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One Night Gone

It was the perfect place to disappear. -One Night Gone

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin – Graydon House, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Tara Laskowski

(3.72 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: October 1, 2019, by Harlequin – Graydon House

Pages: 348 (Kindle version)

#OneNightGone


Nothing worked out to be perfect. There was no perfect, no happy-ever-after. No happy ever, it seemed.

When I was younger, I used to go to the carnival with my friends and family. We would always go at night because it was just more magical then – the lights, the jaunty carnival music, and the sinfully delicious carnival sweets. The best nights of the summer were spent on the Ferris Wheel or the Tilt-A-Whirl; I never wanted to go home!

So who would have ever guessed that so much could be going on in the background of such a fun experience? The danger behind the scenes of all the twinkly lights and laughter in One Night Gone proves that all is not what it seems – not at the carnival or in the town of Opal Beach where it settles every summer.

Here’s the blurb: “One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes. Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

The possibilities were whirling inside me, gaining momentum like a tropical storm gathering strength just off the coast.


When I finished reading this book back in October, I wrote the following review on Goodreads: “The perfect mystery for a spooky October reading list – haunting and expertly unveiled. The interlacing dual timelines, expertly disclosed secrets, and crafty characters will pull you into this mystery more and more with every chapter.”

That must have been a good day when I was feeling very generous and kind because now that the book has sat with me for a couple of months, I feel a little differently.

My opinion hasn’t shifted to the other end of the spectrum – It isn’t a bad book, but I am not as enthusiastic about it as I was initially. Laskowski is a good writer, so the problem is not with the calibre of her prose. It was just missing the big payoff in the end.

I had the sense I was the last woman on earth, that in my quiet drive alone the rest of humanity had vanished.

Here is what I appreciated: the main characters in each timeline were survivors. They both faced extreme challenges and found ways to overcome them – granted, with varying degrees of success. That contributed to an intriguing premise that, unfortunately, ended up being a bit bland by the end.

One Night Gone is available now at any of the following booksellers:

And read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE

If your book club is interested in exploring this twisted suspense novel, the author has made a book club reader’s guide available for you HERE. Check it out!


Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski is the award-winning author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which The Guardian named a best book of 2017. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. One Night Gone is her first novel.


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The Starless Sea

=> Everyone wants the stars. Everyone wishes to grasp that which exists out of reach. To hold the extraordinary in their hands and keep the remarkable in their pockets. –The Starless Sea / Erin Morgenstern <=


Author: Erin Morgenstern

(4.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, Doubleday Books

Pages: 498 (Hardcover)

#TheStarlessSea #StarlessSea


We are all stardust and stories.

In school, I was a Mass Comm major with a minor in English studies. Although a took a couple of Lit classes, I feel woefully unable to put any of my scant knowledge to use at translating this book. And I say “translating” because it really did feel like Morgenstern was writing in a language that was entirely and intentionally foreign to me.

Let’s see what the premise of the book is supposed to be:
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.


What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.


It is a sanctuary for storytellers and storykeepers and storylovers. They eat and sleep and dream surrounded by chronicles and histories and myths.

I finished this book earlier this month and, honestly, my thoughts on it have still not gelled to a point where I feel I have a clear handle on anything that happened in this story. Anything at all! OK, so let me attempt to slip into the skin of one of those omniscient Lit majors and see if any meaning shakes out in the midst of this review.

One of the biggest things that is apparent in The Starless Sea is the symbolism. There are LOADS of symbols, and if you can pin down solid meanings for any of them, any of them at all, gold stars to you.

There are animals: cats, owls, bees; Objects: keys, swords, crowns, and doors; People: pirates, guardians, keepers, acolytes; and honey, honey, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. There is an Owl King, the cats may (or may not) be able to talk, and the workers in the kitchen are way too efficient to be believed. The nearly 500 pages are so stuffed with metaphor that even the best analyst will have a massive task ahead of them to unpack all of the injected meaning.

