Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Hi friends! Welcome back to my series of book reviews! I'll probably say this about almost all the books I review, but I have a new favorite! This month's book for the book club, Reading Between the Wines, I mentioned in my last review, was The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James. And like I said, this was another good one! I did find a few aspects of the book that I didn't like, but we'll get to that! For this review, I'm going to break my thoughts up into the pros and cons so I don't talk your eyeballs off! *I tried to give away as little details as possible!
Just like Lock Every Door, The Sun Down Motel falls into the thriller category. From the first chapter of this book, you are wondering what happened to one of the main characters, Viv. Viv is a young girl who ran away from home to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress in New York City. Instead of going to the city, she finds herself in the small town of Fell, New York. From the moment she gets there the town feels depressing. There were a series of young women murdered, and as Viv takes the night shift a the Sun Down Motel, she begins to feel how creepy the town is. Right after the first chapter, you learn that Viv has disappeared, and you spend the remainder of the story trying to figure out what happened. This is where the second main character Carly comes in. Thirty years after Viv's disappearance, her niece, Carly, goes to Fell to put together the pieces of Viv's story. Carly finds herself living Viv's life in Fell in order to figure out what happened.
This was the first book that I've ever read with ghost in the main storyline. We learn very quickly that the Sun Down Motel is haunted. Every one of these ghosts has its own story that somehow leads to learning about the disappearance of Viv. The actions of the ghosts definitely made for a thrilling read in my opinion. I wouldn't say that these ghosts were necessarily scary or disturbing. I think they fit the story well and add to the mystery of Fell in general. These ghosts don't have much interaction with the characters in the book, but I'll dive more into that in the cons.
One main theme that was prominent throughout the story was highlighting how far women have come in terms of having a voice. Viv's story is set in the year 1982, and Carly is picking up the pieces of her story in 2017. Seeing the struggles of the women characters in the '80s vs 2017 was interesting. Viv was also searching for clues of her own mysterious serial killer, and during this time she wasn't taken seriously and had to take matters into her own hands. In 2017, it was fairly easy for Carly to come into Fell and put together the pieces of Viv's disappearance. She even had the help of a man named Nick, who had a past of his own.
It was common in the dialog of the story to read lines like, "It was always girls who ended up stripped and dead like roadkill... It didn’t matter how afraid or careful you were - it could always be you." I think this also played into the theme to highlight how easily women are targeted for tragic events like the ones in this story. However, Viv and Carly are written to overcome this in powerful ways. In both viewpoints, there are multiple strong women who all play a key role in solving all of the mysteries of Fell and the Sun Down Motel. These women are well written and you find yourself involved with their stories right from the beginning.
So now to the cons of the ghosts. To me, it felt like the ghosts had so many stories of their own that never really came to fruition. There were all these stories of how the ghosts came to be at the Sun Down, but none of the stories ever aligned with the main storyline. They were just side pieces of information that you were left to filter through. The ghosts couldn't talk or interact with the characters. They were just there at the Sun Down. Once you got past the introduction of the ghosts, it was kind of a let down because you weren't scared of their actions anymore. I found myself used to them. I think I was hoping to be a little more creeped out by the ghosts.
So according to my Goodreads activity, it took me 16 days to read this book... I'm not gonna lie, the first few chapters were slow. I think I read the first 93 pages over a week and put it down since life got so crazy the past two weeks. This Sunday I picked it up again and finished the entire book in one sitting. It has 326 pages. Once the book got good, it was incredibly fast-paced. There were so many stories to follow, between the ghosts and all the characters, everyone had a story to tell. It was almost too much. I found myself reading so fast to get to the bottom of the mystery that I was missing little details planted in the story. I feel like if I were to reread it at a slower pace, I would catch more details and maybe the stories would fit together a little more. I love a good fast-paced book, but I think at some points the main storyline got crowded.
Two View Points
As I mentioned before, this story is told through Viv and her journey to find a serial killer, and Carly and her journey to find Viv. The book is mainly broken down by every two chapters. This is great in the beginning because you are filling in all the background information as you read along with Carly. However, when the book picks up the pace, I found myself having to stop and remind myself what happened the last time we left off with each character. Each viewpoint would stop with a cliff hanger, and then you would pick up with the other person. This layout definitely keeps you reading, but it could get confusing at times. I think the author used this tactic to really drive home the comparison between women during the two time frames. I don't think the story would have been as impactful without the two viewpoints. I think if there were fewer side details throughout the stories, like the in-depth backgrounds of the ghosts, it would have been easier to follow as a whole.
Overall, I think this was a really good read! It left me on my toes and at times I could even feel my own heart race I was that into it! If you enjoy a fast-paced mystery, then I would recommend this book to you! I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and after all the pros and cons, I think I would give it a 4.5! It really was a good read and like I said I read the majority of the book in one sitting. I hope you all enjoyed this review, and I can't wait to see what you all think about The Sun Down Motel!