The Truth Hurts

The Truth HurtsThe Truth Hurts

By Rebecca Reid

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Harper Perennial
on July 28, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-half-stars

Is her husband hiding something?

Caught up in a whirlwind romance that starts in sunny Ibiza and leads to the cool corridors of a luxurious English country estate, Poppy barely has time to catch her breath, let alone seriously question if all this is too good to be true. Drew is enamored, devoted, and, okay, a little mysterious—but that’s part of the thrill. What’s the harm in letting his past remain private?

Maybe he’s not the only one…

Fortunately, Drew never seems to wonder why his young wife has so readily agreed to their unusual pact to live only in the here and now and not probe their personal histories. Perhaps he assumes, as others do, that she is simply swept up in the intoxication of infatuation and sudden wealth. What’s the harm in letting them believe that?

How far will they go to keep the past buried?

Isolated in Drew’s sprawling mansion, Poppy starts to have time to doubt the man she’s married, to wonder what in his past might be so terrible that it can’t be spoken of, to imagine what harm he might be capable of. She doesn’t want this dream to shatter. But Poppy may soon be forced to confront the dark truth that there are sins far more dangerous than the sin of omission…

This was a quick, absorbing read. I really wanted to know what was going on, because clearly something was off with Poppy’s husband, so I was frustrated at times with what felt like contrived ways to withhold information from Poppy/the reader, but it worked because I kept reading!

I had to suspend my disbelief in this one but when I did that, I was able to get into it and enjoy seeing how it all played out. This was a fun, if occasionally frustrating, read.

three-half-stars

She Lies In Wait

She Lies In WaitShe Lies In Wait

By Gytha Lodge

Series: DCI Jonah Sheens #1
Source Library

Published by Random House
on January 8, 2019

four-stars

On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group—Aurora Jackson—is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other—they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found.

Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever.

This was a really good, twisty procedural that kept me guessing. I really liked the team of detectives, and also the way the narrative moved back and forth in time, showing events leading up to Aurora’s death, and the detectives investigating what happened that night. 

I also liked that we got to see the present-day group of friends from the night in question. It kept me guessing about what really happened the night Aurora died. 

I quite liked this and as soon as I finished, I put a hold on the next in the series at my library!

four-stars

Harrow Lake

Harrow LakeHarrow Lake

By Kat Ellis

Source Purchased

Published by Penguin
on July 9, 2020

four-stars

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

I had been looking forward to reading this book since I first heard of it, and when my preorder arrived in my Kobo library, I put my other books down so I could start this one right away!

This was a really good, tense YA thriller with touches of horror. I loved the atmosphere and reading this on a rainy evening certainly helped ratchet up the creepy vibes!

To me, this was more of a thriller/psychological thriller than horror, but I liked the sense of uncertainty and menace that permeated the story. Who could Lola trust? What could she believe about her family? What was really going on in this strange little town? And the whole Mr. Jitters thing was delightfully creepy!

Despite a few unanswered questions in the end, I quite liked this one!

four-stars

Home Before Dark

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark

By Riley Sager

Source Purchased

Published by Dutton Books
on June 30, 2020

four-stars

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

I was so excited to read this! I have enjoyed Riley Sager’s book, and when I read this premise, I knew I had to read this one too. It gave off a Night Film vibe, which guaranteed that I would pick up a copy.

I ended up reading this book in about a day. It was such a fun read, and I just love stories about spooky houses. As you can expect in a Riley Sager book, things are not as they seem and the story takes a lot of twists and turns, which kept me engrossed in the story. 

The ending felt somewhat rushed to me, but I definitely enjoyed reading this one. This is a great summer read!

four-stars

Mexican Gothic

Mexican GothicMexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Source Purchased

Published by Del Rey
on June 30, 2020

four-half-stars

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I loved this book! I really love a gothic tale, and this one was such an absorbing read. It was so eerie and atmospheric and I had to force myself to slow down and take my time reading, to really savour the reading experience. I was torn between feeling unable to put it down, but wanting to prolong reading it and not tear through it.

Noemí’s visit to her cousin’s dark, isolated home, High Place, reveals that not only is her cousin’s new husband and family strange, but the house itself is strange, potentially dangerous. I loved reading about Noemí exploring the house and its history, trying to figure out just what was going on with this family. 

This is definitely a slow-build story, but by the end I was frantically reading to find out what was going on and how things would end. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year!

four-half-stars

Your House Will Pay

Your House Will PayYour House Will Pay

By Steph Cha

Source Library

Published by Ecco
on October 15, 2019

five-stars

A powerful and taut novel about racial tensions in LA, following two families—one Korean-American, one African-American—grappling with the effects of a decades-old crime

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. Protests and vigils are being staged all over the city. It’s in this dangerous tinderbox that two families must finally confront their pasts.