As crammed as it is with all of the possible interpretations for this object and that, Sea is sadly missing a clearly defined plot or direction. What we understand at first is that Zach (I refuse to use his whole name as it is used repeatedly in the book) finds a book that leads him on an adventure away from reality and into a world of stories. As the days pass, we expect a clear path of action or an understanding that will lead to some enlightened discovery as the final chapters approach. Unfortunately for the readers, The Starless Sea keeps its secrets both in their world and ours.

This is a rabbit hole. Do you want to know the secret to surviving once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole?”

Zachary nods and Mirabel leans forward. Her eyes are ringed with gold.

“Be a rabbit,” she whispers.

Although this book was not my cup of honey, the stories being told within it were the most interesting parts. Maybe if it had just been a book full of all of those short stories, I would have enjoyed it more. But, alas, it was not, and while I was on board for the first half – hoping for a big buildup and an even bigger payoff – neither ever appeared, and that was disappointing.


Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is the author of The Night Circus, a number-one national best seller that has been sold around the world and translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in theater from Smith College and lives in Massachusetts.


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Blog Tour | The Princess Plan (A Royal Wedding, #1)

Sometimes having too much rum punch at the party can turn out to be very advantageous – especially when you’re in the presence of a prince.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, HQN Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Julia London

(3.83 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 19, 2019, by HQN Books

Pages: 400 (Kindle version)

#ThePrincessPlan #JuliaLondon #HQNBooks


Wealth and influence and titles had a way of turning otherwise honest people into liars and actors.

Am I the only one who never harbored fantasies of becoming a princess when she grew up? I mean, of course I wanted to meet the handsome wealthy man who swept me off my feet and just conveniently had a big beautiful house (and maybe a few gorgeous horses too), but a prince and a castle? That just wasn’t my thing. I guess I always thought that being a princess or even (gasp!) a queen would be awfully dull and hard. So much responsibility and scrutiny. Pass!

This is what makes Eliza Tricklebank so relatable. Even as a 28-year old spinster, she doesn’t have designs to make either the prince or the throne her own – she’s just enjoying a fun night out and several helpings of delicious rum punch. What happens at masquerade balls is supposed to stay at masquerade balls, right? Well, apparently not when Prince Sebastian Chartier of Alucia is in attendance and your sister just happens to run the town’s only ladies gossip gazette. But what does any of that have to do with The Princess Plan?- let’s read the blurb:

Nothing gets the tongues of London’s high society wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater interest in Eliza. With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. 

…by all accounts he is very handsome, … And rich. That is a powerful broom if one is inclined to be swept.

There are so many things I like about this book: The picture-perfect ambiance of a masquerade ball, the heated contest by all the single ladies to meet the royal bachelors, and the inclusion of nearly every class of person in the story. But I most appreciate how perfectly imperfect Eliza Tricklebank is. She isn’t the perfectly coiffed and proper protagonist that one might expect in literature. Instead, she is irreverent, a little clumsy, and more often than not inappropriately attired for the occasion. I can totally relate to her. Plus, she really, really enjoys a good rum punch!

Eliza has a very realistic outlook on her position in life. She has no grand airs, and she is bound to her duties as the spinster daughter charged with looking after her blind father. But as luck and love both seek her out, she finds that wanting more for her life is a double-edged sword.

Great wealth and responsibility must come at the expense of something else.

Highlights of The Princess Plan include Eliza’s sister’s gossip paper, Honeycutt’s Gazette – every issue is packed with tantalizing rumors and speculations about aliased citizens, tempered with a dash of practical advice at the end. Every excerpt from Hollis’ paper was clever and, many times, hilarious!

Another key highlight is that this is not just a romance novel. If you are a fan of mysteries – as I am – London has included a taut murder mystery among all the ballgowns and clandestine meet-ups. There’s enough going on in this book to keep demanding readers happy, guessing, and wanting more.

That last part bodes well for The Princess Plan as it is book one in the A Royal Wedding series (kind of a spoiler alert, dontcha think?) Anyhoo, read this one first (releases Nov 19, 2019), and then look for a release date for A Royal Kiss and Tell sometime in 2020. And if Eliza’s antics are as off-beat as a princess as they were when she was a commoner, we’re all in for a treat!


