#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Home Before Dark’ by Riley Sager #GhostThriller #Suspense @Audible

Today I’m reviewing another audiobook I listened to on Audible with my monthly credit, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, a ghostly, mystery thriller narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom

Home Before Dark: A Novel by [Riley Sager]

From the blurb

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.

My Review

Home Before Dark is a cleverly plotted story of various generations of secrets, lies and crimes surrounding a mysterious Victorian house and estate in the woods, Baneberry Hall. The last owners, before Maggie inherited the house, were her parents, who lived in there for exactly 3 weeks before running away in the dead of night, with 5-year-old Maggie, supposedly fleeing from ghosts.

Maggie’s father, a novelist, wrote a bestseller based on their experiences, and although their lives improved financially, their family was destroyed after that fateful moment, and even today the adult Maggie cannot get over her experiences at the house. She’s still searching for the truth, which could be stranger and more devastating than her father’s book.

The novel is narrated by Maggie and her father in two time frames, past and present, and the plot cleverly unfolds amidst secrets, legends, lies, half-lies, and a few truths, until the mystery is finally solved.

I enjoyed reading the novel, because the story was engaging, and I love stories set in atmospheric houses with spooky legends. But, although the characters were authentic and interesting, I didn’t actually like any of them, especially Maggie or her parents, except the father (but that was mostly due to Jon Lindstrom’s brilliant narration!). Despite wanting to understand them, I found it hard to sympathise with their thoughts, actions or lack of affection.

Also, a little bit of love or romance of any type would have been nice. All the relationships portrayed between married couples, friends, or family, seemed cold or damaged. There wasn’t a single drop of warmth between anyone, but I’m a hopeless romantic, so I would say that. 

Overall. it was an entertaining story which was excellently read by both narrators. And I’m certainly curious to read more of Riley Sager’s books.

Check out my other fiction book reviews here or my non-fiction, personal growth books here.

Happy reading! 

 

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘Recursion’ by Blake Crouch #TecnoThriller #SciFi #Romance #Suspense @Scribd

Today I’m reviewing another audiobook. This time I listened on Scribd, to Recursion by Blake Crouch, an unputdownable Science Fiction, Technothriller narrated by Abby Craden and Jon Lindstrom

Recursion

From the blurb

What if someone could rewrite your entire life?

‘My son has been erased.’

Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton, before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death, only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different than the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

Miles away, neuroscientist Helena Smith is developing a technology that allows us to preserve our most intense memories, and relive them. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

Barry’s search for the truth leads him on an impossible, astonishing journey, as he discovers that Helena’s work has yielded a terrifying gift – the ability not just to preserve memories, but to remake them . . . at the risk of destroying what it means to be human.

My Review

I hadn’t read any books by the author and I don’t usually read technothrillers or science fiction, so I didn’t know what to expect from this novel, but I like to read outside my comfort zone so I started listening.

Beginnings are vital, a good first paragraph, page, chapter will make a novel irresistible to the reader, and that’s what happened with Recursion. I knew from the first line I’d love it.

Detective Barry Sutton rushes up to a skyscraper to stop a woman from jumping off but before she does so, she tells him she has a strange disease called False Memory Syndrome (FMS) which means she has memories of different lives, but only one is real at present.     

From this moment on, the novel is fast-paced, full of action and suspense as Barry decides to investigate the woman’s story and finds himself involved in a crazy conspiracy to control time and history. 

The story may sound far-fetched, but Recursion is so convincingly written that it feels authentic. 

The best parts of the novel are the two main characters, Barry and Helena and their timeless love story, which is breathtaking. I can’t help being an incurable romantic, and although this is not a romance at the beginning, it does soon turn into an epic romance across time and space.

I’m glad I read it and I’m going to read his other novels, too.

Since writing the post I also read Dark Matter, which is his first and most successful novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, too.

Dark Matter is another mind blowing science fiction technothriller about the choices we make, doppelgangers, alternate universes and what a person is prepared to do and give up to keep the life he chose and stay with his wife and son. I also listened to the audiobook which was also brilliantly narrated by Jon Lindstrom.

However, if I were to recommend one of the two, it would be Recursion. I found the plot more believably constructed, and the narrative more tightly spun. I also preferred the main characters because they were more engaging and complex. 

Check out my other fiction book reviews here or my non-fiction, personal growth books here.

Happy reading!  

 

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘The Book of Two Ways’ by Jodi Picoult #BookReview #Romance #Suspense @Audible

Today I’m reviewing another audiobook, The Book of Two Ways, by the great Jodi Picoult, a stunning novel about the choices we make, the life we leave behind and second chances, beautifully narrated by Patti Murin. I was so impressed by the narrative that after listening, I read the ebook version. 

The Book of Two Ways: A Novel

From the blurb

Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw 15 years ago: Wyatt Armstrong. 

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients. But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made. 

After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: Return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways — the first known map of the afterlife. 

As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this Earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices…or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?

My Review

‘My calendar is full of dead people’.

The first line of a novel novel pulls you in.

‘Brace, the flight attendants yell. Brace!
As we fall out of the sky, I wonder who will remember me.’

The first pages confirm your decision.

“Where do you need to go?”
Boston, I think. Home. But there’s something about the way she
phrases the question: need, instead of want; and another destination rises like steam in my mind.
I open my mouth, and I answer.

And the first chapter convinces you you’re about to read an epic novel and enjoy it to the very last page. 

