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Review

The Shadows

The Shadows by Alex North

Publication Date: July 7th 2020 ~ Genre: Thriller-Mystery, Horror

I won an ARC copy of this book via bookishfirst.com

Synopsis:

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

Thoughts:

Reading on, beware of spoilers!

Picking up The Shadows is returning to the ominous world of the Whisper man. Detective Amanda Beck is called to duty again to solve a gruesome murder, eerily resembling the murder of a teen 20 years ago. These are not typical murders, however, these murders more accurately resemble sacrifices. 

Paul is the POV the reader is introduced to in the beginning of the book. We follow him through his early teen years and the events of the first murder. In those early years, Paul finds himself thrown into the delusions of a teenage boy, Charlie. Only a fierce loyalty to his friend, James, keeps Paul involved in Charlie’s plot to bring his world of imagination terrifyingly to life. Though James can’t seem to remove himself from the group of found friends, Paul is eventually pushed too far and leaves the group and his friend for good. 

In adulthood, Paul is still running from the trauma experienced in his childhood. All Paul could hope for is to wipe his memory clean of the murder and the events leading to the murder. Paul returns to his hometown to visit his dying mother, as she is admitted to hospice. Everything comes flooding back and Paul must choose how involved he wishes to become as he learns even his mother was connected.

One drawback I experienced while reading this book is an absent connection to the characters. I wished the characters were a bit more developed but I understand the possibility of an unreliable main character may have clouded the process. Also, this book can be confusing. I got to a certain point, learned something new and then was like, wait, how did those previous events occur? I had to go back and reread chapters but I still feel confused. I’m interested to see what others think of these chapters. Please click the little comment icon at the beginning of this review to tell me about your experience with this book. I’d love to chat about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Shadows. Alex North never fails to set a suspenseful tone in his books, which propels the reader through the chapters. His descriptions of the environment and how it affects the characters causes the reader to sit on the edge of their seat while reading, absolutely sure something heinous is about to occur at any moment and that’s usually the case.  😉

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Review

Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 30, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery Thriller

Synopsis:

What was it like? Living in that house.

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.

Thoughts:

Reader beware! Spoilers ahead!

Gah! This book! It’s just so up my alley and I knew I would love every minute of it!

If you love stories about haunted houses, ghosts, and mysteries I think you’ll love this book.

I was so excited to get my hands on a new Riley Sager so it was a no-brainer pick for my BOTM. The book arrived at my door step and I waited a full 10 minutes before diving in.

Home Before Dark is told in two timelines. In the present we follow Maggie in adulthood as a home renovator, and in the past, we follow Maggie’s father Ewan, as he tells the tale of the House of Horrors through his book. Ewan’s narrative is supposed to be a nonfiction account of the experiences of his family’s 3 months living in the house prior to abruptly leaving, without any belongings, and never returning. Ewan’s book quickly becomes a best seller and the house, as well as it’s previous occupants, gain notoriety.

Maggie is more than a little skeptical of her father’s account. The reader learns of Maggie’s exhaustive attempts to get to the truth of the story throughout her life, and follows along as Maggie is repeatedly dismissed by her parents and given a generic response for each question she poses. Maggie blames the “Book” for the divorce of her parents and for a turbulent relationship with her father.  The narrative is a dark cloud over the family, imposing and divisive. 

To her surprise, Maggie inherits the house after her father’s death, and learns of his involvement over the years with the house long after her family supposedly left for good. Maggie decides to face her past and discover the truth once and for all, deciding to live in, renovate, and put the house up for sale. Maggie’s father’s dying words ring in her head as she opens the door to the house, “It’s not safe there, not for you.”

This book has so many twists and turns, at one point I was completely convinced the house was haunted and Ewan’s story was truth then at another, I believed it was all lies and someone was staging events. I was constantly on the edge of my seat just turning the pages, needing, like Maggie, to understand fact from fiction. Although, a couple of the twists may be fairly easy to spot, I didn’t fault the book for predictability. I just loved the ride!

Overall, I can see this book as a movie and it’s no surprise its already been optioned. I think it was only a matter of time before Hollywood discovered the magic of a Sager book. This is one of the few books I will keep and reread over the years for it’s ghosty goodness. In my opinion, it couldn’t be better; I give it all the stars! 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Review

The Lost Ones

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Release Date: October 31, 2019 ~ Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery.

Synopsis

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917 

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

Review

Secrets keep you sick. I hear this said often to and by my patients. The Lost Ones, by Anita Frank demonstrates the truth of the above statement in the most chilling of ways.
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I’m not going to get into spoilers but I loved the ominous tone of this book and the bravery displayed by our main protagonist, Stella. Stella is determined and loyal, and exhibited a persistence not often associated with women in the early 1900s. I loved her for her tenacity in the face of so may obstacles.
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The pacing of this book is steady until the end when it picks up and you fly through. I didn’t feel it dragged at all. I just kept wanting to turn the pages.
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The creep factor is real in this book and there were several times I had to put this book away rather than continue reading through the night, otherwise, I felt I’d never fall asleep. I love a little spookiness and it never got too scary or horrific. The plot points felt purposeful and added a little more to the mystery.

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I do love a good historical fiction and throw a little ghostiness in with a mystery and I’m in heaven! Overall, highly recommend!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Review

The Guest List

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Release: June 2, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery Thriller ~ Book acquired through Book of the Month early release.

Synopsis

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? 

Review

I struggled putting together a review for this one. As a mystery/thriller, I feel like most info can be considered a spoiler. However, here are my non-spoilery thoughts. 
I find it difficult to read books when I don’t like any of the characters and I hesitated picking this up because I heard all the characters in this book were unlike-able. Happily, I found this not to be true. I did like two of the characters especially and found myself rooting for them throughout the twists and turns of this story. I think many readers may find they identify with some aspect of these two characters, seemingly on the outskirts of the friend group, and will hang on perilously with them while hoping for a gratifying ending.
For me, the pacing of this book was slow to start but built quickly and became very exciting and unputdownable towards the end. I didn’t find the major twists predictable and I liked the buildup to the finale. 

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I did have a couple of issues with the plot but overall, really enjoyed this one! It was a fun ride.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️