Thursday 31 October 2019

Book Review: THE DREAM DAUGHTER by Diane Chamberlain

Author: Diane Chamberlain
Read: October 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

Book Description:

When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back.

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby's heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline's part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

A rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother's quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.

My musings:

What was the last book that managed to steal past all your defences and shoot an arrow straight through your heart? THE DREAM DAUGHTER was that type of book for me. As soon as I turned the last page, I felt an intense sense of loss for the story and the characters – it’s always the sign of a very special read when the characters seem like friends or family and finishing the book leaves behind an almost physical longing to continue being part of their journey. Rarely has a story touched my heart like THE DREAM DAUGHTER. I felt 100% invested. I laughed, I cried, I dug my nails into my hands until they left deep indents. I gripped my teeth as things didn’t go as expected. Such a rollercoaster ride of emotions!

I cannot discuss this book without a very small spoiler, so if you haven’t read it yet, please stop now – it’s definitely worth going into this one blindly!

How far would you go to save your child? Would you move to another city? Another country? Another time? When Carly Sears receives the devastating news that her unborn daughter has an unsurvivable  heart defect, she is – as you would expect – devastated. She has recently lost her husband Joe to the Vietnam war, and this baby is the only thing that has kept her battling through her grief. In 1970, there is nothing that can be done for her baby. However, 30 years later there will be medical advances that could save her daughter. If time travel was possible, would you take that chance?

I think if you are a parent, you will know this is a no-brainer. Of course you would! Yes, Carly has her sister and her home to tie her to the 70’s, but her husband is dead and this is her first baby – the only baby she will ever have with Joe. Of course she will do anything to save her. And so starts an unusual journey – one young mother’s quest to save her child at all costs.

If you have read my reviews or know me at all, you will also know that I struggle with suspension of disbelief. Really? I hear you say, you read a story about time travel and actually enjoyed it? That, my friends, I did. I more than enjoyed it – I loved it! It stole my heart. Rarely has a story affected me as much as this one, and I am awed how the author could tackle such a difficult and tricky subject with such skill. It was just perfect in every way! Keeping me at the edge of my seat as Carly embarks on her journey. There was drama, and suspense, and an ending that tied everything together in a way that was wholly satisfying in every aspect. Furthermore, the author managed the tricky balance of making something we think of as impossible plausible, without trying to over-explain or complicate matters. Each piece slotted into place seamlessly to create a story that just WORKED.

Apart from Carly’s quest, I also wholly enjoyed the nostalgic travel back in time, and it made for a lot of reflection. Yes, we have made a lot of medical advances. There is so much technology today that was unheard of in the 70’s. And yet, life was so much simpler then. What would you prefer? I loved the way Carly reflects on all the differences between her time and the future / present, and the good and bad aspects of each. It certainly made me think! I wish I had read this with a group to be able to discuss the many things that came up for me.


All in all, some books manage to touch your heart very deeply, and THE DREAM DAUGHTER was that sort of book for me. It easily made it onto my all-time-favourites list and my friends and family have heard ALL about it. It’s a beautiful story about the sacrifices you make to save your child, with a special twist that will have you reflect on the past, present and future and everything you take for granted. Definitely one of the best books I have read this year, brought to life by Chamberlain’s beautiful writing. Very highly recommended!

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Friday 25 October 2019

Book Review: GRACE'S TABLE by Sally Piper

Author: Sally Piper
Publisher: Legend Press
Read: October 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

Grace had not had twelve people at her table for a while. This wasn’t the kind of family who shared regular Sunday meals. But you don’t turn 70 every day.

As her friends and family arrive for lunch, memories are rekindled but not all of them are welcome. As the meal is served, it becomes clear that events of the past have left their mark on everyone at the table in vastly different ways. Grace is reminded that age is no guarantee of wisdom and there is much still to learn from the young at heart. As the family finally confront a shocking event in their past, Grace is forced to face her own shortcomings as a parent and wife and left to contemplate the ways in which grief and regret have resonated through her life.

This moving and often funny novel dissects the lives of women over three generations, explores the pull and power of memory and celebrates the triumph of endurance.

My musings:

I’m not going to lie, it took me several attempts at this book until I got into it, as I initially found it off to a really slow start. Sometimes that’s ok, and other times I need an instant attention grabber to keep me interested. But I am so glad I persevered, because GRACE’S TABLE turned out to be a deeply reflective journey for me that made me ponder family, marriage and life in general.

