Wednesday, May 04, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Magpie

Magpie by Elizabeth Day 

A couple experiencing infertility problems rents out their spare room. On the surface, everything appears perfect. But this is a domestic thriller and the note to the readers tips you off before you even start reading that not everything is what it seems, that there may be an unreliable narrator telling the story...

I loved watching this plot unfold. It went in directions I didn't expect, moving just slowly enough that I kept coming up with new ideas about what was actually going on before I started questioning the situation again. This was a great way to spend a few hours. 


The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

Several elements drew me to this one. It's set in 1978 and the main characters are children, living with their grandmother, a respected doctor who runs an exclusive mental hospital in Vermont. The brother and sister hunt monsters and record everything they know about them in a book. So of course when their Gran brings home a mysterious young girl they invite her to join their secret monster club.

In 2019, Lizzy Shelley comes to Vermont, researching a story for her monster hunting podcast. She claims that it's her first visit to the area, but that's not true. She's been hunting monsters her entire life and is sure she knows exactly what, and who, this one is. 

The pace of this one is just slow enough to build lots of creepy atmosphere. It moves into some disturbing territory as the kids try to find out more about their new sibling and what their grandmother is doing at her hospital.  I enjoyed the read, but not as much as I loved The Invited, one of this author's previous books. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Housemaid



The Housemaid by Freida McFadden 

Millie's new job is too good to be true. The salary is beyond her expectations, the house she'll be living in is gorgeous, and even if the attic room is cramped and dark it's a huge improvement over sleeping in her car.  AND her new employers apparently didn't both with a background check. By the time she realizes just how erratic Mrs. Winchester's behavior is, she's determined to hold onto the job at all costs. 

I can't get enough of Frida McFadden's domestic thrillers. They're fast paced and entertaining and a great way to spend a couple of hours. In this one, the plot shifts, then twists, then twists again. Millie is a likable protagonist and I genuinely cared what was going to happen to her in the end. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Art of the Decoy



The Art of the Decoy Trish Esden 

I'm not sure how I feel about the first book in the Scandal Mountain Antiques mystery series. The writing is fantastic. The mystery is complex and interesting. The cover is GORGEOUS! I'm curious to see how some of the relationships develop in future books.  But I didn't like the protagonist, Edie Brown, all that much. After a chance encounter with a stranger at an appraisal event, she's hoping to save her family's antique business by appraising the woman's relative's collection of rare decoys and either receiving one of the best examples in trade for her services or earning a commission by coordinating an auction of the pieces. The more she talked about ethics and doing things that "might be interpreted as illegal by someone not familiar with the business" the less I liked her.  

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Resting Place

The Resting Place by Camilla Sten 

After she witnesses the murder of her grandmother, Eleanor learns that she's inherited a lost mansion. The estate has been in the family for many years, but it's been decades since anyone last visited the main house. There's a groundskeeper and hunting parties visit the lodge on the property, but the  house itself has stood empty. Now Eleanor and her boyfriend visit the house along with her aunt and her grandmother's lawyer to take an inventory of the furnishings. The story unfolds slowly,  alternating between the present day and chapters from a diary they find in a sealed room. It's intriguing, but didn't hold my interest nearly as well as The Lost Village did. 

The Family Holiday by Shalini Boland 

Two families arrange to swap homes for a two week vacation. It seems like the perfect opportunity, even if Amber is a little critical of Beth's cozy cottage. Beth is loving Amber's Italian villa until she finds an old photo of her husband in one of Amber's jacket pockets and starts asking questions. 

I loved that all four of the adult characters were distinct individuals with their own personalities and temperments, which made them easy to keep straight at the plot developed. The settings were vivid and atmospheric and gave me a bit of vicarious travel. But when the revelations came there were a LOT of them and I felt that the way they were presented let the plot fall flat. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Golden Couple


The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 

Avery Chambers has a method for fixing her clients in ten sessions. It's what got her described as "DCs maverick therapist" and what cost her her professional license...but she still has clients and still believes in her unusual techniques.  Marisa and Matthew are  trying to get past Marissa's infidelity, hopeful that a series of appointments with Avery will save their marriage. 

Although the book's pace is slow, the gradually unfolding plot was intriguing enough to keep me turning pages. It's obvious that something is wrong and that things are going to go bad, but not where the danger is coming from. I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of their other novels. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

{I've Been Reading} This Might Hurt


This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel 

Six months ago, Natalie's sister left to join Wisewood, a wellness retreat on an island off the coast of Maine. Natalie hasn't had any contact from her, then receives an unsigned email threatening to expose her secrets if she doesn't come to the island immediately. 

