What’s Ashley Reading?: Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

First line: Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.

Summary: Maggie Holt has lived in the shadow of the book, House of Horrors, written by her father about the time they spent living at Baneberry House. She has no memories of their time there and cannot get answers about what really occurred there twenty-five years earlier. When she learns that she has inherited the house from her father she decides to go back, against the dying wish of her father, and try to find some answers.

My Thoughts: I think this is one of my favorite books by Riley Sager. He does a phenomenal job of creating a tense and thrilling story. I find it interesting that he always writes women but he does it so well.

From the very beginning I was hooked on Maggie’s story. I needed to know what happened just as much as she did. I could not turn the pages fast enough. I liked how the chapters alternated between “the Book” and Maggie in present day. The parallels made me want to keep reading with all the foreshadowing. There were several scenes where I had to set the book down and breathe a little bit to get past it.

This definitely has a The Haunting of Hill House vibe to it. A big scary house where a family it tormented. What could be better? But Sager does a great job of making this story his own. He has his classic twists and turns. I could not recommend this enough to anyone who loves a good thriller/ghost story.

FYI: Perfect for fans of The Haunting of Hill House, the Netflix show and book.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Queen’s Peril

Queen’s Peril by E. K. Johnston

First line: The girl in the white dress had her mother’s brain and her father’s heart, and a spark that was entirely her own.

Summary: Padme, Queen Amidala, has just been elected as the new queen of Naboo. With it comes changes. The captain of her guard is extremely worried about her safety. In order to protect his queen he decides to look for body doubles who could stand in for her in dangerous times. As he gathers her handmaidens the young women form a lasting bond and a devotion to their new queen. It is tested earlier than they thought when the Trade Federation forms a blockade around the peaceful planet leading to the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

My Thoughts: Once again I really enjoyed Johnston’s look into the world of Padme. She is a strong female character who gets overlooked in the movie trilogies. I love seeing more behind the scenes and expansion on the movies. Even though Padme is the leading lady we also get a look into the lives of handmaidens. They each had different backgrounds that helped prepare the queen for the trials ahead.

I remember seeing The Phantom Menace in the theaters (multiple times) As with many fans it is not my favorite but this book gave me a new appreciation for it. This is why the books are so important to the movies. Extra is given to the readers. We get more details, backstory and heart.

I hope that Johnston writes more in this “series” or adds to the Star Wars canon. I have enjoyed each and every one of her stories so far. I love that authors have brought even more of Star Wars universe to us and done it so well.

FYI: If you enjoy this then try Claudia Gray’s Star Wars novels too!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Dead to Her

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

First line: The candle burns.

Summary: Marcie Maddox has fought hard for the life she has. She is the second wife of a rich and successful Savannah lawyer. Lunch at the Country Club and a giant house is her new normal. However, when her husband’s business partner returns from England with a young new wife, life in her social circle gets turned upside down.

Keisha, a young girl from London, married the rich William Radford IV. She is completely different from his first wife. It seems like being a rich wife will be an escape from her family and their poor life. But William plans to train her to be the obedient wife.

As these two women meet and become friends life starts to change for both of them. Weird appearances and pieces of dark magic start to surround them. Who or what is trying to destroy their lives?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this! I was worried when I started it that it would not live up to my expectations because of its low rating on Goodreads. But I was pleasantly surprised! All the characters are awful. There is no one that is likeable. They are all flawed and have dark pasts but that was one of the things I enjoyed the most. I had to find out how it was going to end.

This is a fun mixture of thriller, high society, and voodoo. What’s not to enjoy? The beginning centers on establishing the characters. We meet everyone and get snippets of what their lives have been to this point. And then it all comes to a point. All the secrets are released. So many suspects and theories. It was a wild ride that I highly recommend for a fast summer thriller!

FYI: Sexual content.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Above the Bay of Angels

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

First line: If Helen Barton hadn’t stepped out in front of an omnibus, I might still be sweeping floors and lighting fires at an ostentatious house in St. John’s Wood.

