The Party Crasher

By: Sophie Kinsella

It’s been over two years since Effie’s beloved parents got divorced, destroying the image of the happy, loving childhood she thought she had. Since then, she’s become estranged from her father and embarked on a feud with his hot (and much younger) girlfriend, Krista. And now, more earth-shattering news: Greenoaks, the rambling Victorian country house Effie called home her whole life, has been sold.

When Krista decides to throw a grand “house cooling” party, Effie is originally left off the guest list–and then receives a last-minute “anti-invitation” (maybe it’s because she called Krista a gold-digger, but Krista totally deserved it, and it was mostly a joke anyway). Effie declines, but then remembers a beloved childhood treasure is still hidden in the house. Her only chance to retrieve it is to break into Greenoaks while everyone is busy celebrating. As Effie sneaks around the house, hiding under tables and peeping through trapdoors, she realizes the secrets Greenoaks holds aren’t just in the dusty passageways and hidden attics she grew up exploring. Watching how her sister, brother, and dad behave when they think no one is looking, Effie overhears conversations, makes discoveries, and begins to see her family in a new light. Then she runs into Joe–the love of her life, who long ago broke her heart, and who’s still as handsome and funny as ever–and even more truths emerge.

Note – Thanks to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for this eARC in return for an honest review. 

I have always liked Sophie Kinsella. I was a huge fan of the Shopaholic series. I found it sweet, endearing and witty. So, I had high hopes for this book. 

Honestly, I can always tell I struggled with a book when I go to write the review and find that not much of the book stuck with me. 

First, it took me a while to get into this book. Once there, however, it was cute. Nothing super special and nothing quite as charming as The Shopaholic series. Effie is a cute albeit underwhelming main character way too focused on her Dad and step-mom’s divorce. She seems to have tunnel vision where this situation is concerned when she could devote some of her attention to her own life.

Her sister, Bean, is charming and almost annoyingly optimistic. Her brother, Gus, seems to have his head in the clouds, oblivious to what is going on with his family. The stepmom, Mimi, is a bit of a mystery later on in the book, not acting at all like she’s just been through a divorce. And her dad is ridiculously obsessed with his new, bouncy girlfriend, he doesn’t see his family falling apart. The idea of him allowing Krista to rule over his family, regardless of her intentions, was frustrating in the extreme. I wanted to snap her spandex as much as I wanted to slap Effie’s dad. Him sitting silent while several guests bashed his youngest child was infuriating. 

The main theme of this book is family dynamics, or family dysfunction. There’s a lot these characters say to each other that isn’t heard and a lot unspoken that speaks volumes. I thought the premise of Effie running around and hiding in her former house was only going to be part of the story. I didn’t realize it would be the whole story so some disappointment there. 

There was a nice chemistry between Effie and Joe and some memorable moments, like when Bean finally loses it, smashing plates and all, towards the climax of the book. But that’s probably the very best moment in the book. 

Overall, I found this a little silly. A grown woman creeping around at a party her family is attending so she can find a childhood toy felt a little immature for a writer who’s produced some real gems. Not upset I read it but this is a one and done for me. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Ex Hex

By: Erin Sterling

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

This book was recommended by countless folks online. Hailed as a fun, sexy, witchy, Halloween read sure to leave me crying in laughter, I lost not time in making this my Book of the Month Club choice, eager to dig in and read this holiday rom-com. 

What I wanted was a fun, lighthearted, romance book with a touch of the supernatural. What I got was a cringe-worthy, smutty, high school-ish story that was so bad, I couldn’t finish. 

Overall, the concept overall sounded fun. I instantly fell in love with the town of Graves Glenand the whole concept of hexing a former lover seemed hilarious. Anyone who’s ever been through a breakup of any kind wishes they had the kind of magic to bestow something unfortunate on their ex. As someone who is (happily) divorced, I would have given almost anything for a magic wand and a grimoire filled with spells to cast those most hapless of circumstances on my ex-husband. 

