Book Review: Craven Manor By Darcy Coates

For down on his luck Daniel, opportunity knocks at the perfect time . . . but will it take him to an imperfect place?

More than just a ghost story, the horror extends beyond the paranormal in this creepy little tale. That said, it’s cozy horror, more atmospheric than scary. You have the old, abandoned house, a set of mysteries as to what happened and who’s behind the MC’s sudden good fortune, and a whole host of the otherworldly to keep you guessing friend from foe. Not my favorite by this author. Good but not great.

From Goodreads:

Daniel is desperate for a job. When someone slides a note under his door offering him the groundskeeper’s position at an old estate, it seems too good to be true.

Alarm bells start ringing when he arrives at Craven Manor. The mansion’s front door hangs open, and leaves and cobwebs coat the marble foyer. It’s clear no one has lived there in a long time.

But an envelope waits for him inside the doorway. It contains money, and promises more.

Daniel is desperate. Against his better judgement, he moves into the groundskeeper’s cottage behind the crypt. He’s determined to ignore the strange occurrences that plague the estate.

But when a candle flickers to life in the abandoned tower window, Daniel realises Craven Manor is hiding a terrible secret… one that threatens to bury him with it. 

Book Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

A couple who just recently met decides to move in together so they can continue developing their relationship instead of putting it on pause during the Covid pandemic lockdown. Weeks later, a body is discovered in the apartment they shared.

The premise is certainly intriguing, and the author definitely kept me on the hook with the need to know what the characters’ secrets and motivations were. There was even a nice twist I didn’t see coming. That said, the way the narrative jumped, not just between characters but time, and by this I mean the flashbacks start out sequentially, (56 days, 35 days, etc.), but then starts to bounce around (35 days, 56 days, 12 days, 23 days, etc.), really worked to the story’s detriment. It made it hard to follow and a bit frustrating. I did enjoy it, and would say it’s worth a read because that’s my only complaint, but I would have liked to read the story in a more linear fashion.

From Goodreads:

No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

Book Review: The Last House On Needless Street By Catriona Ward

A long missing child, her devastated sister, the odd loner who lives nearby and his cat. Nothing is as it seems as the strands unravel . . .

This book sunk it’s claws in deep and wouldn’t let me go! It was creepy and atmospheric and dark and psychological and I had no idea where it was going or even quite what was going on – the sense of reality versus fantasy was almost hypnotic! The pacing, the writing, the characters were all perfect. The ending was mostly unexpected, transforming this book from a lesson in horror into something more.

From Goodreads:

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Book Review : These Toxic Things By Rachel Howzell Hall

A ‘digital scrapbooker’ is hired to compile a collection for a woman losing her memory to Alzheimer’s disease. The woman dies, but the scrapbooker proceeds – and stumbles upon a disturbing pattern.

I thought the premise of this book was great. The execution was good, but there was a bit too much going on in it. It could easily have been at least 50 pages shorter by weeding out some of the MC’s side arcs, and I think it would have made the book stronger.

Plenty or red herrings were introduced, but again, there was so much going on that they weren’t as effective as they might have been. The MC was kind of a princess, not really relatable or likeable. The author did try to evolve her character and show growth over the course of the story, but it was almost lost among all the other strands of the web.

Worth a read, but not a must read now.

From Goodreads: A dead woman’s cherished trinkets become pieces to a terrifying puzzle.

Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain―twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.

But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.

It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One that might, Mickie fears, be inescapably entwined with her own. 

ARC Book Review : Her Perfect Life By Hank Phillippi Ryan

A TV reporter has to hide all her dark secrets to maintain her ‘perfect’ persona.

I’ve been thinking about my review for this book for a while. I love Ryan, but this book? Not so much. A 3.5 rounded up to a 4. It was fast paced and well written, but I felt ambivalent about the characters (make me love them or hate them, please!). I couldn’t connect with them and found them annoying. The plot seemed unlikely and far fetched, relying on the characters being unbelievably naïve and I just couldn’t buy it. And I realize I read an ARC, but when ages, time past, etc. are inconsistent, it makes my brain stutter. It yanks me out of the story to do math. Please don’t make me do math. Please. Edit first.

This book will be released September 14th, 2021.