Summary: Bella Waverly was raised by a disinherited member of the aristocracy. She was taught to speak well and have good manners. However, when they fall on hard times she is forced to work as a servant in the home of a wealthy Londoner. Then one day she witnesses the death of a young woman with a letter of introduction to work in the Buckingham Palace kitchens. Taking on a new name she enters a new world and finds that life as a cook is maybe what she has been looking for her whole life.

My Thoughts: I first heard about this book when I went to an author event at Watermark Books in Wichita. My mother is a huge fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series. When Ms. Bowen started telling us about her new stand-alone book I was immediately interested. I love the PBS show Victoria so this sounded like my cup of tea.

I found the book to be a light and quick read. It was a mixture between historical fiction and mystery. The first 80% were surrounding Bella and her work in the kitchens but then disaster strikes in the royal family and a mystery appears. I loved how the food took center stage though. I was constantly Googling the items to see what they were. I ate a lot while reading this because everything sounded so good.

Then there is the location. I have never been the south of France but it sounds like a magical place. The Hotel Excelsior Regina is still standing but has been converted to apartments. I would love to visit and see the hotel that was built for Queen Victoria.

And the author brings in one of the most intriguing characters from the time period and Queen Victoria’s reign, “the Munshi”, Abdul Karim. He was the Indian servant and advisor to the queen. But he was disliked by many of her family and staff. Very little was known of him until the last 10 years when his journals came to light. If you want to get a more sympathetic and dramatic view into his story then try the movie Victoria and Abdul. I just rewatched it after finishing the book and it was a lovely story.

FYI: This is a perfect summer read. It is light and fun but with a little intrigue.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Wives

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

First line: He comes over on Thursday every week.

Summary: One husband. Three wives. Sounds strange right? Well it is my life. I am Thursday. They are Monday and Tuesday. One is the wife before me. The other came after. But we have worked out a schedule. Until one day I see that he has the receipt from a doctor’s office with a woman’s name on it. Could this be one of them? I must find out.

My Thoughts: This book. Such a roller coaster! First off, I cannot even imagine living this woman’s life and being okay with the family situation. I would definitely be her trying to find out everything I could about these other women. How would it not eat at you and drive a person crazy?! When I got to the half way point it seemed like the book had hit its climax but I was wrong. Everything just got crazier from there.

I jumped back and forth between reading and listening but when it got to the last 50 pages I had to read it because I NEEDED to know how it was going to end. It was a book that I had to set down and breathe a little bit after. It took me on a crazy ride. I highly recommend this!

FYI: Perfect for fans of psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Follow Me

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

First line: Everyone on the internet is a liar.

Summary: Audrey is an influencer. She has over a million followers on Instagram. When she decides to take her dream job at an art museum in Washington D.C. she is excited but she does not know that someone waits for her in her new city.

Cat is Audrey’s friend from college. A young lawyer looking to make a name for herself in her law firm. Her best friend arrives from New York. It seems like things are going right for her but maybe everything isn’t as bright as it seems.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the first 80% of this book. I could not wait to find out who the mysterious “him” was. I loved how the stories interweaved and the hints about Cat’s secret. I was creeped out by the stalker and his methods. This book makes you realize how dangerous social media and the internet can be. It lets someone into your life that you do not know or cannot trust. I kept hoping for some big reveal that would blow my mind but I figured out the stalker fairly early. I hoped that I was wrong and the author was trying to psych the reader out. However, the story fell flat at the end. It was pretty obvious how it was going to end up. It was a four star book until the last 8% of the book. Oh well. It was a still a fun read.

But my favorite part was the art exhibit! The dioramas sound so cool. I would love to see something like this.

FYI: Beware of who you let follow you on social media!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Code Name Helene

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

First line: I have gone by many names.

Summary: World War II has arrived in France. A spy named Helene has dropped into France. She has money and the means of getting arms to the struggling resistance. Told through interweaving code names and timelines we get the story of Nancy Wake, an Australian woman who uses her wits to help undermine the Nazis.

