Home Before Dark by Riley Sager Review

Maggie Holt was five when her parents bought the sprawling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. The young family spent just three weeks in the house before they fled in fear, abandoning their belongs, never to return. The nonfiction account of the horrors and hauntings of Baneberry Hall, written by her father, was an international bestseller. While Maggie has no memory of the events that are outlined in the book, the story itself has haunted her for 25 years. She has never believed that the book was true, but she has never managed get her divorced parents to reveal to her what really happened in that house. When her father passes away she is shocked to learn that she has inherited Baneberry Hall. Why did her father still own the house? Maggie returns to a house she doesn’t remember with the intention of restoring it and selling, putting the nightmare forever in her past. Her arrival in town is not a welcome one. People that she knows a characters in the book are real people and they have stories of their own to tell. Maggie is interested in learning the truth, but as events outlined in the book begin to occur again in the house, Maggie is forced to consider that her father’s account may be more fact than fiction after all.

I went in to this book blind. I have read and enjoyed other books by Riley Sager, so I assumed I would also enjoy this one, despite my terror of haunted houses. Thanks, dad, for letting 5 year old me watch Amityville Horror. Totally scarred for life. But I digress…Anyway, we have a haunted house with a nonbeliever living in it. I want to be a nonbeliever, so I was onboard with Maggie’s goal to disprove the validity of her father’s book. Also, side note, I love a book within a book. But dang it, if that house isn’t creepy and probably haunted and it turns out a lot of the things in the book ARE true. Will Maggie finally learn why they fled in the middle of the night? You bet she does. Did I see the answer coming? NOT. AT. ALL. This is a perfect spooky season (aka, October) read that left me questioning everything to the very surprising end.

If you are into spooky, haunted houses, you should join us for Novel Scares, a horror book club. This month we are talking about another cursed how, The Good House by Tananarive Due. Register now to receive the Zoom link.

Happy Spooky Reading!

~Megan

5Days4Democracy: Protests

Protests are as American as apple pie. Since that December day in 1773 when colonists dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act of 1773, Americans have used protests to make their voices heard and to advocate for change.

Throughout our history peaceful protests, which are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, have resulted in significant changes to our laws, our culture, and even our Constitution. Here a few of our most well known protests:

Women’s Suffrage Parade, March 13, 1913

This march, on the eve of President elect Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, was the first of many large demonstration in favor of giving women the right to vote. It would take another seven years to get the 19th Amendment ratified, which finally gave women the vote, though in practice it was primarily white women who got to vote. It would take another twenty years for Asian-American immigrants to gain suffrage and 45 years for Black American and Native American voter rights to be guaranteed with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While suffrage for all women is now part of the Constitution, women are still waiting for protections under the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923 to be ratified.

We are all familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but did you know that idea for the famous march came from civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in 1941? Randolph organized a march to protest FDR’s New Deal programs and the exclusion of Black people from post WWII jobs. The march never happened because Roosevelt issued an order to prohibit discrimination in hiring for government and defense jobs. In 1963 Randolph, backed by the NAACP and King, with the support of Southern Christian Leadership Conference¬†joined forces for one large march for jobs and freedom. Their joined forces led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further protests let to the Voting Rights Act a year later in 1965.

The Stonewall Riot, June 28, 1969

From 1952-1987 homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the DSM. In the 50’s and 60’s it was not unusual for the police to raid gay bars and harass patrons. When police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, people had had enough and fought back. Protests lasted for six days and resulted in a more cohesive gay and lesbian community and lead to the development of new gay rights organizations. The one year anniversary was recognized with the first Pride parade. Since the 1990s the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of landmark cases that decriminalized homosexuality, legalizing gay marriage, and recently, making it illegal to fire an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Americans have taken to the streets to protest against wars, nuclear weapons, and tax policies. They have taken to the streets in solidarity. They have marched in favor of science and rights for marginalized communities. They have marched for women and the environment and gun control laws.

Today there are active protests occurring throughout the United States. Citizens have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against Black people. Americans are preparing rallies and marches against evictions and the inclusion of 1619 Project in school curriculums. Citizens are marching for Breonna Taylor, in remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and in support of the police.

