Family Drama in a Haunted Italian Villa

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Emily Martin

Contributing Editor

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals (www.booksquadgoals.com). She can be reached at emily.ecm@gmail.com.

Welcome to Read This Book, your go-to newsletter if you’re looking to expand your TBR pile. Each week, I’ll recommend a book I think is an absolute must-read. Some will be new releases, some will be old favorites, and the books will vary in genre and subject matter every time. I hope you’re ready to get reading!

I’m going to be fully transparent with all of you. March was not an easy month for me. I needed comfort reads, full stop, to get me through the tougher times this month. Does this book seem like it would be a comfort read? Absolutely not. But did it relax me? Somehow. Let me explain.

diavola book cover

Diavola by Jennifer Thorne

The Pace family is taking their annual vacation, and this year they’re headed to Montepurso, Italy, where they’ve booked a stay at the beautiful, remote Villa Taccola. The weather is gorgeous. The views are incredible. The food is next level. The wine is flowing all day long. And the locals seem pretty nice. There are even a few neighborhood kids for the young ones to play with. Truly, it would be the ideal vacation… if not for a couple of major issues.

For one, there’s the family dynamics. The Pace family, just like every other family, has their issues. Anna and Benny are twins, but they’re not on the same page. Anna feels like she’s constantly ostracized by the rest of the family for her life choices, and Benny is so go-with-the-flow that he refuses to stick up for her. Meanwhile, their older sister, Nicole, is super controlling and wants to plan every moment of their trip down to the minute. No one else is allowed to say anything about it, and her husband and her two kids are so used to it that they just reinforce her behavior. Then there’s their judgmental mother. And their father just refuses to talk about anything. It’s a weird group of personalities that end up clashing at every turn.

But that’s not all. The Pace family is also contending with supernatural forces in Villa Taccola. Whenever they leave the villa, they come home to strange surprises, like bugs everywhere and furniture overturned. Someone is lurking behind Anna, breathing on her neck when her back is turned, and maybe even licking her? Oh, and those kids Nicole’s daughters have been playing with? They might actually be ghosts. There’s a strange tower in the villa that’s locked away and hidden, but everyone keeps hearing scratching noises on the other side of the door. The villagers try to warn the Paces that something is wrong with that house, but most importantly, they must not open that tower.

This book was such a wild ride that kicked off immediately from page one and then relentlessly delivered scares all the way to the last paragraph. But somehow, Diavola also fit in a lot more. I know this isn’t supposed to be an ideal vacation or anything, but wow, all of the beautiful writing about Italy made me want to go really bad. It felt like a little escape from my really bad month, reading about the food, the wine, the locales, the museums. This book was also really funny! Terrible family vacations are incredibly relatable to everyone, right? You kind of have to laugh at just how bad this particular family vacation is, from start to finish. Funny and engaging family drama, compelling travel writing, and a scary story: this book really has it all.

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