My Thoughts: This was a fairly average WWII novel. It reminded me of The Alice Network in many ways. I liked Nancy and her husband Henri. I loved their interactions. The suspense and writing were well done. The history of this woman is written very well. I think people that love anything during this time period will really enjoy it. I used to read WWII books exclusively but it has slowly become one of the topics I rarely read about anymore.

FYI: Lawhon is an excellent author. I loved her book I Was Anastasia. It was told in such a unique way and on a subject I love to read.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Look-Alike

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

First line: Sienna Scott nearly tripped over the body.

Summary: Sienna Scott finds the body of a young woman while walking home in a snowstorm from a study session. As she looks at the victim she realizes that the girl has a resemblance to her. Was she the intended victim? Or is she seeing things that are not there, like her mother? Her father decides to send her away to London to get her away from her mother’s delusions and the aftermath of the murder.

When she returns home she finds that life in Tranquility Bluffs has changed since she last lived here. But she is more shocked by the state her mother is in. With Sienna’s return her mother spirals as she worries that with her being home “they” will come for her. It does not help that the police have reopened the case of the murder that Sienna stumbled upon. Then strange calls and white unidentified vans driving by lead Sienna to believe that the killer is back and try to finish what they started years earlier.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Spindler’s newest thriller. It has several twists that throw the reader off but also hint at the ending. I had several different theories as I read but nothing that I was absolutely sure about. I liked Sienna’s mother. Having a character with paranoia is a good tool to change the reader’s perceptions as the story progresses. It definitely did affect mine.

This is not an overly complicated book or something mind blowing but it was just a lot of fun! I have recommended Spindler to readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries. They do not disappoint and make for a fast read.

FYI: Check out The Other Girl by Erica Spindler as well.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Cinderella Liberator

Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit

First Line: Once upon a time there was a girl named Cinderella.

Summary: Cinderella is poor little girl who sleeps in the fire place with the ashes and cleans for her mean step-mother. One day she wishes that she could go to the ball at the palace to dance and wear a pretty dress. Her wish is granted by her fairy godmother. She has a wonderful time until the prince asks for her name. Rather than giving it she runs away and losing one of her glass slippers in the process. The prince is determined to find the young girl and he scours the countryside looking for her. You know the rest. Or do you?

My Thoughts: This was a cute little spin on the traditional Cinderella story. But most of the changes happen at the end when Cinderella realizes that she can make her own choices and choose her own destiny.

I loved the illustrations. They were beautiful silhouettes. I liked that it has a positive message for young girls about making their own decisions and not relying on a man to fix everything. It is easy to see why it was the November/December pick for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club.

FYI: This is a short picture book. I expected more when I placed it on hold.

*This is my pick for category #7 (A selection from a celebrity book club) for the ReadICT challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: Lady in Waiting

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

First line: One morning at the beginning of 2019, when I was in my London flat, the telephone rang.

Summary: Lady Anne Glenconner, lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, led a spectacular life. She lived through the Second World War, carried the train of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and married to an eccentric aristocrat. In her memoir she takes us behind the scenes of important events in the British monarchy and her life. She has many ups and downs but stays strong through them all.

My Thoughts: After watching The Crown I have become fascinated by Princess Margaret. I knew very little about her but came to love her wild side and the way she stirred up the monarchy. When I saw Lady Glenconner’s book on Netgalley I immediately had to request it.

The writing is very simple. It is almost like having a conversation with the woman herself. It flows so easily and is a lot of fun to read. You can feel her emotions as you read along. I loved hearing her memories about life with the royal princesses. I was shocked as she discussed her marriage. Her husband sounds like a very difficult man to be around but that she stuck it out shows her devotion and will to commit to her promises.

I loved looking for pictures as I was reading. And I found the pictures at the end delightful. It was nice to put faces to the names. Mustique looks like paradise. I have never visited the Caribbean but this definitely makes me want to take a trip.

The one thing I was missing was more insights into the lives of the Queen and Margaret. They appear and play important parts in her story but I expected more from reading the blurb.

FYI: If you love The Crown then this is a good follow up read.