Review: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

The Drowning KindThe Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters, Jax and Lexie, the x-girls, were fairly close when they were growing up. They spent every summer at their Grandmother’s property in Vermont and have a lot of great memories from that time.

Lexie, the older of the two, was different than Jax, however, in a lot of ways. Lexie was more like their father, flighty, free-spirited and at times, manic.

The older the girls got, the more apparent the differences in their personalities became. It was clear that Lexie’s mental health was not well. She struggled to remain rooted in reality. It became a real problem for her.

Jax was always the more grounded of the two. She followed the rules, excelled in school and became a social worker. Over the past year, she’s also been estranged from her sister.

When Jax receives nine calls from Lexie one night, none of which she answers, she assumes her sister is just having another one of her episodes.

The increasingly frantic messages Lexie leaves don’t even make sense. Jax isn’t dealing with it. Not her problem.

The following day Jax receives news that Lexie is dead; drowned in the pool on their Grandmother’s estate, Sparrow’s Crest, which Lexie had inherited.

Jax is shocked. Why didn’t she pick up the phone when Lexie called? Heart-broken and full of regret, Jax makes the journey to Vermont to bury her sister and settled up her affairs.

Once there, reunited with family, including her Aunt and Father, Jax discovers that Lexie had been researching the history of their family and the property.

It turns out Sparrow’s Crest has a dark past and it could possibly be linked to Lexie’s death. Jax dives into the research herself, mostly centering around the property’s infamous pool and the natural spring it is fed from.

As with Jennifer McMahon’s other stories, The Drowning Kind follows two timelines. The present, mentioned above, and then a historical perspective focusing on the history of the property.

The more the Reader learns from the historical perspective, the more the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place for Jax. It is such a spectacular format. The pace is excellent!

I have found that sometimes when an author tries this dual timeline format, one of the perspectives will be more interesting than the other. Because of that, you rush through one perspective in order to return to the other.

That is definitely not the case here. Both the present and past timelines are equally foreboding and intriguing. I was fully committed to both.

Another aspect of McMahon’s work that I always enjoy is her sense of place. Sparrow’s Crest is a character. It is so well developed, you can almost hear it talking to you.

The idea that places remember, that pieces of history live on through the land and the structures upon them. I love that whole concept and it is tangible within this story.

In short, this is a phenomenally constructed multi-generational ghost story that will stick with me for a long time.

The ending, chills. Exceptionally well done. I can certainly say I didn’t see it coming!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to see what McMahon comes up with next!

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Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Down Comes the NightDown Comes the Night by Allison Saft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wren Southerland is a magical healer and the niece of the Queen, but that hasn’t won her any favors. In fact, her Aunt treats her very poorly.

After Wren’s empathy causes her to make a mistake on the battlefield, she gets banished from the Queen’s Guard and sent back to live in a remote abbey.

Most upsettingly, this causes Wren to be separated from her best friend, Una, a Captain in the Queen’s Guard. She also happens to be the woman Wren loves.

Wren is kicking herself for her mistake and just trying to figure out a way back to Una. Certainly her Aunt will find it in her heart to forgive her.

While at the abbey, stewing in her misery, Wren receives a letter from Lord Alistair Lowry, inviting her to his home, in order to help him with a little problem.

His servants are sick and dying from a mysterious illness. One man is still alive, suffering and he wants Wren to try to heal him before it is to late.

She considers it a great opportunity and decides to take him up on his offer, traveling to the neighboring kingdom of Cernos, to Lowry’s estate of Colwick Hall.

((cue the gothic ambiance))

Her movements weren’t exactly approved by the Queen, so Wren finds herself a bit of an Outlaw. In her eyes, it is worth it though.

Shockingly, her new patient turns out to be someone she knows. Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria, her kingdom’s sworn enemy.

There’s political gains to be made here. Perhaps Wren can still work her way into the Queen’s good graces and be reunited with Una.