But that was after 10 years of marriage. It’s hard to imagine being that upset after only a 3 month snog fest. So, right off the bat, I was a little confused as to why Vivienne was so heartbroken as to cast a curse. And with a Bath and Body Works candle, no less. Then NINE YEARS LATER, Rhys comes back to town and she’s all undone again? And so is he? I just couldn’t buy it. It made no sense. And there was no chemistry at all between Rhys and Vivi. 

The overuse of certain female anatomy had me cringing. Gwen’s obsession with sex was very high-schoolish and not worthy at all of someone who is supposed to be in her late twenties. Rhys acting clueless 100% of the time was more than I could take. I got about 40% through the book and had to DNF it. I couldn’t go on anymore. And that was after I survived the magic cave of instant arousal which was just high school. 

I wanted to like this book. The overall concept hooked me. Unfortunately, that’s where this ended. It was too immature, too high school and too cringy for me. 

The Shadow House

By: Anna Downes

Alex, a single mother-of-two, is determined to make a fresh start for her and her children. In an effort to escape her troubled past, she seeks refuge in a rural community. Pine Ridge is idyllic; the surrounding forests are beautiful and the locals welcoming. Mostly.

But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home. As a chain of bizarre events is set off, events eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years, Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before. And that the only way to protect them all is to confront the shadows lurking in Pine Ridge.

If Oscars were given out for opening chapters of a book, I’d hope Anna Downes would get one for this one. The opening chapter was deliciously creepy and drew me in right away. I instantly wanted to keep going. 

Alex is such a broken character. With a teenager (who’s good at being a teenager) and a baby still being breastfed, she’s clearly worn out and looking for something new. Add that she’s running from an abusive relationship and you have a woman so mentally exhausted even the smallest shadows will play on her mind. 

Alex’s story is told in the first person point of view (my favorite!) so we’re treated to the internal monologues of a person trying to stay connected with her disengaged teenaged son who clearly needs his mother now more than ever yet still care for a baby whose basic needs seem all consuming. I liked her instantly. I felt her weariness at life over all, her desire to constantly run away and her fierce love for her children. 

Renee’s story is told in 3rd person but we are also treated to a kaleidoscope of emotion. I placed Renee at around the same age as Alex. While Alex has a baby to contend with, Renee has two overbearing, interruptive and opinionated parents to deal with. She feels their constant judgment of her as a wife and a mother while standing in the gap between them and her husband and her son, trying to keep the peace. 

In the midst of all of this is a creepy force attempting to steal their children and their lives. It disrupts the very fabric of the lives of these two women at the very worst of times. It plays on their minds, steals their peace and leaves both women hopeless. 

I really loved how these two stories were written. The events in Alex’s and Renee’s lives are lived perpendicular to each other at first but later in the story, they intersect in a most shocking reveal which I did not see coming. 

I loved the ending. Just when you thought it was all over, it really wasn’t. Not until the very end and I have to say, I was so pleased with the ending each character got. It wasn’t unbelievable in any way. 

If I have a critique at all, it’s how Renee’s parents were written. They could have been written as the insane, overbearing, judgmental people they were without adding in the Christian element. This is more of a personal remark as we Christians are almost always portrayed as Bible-thumping, unloving, calling Satan down, unreasonable people when most of us are not and most of us would not act like they did with our families. That being said, I will also add that it works well in this story. Go figure. 

My recommendation is to read this! It’s not scary but it is creepy and will keep you engaged from the first page to the very last. 

NOTE – Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Christmas Dress

By: Courtney Cole

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow and Custom House for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

One Dress. Two Women. The Magic of the Holiday Season.

When hopeful fashionista Meg Julliard must return to her hometown of Chicago to manage her late father’s apartment building, she thinks her dreams of making it in the fashion business are over. Add in her father’s eclectic roster of tenants who all need Meg’s attention (ASAP!), a host of building related disasters, and a handsome handyman she keeps embarrassing herself in front of, and this has all the makings for the worst Christmas she’s ever had.

Ellie Wade, one of the building’s longtime residents, is also not feeling the Christmas Joy this year. She is preparing to move into a nursing home (reluctantly), and is in the process of sorting through her belongings to downsize. Every corner of her apartment holds memories, some good, some bad. But there’s one dress she hesitates to pack up as it represents both the best and worst night of her life.

