Book Review: Home Before Dark

Maggie Holt doesn’t remember living in a haunted house. When she inherits Baneberry Hall, a creaky old house haunted by her father’s tell-all novel, she battles her memories, her beliefs, and a town full of people who hate her family’s guts. She searches for the truth but finds much, much more.

The word that best describes Home Before Dark is “creepy.” The house is big and creepy, the memories are creepy, her father’s novel is creepy, the house’s history is creepy, and Maggie’s blind spots are creepy as hell. Is it terrifying? No. Does it make you think and work to puzzle it all together? Yep. I couldn’t help but think of The Haunting of Hill House, but I hesitate to make a comparison.

The book-within-a-book aspect of this story was really well done and broke in the right places with the right scenes. One is present tense and one is past, so there’s no way to get confused about what happens when. I was afraid one story would ruin the other and in the end, that’s kind of what happened. I don’t mind a good twist, but I don’t like to feel cheated. This one is right on the fence. Either way, it was a lot of fun to read and knowing the end, I’d love to read it again.

I listened to the audiobook version of Home Before Dark and enjoyed both narrators. They were well-matched and fit their characters well. Their pacing is good and their voice acting is spot on, so no complaints there. I do not understand the title of this book, but the cover art is great.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is a delicious haunted house story that twists, turns, then twists again. Suspense writers, take note: this is how you pace.

Book Review – Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters

Satoshi is back in Japan after living in the US and he feels like a total outcast. He’s been gone a long time, he’s way too good in his English class, and he worries that his disabled sister and confused grandfather will attract unwanted attention. On top of it all, there’s only one spot left on the baseball team! Can he juggle his school, sports, and home life while still fitting in with his friends?

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters paints a wonderful portrait of school-age awkwardness and the desire to fit in. This story takes place entirely in Japan, where the cultural differences between Japanese and American school systems are highlighted, especially with student-teacher relations. The culture shock goes both ways for Satoshi and his friends, making this a poignant read for children who feel like they just don’t fit in anywhere.

I listened to this with my 9 year old who absolutely loved it! He did struggle to keep the names straight, but the story is fast-paced, exciting, and kid-friendly without being babyish. The story trusts that the middle-grade readers will be able to handle heavy subjects like dementia right along with things like the desire to get good grades. It struck a great balance, and we both looked forward to each listening session.

We did find that the sound effects were intrusive at times. It was a great addition, especially at the baseball games, but some sounds went on way too long and became distracting (like when Satoshi gets a haircut). We had mixed feelings about the ending, too, but overall, we loved it!

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters is a refreshing middle-grade story about fitting in, friendship — and of course baseball! It’s a gem of a story that’s perfect for any sports-loving kid.

CW: Parents, there is some mild language and 2 plot-pertinent uses of the R-word.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Killer Triggers

Well my, my, my.

As a fan of Joe Kenda’s television show on Investigation Discovery, I leapt at the chance to listen to him read his memoirs. I was not disappointed.

In Killer Triggers, retired Lieutenant Joe Kenda recalls several of his most memorable cases while working as a homicide detective in Colorado Springs. He starts each story with the “trigger” for the murder and retells the entire experience of solving the crime — from the time he gets the call until after the killer is locked safely behind bars.

But not every story is like an episode of Homicide Hunter. In this format, Kenda is able to go into much more detail about the investigation, techniques used, his feelings about the case, and even a few amusing asides. There’s a long passage extolling the skills of police dogs and an amusing side story about the time one of them got loose. He later goes in depth about the emotional toll being a homicide detective took on his health and family life, making this a well-balanced true crime memoir.

These stories are true crime, but there is time to talk about the effect of the murders on the surviving family members. This author has no trouble reminding the reader that these are real people who have endured real horrors and he treads the line between sensationalism and compassion.

However, I did find that since Kenda explores his opinions and feelings during each case, his generational bias is showing. He flirts with outdated morals and societal norms which rub this 21st-century reader the wrong way.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m sure it’s a great title on paper, but as a fan of Homicide Hunter, the narration made it that much better. I don’t normally mention profanity in my reviews, but other fans may be startled to hear their favorite detective drop an f-bomb.

I highly recommend the audiobook version of Killer Triggers to any fan of the true crime genre, especially those who recognize the author from his television show. Joe Kenda’s style is direct, deadpan, opinionated, and dripping with gravitas.

Killer Triggers: Murder Comes Down to Sex, Drugs, or Money by Joe Kenda is expected to be published March 9, 2021.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.