BURNTOWN by Jennifer McMahon


Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


Ashford, Vermont, might look like your typical sleepy New England college town, but to the shadowy residents who live among the remains of its abandoned mills and factories, it’s known as “Burntown.”

Eva Sandeski, known as “Necco” on the street, has been a part of this underworld for years, ever since the night her father Miles drowned in a flood that left her and her mother Lily homeless. A respected professor, Miles was also an inventor of fantastic machines, including one so secret that the plans were said to have been stolen from Thomas Edison’s workshop. According to Lily, it’s this machine that got Miles murdered.

Necco has always written off this claim as the fevered imaginings of a woman consumed by grief. But when Lily dies under mysterious circumstances, and Necco’s boyfriend is murdered, she’s convinced her mother was telling the truth. Now, on the run from the man called “Snake Eyes,” Necco must rely on other Burntown outsiders to survive.

There are the “fire eaters,” mystical women living off the grid in a campsite on the river’s edge, practicing a kind of soothsaying inspired by powerful herbs called “the devil’s snuff”; there’s Theo, a high school senior who is scrambling to repay the money she owes a dangerous man; and then there’s Pru, the cafeteria lady with a secret life.

As the lives of these misfits intersect, and as the killer from the Sandeski family’s past draws ever closer, a story of edge-of-your-seat suspense begins to unfurl with classic Jennifer McMahon twists and surprises.


In the beginning a little boy witnesses a gruesome murder. He inherits stolen plans for an extraordinary machine, and years later he’s able to bring the invention to life, but there are dire consequences. (Coolest machine ever! I wanted more of it.) Now his teenage daughter, known as Necco in the strange place called Burntown, is on the run from a killer intent on wiping out her family. Luckily Necco falls in with an eclectic group of outsiders, and together they set out to solve the mystery of her family’s past.

I enjoy Jennifer McMahon’s books, and her latest, BURNTOWN, did not disappoint! The writing in this novel has a mysterious and lyrical quality (Alice Hoffman-ish?) which I loved. This book had many elements – suspense, mystery, the supernatural, and a coming of age story – that all came together for a unique and exciting read.

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

Reading Wrap-Up {2}

Hey! It’s time once again for Reading Wrap-Up, my “book thoughts” post for non-review books. This time around, it’s also a belated wrap-up post for the R.I.P. Reading Challenge…

JaneEyreJane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte
★★★★★

One of my favorite classics. I’m always amazed at how modern Jane’s (or Charlotte’s) thinking was. Gotta love those Bronte sisters! Check out this awesome Jane Eyre magnet I found on Etsy (Warning: Spoiler alert!) – http://etsy.me/1Qtj4Cx

DarkRendezvousDark Rendezvous at Dungariff
by by Lois Stewart
★★

A Zebra Gothic published in the late 1980s. A young American librarian inherits a fortune from her long lost Scottish uncle. The catch: First she has to live a year in Scotland. Soon, bad things start happening at the ancestral castle of her kin. Unfortunately the plot and characters never grabbed me on this one. Struggled to finish.

NightSisterThe Night Sister
by Jennifer McMahon
★★★★½

I enjoyed this one very much. The creepy atmosphere and puzzling mystery kept me turning the pages! I especially loved how the story spans three time periods, the 1950s, 1980s, and present day. It was fun trying to figure out how the different parts fit together. Overall, very suspenseful, and a very unique ending. Loved it!

RebeccaRebecca
by Daphne du Maurier
★★★★★

REBECCA is just so darn good. The presence of her husband’s deceased first wife haunts the young narrator. We never learn the narrator’s name, because it didn’t matter! It was all about Rebecca. The perfect blend of mystery and suspense, and a cast of memorable characters. Daphne du Maurier was an amazing storyteller.

Book Review: THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon

WinterPeople
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Source: Review copy from the Amazon Vine Program
Rating: ★★★¾


The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters…sometimes too unbreakable.

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.


THE WINTER PEOPLE is a chilling tale that gave me a heavy case of the creeps. At one point while reading this after dark, I had to shut and lock the porch door! The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of a woman named Alice on a remote, off the grid Vermont farm. As her worried daughters Ruthie and Fawn search for her, they find the diary of Sara Harrison Shea, a grief-stricken mother who lived in their house and was murdered on their farm a hundred years earlier.

The story alternates between the present and the past, and between the point of view of different characters. Ruthie and Fawn uncover clues hidden in the secret nooks and crannies of their home that they hope will lead them to their mother. The tragedy that happened on the farm in the past is revealed through the pages of Sara’s diary and the eyes of her husband, Martin. I enjoy books with dual time periods, and I liked how this author weaved everything together.

As a fan of spooky Gothic fiction, there was much for me to like about this book. The author created the perfect eerie atmosphere with the bleak winter setting and isolated farmhouse. It was fun trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle as new clues were revealed. The pacing was a bit slow in spots, but overall this was a suspenseful read that kept me turning the pages. The one thing I didn’t especially care for was the ending. I thought one character in particular got a raw deal, and I wished it would have wrapped up differently.

THE WINTER PEOPLE was an intriguing mystery and spooky folktale in one. It’s about the powerful bond between mother and child, and the clearly wrong choices people will make when grief overtakes them. This isn’t exactly a ghost story – you’ll have to read it to find out why.

Rating: 3.75 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review.