As she begins to get to know Hal, however, she starts to question a lot of her previous beliefs. Soon, Wren and Hal are working together to solve a murder mystery chilling enough for even the sturdiest of characters.

Down Comes the Night was such a pleasant surprise. A great debut for Saft!

There were so many aspects to this that I enjoyed, but first and foremost would be the atmosphere. Colwick Hall felt like the creepy, gothic mansion of my dreams. Reading this, I felt like I was there. I could smell it, feel the cold and dread what was hiding in every shadow.

Hal and Wren working together, watching their relationship evolve, was fantastic. They were complete opposites, but grew to understand and appreciate each other because of that.

I was genuinely afraid for them. The dangers they faced as the explored the secrets of Colwick Hall were palpable.

I also thought the magic was well done. Wren’s work as a magic-based healer was quite detailed and I liked that it was a bit on the gruesome side.

Saft definitely didn’t shy away from blood and gore, so if you enjoy that, as I do, you should definitely check this one out. You know who you are.

Overall, I think this is a very fun standalone YA Fantasy. There were a few little things that didn’t work as well for my tastes, but they were definitely overshadowed by the aspects I enjoyed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had a great time with it and look forward to reading more from Allison Saft!

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Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife UpstairsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-star**

Channeling the naturally gothic atmosphere of the American South, The Wife Upstairs puts a decidedly modern twist on a beloved classic.

Jane Bell is new to Alabama. Living on the outskirts of the posh neighborhood of Thornfield Estates, Jane originally works in a coffee shop, but then takes up dog-walking for the wealthy families within Thornfield.

She begins to learns the ins-and-outs of their lifestyle, envying and occasionally taking a little something for herself.

Jane is especially interested in the largest and most opulent property of all, imagining what it would be like to live there.

Once she meets the homeowner, a handsome young Widower, Eddie Rochester, things begin to change quite quickly for Jane.

As she and Eddie start a relationship, Jane can’t help but be curious about his late-wife, Bea, whose presence is still very much felt in his life.

The more she learns about Bea, the more she wonders what Eddie sees in her?

When questions begin to arise about Bea’s death, Jane becomes even more suspicious of the man she believes she is falling in love with.

Full of small town gossip and drama, this story was a cleverly-plotted, modern-interpretation of Jane Eyre. While I have never read Jane Eyre, after this, I really want to!

I really enjoyed how Hawkins gave us alternating perspectives between present-time, Jane, and past-Bea. The evolution of the story was very nicely done.

These perspective shifts also made the reveals fun and fast-paced.

Even though most of us know the basic outline of this story, I enjoyed where Hawkins took it.

In particular, I enjoyed how morally grey, Jane was. She’s not a helpless Ingenue looking for a savior. She is clearly a girl who can take care of herself. I loved that.

If you are in the mood for a fast, super-fun domestic suspense novel, look no further. Pick this book up and enjoy the show!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it so much and look forward to Hawkins writing more in the Adult space!

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Review: Eventide by Sarah Goodman

EventideEventide by Sarah Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1907, Verity Pruitt and her little sister, Lilah, arrive in Wheeler, Arkansas, aboard an orphan train.

The girl’s mother has passed away and their father, apparently suffering from overwhelming grief, has been committed to an asylum.

With no family to take them in, the girls become wards of the state, in spite of the fact that Verity is close to turning eighteen.

When they arrive in Arkansas, it is clear that a family is already waiting for Lilah, but poor Verity will not be going with them.

She does still luck out though, as an amazing family is willing to take her in and they live only a couple of miles from Lilah’s new home.

Of course, Verity’s position is more as a farmhand initially, than an adopted child. She’s okay with that though, a little hard work never hurt anybody.

As Verity settles in at her new home, enjoying her work on the farm and her new friendships, she discovers that something lurks in the woods surrounding the town.

It’s unsettling the things she sees as she accidentally ventures into the woods one night.

As she works to uncover the truth behind the strange things she has seen and experienced, Verity begins to uncover some truths about her own family instead.

