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The Visitors by Catherine Burns

The Visitors by Catherine Burns
Pub. Date: September 26, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Gallery/Scout Press!
Summary: Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Marion’s entire life has been lived in the shadows. Early on she learned she was and would never be a great beauty, with her pasty complexion, extra pounds, and plain features. Her mother’s domineering presence ensured Marion would never live an independent life and now, in her 50s, she’s living with her brother John in the house they grew up in, a house that’s beginning to show its age.

Although Marion would love to have a husband and a family, she’s content with this arrangement: she collects her teddy bears and cooks boxed meals for dinner while trying to ignore the cries coming from the basement. That’s John’s territory and she knows never to go down there…until the day John has a heart attack. Stuck in a hospital bed, John has no way of caring for his visitors – Marion must venture downstairs and come face-to-face with the secrets her brother has been keeping.

I’ll cut right to the chase: The Visitors promises a creepy, chilling read and it just doesn’t deliver. There wasn’t a single character to root for and while I’m okay with that, it made for an unsatisfying read. Much of the novel is devoted to flashbacks of Marion and John’s childhood, of little instances where John expressed his violent nature. I get that Marion wasn’t overly bright, but there were no dark secrets here, it’s clear from the very beginning that John has women chained up in the basement. Marion even goes with him to collect the poor girls! She knew what was going on in the basement long before John’s heart attack forced her to go into the cellar.

I’m a big fan of slow paces and character exploration and The Visitors offers both in spades. The novel is less a horror story and more of a look into Marion’s character, from her sad childhood to life as a spinster, and after John’s heart attack she actually does come into her own a bit. Her family had been wealthy and her mother always had such glamorous clothes. Marion loses weight and fits into her mother’s dresses. She gets her hair done. She even discusses mortgages with a banker – the beautiful seaside house her aunt owner is for sale. All the while there are women chained up in the basement.

When the twist does come at the end, I wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure if it was because it was painfully obvious or if I simply read lots of mysteries and know how the formulas work, but I wasn’t shocked. To be honest, I was a bit let down. I wanted a disturbing read to gear up for fall and had expected to find that in The Visitors. While it was certainly a novel that held my interest the whole way through and kept me turning pages, it wasn’t out of a terrifying, horrifying need to know what was going on. I wanted a disturbing read that would keep me up at night. The Visitors couldn’t deliver on that point. Instead, it was just a fine, decent, intriguing debut – but certainly not one for readers looking for a good Halloween read.

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weekly wrap-up 9/18

• After all the excitement of last week (my birthday!), I was more than ready to have a laid back, quiet week! The best part of having a September birthday is that I share a birthday month with Roald Dahl. For the past few years I’ve posted about my love of him and his works and this year, if you follow me on instgram or facebook, I posted a love, rambly post about him again – and gave all the credit to a wonderful 3rd grade teacher ♥

• Yesterday I took the pups for walks and have such an awesome experience while out with Nacho. For the full story, head over to instagram, but basically it’s small town pride, a sense of community, and a super friendly cop who stopped her car JUST to meet Nacho and play with him! What she’s doing for lost dogs is so important and so, so simple.

• Guys. That Reese’s coffee creamer? I finally found some yesterday and it’s DELICIOUS.

MISSED IT LAST WEEK? I shared three mini-reviews: a Middle Grade paranormal, a YA historical fantasy, and an Adult thriller!

I also shared 4 things I’m loving this September.

The Empowered by Craig Parshall
A mysterious death in DC has ties to a voodoo cult in New Orleans. This has the potential to be dark and creepy aka perfect winter reading! GoodReads doesn’t say this is part of a series, but there’s another book featuring the same character so I’m hoping I won’t be missing out on anything by not having read the first. Either way I’m intrigued and looking forward to this one! Thank you, Tyndale!

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4 things I’m loving this September!

ROALD DAHL DAY! If we’re friends on facebook or you follow me on instagram, you saw a post I made where I got a bit rambly talking about my love for all things Dahl. My birthday isn’t the only awesome birthday this month :)

Tootsie Roll hot cocoa kcups. I actually came across this over the summer when Matt and I were randomly browsing the coffee aisle at Walmart. Summertime and hot cocoa don’t exactly go hand-in-hand but I am SO ready to stock up on another box as we head into chilly weather – this is perfect for early mornings at the office (and it smells exactly like tootsie rolls!!)

