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: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor SongSurvivor Song by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

THERE WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER BE A BETTER TIME TO READ THIS BOOK.

After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is hit by a super contagious strain of a rabies-like virus, the entire state goes into lockdown.

Hospitals are overrun, public resources drained, people are ordered to go into quarantine and it is literally dangerous to go outside.

Dr. Ramola ‘Rams’ Sherman receives frantic news from her best friend, Natalie, who is currently 8-months pregnant with her first child.

Apparently, Natalie’s husband has just been killed after an infected neighbor broke into their home and attacked them. Making matters worse, if that’s even possible, Natalie was bitten by the infected man during the attack.

Due to the very rapid rate of progression for the virus, the clock is ticking for Natalie. She needs to get medical care right away and calls the one person she knows will help her, Rams.

Natalie makes her way to Rams and the two women set out together to try to make it to the closest hospital. Even though the hospitals are at max capacity, the fact that Ramola is employed there as a pediatrician, makes them think that they will be able to receive care.

The rest of the novel takes place over just a matter of hours, as the two women race against time to try to save Natalie and her unborn child.

This book is compact and extremely intense. Following Rams and Natalie on their journey was so incredibly vivid. I could completely imagine what they were seeing, hearing and feeling.

Picking up Survivor Song in the midst of a global pandemic, I will say, is a surreal experience.

Within the first 20-pages, I’m thinking, is Paul Tremblay clarivoyant? How the heck did he release this book at just the right moment?

I think reading this, hot on the heels of the beginning of the pandemic, when we were first coming under quarantine, for the first time in my life, made this soul-shattering story even more impactful.

While this is a horror story that, in concept is as frightening as hell, to me the most important aspect of the story, the aspect that effected me the most, was the relationship between Rams and Nats.

Their relationship reminded me so much of my own relationship with my best friend, Nichole. Just imagining going through what these women were going through, the choices they had to make, it tore my heart out.

I’ll admit it, I cried. It was very much one of those, there but for the grace of God, go I-moments for me. It was hard to read.

I texted her a few times throughout the ending of the story and of course she was sympathetic.

She knows how I get with my stories!

There was one scene that I did have to skip over, but I don’t think editing that out for myself diminished any of the story for me.

For those curious, (view spoiler) in an ignorant attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

I’m too sensitive on that topic to subject myself to that, so I just flipped on through.

With that being said, this is an great story. One that will haunt me for years to come and isn’t that really what Horror it is all about?

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

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and as I expected, Tremblay does not disappoint! Get your hands on this as soon as you can, I know a lot of people are going to be talking about it!

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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 Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Patricia Campbell’s life may be full, but she wouldn’t necessarily call it fulfilling. The one thing she has of her own to look forward to, are the evenings spent with the ladies of her ‘murderinos’ Book Club.

The Club consists of a group of like-minded Southern housewives, who discuss True Crime and other less savory topics, they would never openly admit they’re interested in.

It’s the early-1990s and in their conservative neighborhood, just outside of Charleston, it sounds better to say their Club is a Bible Study. So, that’s what they say.

It raises a lot less eyebrows that way.

When a handsome stranger moves to town, Patricia is intrigued and oddly enough, he seems interested in joining the conversation.

Patricia, in neighborly good spirits, invites him along to Book Club one evening. After all, how much harm could it possibly cause?

The closer Patricia gets to this man, James Harris, the more she seems to notice that something’s not quite right about him.

Patricia’s live-in mother-in-law seems to take an instant dislike to him; possibly confusing him with someone from her past. No doubt a symptom of her dementia, but there are other things too.

As local children begin disappearing, whispers of a boogie man luring them to the woods surface.

Patricia, spurred on by the woman who once offered care to her mother-in-law, begins an investigation of her own. She suspects James may be behind the horrific events, but will anyone believe her?

Luckily, Patricia does have some true friends within her Book Club and the ladies team up to get to the bottom of the mystery that is, James Harris.

Guys, I LOVED this book so much!

The dynamics amongst the ladies in the Book Club, it gave me life! I adored their Southern charm and humor, as well as the time period being the early 90s.

Hendrix writes Horror Comedy so well, somehow making it lighthearted, yet horrifying at the same time. It’s really quite a skill.

There was also a certain scene in here, occurring during Patricia’s investigation, that was hands down, one of the most cringe worthy scenes I have EVER read.

That sh*t would make Stephen King proud. It was legit, skin crawling, gagging, exclaiming while I’m reading, good.

I listened to the audiobook for this read, having since purchased a hard copy. I know I will be reading this again.

Side note, it just so happens, which I didn’t know going in, that this is voiced by my favorite narrator of all time, Bahni Turpin, who is an absolute goddess!