The Princess Plan is available November 19th at any of the following retail stores:


Julia London

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best selling author of more than two dozen romantic fiction novels. Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. -Bio adapted from Goodreads


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The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in. The Family Upstairs

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Lisa Jewell

(4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, by Atria Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover), 464 (Kindle version)

#TheFamilyUpstairs


It’s only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

II really want to move closer to my job and my daughter’s school, so I’m currently house-hunting online and by word-of-mouth. Someone recently asked me if I would mind living in a condo. My answer was a hard and fast “no”. Why? Because people are weird.

And after I sat down and swallowed this suspenseful story about the perils of cohabitation, I feel incredibly justified in my answer! Told from multiple perspectives and different timelines, with fatally flawed characters, this is a story that will grab you and pull you into the depths of family for which dysfunctional is an aspiration. Here’s the blurb…

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.


The weakness of men lay at the root of every bad thing that had ever happened.

OK, what drew me in immediately: (1) an unexpected inheritance, (2) an abandoned mansion, (3) London – all the creepiest strangeties happen in London (and if “strangeties” isn’t a word, it should be, and (4) a baby alone in the midst of chaos. Everything about that summary says you-must-read-this-book. And I am so glad that I did.

When you begin to read a book and you immediately know that you don’t have a clue what is going on or how it’s all going to turn out, that’s when you have the most fun. What begins as the story of a woman learning about her birth parents and possibly getting a much-needed new start in life, quickly becomes something much, much more.

I knew what I had to do and it does not cast me in a good light. But I was a child. I was desperate. I was trying to save us all.


Living with people is tricky whether they be family, friends, or strangers. Can anyone you live with be completely trusted to lock the doors if they’re the last ones in, or to not leave their flat iron on while everyone’s at work? My guess is no. But if the worst you have to ever deal with is having a roommate who plays his music a bit too loud on a work night, then you have it a million times better than the Lamb family living in the mansion on Cheyne Walk.

Lisa Jewell has given us a book (another one!) with great pacing, captivating characters with varying degrees of drastic difficulties and believability, and the meat and bones of a story so dark that its small victories feel like supernovas. Five stars to this new release that I couldn’t hardly put down. If you don’t have it already, this book needs to be on your TBR and on your bookshelf. And after you read it, I think you’ll agree with me – single-family living is the way to go!


The Family Upstairs is available now at any of the following retail stores:


Read an excerpt here: The Family Upstairs Excerpt

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

http://www.lisajewellbooks.com/


November New Releases

⇒New Release November is underway! Today I’m highlighting some new releases that I’m really looking forward to this month!⇐

Doesn’t fall just seem like the perfect reading season? Cooler weather just begs for fuzzy socks, fluffy blankets, warm cocoa, and cozying up to your next favorite read.

Here are some of November’s new releases that I’m looking forward to:

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich

Release date: November 12, 2019

I look forward to every single one of the books in this series and I usually get them the day that they release. This Stephanie Plum series is one of my absolute favorites! In this new Plum adventure, Stephanie has to protect Grandma Mazur from gangsters dead set on her demise…

Grandma Mazur has decided to get married again – this time to a local gangster named Jimmy Rosolli. If Stephanie has her doubts about this marriage, she doesn’t have to worry for long, because the groom drops dead of a heart attack 45 minutes after saying, ‘I do.’  A sad day for Grandma Mazur turns into something far more dangerous when Jimmy’s former ‘business partners’ are convinced that his new widow is keeping the keys to a financial windfall all to herself. But the one thing these wise guys didn’t count on was the widow’s bounty hunter granddaughter, who’ll do anything to save her.


The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Release date: November 5, 2019

This one is going to be a NetGalley read for me and I can hardly wait to dig into it! One reviewer described it as “bone-chilling suspense”. Sold!

