Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson: Book Review

Before She Knew Him  by Peter Swanson
Published March 5, 2019 by William Morrow
320 Pages

From Publisher: an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

My Thoughts: I should probably apologize in advance for this extremely vague review BUT this is most definitely a book you don’t want to know much about going in. Trust me. Also, I loved/hated this book so rather than be super confusing with my details as to why I’ll just give you a quick overview.

As I said, I loved this book so much…up until I didn’t.  For much of the book,  I couldn’t wait to pick this back up when life intervened. But then a plot development happened and I’ll admit, I got pretty mad.

Hen and her husband Lloyd are new in the neighborhood and have been invited to their neighbor’s house for a party. When Hen notices a statue on the shelf in their den, she’s convinced it belonged to a boy who was murdered years ago. A case Hen had previously been completely obsessed with. You see, Hen has her own mental health issues but she’s determined to find out if her neighbor Matthew is a killer. 

I absolutely love how Swanson writes in your face psychopaths and mentally unstable people who may or may not be reliable. Truly, he’s brilliant at it. I found the fact that he shined a bright light on these characters and put the crazy front and center so  refreshing. There’s no beating around the bush about who’s not playing with a full deck. And I was totally happy about that.  In fact, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see how it all played out. Until one major plot point left me feeling manipulated on such a level that rather than feeling like oh you totally got me I felt angry about what I believed to be pure gimmick. This had been such an intricate, interesting story up until that point. When I read thrillers I don’t mind being kept in the dark and being surprised by the resolution (in fact I prefer it) but I don’t want to feel tricked by the author’s use of a gimmick and that’s how this one left me feeling. I know I’m being vague but I don’t want to give a single detail away. Read this for yourself and see what you think, then message me to discuss. Overall,  this was an addictive, page turning read but I was disappointed in the end. 

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review 

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Mini Review Tuesday: Never Tell, Stalker & The Last Romantics

Hi Everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts these past couple weeks. I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the blog as well as social media and reading on top of life! It’s a lot and I’m trying to figure out what the best platform is for me to share my reviews and still be able to connect and interact with other readers which has been my main purpose all along. Lately, I’m finding that it’s super fast for me to get a review posted quickly on my Instagram which you can find (here). and/or my Goodreads (here).  I’m regularly posting my current reads on both as well as quick thoughts and book recommendations in my Instagram stories. I tend to post all my audiobook recommendations there right as I’m listening to them. All this is to say, if you aren’t seeing posts from me here as regularly as before and you’re interested in what I’m reading and reviewing, try those platforms – I hope you’ll follow me at one or both! Now, on to some amazing reads…

 

Never Tell  by Lisa Gardner
Published: Feb 19 by Dutton
419 Pages

From Publisher: A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

My Thoughts: Friends, Lisa Gardner just keeps getting better and better. I’ve been a loyal reader of her DD Warren series for years but I’ve also read every standalone book she’s ever wrote and I have to say, there’s NO author out there writing at this high a level book after book. Never Tell has continuing characters DD Warren, her husband Alex, partners Phil and Neil and her new protege/confidential informant Flora Dane. Despite this being part of a series, I do think you could read this as a standalone and be perfectly happy. 

The story is told in alternating perspectives from Flora, DD, and Evie. Evie starts off the story when she enters her home and finds her husband shot to death and she proceeds to take the gun. Why? You’ll have to read because that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg. DD is the investigating detective and she enlists Flora’s help. Flora’s perspective gives us a much more in depth look at her past time with her kidnapper Jacob Ness and we get to understand so much more about why she is the way she is. The pace is fast, the chapters short, and the plot intricate. There are webs upon webs upon webs to be untangled and deciphered and I loved every minute of trying…to no avail. This one’s so well plotted my advice is just sit back and enjoy the read. If you enjoy thrillers with intricately plotted mysteries this book’s for you! You really can’t go wrong with any of Lisa’s books but a few of my past favorites are Gone, Love You More, The Perfect Husband and Catch Me

