Author: Lauren Belfer
Genre: mystery/thriller, historical fiction
Age Group: Adult
ARC?: Yes.

Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman’s household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the multilayered secrets of her own life begin to unravel, Hannah comes to realize that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own, and she confronts what mothers throughout history have had to do to secure their independence and protect their children.


Review

Thank you to NG and the publisher for an e-arc of this in exchange for an honest review.

I love a good historical fiction book, especially one that has a mystery in the past that needs to be solved in the present. Susanna Kearsley is my go-to for that. Lauren Belfer has now made me want to go and read more of her works.

This book had me enthralled from the beginning. We have a murder mystery from the past and in the present Hannah is dealing with her own life situations. I rather liked the juxtaposition of the past and the present. While one didn’t have much to do with the other, in the end I think it worked well together.

While I would have liked more after the end, the final, extra chapter definitely gave me some of the answers that I was seeking.

The book was a slow paced book, but it wasn’t bad because it was engrossing. There were quite a few plot strands going on all at once, but it was interesting to see how they unfolded throughout the book. Nothing went as I expected it to.

Overall, this book was enjoyable!

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Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: magical realism, mystery/thriller
Age Group: adult
ARC?: No

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.


Review

I love Shea Ernshaw so I picked this book up and added it to my wishlist without even reading what it was about. I mean…it’s Shea Ernshaw, what’s not to like?

For me…well. I liked the book. I did, but it just was not what I was expecting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t realize what it was about. Would I have wanted to read this book if I had read the description?

No, I probably would not have. And I’m glad I didn’t because I did enjoy the book, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting. I want to say there was nothing that I overly dislike about this novel. I can’t say that I hated any part of it, because I didn’t.

Ernshaw’s writing is just so stunningly beautiful and it lull’s you into the story. I love reading her books because it is so easy to become engrossed and lost in the atmosphere of the book. You get sucked in and aren’t let out until you finish the book.

Part of that is because I felt, even after I finished reading this book I was still thinking about it, and all the little intricate pieces that Ernshaw had woven into the story.

I felt this was a different type of mystery/thriller than I’ve seen recently. It wasn’t your typical one I would say, which makes it stand out among all the mystery/thrillers. And the ending too, was unexpected to me. I was rather shocked about it.

I did love how the story held together and how the plot led you on a journey. There were some parts that had me scratching my head and wondering if I was imagining things and the other half of me was speculating.

I very much enjoyed this book even if it was different than what I expected. I love how the story unfolded and when little clues were revealed to us.

I recommend this book to people who like mind bending thrillers, but at a slower pace. 

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Author: Riley Sager
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: horror, mystery, thriller
Age Group: adult
ARC?: no

It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, 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 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. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.


Review

Survive the Night isn’t my first Riley Sager book. In fact, I read a lot of his other ones as well. I enjoyed Home Before Dark but found Final Girls lacking on so many levels. So going into this one I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know if it was going to be more like the one I liked or more like the one that I didn’t. The concept of the book seemed interesting to me – it sounded like something that would catch my attention and hold it for a period of time. Usually, I can finish Sager’s books quickly. This is because they are often fast paced and don’t take much “critical thinking” to read.

This doesn’t mean they’re bad – they’re not. But I don’t have to sit there are parse through things. I can read and guess at the mystery or what’s happening which is enjoyable for me to do. I’m usually wrong about everything, which is quite amusing to me. I’ve never been a terribly good guesser at these mystery books. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. In the end this book ended up being more like Home Before Dark for me, especially with the twists in this one.

I 100% did not guess the twists right AT ALL in this book. I said I was bad at it, I was really bad at it. But the twists were interesting, because Charlie and her mental health issues made her a very unreliable narrator so you wondered how much was true and how much was in her imagination in this book. Most of this  book is told from Charlie’s perspective but at about halfway through we switch to Josh’s POV. Adding in his POV made the book become a lot more spooky, because you’re wondering about his motivations. Is he the serial killer or not? He’s clearly lying about something…and Charlie struggles to figure out the truth on this long car ride.

What makes the book more eerie for me is the fact that it takes place in 1991 – which means, yes, there are no mobile phones for regular use – only payphones. I think this book evoked a fear in me – of being without a phone and with a (maybe) serial killer. But that made the book a lot more atmospheric. Just the whole tone of the book as well really added to the feelings the book gave me. It was certainly really interesting.

The ending was VERY surprising. It was a twist within a twist, and it was that second twist that I didn’t guess, but I guess I should have with all the hints that were dropped. Or maybe there weren’t and it was out of the blue. This book also took place in a very short span of time, just over the course of a night.

At the same time I was really annoyed with Charlie – because girl, some of your decision making skills are seriously lacking. I mean SERIOUSLY. I guess that the whole premise of this is based on Charlie just not making the greatest choices. In the end though, that’s the premise of the story and what makes the story good is Charlie’s lack of thinking skills. Or ability to tell the truth from a lie.

Overall, I liked this book. It was a firm 3 star read for me. It was an enjoyable few hours that I spent reading it. It isn’t a book that I would reread though, as I think that it was best read once, and after that it lacks the same “shock” value.

As another reviewer said, going into this book blind is the best.

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Author: Wendy Clarke
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: mystery
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Everyone in town said it was a mercy that she remembered so little. But there are some things Maya has never forgotten: that her mother was beautiful and kind, and she loved Maya very much. It’s what her father Stephen always tells her, about his perfect wife.

Years later, Maya still lives with her father in their cliffside home. Thankful for all the sacrifices he has made for her, she never pushes to find out what happened the night he lost the woman he loved. Even when she hears the whispers in town about him, and what they say he’s done.

But then Stephen introduces Maya to his new girlfriend Amy, and Maya starts to feel uneasy. With her soft dark hair and big blue eyes, Amy looks just like Maya’s mother. The more time they spend together the more Maya notices just how similar they are. And the tune Amy hums whilst cleaning the dishes is the same lullaby Maya’s mother sang to her when she was a little girl…

A thrilling and twisty tale, His Hidden Wife will keep you up all night, desperate to race through to its final conclusion. Readers of Gone Girl, The Couple Next Door and Lisa Jewell will be hooked.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an earc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

So, the premise of the book seemed intriguing. It was why I requested it in the first place. However, I just didn’t enjoy the book. It was okay. The writing was good, and there was enough of a mystery to be entertaining. Yet, at the same time, the mystery felt a little disjointed. It was almost as if there was too much going on, and nothing felt really well developed.

The characters too, I didn’t really like. It felt like the book was aiming for unreliable narrators and just missed the mark with this one. It’s a shame, because I think it could have been a really good book.

There were some important points brought up in the book, but in the context of the whole plot…just felt odd and unnecessary, like, they were brought in to add more tension, but instead did nothing.

CW/TW: abuse, domestic abuse, murder, self-harm

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