• My Acorn TV subscription for Amazon. Back in January, I discussed a new obsession: Murdoch Mysteries after my grandparents got me hooked. Unfortunately, Netflix only has the first seven seasons. Well, I needed my Murdoch fix and the Acorn TV subscription is crazy cheap ($4.99 a month I believe). I also binged Lochness, a one-season crime drama.

• The Lore trailer is here! Last October I shared 4 podcasts I love and Lore was one of them. It was announced that it was being adapted by Amazon (maybe I should have titled this 4 things I’m loving about Amazon this September?) and I thiiink it’s scheduled to release October 13! SO excited for this.

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3 Monday minis: ghosts! magic! mystery!

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Amulet Books!)
Summary: Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago.
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal

I came for the promise of Middle Grade paranormally goodness, I stayed for the evil plants. I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of Elizabeth and Zenobia. Elizabeth’s father moves his family (or, rather, what’s left of it: just himself and Elizabeth) into the grand old manor where he grew up. Elizabeth’s imaginary friend Zenobia is convinced there are ghosts and, despite Elizabeth’s fears, talks her into holding seances and exploring the dark halls at night. Eventually Zenobia’s prodding reveals a terrible secret: Elizabeth’s aunt, long thought to have died as a child, is still on the grounds, trapped in a fairy tale story.

I’m sad to say Elizabeth and Zenobia missed its mark. Throughout the novel I honestly wasn’t sure if Zenobia was just an imaginary friend or if she was a ghost herself – and the book doesn’t lean either way. Despite its incredibly short length (barely over 200 pages) I slogged my way through, taking multiple days to get through a book that should have hardly taken an afternoon; there just wasn’t enough meat to this story to capture my interest – and if I found myself constantly setting the book aside, I can’t imagine how a Middle Grade reader would manage to be invested in this one. That said, I REALLY enjoyed the Plant Kingdom aspect…everything else simply fell flat. Also, I’m baffled by the illustrations. I first assumed they were simply rough sketches meant to serve as placeholders for the final product. Now I’m wondering if they are the final product. I hope that’s not the case, it makes the book take on a self-pubbed feel that I don’t like.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
Pub. Date: April 11, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgally (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!) + audiobook via library
Summary: In the masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

I’m loving what Megan is doing with her adult novels! Last year’s All the Missing Girls was a ton of fun – and presented in such an original way (the story was told backwards) – that I couldn’t wait to dive into her follow-up! There was also another reason I was itching to read it: the main character has my name. It wasn’t until I grabbed the audiobook that I learned it’s also pronounced correctly how I pronounce it!

…hahaha, unfortunately, there were a few scenes where one of the other characters was being SUPER rude and condescending to Leah and listening to that put me into rage mode. Enough so that I actually had to stop listening, lest I destroy my phone at my desk. Oops.

Apart from that, The Perfect Stranger was another fast-paced, intense read from an author I’ve come to seriously enjoy. Unlike All the Missing Girls, however, The Perfect Stranger doesn’t offer up anything new to the genre, but I truly didn’t mind at all and am eagerly awaiting her next book!

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Knopf Books for Young Readers!)
Summary: The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.
Genre: Historical Mystery, Fantasy, Magic

What a FUN book! I went in, hoping for a similar read to Duels and Deception, and it was excellent. Annis has just learned, not only of her father’s death, but that his fortune appears to have gone missing…meaning she and her aunt have no way to pay the bills. Suddenly her high class lifestyle is in serious jeopardy. Add in a bit of spy intrigue – Annis is convinced her father was a spy – and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful novel.

Naturally the War Office isn’t going to take a 16-year-old girl seriously, so what does Annis do? She goes undercover – sewing magical glamours to disguise herself and open a dress shop, all the while collecting what info she can on what really happened to her beloved father.

Though I really enjoyed this one, its open ending leaves me wondering if it’s simply just that: a vague ending, or if there will be a sequel. There were hints of a romance to come and still some unanswered questions. If it turns out there will be more, I am so there!

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weekly wrap-up 9/10: birthday week!

• I celebrated my birthday on Friday!! I took a long weekend and it was perfect. Friday Matt and I saw IT (which was fab) and yesterday we toured an animal sanctuary super close to us!

• Did you hear about the newly discovered Kurt Vonnegut story? You can read it at the link!