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up. In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go? Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Release date: November 5, 2019

While most people would say that I was late to the party with having just read The Night Circus only a couple of months ago, it seems that I actually had perfect timing to be able to follow it with another release from Erin Morgenstern’s imaginative mind!

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.


The Hero by Lee Child

Release date: November 28, 2019

No, I have not been body-snatched! Yes, I am putting a non-fiction book on my November TBR, and it’s for very good reason: it’s by Lee Child. I want to hear everything he has to say about heroes in our culture, especially my favorite literary hero – Jack Reacher!

In his first work of nonfiction, the creator of the multimillion-selling Jack Reacher series explores the endurance of heroes from Achilles to Bond, showing us how this age-old myth is a fundamental part of what makes us human. He demonstrates how hero stories continue to shape our world – arguing that we need them now more than ever.”


Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

Release date: November 19, 2019

My November new release list would be incomplete if I didn’t also include this peculiar little book by Nathan W. Pyle. Strange Planet promises to be a mind-bending look at life on a planet that may not feel so far from home in the end.

“Straight from the mind of New York Times bestselling author Nathan W. Pyle comes an adorable and profound universe in pink, blue, green, and purple. Based on the phenomenally popular Instagram of the same name, Strange Planet covers a full life cycle of the planet’s inhabitants [in a] book [that] offers a sweet and hilarious look at a distant world not all that unlike our own.”


So those are my top picks for November. What’s on your new release TBR this month?


Spooky Reads TBR

⇒So many books, so little time! I know it has 31 days, but October still feels like it’s too short to fit in all the #SpookyReads I want to read this month. In today’s post, I’m highlighting the thrilling titles I only have a week left to read!⇐

Avid readers often have the same problem: more books on their shelves than hours in the week to read them. And then writers keep writing, so it’s a never-ending cycle. If you’re anything like me, you have a TBR list that is constantly growing – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

October is a really fun month to fill up your reading list with the most thrilling, spookiest, and most horrifying stories on your bookshelf (or on audiobook, Kindle, or from the library – anywhere you can get your hands on a good book, really).

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near Halloween.

unknown author

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I have been wanting to read this book from the moment it hit my hands. Instead it has been haunting the back of my bookshelf, patiently waiting its turn to surface and tromp through my dreams. Having just recently finished The Heart-Shaped Box, I know that Joe Hill can write a mean horror story that manages to give you shivers and stays with you long after you reach the back cover. Hopefully that will be true, too, of NOS4A2.

“Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls ‘Christmasland.'”


Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

This gem has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. It’s cover drew me in initially and then the cover blurb made me know that I had to come home with it. It has what seems like a perfect combination of thrills, chills, and an off-the-rails crime featuring a monstrous serial killer.

“If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.”


There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

George Carlin

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores was hanging out in a Little Free Library waiting for me to come by and trade a few romance paperbacks for her. I don’t know what I’m in for with this popular horror novel, but it won’t be my first King book, so I can just about imagine!

“Forced by overwhelming evidence to confess her life of crime, Dolores Claiborne, a foul-tempered New Englander, describes how her disintegrating marriage years before caused her heart to turn murderous.”


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I have seen this book on so many lists, especially around the Halloween season. It promises a creepy combo of horror and historical fiction that will add all the atmospheric thrills any reader needs for their #spookyreads.

“[Hundreds Hall], home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.”


I love Halloween, and I love that feeling: the cold air, the spooky dangers lurking around the corner.

Evan Peters

Petals on the Wind by V. C. Andrews

This sequel to Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic shows us all that sometimes family is the scariest thing we’ll ever have to experience in our lives!

“She knew it was time to put what she knew to the test. To show her mother and grandmother that the pain and terror of the attic could not be forgotten… Show them.”


Lost Souls (Frankenstein series) by Dean Koontz

The first book of Koontz’s Frankenstein series instantly made me a fan. And this time I have a good reason that this book, #4 in the series, is still waiting on the shelf – I have to get books 2 and 3 first!