If you are considering listening to the audio, I absolutely recommend it. A++ performance!

Overall, this book knocked it out of the park. An easy 5-stars from me. Believe the hype!

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Review: The Institute by Stephen King

The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to need lots and lots of time to pull myself together after this.

I have such a difficult time formulating actual ‘reviews’ of King’s work.

A full review may never come. I have made peace with this.

It’s okay. I accept my right to just fangirl and move on.

One thing I will mention is the phenomenal dynamic between the group of children in this story.

In my opinion, King writes kids so well. Their honesty and way of viewing the world, he always hits that spot on.

A group of children banding together to fight the forces of evil?

It doesn’t get better than that!

Original:


Reads synopsis whilst at work:

RIP Me.
An all new 500+ page book from the KING!!!!

My favorite author.
Released just in time for my birthday.
Comparisons made to Firestarter.

I am overwhelmed with enthusiasm for this!

Release Day Update:

WHERE IS MY COPY!?!?
WHERE IS MY MAIL PERSON!?!?

Final Update:

IT’S HERE!!!!!!!!!!

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Review: Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun

Fountain DeadFountain Dead by Theresa Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Mark and his family move to an old Victorian house, he can feel right away that something is off.

There is a fountain in the courtyard that he has seen before in a dream. It wasn’t a good dream.

When odd things begin happening around the house, his suspicions are confirmed. This house is haunted as hell.

Unfortunately he seems to be the only one to notice it.

Like moving away from his old life wasn’t bad enough, now he has evil spirits to content with.

Same house, 1862, Emma is living with her sadistic father and pyscho brother. Things do not go well.

That’s correct. This novel follows two alternating timelines. One in 1988, following Mark and his family. The other in 1862, following Emma and hers.

Eventually, it is exposed how the earlier timeline begins to influence the later.

I wasn’t crazy about this format, if I’m being honest. It just didn’t work for me.

I preferred the 1988 timeline a lot more and found myself rushing through the 1862 sections in order to get back to it. Therefore, the pace for me was off. The more modern portions were much more exciting, in my opinion.

Additionally, I found some of the supernatural portions at the end to be rushed and confusing. It seemed to take a long time to get to a conclusion and then, BAM, it was done.

This is a good book, just uneven for me. I know a lot of people have really enjoyed this, so please do not let my less than stellar reaction sway you from picking it up. There is a reader for every book and book for every reader!

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Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Reimagining the true life events of the infamous Donner Party, Alma Katsu brings mega atmosphere to this Historical Horror novel.

I must say, the atmosphere was my favorite part of this story. The circumstances the wagon train found themselves in were dangerous and you could feel that.

It was like watching a movie that is dark for a large portion of the time. It leaves you squinting, trying to figure out what is coming next.

After a series of unfortunate events, rations become depleted, the weather is getting progressively worse and tempers flare.

Looking for someone to blame, whispers begin to circulate that a witch may be among them.

Tamsen Donner is used to being blamed and misunderstood. It certainly doesn’t stop her from going about her business; she’s a pro at ignoring others opinions.

Going into this, you know this party is doomed, but what will the ending bring?

I thought this was interesting, if a little slow. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but it was a solid book. I am happy to have crossed it off my TBR list.

I seriously do not have much more to say about it, I wish it di. It was good. I could have done with a bit more of the supernatural elements, but it was fine.

My biggest take away, regardless of what was lurking in the mountains, the biggest threats came from within the traveling party itself. Proving once again, man is the most dangerous monster of all.

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Review: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last AstronautThe Last Astronaut by David Wellington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a large alien object is identified hurtling toward Earth, seemingly under its own propulsion, NASA quickly assembles a team to try to intercept it.

The object, apparently a space ship, dubbed 2I, is unresponsive to all attempts at communication, so the experts figure, they’ll get a little closer. What could go wrong?

Sally Jansen, a former NASA astronaut, who has been living a quiet life since a failed expedition to Mars, that left a fellow astronaut dead, is called upon to lead the mission to investigate 2I.

Jansen is not necessarily eager to answer NASA’s call, but she understands this could be her only hope for salvation, so she agrees to help.

The other members selected for the mission include Parminder Rao, an astrobiologist, Sunny Stevens, an astrophysicist and Windson Hawkins, a military pilot.

Jansen is the only one among them to have old-school astronaut training and experience. She’s the glue holding the hodge-podge team together.

Jansen and her team learn that a private-sector company, KSpace, has already sent a shuttle, the Wanderer, to 2I and beat NASA to the punch. Their team has already boarded the mysterious craft, thus making the official ‘first contact’.

When the NASA team tries to contact the individuals from the Wanderer, however, no one responds. Thus, Jansen and her team board 2I to investigate.

