Book Review: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

Name: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)
Genevieve Cogman
Number of Pages:
 337 (ebook)
December 15th 2014 by Pan
Genre:  Fantasy


Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently . . .
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The story begins with a library, but not one of the usual variety. The Invisible Library is a place of magic and mystery, and as the name suggests, it contains many, many books. It also has links to a great variety of alternate worlds in which some of these books resided prior to their residence in the Library.
Irene is a junior agent of the Library and tasked with novice Kai to venture to an alternate London to retrieve a manuscript, a certain edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s like a Victorian steampunk version of London, so I loved the feel of the place. Not only that, it’s a world with a chaos infestation, so all you think you know may not apply. Retrieving the book should be simple, but it turns out that actually it’s already been stolen so Irene and Kai set out to find it before they return to the Library.

The Library is a great place, and I hope more time is spent there as the series continues. The whole endless supply of books, both magical and mundane, drawn from all these alternate worlds is fascinating. Initiates of the library have agelessness conveyed upon them while they’re within the walls. They do age gradually as they go out into alternate worlds but could in theory have some degree of immorality if at some point they decide to stay within the library.

There’s a lot going on in this novel – a murder mystery (a vampire murder actually), the theft of the manuscript, and the presence of the dangerous but alluring Fae, creatures of chaos. A famous detective is on the same trail as our leads and a legendary former Library agent gone rogue may be in the vicinity. To complicate things further a colleague/rival of Irene’s who may be more involved than she’s letting on appears in this alternate world. And then of course there are the werewolves and mechanical centipedes and zeppelins flying around the place.

There characters are a great mix, from Irene and Kai, who is also more than he first appears, to the Great Detective Peregrine Vale and Irene’s friend/colleague/rival/former mentor Bradamant. The latter was interesting, their initial dislike based on a shared past turning to reluctantly needing to work together to retrieve the book. I hope these characters cross paths again as the series continues, and that more of their history is revealed.

The Invisible Library is a good beginning to a series that I’m looking forward to discovering. Anything themed around books and libraries and alternate fantasy worlds is going to get my reading attention, and as Irene was dispatched with new orders at the end of this novel, I was almost as pleased as she was that there is more to look forward to in this world of magic and adventure and books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday/Seasonal Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Holiday/Seasonal Freebie

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Seasonal Freebie I’ve gone for a bit of variety with a selection of book covers.  Some of these are books with a festive theme, some simply have colours or themes that seem wintry. There’s at least one sequel amongst the list (Shiang, the first book is Darien, just in case you’re wondering), and at least one series beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale.  I’ve linked the covers to my reviews where possible in case anything catches your eye. On to the books…




So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want to Read Again

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Books I Want to Read Again

Re-reading, it’s something I don’t do very often, if at all, but my selections for this week’s topic are a mixture of books that I would like to re-read or books I wish I could read again for the first time.

I was surprised to notice when making my list that most of the Stephen King books that feature must have been from my pre-blogging days as I don’t seem to have written reviews for any of them, which could be a great reason to read some of them again. I’ll list those together first…

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King – There’s no way I couldn’t list this series first as I’ve mentioned many times before that I’d like to re-read it someday. The only thing that makes me hesitate is that there are 8 books in total and some of them are really long. It’s probably going to happen though. Maybe!

The Shining by Stephen King – I’ve always thought this would be a good one to re-read during autumn but it recently occurred to me that the family goes to the Overlook for a winter stay, so actually it’s also a great winter re-read too. Any excuse to revisit a book that I found pretty creepy at times. Room 217, I’ll say no more.

11/22/63 by Stephen King – It’s been a while since I read this and it’s one I would certainly be tempted to pick up again, to see how much I enjoy it on a re-read.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – I’d love to experience this for the first time. It was such a unique take on the country house murder mystery and I was intrigued as to what was going on.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – The central duo of Gus and Call make this one worth the re-read. There are more books featuring those same characters so perhaps I’ll check some of those out too.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – I enjoyed the writing, the characters, the atmosphere of the house and the creepiness of the wooden figures that were possibly moving around when no one was watching. One to pick up during the dark nights of autumn I think.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey – I would love to experience my first read of this all over again. I remember seeing the synopsis for the first time and being completely intrigued. I couldn’t wait to discover the story and I enjoyed it when I did.


The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan – I was really sad to reach the end of this fantasy trilogy and bid goodbye to some wonderful characters.


