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.