Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

"It'll be a summer you'll remember for the rest of your life."

Emma. Vivian. Natalie. Allison. They're the four girls in Dogwood cabin. Emma, who's the youngest at 13, has never been to summer camp before, but Vivian takes her under her wing. Their favorite game? Two truths and a lie. Then one night in July, Vivian, Natalie and Allison sneak out in the middle of the night and never come back. The police search the woods and the lake, but the three girls are never found. 

Fifteen years later, Camp Nightingale is reopening. The owners ask Emma to come back to teach art. She's a famous painter now...a painter who's suffering from a severe case of artist's block. At first, she doesn't want to go. But then she thinks she might be able to figure out what happened to Vivian and the others. Find some closure. Move on with her life. But being back at Camp Nightingale is harder than she expected, bringing back memories she'd rather forget. And when three more girls go missing, Emma becomes the prime suspect.

I really liked this book:  the summer camp setting, the flashbacks of Emma's first summer at Camp Nightingale, her ghostly visions of Vivian, the psychological suspense as everyone else around her begins to doubt her sanity, the mystery behind Vivian's, Natalie's, and Allison's disappearance, and the secret history of Camp Nightingale itself. It's all great!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Ellie Jordan investigates ghost sightings and haunted houses for a living. In Maze of Souls, she and her assistant, Stacey, are looking into the paranormal activity at Pine Hollow Farm. And there is plenty. From a Hessian highwayman on his ghostly horse to the bloody shadow of a young girl who was killed hundreds of years ago, Ellie has her hands full. Then there are all the angry ghosts in the old family cemetery who seem determined to push the living off their land.

This is another entertaining read from J.L. Bryan. There are some good ghostly scares and I enjoyed watching Ellie figure out the farm's history and how to keep all those ghosts from terrorizing the family living there. Here are a few fun highlights:

"This house had presence, history, layers of emotional energy accumulated over the generations. In the stillness and silence of the night, the soul of the house could emerge, along with any spirits that had been dormant during the day, waiting their turn to creep out under cover of darkness."

"I had to wonder how many layers of hauntings we faced. Was the horse-mounted ghost really a Hessian soldier or somebody from later years? Was the horseman connected to the bloody girl ghost at all, or were they separated by generations? Once a place is haunted, it tends to accumulate more ghosts over the years, the energy growing denser and darker like a spiritual black hole. Nothing attracts a ghost like a haunted house."

"The pale woman surged up from the darkness. Her face was a white death mask, but her hand was gleaming blood red, droplets of gore hanging from her long fingernails. I had a good look at those as they swiped at my face ... The air was instantly ice-cold all around me. I screamed and leaped back from the bed..."

Happy Reading!

Other J.L Bryan books I've enjoyed:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Shameless plug!

Check out my new favorite picture book:

My brother-in-law did the fabulous artwork and my sister wrote the fun text. 
It's the second book they've done together. 
Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

Isn't it fun? Don't you want a copy all your own?  If you want to see more,
check out or
Their first picture book, If Picasso Painted a Snowman is also still available.
They'd make great gifts for the budding artists in your life. Or for the kid in you.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Bookish suspense...

Winter in the Catskills.
A charming inn.
Ten guests.
One perfect weekend.
One of the ten is murdered.
And the rest get snowed in.
And their dream weekend turns into a nightmare.

In An Unwanted Guest, Shari Lapena has written a suspenseful mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie. The fact that her characters are all snowed in by an ice storm made me like this book even more. The narrative switches between the twelve main characters, which should have been confusing, but somehow never was. What it did do was keep the story moving at a very fast pace. And I liked most of the characters. There's James, the inn's owner, and his son, Bradley; David, the criminal defense attorney (and my favorite), Gwen and her best friend, Riley, who's suffering from PTSD; Beverly and her cheating husband, Henry (who I didn't like); Matthew, who's rich, and his too-beautiful fiancee, Dana; Candace, the aloof writer; and dating couple Lauren and Ian. 

As for the mystery itself, while I didn't guess the murderer, I did enjoy the various turns and twists along the way. But what really made reading this book fun was sharing the suspense with Melody. This was our most recent 'buddy read'. She did a better job at guessing whodunnit, so be sure to check out her review of this entertaining mystery, as well as the questions she asked me about it when we were done.