Goodman definitely succeeded at bringing a fun, creepy atmosphere to this historical fiction tale.

I really enjoyed the setting and the cast of characters.

Some of the plot was a bit too simple for my tastes, as well as slightly campy towards the end, but it was still a quick, enjoyable read!

I definitely recommend this to readers who like the idea of a creepy read, but they don’t actually want to be scared.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

As a debut, this is impressive. I look forward to reading more from Sarah Goodman. I hope she stays in this lane. It works for her!

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Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke

The NestingThe Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Lexi is at rock bottom. Her life has never been easy, but at this point, she has days where she would rather not be alive.

After her long-term relationship ends and her best friend basically tells her that she has become too much too deal with, Lexi knows she must find a way to make a new life for herself.

Riding a train one day, she overhears a conversation that provides her the opportunity to do just that.

Stealing a woman named Sophie’s identity, Lexi applies for a position as a nanny for a wealthy widower and his two young daughters. The best part is, the post is in the beautiful country of Norway.

She’s astounded to learn that she has been hired on. Obviously, she’s also nervous. She has a lot to pull off.

Lexi, now Sophie, knows absolutely nothing about home-schooling, infants or any other general duties of being a nanny.

From the very first day, she’s quickly swept up into the lives of the other staff members, Derry, Clive and Maron; the two children, Gaia and Coco, and the handsome widower, Tom.

The house itself, is a drafty, historic home that the family resides in temporarily while Tom and Clive construct the main event: Aurelia’s Nest.

As her days inside the house go on, Sophie begins to hear and see strange things.

She also starts to learn about Tom’s deceased wife, Aurelia, and the days leading up to her apparent suicide.

Interspersed throughout the story, we do get some chapters told from Aurelia’s perspective.

Sophie also stumbles across a diary that appears to be Aurelia’s, so she gets a little bit of glimpse into her life as well, which causes her to come to some startling conclusions regarding Tom and Aurelia’s marriage.

I enjoyed my time with this novel. The beginning felt very An Anonymous Girl meets Turn of the Key, but once the narrative arrives in Norway, it really takes on a life of its own.

Cooke excels at setting the atmosphere; a perfect Autumnal read. This entire novel is dripping with a cold, dark, ominous feeling throughout.

Part ghost story, part domestic drama, part ecological horror story, there’s also a lovely sprinkling of Norwegian folklore to sink your teeth into.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I also felt like there were a few too many plot holes, as well as aspects that felt too much like other stories I have read recently.

However, with this being said, overall, this is a captivating book. I would absolutely read anything else C.J. Cooke writes. She definitely has a style I am interested in watching grow.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican GothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

When Neomi Taboada’s father asks her to go check on her recently married cousin, Catalina, she really doesn’t want to. Why her? She’s got so much going on in the city.

Catalina currently resides at a remote manor home, known as High Place, with her husband, Virgil’s, family.

As posh as that sounds, according to Catalina’s desperate letters, the home is a desolate wasteland where she is currently very unwell, or else is in incredible danger.

Neomi’s father urges her to go and check on Catalina’s health and living conditions. When urging doesn’t work, he bribes her.

Neomi wants nothing more than to attend University, so that’s exactly the carrot he dangles in front of her.

Before you know it, Neomi is packing her bag and heading to High Place.

Once there, Neomi immediately feels at odds with Virgil’s stuffy, overly proper family. She is a modern, society-girl, who is used to having her own way, or at least being able to have a conversation over dinner.

In addition to the regimented, claustrophobic feel of the house itself, Neomi begins feeling spooked out by her surroundings and dreaming frightening things. Something is definitely going on here.

Her interactions with Virgil and his family get more disturbing as the days go by, until Neomi doesn’t fear just for Catalina’s well-being, but also her own.

Y’all, I was highly anticipating this novel. I have really enjoyed previous works from Moreno-Garcia and the gothic vibes of this are totally my jam.

While there is no denying that Moreno-Garcia’s writing is lush and captivating, something about the pace of this was off for me.