The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden – Perfect for winter evenings of reading.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Not a wish to relive my first read exactly, I saw the movie version before I read the book and had no clue as to how the case would be resolved. I had great fun reading the book but I wonder if I’d have picked up more clues if I’d read rather than watched it first. I doubt it as I don’t think I’ve worked out whodunnit in any of the other Christie novels I’ve read so far.

So, what did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Booking Ahead: December 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead. It’s time to look for a few potential reads for the month. I’d like to read at least three books if I can, which will mean I’ve read 30 books this year. Not a massive total but more than I probably expected.
I may pick up a couple of seasonal reads this month…

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman – I’m already reading this and am glad to have found a new series to read as I think it’s one I’m going to enjoy. Irene is a spy for a mysterious Library which houses books from many alternate realities and in this first story she’s sent to an alternate London to retrieve a certain book. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and so the adventure begins.

Christmas at Wynter House by Emily Harvale – Neva Grey is looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas with her family in the cosy cottage they’ve rented in the picture-postcard village of Wyntersleap. Nestled between rolling hills and a gently burbling river, it’s going to be idyllic.

Except it’s not. Torrential rain causes the river to burst its banks and the quaint little village isn’t quite so cosy with water lapping at the doors. Add to that a power cut and a sudden blizzard and Christmas is looking bleak … until gorgeous Adam Wynter invites them all to Wynter House.

Although not everyone is happy to share the ancestral home. Adam’s elder brother, Rafe is less than pleased. Their grandmother, Olivia extends a grudging welcome. And for Carruthers, the oddly arrogant butler, unexpected guests are a Christmas surprise he could do without. Especially one as troublesome as Neva’s eight-year-old niece.

But something’s not quite right at Wynter House. What is Rafe intent on hiding behind the locked doors of the old barn? And what really happened to his first wife? It’s a good thing Neva has a sense of humour. She’s going to need it this Christmas at Wynter House.

The past couple of years have seen me reach for a seasonal Agatha Christie novel during December. I’ve read The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, so this year my choice may be…

Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Crime by Agatha Christie – There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter . . . It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fire with these wintry whodunits from the legendary Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests.

What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month year for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Name: Mexican Gothic
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Number of Pages:
 304 (ebook)
June 30th 2020 by Del Rey
Genre:  Gothic, Horror


After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Noemí Taboada is called home early from a party. Her father has received an alarming letter from Catalina, Noemí’s recently married cousin, and he wants Noemí to go and visit, and find out whether her cousin is well or whether she needs help. And so Noemí ventures off to High Place, home of the Doyle family, to discover what is going on at this old family home high in the mountains.

Mexican Gothic exudes a marvellously melancholy atmosphere that seeps through every descriptive passage. High Place, the great old house, from the very first moment Noemí emerges from the mist and lays eyes on the place, is central to the tale. Steeped in a far-reaching dark and violent history, illness, death and murder all feature, stretching back to the days when there was a thriving mining community in the area, and then there’s whatever is going on at High Place during these times.
There’s the English cemetery with it’s grand old mausoleum and stone figures, shrouded in mist and with fungus growing all around. The whole place is really atmospheric.

The house is fantastically imagined, age old grandeur falling into decay and literally mouldering away, wallpaper covered in black mold, ceilings the same, disused rooms with their coatings of dust and cabinets full of the family silver.
And the rules add another layer of strangeness. Hot water not needed for a bath, no need for electric lighting when oil lamps and candles will suffice, and similarly, curtains closed most of the time. No smoking, no conversation over dinner, it’s all so strict and severe and Noemí finds herself having to adhere to these eccentric whims whilst wondering how her cousin could possibly fit in and live in this way.

Noemi – socialite, fashionable, wealthy, flirty, a regular on the party scene, you wouldn’t necessarily think she would be the obvious choice to go to such a forbidding place. She is described early on by her own father as flighty, yet he also acknowledges her smart mindset is well suited to finding out what is happening at High Place and she’s marvellous throughout.
Confronted with open hostility and interference from almost everyone she meets, all the bizarre rules, and persistent attempts to keep her away from Catalina, Noemí remains undeterred.
In the face of repulsive old patriarch Howard Doyle and his unsavoury conversations and interests she still won’t back down, and even when the sensible thing would be to leave while she still can, she won’t abandon her cousin. She was sent to find out the truth, and she remains devoted to this task.

