REVIEW – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

I like Riley Sager. I look forward to a new Riley Sager book each year. However, none have lived up to Final Girls in my opinion. Home Before Dark just continues that trend…

This book suffers a bit from too-much-ism. The reader wonders if the house is really haunted (and if the house isn’t haunted, who was doing the “haunting”)? Is Maggie’s dad telling the truth in his book? And if not, why lie? There are also two murder mysteries woven throughout…

I liked this enough to finish it, and I liked it enough to want to know how it ended. But the final few chapters threw so many twists, it was just…too much. The ending had me rolling my eyes and my final verdict? Meh.

It’s worth reading if you’re a Sager fan, but don’t expect anything more than a run-of-the-mill thriller that tries a little too hard to shock the reader. I think my expectations were a bit too high.

REVIEW – A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

“That’s the hardest part about marriage isn’t it? Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

I frequently choose thrillers for my Book of the Month picks, and they usually don’t disappoint. This was no exception – although not my favorite thriller, A Good Marriage was well-paced, interesting and twisty.

I did think it did a little TOO much towards the end. It’s like there was one connection too many for the plot to feel plausible (but I guess that’s the fun of fiction). Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller that will make them think and surprise them until the very end.

REVIEW – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“If I can’t move heaven, then I shall raise hell.”

Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions right? WRONG. (At least in the case of this book.) The setting is dark and unsettling right from page one.

The Guest List serves up HEAVY modern-day Agatha Christie vibes with a remote island and an overall feeling of dread where everyone is a suspect. We flash back and forth between the “NOW” (at the wedding reception, after a body has been found) and the “THEN” which encompasses about a day and a half prior to the murder.

“It feels personal, this storm. It feels as though it has saved all its fury for them.”

The island and house (the Folly) feel like characters in their own right – there’s a lot of history on the island and it adds the perfect dash of supernatural spookiness to the entire thing.

“I have my own ghosts. I carry them with me wherever I go.”

Pretty much everyone in this book is a horrible person (some more than others, of course). Not a single one is likable but it just makes the reading experience more fun. Maybe this is a little ridiculous or far-fetched, but if you suspend disbelief for 300-or-so pages, you’ll have a great time reading this story.

Content warning: abortion, talks of suicide, self-harm.

REVIEW – Long Bright River by Liz Moore

“I sensed even in that moment that the two of us were at a crossroads. The map of our lives stretched out before us, and I could see, quite clearly, the various paths that I might choose to take, and the ways in which this choice might affect my sister.”

If you’re going into this thinking it’s a thriller, you either need to adjust your expectations or pick up a different book. This is…a gritty, contemporary crime novel. It’s a story about sisters. It’s a story about family. It’s a story about addiction and the way addicts are viewed and treated. There are some suspenseful moments here, but one thing you should know before reading – there’s not much that actually happens in this book (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). It’s not literary whiplash like some books can be. It’s not bouncing from one reveal to another, or one heart-pounding moment to the next. The story does pick up a bit in the last 100 or so pages.

This is not a feel-good story. This doesn’t have a “happy” ending. This book will probably piss you off – our main character has made some horrible choices in her life (some you can blame her for, some you can’t).

But it’s good. This is a book that’s very of-the-moment. The opioid crisis has hit many communities and caused irreparable damage. This topic might be too much for some readers – I’m guessing that if you have any personal experience with addiction, you’ll probably want to skip this. It’s a 500 pager, but a quick read. If you’re someone who hesitates to pick up big books (that’s an issue for another day…) don’t let this one scare you.

REVIEW – Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

“They’re all on the same page, even if that page is in the middle of an ongoing story with an uncertain end.”

My experience reading Dear Edward felt like I was constantly teetering on the edge of a cliff, just waiting to tip over. This book is INTENSE, but it’s subtle. Alternating between the ill-fated flight’s path and our “present-day” journey with Edward, the build-up throughout this book is incredible.

The airplane chapters gave me massive anxiety – I’m already nervous about flying in general, and the mundaneness and personal examination of a handful of passengers just felt a little too real (but this is a testament to Napolitano’s writing. It’s…amazing.)

“It feels unkind that they are shoving their emotions at him when his own sadness and fear are so vast that he has to hide from them.”

The post-crash chapters felt so real, and so raw. You just want to reach into the book and hug Edward. Being 12 is hard enough – when you pile an unimaginably tragic loss on top of that, it’s excruciating. I didn’t find this book OVERLY emotional (but a part near the very end got me) and I think part of that is due to the fact that Edward seems numb for a lot of the story, and we’re really experiencing things through his eyes. Napolitano also covers how the crash and aftermath impacts the people around Edward – most notably his aunt and uncle, and their neighbors.

Oh, and the principal was my favorite character by far!

“So much could be solved, she thinks, if we simply held hands with each other more often.”

