two. I went to the Goodreads page to see if there were issues for anyone else regarding this and I found that you should be able to read this novel first as a standalone. I still don’t know if that’s true, I guess I’ll have to find out!

During this crazy time in the United states and around the world, I’d definitely recommend this book to someone who likes a cozy mystery. If you’re stuck in the house, definitely give this series a try! It was definitely fast-paced and will give you a treat for the next however many weeks!

 

 

Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin Special Edition Blog Tour! Thank you to Jo McNally, Harlequin Special Edition, Harlequin Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Rating: ★★★★

She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…

“You’re all about following the rules now?

“Pity.”

Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

Review:

Good girl turned bad. Bad boy turned good. This trope was awesome. I loved the fact that they had a role reversal thing going on after Mackenzie, or Mack, returned home after having a really nasty divorce. Coming home to find out that the bad boy growing up was now a Sheriff of their small town? Priceless.

The slow burn was one of my favorite parts about this book. I think that Jo McNally did a phenomenal job creating that curiosity of what was going to happen and when. The romance was extremely realistic and I appreciated that. It could’ve gone the other route where I was rolling my eyes over the way Mack comes back to town, etc. I really didn’t find any flaws with that writing.

As someone who lives in an area where drugs are potent, this book hit too close to home. The small town vibes really showed me that maybe Jo McNally really understands what it’s currently like in today’s society when it comes to drugs and overdoses. On the other hand, the small town vibe did include the closeness and love within it as well. That was definitely something I could appreciate.

Overall, I think that the biggest takeaway that I got from this book was the fact that you can plan your life all you want, but it might not ever come out that way. Jo McNally really wrote an amazing book and if you are a homecoming romance lover, this is definitely a book you should read.