There are other books that the atmosphere of Mexican Gothic called to mind. It has a very slight air of Dracula in Noemí’s initial journey up into the mountains to High Place, and the mention of European soil shipped over to Mexico for the garden led me to half expect old Howard Doyle would turn out to be a vampire. The truth regarding that particular character is pretty stomach churning.
There’s also something a little Rebecca in that Florence has a similar presence as Mrs Danvers, overseeing the running of the house and ensuring that the rules are followed.
And yet Mexican Gothic is something unique in itself, from Noemí as the central character to the revelations that eventually come to light regarding High Place and the Doyle family.

The story is a really involved slow burn for the first two thirds, the tension gradually ratcheting up until the awful truth is revealed and from there the descent into horror is rapid and vivid. It’s almost as stomach churning as the moment a rollercoaster reaches the peak and drops suddenly. You know something is about to happen because there are so many things wrong at High Place, so many dark secrets, and it’s tense reading discovering whether Noemí will be able to save her cousin, and even by the end, herself.

Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Name: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1)
Mary Robinette Kowal
Number of Pages:
304 (ebook)
August 3rd 2010 by Tor
Genre:  Historical, Fantasy, Romance


Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Shades of Milk and Honey is a charming beginning to the Glamourist Histories, a series of Regency era tales of romance and magic.

The story centres around the Ellsworth family, particularly two sisters, Jane and Melody, and their friendships, relationships, and dramas of varying kinds. It’s a world of courtesies, social engagements and romantic attachments, much like many a story told before, but in this world there is also magic, more specifically, glamour. To be accomplished in glamour is a valued talent, so when Glamourist Mr. Vincent arrives on the scene, employed at a neighbouring property, Jane, who has a natural talent for glamour, is interested.

After an initial meeting sets them off on precisely the wrong foot with each other Jane and Mr. Vincent appear destined to be constantly at odds, misunderstanding or unintentionally slighting the other, which makes each of their encounters something to anticipate, be this in company at a great gathering or in a smaller family group at Jane’s home.

The magical flourishes throughout are charming. Glamour can be used to enhance art and add lifelike detail to a painting, or transform a dining room into a forest glade so realistic in sight, sound and scent and anyone in the room could well believe they’d been transported elsewhere, or to create colours in the air to complement a piece of music. It can also be used to modify appearance if you’re so inclined, to make minor illusory adjustments to appearance, something in which Jane refuses to indulge despite hearing herself referred to as plain and also having a fairly critical self-opinion.

There’s a whole host of would-be suitors for the Ellsworth sisters, from the enigmatic Mr. Vincent, to the dashing Captain Livingston and the steady, dependable Mr. Dunkirk. As the story plays out each of these characters is revealed to be more or less than they appear on the surface. Watching their interactions with Jane and Melody, and wondering who, if any of them, would end up together was just reading enjoyment. I don’t tend to read that much along these lines, but some of the scenes in this book, especially the way a certain character’s feelings are revealed are just perfect and I sat there smiling as I was reading.

It’s not all smooth sailing though, there are those with ill intentions and the honour of more than one family may end up being at stake, and into a pretty exciting conclusion our characters are thrown before we find out whether anyone will end up with their own happy ending.

Shades of Milk and Honey was a pleasure to read. Time spent in this gentle world of manners, magic and misunderstandings was reading time well spent. Even better? It’s the first book in a series so there is more to look forward to.

Book Review: Hallowe’en Party (Poirot #39) by Agatha Christie

Name: Hallowe’en Party (Poirot #39)
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
244 (ebook)
Harper Collins (first published November 1969)
Genre:  Mystery


A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples…At a Hallowe’en party, Joyce – a hostile thirteen-year-old – boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the ‘evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

More than one Readers Imbibing Peril has passed where I’ve added this book to my potential TBR pile and never got around to reading it, so this year I did. It fit the time of year, it fit the theme for my readathon. It’s a novel little touch, having the murder take place towards the end of a Halloween party, but that aside there isn’t actually much more of a Halloween theme throughout the book; you could pick this one up at any time of year.

Joyce Reynolds is one of many people attending a Halloween party. Preparations before said party see a group drawn together and Joyce, attention seeking and carried away at the presence of novelist Ariadne Oliver boasts that she once witnessed a murder, only she didn’t realise until some time afterwards that it was in fact a murder.
Later that night Joyce meets her end by way of an apple-bobbing tub.
Mrs Oliver calls on her good friend Poirot to try and get to the bottom of what happened, and whether Joyce did indeed witness a murder and if that was why this crime was committed.

A highlight for me was Ariadne Oliver. I think she features in other Poirot novels, but this is the first time I’ve come across her, and I like her wit and her easy friendship with Poirot. She’s not really in awe of him, jokes with him about his fussiness over dressing smartly, and offers up her own thoughts as to what is going on. She even manages to find out certain important information before Poirot. She’s an interesting companion for Poirot and I’ll certainly look out for the other novels in which she features.