REVIEW – The Holdout by Graham Moore

“In the stories, there’s always an answer at the end. Resolution. …But out here – it’s not like that. Out here, maybe somebody goes to jail. Maybe somebody doesn’t. But we never know the truth. The real, whole, definite truth. It’s impossible.”

This one started strong for me, dragged a bit in the middle, and finished with a relative bang.

“What sort of lunatic God would put these people in a room together?”

The Holdout is sure to be a memorable thriller for many due to its unique premise – 10 years after issuing a “not guilty” verdict in what seemed to be one of the biggest trials of the century, members of the jury are brought back together to work on a documentary series with a well-known murder podcast. When one of the jurors is found dead, our main character has to work to clear her own name, find the killer and attempt to solve the original disappearance/murder.

I had some of the plot here pegged from the beginning (I’m hard to surprise, sorry). I enjoyed the reading experience overall – I flew through this book over the course of one afternoon/evening. I think many thriller readers will love this one. It’s twisty and fun.

REVIEW – The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

This book was a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but not in the way you’d think. It started off heartbreaking and lovely. There were a few moments, even in the midst of Lydia’s grief, where she had a sense of humor and made me chuckle. The good? Lydia’s grief felt realistic. It didn’t feel forced or too over the top (or that she “got over it” too quickly). It was easy to put myself in her place and imagine that i’d think and do some of the same things.

The parallel timeline is gut-wrenching – at first. I felt so bad for Lydia, and how she felt torn between two worlds. But some things just aren’t right…and it almost felt like it could have been too easy for Lydia to choose one world over the other. I did feel that this was a bit long – there were moments that seemed repetitive.

This would have been a four-star read for me if not for that ending! It felt cliche and just…that Lydia deserved…well, maybe not “better” but something a little less obvious.

REVIEW – The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

“…it didn’t matter how afraid or how careful you were – it could always be you.”

The Sun Down Motel pulled me in from the dedication page – anything that mentions Murderinos is sure to be right up my alley!

Carly, our main character, is set on investigating the unsolved disappearance in her family. 35 years ago, her aunt vanished without a trace from her night shift job at the Sun Down Motel. We learn, through dual timelines, that the Sun Down has a little bit of a…ghost problem, a knack for attracting unsavory characters and for facilitating questionable behavior. It also has a history of tragedy and violence. However, that doesn’t seem too out of place in Fell, NY. Fell is…odd. It gave me straight-up Derry, Maine, vibes. It often felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

“The world was different at night. Not just dark, not just quiet, but different.”

The parallels and transitions between past and present are excellent. The story is good. It’s a bit tighter at the beginning (and spookier) before focusing mostly on the investigation of a number of unsolved murders. This will likely be a memorable book for many readers, not because of it’s (somewhat predictable) twist, but due to it’s not-so-common premise – a little bit of a ghost story and a little bit of a thriller.

“Some of us like the dark. It’s what we know.”

REVIEW – Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

“If I had died today, what would my eulogy say?”

What a CUTE book! I am not a romance reader in the slightest, but the hype and reviews compelled me to choose this for a Book of the Month box. I am so glad I picked it up! Chloe Brown is a hilarious main character – she’s relatable and snarky and (mostly) self-aware.

I loved Chloe’s relationship with her sisters. Dani and Eve, although somewhat minimally featured, were great characters! I think Hibbert has plans to write books revolving around them, and I look forward to picking those up.

And Red. Oh, Red. What a sweet, loving man. The way he describes Chloe is so lovely – it’s warm and heartfelt. I loved what Hibbert did with Red’s back story. He felt like such an atypical main male character and it was a breath of fresh air.

“The promise of more with him glittered like broken glass, beautiful but potentially deadly. Good things usually hurt in the end.”

Chloe and Red’s relationship was portrayed as sweet and vulnerable. It felt so realistic. Not once during this book did I roll my eyes or go “oh, brother!” Hey, I said i’m not a romance reader! I’ve had bad luck in the past with cheesy, cliche stories that just don’t work for me (but are beloved by many others, so truly…if you feel it’s the genre for you, give romance a chance!)

Did this book turn me into a romance reader? Absolutely not. But it did make me a fan of Talia Hibbert! She is an incredible writer – I read some passages twice because I loved the writing so much. I liked this more than I thought I would and i’m willing to give similar books a fighting chance against my standard thriller/horror/mystery reads.

REVIEW – The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key is one of the buzziest thrillers in recent months. It’s a little slow at the start, but once Rowan was settled into her new nannying position, I immediately felt bad for her. Unreliable, disturbingly intrusive technology! An unruly, nasty child! Ghosts?!

This book creeped me out a bit – it’s my fault for reading the suspenseful parts while home alone. The twists didn’t shock me too much, but there are some DARK revelations.

Needless to say, Ruth Ware’s books get better and better with time. I’ll definitely pick up whatever she writes next.

For what it’s worth, this is a solid 3.5 for me.