Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

The perfect spooky thriller!

As a child, Maggie lived at Baneberry Hall with her parents for twenty days before leaving for good under the claim that the house is haunted. Her father wrote a book about their experiences and Maggie is still recognized for the book, even though she’s now an adult. Her father left her the house in his will and he recently passed away. Her parents never would talk about the house or book even though Maggie had many questions. Her parents divorced soon after the book was written. Now that she’s inherited the house, she’s planning on restoring it to sell because that’s what she does for a living. Maggie has no idea what’s in store for her once she returns to Baneberry Hall. She finds old Polaroid pictures and hears odd noises. A record player randomly plays a song from The Sound of Music and then skeletal remains fall from the kitchen ceiling. Maggie talks to town residents, reads articles about the house’s past and even talks to Marta Carver who lost her husband and daughter in Baneberry Hall when they were living there as a family. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, something else happened to reveal more secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
A perfect spooky thriller, 5 stars!

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Turning by Joy L. Smith

A story that gives readers perspective!

Genie is a dancer who has lost the ability to walk. Ballet has been her life and was going to be her future but she fell and everything changed. Genie now uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s keeping a secret hidden from her family and she has more than one secret that’s pulling her down. Her ex-boyfriend is pushy and she has to force him to listen to anything she tries to say. This frustrates Genie tremendously and she wants to move on. She meets Kyle in physical therapy and he has his own tragedy that he’s struggling with. The two of them become friends. When her secrets are revealed, Genie will hopefully have the love and support she needs. A realistic fiction story that helps readers realize that troubles and struggles could be much worse. 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Appalachian Trail Mystery!

Abby works at the Passage resort that sits next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. This resort is known for the disappearance of a group of four men twenty five years ago. Since those four friends went missing, three separate disappearances have happened, two women and a man. The latest disappearance, Landon West, occurred four months ago and his brother Trey just came to stay at The Passage. He wants to search for information about his brother and hopes to find answers. Abby and Trey both end up finding items that belonged to missing people. This makes her suspicious and a little creeped out. The story of the missing fraternity four is interesting and eerie but I would have liked more details of the last three crimes. I do feel that the ending was somewhat rushed. 4 stars!

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

A cautionary tale!

A prime, fictional example of the harm rumors can do.
Bryn caused an accident out of anger and jealousy. The high school students have treated her harshly in person and online. She’s relieved when rumors start online about other students and their lives because it takes the attention off of her. She wants to use this chance to make things better. The story has much to learn from, such as never accepting food or drinks from anyone at a party because others might not be trustworthy; stay aware and alert at a party so you know what’s happening; photos can be taken out of context just like words, so don’t trust everything you see online; and there’s more than one side to every story. Full of diverse characters and very realistic, The Rumor Game is a cautionary tale. 4 stars!

The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Strong characters!

Daunis is looking forward to college and her future. She’s attending with her best friend Lily. They’re both descendants of members of the Tribe Council who are Native American. She befriends a new hockey player that just moved to town. His name is Jamie and he’s good at avoiding answering questions about his personal life. When a murder-suicide affects Daunis, she’s asked to help the undercover investigation to catch and stop the drug dealing happening in their community. She reluctantly and cautiously becomes an FBI informant. Daunis worries that she’ll betray her people by not helping the FBI see the good in her community, only the drug issues. A wonderful glimpse of a piece of Native American life, language and culture. Strong characters, true character development and the surrounding mystery pulled me deep into the story and it’s still sticking with me days later. Betrayal, deception, mistrust, broken family, violence, loyalty (sometimes misplaced), and manipulative behavior are all parts of this book. 4 stars!