Poirot is of course his usual dependable self, going about asking seemingly unrelated questions to a variety of people to gather a picture of events from years gone by and work out just how and where this original murder occurred, if it occurred at all, and who may have cause to continue in the same way now in order to conceal past crimes.

A tangled web of lies, deceit, forged wills, a possible murder from years ago, and a big cast of characters who may have played some part in events of the past made this an interesting one to guess at. I fell in for at least one red herring, but I don’t mind that, it makes it more of a surprise when the truth is revealed.

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a very slight seasonal touch, or fancy something a little Halloween-ish without the ghosts and monsters that reside elsewhere in books, then this might be worth a read.

Booking Ahead: November 2020

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

A new month, another wander through my seemingly endless list/pile of books I want to read. There are a couple here that I’m really looking forward to…

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal – This is the first book in the Glamourist Histories series. I’ve already started reading and I’m really enjoying it. Regency era setting, Austen-esque (is that even a word?!) characters, manners, magic and misunderstandings, it’s a complete change for me and I cannot wait to get back to it. The story centres around the Ellsworth family, mainly the two sisters Jane and Melody, and their social circle, which of course includes a number of potentially eligible suitors. And… magic.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I have a feeling this would have been a perfect choice for Readers Imbibing Peril but I didn’t have chance to read it last month. Here’s a brief description – An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .
That sounds like something I’m going to enjoy.  It will be another new-to-me author, although I do also have Moreno-Garcia’s previous book, Gods of Jade and Shadow, on my TBR pile, so maybe I’ll pick that up soon too.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – This one is by the same author as Shades of Milk and Honey but it’s a completely different genre and I’m interested because Shades caught my attention so completely that I want to see whether that happens again.
Also, I don’t really read much in the way of sci-fi, and although I haven’t signed up for Sci-Fi Month I’ve seen many blog posts about it and it put me in mind to give the genre a try. This seems as good a place to start as any. It’s the first in the Lady Astronaut series and tells the story of an attempt to colonise space after a meteorite falls to earth, meaning the planet will become uninhabitable.

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon – I hadn’t heard of this book until I came across it in the Goodreads Choice nominations so it’s a spur-of-the-moment addition to my monthly TBR list and hopefully I’ll manage to fit it in. A historical story about a woman in search of a new start undertaking a journey out West on the Oregon Trail.

Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg – A new Victorian era Fantasy novel. Here’s a brief description… The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’ve probably chosen way more books than I’ll be able to manage over the course of a month, yet it’s only a small selection of everything bookish that caught my attention recently. There’s certainly a great variety of genres and themes in my selections for this month. Let’s see how many of them I actually manage to read…

What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Name: The Turn of the Screw
Henry James
Number of Pages:
137 (ebook)
September 26th 2017 by AmazonClassics (first published October 1898)
Genre:  Mystery, Horror


A young governess arrives at Bly, a country home in Essex, England, to care for Miles and Flora, two precocious and pure children. But as ghostly visions take shape, the obsessively protective governess soon fears for the safety of her wards – only to wonder if these hauntings are a conjuring of her own imagination.
In challenging what we see – and what we believe we see – in the dark of the night, The Turn of the Screw stands as one of the boldest and most chilling ghost stories ever told.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I finally picked up The Turn of the Screw as a while ago I watched a movie called The Turning, and more recently I’ve started watching The Haunting of Bly Manor. Both of these adaptations are based on this book, so I thought it was time to check out the original tale, and what better than a ghost story for a dark autumn night?
I have to admit, The Turning was okay, up until the ending. I wasn’t that struck by the ending. I haven’t watched enough of Bly Manor yet to have an opinion, but what I have seen so far I’ve enjoyed. Going into this story with the idea of that ending in mind left me curious as to whether the book would be the same.

The story – a governess goes to Bly to undertake the care of two orphaned children, Miles and Flora. At first all seems well, the children are perfect and the governess is happy, but odd things start to happen. Strange noises, an unknown man to whom the governess has not been introduced appears on the battlements, only to disappear again.
There’s also some secret as to why Miles has been expelled from school.
The governess is soon convinced that she’s seeing ghosts, having taken the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, into her confidence. She believes she’s seeing Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, former inhabitants and employees at Bly who shared an eventful past and are now looking for trouble.
Worse than that, she becomes convinced that both Miles and Flora know about these things, and can see both of them, and actively encourage their presence, or sometimes that the ghosts are after the children.
But what is the truth? Are there really ghosts at Bly, can the children see them, or is the governess victim to her own vivid imagination?