After a stunning beginning, in which the heroine is faced with her own death, instead of going home to her husband and daughter, she makes the snap decision to go back to the man and the life the left behind in Egypt, when she worked as an archaeologist over sixteen years earlier.

The rest of the novel is an engaging narration of Dawn’s emotional journey through her past, her present and the decisions she must make regarding her future.

It’s a powerful novel about complex universal themes such as life, death, love, marriage and parenting, and about the decisions we make and the people and possibilities we leave behind as a result. It’s also about second chances and the freedom we have to change our minds and our futures. 

Dawn’s narrative wraps your thoughts as she takes you to Egypt and her life as an archaeologist, Boston, her family, the two men she loved, her daughter, her present job as a doula, and the decisions she must make, before it’s too late.

The Book of Two Ways is an unforgettable, emotional rollercoaster right up to the last agonising line. I can’t imagine any reader not loving this unique novel.  

Check out my other fiction book reviews here or my non-fiction, personal growth books here.

Happy reading! 

#Tuesdaybookblog ‘The House on the Water’ by Margot Hunt #BookReview #Whodunit #Mystery #Suspense @Audible

Today I’m reviewing The House on the Water, a thriller and mystery novella by Margot Hunt, and narrated by Taylor Schilling

The House on the Water Audiobook By Margot Hunt cover art

From the blurb

Every year, Caroline Reed takes a trip with her best friend, Esme Lamont. They’re usually accompanied by their spouses—but this year, everything’s changed. Esme has just gone through a bitter divorce, and Caroline is wondering if her own marriage is reaching its breaking point, as she and her husband John cope with the discovery that their nineteen-year-old son has been abusing drugs. Still, the inseparable duo books a week-long stay at a beach-front home in Shoreham, Florida, inviting Esme’s brother, Nick, and his new husband, Ford, hoping the additional guests will help lighten the mood.

After a blissful first night in the vacation home, tragedy strikes, and one of the houseguests is found dead. While it’s assumed at first to be a horrific accident, it quickly becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at play, and over the course of this fast-paced, deeply chilling novella, the potential motives of each guest are revealed—until a shocking conclusion is reached.

My Review

I don’t listen to many novellas, but I read the blurb and thought I’d take a chance with The House on the Water, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although it is described as a mystery and thriller, which it is, it is also a ‘whodunit’ in the traditional sense of the ‘Agatha Christie’ way! A group of friends in a house, a murder and everyone is suspect, because everyone had a powerful reason and the opportunity to commit the crime.

It could have been any of them, and I had fun wondering who it was, guessing and changing my mind, until the culprit owns up at the very end, but there’s another little twist… 

It was a light, easy and satisfying read. I love listening to audiobooks while I exercise, go for a walk or do the cooking, and it was great for that. For such a short read, the characters were mostly engaging and well-rounded, the suspense built up gradually, and the plot was cleverly thought out. 

The one narrator, Taylor Schilling, was very good with all the different voices. I’ll be listening to some more of the author and narrator’s novels and novellas which are included in my monthly subscription, so they’re great value.

By the way, there are plenty of similar novellas, which last between one and three hours, on audible. They’re great for a short listening break! 

#FridayReads ‘The Good Girl’ by Mary Kubica @Audible #BookReview

Blurb

I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a propulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems.

****

My Review

I’ve had this novel on Audible, waiting to be read, for a few weeks. I was looking forward to reading it after reading the blurb and reading the first few pages. The 4.2/5 stars on 4,300 reviews on amazon.com and over 14,000 on Audible, also convinced me I couldn’t go wrong! I was not disappointed.

The Good Girl is about a rich and dysfunctional American family whose dissenting daughter, Mia, is kidnapped by a ruthless gunman who is subcontracted for the job.
Everything goes haywire when the kidnapper, Colin, decides to save Mia by kidnapping her from the kidnappers who recruited him, because he believes their ultimate aim is to murder her.

Mia and Colin, two of the narrators, spend months in hiding in a remote and freezing cabin, with barely enough to eat, while her mother, Eve, and Detective Hoffman, the other two narrators, try to find them.

The story is told by four narrators in two time periods, before and after the kidnapping, so we know from the beginning that Mia was recovered. In spite of this, I was intrigued to find out how she was able to escape, who had ordered her kidnapping her and why.

It may seem that the author included a spoiler or that going  backwards and forwards in time would be confusing, but it isn’t, quite the opposite, the narrative is greatly enriched by these alternating perspectives.

The first and final thirds are the most gripping, while in the central chapters, I did wonder where the story might be going, but as I read on, I realised it was all part of the suspense.

The four narrators were believable. My favourite was Colin, because, in spite of his reserved and sometimes evil nature, I felt I knew him better than the rest and because his character developed the most throughout the novel. Colin is the real protagonist. His decisions guide the plot. He’s the catalyst and the most interesting character.

I didn’t care much for Mia or her mother. I thought they were too full of self-pity and too self-righteousness. The father was the archetypal villain and the detective, was the proverbial honest and thorough investigator and good guy.

The climax was unexpected and devastating, and the end, narrated by Mia in the epilogue, was surprising and sad, but plausible and satisfactory. I’d recommend it to lovers of psychological thrillers and I’ll definitely be reading more by this author.

By the way, the audio version with the four different narrators was fabulous.

Link to The Good Girl on Audible

****