The book involves a cult on an isolated island. It's by the author who wrote Darling Rose Gold, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Both seemed like reasons that I absolutely had to read it as soon as possible. But it never caught or held my interest. The chapters alternate between different characters, first Natalie and an unnamed character, then Natalie's sister and the same unnamed character. Every time something even a little interesting began to happen, the point of view would switch and my interest didn't hold until it switched back. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review  copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Unmissing


Unmissing by Minka Kent 

What happens when an expectant mother opens her front door to find her husband's first wife standing there, the wife who vanished a few months into their brief marriage and was declared legally dead almost a decade ago? Merritt Coletto sends the other woman packing. It's not important whether she believes the dirty, emaciated stranger. Her -- their? -- husband is busy with more urgent matters and can't be disturbed. 

The idea of a dead character returning to their former life and trying to pick up whatever pieces are still left is one that fascinates me. It's been done before, but this thriller takes the idea in directions that surprised me and kept me holding my breath and turning pages until the end. I would've read it cover to cover in one sitting if life hadn't pulled me away once or twice. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Violence


The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson 

Chelsea Martin is an  abused wife, walking on eggshells and only vaguely aware of the news stories, which started when a woman used a bottle of salad dressing to beat another shopper to death in a grocery store. Other brutal murders quickly follow. 

The Violence is absolutely chilling. After the Covid pandemic, another highly infectious virus appears, transmitted by mosquitos and causing its victims to lash out in a mindless rage, unaware of their own actions and not stopping until whatever bystander their rage was directed towards is dead. The book doesn't focus too much on how the virus work, focusing on Chelsea's family and their struggle to survive. The book contains some brutal, heartbreaking scenes. It's longer than most of the books I've been reading lately, but by the end I still wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to the characters.  

Disclosure -- The publisher of Violence sent me an advance review copy. I got 56 Days from my local library. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

{I've Been Reading}The Village by Caroline Mitchell


The Village by Caroline Mitchell 

Naomi encourages her husband to buy Ivy Cottage, a dilapidated home in a sleepy little village without telling him, or her stepdaughter, why she wants to live there. Ten years earlier, the Harper Family  vanished. The kitchen sink was still running, the television was still playing cartoons, and no trace of the three family members was ever found. Naomi is journalist with a passion for true crime and hopes that with unlimited access to the house she'll be able to solve the mystery. It quickly becomes obvious that Naomi is not welcome in the village. The villagers are actually holding meetings to discuss the new residents and how to deal with them. Her own stepdaughter is determined to sabotage her whenever possible and isn't the slightest bit subtle about it. 

Chapters set before the family's disappearance gave me an idea what was going on, although I didn't guess all of the twists. I'm not sure what Naomi expected to  find in a house that had been occupied by various sets of renters over the previous decades, in a town that was so hostile to outsiders. But it was an entertaining read and not a bad way to spend a couple of evenings.  

Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly 

The first in the new Grilled Cheese Mystery series will definitely have you  craving a hot, melty sandwich with crisply grilled bread and adding some different cheeses to your grocery list. It got off to a slightly clunky start with huge chunks of text describing things I didn't care about because I didn't even know the protagonist yet, but it picks up quickly. The mystery was intriguing and there are some characters I look forward to learning more about.

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

A true crime writer works on her latest book in an isolated farmhouse while a storm rages outside. She's all alone until she discovers a young child alone in the snow.  There are three stories unfolding here and, because Wylie never once says or thinks anything about the book she's writing you just have to guess that at least one of the other two must be connected to her work. 

I didn't care for this one. One of the big plot twists was only a twist because the author deliberately misled the reader. Wylie never felt like a capable protagonist and I was constantly questioning her decisions. Once or twice, I almost found myself holding my breath and wondering what was going to happen....but it was never enough to get me fully caught up in the plot. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Tally Stick


The Tally Stick by Carl Nixon

The Chamberlain family vanished without a trace one night in 1978 when their car plunged off of an isolated road. By the time another car passed, all evidence of the accident had been washed away by the heavy rain. By the time anyone would have realized that the family of six was missing, there was no hope of finding out what had happened. In 2010, the bones of their oldest son are found, along with a piece of scored wood. Forensics show that he didn't die until four years after the family's disappearance. 