Ellie and Meg strike up an unlikely friendship and the story of Ellie’s dress comes out. Ellie gifts the gorgeous dress to Meg, hoping that it will bring her more luck, on the condition that she wear it to the building’s Christmas party.

The dress magically fits, and while it eventually leads to the best night of Meg’s life, it also acts as inspiration for Meg to follow a life-long dream of her own, a dream that will help save the crumbling Parkview West, and restore it to its former glory, and keep it as a safe home for all of the current tenants.

The dress and the magic of the holiday season helps both Meg and Ellie find their own happy endings. 

This book was like a Hallmark Christmas movie wrapped up in a book. It has a girl who’s life is at a crossroads, a handsome boy with a past, a snarky best friend and an older woman full of wisdom. 

I loved every bit of this book. After losing her Dad, Meg Julliard moves into the old, dilapidated apartment full of senior citizen formerly owned by her Dad. The building needs an overhaul and of course, money is in short supply. She meets Ellie, one the residents, who gives her an old dress full of magic. A little magic plus a stubborn “concierge” and a hot handyman who likes to donate his talents and time to anything Meg needs makes for a perfect Christmas romance. 

One of the first things I loved about this book is the romance is just that – romance. Not sex. I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion but I don’t need a bunch of sex or steamy scenes in order to make a book romantic for me. Innuendo goes a long way for those of us more old-fashioned readers. 

Every single character right down to the cat was interesting. I loved each one of them! I loved their stories and how they created a family atmosphere within the building. Each one had their own stories and what I really loved was how the author touched on each story without allowing the story to lag and become inundated with details. 

The main character, Meg, sorta comes of age in this story. But so does the building. As Meg grows and grieves and remakes herself, the building undergoes the same, revealing some life saving history that actually probably exists in many of the older Chicago buildings downtown. 

It’s true there were some cheesy moments and, like any good Hallmark movie, it’s totally predictable but there were some nice surprises along the way. All in all, this was very enjoyable. A very nice Christmas read for the upcoming season. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Christmas Past: A Ghostly Winter Tale

By: John Alcox

Thank you to NetGalley and The Story Plant for the eARC in return for an honest review. 

The winter holiday season is a time for gifts and music, for snow and miracles, and for family and going home. For Jessie Malone, it’s a time for sorrow.

Jessie is a graduate student living in London, where she hopes to be one of the first folklorists ever to trace an urban legend back to its original source. She’s also a grieving young widow unable to heal from the agony of her life-shattering loss.

In the bleak midwinter, Jessie learns of an urban legend about a lonely, wandering ghost, a British sailor named Sam who promised his bride that he’d be home for Christmas. The legends say he’s been trying to make it back to her since World War II.

As she investigates, Jessie learns that Sam’s story defies the patterns of how urban legends are supposed to work. It’s a puzzle she can’t let go. To solve the mystery, she must confront the impossible and, just perhaps, discover a miracle of Christmas love that survives beyond the grave.

A story that will engage all your emotions, Christmas Past bursts with wonder, enigma, romance, and the unquenchable spirit that comes from promises that must be kept.

This book was a DNF for me. I tried several times to pick it up and read it and just couldn’t get into it. I really loved the concept of chasing down older Ghost stories or legends to see where they originated from. Unfortunately, that’s where the magic ended for me. 

The character didn’t have much emotional output for me. The main character didn’t interest me at all. I really felt nothing for her at all. It annoyed me how many times she reminded us that she cannot get distracted from her main purpose of writing her dissertation. Her memories were lovely but again, no emotional reaction from me.

The imagery didn’t strike a cord either. I couldn’t feel London or Paris around me at all.

I did love the ghost stories and how the legends were relayed. It’s such an interesting concept of how a legend is born and how it travels from place to place. I also enjoyed reading about the effect each story has on folks as it gets passed down from generation to generation. The stories were stories of kindness and humans going out of their way for those in need. This is a theme much needed in today’s world so I was glad to see it.  

I wish I could have loved this but I didn’t.

