In a hidden corner of the Welsh countryside, beneath the dark green hills and stretching deep underground, lies a secret.
This is not the sort of book I would usually reach for, even around Halloween. Maybe especially around Halloween. But Madeleine at Top Shelf Text recommended it so highly that I had to give it a try. I’m so glad I did, because while it was an anxiety-inducing novel, it was a really well-written one. Abigale Hall by Lauren Forry is categorized as a suspense novel, but it’s written in the vein of gothic horror novels. If you want a well-written, fast-paced page-turner, this is the one to go for.
17-year-old Eliza and her younger sister Rebecca have orphaned due to various events during WWII. Their mother was killed in the Blitz, their father committed suicide, and their aunt very suddenly and mysteriously decides she can no longer care for them and they are sent to work at a crumbling mansion in Wales. They never see the owner, Mr. Brownwell, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, is . . . off. Eliza tries to make plans to escape back to London, but when she discovers a book covered in blood, she has to figure out what’s going in the house and why none of the other girls hired in the past are alive.
This book made me nervous when I read it, and I genuinely feared for the safety of the characters. If the plot reminds you of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, it’s for a good reason. There are definite similarities between the two, and if you like Rebecca you’ll probably like this book too. The story is creepy and mysterious, but it’s not gory, so if gore bothers you (like it does me) don’t let that keep you from this one! WWII is the backdrop of the story, but I wouldn’t say it’s a major theme in the book.
None of the characters in the book are completely likable, but it was ok because the story drew me in so much. Eliza, who frustrated me at the beginning of the book, does go through some necessary character changes, and I was completely on her side by the end. I don’t want to say much about Rebecca, because her role in the story is twisted and interesting, but suffice it to say that she definitely adds to the creepiness and mystery!
Abigale Hall is a great gothic fiction story, and it’s perfect for people who don’t like to read real horror, such as Stephen King. It fits right in with books like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, but is a bit more modern and fast-paced. Forry is a talented author, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!
To be a writer is to be a life thief. Every day, I rob myself blind.
When I saw that my friend Stacey at Prose and Palate was a guest judge (AGAIN, because she’s amazing) for Book of the Month, I knew I would selecting whatever book she recommended. So there was no question that for September, my choice was Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. I read this suspense novel in two days, and believe me when I say that I hardly ever read a book that fast. It was so engaging and tense that I couldn’t put it down until I had finished. (Including telling my kids to wait a minute before I read to them, because I had to finish MY book first!)
It’s only a story.
Liza is a novelist whose latest book sales aren’t fantastic. Her publisher is giving her one more chance to write a bestseller, and she doesn’t have time to do it. She and her husband are also trying to start a family, and her husband’s best friend and law partner has disappeared. To cope, Liza disappears into her novel, writing about her main character, Beth. Beth has a new baby and a cheating husband. Her plan of confronting him about it goes awry, and before she knows it, she’s pushing the mistress’s body into the East River. Before long, Liza’s and Beth’s lives intertwine, and Liza has to figure out what is the truth, what is fiction, and whose story she’s really in.
I was hooked on this book from the very beginning. The story is told in alternating chapters between Liza and Beth. Holahan expertly writes the Beth and Liza chapters so that they become entwined, and I kept forgetting which woman I was reading about. It wasn’t frustrating, though, and it added to the tension in a really good way. (The font used for each character’s chapter is different, so there’s always a reminder.) She puts just enough pressure on the characters, both real and fictional, that you feel the tension as they try to figure out what to do. The twist was great, and while I did figure it out before the ending, it really didn’t bother me because I was having such a good time reading and going along on the adventure with Liza and Beth.
There were a few editorial misses (a name changed mid-paragraph, some words were left out) that made the editor in me cringe, but I was ok with ignoring that because I had to keep reading!
Lies She Told is a fantastic suspense novel, and if you’re a fan of this category, I think you’ll love this one!
Thank you so much to Texas Reader Girl for loaning me her ARC of this book!
The moment I had not been prepared for—the one thing I had not ever imagined in all those years—was that my mother would not recognize me.
I’m not going to lie. The initial thing that drew me into this book was the cover. It is haunting, and I wanted to know more. Happily, the inside of the book surpassed the outside. Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker is a psychological thriller perfect for fall (but really any season, to be honest), and I found myself reading as fast as I could, anywhere I could, to find out what exactly was going on with Emma.
