SUN DAMAGE by Sabine Durrant

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: June 2, 2022
Source: Purchased from The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★¼


The heat is intense.
The secrets are stifling.
She just needs to escape…

Nine guests arrive at a remote villa in the south of France.

They know each other well. Or think they do.

But at least one of them has plenty to hide — and nowhere to run.

Under the relentless sun, loyalties will be tested, secrets revealed, and tensions pushed to the point of no return.

I think the blurb for SUN DAMAGE is purposely vague, so I’m not going to say much about the plot. It’s set in the south of France, my favorite new thriller setting. Two con artists are working the beach resorts there, until things get a bit out of hand. And then…

Is summer gothic suspense a thing? Because that’s how I would describe this book. It’s an absorbing slow-burner with just the right amount of tension. I was really taken in by the rich descriptions of this place, like the yummy food, gorgeous scenery, and the stifling heat. The big twists at the end were brilliant.

DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain

A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp like water rot, in this chilling debut supernatural thriller for fans of Natasha Preston, Karen McManus, and Rory Power.

La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.

This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World — and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.

Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something — her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.

When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou — a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history — Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent — and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Source: Borrowed from the library

★★★

• YA Paranormal Mystery •

I started reading DARK AND SHALLOW LIES late last fall, but decided to stop to read some Christmas books. Six months later, I re-checked out the library eBook to finish, and the app actually remembered where I’d stopped reading. I thought returning it deleted bookmarks? Anyway!

The thing I loved most about this book was the setting. La Cachette, Louisiana, was a dark and complex character on its own. This is bayou country, surrounded by water, with its oppressive heat and eerie atmosphere. Psychic powers abound. Storms are threatening. And a teen girl is searching for her friend who went missing in the swamp months earlier.

The beginning grabbed my attention, and the ending was a wild, unexpected ride, but the middle part moved slowly. There was a big group of characters, none of whom I was all that invested in. I would’ve liked to have seen more character development and more action to move the plot ahead.

BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house — the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Publisher: Atria Books
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

★★★★½

I loved every creepy and unsettling moment of this book! BENEATH THE STAIRS is a haunting slow-burn, character-driven debut with a lot to unpack. Is there a way to break free from childhood trauma and years of guilt and regret?

In upstate New York, the small town of Sumner’s Mills has fallen on hard times. Storefronts are boarded, and the old factory walls are crumbling, but one building stands firm — the abandoned Octagon House deep in the woods. When a couple of young teen girls venture into its basement, their lives are changed forever by what they see. Twenty years later, the house calls them back with tragic consequences.

There were moments in this book when I was truly scared! The story takes place over multiple timelines where the disturbing history of the Octagon House is revealed. I was completely immersed in the story and the lives of the flawed characters. That creepy house wouldn’t let me rest until I knew its secrets! I’m excited to read more of this author’s work in the future.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ALL I WANT by Darcey Bell

When Emma’s husband, Ben, falls in love with a large Victorian mansion for sale in upstate New York, he swears to her the fixer-upper will be worth the risk. With a baby on the way, Emma would like to live in a charming, safe community, after all — and in a space larger than a one-bedroom New York City apartment. On impulse, she agrees to Ben’s plan and they put in an offer on the house.

Sure, the mansion has a somewhat creepy backstory and is a bit dilapidated, but Emma and Ben are in this together, aren’t they? When strange things start happening, Emma begins to experience a little buyer’s remorse. What’s the real history of this house? Is its dark history repeating itself? Why does her husband suddenly seem so distant? Is she in danger? Is her baby?

Combining the domestic anxiety of Liane Moriarty and the haunting twists and turns of Shirley Jackson, All I Want is an intensely absorbing novel that will change the way you look at your neighbors.

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Published: January 11, 2022
Source: Purchased (Kindle)

★★★

Umm… What?!? So we have Ben, a Broadway producer, who convinces his pregnant wife Emma to buy a creepy fixer-upper mansion in upstate New York. They already know some of the house’s disturbing history, but as they dive deeper into renovations, further creepy discoveries are made.

For most of the book, I was hooked. I loved the ominous atmosphere, and the house itself was a compelling character. At about 90% things started getting really wacky, but I was willing to accept it — until the very last chapter, and now I don’t know what to think. Granted, some of the wacky stuff made sense after reading the ending, but still…😩

ALL I WANT was a promising spooky read, but that ending was a mess. I’m just going to pretend the last chapter didn’t happen and leave this one with 3 stars.