2I is an enormous space craft. A looming hulk of unknown machinery that functions in complete and utter darkness. Their only source of light, that which they bring with them on their suits.

The truth of 2I was NOT AT ALL what I expected. It flipped my idea of what I thought this first contact would be on its head. It is so gruesome and all-encompassing, I thought there is no way any person is getting out of this alive.

Wellington did a fantastic job of creating a constant feeling of tension with this story. You were always waiting for something to pop out of the dark.

It felt terrifying, even when not a lot was happening. There’s something about the vastness, darkness, silence and isolation of being in deep space that legit freaks me the f* out. But when you add in the terror of this alien craft, it really took it to the next level.

I had a lot of fun reading this. It’s a solid Scifi Horror! I definitely recommend for people who enjoy the genre.

Well done!

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Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

HorrorstörHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was so excited when my friend, Shannon, and I made a spur of the moment decision to buddy read Horrorstor!!!

I have owned a copy of this book since it was first released and have heard such great things. I would often stop, pick it up, flip through the pages and considering reading it, but for some reason never did.

I’m not sure why. The whole package of the book is unique and fun. Made to resemble an IKEA catalogue, each chapter begins with a picture of a specific furniture piece and its description.

It’s a really special book in regards to that creativity and for that reason alone, I would recommend people give it a shot to see what it’s all about.

Moving on from the engaging format, I was so pleased with the actual story!

Amy has been working at Orsk for a while, but she seems to be stuck in a rut. It’s so monotonous and honestly, it’s sucking the life out of her.

Additionally, her manager, Basil, is always after her. What’s his problem anyway? He’s such a stiff. She just needs him to let her do her thing, her way.

When mysterious things begin happening around the store, including damage to some of the product, the staff has reason to suspect someone is getting in after hours.

Basil approaches Amy and another employee, Ruth Ann, and asks them to work a dusk-til-dawn shift with him to hopefully catch the vandal.

Important people from corporate are arriving in the morning and he wants to have a handle on the issue prior to their arrival.

The two women agree and return to the store at the designated hour. Their plan, to patrol the showroom floor every hour to see if they can find anything.

On their first walk through the eerie, fun house scary showroom, with designated areas per room type, Amy and Ruth Ann stumble upon an unexpected surprise in Bedrooms.

Two fellow employees, Trinity and Matt, have snuck into the store to shoot footage for their prospective ghost hunting show.

They know of the mysterious happenings at Orsk and think supernatural forces may be at work!

The rest of the narrative follows these five employees, locked in the deserted super store for the night, as they discover the true root of the problem. And it is a serious problem.

I loved the set up for this. The brain-draining retail set-up was spectacular. I know they are not all that way, I have worked in multiple retail locations myself, but some are. The corporate speak and repetitive nature of some of the tasks, it rang real true.

I thought all of the characters were so well done. Even though they seem one dimensional to start, over the course of their time together, you learn much more about each of them. I personally began to feel quite attached.

The humor was also spot on for me. The satirical nature of the entire story, plus the witty banter between the characters, made this an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Added on to all of the great things mentioned above, the horror elements were a ton of fun. There were some yucky moments, cringe-worthy moments and creepy moments. It really offered a lot. I felt like the conclusion was a little rushed, but other than that one small thing, fantastic!

This is definitely Horror Comedy though, so if that is not your jam, you may want to steer clear.

This was my first Hendrix book and it seems like a solid place to start. I am glad to have buddy read this because it was fun to have someone to discuss it with while actually reading. I think it added to the overall experience.

I certainly will be picking up more books by Grady Hendrix in the future!

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Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

The ReturnThe Return by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. But as with many such relationships, as time goes by and circumstances change, friends can sometimes see each other less and less.

For this fabulous foursome, that is definitely the case. They all live pretty far apart geographically and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, the women are devastated to have lost one of the their own. Although they have a funeral after a significant amount of time has passed with no sign of Julie, Elise genuinely doesn’t believe she is gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she has been or what has happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. How can this be?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is just so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up like they were never apart.

The more time that goes by however, the more they begin to notice that Julie is different.

There’s something very wrong with her. It seems she is falling apart minute by minute. Her odd behavior and appearance; let’s not even get into the smell, but who’s going to talk to her about it?

They’re scared, even though mostly, they won’t admit it.

Well, I’ll tell you, they weren’t the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out. I’m talking contemplated putting it in the freezer.

There was so much to enjoy about this. I loved, loved, loved the setting. Reminiscent of a locked room mystery as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie.

I also enjoyed the dynamic among the women. I found it to be very relatable as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was unique to me. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went in.

It did give me heavy Jennifer’s Body vibes and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me it worked. That is how I would have wanted it to end.

At it’s heart, this is really a lovely examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would pretty much be this book. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.

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