Monday, January 17, 2022

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren't really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.

Kindle Edition, 368 pages 
Expected publicationJanuary 11, 2022 
by Minotaur Books
4/5 stars

A Flicker in the Dark is a thriller by debut author Stacy Willingham, it's a book that grabbed my attention initially with its cover - one can almost feel the creep factor.

With a unique POV - the daughter of a serial killer. While sympathetic to her plight and all she and the family went through 20 years ago she was an unreliable character.   An reliable character is good, it leaves me wondering and at times second guessing my predictions. 

This was a well written story going back in time to see what happened and how these crimes were committed.  As history begins to repeat itself, opening the door to either a copy cat or maybe, just maybe they got the wrong guy - but he didn't confess, or did he?  I enjoyed this book, the suspense, the clues and the not knowing who to believe.

Hats off to Stacy Willingham for this solid debut, definitely will be on the lookout to see what she comes up with next.

My thanks to Minotaur Press (via St. Martin's Press and Netgalley) for a digital copy in exchange for a honest review.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Kindle, 272 pages
Expected publication March 1, 2022
by Somin & Schuster Canada
4.5/5 stars

This book caught me totally off guard.  I'm not sure if coming off a creepy read that this was what I needed or I just needed to revisit Italy (I love Italy!).  But alas what a great visit it was.  Even though it comes in at 272 pages it does pack a punch.

I loved the location and the visualisation put me right there, from the crystal clear water to the landscape to the food and wine.  I've been to Italy (but not this spot) a couple of times and this brought back so many memories.

Told from the POV of Katy, grieving the death of her mother she embarks on an adventure that was suppose to be the two of them.  Katy questions everything in her life now and decides that she needs this time for herself.  Not know what to expect she gets something so unexpected - the chance to see her mom 30 years ago.  

One Italian Summer is a well written emotional story. It is a story about grief, overcoming and discovering yourself at the same time.  This is my first time reading a Rebecca Serle book, she drew me right in wanting to read just one more chapter (pun intented).  Definitely an author I will read more of.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a digital ARC (via Netgalley) in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

 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.

Paperback, 333 pages
Published September 28, 2021
by Nightfire
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Catriona Ward novel.  It was through the world of Instagram that I saw this creepy cover and purchased for my Halloween read - I kinda missed it by a few months.  But better late than never, right?

It was a addicting read in the sense of trying to figure things out.  I'm not the only reader that wants to solve the ending before the author reveals it right?  Didn't happen here.

Told from a number of POV (including the cat) the author clearly showed a messed up individual and those surrounding him.  I did a combo read and audio book, the audio changed voices for the different POV which gave it that creep factor the cover evolves. Between the man, the girl and cat I felt like a deer in the headlights and could not turn away.

The ending was not what I expected at all, so hats off the author for catching me totally off guard. This ending was satisfying and actually authentic. I learned a lot and loved the author notes at the end.

The Last House on Needless Street is a disturbing and at times confusing story (though the confusing part made sense with the ending).  There is tension, abuse (both people and animals) heartache and suspense.  Definitely should come with trigger warnings.  

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge for the new year and book #1.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Secrets of Our House by Rea Frey

A thrilling domestic drama set against the power of the wilderness, Secrets of Our House is a deeply-felt novel of long-held secrets and the strength of family.

Desi is the mastermind behind her dream getaway house. Nestled high into the mountains of North Carolina, it is a sleek place, a luxurious place, a dark place.

A place full of secrets.

Secrets about the man she longs for, a man who is not her husband. Secrets about the roots of her family that must never, ever, see the light of day. When Desi and her family arrive from Chicago to spend the summer in the mountains, the seeds for the tumultuous months to follow are planted--her marriage on the rocks, not knowing which way they'll go. Her seventeen year-old daughter Jules, falling in love for the first time with a local boy--and forging a new path that will take her to uncharted places. And Carter--a man Desi knew long ago, before she expunged him from her life for good.

All hurtling toward events none of them can undo.

Engaging, propulsive, and with a dramatic, heart-pounding final act, Secrets of Our House is a dazzling novel, richly-drawn, that shows no matter how hard outside forces may shake you, the bonds of family are stronger than the harshest winds.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication date: February 8, 2022
by St. Martin's Press
2.5/5 stars

This book is labelled as mystery/thriller and women's fiction however I would say it lacks the mystery thriller part and is more a family drama

Mom, Desi is a force to be reckoned with. I couldn’t connect or feel any empathy, she was selfish, overbearing and impulsive. Treads I found odd give her successful career.

It’s through her POV and that of her 17 year old daughter, Jules that this story is told.