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions (and my answers):

Q.  This story fits perfectly as a "locked room" mystery, given the setting and the events that happened. Do you think this 'claustrophobia' feeling will evoke a change in a person's mentality and drive him/her into doing something unbelievable?
A.   Absolutely. And you could see it in the way the characters started to get a little paranoid, and point fingers and accuse each other of these horrible crimes. Some even went farther, acting on thoughts that they never would have acted on if they hadn't been trapped in this stressful situation.

Q. Would you stay in a remote inn like Catskills and Mitchell's for a relaxing getaway during the winter? 
A.  I think it would be fun to be in such a quiet, peaceful setting with all that snow...just as long as no one got murdered.  😉

Q. And finally, who do you think you'd be friends with among the characters in the book?
A.  Truthfully, I'm not sure I'd be friends with any of them--certainly NOT Beverly or Henry, or even Matthew and Dana. I'd probably get along best with David, and maybe with Gwen. But I'm not sure we'd ever really be friends. We're just too different. But out of all the characters, I liked David best. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Craven Manor

Abandoned and practically in ruins, Craven Manor looks and feels haunted. When he's offered the job of groundskeeper, Daniel Kane wants nothing to do with the manor. Especially after he reads the owner's list of unsettling rules for staying there:

  • No strangers are allowed onto the property.
  • Do not enter the tower.
  • Do not leave the groundskeeper's cottage between midnight and dawn. Draw your curtains. Keep the doors locked. If you hear knocking, do not answer it.

But Daniel is desperate. So he reluctantly accepts the job and moves into the groundskeeper's cottage. His first task? To clear the crypt of thorny vegetation. And it's going well. Except for the strange tapping on his door at night. And the mysterious figure he glimpses in the tower window. Then there's the feeling he has of constantly being watched. And the ghost-like black cat haunting the manor's halls. But that's not all. There's a terrible evil inside Craven Manor's tower itching to get out.

This is another good haunted house adventure from Darcy Coates. It's entertaining, fast-paced, and full of ghostly suspense. The strange history of Craven Manor had me questioning everything Daniel was told. And just when I thought I had it figured out, Coates threw in another twist. Daniel makes a few very stupid mistakes along the way, but I still liked him. Overall, this book is a fun mix of supernatural and mystery. It's not super scary, although it does have it's moments. And I liked the ending a lot.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

W. Somerset Maugham

"I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place.  Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood remain but a place of passage.  They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.  Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves ... Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs.  Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth.  Here at last he finds rest."  --W. Somerset Maugham,  The Moon and Sixpence

This is the quote that made me pick up my first Maugham novel.  He used Paul Gauguin's life as inspiration for The Moon and Sixpence.  This particular novel is a great look at the passion and genius of an artist, and I liked it so much I went on to read the rest of Maugham's books.

Up at the Villa reads the fastest.  Rosie, from Cakes and Ale, is his most memorable character.  Liza of Lambeth's story is the saddest, while the story of Mrs. Craddock is quiet and bittersweet.  Of Human Bondage is his most serious and literary, but I admit, it's not my favorite.  I prefer Maugham's shorter novels. In fact, The Magician, with the naive and beautiful Margaret Dauncey, the sinister Oliver Haddo, and intrepid Susie Boyd, just might be my favorite of all his novels. It's the one I chose to reread recently ... and I liked it as much the second time around as I did the first.  If you haven't yet read W. Somerset Maugham, give one of his novels a try. He just might surprise you.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Love this!

Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber
Don't you wish this place was real? It's so intriguing. I'd love to explore every nook and cranny... and read all those books, too.  Even abandoned and in ruins, it's a truly magical library.

I thoroughly enjoyed these two recent reads.  My Sister's Intended by Rachael Anderson is an engaging Regency Romance that didn't make me roll my eyes once. And The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell  is both a treasure hunt and a mystery all in one. Both of these books are light-hearted, humorous reads by authors I look forward to reading again.

Another John Atkinson 'summing up' that totally made me laugh! 
His Stephen King spoilers are equally funny:

(And now you don't have to read the books!)  

Another thing I love? This....

Need I say more?

Happy Reading!