THE PERFECT GUESTS by Emma Rous


Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.


Delightfully twisted! THE PERFECT GUESTS is an entertaining combination of Gothic mystery and family drama that kept me glued to the pages. The timeline flips back and forth between Beth in 1988 and Sadie in 2019, with an unknown narrator woven in between.

It’s the mysterious country estate of Raven Hall at the center of this book. Both main characters end up there as a pawn in a dangerous game, 31 years apart. I found the story cleverly plotted with several twisty surprises. There’s a large group of secondary players, and I had fun trying to figure out how they fit together.

I enjoyed Emma Rous’ first novel, THE AU PAIR, and her follow-up is just as wonderful. I’m ready for her next. :)

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

Thoughts on Books (#21): LITTLE THREATS • MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE • THE AWAKENING


Little Threats
Little Threats by Emily Schultz *
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1993, teenage twin sisters Carter and Kennedy Wynn rebel against their suburban upbringing with grunge, drugs, and dangerous guys. The night after a bad acid trip, their best friend Haley is murdered and Kennedy takes the blame, and she spends 15 years in prison wondering what really happened. In 2008, Kennedy is finally free to start her life, but soon true-crime tv show host Dee Nash comes to town intent on stirring up the past.

While it is part mystery, LITTLE THREATS is mostly a slow-burn family drama about the repercussions of a young girl’s murder. The characters were difficult to like, though I thought their dilemmas were compelling. Kennedy’s conviction at 16 was a stretch. Motive is important, and to me there wasn’t one. She ends up accepting the charges against her though maintaining her innocence because she blacked out and couldn’t remember what actually happened. What lazy police work. The victim’s younger brother and Dee Nash investigate further and open a nasty can of worms. I wasn’t surprised by how things turned out, though I found it intriguing, and rather depressing.

The best part of the book was the early 90s nostalgia — grunge music, doc martens with floral peasant dresses, Kurt Cobain — this story brings it all back. Fun to revisit, though so glad I didn’t go through it with this disturbing crew.

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


Magic Dark and Strange
Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE is a YA historical fantasy set in the Victorian-like city of Invercarn. The main character is 17-year old Catherine Daly who works at a print shop by day, and by night she raises the dead for grieving families who just want a few more moments with their departed loved ones — for a price. She and Guy Nolan, a watchmaker’s son, end up entangled in a mystery involving a charmed timepiece said to be buried in an unmarked grave. Catherine’s boss wants her to retrieve this item at any cost, but she and Guy get more than they bargained for when the coffin is opened.

There was much to enjoy in this Gothic mystery — dark atmosphere, creepy cemeteries, slow-burn romance, clever characters, and a Victorian setting. I was disappointed, though, with the lack of world-building. All of this amazing magic, and no explanation of where it comes from and how it works. Why is Catherine magical? Has she always been that way? It almost felt like this was book two of a series. Some backstory was missing. MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE had a lot of potential, but it needed to be fleshed out more.


The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)
The Awakening by Amanda Stevens *
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading THE AWAKENING was bittersweet, as it’s the conclusion to one of my favorite series. I didn’t want it to end! Known as the Graveyard Queen, protagonist Amelia Gray has made a successful career restoring dilapidated and often forgotten cemeteries. She’s also gifted with being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Her latest job restoring Woodbine Cemetery brings her face to face with the malevolent spirit of a young girl. She seems to be fixated on an unnamed baby’s grave, and it’s up to Amelia to figure out the connection between them and what will finally allow the child to rest in peace.

A lot more juicy secrets are revealed in this book, and Amelia’s turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with John Devlin comes to a head. Though I was sad to see the story end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped things up. Emotional! I highly recommend the Graveyard Queen series to fans of Gothic suspense and creepy ghost stories, just start at the beginning with The Restorer (#1) or The Abandoned (#0.5).

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

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Thoughts on Books (#20): FISHING FOR TROUBLE • THE NESTING • GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL


Fishing for Trouble (Alaskan Diner Mystery #2)
Fishing for Trouble by Elizabeth Logan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FISHING FOR TROUBLE is the second installment in the Alaskan Diner Mystery series. Chef Charlie Cooke has recently returned to her hometown of Elkview, Alaska, to take over the family business, the Bear Claw Diner. When a young man working at a nearby fish processing plant keels over in her restaurant, Charlie is horrified — both for the victim and her diner’s reputation. Charlie is a kind soul, and wants to help the man’s grieving friend, so she ends up neck-deep in the investigation.

