A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

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I don’t think I have ever read a novel like A Head Full of Ghosts. There was a reality show on Marjorie who has been showing signs of being possessed. There a current day blog that goes into the episodes of the reality show, which happened 15 years ago. Plus there was all of the events that happened in the Barretts’ household during that time.

I did like the uniqueness of the novel. Even though we were in present day and looking back on the show, I didn’t see a lot of the events happening. You question what happened to Merry’s family, since we are only seeing Merry in present day. Let me tell you, what happened to them was shocking.

I wasn’t thrilled that I didn’t get all of my questions answered. There was some questions that I had about Marjorie that I feel didn’t come around full circle.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. There are some talks about a movie coming out and I think this would make for such a dark thriller (that I would be way too creeped out to ever see)!

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Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Lost Roses

It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorker’s treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov’s. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre’s who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.

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Lost Roses was a bit of a disappointing read for me, since I had loved Lilac Girls so much. It’s not that this novel was bad, I just couldn’t connect as much to it.

In the same format as Lilac Girls, the novel follows Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka as they each have their lives impacted by WWI. I found that there were a lot of similarities between the characters of Lost Roses and Lilac Girls. First, there is the obvious connection between Caroline and her mother, Eliza. In their respective novels, each woman uses their wealth and resources to help those in need. Since they are in New York, there is a bit of a disconnect between them and what is happening overseas.

Next is Sofya and Kasia (from Lilac Girls). These characters are the ones that are right in the centre and are the ones that have their lives most impacted by the war. Kasia was sent to the concentration camp and Sofya lost her home and family. Some of the things that Sofya went through on her journey to Paris, I found a tad unrealistic and far fetched.

Lastly is Varinka and Herta (German doctor from Lilac Girls). These are the characters that I was most confused about. Both of these characters start with good intentions and then make questionable and bad decisions that impact the other characters. I wish there was more insight to these characters and why they made the decisions that they did.

Overall, it was an average novel that had a very slow start. I didn’t start enjoying the novel until Sofya was on her journey to Paris and the war was over.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. To me, the two novels don’t compare. Lilac Girls is leagues ahead of Lost Roses, but they are both stories that should be told and taught.

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The Night Before by Wendy Walker

The Night Before

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date. 

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

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Available Tomorrow – May 14, 2019!

The Night Before starts off innocently – Laura goes out on a date and doesn’t return home the next morning. Then we learn that Laura has had her fair share of not so great guys and has ended up in some unfortunate situations.

I liked the way that the novel was structured. The novel alternated between Laura’s night out and Rosie the next day trying to piece together what happened. There was also some conversations from months ago between Laura and her therapist spread out throughout the novel.

Now to the parts that I didn’t like. To me, Laura wasn’t all that likable. As the reader, you are on the date with her, and seeing how much she is questioning her date. Hey, maybe if this guy is lying to you and you are getting a weird vibe, maybe you shouldn’t get into his car when your phone is dead. Just a thought.

I also figured out a lot of twists beforehand and it took away from my enjoyable of the novel.  I’m torn on how I feel about the ending. There was parts that I liked (lots of twists) and there was parts that I didn’t like (too far fetched).

3 calculators out of a potential 5. Overall, it was an average thriller. It was a quick read with lots of twists, but I think I will forget about it by the end of the year.

Thank you to Netgallery and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

The Better Sister

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless—the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

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The big question is who is the better sister? All signs lead to Chloe, who is the more put together sister. She is very successful and has it all together including a husband and son. But can you really be the better sister if that husband of yours is your sister’s ex-husband? And that son, yeah that’s your biological nephew. So, so weird.

I really enjoyed Alafair Burke’s novels, especially her last novel, The Wife. I’m putting The Better Sister in more a middle range, because it was good, but not great. What I love most about Burke’s novels is that they are easy to read and hard to put down. You just want to know what happens and you keep reading to find out.

What lost me was just the weirdness of the novel. I feel like the two sisters really never addressed the elephant in the room – that they were married to the same guy. I liked the sisters, especially Nicky, but I felt that some of their conflict was pushed to the side. I loved that they rallied together to support Ethan (son/nephew) and found common ground.

The mystery was ok. I didn’t see a lot of things coming, which I always enjoy in a mystery. However, it seems that the big reveal was kind of thrown together as a ta da moment. There was also a lot of serious plot points that were introduced, but never really discussed or looked into deeper. It seemed that they were just done to add more shocking moments.

3 calculators out of a potential 5. I could see this as a good summertime read, when you are looking for some family drama with a side of mystery.

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Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

sunset beach

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

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Available Tomorrow – May 7, 2019

I feel like I read a different book than everyone else. Goodreads is full of reviewers that loved this book and I didn’t like it. I was hoping for more of a beach read, but it was more mystery, which I wasn’t in love with.

There are 2 mysteries to be solved in Sunset Beach. The first one is dating back 40 years, where a beautiful woman disappeared one day. The second is in present day, where a young mother was found dead at her workplace. There was some twists and turns and some red herrings thrown in, but overall I found that they weren’t great mysteries.

I didn’t enjoyed the main character, Drue and it was mostly due to the writing of the author. The author drilled what happened over the reader so many times, it was annoying. Drue would take action and something would happen. Then Drue would tell person A exactly what happened. And then she told person B the exact same thing. I didn’t need to be told what happened three times, I got it the first time.

2 calculators out of a potential 5. Really repetitive and sadly not the light beach read I was looking for.

Thank you to Netgallery and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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