⭐ ⭐

The Resting Place

By Camilla Sten

The medical term is prosopagnosia. The average person calls it face blindness—the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face, even the faces of those closest to you.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer—a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, her anxiety mounts. The dark feelings of having brushed by a killer, yet not know who could do this—or if they’d be back—overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house—a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a dark past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to bringing the truth to light, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

A heart-thumping, relentless thriller that will shake you to your core, The Resting Place is an unforgettable novel of horror and suspense. 

Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This is the second Camilla Sten book I’ve read. I read The Lost Village last month and it was a decent read. I wanted to give her another try. 

In truth – I didn’t love it. It started out all mysterious and eerie. The timelines flipped back and forth from the past to present and back again. In the beginning, it was hard to know who was who – I got a little lost in the introduction of the character Anushka. 

The spooky atmosphere starts to build immediately as Eleanor and her boyfriend, Sebastian, reach Solhoga, the abandoned family mansion in the woods. Floorboards creak, a dumb waiter has a mind of its own, shadows appear in the woods and doors open by themselves. The main character has prosopagnosia (face blindness) which adds to the intensity of the story. You can clearly see the two storylines racings heading towards an intersection. Clearly, the author wants us to think the house is haunted and tries to write it as a character on its own. 

Unfortunately, it fell a little flat to me. The storm that cuts Eleanor and her party off from all civilization seems a little contrived. The characters were uninteresting and over-dramatic. There were a few loose ends that left me with question – like Vivianne’s background. It’s hinted at but never really explained. The relationship between her and Anushka is weird and unexplainable. The family dynamic was really disjointed. Sebastian was condescending and commonplace. I didn’t buy that he cared even a little for Eleanor. 

The macabre ending was predictable and uninteresting.

I will say that Sten’s writing style, her use of vocabulary is stunning. She’s descriptive and fluid. She’s detailed without losing you in the detail and is adept at creating a tangible atmosphere.  

Overall, I wanted to love this but I didn’t. However, I’m still a fan of Camilla Sten and eagerly await what she’s got in store for us next.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Room in the Attic

By Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book opens with a BANG! It’s got a scary opening hook that draws you in immediately and doesn’t really let go until the very end. 

As a lover of gothic ghost stories, this one is pretty good. Told in dual time, the author starts in the present, then flips back and forth between 1993 and 1903 unraveling the mystery of a young woman and child washed up on the shore and brought to All Hallows Asylum/Boarding School. 

It’s 1993 and Lewis Tyler is a young teenage boy still mourning the loss of his mother when his father, an emotionally challenged man, and his new wife decide to send Lewis to All Hallows Boarding School in the hopes of turning him from his goth ways. So, right off the bat, we’re emotionally involved. Lewis is rejected, unwanted and discarded. Once at school, he meets up with Isak, another rejected teenage boy, and together they begin to weather the hauntings of All Hallows. 

Then we go back in time to 1903 where the mystery begins with the arrival of a young woman and small child at All Hallows back when it was used as an asylum. We meet Nurse Emma Everdene who assumes care of the child and becomes very attached to her. In order to keep the child safe from other asylum inmates, Emma and the child, Harriet, are kept sequestered in an attic room directly above where Lewis and Isak’s room is. As Emma’s own story unfolds, we discover she also is an outcast, thrown away by her parents at a time when “unruly, free-thinking” women were put in asylums as punishment until they learned to be respectable. 

The story leads us to events that took place on Boxing Day 1903 which results in a skeleton Lewis finds on the grounds in 1993. Lewis and Isak take to solving the mystery as they make an attempt to change the past. 

Several themes are going on here. The first is abandonment with the main characters of Lewis, Isak and Emma all being abandoned by their parents in one form or another. Individuality is another theme. Back in 1903, patients were brought in and those with their faculties were quickly stripped of them, along with their hair, clothes and anything else that defined them. The same happened to Lewis in 1993. He arrives fully in goth gear where quick judgments are made against him. He is forced to discard his goth attire and given a uniform while his hair is cut short, stripping away his own identity. Grief is another theme. Both Lewis and Isak have lost their mums unexpectedly. Emma lost her child. All parties are struggling to recover. Last is the theme of isolation and the result it can have on a sane mind. Douglas explores this fully with the character of Emma as she and Harriet are isolated from the rest of the asylum and how that thwarts and plays with her definition of reality. I really love how the author writes these as history repeating itself. It’s almost like it’s an effect of being at All Hallows. 