Thanks to Dutton via Netgalley for my copy

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Stalker  by Lars Kepler
Published Feb 5, 2019 by Knopf
560 Pages
From Publisher: Detective Joona Linna — recently returned from compassionate leave — reunites with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark in a search for a seemingly unassailable sadistic killer.
My Thoughts: This was such a fantastic thriller! The opening scenes are chilling to say the least. Someone is stalking women from afar, video taping them as they go about their lives in their homes and then sending the video to police minutes before the each woman is murdered. Needless to say, the police don’t have time to figure out who the women are before they’re killed. This storyline runs parallel to another involving Joona Linna, the main detective from the series. Joona is not at his best but he’s called in to assist the new detective in charge, Margot, who’s very pregnant and very dedicated to stopping this killer. Joona also reconnects with his friend, the hypnotist Erik, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Everything about this story worked for me, the pace was excellent, the characterization strong, and the mystery a top notch whodunit. I didn’t have it figured out that’s for sure. I can’t wait for the next installment in this series!
Thanks to Knopf via Netgalley for my copy
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The Last Romantics  by Tara Conklin
Published Feb 5, 2019 by William Morrow
368 Pages

From Publisher: When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

My Thoughts: I really loved this book! This family saga that centered on 4 siblings who were left to fend for themselves during what they called “the pause” after their father dies and their mother retreats to her bedroom for several years was so well written. We follow siblings Renee, Joe, Caroline and Fiona from childhood through old age which gave me the feeling that I truly knew these characters as real people. I love stories set over decades!

I flew through the first half, finding Fiona’s narration interesting yet with a melancholy flow. I did find that the middle dragged for me with a few too many shifts in time and perspectives that felt abrupt at times. The final third was fantastic and left me in tears. Ultimately, this story was, for me, a meditation on love, despair, resilience, family, and forgiveness.

Thanks to William Morrow via Netgalley for my copy 

The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells: Book Review

The End of Loneliness  by Benedict Wells
Published: Jan 29 by Penguin Books
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon

 

From Publisher: A kaleidoscopic family saga told through the fractured lives of the three Moreau siblings alongside a faltering, recovering love story, The End of Loneliness is a stunning meditation on the power of our memories, of what can be lost and what can never be let go.

My Thoughts: I love family sagas so I had high hopes for this character driven exploration of fate, life, and love but by the halfway point I fizzled out on the story. This is the story of Jules, Marty and Liz, 3 siblings who weather their first tragedy when their parents are killed when they’re all still under 16 (Not a spoiler, this is in book jacket description). They’re sent to a boarding school and I must say, the author did a fantastic job of portraying the depth of sadness that all 3 experienced because, as we learned from the beginning of the story, they were close with their parents and had a happy family life. Jules is the narrator and while I liked him, it did create a situation where I didn’t feel like I got to know or understand the story from Liz and Marty’s perspectives which I would’ve liked. Especially Liz as she really struggled after their parents were killed.

I appreciated the author’s ability to wax philosophical on fate, chance and how one’s life course can be completely altered by both. However, by the halfway mark I wanted more from the story. Not a whole lot was happening outside of us getting life updates on each as the years go by. We know Jules has been in a motorcycle accident and I did wonder what contributed to that situation but I found myself skimming for the second half of the book. I liked the ending but overall, I just wanted more…more drama, conflict, tension…something. But the writing is great and if you like slower, philosophical, character explorations this would be for you.

Thanks to Penguin Books for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review 

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

 

Out of the Dark By Gregg Hurwitz
Published: Jan 29, 2019 by Minotaur Books
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon

From Publisher: Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man, a man who helps the truly desperate when no one else can. But now, someone at the very highest level of government has been trying to eliminate every trace of the Orphan Program by killing all the remaining Orphans and their trainers

My Thoughts: If I’m ever in trouble, I hope someone calls Evan Smoak for me! Orphan X is back in the 4th installment of this fast paced, fun thriller series and he’s going after his most hated opponent yet, the President of the United States. The prologue shows us a very interesting scene in Russia in which Evan is out on his first solo mission as a trained assassin for a dark black ops program the US government formed.  I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of Evan as a young man because, cut to current day, he’s now in what I guess to be his late 30s and he’s no longer in the program. He now spends his days being The Nowhere Man, carrying out his own brand of vigilante justice for those who call his super secret line and are in dire need of help. The two storylines run parallel to each other and the author pulls them off brilliantly.