Basically, GRACE’S TABLE revolves around Grace, who is celebrating her 70th birthday by hosting a dinner for her family in her home. As the blurb states:”This wasn’t the kind of family who shared regular Sunday meals.” Interesting - why? As her children, grandchildren and closest friends come together, some old family memories come to the surface that may explain the rift between Grace and her adult children.

As I close this book and reflect on its message, I still feel deeply saddened for Grace. She knew passion once, but as a young woman growing up in conservative small-town Australia, she ended up with the sort of husband everyone approved of but who ultimately did not make her happy. In fact, reading about Grace’s marriage awakened a rage in me that obviously touched some raw spot, and I was instantly grateful that my generation enjoyed so much more freedom of choice when it came to choosing a life partner. As Grace reflects back on her life, I could see the confident and passionate young woman and nurse becoming stifled by an ill-suited partner who would soon suffocate any sense of hope and dreams she had ever had, turning her into a dutiful but unhappy mother and wife. On the other hand, Des, Grace’s husband, was probably as much of a product of his time as Grace was, and in a way I could see my grandparents’ roles reflected in both characters, living up to the expectations of their era dutifully, losing a little bit of themselves along the way. I am not excusing Des’ constant bullying, from dictating what foods Grace was allowed to cook to expecting her to bow to his every wish, but sadly, this too often was the reality women found themselves in during that era. It was through Grace’s fond memories of her Dad that we saw how much Grace suffered, even though she may have seen him through the rose-tinted glasses of a daughter rather than a wife.

When Grace’s life is derailed by a terrible tragedy, it is little surprise that it fragments the family for good. It was at this point in the book that I felt like letting out a scream of raw pain, because Piper brings to life one of the most horrific things a woman would ever have to endure. I’m not about to give spoilers, but be prepared! At this point, I felt truly invested in Grace’s story, and it will be an image that will stay with me in all its horror.

Also interesting was Grace’s relationship with her daughter Susan. Susan was close to her father, and still resents her mother for not loving him (children can always tell), and for her emotional absence after the trauma she suffered. These were such complex family relationships, and I felt that I would have loved to discuss it all with another reader! Through Grace’s relationships with the different members of her family and her closest friends, we become privy to the real Grace, and it was this aspect of the book that ultimately made me glad I finished it.


If you like stories exploring the complexities of family relationships, then this one should definitely be on your list. It is a slow, character-driven story that takes a bit to get going, but once you are in Grace’s head you will appreciate the foundations Piper has laid here for her story. My only regret is not having read this with a book buddy so we could discuss it, as there was much to reflect upon. Which is the very reason I would recommend GRACE’S TABLE as a book club or buddy read. Beautifully written and very reflective! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Legend Press  for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Book Review: THROUGH THE WALL by Caroline Corcoran

Author: Caroline Corcoran
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Read: October 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

Lexie loves her home. She feels safe and secure in it – and loved, thanks to her boyfriend Tom.

But recently, something’s not been quite right. A book out of place. A wardrobe door left open. A set of keys going missing…

Tom thinks Lexie’s going mad – but then, he’s away more often than he’s at home nowadays, so he wouldn’t understand.

Because Lexie isn’t losing it. She knows there’s someone out there watching her. And, deep down, she knows there’s nothing she can do to make them stop…

My musings:

I always find it fascinating to hear what inspired an author to write a particular story, and Caroline Corcoran’s acknowledgements are particularly moving, as she recounts her struggles with infertility treatments and complications after giving birth. Whilst I was reading the story, I was deeply moved by the emotional depth the author had lent her character of Lexie, whose grief and despair over her inability to conceive really touched me. It came of little surprise to me that the author had obviously channelled some of her own emotions into her characters, which really added substance to them.

THROUGH THE WALL is the story of two women who live next door to one another in an apartment complex, but have never officially met. The walls are thin, and tenants can hear their neighbours going about their daily lives. As each woman is dealing with personal issues and emotional pain, they soon form a picture of their elusive neighbour, endowing them with the very things they are missing in their own lives. From the snippets of music and partying coming from next door, Lexie is convinced that Harriet is more beautiful and confident than herself, and must surely have her life together. Whilst Harriet, who is drowning her own sorrows in alcohol and meaningless parties, is convinced that Lexie has everything she has ever wanted but cannot have: a loyal husband, a harmonious family life, friends and a fulfilling career. With those pictures in mind, each woman is envious of the other. Only one of them will act on it.

