Blogtober Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Summary:
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Book Cover

Review:
Here are five things I liked about Home Before Dark:

  1. I really liked that the story was told in alternating chapters. We follow Maggie, present day, but we also get excerpts from her father’s book (which is heavily talked about by Maggie in the present-day chapters). I thought this was a creative and interesting way to tell the story. I think it worked right up until the big reveal about the book.
  2. Along with how the story is told in both the present and the past, I thought it was really interesting how things that were happening to Maggie and Maggie’s actions were mirroring and reflecting many of the things that had already happened (or were claimed to happen in her dad’s book) in the past.
  3. I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked that I had no idea what was the truth and what wasn’t. I don’t usually like books where I don’t actually know what’s going on. But Sager did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and the suspense until the big reveal. I spent most of the book flip-flopping between firmly believing that the ghosts were real or that they were definitely all made up.
  4. I listened to the audiobook which has two narrators. I liked both narrators. The male narrator that read Maggie’s father’s book did a great job and I will absolutely be seeking out more book narrated by him. I liked the narrator for Maggie as well. I think she did a great job telling the story and keeping up the emotion and suspense.
  5. The big reveal. I liked it because like I said above, I went back and forth for the entire book between believing and not believing that the ghosts were real. So, to finally have confirmation one way or another was almost a relief. I liked how things all played out to put it vaguely so that I don’t spoil anything.

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not surprised since I’ve liked all of Sager’s other books I’ve read. I also discovered (partially because of this book) that I really like the ‘but are the ghosts real or not’ trope for horror and mystery books. I would definitely recommend the audiobook for this one to any audiobook fans, but I’m sure the physical or digital book was just as good.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Fourteen: If You Liked This, Then Read That

Hello, lovelies! I have had some great fun doing the ‘if you liked this book, then try that one’ in the past. So, no big surprise, here I am to do it again today. Today’s comparisons are all going to be recommendations for spooky season. Hopefully, you’ve read some of these so that you can try the books I’d recommend next.

If you liked Sadie by Courtney Summers, you will probably like The Night Swim by Megan Goldin. Sadie follows a young girl named Sadie who is bent on finding her sisters killer and bringing him to justice. While we’re following that story from Sadie’s point of view, we’re listening to West’s podcast which is trying to find the truth about what ultimately happened to Sadie. The Night Swim follows Rachel who has a well known true crime podcast. For her third season, she will be covering an on going court case, a rape trial. While she’s in this small town, she’s approached via letters by someone who grew up there. Her sister was murdered in that town years and years ago, but it was ruled an accidental drowning. I think these stories are comparable because of the podcast element (I did the audiobooks for both of these and would recommend that you do too). Both books also cover some really heavy topics like murder, sexual assault, and rape.

If you liked Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, then you should try The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. Home Before Dark is the story of Maggie alternating between the past and the present. Her father has died and she’s learned that she now owns Baneberry Hall (the house her family fled when she was a child). Her father wrote a non-fiction book about their time at Baneberry Hall (the book is what we get in the past parts of the story). There are so many secrets and deceptions about this book that Maggie’s determined to go back to Baneberry Hall and finally get to the truth for herself. The Sun Down Motel follows Carly, in present day, and Viv, in 1982. Viv went missing and was never found, this is something that her niece, Carly has fixated on. We follow Carly as she follows in her Aunt Viv’s path, coming to the town of Fell, working nights at the Sun Down Motel, trying to solve a mystery. Both of these books have the element of ‘is it ghosts or is there a logical explanation’ which is apparently a horror/mystery trope that I really like. Both stories also give us alternating chapters from the past and the present, with the present reflecting events that happened in the past. If you like spooky murder houses (or motels) you’ll probably like these books.

If you liked They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, you might like How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao. They Wish They Were Us takes place at an expensive prep school with a “secret” society that everyone knows about. Jill’s best friend died in their Freshman year. Now she’s a senior and it’s her turn to be in charge in this secret group. She’s vowed that she will do things differently. But she’s starting to suspect that her best friends killer might actually be innocent and if he is, then who actually killed her best friend? How We Fall Apart also takes place in an elite prep school. Nancy’s best friend goes missing, and later is found dead. Nancy’s friend group each have secrets, so when an anonymous person named “The Proctor” starts revealing these secrets, the friends band together to try to uncover The Proctor’s identity. The common element for these books is exclusive prep schools and murder. They were both relatively fast paced stories who’s twists I did not guess.

If you liked Small Favors by Erin A. Craig, you will probably like Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth. Small Favors goes through the seasons of a year. And over this year, strange things are happening in the small town she lives in. They’re surrounded by a forest that has legends of being filled with monsters. It’s been years since anyone has seen these monsters, but they might be returning. People are dying and things are getting weirder as the seasons are changing. This book was just full of weirdness in the best way. Plain Bad Heroines follows a few different time periods, but all taking place in the same place: a creepy house/school. This house might actually be cursed. Murder and mystery are what this house is all about and unraveling what’s real and what isn’t is absolutely the appeal of the story. Both of these books follow creepy, atmospheric settings where people are dying and the reason why is unclear.

If you liked Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw, then you should try Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. Winterwood is about a magical (maybe even haunted) forest. Nora and the women in her family have a special connection with this forest. When a boy survives his time in the forest, Nora needs to find out what really happened. Wild Beauty is about a lush garden estate that is cared for by the Nomeolvides family. They all have flower magic. But their curse is that the men they love always leave them. Until one day, the gardens give them a boy instead of taking one. Both of these stories involve magical nature. They also involve boys mysteriously appearing from the flowers and the forest. I think the biggest difference is that Wild Beauty is a story that feels like spring and Winterwood is a fall/winter story. Both are magical and mysterious.

These are the books that I’ve chosen for comparison and recommendation today. Have you read any of these? Would you agree or disagree with any of my comparisons? Are there any books that you would recommend with the books I’ve chosen? Let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.