Grace Park lives a sheltered existence: living at home with her Korean-immigrant parents, working at the family pharmacy, and trying her best to understand why her sister Miriam hasn’t spoken to their mother in years. The chasm in her family is growing wider by the day and Grace is desperate for reconciliation, and frustrated by the feeling that her sister and parents are shielding her from the true cause of the falling out.

Shawn Matthews is dealing with a fractured family of his own. His sister, Ava, was murdered as a teenager back in 1991, and this new shooting is bringing up painful memories. Plus, his cousin Ray is just released from prison and needs to reconnect with their family after so many years away. While Shawn is trying his best to keep his demons at bay, he’s not sure Ray can do the same.

When another shocking crime hits LA, the Parks and the Matthewses collide in ways they never could have expected. After decades of loss, violence, and injustice, tensions come to a head and force a reckoning that could clear the air or lead to more violence.

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. It was tense, gripping, unputdownable.

I went in knowing pretty much nothing about the story, and was pulled in immediately. It’s historical fiction and sort of a crime/mystery story but it felt like more than that – it was based on real events that I didn’t really know anything about, and it was informative and eye-opening, but also as a novel, so well-written and captivating.

It was challenging and thought-provoking. I have not stopped thinking about it since I finished. Highly recommended.

five-stars

The Honey-Don’t List

The Honey-Don’t ListThe Honey-Don’t List

By Christina Lauren

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Gallery Books
on March 24, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-stars

arey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

I was really into the premise, and I did like the HGTV-ness of the plot. But I couldn’t quite get into this one, sadly. It was a quick, fun read but didn’t pull me in deeper.

I really liked the romance between Carey and James, but I was actually more interested in the relationship between Carey and Melly (maybe it’s the assistant in me). I wanted to see more about their working relationship and I didn’t get enough of a sense of it to satisfy me.

While I generally enjoy Christina Lauren books, this one was just okay for me.

three-stars

Wicked As You Wish

Wicked As You WishWicked As You Wish

By Rin Chupeco

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Sourcebooks Fire
on March 3, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

three-half-stars

When a hidden prince, a girl with secrets, a ragtag group of unlikely heroes, and a legendary firebird come together…something wicked is going down.

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left encased in ice when the Snow Queen waged war. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them.

A new hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala must unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

This was a fun story with a really imaginative world that involves technology, magic, and fairy tales in a way that felt fresh and not like anything else I could remember reading.

I really liked the characters, once the story picked up (it took me a while to get into this and I felt like things moved slowly, too slowly for my liking, at first). I was also occasionally overwhelmed by the combination of real life and fairy tales.

But I really enjoy a story featuring a ragtag group of characters with camaraderie and action scenes and complex emotions, and this book had that! And the family dynamics were interesting too. There was a lot going on in this story, and it was fun to read about.

I am looking forward to seeing where this story goes in the next book!

three-half-stars

Favourite Reads of 2020 (January – June)

My reading goal for 2020 was 100 books, but I found my reading off to a great start from the very beginning of the year, and then with COVID-19 and lockdown and working at home and no more commute, I suddenly seemed to have all the time in the world to read and have already exceeded my goal of 100 books, just over halfway through the year.

So I thought I would take some time to share my favourite 2020 reads from the first half of the year (listed in chronological order; links will take you to my review):

Mind of Winter, Laura Kasischke

The Whisper Man, Alex North

The Better Liar, Tanen Jones

The Shadows Between Us, Tricia Levenseller

The Return, Rachel Harrison

The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes

When No One Is Watching, Alyssa Cole (my review will be posted closer to the September release date!)

10 Blind Dates, Ashley Elston

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

These Women, Ivy Pochoda

Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall

I’ll Be the One, Lyla Lee

Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha (my review will be posted later this month!)

I’m hoping to read many more great books in the second half of the year!

The Girl From Widow Hills

The Girl From Widow HillsThe Girl From Widow Hills

By Megan Miranda

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Simon & Schuster
on June 23, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

I am a fan of Megan Miranda’s thrillers. I usually enjoy the mystery and the way she weaves in the setting with the characters’ stories. So I was really excited to receive an e-ARC of her newest, The Girl From Widow Hills.

This is another compelling, twisty read from Megan Miranda that I enjoyed! Olivia grappling with her past and the mystery of the dead person in her yard (who was it? Who was the killer?) was fun to untangle.

There are some interview transcripts and excerpts interspersed between the chapters, which are perhaps intended to shed some light on Olivia’s/Arden’s past, but I found them not very informative or interesting, and might have preferred the story without them.

Overall, though, this was an entertaining mystery that kept me guessing, uncertain who could be trusted.

four-stars

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