THE HAUNTING SEASON: Eight Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights


Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Published: October 12, 2021
Source: Purchased (Nook)
Rating: ★★★


Eight bestselling, award-winning writers return to the time-honored tradition of the seasonal ghost story in this spellbinding collection of new and original haunted tales.

Long before Charles Dickens and Henry James popularized the tradition of supernatural horror, the shadowy nights of winter have been a time for people to gather together by the flicker of candlelight and experience the intoxicating thrill of a spooky tale.

Now eight bestselling, award-winning authors — all of them master storytellers of the sinister and the macabre — bring the tradition to vivid life in a spellbinding new collection of original spine-tingling tales.

Taking you from the frosty fens of the English countryside, to the snow-covered grounds of a haunted estate, to a bustling London Christmas market, these mesmerizing stories will capture your imagination and serve as your indispensable companion to cold, dark nights. So curl up, light a candle, and fall under the ghostly spell of winters past…


THE HAUNTING SEASON is a mishmash of spooky winter/holiday stories. The collection was good overall, with a few hits and a couple of misses —

• A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins: 4 Stars (creepy chess house)
• Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar: 4 Stars (young mother on the run)
• The Eel Singers Natasha Pulley: 2 Stars (wut?)
• Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd: 3.5 Stars (photographer falls for a dead woman)
• The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell: 4.25 Stars (haunted wheelchair)
• The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley: 3 Stars (wreaths bring up bad memories)
• Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: 3 Stars (woman in confinement stalked by evil)
• Monster by Elizabeth Macneal: 2 Stars (again, wut?)

Laura Purcell’s The Chillingham Chair was my favorite! Abrupt ending, but suspenseful & rather creepy. A Study in Black and White was probably second. I loved the chess theme and the overall creepy gothic atmosphere. ♥

THE OVERNIGHT GUEST by Heather Gudenkauf


Publisher: Park Row
Published: January 25, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


A woman receives an unexpected visitor during a deadly snowstorm in this chilling thriller from New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

She thought she was alone…

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.


THE OVERNIGHT GUEST is a fantastic tense & twisty thriller that had me on edge the whole time. Set in a small Iowa town, the story alternates between present and past — a true crime writer is stranded during a blizzard in a remote farmhouse where a gruesome murder happened, then we jump 20 years earlier, when the crime took place. There’s also a third mysterious narration, and where does that puzzle piece fit in?

The author did a fabulous job creating nail-biting fear (terror!) throughout the book. I love snowstorm thrillers where the character is cut off from the world. No phones. No power. I can’t imagine how scary that would be, especially if a strange guest shows up…

I would highly recommend this thriller & for best enjoyment go in knowing as little about it as possible! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thoughts on Books (#23)

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ― Lauren DeStefano


The Book of Cold Cases
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

★ Publication date on March 15, 2022 ★

True crime podcasts are popular themes in thrillers these days, and in this book we have a cold cases blogger named Shea who lands an interview with Beth, the woman acquitted of murdering two men 40 years earlier. Shea has been long obsessed with this case, partly because it happened in her home town of Claire Lake, Oregon. If Beth didn’t kill those men, then who did? Beth has been reclusive for decades, hiding alone in her family’s creepy mansion, and also hiding the truth.

Usually I’m a huge fan of Simone St. James’ ghostly elements, but this time the paranormal didn’t fit particularly well. THE BOOK OF COLD CASES was more of a dysfunctional family drama with a murder mystery mixed in, and unfortunately the mystery gets solved too quickly! While I enjoyed the premise and characters, I thought the story moved slowly overall, and I kind of questioned the point of including the woo-woo. Liked this one, but didn’t love it.

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


Mrs. March
Mrs. March
by Virginia Feito
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A wealthy New York housewife is horrified to learn that the pitiful protagonist of her husband’s latest novel might be based on her.

This book was a strange experience! I’m not exactly sure when the the story is set, probably mid-20th century. I would describe MRS. MARCH as literary suspense, or maybe a character study of a woman’s descent into madness. There’s even a murder mystery mixed in.

We only know the main character as “Mrs. March” until the very last sentence when her first name is revealed. I’m not sure I get the significance of that, still thinking it over. She’s definitely unreliable and filled with inner turmoil, and her husband’s new book sets her on a downward spiral.

The writing was good, and I enjoyed the Shirley Jackson/Daphne du Maurier influence throughout. It’s not exactly a fun read, but it did keep me glued to the pages. Borrowed from the library.


A Lesson in Vengeance
A Lesson in Vengeance
by Victoria Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Felicity Morrow returns to the prestigious Dalloway School a year after her girlfriend’s death, but finds she’s still haunted by Alex’s memory and the school’s dark history of witchcraft and murder.