The premise is super intriguing, the atmosphere was top notch, but for me, the characters were not as well developed as I would of liked. I feel like I should have been attached to Neomi, but I just wasn’t.

The horror elements were interesting. I found the ideas behind that aspect intriguing for sure.

There were also scenes that legit grossed me out. I may even have gagged once or twice. I am telling you, Uncle Howard. The descriptions. I had to take a shower after.

Overall, this is a good book, bordering on really good for me. I think if this pace wasn’t so variant from lull to extreme intensity, I could have enjoyed it more.

I hope that Moreno-Garcia continues in this lane though. This gothic horror is fantastic for her writing style. I’m on board for anything else she writes, believe that.

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Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moody, dark and secretive, just like me.

Ninth House was a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new, Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus, secret societies and magic.

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed it even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the story if I had been holding the book in my hands and there’s a lot to take in here.

A lot of details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as back and forth timelines, I think just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex’s character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life, raised by a hippie Mom in California, who ends up at one of the most elite institutions in the world.

After a close call that could have ended her life, Alex instead ends up being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale, but why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a murder mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these topics that I found extremely interesting, was the great amount of privilege on the Yale campus, and the way uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page of drug abuse, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem so incredibly real.

I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

RILEY SAGER!!!

He has done it again, and actually, I think this is his best work yet!!!

Loved. Loved. Loved.

Perhaps I should throw together some coherent thoughts? Yeah, let’s try.

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt, is shocked to discover she has just inherited Baneberry Hall, the allegedly haunted mansion her and her parents abandoned some 25-years earlier.

Quite literally fleeing in the middle of the night, her parents refused to ever return to the property. Her father then published a best-selling non-fiction account of their time there. As you do.

For Maggie’s part, she remembers nothing of her time at Baneberry. Of course, she was just 5-years old and apparently her little mind wiped the slate clean after they departed.

She has read her father’s book, House of Horrors, numerous times, but doesn’t believe a word of it. Her parents, whose relationship didn’t survive the Book, wouldn’t tell her anything, even though she pleaded with them frequently to do so.

Returning all these years later, Maggie hopes to piece together a bit of the truth while she is renovating the home for sale.

As soon as she steps foot on the Baneberry property, however, she’s knows it is not going to be as easy as she had hoped.

Alternating between Maggie’s current perspective and full chapters from House of Horrors was an absolutely delightful way to read this story. I loved how Sager set that up.

The pacing was perfection!

I was so engaged with this throughout. It got into my mind.

I was racing towards the conclusion trying to discover how much of House of Horrors was the truth.

Baneberry Hall was such a presence in the story. It was ominous and creepy AF.

I can’t imagine being Maggie and actually staying there on my own!

Home Before Dark is without a doubt going to be on my top books of the year list!

If you haven’t read anything by Sager yet and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. I think it is a perfect example of his style.

If you have read Sager before, and are a fan, what are you waiting for!?

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma KeyDuma Key by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Duma Key has climbed the ranks and officially entered my ‘Top 5 Kings’ List. This is quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

Edgar Freemantle is a successful businessman.

Living with his wife of 20+ years in Minnesota, they have raised two healthy girls and have a good life. A solid life.

This is, until the day Edgar is involved in a horrific accident on one of his construction sites.

Crushed by a piece of heavy equipment, he is lucky to be alive, although losing his right arm, injuring his hip and scrambling his brain doesn’t seem so lucky to him immediately after the fact.

His recovery is extremely difficult, putting a lot of strain on his marriage, with him and Pam ultimately separating.

His psychologist, Dr. Kamen, suggests perhaps a change of scenery would be best for his recovery efforts, as well as a hobby. Edgar figures, why not? He has the money, what is he sticking around Minnesota for?

He rents a beach house on a remote, undeveloped piece of land on the Florida coast, Duma Key. The house, something of an artist’s retreat, is perfect for him, as he is feeling like doing some sketching himself.