How much you enjoy this story may partly depend on how much you like the ambiguity. That was what I didn’t like too much about the ending of The Turning. I won’t say more in case you want to watch that film. I did find though that it seemed to work better in a book than shown onscreen for some reason. I don’t know whether it was because I went into the book with that in mind, or just because it was somehow more plausible because of the way the story was narrated. That said, I did find the ending when it came was quite abrupt.

Then there’s the writing style. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it’s very wordy, with a lot of punctuation. I came across words that I checked the meaning of (an advantage to the e-book version here), and found myself going back over some of the longer sentences and rereading to make sure I’d got their meaning because at times I did feel a bit lost in too many words. It was convoluted but once I sat down to read for a longer time I found it a little easier to follow. It wasn’t a book you could just grab a quick chapter in a few spare minutes.

In the end I’m a little conflicted over The Turn of the Screw. I quite liked elements of the story, and the ambiguity around what was going on worked well in the book – the ’make of it what you will’ element.  It left me with many questions, partly through that abrupt ending, but the writing style definitely outweighed my overall enjoyment which influenced my rating for this one.

Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Name: The Sun Down Motel
Simone St. James
Number of Pages:
336 (ebook)
February 18th 2020 by Berkley
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror


Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.
Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Imagine a motel, in an isolated location, surrounded by woods, in a town with something of a history regarding unsolved crimes and disappearances. Imagine being the solitary employee working the night shift in such a place, with few if any residents, then imagine doors opening of their own accord in rooms known to be unoccupied, sudden noises, strange smells, the lights go out, and then…

That’s the situation at the incredibly creepy Sun Down Motel, where in 1982 Viv Delaney finds herself accepting the job as night clerk having left home with ideas to go to New York. She witnesses much at the motel, the cheating couples, the unique characters with their own schemes, but she also sees what others don’t, previous occupants of the motel who apparently never left. Viv starts to wonder who these people might be, and during her stay in Fell she starts to put together a tragic and possibly dangerous picture of accidents and incidents which may go some way to explain these ghostly appearances at the motel.
And then Viv disappears…

35 years later Carly, Viv’s niece, cannot accept that no one ever found out what happened to her aunt and follows the trail straight to the Sun Down, a coincidence seeing her assume the role of night clerk, the way her aunt did all those years ago. And the strange events start to repeat all over again.

The story combines an old murder mystery with some wonderfully creepy scenes at the motel. The dead of night, the isolation, the threat from something apparently real but not real, I definitely had a moment or two when I was glad I’m come across certain scenes during daylight hours, or I may have had to put the story aside for a while. And that’s just the kind of read I was seeking for October.

Away from the creepy atmosphere of the motel a cold-case murder mystery unfolds as both Carly and Viv uncover certain facts and one narrative feeds seamlessly into the other as both women tread the apparent same path 35 years apart. The mixture of the cold-case investigations into a number of unsolved crimes and the combination of thriller and ghostly mystery appealed to me.

The writing is really good. It’s easy to imagine the motel with its vivid blue and yellow sign, blighted by tragic events almost from its opening and falling into an almost abandoned, forgotten and unloved 1980s time warp in the modern narrative. So easy to picture the ghosts that haunt the place, the smell of cigarette smoke that comes out of the blue when no one is around, the clink as the doors open of their own accord, the darkness as the lights go out…. Okay, I’ll stop now, but you might say I enjoyed the writing.

The two narratives introduce Viv and Carly. Carly’s part is told in first person as we go back to the motel with her, whereas Viv’s is third person. I liked both of these characters, their bravery in facing that motel, going back night after night despite the things they had seen and could not explain, and the details they uncovered about events linked to the motel.
Viv’s determination to see her theories through despite great risks to her own safety made her chapters tense reading at times.
Carly is interesting, and I liked her friendship with Heather, a young woman who becomes her roommate and friend, who knows all the local history of Fell, the stories, the disappearances, the ones that were solved.
I liked the cast of characters throughout, from the two main characters to the array of people who pass through the motel, the travelling salesman who keeps giving a false name, Helen and Robert, the cheating couple, and the wonderful Marnie, the woman on their trail, and the only female officer in Fell, Alma Trent.

The Sun Down Motel is a great mix of mystery and ghost story, and perfect for those autumn nights when the darkness is drawing in and you’re looking for a story to get lost in.