This was a solid mystery that blends in life in small-town Alaska, this time during the summer months with sunshine 20 hours a day. I liked the inclusion of the state’s fishing industry. I didn’t realize billions (wow!) of pounds of fish were processed through Alaskan fisheries, which draws young people looking for summer jobs. Charlie is a great character, and this time around she has to deal with a dreadful person from her past in addition to solving a murder. Recipes from the Bear Claw Diner are included.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


The Nesting
The Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

THE NESTING is a Gothic mystery with Nordic folklore woven into the story, which sounds like something I’d love, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. The main character Lexi ends up as a nanny in Norway under false pretenses, with the false pretenses part being a weak plotline.

Was there a solid plot? Was this horror or mystery? I’m not sure about either question. The mother of the two girls Lexi is caring for died by suicide just months earlier. The father is building a home on a cliff in her honor. Weird occurrences start happening in the house, and Lexi finds the deceased woman’s secret diary. What really happened to her?

There’s also an environmental impact element to what’s happening on the cliff, which I actually enjoyed, it’s just the rest didn’t make much sense. For me THE NESTING was drawn out and lacked real focus.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


Goodnight Beautiful
Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL is an amazing psychological thriller/domestic suspense that pulled the rug out from under me more than once. Wow! The shocking twists really challenge your assumptions and make you think. This was a super-fast read because I was quickly flipping the pages to see what would be revealed next. I’m very happy with this impulse buy for my Kindle. I just quickly glanced at the blurb — knowing very little about the plot is the best way to enjoy this book. Highly recommended!

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THE COMPANION by Katie Alender


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


The other orphans say Margot is lucky.

Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family.

Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night.

And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.

But it wasn’t luck that made the Suttons rescue Margot from her bleak existence at the group home. Margot was handpicked to be a companion to their silent, mysterious daughter, Agatha. At first, helping with Agatha–and getting to know her handsome older brother–seems much better than the group home. But soon, the isolated, gothic house begins playing tricks on Margot’s mind, making her question everything she believes about the Suttons . . . and herself.

Margot’s bad dreams may have stopped when she came to live with Agatha – but the real nightmare has just begun.


“So I lay in the dark without making a sound, waiting and wanting to die. Three months later, I was still waiting.”

THE COMPANION is a creepy and addictive YA thriller that put me on edge. Sixteen-year old Margot is orphaned when her family dies in an accident, and she ends up in a group home for several months. The other girls consider her “lucky” when a prestigious family takes her into their home, a remote Gothic mansion in the country. But there’s a catch — Margot was chosen because the Sutton family wants her to be a companion to their silent and curious daughter, Agatha.

Copeland Hall may be beautiful and grand, but Margot can sense that something is off. She slowly uncovers its disturbing history, while always looking over her shoulder. What secrets are lurking in the shadows of the ominous manor, and what’s behind the locked garden gate?

Margot was a compelling character, and I loved the bravery and humor she kept throughout the book. Agatha was a mystery! I enjoyed the unique bond that formed between the two girls. You knew there was something just below the surface that Agatha so badly wanted to say…..

THE COMPANION was an intriguing mystery, and though I guessed right at some of the twists, it was an enjoyable read. If you’re looking for a tense and eerie page-turner perfect for the spooky season, this is it!

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

THE HEATWAVE by Kate Riordan


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie… And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.


THE HEATWAVE is a completely absorbing family drama and simmering psychological thriller!

In the summer of 1993, Sylvie and her teenage daughter, Emma, return to their home in the South of France after a ten year absence. After she learns of some vandalism on the property, Sylvie decides it’s time to fix up La Reverie and sell it. This is a difficult place to face again, as it’s filled with painful memories of the tragedy involving her troubled first child, Elodie. Emma remembers very little about her older sister, and Sylvie’s not sure how much longer she can shield her from their disturbing family secrets.

“I would die for her, without hesitation. I am her mother. It’s just that, sometimes, I wish I wasn’t. I am her mother but I wish I wasn’t.”

The story is told from Sylvie’s point of view in alternating time periods — during the summer of 1993, and then 1968 forward — as we learn about the disturbing mother/daughter relationship between Sylvie and Elodie during her childhood. What does a mother do if her child is evil? How far would she go to protect one daughter from the other? Elodie’s character was truly creepy! The tension surrounding what she might do next was unsettling.

THE HEATWAVE is an atmospheric Gothic suspense with an amazing and unique setting. The characters and their conflicts are memorable, the writing and descriptions are gorgeous (I enjoyed the French mixed in), and the reveal at the end was perfect. Highly recommended.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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