I found the premise of neighbours who have never met but have formed a vivid picture of the other fascinating and could easily imagine how this would cause discord and envy. Especially with social media, which only shows the best snapshots of daily life, carefully editing out all the ugly bits – how easy it is to imagine that someone else has the perfect life, whilst we struggle on a daily basis! Each woman is dealing with issues relevant today. Harriet, who has recently come out of an abusive relationship is still struggling with self esteem and the loss of the life she had pictured for herself and her fiancΓ©. Lexie has become so focused on wanting a baby that everything else has become unimportant, including her husband and her career. In their own way, each woman has become obsessive over what they want but cannot have, projecting these fears and insecurities on their neighbour. A fascinating if scary concept!

THROUGH THE WALL was not a feel-good read, and readers who are sensitive to issues of domestic abuse and infertility should tread carefully here. I admit that at times the sheer despair and hopelessness each woman experienced made for tough reading, even though the slow unravelling of the mystery kept me reading on eagerly to find out the answers. Living in a small town where everyone knows each other’s business I found it difficult to imagine not knowing your immediate neighbour, and it made me grateful not to live in a city.


All in all, THROUGH THE WALL was an intriguing character-driven mystery revolving around two women who believe that “the grass is always greener”, in this case projecting all their lost hopes and dreams onto the picture they have formed of their elusive neighbour. Dealing with issues such as infertility, grief, domestic abuse and mental illness, it sometimes made for tough reading but was offset by complex characters and a contemporary big city setting.

Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Friday 18 October 2019

Book Review: BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain

Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Read: September 2019
Expected publication: 14 January 2020

Book Description:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? 

My musings:

I really love mysteries that involve separate timelines, transversing history, especially ones that involve a mysterious object, such as a piece of art, an old manuscript or a journal. The struggle I often encounter though is that inexorably one timeline or central character ends up being more compelling than the other. Not so here – Diane Chamberlain has managed to pull off one of the most difficult tasks a writer can do, which is making each of her timelines and characters equally interesting, which made for a wonderful reading experience on my part. I found myself reading slower in order to be able to savour this book longer!

Morgan, who has been serving a jail sentence for a crime she did not commit, gets a chance at early release if she agrees to restore an old mural from 1939, which had been painted by a mysterious young artist called Anna Dale for display at the Edenton Post Office. As Morgan cleans the grime off the canvas she comes across some mysterious elements in the painting that leave her puzzled -  what do they mean? Was the artist indeed as crazy as some people claim? And what has happened to Anna Dale, who seems to have vanished off the face of the earth after the completion of the painting in 1940? The mural itself never made it to its intended location on the post office wall, but ended up in the basement of a famous – recently deceased – artist, the very man who has asked for Morgan to restore it. The more Morgan invests in the restoration of the painting, the more she wonders about the girl who painted it.

In the second timeline we get to know a young and spirited Anna Dale, the creator of the mural. She arrives in Edenton a stranger, and will soon find out that the small Southern town holds some secrets and challenges she has been ill prepared for.

As I said previously, I really liked each of the female leads and very quickly became invested in their fates. I, too, was puzzled by the things Morgan discovered in the painting, and curious to find out their meaning, I was not quite prepared for the heart wrenching journey to get there! Chamberlain is obviously very familiar with her setting, as it literally sprang to life on the pages and felt very real to me, from its people to the abandoned warehouse Anna uses as her studio. Chamberlain addresses a lot of issues in her latest novel, including mental illness, racism, prejudice, trauma, small town politics etc, but manages to blend these seamlessly into her narrative without appearing to be preaching or hammering any of the messages home. Whilst the mystery of the painting is the centre of the story, this really is more a story about two young women living decades apart and connected by events outside their control. I was fully emotionally invested in this tale, even though I admit that the ending was just a tiny bit of a stretch for me.


All in all, BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN is an engaging historical mystery spanning two separate timelines connected by a mysterious piece of art. Featuring two interesting and strong female leads, each timeline was as compelling as the other, making this an enjoyable and unputdownable read for me. I really enjoyed Chamberlain’s writing, and have already added a few of her older books to my ever growing TBR pile.

Thank you to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Book Review: THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Read: October 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.
The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.
What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job—bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

My musings:

I don’t think I have ever read a book by Jojo Moyes that I haven’t enjoyed, and this one was no exception! And as soon as I heard it was all about books, and horseback librarians, I knew I had to read it.