While Evan is doing some serious scouting of the President’s agendas, day to day security details, life in and outside The White House , etc we are privy to some fascinating details about the life of The President which I’m assuming are true (at least most) and which seem very thoroughly researched. This was one of my favorite parts of the book actually! While Evan is deciding on his best course of action to assassinate the President, the President has called in Evan’s arch rival, Orphan A, to kill Evan. It’s all very cut throat, fast paced, and tension filled.

Along with these 2 main storylines, we also have Evan’s ongoing romantic involvement with his neighbor, single mom and prosecutor Mia, who, accurately enough, suspects that Evan isn’t living the most law abiding lifestyle (she has no idea how right she is) so she won’t allow herself or her son to become too invested in him. I love how Hurwitz has weaved this thread of Mia and Evan throughout all 4 books.

If this sounds like a lot going on in one book, it is but it all works. I’ve said it before, the Orphan X novels remind me of the Jason Bourne movies so if you like that type of fast paced, action filled thriller with a very smart good guy to root for, who let’s face it, seemingly can’t be killed and almost never sleeps, this is for you. Do you have to suspend disbelief in parts? Of course, but who cares because this story and these characters are just so well done.

I will say, I highly recommend starting with book 1, Orphan X, in order to get the full backstory of these characters but if you choose to start here, Hurwitz does a great job of providing just enough info about important events from the previous books so you won’t feel completely lost. If you’re in the mood for an action packed thriller, you can’t go wrong with this series and good news…. I read that there will be 3 more Orphan X books in the future so you have plenty of time to catch up!

Thanks to Minotaur Books via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review 

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: Book Review

 

The Dreamers  by Karen Thompson Walker
Published Jan 15, 2019 by Random House
320 Pages
Affiliate linkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

My Thoughts: In an effort to read a little more widely and outside of my mystery/thriller/romance genres, I decided to give this book a try based on the many positive reviews from blogging friends and on Goodreads. I’ve enjoyed science fiction in the past (Dark Matter) but I’m more unsure about dystopian stories. Overall, I liked this one for reasons I wasn’t anticipating when I began.

The premise of the story was fascinating and pulled me in right away. What was this mysterious phenomenon where people were falling into a deep sleep and not waking? How is it spreading? How can it be prevented if at all? So many questions are examined through the lens of wonderful storytelling. The author doesn’t use any gimmicks with this story; rather, she tells it in such a way that I was drawn into not only the characters but the writing itself. There are many characters and the chapters  alternate between several over the span of the book. I had no trouble keeping the characters straight and of course had my favorites…Sara and Libby and Nathanial are at the top of my list.

Along with excellent characterization, I really enjoyed the entire aspect of dreams which came as a surprise to me. The author delves into the intricacies of dreaming, and ties it into the story in ways that hint to an almost alternate reality for many of the characters. It really made me think about those dreams that FEEL SO REAL and how when we’re in the midst of those dreams they ARE real to us. It’s fascinating to me and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author weaved this concept into the story.

There were a few things, however, that didn’t work for me. With so many characters, I became less invested in a few of them and found myself rushing to get back to those I really cared about. Also, somewhere around the 60% mark I found myself getting impatient with the story and wanting things to happen, to move faster. I may have even done a little skimming. As for the ending, I found it a little anti-climatic as others have mentioned but I felt that the author did give us as many answers as  possible for the story. I wasn’t blown away by how it ended but I was satisfied.

