THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE SANATORIUM was probably my most anticipated read for early 2021, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to that delicious creepy gothic cover. This book is very popular now so I don’t want to rehash the plot. Here it is in a nutshell:

Elin Warner, a British detective on leave due to PTSD from a case gone wrong, travels to the Swiss Alps to celebrate her estranged brother Isaac’s engagement at a renovated hotel, previously a sanatorium. She and Isaac have some heavy, unresolved family drama. Not long after Elin arrives, Isaac’s fiancée goes missing, a snowstorm traps them at the hotel, and then dead bodies start piling up. Elin investigates to help out local police, though she lacks jurisdiction?

I love snowstorm thrillers, and I appreciated the frozen, isolated setting, especially combined with the hotel’s unsettling history as a tuberculosis hospital. Unfortunately, though, not much else appealed to me. The pacing was slow, I felt detached from the characters, and the culprit’s reason behind the murder spree was too farfetched. And then there’s the confusing epilogue. Meh, not for me. (There are other things I’d like to add about the killer’s reasoning vs the victims and the epilogue vs the rest of the book, but I won’t because of spoilers.) — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

📚 Find THE SANATORIUM on Goodreads 📚

THE IN-BETWEEN by Rebecca Ansari


Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: January 26, 2021

THE IN-BETWEEN is an enjoyable middle grade mystery-fantasy combo with relatable characters and intriguing twists!

Cooper has had a lot on his young shoulders since his father abandoned the family three years prior. His mother works two jobs to support them, and often he’s left in charge of managing his sister Jess’s medical issue. He has a difficult time connecting with old friends, and often feels invisible. Then suddenly a strange girl moves in next door, and all she wants to do is stare at him from her swing. What’s her deal?

Cooper and Jess get wrapped up in trying to solve a century-old train crash mystery involving an unidentified boy. Things get really strange when they suspect a connection between that tragedy and their new next-door neighbor. The quest to discover the truth teaches them a lot about friendship, loss, grief, and finding a way to move forward, even though things may seem out of their control. THE IN-BETWEEN is a beautifully written story with plenty of excitement to keep mystery lovers of all ages turning the pages! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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DISAPPEARING EARTH by Julia Phillips


Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: May 14, 2019

Guess I need to file this one under “you can’t love them all.” I feel bad for not liking this book, because it got so many five-star ratings on Goodreads. From the blurb and title, I was expecting DISAPPEARING EARTH to be a suspense/thriller, maybe somehow related to climate change? Not the case. (That last part about climate change was just my imagination.)

I was intrigued because the novel is set on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. I don’t know much about that area, and it sounds fascinating. The book begins with the kidnapping of two young girls, and if you’re only interested in the mystery of their disappearance, then just read the first and last chapter.

The in-between chapters are stand-alone short stories with new characters, and each story has some very loose connection to the kidnapping. For example, one story is about a girl whose best friend’s mother won’t let them go into the city alone anymore because stranger danger.

Overall, I thought the book was dull, and with such a huge cast in a fairly short book, the character development was lacking. Like I mentioned, most readers seemed to love DISAPPEARING EARTH, so please check out their reviews.

I do love the concept of taking a theme and weaving together a collection of related short stories. I read Alice Hoffman’s THE RED GARDEN and BLACKBIRD HOUSE a few years ago and really enjoyed them. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

📚 Find DISAPPEARING EARTH on Goodreads 📚

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS by Susan Meissner


Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS is a wonderful and absorbing story of survival, friendship, and motherhood. Set during the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this work of historical fiction weaves together a bit of mystery and an emotional family drama with characters I won’t soon forget.

Sophie is an Irish immigrant who answers a mail-order bride ad placed by a man in San Francisco. It seems like widower Martin Hocking can provide her with the life she craves — a comfortable home far away from the slums in New York City, and a child to raise named Kat, the young daughter of Martin and his deceased wife.

Sophie’s relationship with her new husband is odd, and sometimes his behavior is unusual, but she has security and a family, and that’s what matters. That is, until a very pregnant woman named Belinda shows up at her house the night before the great earthquake. The lives Sophie, Kat, and Belinda have known are about to come crashing down figuratively & literally!

I won’t go further into the plot, but just know that if you’re a fan of 20th century historical fiction, I highly recommend THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS. Susan Meissner is a gifted story teller who creates complicated characters readers will understand and enjoy. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

“It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.”

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

📚 Find THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS on Goodreads 📚

THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis


Series: The Initial Insult, #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: February 23, 2021

THE INITIAL INSULT gives a modern YA spin to the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, taking inspiration from several of his classic tales of suspense. In Amontillado, Ohio, at the condemned Usher House, Tress Montor devises a sinister plan to get information out of her former best friend, Felicity Turnado.

Tress’s parents disappeared seven years ago, and the only witness was Felicity, though she’s buried any memories of that terrible night in her subconscious. So in The Cask of Amontillado style, Tress plans to wall up Felicity, brick by brick, in Usher House’s coal chute, unless she finally admits what happened to Mr. & Mrs. Montor.

This book was strange and dramatic, and gruesome at times. None of the characters were particularly likable, but I’m glad there was a dual narrative between Tress & Felicity, so at least we could hear where both were coming from. There was also a third POV from the character “Cat,” whose voice was confusing. I’m not sure that being inside Cat’s head was necessary.

Something to note: THE INITIAL INSULT is the first book in a duology, so it’s left open-ended in regards to the mystery of the missing parents and other points. There was A LOT of drama going on in this book (drug abuse, animal cruelty, bullying, class struggle, family secrets), so I’m assuming the second book will make sense out of everything, though we’ll have to wait until next year to see. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

📚 Find THE INITIAL INSULT on Goodreads 📚