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.

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER by Karen Dionne


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★★★


Praised by Lee Child and Karin Slaughter, and sure to thrill fans of The Girl on the Train and The Widow, The Marsh King’s Daughter is mesmerizing psychological suspense, the story of a woman who must risk everything to hunt down the dangerous man who shaped her past and threatens to steal her future: her father.

At last, Helena Pelletier has the life she deserves. A loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a business that fills her days. Then she catches an emergency news announcement and realizes she was a fool to think she could ever leave her worst days behind her.

Helena has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. No electricity, no heat, no running water, not a single human beyond the three of them. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature — fishing, tracking, hunting. And despite her father’s odd temperament and sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage a person he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marshland he knows better than anyone else in the world. The police commence a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King— because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.


Wow, wow, wow. I was riveted by this book, completely glued to the pages! THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER was more than just gripping psychological suspense; it was also a compelling blend of literary fiction and unique coming of age story.

This book tells the unusual life story of Helena Pelletier. She’s a wife, mother, and small business owner, but at one time her life was very strange, and growing up she didn’t realize it. The father whom she adored was actually a monster, a cruel psychopath who kidnapped her mother when she was a teenager. The three of them lived in an isolated cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, completely cutoff from the rest of the world, until Helena was twelve years old. Now, after spending many years in prison, her father has escaped, and the only person cunning and skilled enough to track such as man is Helena herself.

Helena’s story alternates between the present as she hunts for her father, and the past when they lived alone in the marshlands. Moving between the two time periods bumped up the suspense. I was equally fascinated by both! As the reader, you already know that Helena will be separated from her father, but how? What was their life like before she knew the truth? What was it like for Helena to join the “real world,” and eventually be compelled to hunt him after his escape? My need for these answers made this a read-in-one-sitting situation!

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is a beautifully written book and a nail-biter at the same time. I loved it. Helena, her mother, and their haunting story will stick with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea


Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.


I enjoyed reading Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE, last year, and I’m thrilled to say that his second book, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, exceeded my expectations. It’s suspenseful, twisty, and chilling, which all together make for a riveting read.

Two young women were abducted the summer after their high school graduation. Megan escapes after two weeks, but Nicole is still missing a year later. What became of Nicole? Her older sister Livia is haunted by that question daily. While completing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist, Livia wonders if a clue to her sister’s disappearance will end up on her exam table – and then suddenly, one appears.

I was fascinated by Livia’s job as a medical examiner, though I had to cringe several times! Yep, the autopsy descriptions could be gruesome, but clearly forensic pathology was well researched for this book.

The story jumps around in time, and is told from different POVs. What does Megan know about her time in captivity that her mind has repressed? There’s something dark and terrible in there that’s trying to get out. This was a puzzling and well constructed mystery that tripped me up more than once. The pace got faster as the story progressed, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the pieces were coming together toward the end. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect and haunting and fitting for this harrowing tale.

Second novels can be tricky, but Charlie Donlea knocked this one out of the park. Five big stars!

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