Enter Kentucky in the 1930’s, those dark lean years during the Depression. People work hard, and they are poor. Women are expected to stay at home, raise children and run a households, whilst eking out a scarce living with very little money to buy essentials. School is a luxury many simply can’t afford, and there is a lot of illiteracy among the mountain folk (up to 31% of all people in Eastern Kentucky couldn’t read, a huge number!). This is where the horseback librarians come in. As part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s incentive to improve literacy among the poor, these women are employed to deliver books to the poorest and most outlying families scattered among the mountains. The terrain is rough, the weather often hostile, and not all families welcome the intrusion. And yet Margery, Alice, Beth and Izzy make their daily journey to spread the love of books to everyone. For some families, it becomes the highlight of their week, their escape from drudgery, their hope of a better future – the magic of books.

Moyes’ historical novel focuses on the lives of her very different protagonists, who initially have little in common but who will soon be united through the travelling librarian scheme. I loved the descriptions of the remote Appalachian mountains during the depression era, and felt like I was there in spirit, riding alongside these brave women who feared little and who stood out from the typical picture of the perfect wife at the time. Margery, who is from a poor and abusive family background has never married and is not afraid to forge her own path in life, caring little about what others think of her. She is an unlikely friend for Alice, a young English woman who has recently arrived as the new wife of Bennett Van Cleve, the son of the town’s wealthy but ruthless mine owner. But Alice has problems of her own, and the librarian scheme gives her the purpose she is so desperately lacking in her housewife role. Then there is Izzy, crippled by polio, who finds that riding and delivering books is one thing she can do despite her disability. Each woman has an interesting background, and I soon warmed to each and every one of them, invested in their fate.

It didn’t take long for THE GIVER OF STARS to steal my heart, and soon I was laughing and crying and didn’t want to put the book down! What can be better than a book about books, and the joy they can spread among people? I loved hearing about the families living in the Appalachian mountains, whose lives were changed by books, empowered by literacy. It warmed my heart! Of course it wasn’t long until things started going wrong, and men started feeling threatened by those strong, smart and brave females. Some drama ensued, and by now well and truly invested in the story my emotions also ran high as each woman must fight her own battle to remain true to herself.

I admit that I enjoyed the first ¾ of the book more than the later part, in which the focus is more on drama and romance than the librarian scheme and the atmospheric setting I had enjoyed so much earlier. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more grit, which is a common gripe I have with women’s fiction, which so often descends into melodrama at the end as it is trying to tie everything up into neat little bows. But I’m sure that readers who like a feel-good read and don’t mind some romance thrown in will most likely disagree with me on that – it’s just not my thing.  That said, my overall feeling was still one of enjoyment and awe, and I immediately read up on the librarian scheme, which was fascinating and inspiring, especially some of the old photos that came up in my Google search. There are a lot of issues being explored through Moyes’ characters, which were mostly interesting, even though at times I felt that the drums were being beaten a bit too loudly to get the many messages home.


All in all, if you love books, plucky female leads and a feel-good story, THE GIVER OF STARS should definitely be on your TBR list. Moyes skilfully brings her characters and her atmospheric setting to life and explores a fascinating chapter of American history that will warm every booklover’s heart. My cold black soul would have loved to see a bit more grit and controversy at the end, but this will present no problems for readers who like things tied in a neat and pretty bow and walk away feeling that the world overall is a good place where magic can still happen. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Pamela Dorman Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday 7 October 2019

Book Review: THE GOLDEN CHILD by Wendy James

Author: Wendy James
Read: September 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

Book Description:

Blogger Lizzy's life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness ...
Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth's clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.

This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it asks the question: just how well do you know your child?

My musings:

There is a reason why Wendy James is one of my favourite Australian authors, and this book shows exactly why! All the stars from me. Oh, the sheer menace that was oozing out of this book – it made the hair on the back of my neck prickle and gave me nightmares.

How well do you know your children? If you have a cute little baby you may smile serenely and a bit smugly. At toddler age, it starts to dawn that maybe there is more to this parenting thing than you realised. As they turn into teenagers, it gets downright scary! It’s obvious that Wendy James is a parent, because her understanding of every mother’s worst fear is so well portrayed here. We all know about bullying, kids getting picked on in playgrounds and schoolyards, but technology has taken it all one step further – now we don’t even have to intimidate someone in person, it can all be done with the anonymity granted to us online. Let me tell you, if I have ever scoffed at the idea of cyber bullying (my answer being to just simply block people from your facebook account, what can be so difficult about that?) than I now stand humbled in front of the train wreck James has served me up with her latest, heart-pounding book.