• Thursday we learned one of our sister offices in Orlando was closing because of the hurricane. I was talking with one of the girls and she was telling me the horrors of their city right now: no water to be found, absolutely no gas at any of the gas stations. Friday Matt and I stopped by his grandparents’ (they have a home on Marco Island) and it’s just a very scary situation for anyone down there right now.

MISS SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Back in January I did a week-long series where I took a look at the 2017 novels from the first half of the year that I couldn’t wait to read. This week I took a look at the novels for the rest of the year that sound fantastic: historical fiction, mystery/suspense, sci-fi/fantasy, and contemporary.

Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine
I shrieked when I opened this package. Laura’s debut, The Confectioner’s Tale was so, so good, you guys. Her upcoming novel, due in February, takes place just after WWI, when Emeline is rife with grief – rumors spread throughout town that she’s lost her mind, particularly when she makes the rash decision to board a train for France and soon finds herself in a fishing village where she’s taken in by a woman and her 19-year-old son. Though she’s enchanted by her new life, Emeline can’t be free from her past as whispers soon find their way to her new home. A dark past and a forbidden romance, you guys know I am SO down with this one!! Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!

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2017 books I need to get my hands on part 2: contemporary!

Back in January I spent a week sharing the 2017 novels from the first half of the year that I couldn’t wait to read (non-fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, contemporary, historical, and mystery/suspense). This week I’ll be sharing the novels from September-December that have me all starry-eyed, beginning with historical fiction, mystery/suspense, and sci-fi/fantasy. Today we’re ending the week with contemporary!

One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman | September 5, 2017
Two best friends run away for the night, determined to camp out in Ikea. YES. This sounds adorable and fun and actually worthy of the comparison to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (unlike a terrible, awful book I read a few months ago!)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | September 12, 2017
I loved Everything I Never Told You to the point where I will read anything Celeste writes. An artist and single mother moves into an affluent Cleveland suburb and initially, things seem to be going well. Then friends of her landlord begin the adoption process – they’ll be bringing home a Chinese-American baby – and the ensuing custody battle (as well as secrets regarding Mia’s past) tears apart the once-quiet community.

Virtually Perfect by Paige Roberts | September 26, 2017
Okay, hear me out. I’m mostly curious about this one: it sounds EXACTLY like the plot of Hello, Sunshine with its celebrity chef/author/tv host’s fall from grace. Only, in this case, Lizzie finds work as a personal chef wealthy family who adores the latest, trendiest fad diets. There’s also the daughter with a wildly popular website – that comes with a huge secret.

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis | October 3, 2017
I have a copy of this one and cannot wait to dive in! Flora is madly in love with Elijah – enough so that she’s willing to leave behind her elite prep school and follow him to a hippie Quaker academy where he’ll be teaching. Unfortunately for Flora, when she shows up, she realized Elijah made other plans. This one is an epistolary novel and sounds really fantastic.

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno | October 3, 2017
I have yet to read one of Katie’s novels, but I know they have a huge following! Her upcoming book is about an unlikely pair: Gabby is an introvert who would much rather be home than at a party. Ryan is the school’s star hockey player, yet the two are practically best friends. With graduation rapidly approaching, they reminisce by making a top ten list of the best moments of their friendship – and possibly the start of something more.

Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt | October 3, 2017
A Middle Grade debut about a girl who finds herself under the care of a family in witness protection. The family is on the run from some of the most notorious criminals and, hey, they won’t be looking for a family with two children. Also, Nicki’s street-savvy ways just might come in handy!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak | October 17, 2017
For the first time in years, the entire Birch clan will be together under one roof at Weyfield Hall for Christmas. Unfortunately, Olivia, a doctor returning from providing aid to an epidemic overseas, has just been told she’ll need to be quarantined…and so will the rest of the family. For one week they’ll be locked inside together, cut off from the rest of the world (and decent wifi) – and no one expects the surprise guest who drops by.

Ready for Wild by Liora Blake | October 31, 2017
Second Chance Season was one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, so it’s no wonder the third in Liora’s Grand Valley series ranks HIGH on my TBR! Second Chance Season introduced the pair featured in this novel: Braden, a no-nonsense game warden with a faithful pup, and Amber, a beauty with her own hunting show. Amber’s show has been dropping in the ratings and a reboot is necessary. The producers plan an archery elk hunt and, stubbornly, Braden just isn’t having it. This just might be one of my most anticipated releases of the year!!

Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Small town Georgia, where everyone knows your business whether you want them to or not. As an elite party planner, Margot mingles with high society, until one event goes spectacularly wrong and she’s practically exiled. In dire need of a fresh start, Margot begrudgingly accepts a job planning an event for the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop – how’s that for one-stop shopping? I’m super intrigued by the love interest: an elementary school principal!

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2017 books I need to get my hands on part 2: sci-fi/fantasy!

Back in January I spent a week sharing the 2017 novels from the first half of the year that I couldn’t wait to read (non-fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, contemporary, historical, and mystery/suspense). This week I’ll be sharing the novels from September-December that have me all starry-eyed, beginning with historical fiction and mystery/suspense. Today we’re looking at sci-fi/fantasy!

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente | September 5, 2017
The Brontë siblings – yes, those Brontës – have devised an enchanted world known as Glass Town. In Glass Town, brave toy soldiers battle Napoleon’s fierce army and no one ever dies. Glass Town has always been just a game…until one day when the four board a train and are whisked away to the real Glass Town, only it’s not quite the one they had created. This Glass Town’s Napoleon has a real world weapon – how will the Brontës make it back home alive?

Odd & True by Cat Winters | September 12, 2017
A monster-slaying mother, a magician’s curse. For Od, these were tales to tell Tru, but now that she’s older, Tru wonders if there was less truth to them, that they were instead a way to keep Tru’s mind off her body: disabled from childhood polio. When Od suddenly returns after a two year absence, her suitcase full of strange weapons, the two take off in search of their mother – only to find a nightmarish beast.

Warcross by Marie Lu | September 12, 2017
A WOW-type game has taken the world by storm. Emika is a teenage hacker and makes her living as a bounty hunter, uncovering those who are illegally betting on the game. When Emika needs to make some quick cash, she hacks the opening game of the Warcross Championships…and finds herself accidentally in the middle of the action. Instead of being arrested, however, Emika receives an offer from Warcross’s creator: he needs a spy on the inside.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin | September 26, 2017
Okay, so I’m not quite sure what this one is all about, apart from time-travel – including a heist on the sinking Titanic (!!!), but that’s enough for me! Also, we’ve had Ryan as a HistoricalFix guest and she’s so, so awesome.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | September 26, 2017
Isobel is an artist with a dangerous clientele: the fairy folk. When Rook, the autumn prince, commissions a portrait, Isobel sets to work, only one tiny mistake could cost Rook his life. Furious, he banishes Isobel to the autmnlands to stand trial, but a run-in with ghostly hounds and cursed monsters leaves Isobel faced with a sacrifice of her own.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston | October 3, 2017
Okay, let’s be real here – that gorgeous, gorgeous cover is what initially caught my eye. This one sounds kind of Steampunk-y – the British Empire is still going strong and there are genetically-arranged marriages. That cover though.

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan | October 10, 2017
Bethan comes from a clan of Welsh Romanies where she apprentices under a healer. Her days are quiet and simple, though she’s carrying a secret: the chieftain’s son has been harassing her. One night he brutally assaults Bethan and her friend, and when Bethan asks the healer to help Martyn, she’s told it’s possible, but it would come at a hefty price – eyes, fingers – and Bethan knows exactly where to collect these ingredients.

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne | October 10, 2017
NORSE GODS, Y’ALL. I’m also super intrigued by one particular line from the blurb: The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice. Norse gods meets the Wild West? I am SO there.

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar | October 10, 2017
A brilliant young inventor harbors terrible guilt. Fidelia’s parents, both scientists, tragically lost their lives in a submarine accident…the submarine that Fidelia built. One morning she’s kidnapped by a ferocious pirate, tasked with devising a way to retrieve treasure on the bottom of the sea.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman | October 19, 2017
Remember when I mentioned I’ve never read The Golden Compass? Yeah, I really have no right including this one lol but maybe this is the push I need to finally read it! I’m thiiinking this is a prequel?

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand | October 24, 2017
Five years ago Holly was visited by three ghosts who tried to make her see the error of her ways and change her life. …only, she didn’t and then she died. Now Holly is stuck as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past, forever miserable as she watches her family move on. This year, though, Holly is determined to change everything.

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne | November 7, 2017
A healer falls victim to a deadly plague, a soldier is seeking revenge. I’m not quite sure how, but the two are thrust together when a threat descends upon their village. This one boasts a slow-burn romance and fantasy with a political bent!