Have you read this or want to? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments 

Thanks to Random House via Netgalley for my copy

 

2 Must Read October Releases: One Day in December by Josie Silver & The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Publication: October 16, 2018 by Broadway Books
416 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon

Short Summary: Laurie has a case of insta-love through a bus window, spends close to a year trying to find him, only to have him show up one day as her best friend’s new boyfriend

My Thoughts: I know a lot of people hear instant-love and automatically write a book off but I really hope you’ll give this one a chance. Whereas another recent love story, Ghosted (My review) didn’t work for me, this one completely did. I would describe the initial “love at first sight” as more of a “wow, I feel an attraction/connection with you” but they can’t even speak to each other because one is on a bus and the other is outside at the stop. Then, just as quickly, the bus is gone, resulting in a missed opportunity for both Laurie and Jack. To me, this was believable.

Time goes by and despite Laurie’s attempts, she’s never able to track down her mystery bus man. During this initial set up we get to know Laurie and her best friend Sarah and I immediately loved both of them and their friendship. You see, the author deftly explores female friendship along with the story’s inherent dilemma of what happens if the love of your life shows up as your very best friend’s new boyfriend. I know this may sound similar to Something Borrowed  by Emily Giffin but it’s really nothing like it. Silver has put her own spin on a familiar storyline, taking me down so many unexpected paths that I couldn’t stop reading! And I didn’t.  I read this in one sitting, laughing, crying and in the end slowing down because I didn’t want it to end. I have a feeling you might be seeing this on my top 10 books of 2018 list.  Yes, it was that good!

Thanks to Broadway Books via Netgalley for my copy 

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The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton
Publication: Oct 16, 2018 by Minotaur Books
432 Pages
Affiliate LinkThe Craftsman

From Publisher: Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. But now, decades later, he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

My Thoughts: Sharon Bolton is an auto-buy author for me, I don’t care what she writes, I’m buying and reading! That being said, I was a smidge hesitant about this one only because I knew it contained a hint of the supernatural and witches. Trust in Sharon Bolton, that’s all I can say because I loved this story.

One thing that really made this story for me was the fact that Bolton has created a multidimensional character with Florence Lovelady. We first meet her in 1999 when she’s returned for the funeral of Larry, the serial killer/creepy coffin maker whom she arrested and had convicted of the murders of 3 young kids in 1969. Can I just say, the scene involving one of these kids being buried alive was not only heartbreaking, but also one of the most uncomfortable, claustrophobic feeling scenes I’ve ever read. Luckily, Bolton doesn’t drag it out but it was enough to cause me to hold my breath.

The story continues by going back to 1969, allowing us to get to know Florence as she faces the many difficulties of being a female detective in the good old boys network of the police. The puzzle is intricate, the suspects many, and I was right there rooting for Florence as she sorted through the intricate web of layers to these crimes. I’ll be honest, the further I got in the story the more I had myself convinced I knew what had happened and I was a little disappointed that this was going to be the first Bolton story I had figured out. Yes, I was feeling smug. Then came some stuff…some happenings… and by the end I wasn’t so smug anymore. Sharon Bolton fooled me again and I’m SO happy she did. Seriously, if you enjoy mysteries, you have to read this book! Then go check out her backlist. You won’t regret it.

 

October Reading Update: My Hits, Misses & In-betweens

Hi Everyone, I hope you all had a good weekend! Life is a little hectic for me right now so I wanted to do a quick reading update in case I don’t get any reviews up this week, although I hope to. Looking back over the last few weeks, I noticed I’ve been reviewing mostly 5 star reads, however, my reading hasn’t been all 5 star books, not by a long shot. I’ve had a couple average reads and I’ve DNFed many. I’m not afraid to put books down if I’m not in the mood or the writing or story isn’t working for me. Anyone else out there a serious mood reader?

