THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.


Amazing! THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is an addictive and chilling paranormal mystery set in the small town of Fell, New York. The story is told in dual time periods — Viv in 1982, and her niece, Carly, in 2017. Viv was the lone night clerk of the creepy motel when she went missing without a trace 35 years ago. Now Carly has come to Fell and taken Viv’s old position in hopes of finding out what happened to her aunt decades ago.

Simone St. James knows how to create the perfect dark, eerie atmosphere and compelling mystery. I adored the cast of characters who were mainly strong and intriguing women. Of course, one the most fascinating characters in the book was the motel itself. That place felt so alive and real with the creepiest vibe ever!

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is a haunting page-turner that kept me reading all night. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Krueger


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★★


A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.


THIS TENDER LAND is a beautifully written historical novel about the river adventure of four young vagabonds sailing to Saint Louis in the summer of 1932. It richly describes the hardships and desperation of the Great Depression, and the cruelty forced upon Native American families, especially children, at that time. Set adrift on the river, these young people encounter a unique cast of characters along their journey to find home. Though dark at times, the story left me hopeful. Highly recommended!

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel in Big Lies in a Small Town.

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?


BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN is an absorbing story of two young artists from different eras, tied together by an abandoned mural meant for a post office wall in a small Southern city.

In 1940, New Jersey artist Anna Dale wins a national contest to paint a post office mural for a North Carolina town. Almost 80 years later, Morgan Christopher gets early release from prison with the condition that she restore the badly damaged mural so it will be hanging in a new museum on opening day.

Why was the mural abandoned and never installed? Why was troubled Morgan chosen to be the restorer? And what dark secrets are held beneath the grime of the old painting? I enjoyed the back and forth between time periods as intriguing and sometimes disturbing details were revealed. Very well written! This is the first book by Diane Chamberlain I’ve read, and I’m already a fan.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Tessa Wegert


Series: Shana Merchant, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. In this captivating mystery that’s perfect for fans of Knives Out, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant discovers that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.


DEATH IN THE FAMILY is a Christie-inspired mystery set on a remote private island in Upstate New York. Two local detectives are called to investigate a missing persons case at the home of a wealthy family. They arrive to find a bed covered in bloody sheets and eight potential suspects — some more cooperative than others. As a terrible storm begins to rage, the detectives find themselves trapped on this small island, possibly with a killer on the loose.

The mystery was intriguing and solid, and I was kept wondering who among the eight may have played a part in the disappearance and why. I loved the stormy setting and the unsettling feeling that the characters were cut-off from the rest of the world. I liked that the lead investigator was a strong yet flawed female character, however the numerous references and flashbacks to her troubled past interrupted the story’s flow (though it seems to be setting up a series arc). Overall, this was an enjoyable, slow-burn, classic mystery.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

YOU WERE THERE TOO by Colleen Oakley


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her, in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too—unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of it, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question — what if?


YOU WERE THERE TOO was a wonderful, heartbreaking book. It was one that I couldn’t wait to get back to, while at the same time dreading that it will end. I knew going in, with that premise, how could it not be a tearjearker? And it was, for sure, though surprisingly in a different way than I expected. The characters are genuine and flawed, and I cared deeply about them. This is a gripping story about love and fate, dreams and their meanings, and about what is and what could have been. Unique and thought-provoking…tissues a must. ♥

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.