From Goodreads:

The next thrilling standalone novel by USA Today bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

Book Review : Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton

I loved Buxton’s first book, Hollow Kingdom, so much that I immediately preordered the sequel as soon as I found out about it! But my problem with sequels, especially when the first book is a near perfect literary adventure, is that my expectations can be too high – I want to relive the experience I had during the first book, and that’s often not possible. But this book? Hit. The. Mark.

It had enough from the first book to invoke the sense of love I had for the characters, while being enough of a departure from the original that the plot felt fresh and fulfilling. It made me laugh out loud – multiple times – and it made me cry (also multiple times). So much heart and irreverent snark, a perfect combination! Not quite as good as the first, but a close second. Trilogy? Please?

Apocalypse settings and animal characters usually aren’t my thing, but the Hollow Kingdom series is worth the departure. I highly recommend these books!

From Goodreads:

In this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom, the animal kingdom’s “favorite apocalyptic hero”is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity’s last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what’s a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that’s what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

Book Review: Teen Killers Club By Lily Sparks

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of me rubbing my hands together after finishing a satisfying, if unbelievable, tall tale about a Teen Killers Club! Best of all, I smell a sequel (please let there be a sequel)!

In this one, the MC is in jail for her best friend’s murder. She doesn’t remember killing her friend, but her friend wasn’t always so nice to her and she blacked out, so . . . when she gets an offer from a shady government agency to free her from prison if she agrees to go to their camp, she takes it. Even if it lands her in the middle of a pot of hot teenage killers who DO remember committing their crimes. Not just that, but they’ve all tested psychologically as the worst of the worst! EEK! Now be a good camper, turn out the lights and go to sleep. Fast paced and a lot of fun!

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From Goodreads:

Framed for the murder of her best friend, a young girl joins a super-secret society of teenage assassins to avoid a lifetime behind bars–and discovers her own true self–in this mesmerizing debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere has raised eyebrows for years as an unhappy Goth misfit from the trailer park. When she’s convicted of her best friend Rose’s brutal murder, she’s designated a Class A–the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile. To avoid prison, Signal signs on for a secret program for 18-and-under Class As and is whisked off to an abandoned sleep-away camp, where she and seven bunkmates will train as assassins. Yet even in the Teen Killers Club, Signal doesn’t fit in. She’s squeamish around blood. She’s kind and empathetic. And her optimistic attitude is threatening to turn a group of ragtag maniacs into a team of close-knit friends. Maybe that’s because Signal’s not really a killer. She was framed for Rose’s murder and only joined the program to escape, track down Rose’s real killer, and clear her name. But Signal never planned on the sinister technologies that keep the campers confined. She never planned on the mysterious man in the woods determined to pick them off one by one. And she certainly never planned on falling in love. Signal’s strategy is coming apart at the seams as the true killer prepares to strike again in Teen Killers Club.

Book Review: The Escape Room By Megan Goldin

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Who doesn’t like seeing (or reading) about some overentitled baddies getting what they deserve?

A group of financiers for an elite company are forced to participate in a mandatory ‘team building’ experience. Only, the game really sucks. And when it’s over, they’re still trapped – which is when the real fun begins!

Revenge is best served cold – unless it’s a sizzling summer beach read!

This was a fun, fast paced foray into the corporate world of backstabbing and bad ideas.

From Goodreads:

In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

Book Review: A Head Full Of Ghosts By Paul Tremblay

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A family falling apart. A teenage girl who descends into madness – or not. Because she might be possessed – or not. Luckily, it was all documented by a reality TV show. Now, fifteen years later, the girl’s younger sister struggles to reconcile what she thought she knew with what happened – or not!

I’ve never read this author before and had no idea what to expect, so I was thrilled to find myself wrapped up in the middle of this creepy tale! Suspenseful and chilling in that ‘is it or isn’t it?’ way that crawls under your skin and gives you chills! I’ll definitely be reading more of this Tremblay’s work!

From Goodreads:

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Book Review: Survive The Night By Riley Sager

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A girl leaves college after her roommate/best friend is murdered. Even though she saw the killer, she can’t identify him, which means he could be anyone – including the guy she’s catching a ride home with.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Ultimately, it kept me reading, and overall, I enjoyed it – but just barely. I love a good unreliable narrator, but that’s not really what we get here. The author uses what’s possibly mental illness to achieve what he needs from a wish washy feeb of a main character. The overall plot is good, but the execution leaves something to be desired. I was really looking forward to this one but was left disappointed. Definitely not Sager’s best. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

From Goodreads: It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

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