Recent Hits

    

Both One Day in December  and The Craftsman will be published tomorrow, Oct 16th, and both are fantastic! (I hope to have mini reviews up soon) I’m so glad I gave One Day in December a try, you might think this is just another run of the mill instant love story/missed connection BUT I promise you it’s not. I loved the unexpected paths the author ventured down with respect to love and female friendship. Set over a decade, this had shades of One Day by David Nichols but also reminded me a little of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s type of writing style. I laughed, cried and just loved this book.  The Craftsman is another hit by Sharon Bolton…seriously, the lady can’t write a bad book! This story, filled with graveyards, coffins, an undertaker, murder and a feisty female detective named Florence Lovelady (best name!) checks all my boxes for a must read mystery. If you enjoy puzzling mysteries with perfectly spooky settings this book is for you.

 

The In-betweens

    

I call the in-betweens those books I didn’t love but didn’t hate. They fall in a shaded gray category and are my hardest ones to review. I’ve loved Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and Inside the O’Brian’s but Every Note Played was just ok. I found the main characters really hard to like and the story seemed to lack the emotional connection I felt with her others. There was an abundance of medical data and details, at the expense of the story, in my opinion. Night Film is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time so I’m really glad I did. I had this in print and audio and chose to go with the audio because the narrator was amazing. I’d give him 5 stars and without him I wouldn’t have stuck this LONG book out in print. While I really enjoyed the creep factor of the overall story, I found it to be very dense and repetitive and the ending was, for me, anticlimactic and disappointing. I’m bummed about this one, I’d hoped to like it more.

 

The DNFs (Did Not Finish)

    

The Royal Runaway DNF 40%….I gave this a good chance to turn around but even with skimming this wasn’t for me. I felt no chemistry between Thea and Nick and expected more romance and less running around trying to be spies. Maybe if they were actual spies or even good ones this would’ve worked better but I found too many plot and character inconsistencies to keep going with this one. The Clockmaker’s Daughter DNF 10%…I know I’m in the minority for this but I couldn’t get into it. This is the second Kate Morton book I’ve tried and DNFed (also The Secret Keeper) so I’m thinking I might not be the reader for her type of writing style. I found the beginning of this too descriptive and the language flow and writing style wasn’t for me. By 10% I found myself confused rather than intrigued.

 

What I’m Reading Now

I thought I could wait until winter for this March release but I can’t! I need a surefire winner to read right now and Taylor Jenkins Reid never disappoints. I’ve only read 15 pages and I’m already interested in the story and characters.

 

Likely to Read Next

I’m in the mood for another missing person (not child) story after reading Night Film and I love Alafair Burke plus I own this one so it seems like a good bet.

Hope you have a good week, let me know what you’ve been reading and loving…or not loving! 

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: Book Review

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven  By Mitch Albom
Publication: October 9th by Harper
224 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie’s heavenly reunion with Annie—the little girl he saved on earth—in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.

My Thoughts: I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since Mitch Albom published The Five People You Meet in Heaven ! That book has always stuck with me so I wouldn’t have guessed it’s been that long. In The Next Person You Meet in Heaven , Albom tells Annie’s story, the little girl Eddie (who was killed) saved one day at an amusement park. If you haven’t read the first book I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary as Albom does a really good job of providing some backstory in this one but I do think my reading enjoyment was greater having read the first one. I actually realized I remembered more about the first book than I thought.

Obviously, if we’re getting Annie’s story you know something has happened to her for her to end up in heaven. I loved that Album starts the story with Annie’s story while she’s still alive, it allowed me to get to know her as she was but also created suspense because I knew what was going to eventually happen but Annie didn’t…and I really liked her! Albom structures the story alternating brief glimpses of Annie’s childhood with her journey in heaven and I LOVED this! I was equally invested in both parts of the story because of how Albom created interconnections. That may seem like a vague reason but you’ll understand when you read the story.

A couple other things really stood out to me: Albom’s creative vision of heaven and the fact that he can sneak a twist into a story when I least expected it. Well done. This book is the perfect length for a one sit read but, honestly, I would’ve loved for it to be longer and I don’t often say that about a book. I’m still thinking about parts of this story days later, especially Albom’s take on fate in our lives

Had he taken the truck, this story would be different. Had the limousine driver remembered to bring a bag that was sitting by his apartment door, this story would be different. The tale of your life is written second by second, as shifting as the flip of a pencil to an eraser

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, bittersweet story that just might give you much to contemplate, give this a try. My last advice: have tissues handy!