The Tanner sisters, Cass and Emma, disappeared three years ago. Early one morning, Cass shows up on her mother’s doorstep demanding that they need to go back to “the island” for Emma. A detective and a forensic psychologist interview Cass multiple times, piecing together a strange story of kidnapping, a mysterious island off the coast of Maine, and a baby. In addition, the psychologist is convinced that something isn’t quite right with Cass and Emma’s family life, and it may have something to do with why they were kidnapped.
I loved this book. It’s not only a thriller, it’s a study in narcissistic personality disorder and just how far someone with that diagnosis will go to put themselves first. The level of manipulation (I won’t tell you which characters-I have to leave some spoilers out here!) in this story is wild. I found myself wishing I could give advice or hugs to some of the characters in the book, and I might have actually talked to the book . . . out loud . . . because a certain character (ahem, Cass and Emma’s mom) was so frustrating.
I don’t want to say much else, because there are a lot of twists and turns in Emma in the Night, and you should definitely discover them for yourself. Bottom line: if you like a good story, a well-written psychological thriller, and a great crime-solving plot, you need to pick this book up immediately. (This would be fantastic for book clubs!)
Thanks to Netgalley and Putnam for providing me with a digital galley of this book – all opinions are my own!
Memories can be tricky, especially those from childhood.
Ripped from the headlines stories can be tricky. Too much detail, and it seems indulgent and grotesque. Too little and it can be, frankly, boring. Karen Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter is no regular ripped from the headlines story, but she takes inspiration from a few and has twisted them into a wonderful suspenseful fairy tale of a book.
Helena Pelletier has an idyllic life in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). A loving, supportive husband, two daughters, and a jam-making business that is flourishing. What no one, including her family, knows, is that her mother was a famously-abducted teenager, and her father, the abductor, has been in prison for 20 years. Helena’s childhood was spent in a cabin deep in the woods of the UP, unaware that a society existed outside of her small world. When she and her mother escape, she acclimates to the “new” world and sheds her past as soon as she is old enough to change her name and leave it all behind. Now her father has escaped, and Helena has to face both her fear and childhood love of him, all while trying to find him before he finds her family.
This is one the best, most well-written books I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it, and Dionne’s storytelling abilities are out of this world. There is definitely suspense and mystery in this book, but I also found a lot of fairy tale elements woven in. A young girl kept captive, unaware of the outside world. An evil male figure and his cowed counterpart. There are some mystical aspects of Native American culture woven in, rather than real magic, but they serve as the magical element of this suspenseful fairy tale. What I really enjoyed most was the dichotomy between Helena’s hatred and love for her father (and her mother). As a child, she revered him. She knew he could be mean and harsh, but he was still her father, and he taught her how to hunt and fish, and she loved him fiercely. Once she discovered the truth about her mother’s kidnapping, she hated him for it, but that familial love never really goes away. Even after 20 years, she knew her father well enough to know exactly where he would go after escaping prison, and even though she is hunting him down like prey, it also feels like a game of hide and seek between father and daughter.
The book also mixes in excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen’s short story The Marsh King’s Daughter. Andersen’s story is about a girl named Helga who is born to the wicked Marsh King and a fairy princess. She takes on attributes of both parents, and is only able to be freed once she feels compassion for another person and rids herself of her father’s characteristics. The parallels between that story and Helena’s struggle with her feelings for her father are striking and very well done. I really liked the way Dionne mixed in an old fairy tale with Helena’s story, and used it to solidify the struggles Helena faced when it came to her feelings for her parents.
If you like suspense, mystery, or fairy tales, this is a truly compelling story that combines all three into an amazing book. I cannot recommend The Marsh King’s Daughter strongly enough!
I haven’t read or watched Room, because I think I’m too sensitive to read that particular subject matter, but I have heard from others that this book is very different. If you’re concerned about the content (it does involve a child being kidnapped and impregnated against her will), the focus is not on the relationship between Helena’s father and mother, so I don’t think it will be a problem in that regard.
Although I was provided with a review copy of this book, I ended up listening to a lot of it on audio and the narration was extremely good! I listened every chance I got, and at one point hid in my room away from my family so that I could finish it. So whether you use your eyes or your ears for this one, you can’t lose!