Democracy depends on the participation of citizens. Protests are just one means of participating and advocating for change.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy

Dr. Sam Statler, a newlywed psychologist, is missing. He and his wife, Annie, recently moved from NYC to his small upstate New York hometown. The move serves two purposes-a fresh start for the couple and to be close to Sam’s ailing mother. Sam’s private practice is located in a charming old building with the perfect landlord. He spends his days listening to the problems of his mostly female clientele and his free time celebrating the small milestones in his marriage. This quiet life suits Sam, which is why Annie can’t believe he would have willingly disappeared. However, the search for her husband reveals that Sam may not be everything she believed him to be.

To be honest, it’s best to go into this book knowing as little as possible about it. Know that it is a strange and twisty story; a first rate psychological thriller. Sam has a reputation in his hometown. His sessions are being listened in on. And who is that French woman? Is Sam really missing or did he disappear? Readers will have questions and the author is stingy with the answers until the stunning truth is revealed. I listened to the audiobook version and at first I struggled with the narrator, but by the end I could not believe how perfect the narration was.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Malloy comes out October 13th. Add it to your TBR list and place a hold today

~Megan

What to Read During Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.

True Crime Addict by James Renner Review


True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

Investigative journalist James Renner was just eleven in 1989 when ten-year-old Amy Mihaljevic disappeared from Bay Village, Ohio. This disappearance marked the beginning of his interest and obsession with true crime. For many suburban Northeast Ohio children and teens this case was their first introduction to crime and the impact on their lives was immediate. How could something like this happen in broad daylight in a small, white, suburb? This desire for answers led Renner to a career in journalism.
Fast forward to 2011. James begins investigating the mysterious 2004 disappearance of Maura Murray, a University of Massachusetts student who vanished following a car wreck in rural New Hampshire. Maura was an athlete, a former West Point cadet, and a nursing student at UMass. On February 9 she emailed professors letting them know she would be absent for a week due to a death in the family. Later that night she was involved in a single car accident hundreds of miles away. By the time help arrived Maura was gone.
What happened to Maura Murray? The question remains unanswered today.
This case fascinated Renner and dragged him down a rabbit hole of research that took a toll on him personally. True Crime Addict is part investigative journalism, part confessions of a true crime addict.

If this case interests you, join me and Sherry next Wednesday, September 9 for a Zoom discussion.
Register here to and you will be emailed the link: http://rrpl.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=26155&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2020/09/02

~Megan

Happy Dog Appreciation Day

This is Kevin. He thinks he is the library’s mascot. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s not really, that he’s just a handsome good boy who can rock a bandanna.

Kevin is probably 9 years old. I rescued him from a shelter about 7 years ago. It’s been a weird relationship since day one. Right before Christmas I lost my dog Lexi. It was terrible and devastating and I vowed to never have another dog again. When life after the holidays resumed I realized that I was lying to myself. I had become a dog person. I needed a dog. So I started watching the APL’s website, searching for my next companion. One day I found her-she was an older golden lab. I was looking for an older dog and lab’s are known family dogs. I needed a dog that was good with kids and other dogs since I spent so much time with my sister’s family. Excited, my sister and I and my 6 and 8-year-old nephews headed down to meet her. I found her kennel and approached to meet her. Everything was fine until the six-year-old approached with me. This sweet looking old girl turned in to Cujo at the sight of him. Teeth bared, snarls, lunging at the cage. Yikes!
We quickly backed away and found ourselves in front of a fluffy little ginger dog. He was sitting sitting like a champ, staring at us with those golden eyes. He was practically a puppy and as Conor was OPENING HIS KENNEL I was saying no. But it was too late. I was going to meet Rusty.

The boys and I waited in the meet and greet group for Rusty. My sister ran home to get her dogs. This dog was nuts. He ran around the room completely ignoring all the humans and all the toys. His only interest seemed to be peeing on the walls (this has not changed). The boys were desperate to get his attention, but nothing was working on this spazz. Exasperated, Lucas, the 8-year-old, finally turned to me and said “I don’t think his name is Rusty.” Good point kid. He continued, “It must be something else. Maybe it’s Kevin.” You guys, I am not kidding. This dog’s ears perked up and he came over to us and sat! His name was KEVIN. Now, Lucas didn’t really pull the name out of thin air. They had recently seen Home Alone for the first time. My dog is named for Kevin McAllister…

At this point I had no choice. I knew this stupid dog was coming home with me, despite knowing that he had already been adopted and returned TWICE. Yup. I willingly brought him home. I immediately regretted this decision. For days he did nothing but bark in my face and poop all over the house. I discovered under the piles and piles of fluff he had mange. I learned on day one that he was afraid of cars, or walks, or noise, I don’t even know. He refused to take walks, but he let me stick him in the stationary tub for a weekly mange bath. This dog was a neurotic mess and a mystery to me.