Before the sun rises, the town will be under full assault, the opening objective in the new Victor Frankenstein’s trajectory of ultimate destruction. Deucalion—Victor’s first, haunted creation—saw his maker die in New Orleans two years earlier. Yet an unshakable intuition tells him that Victor lives—and is at work again.


*All summary blurbs courtesy of Goodreads.com

Halloween Horror’s Spooky Themes

⇒Any time you pick up a horror book, it will most likely fall under a traditional spooky theme. Get ready to be creeped out by the books on my creepy horror themes lists that are perfect for any Halloween reading list!⇐

I am going to start this blog entry with a confession (is this becoming a thing with me now? Gosh, I hope not – then you’ll know everything!) So here it is: I am a big fat chicken! I absolutely love reading spooky books in October… as long as they aren’t TOO scary, and as long as they aren’t too realistic. Is that cheating? Enh… maybe.

Whenever I’m looking through suggested titles for my #spookyreads TBR, I shy away from so many of them because I can already imagine the twisted nightmares I would suffer if I got those stories stuck in my head. But my personal timidness aside, some readers are able to just plunge into the scariest of horror stories. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the most popular horror themes and some very spooky reads to go along with them!

Silence lay heavily upon the wood and the stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

HAUNTED HOUSES

A classic. There is nothing more basic about reading a spine-chilling horror novel than having it feature an ancient, gloomy, and most definitely haunted house. Check out these incredibly spooky haunted house horrors…

  • THE INVITED by Jennifer McMahonHelen and Nate’s new property has a dark and violent past. Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago.
  • WITHIN THESE WALLS by Ania AhlbornLucas Graham finds himself investigating Jeffrey Halcomb’s life within the walls of the cult leaders former home – where his devoted followers may just have found eternal life.
  • THE GRAVEYARD APARTMENT by Mariko Koike“A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.”

GHOSTS

Boo! Scared ya, didn’t I? Not so much? Ok, well maybe I didn’t, but these ghost stories definitely will…

  • PETRA’S GHOST by C.S. O’CinneideAs Daniel hikes a lonely trail carrying the ashes of his wife, Petra, something sinister is stalking him and his companion, Ginny.
  • THE WAYWARD GIRLS by Amanda MasonA family experienced all the things that go bump in the night in their little cottage in 1976. Years later, Lucy revisits her childhood home to learn the truth about what happened there.
  • IMAGINARY FRIEND by Stephen Chbosky“Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend.”

We ask only to be reassured/About the noises in the cellar/And the windows that should not have been open.

T.S. Eliot, The Family Reunion

POSSESSION

OK, here is where I solidly chicken out. No apologies. I literally. just. can’t. But if you can…

  • POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil “San Francisco’s senior exorcist and his newly assigned partner from the Vatican enlist Bridget’s help with increasingly bizarre and dangerous cases of demonic possession.”
  • THE RITE : The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio – (nonfiction) “Journalist Matt Baglio uses the astonishing story of one American priest’s training as an exorcist to reveal the phenomena of possession, demons, the devil, and exorcism[s]…”
  • PANDEMONIUM by Daryl Gregory“Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons.”

MONSTERS

We’re all familiar with the classic horror monsters: Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and every werewolf you’ve ever read about. But modern horror stories invent modern monsters and new things that go bump in the night.

  • RELIC by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child“Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human…”
  • CREATURE by Hunter Shea“[Kate] and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.”
  • MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN by Jennifer Giesbrecht“A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats.”

You didn’t hear what she told me when I got up — you’re so cute I could put you in a pie. Tell me that’s not the creepiest thing you’ve ever heard.

Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

WITCHES

Let’s just say that these aren’t the Hocus Pocus or Practical Magic ladies that you may have fond memories of. These chicks are much, much creepier.

  • THE FAMILIARS by Stacey HallsA noblewoman and her baby’s lives depend on Alice Grey’s promise that she can save them. But, suddenly, Alice is accused of witchcraft and the women must combine their powers to save each other.
  • THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR by Hester FoxNot all is as it seems in the sleepy town of Pale Harbor. “Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. “
  • WITCH WATER by Edward Lee“A warlock who sires children with his own daughter, children to be used for something far worse than sacrifice. A witch whose carnal abandon and sheer diabolism stagger even the most demented imaginations. And a 300-year-old mansion in whose walls are embalmed the infernal secret of…Witch-Water.”