Beth, an Australian ex-pat living in the US thinks she has it all: a successful husband, two gorgeous daughters, her weekly blog that gives her a creative outlet for her writing even as a stay-at-home mum. She looks on with fascination how her two daughters can be so different. Lucy, the elder, who is quiet and reflective and never gives any trouble. Charlie, the younger one, who is the opposite of her sister: a leader, an extrovert, a confident and popular girl who is always the centre of every group. An “incident” Charlie is involved in at school is soon forgotten when the family moves back to Australia to live and the girls start a new leaf at a new school. But trouble soon follows, and it’s Charlie who is in the spotlight again, for all the wrong reasons .....

THE GOLDEN CHILD pressed all my intense fear buttons as a parent, even though my children have safely made it through their teenage years by now and have come out intact on the other side. But my heart just bled for Beth! And yes, I have been a teenage girl once, and I know how utterly horrible these creatures can be. After reading about the little peer groups in James’ novel, I am glad that we escaped that particular life stage relatively unscathed (I say relatively, because there have been some road blocks, but nothing like Beth and Andi are facing). These girls are so horrible – ugh!

I loved how James uses blog posts and several different POVs to tell her terrifying tale. Not only did it put a very contemporary spiel on the story, but it also made for very entertaining reading. Following the trail of clues left by the author, I did arrive at the answer before the final reveal, but it did not in any way dampen my suspense, because the way I arrived there was simply nail bitingly terrible to watch. Enough said, no spoilers from me, you will simply have to read it. 


All in all, I simply loved this book, if that’s the right word for something that burrows its way into your psyche and gives you nightmares, and you end up discussing it with all your friends and your long suffering husband, who does not see the relevance now that he can smugly look back on surviving our own kids’ teenagehoods. If you are a parent of teenagers, enter this one with caution and a good supply of sleeping pills, because it will keep you awake at night or surfing the net for your kids’ online presences as you contemplate emigrating to a third world country without internet access. It’s one of the best thrillers I have read this year, and one that manages to chill without any corpses, blood or gore or explicitly horrid scenes. It’s what I call a real psychological thriller. Very highly recommended!

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Book Review: NO ONE'S HOME by D.M. Pulley

Author: D.M. Pulley
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Read: September 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.

After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.

As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.

My musings:

Who likes a creepy haunted house setting with an undertone of menace and danger? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place! It worries me that the author has modelled her freaky house in Shaker Heights on a real life building she visited once, because it was such an eerie place that you couldn’t pay me enough to spend even one hour there after dark.

Picture a stately, century old home in a peaceful affluent suburb. It may be in pretty bad condition, but the price is a steal and it’s nothing a bit of renovating can’t fix. But the house has a history. From its first owners to the last, no one has escaped it unharmed. People have died here, others have gone mad. There are terrible personal tragedies connected to it, and the mysterious graffiti on the walls tells the story of lives unravelling. Locals agree that the place is simply bad. However, the new owners who have bought it for a bargain don’t know yet what they are letting themselves in for. It’s not long until the old house lets them know that it doesn’t want them there ....

I have a bit of a weakness for spooky settings, even though I know that I should not read this type of book after dark. This one freaked me out so much in the first quarter that I had serious doubts whether I should continue reading. But if you are a bit of a chicken like me, rest assured that the tension significantly lessens in the later part of the book, as we get to know some of the old house’s secrets.

Pulley knows how to create an atmospheric setting, and this old house has it all! Lights that go on and off, doors that randomly open and close, an old dried bloodstain in the attic, secret passages, a creepy wine cellar and an evil presence that lingers behind you as if constantly peering over your shoulders. It doesn’t get much better than that! I could vividly picture the setting, and it gave me goosebumps.

The author has chosen to tell her story in various alternating timelines, recounting the fates of its former inhabitants right down to the current owners, the Spielman family. Even though the timeline jumped back and forth between the various families, it was easy to keep track of everyone and fun to slowly connect the dots until a picture formed. There were a few surprises here!

I think I would have loved the story a lot more if I had found the current owners more likeable. Or any of the characters, for that matter. As it was, whilst I was intrigued and thrilled, the book lacked a true connection to any of the characters for me, leaving me slightly dissatisfied and remote, even though all the elements of a truly spooky story were represented. I also felt that the story lost a lot of momentum towards the end and some threads could probably have been cut down a bit to move it along at the same pace it started out at. However, I loved the way it was spooky without being too farfetched, and contained some true historical elements, which is often difficult to find in this genre. It would certainly make for the perfect Halloween read!


All in all, if you are looking for a spooky read with an atmospheric haunted house setting, but are not a fan of gore, then this one is a definite contender. The old house was almost a character in its own right, and probably my favourite part of the story, even though it haunted my nightmares. A book that is perfect for those long, dark autumn nights when the wind is howling around the eves whilst you are snuggled up safely inside.

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.