As you can surmise from my rating I struggled with this story. The atmospheric feel was nice in terms of the outdoors, scenery and fresh air. However I found it repetitive as Desi pines for a lost love, at the same time trying to save her marriage.

Jules story had a bit more feeling, a conflicted teen but there were just to many inconsistencies that threw me off. Parts that didn’t make sense - you can hop over to Goodreads where more is hidden behind the spoiler button.

The ending didn’t satisfy me, it was long and drawn out plus I didn’t feel any real closure. Parts didn’t feel authentic and a little over the top. Suffice to say this book would make a great book club read just for the many topics to discuss.

Secrets of Our House is a slow burn family drama that I found predictable about secrets, each person has one. At times traumatic and contrived.

All this being said, there are a lot of 4/5 star ratings so it could just me a me thing.  I have heard great things about the author's debut Not Her Daughter, which was one of the reasons I requested this one.  I will read it in time (you should see my TBR pile, kinda scary).

My thanks to at Martin's Press (via NetGalley) for a digital arc in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

  • Hardcover, 372 pages
  • PublishedAugust 9, 2021
  •  by Delacorte Press
  • 3/5 stars


A Lesson In Vengeance was part of my August 2021 Owlcrate box.  The cover is gorgeous and the edges sprayed so it makes a nice sound when I turned the pages.

This is one of those books that I am left pondering my thoughts.  On the one hand I was genuine curious about this story and how things would turn out. With it's Gothic setting, it had that dark ghosty vibe. Felicity was as interesting character with a past that set the stage for what I hoped to be interesting read.  Oh and yea there are the Dalloway Five from way back when.  Intriguing right?

The first part was a slower pace, getting to know everyone (well honestly there weren't that many to get to know, a smallish cast of characters), get the feel of the land and feel Felicity's emotional fragility.  

The last 1/3 was fast paced, it finished with a twist and a bang but that middle part just dragged and felt one dimensional. The lack of adults and a support cast was felt by this reader, it didn't feel authentic.  It wasn't as dark as I thought and the dark Gothic vibe just didn't pan out for me.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart

From the author of Little Broken Things, a “race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) following a mother who must confront the dark summer that changed her life forever in order to reclaim the daughter she left behind.

Juniper Baker had just graduated from high school and was deep in the throes of a summer romance when Cal and Beth Murphy, a childless couple who lived on a neighboring farm, were brutally murdered. When her younger brother became the prime suspect, June’s world collapsed and everything she loved that summer fell away. She left, promising never to return to tiny Jericho, Iowa.

Until now. Officially, she’s back in town to help an ill friend manage the local library. But really, she’s returned to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, who’s been raised by Juniper’s mother and stepfather since birth—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders once and for all. She knows the key to both lies in the darkest secret of that long-ago summer night, one that’s haunted her for nearly fifteen years.

As history begins to repeat itself and a dogged local true crime podcaster starts delving into the murders, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Juniper lands back in an all-too-familiar place with the answers to everything finally in her sights, but this time it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance. Will revealing what really happened mean a fresh start? Or will the truth destroy everything Juniper loves for a second time? Baart once again brilliantly weaves mystery into family drama in this expertly-crafted novel for fans of Lisa Jewell and Megan Miranda.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 2, 2021
 by Atria Books
4/5 stars

Nicole Baart is a new author to me, it's not for lack of desire because I do have a number of her books on my tbr shelf.  I've loaned them out and they come back with rave reviews but also with comments like 'heartbreaking' or 'an emotional' read.  Which then makes me a little hesitate.   I was surprised to see this mystery/suspense book and anxiously awaited for my turn at the library - I was #1 on the hold list, lucky me!

This was an entertaining read. I enjoyed the mystery, lots of clues, finger pointing but still I couldn't quite grasp what happened.  With the story weaving back and forth from past to present made from me taking my own advice and reading just one more chapter.

The characters really made this story, they were flawed, some unlikable and others suspicious. There are those keeping secrets while Juniper tries to unravel them.  The ending was not what I expected but it totally worked.

My introduction to Nicole Baart was a success, can't wait to read more.

My copy obtained from my local public library.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

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.

Audiobook, 9 hours, 1 minute
Published June 29, 2021 by Penguin Audio
4/5 stars

Riley Sager is one author that I have managed to read all his back list after loving The Last Time I Lied and Home Before Dark.  

Image my surprise when Survive the Night was first released that it would end up in my dnf pile.  I just couldn't grasp the scenario of the opening chapters and gave up.  But one not to be defeated too quickly, and after reading a review on Instagram (from bettys_book_club) valid points were made on how to look at this book.  The biggest thing was the era and then to think movies like Scream and Halloween, characters (usually girls) that do the opposite of common sense. You know those girls you scream at on TV telling them to stop and basically hide.  Kinda like Charlie here who gets in a car with a complete stranger after her best friend is get the picture, right? Well that worked!