The scare factor is decent. After the opening scare, it’s not a huge theme nor are there a lot of jump scares but there is a creepiness steeped deep in the story and its eeriness is enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on. The story does slow up but only in a few places and it doesn’t last long. I was concerned about that since there’s 100 chapters to this book. 

Overall, I’d recommend it as a good Halloween read. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Bright Side Running Club

By Josie Lloyd

When Keira first receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she never expects to end up joining a running group with three women she’s only just met. Totally blind-sided, all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to tell her family or step back from work. Nor does she want to be part of a group of fellow cancer patients. Cancer is not her club.

And yet it’s running – hot, sweaty, lycra-clad running in the company of brilliant, funny women all going through treatment – that unexpectedly gives Keira the hope she so urgently needs. Because Keira will not be defined by the C-word. And now, with the Cancer Ladies’ Running Club cheering her on, she is going to reclaim everything: her family, her identity, and her life.

One step at a time.

Moving, uplifting and full of hope, this is a beautifully crafted novel about love, family and the power of finding your tribe.

Note – Thank you to Netgalley and Alcove Press for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Trying to be strong in the face of a cancer diagnosis – could I do it? This is the question I asked myself over and over as I read this book. This story is heartwarming, maddening, thrilling, thought-provoking and resolute in its endeavor to describe the journey one woman goes on after she is diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a powerful story centering on the strength of women and yet doesn’t get bogged down overpowering feminist themes.

Although not written as an autobiography, the author infuses her own cancer journey into Keira’s story, giving the reader an inside view into what happens when one is catapulted into Cancer World. For me, this was a highly emotional journey even though I’ve never lost anyone to cancer. All five stages of grief are skillfully woven throughout the story as Keira navigates this diagnosis. We see the effect not only on her and her mental state but also on those around her. We see her break and fall, fail and flail and get back up using the support and love of those around her. She even leans on those who use her illness to try to destroy her. 

While Lloyd keeps our attention and focus on Keira, she also gives us a glimpse into what’s going on in the lives of those around her. Her husband, Tom, is maddening at times and seems unsupportive yet cannot overcome the deep, intense love he has for his wife. Her children, Tilly, Jacob and Bea each define their new roles within their home unit with all the difficulty and rebellion and fierce love for their mum appropriate to their ages. We see how the members of the Bright Side Running Club all cope with cancer in their way – choosing or not choosing to talk with those closest to them about their illness. And finally, we see her business partner attempt to use the opportunity for their own selfish gain – which is frustrating in the very least but it lends to Keira’s mental and emotional state as she sees how cancer changes her. 

The end is a bittersweet triumph of sacrifice, love and tenacity as these women are determined to overcome. I absolutely cried, laughed and cheered. I was on the edge of my seat as the final showdown came between Keira and Lorna and Pierre. I rejoiced with these women and wished them well as I closed the book, having finished it one box of tissues later. 

One does not need to be intimately acquainted with cancer in order to get something out of this story. The emotional attachment will be instant and immediate. I highly recommend this book and now am off to see what other books of Josie Lloyd’s I can find. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Rock Paper Scissors

By Alice Feeney

Think you know the person you married? Think again…

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.

Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

The hook line for the synopsis is “think you know the person you married? Think again…”. That’s really the whole theme of this book. If you think you know what the story might be about, think again. If you think you know who the characters are, think again. All this ‘thinking again’ that happened while reading this book took me on one of the wildest rides I’ve had in a long time. 

After reading a few paranormal books, I’d actually decided on some family drama for my next read. I probably should have looked for something lighter, to be honest. I thought this might be a little lighter, a little more thought-provoking, perhaps some gritty characters that look deep inside themselves to find their soul….yeah…that wasn’t this book. 

In the beginning, it was a little slow. There was a nice hook to draw you in but when the letters start, it felt a little whiny. Both Adam and Amelia are really self-serving at this point in their marriage. Neither knows why they are still in it but they have this opportunity to make one last ditch effort after Amelia wins a free weekend at a getaway in Scotland. 