Kevin’s first days. Turns out that expression is just his face.

I spent months cursing my nephews, crying, and walking around with hot dogs in my pockets desperately trying to get the hundreds of dollars I had spent on personal training to finally stick. And by training, I mean, going for a walk. I learned a lot about Kevin. Mainly, he does not care about your hot dogs if he doesn’t want to do something. It took what felt like forever, but eventually the baths ended and walks became a daily activity. Now, 7 years on, he still does not care what I think or say to him. His only trick is to sit like a champ. He would live in the car if I let him. He LOVES the vet, even when she is shoving charcoal down his gullet because he ate 3 lbs of Christmas melting chocolate (he was not sorry then, he is not sorry now, and he would totally do it again, vet visit and all). He is the master of the side-eye, loves sleeping in the fireplace, and he actually WANTS me to pet him sometimes. He is still weird and neurotic and frustrating, but I love him to death and can’t image life without this weirdo.

So, if you are dog lover, you might like some dog-related reading. https://dogtails.dogwatch.com/2019/06/04/2019-summer-reading-list-for-dog-lovers/

https://barkpost.com/life/dog-books/

Happy Dog Appreciation Day!

~Megan (and Kevin)

The Nothing Man by Catherine Howard Ryan

Eve Black was twelve years old when her family-mother, father, and little sister-were murdered in their home. It was only chance that spared Eve. She spent the rest of her childhood with her grandmother never speaking of the events that destroyed their lives. As an adult, Eve became determined to find the serial killer known as the Nothing Man. A college assignment turned into her true-crime memoir, the first step on her journey. Now, she’s on a book tour that takes her back to the scene of the crime and seemingly everyone is reading about her trauma, everyone including the Nothing Man himself. With every page he reads his rage and panic grows. His only loose end has come back to haunt him.

This book ticks all my boxes!

  • A book within a book
  • A true crime “memoir”
  • Pursuit of justice
  • Surprise twists
  • A potentially unreliable narrator
  • An Irish setting and Irish audiobook narrators

The story of the Nothing Man is told from two perspectives. Readers experience Eve’s memoir along side Jim Doyle, the sixty-something store security guard who killed the Black family nearly two decades ago. The memoir portion reads as an homage to Michelle McNamara and her quest for the Golden State Killer, while Jim’s unraveling ratchets up the tension. This is a must read for fans of true crime and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced audio copy of this book.

~Megan

Strange Times, New Skills

It’s been a while since I wrote a pandemic post and since I am tried of writing book reviews I thought I’d muse on the strangeness of the times again. I don’t need to tell any of you that things have changed. Our lives are so different today and I have to say, it’s not all bad. Social distancing has forced us at the library to reimagine how we offer programs to our patrons. It’s been challenging and at times uncomfortable, but reframe that discomfort as part of the growth process, you are now talking about professional development! I have picked up some new skills and gotten to think outside the box a lot over these past months. Here are a few things I am especially proud of:

Pre-Covid we had an in person cooking club, but I figured out how to make that a no-contact program. Cooking kits! Each kit included all the ingredients, a recipe, and instructions on how to properly use a knife to cut the onion and pepper. I am currently brainstorming a fall cooking kit. Any suggestions?

Pre-Covid my colleague and I had a True Crime Book Discussion Group. Early on offered to have a Zoom meeting with our regular attendees. They were not keen on the idea, but we were so excited about our book that we decided to talk about it ourselves! Interested in our discussion of Israel Keyes? Here’s the video! https://youtu.be/rXxloWLfKHA

We also created a new Facebook Group. It’s been a lot of fun interacting with patrons in this way. Feel free to join us! https://www.facebook.com/groups/riverinos/about/

Finally, the project that took the most time to complete and required me to learn new skills is my virtual escape room. I had planned to offer an in-person, after-hours escape room for our teens this summer. Instead, I had to make it all online. If you are up for a challenge, please give it a try. You can find it on the teen page of our website.

What new skills have you acquired during this pandemic?

~Megan