#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 ‘Layla’ by Colleen Hoover #BookReview #ParanormalRomance #Audible

Today I’m reviewing Layla, a paranormal romance by Colleen Hoover. I bought the kindle version and the audible narration was a two-dollar option, so I added it, because I love listening to audiobooks and Brian Pallino is a great narrator. The audiobook is so good that I read it over two afternoons. I would recommend the audio version instead of the kindle version because although it was a compelling story, it’s told from the point of view of the main male character, Leeds, and at times it was a bit repetitive, so I sped it up to 1.5 (I usually listen at 1.25)    

It was published in December and is number 1 in the following categories on Amazon: 

Layla Audiobook By Colleen Hoover cover art

From the blurb

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her – until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow – another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

My Review

The blurb is slightly misleading, because it doesn’t mention any ghosts, but as it’s labelled as a ‘paranormal romance’ it’s no spoiler to say that there is more than one ghost in the story. 

There are four characters in the novel, a detective who is talking to Leeds, Willow and Layla, and three of the four are not who they appear to be, or say they are. This may sound confusing, but as the story unfolds, it’s more intriguing than confusing. The reader has to wait patiently for Leeds to tell his story, and let the mystery unfold gradually until in the last chapters, when it all comes together, very neatly.   

Basically, it’s a paranormal love triangle, which makes it unusual, and stretches the limits of credibility, so the reader has to remember that it’s classified as a paranormal romance, and willingly suspend disbelief, more than once. It’s fiction, and the reader knows it is a ghost story when they start reading, so it’s not fair to complain by saying, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts,’ if you’ve purchased a ghost story.

It’s not a traditional ghost story in the gothic, chilling sense of scary, which was probably what I was expecting. I found it more distressing than frightening. 

I think the Collen Hoover was brave to write this novel, because the situations and themes differ greatly from her previous novels, but it seems to have paid off as it has 84% of 4 and 5 star reviews and it’s number 1 on three Amazon Bestseller Lists.

Colleen is a talented writer, because she hooks the reader and doesn’t let them go until the end of the novel, and her plots are suspensefully woven to entice the reader. However, I wouldn’t say it’s her best novel. 

Verity by [Colleen Hoover]

My main problem with Layla is that I have enjoyed Colleen Hoover’s earlier novels so much more, because they were grounded in more realistic situations which I could relate to. I had some difficulties connecting with the characters in Layla, but I’m sure I’m a minority, so it’s probably me.

I’d like to tell you about her other novels which I enjoyed, such as Verity, which is a dark romantic suspense, with some chilling, not paranormal, elements. I’ve just realised I didn’t post my review, so I’ll have to get around to that.

I also enjoyed It Ends With Us, a heart-wrenching domestic drama, which I mentioned in one of my posts, as one of my favourite books of 2018. I also enjoyed Ugly Love and All Your Perfects, which are intense, contemporary romances, including complex moral issues related to love, marriage, abuse, divorce, loyalty and honesty.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Colleen Hoover]

I think Colleen Hoover is a talented writer, and I do recommend you check out her books. Read the blurbs and the first pages before you decide which one to pick first.