As someone who’s been married for ten years and then divorced, there was a lot in the letters the wife wrote that resonated with me, right down to losing their baby. The emptiness and sadness that engulfed her was very real. The fading away of love and how comfortable two people can get in something that’s so completely broken, always grasping at straws and yet still able to somewhat sleep at night. The language between the two felt very tangible and very evident of a relationship destined to fail. 

Then the fun started! The creepiness, the whispers, the eerie “housekeeper” who lived in the cottage down the lane…I couldn’t put it down and yet I didn’t want to read anymore. The twists and turns catapulting the reader to such an ending – every time I thought the story was over and I knew who everyone was and what they had done, there was one more chapter blowing my mind. 

The resolution left me breathless and almost wanting more. It begs the question of how can these characters possibly trust anyone ever again and moreover, how can we as readers ever trust them again. I closed the book wondering who was the bad guy and who was the good guy. And then I reached for my own inhaler! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


The Keepers of Metsan Valo

By Wendy Webb

The spirits of Nordic folklore come calling in this entrancing tale of family secrets and ancient mysteries by the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Haunting of Brynn Wilder.

In Metsan Valo, her family home on Lake Superior, Anni Halla’s beloved grandmother has died. Among her fond memories, what Anni remembers most vividly is her grandmother’s eerie yet enchanting storytelling. By firelight she spun tall tales of spirits in the nearby forest and waters who could heal—or harm—on a whim. But of course those were only stories…

The reading of the will now occasions a family reunion. Anni and her twin brother, their almost otherworldly mother, and relatives Anni hasn’t seen in forever—some with good reason—are all brought back together under one roof that strains to hold all their tension. But it’s not just Annie’s family who is unsettled. Whispers wind through the woods. Laughter bursts from bubbling streams. Raps from unseen hands rupture on the walls. Fireflies swarm and nightmares stir. With each odd occurrence, Anni fears that her return has invited less a welcoming and more a warning.

When another tragedy strikes near home, Anni must dive headfirst into the mysterious happenings to discover the truth about her home, her family, and the wooded island’s ancient lore. Plunging into the past may be the only way to save her family from whatever bedevils Metsan Valo.

I’m no stranger to Wendy Webb’s books. I’ve read them all. So when I was given a change to read the eARC of this book by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing (in exchange for an honest review), I jumped at the chance. I read the whole book in under 24 hours. 

This book took me by surprise. I’m used to high levels of creepiness, dark corners, shadows taking on a life of their own and weird dolls with insane smiles on their faces. Wendy Webb knows how to write an intensely dark novel with enough scare to keep you up at night. 

So you can imagine my surprise to find not a whole lot of that in this book. The story was good – really good. There are some eerie moments and some minor shivers down the spine but nothing to what I’m used to coming from this author. I’m not going to lie when I say I was a bit disappointed. There is a bit of a supernatural element to it along with a fair amount of folklore but the scare factor wasn’t there at all. 

That being said, the folklore and antiquity of this family was nicely written. As with most Wendy Webb books, the house is its own character and you’re left with a few questions here and there. You also really get to know the Halle family and experience their nuances and get to dig deep into their relationships.

This story is about family. It’s about family history, particularly the Halla family history. It’s about ancient stories laced in the supernatural whose magic has survived the generations. It’s about a young girl stepping into the role she was born to play superseding those that came before her and taking the reins of an ancient magic that surrounds her home. It’s about the folklore weaved in and out of her past and moving her into her future. 

And it’s about forgiveness, love and the ability to overlook the flaws we see in those close to us. 

One thing I really loved was the way characters and places from Wendy Webb’s previous stories were laced throughout this book. It felt like a little “thank you” to all of us who’ve read all of her previous books. I almost felt like I was coming home to visit some of my favorite haunts of Wharton. That was a really nice surprise and I loved every bit of it. 

If you’re looking for a traditional ghost story, this book isn’t it. If you’re looking for dark and sinister, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a light read with some mild shivers and a quick read, this book is for you.