Many thanks to HarperCollins via Netgalley for my copy

 

Bookreview: Ghosted By Rosie Walsh

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Published July 24, 2018 by Pamela Dorman Books 

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

Book Quote – “I wondered how it was that you could spend weeks, months – years, even – just chugging on, nothing really changing, and then, in the space of a few hours, the script of your life could be completely rewritten.”

 

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I feel very conflicted about this review! I was dying to read this book, not only because I feel like everyone has been ghosted at some point in their lives, but I was also really intrigued about why he ghosted her. If they were in love as we’re pretty much told right from the start that they are, did he (Eddie) get killed? Was he kidnapped? Was he really a criminal? Did he have a secret family somewhere and got cold feet? Or was she (Sarah) reading the whole thing wrong and perhaps a little off? So many questions and I was completely on board with finding out the answers.

For all the above questions, I was initially very pulled into the beginning of the story but it wasn’t long before I realized the structure wasn’t quite what I expected. We’re basically told in shorter vignettes…Day 1, Day 2…etc (interspersed with present day & letters to someone?) about how Eddie and Sarah met and the development of their insta-love. I have to say, I’m ok with insta-love BUT I need to feel invested and connected with the characters and I just didn’t with these two. For me, the short time we spend with them in each section felt forced, I didn’t believe in their connection let alone the fact they were supposed to be in love so quickly; therefore, I had a very hard time with Sarah’s complete obsession and basic meltdown when he never called.

But here’s the weird thing….I read this straight through, staying up super late to find out what happened. So on the one hand it’s compulsively readable; on the other, I also did quite a bit of skimming…of the abundance of scenery details as well as the side characters’ stories because I just really wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED TO EDDIE!! I won’t say more about whether I was satisfied with the outcome as I’m still figuring out what I think about a few of the twists the author surprised me with. Rosie Walsh is definitely a talented author who can weave interesting surprises in her story.

If your interest is piqued, I highly encourage you to not read a bunch of reviews or even any more of the blurb, just jump right in and see for yourself what you think….and then come back here or send me a message on Twitter or Instagram and let’s discuss!!

 

 

REVIEW: THE BROKEN GIRLS By Simone St. James

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Publication March 20, 2018 By Berkley

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

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The beginning of this story completely pulled me in…a young girl, alone, on a dark road road near woods…when all of sudden she’s no longer alone! What an atmospheric, dramatic start to a story that was just outright creepy in parts. As stated in the blurb, the novel alternates between the girl’s boarding school in 1950 and Fiona’s life in 2014. Fiona actually has ties to the school as her sister was murdered in the field surrounding the school. The question that has taken over Fiona’s life is: what really happened to her sister on the night she was murdered all those years ago? There were no witnesses, no footprints, no evidence at the scene, yet her boyfriend was tried and convicted…did he really kill her or was there a more sinister force behind her death?

Then we have the storyline from 1950 and the four roommates who became best friends until one of them vanishes. For the first half of the book, I was slightly more interested in this storyline as the boarding school was just plain creepy and I really liked the girls; I felt bad for each of them. The author did a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere of gloom, dread, and eeriness. I felt worried for the girls. I was actually much more invested in the girls’ story than I was Fiona’s, mainly because I found Fiona hard to like or relate to. Things seemed to fall into place a little too easily for her.

I found the first half of the book to be much faster paced than the second half. I’m not sure exactly how or why my reading shifted but it did and I found myself skimming scenes along with losing my ability to “believe” the ghost story. For me, a little ghost goes a long way and in the second half the ghost story became a bit over the top for me. I was surprised by the resolution to the girls’ story from 1950, much more so than Fiona’s which was resolved way too easily and predictably in my opinion. Overall, this was a stronger first half story for me. If you enjoy atmospheric ghost stories with alternating timelines and subtle mysteries then definitely give this a try.

Many thanks to Berkley via Netgalley for my copy