I did end up going the audio book route for my second attempt, and I think between an open mind and great reader I really enjoyed this book.  The reader was Savannah Gilmore, one of my favourites.  The book took off for me, I actually finished in a matter of days which for me these days says something.

There was suspense, suspicion, not a huge cast of characters but enough.  It was mysterious along with a few hiccups along the way.  As in Riley fashion there are twists I didn't see coming but also a couple I figured out.  But all in all a fast paced entertaining listen in a format I highly recommend.

Audiobook was obtained from my local public library via Overdrive.

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

A woman receives an unexpected visitor during a deadly snowstorm in this chilling thriller from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

She thought she was alone…

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
Expected publication January 25, 2022 
by Park Row
4/5 stars

For me Heather Gudenkauf is synonymous with intense physiological mysteries that keep me guessing.  Such was the case with The Overnight Guest, which releases 1-25-22.  This book gave off vibes that made me glad when insomnia hit I wasn't home alone - a snow storm would have really freaked me right out.

The Overnight Guest is a wonderful mystery that kept me guessing until things finally clicked into place. I expected a layered story from a number of POVs and through different time periods.  That's exactly what I got.

Atmospheric with flawed and mysterious characters that drew at my heartstrings.  Fast paced/slow paced I was anxious to unravel the mystery myself, some parts I was able to but not all of them.  That's what I love about reading a Gudenkauf book, keeps me on my toes.

Thank you to Park Row books for a digital advanced copy in exchange for a honest review.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Paperback, 276 pages
Published October 19, 2021 by
Harper Muse
5/5 stars

Sometimes fairy stories may say best what's to be said.
C. S. Lewis

Once Upon a Wardrobe is a beautifully written story that is perfect for this time of the year.  It's magical, meaningful and so captivating.  I'm a hard nut to crack when it comes to shedding a tear or two from a book but this one did it for me.

I'm so glad that I followed my gut instinct when it came to pre ordering this one - though now I regret not grabbing the hardcover vs paperback.  I went into this book blind, other than knowing it was about a wardrobe and Narnia.  I got way more than I expected, the writing flowed smoothly at a great pace.  The characters were real and I loved it.  I can definitely see myself reading this one again.

If you only read one Christmas book a year make it this one but truly you can read it anytime of the year.

This book was part of my 2021 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.


From the bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis comes another beautiful story inspired by C. S. Lewis’s ability to change the world and captivate hearts—including those of a terminally ill boy and his logic-driven sister.

Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford with dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics.

But equations haven’t been able to solve her biggest problem: her brother George, whom she adores, has a failing heart. It has been failing for all eight years of his life. When George is given a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse.

And so Megs moves completely out of her comfort zone, imploring the author and famous tutor of English Literature to give her the answers her brother so desires. What she receives instead is more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George.

Meg keeps trying to impose her trusty logic on the stories, but she slowly comes to realize that lists never answer the biggest questions. The gift she thought she was giving George turns out to be the one he was giving her: hope.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Stephen Aston is getting married again. The only problem is, he's still married to his first wife, even though she is in a care facility for dementia. But he'll take care of that easily, by divorcing her--even if his adult daughters protest.

Tully and Rachel Aston look upon Heather as nothing but an interloper. Heather is the same age as Rachel and even younger than Tully. Clearly she's a golddigger and after their father's money. Heather has secrets that she's keeping close, and reasons of her own for wanting to marry Stephen.

With their mother unable to speak for herself, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family's secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is. But will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous all of them?

Kindle Edition, 352 pages 
First published October 26, 2021
by St. Martin's Press
3/5 stars

I have been a die hard Sally Hepworth fan since her first book, The Secret of Midwives was first released.  

Hepworth knows how to grab this reader's attention.  That opening chapter had me itching to read more and unravel what was going on.  With alternating POV it shows a family with lots of secrets.  Though I couldn't really connect with these women I did get to know them.  There were twists and turns, numerous times I thought I knew what was going on only to be foiled again.

I wouldn't call this a thrilled but rather a domestic drama.  Women with issues and to be honest I get the root of these issues for 2 of them but not the other - maybe I missed something important but I don't think so.

The Younger Wife is a story of relationships, tons of gaslighting and over coming.   I don't expect my books to have a happy ending all the time but I do like a solid conclusion that leaves me feeling satisfied and unfortunately this one didn't.  In fact I would have giving this book 4 stars and maybe even more but I feel cheated and let down (for so many reasons that I can't go into).

Australian author Sally Hepworth will continue to be a go to author for me.  I did love the acknowledgements and the seeds that planted this book.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley) for an advanced digital copy in exchange for a honest review.