Big Lies in a Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Published: January 14, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Dates Read: January 2-16, 2020
North Carolina, 2018:
Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.
North Carolina, 1940:
Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.
What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?
This is the second Diane Chamberlain novel I have read and it will not be my last! Her novel The Dream Daughter was my number one read for 2019 and might just be my favorite book ever! My review for it is here. Her novels draw you in and you don’t want to put them down! We have two time periods with our two narrators: Morgan in 2018 and Anna in 1940. The chapters alternate between the two time periods. Both ladies are likeable with very different lives in two extremely distinct time periods. Though vastly distinctive women, they become connected through the mural that is at the center of our story despite the nearly 80 year time difference.
I highly enjoyed this novel, and you can’t say too much without giving spoilers, so I say just read it! The reason I gave the novel four stars was the ending: both timelines came together and were packaged like a perfect bow, with a less than realistic and predictable twist. The ending was not a disappointment; I just felt it could have been done differently.
The racism of the time in 1940 is shown throughout Anna’s narrative. Chamberlain researched the real town of Edenton, North Carolina and even spent time there. She portrays that town during 1940 very well. **Be sure to read the author acknowledgments to see how much she researched. Chamberlain also researched art restoration much like Morgan had to, so in some ways Chamberlain was like Morgan in her learning.
I will definitely be reading more of Chamberlain’s novels. Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for granting me an arc copy to read and review!
Down a Dark Hall
Author: Lois Duncan
Published: September 1, 1990
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Kit Gordy sees Blackwood Hall towering over black iron gates, and she can’t help thinking, This place is evil. The imposing mansion sends a shiver of fear through her. But Kit settles into a routine, trying to ignore the rumors that the highly exclusive boarding school is haunted.
Then her classmates begin to show extraordinary and unknown talents. The strange dreams, the voices, the lost letters to family and friends, all become overshadowed by the magic around them.
When Kit and her friends realize that Blackwood isn’t what it claims to be, it might be too late.
I found the movie, with Uma Thurman and AnnaSophia Robb, and decided to watch it. And then I realized that it was based on a book, so naturally, I went and bought the book! I have to say that for such a simple story, the atmosphere that Duncan creates around Blackwood Hall is brilliant. It’s another implied horror book, but I was still creeped out and completely believed in the danger. As I said, the actual plot is very simple and not hard to figure out, but the fact that the villains are not what one would expect makes it all the more horrific. Kit is a strong character who is smart enough to carry the story. I think this is the perfect paranormal story to give to teens to help keep their attention. A great story that’s easy to read!
Silence for the Dead
Author: Simone St. James
Published: April 1, 2014
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?
Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.
If you want a good ghost story, St. James provides! I have read multiple books by her and she satisfies every time! Occasionally, she throws in a little too much drama that has nothing to do with the ghost story itself, but thankfully it’s never enough to ruin any of the books for me. I absolutely adored Jack Yates, England’s hero of WW1. Is it weird that I had Henry Cavill in my head every time Jack walked in??
Kitty is a strong protagonist that carries the story so well. I thought the resolution to the supernatural problems at Portis House was a little anticlimactic, but all my questions were answered. Even the things separate from the ghosts ended in a good way that I enjoyed. Portis House is an amazing setting and all the patients were complimentary to the story. I wouldn’t suggest faking a nursing resume . . . But if I find a mental institution like Portis House, I may have to just pretend! And there were many times while Kitty was on night shift that creeped the crap outta me! St. James is the queen of the chilling scenario. I would recommend Silence for the Dead to anyone who likes historical fiction and even occasionally a good ghost story! I very much enjoyed this book.