Vintage Gothic Romance: GHOSTWIND by Rachel Ann Payne


Publisher: Paperback Library
Release Date: November 1966

“A madman stalks Jane Corby at sinister Hampton Hill.”

Oh, Jane Corby! Just ever so slightly too dumb to live. It’s 1867, and Jane, a young New York City librarian, is hired to catalog the extensive library at Hampton Hill, a mansion in a remote area near Syracuse. Locals aren’t too keen on the house’s new owner, the reclusive Captain Ralf Hampton. Something is off about him, his fickle personality, and his entire situation, but Jane can’t help falling in love.

“You just be sure he’s not a wicked man with a key to your door.”

The first half of the book was a little slow, and I did not understand Jane’s insta-love for Ralf, considering she felt threatened by his abusive temperament much of the time. By the second half, the pacing picked up as Jane set out to uncover the mysteries of Hampton Hill and the creepy family vault in the cemetery. I enjoyed the twists and a bit of Civil War history woven into the story, plus, how wonderful that Jane is a librarian. Rating: Good.

GHOSTWIND was originally published in 1966 by Paperback Library. Rachel Ann Payne is a pen name used by John Jakes. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

THE VALLEY AND THE FLOOD by Rebecca Mahoney


Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 23, 2021

✦ YA Magical Realism | Contemporary Fantasy ✦

THE VALLEY AND THE FLOOD was a strange book. It was like a weird dream that sometimes makes sense and other times you can’t figure out what’s going on.

Since her best friend Gaby’s death, Rose has suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks. Driving through the Nevada desert one night, Rose’s car breaks down, and she hears a familiar voicemail messages playing over the radio. This leads Rose to a town called Lotus Valley, where she finds out from the quirky locals that her arrival is part of a prophecy about a flood that will destroy everything.

I appreciate how the author presented Rose’s struggles with PTSD and her grief over Gaby’s death, both realistically and through magical realism. The beginning of the book hooked me right away, but it wasn’t until 70% or so that things started making sense and the pieces of the puzzle clicked together. Up until that point, some of it was downright confusing and frustrating. This is an emotional journey for Rose, who ultimately just wants to make it home, but she has to face the prophecy first. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find THE VALLEY AND THE FLOOD onΒ GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS by Natalie D. Richards


Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 6, 2020

I love cold weather/snowy suspense novels, so the cover of this book was screaming for me to read it. FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS is a locked-room-on-wheels YA thriller that left me with mixed feelings.

The protagonist Mira is a high school student flying home to Pittsburgh to be with her mother on Christmas. A snow storm cancels connecting flights and leaves her stranded at the Philly airport. Desperate to get home, she makes the BAD decision of hitching a ride with four college-aged strangers who were on her flight. In a blizzard with strangers on desolate backroads? What’s the worst that could happen? Mira is about to find out…

First of all, I loved the creepy, frozen atmosphere the author created. As odd things start to happen, Mira becomes convinced that someone in their party doesn’t want them to get home. But why? There were a lot of tense moments, and my thoughts on who was the bad one was constantly changing.

Though the book kept me guessing, I thought the first half moved too slowly, and the ending was too abrupt. There were loose ends and unanswered questions that annoyed me, plus the reasoning behind the bad one’s actions wasn’t convincing, and also, what an absurd plan. You’re in a blizzard!?!

Overall though, I did enjoy the author’s descriptive writing style, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give her other books a try. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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

πŸ“š Find FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS by Megan Miranda


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest β€” a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick β€” comes a riveting new novel of psychological suspense about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of β€œthe girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows β€” from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.


Reading this book immediately brought to mind Baby Jessica’s rescue back in the late 80s. That was a major news event with everyone’s eyes glued to the TV, hoping for the best. Once something like that is over, do you ever wonder what impact the attention has on those involved as the years pass?

In THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS, six year-old Arden Maynor’s life is changed forever when she’s swept away in a storm drain after sleepwalking. After a huge search and media circus, she’s miraculously rescued a few days later, and unfortunately the fame she didn’t ask for never goes away.

Now approaching the 20-year anniversary of the incident, Arden has left her hometown and changed her name to Olivia. The anniversary is putting her under stress, and she finds herself sleepwalking once again. This time, she trips over a dead body in her backyard. What could it mean?

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s a slower paced novel with a couple of good twists, particularly when the identity of the body Arden/Olivia finds is revealed. For such an intriguing premise, there wasn’t a lot of excitement or suspense in the plot, and I wish the secondary characters would have been fleshed out more. The ending was kind of crazy, not at all what I was expecting! Overall, this was a good mystery that just needed a little more thrill.

β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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

ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…


A rich, heartwarming and charming debut novel that reminds us that sometimes you find love in the most unexpected places.

Dan Hollis lives a happy, solitary life carving exquisite Celtic harps in his barn in the countryside of the English moors. Here he can be himself, away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right or completely understand.

On the anniversary of her beloved father’s death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan’s barn. She is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she’d like to take lessons.

Ellie begins visiting Dan almost daily and quickly learns that he isn’t like other people. He makes her sandwiches precisely cut into triangles and repeatedly counts the (seventeen) steps of the wooden staircase to the upstairs practice room. Ellie soon realizes Dan isn’t just different; in many ways, his world is better, and he gives her a fresh perspective on her own life.


Dan is a harpmaker, crafting gorgeous Celtic harps in his barn in the English countryside. Ellie is a housewife who stumbles upon Dan’s barn one day. He gives her a harp that matches the color of her socks, giving Ellie’s humdrum life a gentle nudge in a different direction.

I love Celtic harp music, so the description of this book pulled me in. I enjoyed Dan’s character the most. He was a bit quirky with a unique way of seeing the world. On the other hand I struggled with Ellie’s character. She came off as part flighty and part doormat, though I appreciate what she did for Dan as the story progressed. (Not everything though!)

ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER was a light and sweet story with an almost fairy tale quality to it. I was not quite convinced of the romance between the two main characters, but it is a lovely story of friendship, and also finding one’s self identity.

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