Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

37007910[1]Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…



Title: The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal/Romance
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book captured my interest from the beginning. A dark, historical novel about ghosts and witches in 19th century New England sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver.

The main issue I had with this book was that I can’t identify the main conflict…I mean, there really wasn’t one. Sure, there were ghosts and witchcraft and an eerie house, but that was all in the background of family drama and romantic angst.

The main issue seemed to be that Lydia’s older sister Catherine is a complete nightmare who doesn’t even care how her actions affect her family and who constantly relies on others to clean up her messes. I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character more. She is petty, mean, and selfish to the extreme. She couldn’t stand to see Lydia happy and did whatever she could to ensure that she wasn’t. The sisterly hate was the biggest conflict in this story, and it is never properly resolved.

Another issue is the romance between John Barrett and Lydia. There are some insta-love vibes in this book, as I’m still not entirely sure why John even liked Lydia. She was rude to him on several occasions because she didn’t know how to express her feelings or communicate with other human beings. There were so many misunderstandings and so much miscommunication that I just ended up frustrated during most of their interactions.

Some aspects of this story had a lot of promise and could have been interesting, had they actually had anything to do with the story. Instead, they just fizzled out. Creepy dead ghost sister? Nothing. Creepy dead ghost boy who threatens the main characters? Nothing. Creepy house that puts everyone on edge and seems to attract disasters? Absolutely nothing. It’s like a bunch of stuff was thrown in to create suspense and atmosphere, but never actually has any purpose. Even the fact that Lydia is a witch never really matters that much. We only actually see her “power” a couple times, and her use of power in front of John at the end was insanely anticlimactic. The people who found out she was a witch were way too accepting of her. In fact, the two “love interests” seemed to think of her as a rare commodity once they found out she was a witch.

Also, are we really supposed to believe that this is how people talk and act in the early 1800s? I’m no historian, but this book almost seemed like it could have taken place in the 21st Century, other than the occasional mention of propriety and social rules.

It all just seemed way too easy. There was never any real tension, no overarching problem, no character development to speak of. The Witch of Willow Hall is just a creepy book about boy drama and some serious family issues.

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.


Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Dutton
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: July 3rd, 2018
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two Truths and a Lie
1. This book kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
2. This is the perfect summer mystery read.
3. I’ll never read another Riley Sager book.

Obviously, the last one is a lie. I loved this so much that I need to get my hands on Riley Sager’s Final Girls.

The Last Time I Lied is about a girl named Emma, who went away to a summer camp when she was thirteen and stayed in a cabin with three older girls. She becomes very close to the queen bee, Vivian, who calls Emma her little sister and who Emma idolizes/obsesses over to the point of copying her every move. One night, the three girls slip out of the cabin without Emma and never return. Their disappearance is never solved. Fifteen years later when the camp reopens, Emma is asked to return as an instructor. Wanting to find the truth, Emma agrees, but it is obvious from the moment she arrives that something is very wrong.

There are plenty of generic mystery/thriller novels out there. They might still be fun to read, even as you see all the twists coming and make accurate guesses the entire way through. That wasn’t the case with The Last Time I Lied. This book will keep you guessing, but none of the reveals are obvious. I had so many different theories and none of them came close to the truth.

There are two timelines. One is from the perspective of modern-day Emma, while the other is the perspective of Emma fifteen years ago. They are interspersed in such away that we are able to see how the past is connected to the present. Everything comes full circle.

I also thought it was interesting to see how Emma’s obsession of Vivian extends into her adult life. She still wonders what Vivian would think as she reaches for a donut or buys a pair of sunglasses, which just goes to show how toxic friendships can be.

I loved the writing style of this book. It’s fast-paced, compulsive, and so, so fun. It’s deceptively simple. You’ll be sucked right in, and the atmosphere will creep you out in the best possible way (seriously, I had chills).

I would recommend this for anyone who loves mystery and thriller novels and is looking for the perfect summer read!

Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn

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Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?


Title: Anatomy of a Scandal
Author: Sarah Vaughan
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: January 11, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re looking for a riveting courtroom drama, this is it.

Rather than a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller, this book is more of a slow burn, with a few reveals along the way. It’s tense and character driven, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Anatomy of a Scandal is a very well-written, well-researched book about sexual violence; the gray areas that surround it, the way it’s treated in a courtroom, and the social ramifications on everyone involved. There are multiple perspectives which make the book well-rounded and gives you a glimpse into many different facets of the crime. The primary perspectives are of Kate, the sexual offense prosecutor, James, the politician who is on trial for rape, and Sophie, his wife.

Kate and Sophie are incredibly fascinating characters. I liked that Sophie didn’t blindly stand by her husband. She listened to the facts and questioned him along the way. Ultimately, she made the best decision for herself.

I will say that this book takes place in England and is very British. The law and political system is a little different and I didn’t understand some of the terminology, but the book did a fairly good job of making it understandable.

There is a twist around the halfway mark that I suspected pretty early-on, but I don’t think the reader is supposed to be too surprised by this revelation, anyway. Still, I enjoyed the way it was revealed, and thought that it was essential for understanding the motivation behind a particular character’s actions.

I would recommend Anatomy of a Scandal to anyone looking for a fascinating and unique courtroom thriller.

Review: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Shadowsong_cover
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?


Title: Shadowsong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Rating: ★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Once there was a little girl, who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was an innkeeper’s daughter and he was the Lord of Mischief, but neither were wholly what they seemed, for nothing is as simple as a fairy tale.”

There’s a certain kind of person that would love Shadowsong. This kind of person would love beautiful prose, thoughtful and emotional introspection, and star-crossed lovers. This kind of person would adore musical analogies and find resonance with characters that struggled with mental health issues.

Unfortunately, I’m not that kind of person.

Wintersong and Shadowsong were not the right books for me for multiple reasons. I can see why some people love these books, and I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to enjoy them the same way that others did. I had a lot of issues with Wintersong, which I started off loving, but then almost didn’t even finish. The first half had the same dark, mysterious, and mind-bending feel of the Labyrinth, which Wintersong was roughly based off of. In the first 50%, I really thought that it would be a four or even five star read for me. Unfortunately, the second half was like an entirely different book. It turned into an angsty, confusing, contradictory romance in which the two leads barely even seemed to like each other, let alone love each other. Then it just kind of… ended.

I wanted to read Shadowsong anyway, hoping that it would have more of the qualities that I loved from the first book. It was actually quite different, and this worked well for me in some ways and not so well for me in other ways.

There was very little action and a great deal of introspection and emotion. The main character was less irritating to me than she was in the first book, as the majority of her thoughts didn’t revolve around her ugliness and desire for sex, like they did in Wintersong. There was also much less focus on the relationship between Liesl and the Goblin King, and more focus on the relationship between Liesl and her brother.

This book wasn’t for me, but S. Jae-Jones is an incredible writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

(Side note: I hear she’s coming out with an East Asian-inspired fantasy series based on Sailor Moon, so um, count me in).