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere, but that’s about it. For most of the book, I just didn’t get the point. Weak plot, pretentious characters. Had some intriguing twists near the end, but kind of boring overall. Borrowed from the library.

★ Cozy Mystery Feature ★ DEATH IN CASTLE DARK by Veronica Bond | DEADLY SUMMER NIGHTS by Vicki Delany


Cozy mystery feature! Here are two “firsts” in a new series from Berkley. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing digital ARCs. My reviews will be posted soon, but until then, check out the blurbs —


★ DEATH IN CASTLE DARK ★
by Veronica Bond
(Berkley)

Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.



★ DEADLY SUMMER NIGHTS ★
by Vicki Delany
(Berkley)

A summer of fun at a Catskills resort comes to an abrupt end when a guest is found murdered, in this new 1950s set mystery series.

It’s the summer of 1953, and Elizabeth Grady is settling into Haggerman’s Catskills Resort. As a vacation getaway, Haggerman’s is ideal, and although Elizabeth’s ostentatious but well-meaning mother is new to running the resort, Elizabeth is eager to help her organize the guests and the entertainment acts. But Elizabeth will have to resort to untested abilities if she wants to save her mother’s business.

When a reclusive guest is found dead in a lake on the grounds, and a copy of The Communist Manifesto is found in his cabin, the local police chief is convinced that the man was a Russian spy. But Elizabeth isn’t so sure, and with the fate of the resort hanging in the balance, she’ll need to dodge red herrings, withstand the Red Scare, and catch a killer red-handed.


Click on the titles above for the link to Goodreads. Happy reading! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Thoughts on Books (#22)

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” ― Henry Rollins


Happy September! My blogging break is over, though I’ve decided to go back to quick & simple “Thoughts on Books” posts for my reviews. My new job is going well, but balancing full-time work and home commitments is a challenge right now. If you want more info on the books below, just click the title. Have you read any of these?

Thanks for stopping by… I’ll be back to blog hopping soon!



THE GUILT TRIP (Audiobook) *
Sandie Jones
Minotaur Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: A lush destination wedding in Portugal threatens to turn disastrous for three couples who fail to keep their secrets buried.

My Thoughts: What a soap opera! This domestic suspense novel was an entertaining (though sometimes frustrating) beach read, narrated by Clare Corbett. She did a great job keeping me engaged with a varied cast of voices.

Billed as a thriller, THE GUILT TRIP is more a slow-burn drama with a bit of excitement at the end. A group of three couples head to Portugal for one of the couple’s wedding, but years of secrets and lies between them turn paradise into a nightmare.

A lot of misunderstanding could have been easily cleared up if they actually talked to each other! The story was told from Rachel’s POV (sister-in-law of the groom), and good grief she was naïve at times. Rachel and the bride, Ali, were the most developed characters, but the others could have been fleshed out more. I would have preferred a stronger mystery element, but the drama did make me curious to see how it all played out. [3.5/5]

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



COME WITH ME
Ronald Malfi
Titan Books
July 20, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: After his wife Allison is killed, Aaron Decker gradually uncovers her dark, hidden life with some otherworldly assistance.

My Thoughts: COME WITH ME was so well-written, with haunting (literally & figuratively) subject matter. Lots of creepy moments that gave me chills! Aaron’s wife is killed in a random act of violence, and as he’s mourning her loss, he finds clues to a dark past she was hiding. Was he married to a stranger?

The story is written in second person, with Aaron talking directly to deceased Allison (as the “you”) which made it so much more personal and tragic. I was just the tiniest bit disappointed with the twist at the end. I really thought the author was going in a different direction with whodunit. Overall — eerie & disturbing, a story that will stick with you for a long time. [4/5]



NOT A HAPPY FAMILY
Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books
July 27, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: When a wealthy couple is murdered, fingers point to their adult children who stand to inherit millions.

My Thoughts: Knives Out! That was my first thought when I read the blurb. A wealthy couple is murdered, and their awful offspring (and others) fixate on their inheritance and point fingers at each other. I enjoyed most of the book, and I felt like anyone could have been the culprit, but the ending was too rushed and anticlimactic. The story had some loose ends that bugged me, but overall this was a fun domestic thriller. [3.5/5]



WHERE THE TRUTH LIES *
Anna Bailey
Atria Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: The worst of a small Colorado town’s dark secrets come to light when a teenage girl goes missing, and her best friend sets out to discover what happened.

My Thoughts: This book was grim. Tough to read. So at 50% I marked it as DNF, even though I did skip ahead to the end to find out what happened. The writing is pretty good, but most of the characters are horrid. Racists, homophobes, abusers & more — this book packs them all in, and in turn, the mystery of the missing teen gets lost. In addition, too many POVs and time jumps made it difficult to get absorbed in the story. [DNF]

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