Crooked Lane Books | 7 September 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Publisher via NetGalley 

Fourteen years ago, Bryn Collins moved to a quiet place far away from the city in Tennessee to escape and to heal her broken heart after learning that her fiance, Sawyer, had left her for her younger sister, Del. Surrounded by nature and living like a farmer, Bryn thought she's finally found peace and has gradually let go of the past until one day, 14-year-old Josh comes knocking at her door, claiming that he is her nephew and that his mother is missing. Sawyer had passed during a plane crash accident and Josh has no one to turn to, but his mother had left him a note about his aunt in case anything happens and so here he is. 

Bryn would be lying if she admit that she isn't bothered by Sawyer's and Del's betrayal. To this day, she still didn't understand why Sawyer would do such a thing to her. She has no qualms about Del's reckless behaviours though; after all she's always been living a wild and a carefree life. As Bryn wonders about her whereabouts, she is confronted by Carl and learns that Bryn had owed him some money. Carl has always been a hoodlum since they were teenagers; and he threatens Bryn that he wouldn't let things off easily if she couldn't bring Del to him within a week. Bryn and Josh then travel across the states till they stop at Colorado, where they finally find the shocking truth amid the annual Mountain Games competition. 

Over the Falls was a slow burn despite the theme surrounding whitewater rapids and kayaking but it was still an engaging read given the much focus on the characters developments and the interactions between Bryn and Josh. Del's disappearance is the mystery and also a drive to these two characters amid their issues and insecurities in general. Although the mystery intrigued me (and yes, there are some twists as well), I was most drawn towards the growing bond between Bryn and Josh as they race against time in finding Del and the real truth behind her disappearance. 

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Bantam Press | 1 January 2021 | 387 pgs
Source: Purchased 

There's been some hype surrounding this book when it was first released. Chosen as a Reese's bookclub read and a story centers around an abandoned sanatorium turned five-star luxury hotel set in the Swiss Alps, I just knew I've to read it. 

Elin Warner is taking her leave from her job as a detective due to PTSD issue when she receives an invitation from her estranged brother, Isaac, to celebrate his engagement with his fiancée, Laure. Laure is their long-time friend and Elin knew she has no reason not to accept; and most importantly she has something to ask Isaac regarding their younger brother's death which has plagued her for years. She's suspected Isaac was responsible for Sam's death, but she isn't sure given the time and her young age when the incident happened. 

Together with Elin’s boyfriend, Will, they arrive at the isolated getaway and straightaway Elin feels unease with the atmospheric building and it gets worsen with the threatening snowstorm. Elin also learned that the hotel is owned by the Caron siblings, Lucas and Cécile and the former is friends with architect Daniel Lemaitre, who'd gone missing after the hotel project went on with much protests from the locals. When Laure goes missing the following day, Elin's investigative instincts kick in and the situation got worse after they find an employee is murdered. With the storm and the avalanche, they are left on their own and Elin has to overcome her anxiety and her demons of the past in order to continue with the investigation. 

The atmospheric and claustrophobic setting both make a wonderful plot for this locked-room mystery. Sarah Pearse scored a perfect score in this department as she brings her setting to life through her vivid descriptions right from the old sanatorium to the modern luxurious hotel. Her cast of characters is intriguing though not all are likeable. The intrigue and the intensity are another draw but alas, the setup is weakened by the execution, the lack of connection between the sanatorium and the hotel and regrettably, the motive and the ending also leave much to be desired. That said, this is a debut novel and there's potential in the author's writing so I'll still check out her next release. 

Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me as part of our buddy read 'assignments' and please do check out Lark's blog for her review, too! 😊 Here's her questions to me regarding the book:

1) That isolated snowy setting is always a favorite of mine (and yours, too), what are some of your other favorite settings to read about in books?
Aside from the isolated snowy setting, I also love reading about the wilderness and the oceanic world. In short, anything to do with the beauty and the unpredictables of nature and I'm in. 

2) The cover classifies The Sanatorium as a "Gothic thriller" but it felt less Gothic thriller and more regular mystery to me. What do you think? How would you classify this book? 
I totally agree with Lark on this. It was atmospheric but doesn't really classifies as a Gothic thriller (not much focus on the sanatorium in my opinion and some parts aren't fully explained, too). Personally, I'd think a suspense thriller is more suitable to this book. 
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Lake Union Publishing | 1 August 2018 | 268 pgs
Source: Library 

Jane is working as a data entry clerk in an insurance company. At first glance, she's simple and meek and at times, insecure about herself. Her pretty face and her personality catches the attention of the company's manager, Steven Hepsworth; and likewise Steven caught Jane's attention but for different reasons. The real Jane is hardly a meek and insecure woman. In fact, she's a self-proclaimed sociopath and before moving back to Minneapolis, she had a great career as an import-export attorney and lived in a nice apartment in Kuala Lumpur. There's only one reason she's back and leading a double life - getting revenge for her late best friend, Meg. 

