Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

I’m just going to come right out and say that everything Riley Sager writes is gold! This book was especially exciting for me because it’s a classic haunted house story set in an old, dilapidated manor rife with legends and ghostly visitations.

This book is sure to win over fans of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House (a modern twist to Shirley Jackson’s literary masterpiece). We’ve got two time-skipping storylines that revolve around the haunted Baneberry Hall. First, we meet Maggy Holt, a troubled woman who experiences haunted happenings while fixing up Baneberry Hall, in spite of her mother’s dire warnings to never set foot in the cursed place. Then the story skips back 25 years when the Holt family moved into the haunted homestead and experienced a slew of horrific events.

Like the Netflix show, we don’t find out why the family fled the house in dead of night until the very end. And trust me, this one’s a page-turner! Every chapter led to more questions, like why are Maggie’s parents so secretive? Why can’t they tell her the truth as to why they abandoned the house? Why did her father turn their story into a bestselling book filled with lies and embellishments? Can we trust the sexy handyman who seems to know more about Maggie’s inherited house than he lets on? Hell, can we even trust Maggie? Why is her memory so spotty? You’ll have to read the book to find out! It’s definitely worth your while.

It’s hard to say which Riley Sager book is my favorite, but this one is up there! The creepy, gothic atmosphere really ratcheted up the suspense. I especially loved the scene when grown-up Maggie stumbled upon the family graveyard up on the hill behind the house. Such fun!

This was the perfect October read, and I may just dive into it again next October! Until then, I’m moving on to an old gothic classic by the venerable Barbara Michaels.

CeeCee & Lil Bootz’s Roundup Of Hits and Misses

Hello and happy Sunday! I don’t know about y’all, but summer in Texas is getting real! Time to take full advantage of the A/C (man’s greatest invention) and get my book blogging on. Here are a few hits and misses from my latest literary escapades.


READ THIS!

Murder at the Palace by Margaret Dumas

OMG YES! This book series is exactly what I need right now! What I miss more than anything during this God awful pandemic is going to the Alamo Drafthouse every weekend with my husband. It’s our Sunday thing, and now we have to make do with Netflix. I know, I know, first-world problems….but still!

So I just want to thank this talented mystery author for giving me this literary escape to the movies. I just loved the grand old movie theater setting with it’s sparkling chandeliers, red velvet auditorium seating and things that go bump in the night! It starts out like any other cozy mystery with a 30-something woman fleeing from a cheating partner and big city life. She starts life anew as a manager of The Palace, a historic San Francisco movie house, where she meets a quirky crew of staffers including the ghost of a very perky blonde usher. I really enjoyed all of Nora’s interactions with her eclectic employees. In some ways their dynamics reminded me of the motley crew of characters in that old 90s movie “Empire Records”–talk about a mixed bag of nuts! I also really enjoyed the many classic movie references, making me yearn for a monster movie marathon at the Paramount! I should note this is a vary tightly-plotted game of whodunit, complete with treasure hunts and red herrings. Please keep ’em coming, Ms. Dumas!


Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I’m going to agree with R.L. Stine and say that this is my favorite thriller of the year! Riley Sager really set the bar with Final Girls, but this might just as good if not better! Typically I enjoy reading books set in sleepy little rural hamlets to get a break from busy city life, but the Manhattan setting really added to the mystique of The Bartholomew. Home to the city’s most elite residents, the towering high-rise building with its leering gargoyles is a character in its own rite. Similar to the luxury yacht in Ruth Ware’s Woman in Cabin 10, the glittery surroundings give off a dizzying funhouse effect, making the reader question whether the narrator is lost in a lucid dream. The wallpapers seems to be swirling with tortured faces, and the opulent furnishings emit a sense of foreboding.  Everything–including the filthy rich residents–seem just a bit off. It’s very clear right from the get-go that our hapless main character Jules is walking right into a trap when she’s offered a high-paying apartment-sitting job that’s too good to be true. Admittedly, I had no idea what the heck was going on, despite the clues the author so generously dropped along the way! If you’re looking for a good page-turning suspense story, this is it! Do yourself a favor and spend an evening curled up with this book…and be sure to lock every door! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.


Unconditional Hearts by Roxanne Hensley

I don’t know about y’all, but lately I’ve been steering away from anything too dark and heavy these days, so bring on the beach reads! I so enjoyed escaping to Mystic Beach, a lovely village on the California coast with sprawling vineyards, quaint touristy storefronts and tranquil views of the sparkling Pacific ocean….ahhhhh! Since it’ll be a while before jumping a plane to San Diego, this is the closest I’ll get to a seaside vacation–and you can’t beat the price for this travel package! If you’re in the mood for a sweet romance by the sea, this is the book for you. There’s something otherworldly about this Mystic Beach, and it’s very clear that unseen forces are bringing Nathan and Erin together–with some help from her baker friend Brooke, who conjures up some very special cookies. There’s magic, there’s heartbreak, there’s scenic drives through the California wine country–what more could you ask for? I would give this five stars, but there are some areas that need work. As much as I love Nathan and Erin’s love story, I would’ve liked a break from it. A subplot would’ve really stepped up the pacing, and I could’ve learned more about some of the other supporting characters. Another problem area is Nathan’s health issue. I won’t reveal what it is, but I will say that it seems unrealistic that there weren’t any post-op complications of note. A friend of mine went through the same ordeal and he has a LOT of lifestyle restrictions. Either way, these are just minor gripes. I’m impressed with this new author’s work and I can’t wait to see what shakes out in Book Two! Note: I received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review.


Not That!

In the Blink of an Eye by Wendy Corsi Staub

This is one of those rare books that I had to chuck in the DNF pile. Usually I soldier through these things, but just couldn’t find it deep within myself to finish off the last third of this thing. You see, there’s kind of a major issue that I can’t overlook: THERE’S NO PLOT! I’m sure others can argue there is indeed a plot buried somewhere within the long, meandering story following a multitude of psychics, charlatans and skeptics, but I couldn’t find it. The discombobulating chapters jump from one group of characters to the next.  I’m sure at some point their lives all converge, but I just wasn’t patient enough to wait for everything to start gelling. And to be honest, I just couldn’t care about any of them. They all have dull, humorless personalities and OH MY GOD that little blind girl just needed to stop with the knock-knock jokes! I just can’t, y’all. Judging by the many rave reviews, this book is oddly a big hit with many, many people. It’s just a no for me, dog.


Wish Me Home by Kay Bratt

I’ve read some really great dog-themed journeys of self-discovery. This is not one of them. I was really hoping for a sweet love story between a downtrodden character and her dog, a story that emphasizes the power of unconditional love that only a dog can provide. This, however, was more about a homeless girl or woman (her age is kind of mystery) who is traversing her way to Key West. Why? Because she thinks Hemingway is cool. The dog, who she named Hemmy (sigh), is just a peripheral sidekick without much of a role other than running along by her side on their long, arduous journey. This has all the makings of a very moving story about a wayward girl and her dog, but sadly it really missed the mark. Hemmy really needed a better role and Cara needed to lighten up a bit. It’s kind of a drag being inside the head of a sullen, downtrodden woman with trust issues. From now on, I’ll just stick to my favorite dog-themed fiction writers Spencer Quinn and Susan Wilson from now on.