Of course, these titles are just a taste of all the sufficiently spooky horror stories that could rock your October reading list. But there’s only one question… Are you brave enough?


October #SpookyReads

⇒It may be the falling leaves, or it may be the cooler weather, but October is my favorite reading time of the year! But what if a spooky TBR just isn’t your thing?⇐

Every October (really, I start in September), I line up a stack of books for my #spookyreads list. Usually they’re a good mix of creepy mystery/thrillers with one or two true horror stories thrown in to really give me a good fright. This year, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is honestly giving me a good scare and became a “freezer book” for me more than once! (“Freezer book” – on Friends, when a book becomes too scary for Joey, he puts it in the freezer!)

But what if you’re just not that into being scared out of your wits, but still want to add books to your October TBR that will give you a little thrill and add some suspense to your reading without leaving you wimpering in a corner crying for your mommy. What? I totally did not do that – it’s just an example!

So I thought I’d chat about not one specific book today, but several that may help you celebrate the season in a less horrific way.

The most frightening monsters are the ones that exist in our minds.

MYSTERIES

A good juicy complex mystery can be a nice filler for an October TBR. It’s the element of suspense that will put you on the edge of your seat. And – if the author is good at what he/she does – the effect will be the same as reading a good horror novel: nail-biting, lip-pursing, eye-bulging, and the urge to read “just one more chapter”! Check out these great mysteries (classics and current) that are perfect whodunits for the season.


PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

I don’t know about you, but some of the creepiest books I’ve ever read are psychological thrillers. If an author can pen a tale that messes with my mind, it’s going to be hard to put down and even harder to forget. Like these…

CREEPY KIDS!

What is it about kids that can end up being so creepy? Think about it, the laughter of children echoing down a dark hallway, a lone little girl in an empty playground swinging on a squeaky swing set. OK, let me stop – I’m spooking myself! But seriously, sometimes just writing about a child with odd behavior can give you all the chills you need.

Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.

Clive Barker

SERIAL KILLERS

OK, OK, murder is one of horrific things that can happen in life so how am I OK with including this category in the not-so-scary list? Well, it all depends on how it’s written. Shout out to all the murderinos who can handle gore and a high body count better than ghosts and ghoulies!

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Sometimes the best Halloween stories are those that are written for kids. No joke, authors often weave the best tales for the younger generations – and they’re not scary enough to send you running to the freezer with the book!


Whatever reads ultimately end up filling your October reading list, I hope you find them perfect for the season and for your bookshelf. If you know of some spooky books that I should be reading, let me know. Happy not-so spooky reading!


The Furies

⇒”Once summoned, the Furies cannot be sent back, only leave of their own accord.” –The Furies by Katie Lowe ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Katie Lowe

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Thriller

Format: Kindle

U.S. Publication Date: October 8, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352 (Kindle version)

#TheFuries


‘They will be your conduit, your intention made flesh; they will destroy the corrupt and murder the wicked, oh goddesses, if you will give to them your gifts.’

If you’ve been to school – almost any kind – you know about cliques. You seem them clustered in groups in the cafeteria or in the quad, or huddled together in the hallways or the library. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the science geeks, and, yes, even the mean girls. And if you were ever “the new kid” you had to quickly figure out where you fit in the grand scheme of the social hierarchy.

This was the dilemma Violet faced as she entered Elm Hollow Academy looking for a fresh start. Here’s the blurb:

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning. The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel. Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this addictive new world. But when she comes to learn about the disappearance of a former member of the society, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled in her newfound friendships. Was it suicide, or a foul play more sinister? How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another?


Women are not to be left alone, together, or tragedy will surely follow.