Meg and Steven were a couple until his hot and cold behavior and his emotionally abusive streak led Meg to end her life. Meg's death shattered Jane's equilibrium considering how close they used to be; and this has led Jane to lose all interest in life and decided to avenge for Meg. Jane is familiar with Steven’s gaslighting antics; after all she'd heard enough of his behaviours through Meg and she felt angry that her best friend had chosen to ignore or gave reasons for Steven’s behaviours. Jane has nothing to lose as she's prepared to bring Steven down along with his family members, but her encounter with an old friend/ex-lover complicates her plans. 

Whether if it was a case of character study of Jane (yes, she does has some issues) or a story about revenge, Jane Doe made a compelling read with the developments for both the characterisations and the storyline. Jane was an intriguing character; and I liked her fearlessness and her loyalty towards her friend. Her self-proclaimed as a sociopath may not portray her in a positive light, yet it didn't deem her as an anti-heroine either the more I learnt about her. There are some topics which are difficult to read but they delve into the issues of what some women are facing in the real world. Jane will appear in another book titled Problem Child and it looks like she's met her match with her teenage niece. 
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St. Martin's Press | 5 January 2021 | 304 pgs
Source: Library 

When I first heard that The Wife Upstairs is a Southern Gothic twist on Jane Eyre, I knew I've to read it. 

Jane Bell (not her real name) moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to escape from her past. Having lived by a foster care system, she knew how harsh life could be and with a secret to hide, she changed her identity and become a dog-walker in Thornfield Estates where the rich resides and no one will notice even if she's stolen a few pieces of their jewelry. Jane knew she could never fit into the community of those bored and gossipy housewives, until a chance encounter with Eddie Rochester changes that fate.

Eddie is charming, handsome and a widower. Having lost his wife, Bea, six months ago, Eddie remains a mysterious resident considering he rarely mingle with the others. Surprisingly, Jane and Eddie hit it off rather quickly and in no time, Jane soon catches the attention of the other housewives and gradually becomes part of the group. She then learns a bit more about Bea; that she was a successful retail entrepreneur and she and her other friend, Blanche, were both drowned in a boating accident. Their bodies were never found, and the sad tragedy becomes a memory within the community but Jane is intrigued by Bea and most of all, is curious about her relationship with Eddie and the boating accident as well. As things began to escalate between Jane and Eddie, Jane's curiosity towards Bea also intensifies as it seems Eddie is keeping some secrets of his own. Is Eddie who she thinks he is? Perhaps Bea's death is not accidental as everyone thinks it is? 

This book was a page-turner. The author has a way of writing that pulls you in and never let go and all the characters are intriguing, too. While there're a few elements which are reminiscent of Jane Eyre, this book stands firmly on its own with the writing and tone. The characterisations are well depicted and though most of them aren't likeable, it clearly defines the social class differences and the behaviorism which ensue as a result. I'd mixed feelings towards Jane as on one hand, her situation was pitiable yet on the other hand, she could be despicable in some ways. The suspense was another draw of the story, though the ending could be fairly predictable if you're a regular reader of the suspense genre but still, that didn't diminish my reading pleasure as I mentioned before, the author's writing was engaging. I'll be curious to see what she has in store next. 
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Berkley | 21 July 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

Road trips are supposed to be fun, right? Well, not the case in this book.

Beth, Portia and Eddie Morgan are siblings and they haven't contact one another in years. When their grandfather passed, the three siblings come together not to grief but to go on a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish before securing their inheritance. There are some "rules" to follow stated on the will; and one of them is not losing their grandfather's ashes as they go on the trip. Beth and Eddie brought their spouses along while Portia is single. 

Now family ties and relationships can be complicated; and the reader soon learned about this three siblings' childhood and their memories and secrets surrounding their missing elder sister. Most of all, it also tells about their road trip with their grandfather when they were young; along with the family dynamics and how it'd implicate the current situation they're all in now. 

As they begin their road trip, they soon learn that trust could be easily diminished by a simple act and it'd be hard to earn back that trust especially if that person happens to be your spouse. Secrets aside, the group of five also faces the threat of a black car following them and finding ways to disrupt their journey, although they couldn't find any proof and the driver is good at playing cat-and-mouse game with them. It's no surprise that this trip get them all on edge and agitated, but they'll strive on since money is a powerful motivator and nothing could get in their way, not even murder. 

This book wowed me on so many levels. First, there's the plot which I find it so refreshing. The dynamics between this group of dysfunctional siblings and their spouses add some drama and intrigue to the story, but most of all, Beth's voice and her inner thoughts really got to me. She's sharp, snarky and she knows how to hide her feelings well. She has a dark side, but then so do her other siblings so no one is likeable or trustful here. Aside from Beth's narrative, I was also drawn by the anonymous journal entries written during the past and they definitely add some mystery and depth to the story. Overall, this was a highly addicting read albeit some craziness to it (the ending left me stumped, though); and I bet once you've closed this book you'll be thinking of this story whenever you go on a road trip. 

Note: The author stated that all of the attractions, tourist sites, and museums in this book are real (e.g. Helen Keller's House in Alabama to Codger Pole in Washington, just to name a few). 
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