SHADOW GARDEN by Alexandra Burt


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★


A wealthy woman suspects something is off about the luxurious complex she lives in…and she is right, in this riveting domestic-suspense novel from international bestselling author Alexandra Burt.

Donna Pryor lives in the lap of luxury. She spends her days in a beautifully appointed condo. Her every whim is catered to by a dedicated staff, and she does not want for anything.

Except for news of her adult daughter.

Or an ex-husband who takes her calls.

Donna knows something is wrong, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. As her life of privilege starts to feel more and more like a prison, the facade she has depended on begins to crumble. Somewhere in the ruins is the truth, and the closer Donna Pryor gets to it, the more likely it is to destroy her.


This dark dysfunctional family drama centers around mother Donna living at an opulent place called Shadow Garden. Her husband Edward ignores her, and she wishes her daughter Penelope would call. Something is off, but Donna can’t figure out what.

Though I was intrigued by the blurb, I had a hard time staying interested in the story. I found it too wordy, and the characters were flat and unlikable. A lot of abrupt timeline changes made the book hard to follow. In the end, I felt like I missed the reasoning behind the characters’ behaviors. I suspected what was going from the beginning, and unfortunately there were no big twists that surprised me.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

THE DILEMMA by B.A. Paris

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★


A woman’s birthday party takes a dark turn in a poignant, heart-stopping new novel from the reigning queen of suspense, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back.

Knowing the truth will destroy her. Keeping it secret will destroy him.

It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there.

Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love―and give each other a last few hours of happiness?


Not every book can be your cup of tea, and unfortunately this one wasn’t mine. THE DILEMMA is a domestic suspense novel with both husband and wife hiding dreadful secrets and not communicating. For me the book was terribly sad. Most suspense/thrillers are sad or disturbing in some way, but there’s an element or twist that still makes them satisfying — not the case here.

The blurb states that Adam is throwing his wife a 40th birthday bash, but that’s not really true. Livia has been planning and saving for this party for the past 20 years to make up for her small wedding. (???) She and Adam have different secrets about their daughter Marnie that they want to keep hidden so Livia’s birthday isn’t ruined. (???) I just can’t wrap my mind around these people’s priorities and way of thinking.

Though THE DILEMMA didn’t work for me, I appreciate the publisher giving me the opportunity to review this book.

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

SILVER THAW by Catherine Anderson

silverthaw
Series: Mystic Creek, #1
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★


After years of living in fear of her husband, Amanda Banning has left him and moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, for a fresh start. But she’s having a tough time providing for herself and her six-year-old daughter. Writing her secret yearnings on slips of paper and sending them into the wind helps her cling to the hope that things will get better…and that she can find happiness again.

Jeb Sterling has no idea that the handwritten messages he finds scattered across his land are the first hints that his life is about to change. Nor does he understand why he feels so compelled to help Amanda Banning and her daughter when a cold snap leaves them temporarily homeless. Maybe he’s inspired by Amanda’s courage or perhaps by her beautiful brown eyes. Either way, the man who once renounced love suddenly finds himself willing to do anything for the pair. Amanda seems to have given up on her dreams, but Jeb refuses to quit until he makes her every wish come true.


I enjoyed the beginning of this book: secret messages on pink paper blowing in the breeze, a potential “stranded in a snowstorm” romance, and a beautiful Oregon setting. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. The story moved sooo slowly. I think at least a hundred pages could have been cut out. After the much anticipated showdown with the bad guy just past the halfway mark, it was just plain boring.

SILVER THAW was the first book I’ve read by Catherine Anderson. Is she a Christian Romance author? I would definitely put this book in the Christian Romance genre, though it wasn’t tagged as such in the library.

I was hoping this book would be similar to Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, but it didn’t even come close!! I’m giving it two stars, and my two stars = nah.

INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger (Audiobook)

Ink and Bone
INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately this book didn’t click with me, and clearly I’m in the minority here, because there are many, many great reviews for INK AND BONE. Reading this book, I felt like I’d been dropped in the middle of an ongoing saga, like there’s a whole lot of back story I should already know. Besides that, there just seemed to be so much going on, so many subplots and characters, so many POVs, that it made me dizzy.

The main storyline involves the kidnapping of a young girl while the family was vacationing in The Hollows, New York. Ten months later, the distraught parents return to the area and hire a private detective, who’s aided by a young woman with psychic ability.

While I was drawn in by the premise, especially the paranormal elements, the story was too disjointed and confusing for me. One reason could be that I listened to this book on audio, which makes it harder to keep all of the layers straight. I would imagine that readers familiar with her previous books set in The Hollows would enjoy INK AND BONE more than I did.

Lisa Unger’s In the Blood is one of my favorite suspense novels ever, so I’d definitely give her next book a try!

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

THE WORLD BEFORE US by Aislinn Hunter

WorldBeforeUs
Publisher: Hogarth
Released: March 31, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★


Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project–an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past–Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared more than one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.


THE WORLD BEFORE US wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately. After reading the blurb, I was expecting the book to be about Jane (or someone) solving the mystery of Lily’s disappearance, and figuring out how it was connected to the Victorian woman who went missing. Nope, not at all. While some questions were answered, the ending was unsatisfying.

The language and descriptions in the story were beautiful, and that probably kept me reading. I also enjoyed that the story was told by a collective “we,” and it takes a while to figure out who is included in the group. It seemed like a lengthy book, with much of the story taking place during the later Victorian years. I think it probably rambled on too long in the historical parts, while the “Lily” mystery was neglected.

Intriguing premise and lovely writing, though the lack of resolution in the end was disappointing.

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