The Tally Stick is a black, fascinating story of survival in remote New Zealand. The plot moves between the time of the accident, what happens after the bones are discovered, and the years in between. You don't know what's going to happen, but you know what didn't happen and that's where the suspense comes in. The author also has an amazing way of capturing things like the impact of the car crash. I physically tensed up when I read that passage. 

Chloe Cates is Missing by Mandy McHugh 

I really loved this fast paced domestic thriller. Chloe, online star of CC and Me, is missing. In reality she's 13-year-old Abigail and she's been getting less and less enthusiastic about keeping up the online persona her mother created when she was four. Of courss  Jennifer Scarborough is worried about her missing daughter -- but she's also determined to exploit the situation and generate as much publicity as possible. She's an absolutely awful person and the detective in charge of the case, who happened to be her best friend when the two of  them were Chloe's age, knows exactly the sort of thing she's capable of. 

The plot is a roller coaster with some truly heart stopping plunges and it kept me guessing until the end, which I wish hadn't been quite to abrupt. 


The Other  Family by Wendy Corsi Staub

Life in a New York brownstone will be a huge change for the Howell family, one they're not all entirely confident about. But it's only for a year, a temporary relocation for Keith's job. They'll get used to sharing a bathroom and having less space to spread out in.  The neighbors are welcoming, the girls have been accepted into a great school, and things  are looking good. Until the neighbor's son let it slip that there was a triple homicide in their new home. Until the neighbor herself pointed out the post-motem photograph hanging in the stairwell. There've been multiple tragedies in the house over the past century. And strange things are happening now. 

I enjoyed this one. The characters were three dimensional and interesting. Some things that really didn't make sense were explained by the end. The plot went in directions I wasn't expecting and kept me entertained. 

  Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Last House on the Street

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain 

In 2010, Kayla Carter and her young daughter move into the house where her husband died. The two of them designed their dream house together, at the edge of a new development. The large is huge, filled with trees that now seem oppressive and foreboding. She's heard that the woods are haunted and something about the lake behind the house frightens her. Even before the vandalism starts, Kayla is nervous.

In 1965, Ellie Hockley defies her parents' wishes to spend the summer volunteering as a civil rights worker, helping to register black voters. She's been thrust into an unfamiliar setting and is starting to discover just how sheltered her life has always been. 

Chapters alternate between the two women and I definitely found Ellie's story more interesting. 
This book is nothing like the other domestic thrillers I've been reading. It packs a heartbreaking emotional punch and I stayed up hours later than I should have because I couldn't bear to put it down and not know (even for a few hours) how it was going to end.


All I Want by Darcey Bell 

A married couple fall in love with a Victorian mansion in upstate New York and decide to buy the dilapidated old place. It needs a lot of work, but it's structurally pretty sound. It has its own theater right there in the house, built back when it was a dry out clinic where Broadway stars could retreat to sober up. They joke about the old movies they used to watch together, about houses with walls that drip blood, but they're not scared. Ben will come up from the city on weekends and Emma will live alone in the house for most of the week, overseeing the renovations and looking forward to the birth of their baby. Everything is almost first. 

I absolutely loved the first three quarters of the book. After that, I was still hooked even though I didn't care for the direction the book was going in...and then there was the last chapter. I don't even know what to think about that ending, except that I didn't like it at all. 

Disclosure -- This post contains affiliate links. The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Reckless Girls


Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins 

On the surface, it's a perfect excursion. When Amma and Brittany hire Nico and his girlfriend, Lux, to get them to Muroe Island, they jump at the chance. They don't think about the island's history of shipwrecks and cannibalism. They don't think about spending two weeks alone with strangers. It isn't until they arrive at the island and find another boat already anchored there that Lux feels her first twinge of unease. On the surface, they're all getting along and having fun, but beneath that things aren't what they seem. I enjoyed this one. The plot alternates between "before" and "now" and gradually fills in what's really going on in these relationships. 

The Birthday Party by Wendy Dranfield 

Little Charlotte should have been perfectly safe at the birthday party. Neither of her parents was there, but the yard and house were full of watchful adults. Her aunt and uncle had both promised to keep an eye on her...but no one has any idea when she disappeared or how it might have happened. Hours pass before she's even missed. 

As the hunt for Charlie continues, the plot of this one twists and turns and gets less and less plausible. I might've been more accepting of some of it if the author hadn't waited so long to let the reader know things that everyone else in the book would have already known. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links.  


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