THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James {Review}

Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced…

THE BROKEN GIRLS was an amazing book, combining many elements I love: mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, dual time periods, and crime drama. I loved it – yes, it was dark and unsettling, but I was glued to the pages.

The story alternates between the early 1950s and 2014 in a tiny Vermont town. In the past, four teenage girls attend a local boarding school for troubled girls called Idlewild Hall when one goes missing; in the present, a journalist named Fiona investigates the death of her sister whose body was found on Idlewild’s abandoned property two decades earlier. Fiona agrees to write an article on the restoration of Idlewild when it’s purchased by a mysterious buyer. During renovations, a shocking discovery pulls Fiona into the unsolved case of the missing girl. Will it also lead her to answers about her own sister’s death?

This was an atmospheric and creepy read, with some definite chilling moments. Like many Gothic novels, the house, Idlewild, was a haunted, complex character itself, and the tale of its resident ghost was heartbreaking. The mystery was complicated, and I enjoyed how the well-researched historical elements were woven into it. I love Simone St. James’ storytelling, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a spooky story full of emotion and depth.

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

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#2): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Audiobook) / Don’t Let Go / The Night Mark

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. It turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO tells the amazing, wild, and often heartbreaking life story of the title character. Beginning in the 1950s when she arrived in Hollywood, the book covers Evelyn Hugo’s rise to fame as an A-list actress, and her many loves and losses along the way. She chooses a young journalist named Monique Grant to write her biography, and Monique is perplexed as to why Evelyn wants to spill her long-guarded secrets to her. What, if any, is their connection? I listened to the audiobook which was a wonderful experience and quite emotional too. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I was sobbing as I was mowing the lawn. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2017.

Don't Let GoDon’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second book by Harlan Coben I’ve read, and second book by Harlan Coben I’ve really enjoyed! In DON’T LET GO, Detective Nap Dumas finally gets a lead in the disappearance case of his high school girlfriend — well, it’s his own case as no one else is looking. Maura went missing 15 years ago on the same night his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were killed, supposedly hit by a train. Nap’s always wondered if there was more to the story, and of course, if Maura’s disappearance was somehow related. Now a clue from a crime scene in another town sets his investigation in motion again. DON’T LET GO is page-turning suspense with a complex mystery and relatable characters. I especially loved Nap’s sarcastic wit.

The Night MarkThe Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. THE NIGHT MARK is a unique time-travel romance set on the gorgeous coast of South Carolina. In present day, Faye Barlow feels lost, still grieving the death of her husband four years prior. During her latest photography job, she discovers an abandoned lighthouse at a place called Bride Island. She feels an inexplicable connection to the lighthouse, and in a strange twist of fate, she’s sent back to 1921 where the keeper is very much alive and very familiar. I thought the writing was beautiful, and the descriptions of the lighthouse and island were magical. While I loved the premise, ultimately I had a hard time connecting with Faye and feeling the chemistry in her new time-travel relationship. Their set up was a bit too odd for me. The character who stood out to me most was the priest — honestly I’d love to read his life story.

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” ― Vera Nazarian

WHISPERS OF WARNING by Jessica Estevao

Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★

The latest in a dazzling new historical mystery series featuring Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a questionable past who suddenly finds her future most uncertain…

Partially reformed con artist Ruby Proulx is starting to feel at home in her aunt’s seaside hotel. She loves the feeling of being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps her aunt keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.

When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a month-long stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expand outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to work for a woman’s right to vote. But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When her body is found floating in the saltwater plunge pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to solve the murder, and in the process learns that Sophronia was hiding some secrets of her own.

WHISPERS OF WARNING is the second book in Jessica Estevao’s A Change of Fortune Mystery series, though it can easily be read standalone. This enjoyable character-driven novel set at the turn of the last century is as much historical fiction as it is mystery, with just a touch of the paranormal.

The women’s suffrage movement of the late 1890s and the popularity of spiritualism at the time take center stage in this book. Clever and unconventional protagonist Ruby Proulx lives and works at her aunt’s seaside hotel in Maine as a medium, a job she’s well suited for as she’s had voices to guide her throughout her life. When a rally brings famous suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge to the hotel, Ruby is thrilled, especially when Sophronia becomes her mentor. Unfortunately the controversial woman is found dead not long after her arrival, and amateur sleuth Ruby is suspicious.

I would have liked the murder to take place sooner than the halfway point that it did, though reading about the sometimes turbulent suffrage movement from Ruby’s point of view held my interest. The metaphysical elements added a nice touch to the story without overwhelming it. I also loved the Victorian hotel and Maine coastal setting. Lovely! Ruby is an engaging main character, and I’d love to go back and read the first book to learn more of her backstory.

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