Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

It doesn’t feel like summer until a Morgan Matson book is released. Matson has been quintessential summer reading for me since Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour (released 2010), when I first discovered the author. She’s had hit after hit with Second Chance Summer, Since You’ve Been Gone, and Save the Date. Take Me Home Tonight is supposed to be a mash up of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Nick and Norah’s Infintie Playlist, but I’ve seen neither movie (Gasp! Shock!), so I began the book with no knowledge of what I was diving into.

Our main characters, Kat and Stevie, were just going into the city for a few hours.

What’s the worst that could happen?

It’s Stevie’s birthday – and her dad ditched their plans, again, so what else was there to do but head into New York City for the most magical night of their lives?

After a series of unfortunate events the two friends end up separated, their cover story friend gets kidnapped, laundry delivery with a cute boy uncovers an underground poker game, and a dramatic performance is made to keep a dog from being evicted from a dorm room. And that’s when shit gets real.

Funny, engaging, quick – Take Me Home Tonight is a fast little read about theater kids – best friends, who are growing up and not quite ready to move into the unknown world of adulthood. With fantastical situations and an outlandish side story, the pace moves swiftly but there’s a bit of whiplash if you’re too invested. It’s not my favorite Matson, but it does have an interesting little surprise at the end if you’re a fan of her work. She does love to weave former characters into her latest books.

All in all, as someone who works in the city, I’m not very impressed with the descriptions of New York glamour; however, I was completely enamored with the idea of being alone in the MET at night. Points to calling back Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

I adore Rachel Hawkins. She’s one of my favorite people to follow on social media and the anecdotes she tells of her family and cats make her tweets come alive with joy. It’s easy to forget that written words can have a person behind them, but she makes you feel like you’re part of the family with every post.

The Wife Upstairs is a modern day retelling of Jane Eyre, with a Southern Gothic twist. As someone who never had Jane Eyre on my high school reading list, but Hamlet three separate times, this was my first foray into the story. I’m not entirely sure of the base material, and I wasn’t particularly rooting for any of the characters, but I did enjoy the shifting narratives and descriptive writing Hawkins utilized.

Jane comes to a small town in Alabama looking for a fresh start. She’s a little shifty, not your average heroine, with a hidden backstory and a thing for kleptomania. She gets engaged to the resident hottie in the first third of the book, which means it all goes screwy from there.

The Wife Upstairs was not my favorite book of the summer, but it is perfect gloomy day reading. Hawkins is engaging, smooth, and swift in her storytelling, and you can tell she put her heart into it. I’m looking forward to her next ventures into adult lit, with Reckless Girls and The Ex Hex (or as she aptly describes it, Hocus Pocus but they F).

Review: Tomb of Ancients (House of Furies #3) by Madeleine Roux

*This book was provided to me in exchange for a fair review.

The final showdown between gods and monsters was a bit hard to follow, if I’m being honest. I’m hesitant to post this, but I’m going to. The fact of the matter is not all books or book series are five star-worthy. I would rate this one three stars out of five.

The final part of Louisa’s story opens in London, where she and her friends are trying to begin their lives as normal people. How we got to London from the First City, where book 2 left off in a cliffhanger fashion, we’re not really sure, but the first few chapters of Tomb of Ancients hit hard and fast. There’s a ball and bloodshed, and the fancy ladies and gentlemen of the 1800’s get zombified, and we have an intriguing build up with Louisa’s sister but it ends up being for nothing because her memory of the aforementioned ball and bloodshed get wiped from her mind and she’s not mentioned again. And this all happens before we once again return to Coldthistle House and it’s fantastical characters who never have a chance to be fantastic, or the actual story of the third book begins.

I was so excited to receive Tomb of Ancients for review. But honestly, this entire series has such potential, but it falls so short it’s not even worth it to summarize the third book. There are such well thought out scenes that are strung together in a way that it’s obvious large cuts were done in editing without a proper final read through to make sure it all still makes sense.

It feels like the characters and world that were created were never given a fair chance.

The epilogue though. Someone who has suffered through these books please write a fanfic exploring the epilogue.

Review: House of Furies (House of Furies #1) by Madeleine Roux

Seventeen year old Louisa Ditton is unwanted. By her parents, by her grandparents, by her school. By the general populace. She’s telling fortunes in the streets for pennies until an old crone tricks her into coming to Coldthistle House, where she begins working as a maid. But things aren’t as they seem inside the mansion, where the next day Mrs. Haylam, the old crone, isn’t quite so old or quite so cronish, and there’s a girl working that reminds Louisa a little too much of her childhood imaginary friend. There’s also the Residents, terrifying smoke-like creatures that may or may not be protecting her, but are extremely dangerous to the guests. And don’t forget Mr. Morningside, the owner of Coldthistle House, who seems to be a few hundred years old and has backwards feet, like a demon.

Coming across Mr. Morningside’s diary, Louisa starts to unravel the alarming histories of her employer, as well as those of the inhabitants of the house itself. And it’s not long before she realizes that all the guests that come to Coldthistle House don’t actually leave.

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux is a gothic novel set in Victorian times and is filled with murder and mystery, making it the perfect book to read in late September / early October. I found the side characters to be more interesting than Louisa and her love interest, Lee Bremerton, and hope they’re further explored in the next book. Unfortunately there is a lot of unnecessary plot, a lot of side plot, and not a lot of getting to the point, but the strange and weird that happens within the 400-odd pages is enough that I will pick up the second book in the series at one point.

Roux seems to be a fan of shorts within her different book universes, so hopefully we will get one featuring the Residents, and how they came to be. The hints that were dropped have me itching for more.

Review: Catacomb (Asylum #3) by Madeleine Roux

The Asylum series by Madeleine Roux is one of my favorites. I recently finished its conclusion, Catacomb, in a marathon read of about four hours. I did have to pause a few chapters in to go back and reread the first two; it had been about four years since I read them and I needed to reacquaint myself with the story, but it was absolutely worth it. Madeleine Roux does a great job with set description, particularly. I could really visualize the settings and felt myself drawn in to all of the adventures.

Full of mystery, suspense, intrigue, and New Orleans, Catacomb is my favorite book in the series. Dan Crawford and his friends Jordan and Abby have finally put their nightmare in New Hampshire behind them. Ready to road trip to New Orleans, where Jordan is moving for school, they’re looking forward to a few weeks of fun and relaxation before college. Nobody is trying to stalk them, kill them, or mind-control them. They deserve this.

Until a mysterious figure on a motorcycle keeps showing up wherever they go, photographing them. And a muscle car follows them from a campsite they bunk down in to the Quarter. And a friend starts contacting them from beyond the grave. Dan, Jordan, and Abby are once again thrust into a paranormal experience that will haunt them and connect them for the rest of their lives.

I didn’t mind that Catacomb barely ties into the first two books in the Asylum series. We revisit the same trio of characters but they are quite literally onto the next stage of their lives, figuratively and literally. One could consider the first two books the New Hampshire experience and the New Orleans setting as a stand alone novel, but I do recommend reading them in order to get the full experience of their history together. We dive deeper into Dan’s past, learning more about his parents directly, and start to see that his hallucinations are perhaps something more than that.

While their final adventure wraps up as well as it can, it’s nice that Roux didn’t spell out everyone’s happy ending. Dan does get a sweet epilogue in the end though, which was appreciated given all he was put through.