If the thing that draws you in is gorgeous, poetic prose, then this debut novel will give you what you need. Lowe’s poetic prose touches all of your senses at once. You’ll not only “see” the action, but you’ll smell it, hear it, and taste it too. She leaves very little out of her scenic descriptions, which really draw you into the action in every chapter.

However, if you’re more interested in a witchy thriller, you might find The Furies a little lacking. Sure there are spells and what passes as a conjuring, but most of the dark stuff is entirely man-made. I would call it a coming-of-age story; however, instead of character development, the main character experiences more of a moral deterioration and decay. We are witnesses to a clever, intelligent, studious girl being transformed into something much less than that.

…that crush of love and hate, the cruel and rotten bliss of friendship.

Throughout the book, every really interesting thing happens just outside of our field of vision. We’re present for the buildup and then again for the hazy, hungover aftermath. Even when our main character is in the midst of the action, we aren’t privy to the exact details and she is utterly clueless to most of what is going on. Yes, this is a technique to draw readers deeper into the story and preserve some of the mystery, but I also feel alienated by it, as if I can’t be trusted with the truth.

And that just gives me another reason to feel distrustful of the MC, whose point of view is the only side of the story we receive. She comes off as naive, gullible, and just desperate enough to do anything to be accepted. While her tragic history may excuse some of her neediness, she is clearly aware that her associations aren’t healthy – yet, she persists. Can we chalk that up merely to teenage angst and rebellion? Or has her own will become the plaything of the girls she calls her friends?

Let’s just say that a book club could have a field day with this one!

She is the specter that haunts the very image of masculinity, the one who took a bloody blade to the patriarchy itself.

Although I was intrigued through the first half of the book, I soon became disappointed at the direction of the action and the MC’s lack of backbone. And while I should have been focused on enjoying the roller coaster ride through some pretty dark corners of college life, I found myself feeling like I was watching a train wreck that I couldn’t turn away from.


Katie Lowe

Katie is a writer living in Worcester, UK. A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Katie has a BA(Hons) in English and an MPhil in Literature & Modernity. She returned to Birmingham in 2019 to complete a PhD in English Literature, with her thesis on female rage in literary modernism and the #MeToo era.


Cottage By the Sea

=> My next book for Shelf-Discipline month! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this perfect romance fit nicely into my September reading list. <=


Author: Debbie Macomber

(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Women’s Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: July 17, 2018, Ballantine Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

#Cottagebythesea


Annie was certain her parents had sent her to Oceanside, knowing that this was the one place where her wounded heart would heal.

I guess since this is my blog, it’s OK to admit that romance isn’t exactly my go-to genre. It’s nothing personal, I just find myself eye-rolling too many times while reading about “love at first sight” and “happily ever after”. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, it’s just the cheesy stuff that makes me want to wretch. But occasionally, a little gem comes along with the ability to melt even my icy heart.

Here’s the blurb: “Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager. Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks in part to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton whose large frame is equal to his big heart – and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer. Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has come to enjoy. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven – and the man – she’s come to call home.

This was where she wanted to live, where she hoped to recapture the memories of those carefree days of her youth, the happy times with her parents and brother.


What do you look for in a great romance? Credibility? Attractive couples? Hot sex scenes? (Come on, you know you were thinking it!) Most of the things I love about a good romance novel are right here in Cottage by the Sea, and it’s not a hot sex scene, believe it or not.

Macomber doesn’t give us a dark haired musclebound he-hulk with rippling abs and smoldering eyes. She also doesn’t give us a satin-haired sex goddess with the perfect wardrobe. Her characters are, instead, a little flawed and a lot lovable. Keaton is abnormally tall and unusually quiet. Annie has tragic baggage that is forcing her to start her life over again. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters; the perfect kind for a more credible romance.

And I love the idea of a love building over time through care, nurturing, and a mutual need for the other person. Macomber’s story delivers all the feels that romance fans clamor for. And if they are disappointed by the lack of steamy bedroom scenes, then maybe it’s not romance they’re actually looking for…


Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a leading voice in women’s fiction. Thirteen of her novels have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. She has more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. –adapted from author bio