Edgar begins to settle in and does indeed begin to create amazing art.

He’s unsure where some of it is coming from. He just seems to be compelled. The drawings and paintings pour out of him at an incredible rate, becoming more intricate and astounding as he progresses.

During this time, he makes a new friend while out for one of his daily beach walks. Jerome Wireman lives at the big house on Duma Key, caring for its aging lady of the house, Elizabeth Eastlake.

It is mainly through these characters that Edgar begins to learn of the dark history and lore of Duma Key and the Eastlake family.

However, Duma has a lot to say itself and that’s when things really start to get dangerous.

There is so much to love about this story. I knew absolutely zero about it going in. I don’t even think I ever read a full synopsis.

I was delighted as the story unfolded. The relationships, as is to be expected with King, were so deep and well done. The friendship between Edgar and Wireman is easily one of the best I have ever read.

In my opinion, King is great with this type of human dynamics. Further, I really appreciate how none of the relationships in this story were romantic.

It’s friendship, it’s family, and none of them are perfect, but they’re all so real and compelling.

Duma Key itself was incredibly well done. He has such a sense of place, always incorporating the idea that places remember; pieces of history live on through the lifeblood of the land and structures themselves.

You see this type of idea a lot throughout King’s works, from this one, to The Shining, Pet Sematary and everything in between.

Overall, I could wax poetic about this novel for hours. There is so much to unpack with this story. It’s extremely intricate, I would love to read it again someday and most likely will.

If you are a Constant Reader and haven’t picked this up yet, delay no more. It’s a stunner!

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Review: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

The AncestorThe Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Alberta ‘Bert’ Monte receives a letter telling her she is the sole heir to a large fortune, including a gothic castle in Italy, she thinks it must be some sort of hoax.

Upon further investigation however, she discovers it is true. Why her parents would keep such a thing secret from her, she cannot imagine.

Before she knows it, she and her estranged husband, Luca, are being whisked away on a private plane to Turin. There she will meet with the estate’s attorneys to discuss the full parameters of her inheritance.

Once there, Bert and Luca are taken with the enchanting atmosphere of the city. They seem to be on the brink of reconciliation, when a brief quarrel finds them separated again.

The next day, Luca is nowhere to be found. He must have left the city, but Bert has no time to figure it out, she is on her way to the mysterious castle to meet her Grandfather’s sister-in-law, Dolores, who is very much alive.

Dolores wants to meet her and teach her more about her family history. Considering she knows next to nothing about her ancestors, she is willing to give it a go.

Arriving at the castle, Bert is hesitant to stay. It is so remote, with little to no contact with the outside world. Add to this the horrifying legends she has heard about creatures living in the surrounding mountains, and you have a perfect mix for an uncomfortable family holiday.

A strange set of events unfold that find Bert scared for her life. Will she ever leave the castle of Montebianco? Will her dark family secrets be the end of her? Will she ever see Luca again?

All of this had me hooked. Not to mention, Trussoni’s writing is super compelling!

I was flipping through these pages so fast, anxiously anticipating the truth behind the Montebianco family.

There were so many twists along the way, with a dark intensity that kept me fully engaged. Then there was a turn in the story unlike any I have ever read before…

And I got to say, my interest sort of fell of a cliff with it. My reason is not so much the content, but it felt like the whole tone of the novel shifted.

Prior to this event, the book is an intriguing tale of gothic suspense with deeply held family secrets. Post-event it meanders into a textbook-style cultural anthropology field experiment.

Obviously, this is 100% my opinion and even with this being said, just because I was less interested in the last quarter of the book, it is still a good book!

If the premise sounds interesting, if you need a way to escape from life for a while, you should definitely check this one out!

Plus, aren’t you curious about what the plot twist is…

Overall, this is a hella unique book with some great gothic atmosphere. I look forward to hearing other reader’s thoughts on this one.

Thank you so much to the author, Danielle Trussoni, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and had a fun time reading it!

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