“What is it that they say? That thing about happy and unhappy families? That happiness is all the same, but misery is unique?”― Lisa Unger, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six
Summary: Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller.
What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods with spectacular views, a hot tub, and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company, and lots of R&R. But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare.
A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated pasts, with secrets that run blood deep. How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?
My Thoughts: There are so many POVs in this, which is a bit daunting. Adding to the confusion, the characters do not seem to mesh with the main narrative of the luxury vacation. Plus, the prologue included a tense Christmas dinner involving the mysterious gift of DNA tests where no one claimed to be the gift provider. Simply put, there is a lot to grasp in this story.
Once the three couples get to the cabin, the cabin owner proves to be disturbing. Bad things start happening. Who is doing it? To what end?
I listened to the audio and enjoyed the story, but it might be better to read it instead. I had to rewind a few times, thinking I missed a thread. It is one of those thrillers that allows many open threads that ultimately come together to knit a nice ending!
First Line: “I remember, in no particular order:
–a shiny inner wrist;
–steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it…”
Summary: Tony has lived a relatively unremarkable yet comfortable life and is now retired. He was married and divorced, but remains friends with his ex-wife. They have a good relationship with their adult daughter who now has a family of her own. After receiving a letter notifying him that his former girlfriend’s mother has left him a couple of things in her will, Tony begins a journey of reflection and reexamination, thinking back on his youth—his idealism, his friends, and the brief but formative relationship he shared with Veronica. This piece of mail also puts him back in touch with Veronica, whom he finds as enigmatic, frustrating, and exciting as when he was young.
My Thoughts: You know how you can be staring out the window and to an outsider it may look like you’re doing nothing but really there’s a lot happening behind the eyes? That’s a bit what this book is like. It is a man, past his middle-age, ruminating. The action is mainly of the thinking variety. And I’ve been thinking about Tony and his life and my life and how much you can know yourself or another person ever since. But because I’m also a simple being who is completely satisfied in life with a beverage and a good meal, this book also makes me want to take myself out to dinner at a cozy pub and order a bitter and fish & chips.
FYI: I’ve just now discovered that this book was turned into a movie with a stellar cast including Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.
First line: final girl (n.) – the last and sole survivor of a horror movie
Summary: Lynnette is a final girl. She has spent years keeping herself safe from the monsters that are out in the world. Part of her recovery and routine is the Final Girl Support Group. Once a month she has been meeting with a therapist and other final girls to try to deal with the trauma that has defined their lives. But one day things change and it seems the monsters are back and coming for all the final girls. Lynnette goes on the run. She is determined to survive but also keep her final girl sisters alive too. With each passing moment she sees that they are in more danger than ever before.
My Thoughts: I tried reading a Grady Hendrix book years ago and was just not impressed. I did not finish it even though it seemed to have everything I liked. So when my friend told was telling me about his most recent book I decided to give him another try. I am very glad I did. It was a wild ride. It reminded me of Riley Sager, another author who brings eighties horror movie tropes to his readers in thrilling stories that will keep you reading deep into the night.
Even though I really liked this book, I really did not like the main character. She was so depressing, whiney and crazy. I was constantly rolling my eyes at her thoughts and actions. It is like when you watch a horror movie and the dumb teenager goes into the dark basement rather than the running car. However, this is supposed to be like those campy horror movies making it perfect for the story. One of the best parts were the little additions like police reports, newspaper articles and interviews after each chapter that shows us the pasts of these women or people’s views on them.
There were lots of crazy twists and turns. Characters that seem reliable aren’t and vice versa. I was always expecting a “monster” to jump out at any moment like in the movies. And even when they are “dead” the bad guy comes back for one last scare. But the ending was wonderful. I did not see it coming. It was a great way to wrap up the novel.
I guess I will have to go back and try to read other Grady Hendrix novels now.
FYI: Perfect for fans of the movies Scream and Halloween.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
First line: This is how it begins.
Summary: When Emma Davis is asked to return to Camp Nightingale it brings many memories and fears to mind. One summer, fifteen years before, Emma was a camper at Camp Nightingale and the three girls from her cabin all disappeared. Now as an artist on the rise, she continues to paint the missing girls Vivian, Natalie and Allison. Maybe going back will help Emma get past her demons and find out what truly happened to the girls of Dogwood cabin.
“I want to go inside, look around, see what memories it dredges up. That’s why I’m here, after all. Yet when I twist the doorknob, I realize my hand is shaking. I don’t know what I’m expecting. Ghosts, I suppose.”
Highlights: Sager’s latest novel is one of nostalgia for me. Having attended a summer camp near a large lake and cabins with no AC, this brought back many memories for me. The uncomfortable nights where everything is hot and sticky, canoeing on the lake, campfires and crafts. My sister, my cousins and I attended Quaker Haven Camp in Northern Indiana for two summers. We loved every minute of it. We made friends, crafts and memories. Even at church camp, you hear the stories of some creepy man that stalks the woods or a ghost that kidnaps children. This is what summer was as a kid at camp.
I could picture Camp Nightingale as clear as day. As Emma looks deeper into the events of fifteen years before she slowly reveals more memories that she has kept hidden. The author leads us in many different directions to keep us guessing. I loved the mystery of the lake. With each new tidbit, I was even more intrigued.
The ending was not what I expected. It wrapped up, we got the mystery solved but then…that ending! Holy cow! My chest was tight. My heart was pounding. I had to set the book down and breathe after the last page. The fact that Sager once again got a five star review from me is astounding. I cannot wait for his next book.
Lowlights: The only downfall was that I could not be reading this in a lawn chair on the shores of Dewart Lake in Indiana. That would have made this perfect.
FYI: This is the perfect book to take on a weekend trip to the lake!