Sassy, No Spoilers: Finlay Donovan is Killing it

book reviews, contemporary, funny, mystery

Author turned accidental murder investigator? Sassy babysitters? Yes, please.

Whew! It’s been a minute since my last review. After a particularly fun cross-country move to Texas (where I learned, wearing a tshirt and cloth shoes, that it does snow in Amarillo), I have found myself reading a lot of “fun” books, before the “serious books” take over my life in January (MFA low-residency program, here I come). This is one of those fun books.

The closest thing I have to Finlay’s wig scarf

Finlay Donovan is Killing it by Elle Cosimano was gifted to me by the fine folks at NetGalley. I am a real sucker for any story that features a fumbling protagonist, especially one that finds herself in the middle of a mobster/hitman situation. Poor Finlay, she just wants to write Thriller-Romance novels and pay her bills. But when someone overhears her talking about her work at Panera, of all places, Finlay finds herself in a real bad situation. A bad situation that would pay her $50,000 if it went well. That money could also help her win custody of her children against her evil ex-husband, and his even-more-evil fiance.

If she made good choices, the book would be a terrific bore. But of course, dear reader, Finlay fumbles (nervously) right into the thick of it. Will she get out of it with her money—and her life?

The things I enjoyed about this book were the humorous moments, the sassy babysitter, and Finlay’s tendency to always do the wrong thing, but for an honorable reason (her children). It’s a fun story, a little sexy, and you will find yourself glued to the pages as you wonder, well how the hell is Finlay going to get out of that?

I believe this is the first in what will be a series, and I look forward to seeing how Finlay gets out of the next pickle.

Such a fun and light read, I would recommend it to anyone needing a little escape from 2020. Also those who:

  • Loved Desperate Housewives (I am guilty of this, no shade)
  • Enjoy sassy true crime podcasts
  • Wonder what would happen if someone accidentally hired a housewife as a hitman
  • Need to laugh

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sassy, No Spoilers: Home Before Dark

book of the month selection, book reviews, fiction, scary

Abandoned haunted houses? Mysterious deaths? Creepy interior decorating? Yes, please.

Riley Sager is definitely one of the “buzziest” authors in the Book of the Month bubble. I’m most certainly the type of person that will read an author’s book just to see “what all the dang fuss is about,” and Sager has quickly tumbled into that category for me.

The thing I love most about Sager is that he clearly takes things he loves and puts his owns spin on it: Lock Every Door was a nod to Rosemary’s Baby/Ira Levin; Final Girls was perhaps a nod to 80s teen slasher flicks; and Home Before Dark is The Amityville Horror.

I’m here for this.

I, too, love writing my obsessions into my work, so it’s glaringly obvious to me when an author writes to something in which they clearly are passionate about. I think it goes without saying that you’d have to care a lot about famously haunted houses in order to write your fictional account of a family that survived a terrifyingly haunted house. Which is exactly what Home Before Dark is about. (Oddly enough, the title really has nothing to do with the book. I also argue this with Lock Every Door.)

Okay y’all. I’m a chicken. I don’t do “scary” very well–particularly the scary that involves:

  1. Vengeful ghosts
  2. Children (they are always the ones that see the shit first!)
  3. Possessions
  4. Haunted houses of any kind, really

So let it be known: I was nervous about this one. For good reason: Sager is really good at writing scenes filled with creepy suspense that keeps readers on their toes, throwing twists at you left and right, and wrapping things up with a bow (albeit, a bloody bow, but still).

The protagonist, Maggie (my sister’s name, but I doubt I could convince her to read this book, she’s as much of a chicken as I am), inherits the house she and her family fled decades ago, and which made her writer-father famous for his take on what happened in the house. Convinced her parents were full of crap (because ghosts are, like, totally not real, right?), Mags has to face the creepy house and uncover all the deep, dark secrets buried in those walls.

Some people have said this book isn’t scary at all. I disagree, perhaps because my imagination loves to run wild when the lights go out. I was essentially haunting myself with the visions of the ghosts in this book, and it gave me the creeps. Now that I’ve fully recovered (I recommend lights on for at least three nights with this one), I can move on to another Sager book.

If you’re a big chicken but love Riley Sager, this one might be your favorite. Be a chicken, but go forth. Be brave. And maybe read some David Sedaris before bedtime, to laugh those ghosts away.

I recommend this book for fans of:

  • Every haunted house book/movie ever made, particularly The Amityville Horror and The Conjuring*
  • Shirley Jackson in general
  • All those HGTV shows, because you really want to see a show about interior decorators taking on haunted houses (10/10 would watch this)
  • Antiques
  • Small towns

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

*Full disclosure: I went on a first date to this movie, got so scared I made us leave halfway through. Did not have another date with this guy ever again, can’t say I blame him.