The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

I’m so excited because today, I finally get to review a Jennifer McMahon novel. She has been high on my list of to-read authors, and I just have never gotten my hands on one of her books. So, of course, the first one I read is a black hole that sucked me in immediately.

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Title: The Invited {384 pages}

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Summary:

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home–wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks–she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

Review:

First of all, can you imagine dropping everything in your life and moving into the middle of nowhere in order to build your dream house? It’s insane, but that’s exactly what Helen and Nate do. They leave their teaching jobs behind and take off into the wilderness, living in a trailer while they build – from their own hands – the house of their dreams.

Of course, this is the perfect setup for a horror masterpiece.

Helen, a history teacher by trade and at her heart, decides to look into the history of their new land, and she finds some horrific news: Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who claimed to see the future, had been hanged in the bog next to the site of Helen and Nate’s house. In fact, they’re living on Hattie’s land, and she makes that fact known to Helen by showing up in Helen’s house every now and again when she has wants something.

Stop. I see you jumping to conclusions, because I was there myself. But this novel is called The Invited not The Uninvited.

Instead of the typical ghost story we’d see at this point – get off my land and all that nonsense – Hattie and Helen develop a respect for each other: Helen wants to discover what happened to Hattie and her descendants, and Hattie needs someone to help her. This causes some problems between Helen and Nate, because Nate thinks Helen has lost it, but he’s busy chasing a mystical white doe that no one else sees, so really, he has no leg to stand on.

Helen also has Olive, the kid from up the road, a girl with her own terrible backstory involving a missing mother and ghosts of her own. She’s scrappy and weird and sure of one thing: her mother would never leave her unless it was over something important. Olive knows that she only has to find Hattie’s treasure – a treasure that her mother and her had been looking for before her mother disappeared – and then her mother will come back home, and they can be a family once more.

Olive is just as important in this story as Helen and Hattie, and these three strong women combine their forces to solve the mysteries that link them together.

Jennifer McMahon can write a story with equal parts light and dark, sometimes in the same scene. You can feel Hattie sitting right next to you while you hear Helen hammering the final nails for her doors. You can see Olive getting closer to figuring out where her mother is while also watching her father fall apart around her. For most of the book, you’re stuck in this in-between world of holding your breath and letting it go, before grabbing it back and strangling it.

The Invited is a beautiful and tragic story of love, loss, and finding what family really means. I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to read a Jennifer McMahon book, but let me tell you: this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

Ohhh it’s April, the best month of the year, and my life is absolutely crazy nuts right now! I’ve been in class most of the weekend, and I’m late to this review, but I knew I had to get it out there. This book is too good not to share!

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Title: You’d Be Mine {304 pages}

Genre: YA

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

Summary:

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things. 

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen. 

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

Review:

Clay is every bad boy musician that we have fallen in love with since the beginning of our musical journey. He’s gorgeous and he can sing and he has that kind of swagger that makes you giggle non-stop. Annie is the child of country music superstars, the kind of humble girl that you can picture as a kind of country Sleeping Beauty, complete with twittering birds and lovesick deer following her. If Clay wants to keep his contract, he’ll tour with Annie. If Annie wants to make it big in this business, she’ll tour with Clay. Neither of them expect to actually enjoy their summer, much less fall in love with each other.

But like a country song, their path to romance is not a smooth one, and Annie and Clay learn that there is much more to the other than meets the eye.

This book is summer. Like, sunshine and music and dancing with your friends in a field and wearing cute dresses and being all sweaty in the best way. Clay and Annie made me want to go outside, and I never want to go outside, and they made me want to listen to country music, and that has happened since the mid 90s. Erin Hahn created a story that made me bury my face in my hoodie and scream from the cuteness and the stupid boy and the brilliant girl.

Long story short? I loved You’d Be Mine.

No spoilers, but I loved the ending. I love that certain people got what they deserved and that it wasn’t some kind of redeeming storyline. I love that Annie was her own woman and that she knew she would have to make it on her own, even while being Clay’s opening band. I love Annie’s friends and bandmates, Kacey and Jason, and how the three of them are not only a band, but a tight-knit and well-oiled family. I love Clay and his will to survive. I love his bandmate Fitz and his manager Trina and the people that he surrounds himself with. I love that he wakes up one day and realizes he’s an ass and that he needs to work things out before he can be Clay Coolidge.

I love, I love, I love. I love this freaking book.

Needless to say, the writing is beautiful and lyrical, and the characters are all fully realized with their own voices and needs and wants and flaws. Erin Hahn has a way of evoking an entire season with just a paragraph. Like I said, this book is summer, and Erin Hahn’s writing is the reason why. You can smell the freshly cut grass, hear the crickets and ocean, feel the balmy nights where anything could happen.

She’s also a delight on Twitter, so if you need some smiles over at that god awful website, give her a follow.

Spring is in the air, I know, but You’d Be Mine will have you wishing for warm days and swimsuits and new romances {or, at least, those sweet memories of them}. Grab this book and read it. Then read it again and again. Never stop. We all deserve a bit of happiness right now.