When I first read the blurb for Spirit, I knew that I needed to get my hands on this book, no matter what it cost. Even though I had to request it thr...moreWhen I first read the blurb for Spirit, I knew that I needed to get my hands on this book, no matter what it cost. Even though I had to request it three times (due to my Netgalley profile not being completely filled in), I didn’t care in the slightest. I had this crazy, unexplainable, but very convincing feeling that this book was going to leave me scared, terrified and very, very impressed. I don’t know why I got this feeling, that turned out to be true, but I have my suspicions that it might be a supernatural thing of the kind we come across in Spirit, a part of me that instinctively knew, even by reading the smallest back cover blurb ever, that this novel was it. That this was the kind of scary story I had been waiting for since forever-and-a-day, that this was the story that would leave me paralyzed, hidden under my blankets at night, and unable to sleep. I was more than right.
Spirit reminded me of the first time I watched The Others, with Nicole Kidman as leading actress, and hid under my blanket because I was so damn terrified. It brought back memories of summoning spirits at band camp late at night, of shivers running down your spine when your friends tell you ghost stories around a camp fire, or hearing a weird sound and dismissing it as nothing, while you very well know it’s something. It reminded me of that time my friends and I broke into the local haunted mansion, and I saw what I firmly believe was a ghost. This novel is so haunting, so absolutely terrifying, that it reminded me of every single time I was scared by the supernatural, by the world beyond our own, by the possible existence of ghosts, and topped all of that. I don’t remember ever being so scared while reading a book before in my life. Now it leaves me still very much unsettled, but very much impressed at well. Wow, is all I can say, wow, and please hand me another one of those.
I cannot begin to describe how good it felt to actually be this scared again, right when I was starting to lose my faith in the horror genre alltogether. I mean, I’m one of those people who can’t be scared by watching Zombie flicks, or by reading about blood-sucking vampires (definately not after the whole Sparkly-vampires thing) or by insane serial killers following a group of stupid and ignorant teenagers. The only way to actually make me shiver in fear, is by involving ghosts. Why? Ghosts just have this whole sense of weirdness going on, one cannot be certain if they truly exist or not, and even if they do, it’s damn hard to get rid of them, since they are…you know, dead.
Spirit begins with the drowning of five-year-old Peggy, the little sister of Elizabeth and Laura Buchanan. While their parents suffer greatly from the loss of their beloved youngest daughter, the two sisters struggle with feelings of guilt. In an effort to put this past them, Elizabeth buries her copy of The Snow Queen, Peggy’s favorite fairytale, in the snow of their backyard, as a peace offering to God to let Peggy’s soul rest in heaven. Rest assured, that’s the last thing that happens.
Some years pass by and the Buchanan family is getting things together again, with their mother returning from the asylum (she suffered a mental breakdown after Peggy’s funeral) and their father getting back to work as a publisher. However, strange things are starting to happen. Elizabeth runs into a girl she swears is Peggy, although the girl looks nothing like her drowned sister. When people are starting to die in peculiar circumstances as well – from frostbite, for instance – Elizabeth suspects that somehow Peggy returned back from the dead. She finds encouragement for her thoughts when her parents start seeing Peggy as well, and when a local author and friend of hers tells her that he’s been seeing his dead brother, Billy, frequently during hte last couple of years. Although the boy he sees looks nothing like Billy, and isn’t even of the same age.
Elizabeth and Laura must stop their younger sister from walking this earth anymore, and must do whatever it takes to put her soul to rest. Before it’s too late…
The entire atmosphere, dialogue and descriptions of Spirit is eerie and haunted. From the first few sentences until the very last, Graham Masterton proves that he is a true master of the horror genre, as he pulls his readers in from his very first chapter, and doesn’t let them go. He describes his characters in a lot of detail, and I felt like I got to know them as real people, with real hopes and expectations, and real, substantial fears. Elizabeth was a gripping character with a moving and touching personality, who gained a lot of my sympathy as she struggled with the ghost of her undead sister. Sorrow, regret, guilt and raw, honest fear are all woven together in what I believe is one of the scariest novels currently existing. As the years pass by and the secrets unfold, I felt myself getting pulled more and more into the novel. When the ghost of Peggy appeared, first not much more than a vision, and later on a person you could actually touch, a murderous and over-protective, evil spirit, I looked behind my back occasionally, as shivers were running down my spine and I felt the temperature in the room had dropped several degrees. Although mostly only in my head, it was great to be experience so many emotions when reading a novel.
There were parts in the book that felt sloppy and not up-to-par as well. For instance, when they try to unravel the mystery of who exactly the spirit is, and why they feel like it’s Peggy although she looks nothing at all like their deceased sister. “Human imagination”, “Fairy Tales Come To Life”, that dropped the scare-level to halfway, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the science and logic behind it, although I did think this was interesting and an original perspective, or maybe it was that this wasn’t just some dead person’s ghost lingering about, but actually only a little girl’s imagination gone wild. Quite dissapointing in the scary-department but unmistakingly original nevertheless. I also felt like somehow these parts dragged a bit, and that some of the kills were rather random. I didn’t like the scene with Laura and the two TV producers, and I wasn’t sure if it was an essential part of the story – to show what exactly the spirit is capable of (but if it was, why did she not appear sooner then, and why wait till after Laura gets hurt?) – or if it was just to fill some pages. I am inclined to believe the latter, and wasn’t all that touched by it. The epic battle at the end left me dissapointed as well (I had a continuous feeling of: oh really?, and add a sarcastic tone to that), but all in all, I could live with that, considering how unnaturally frightened I had been with the first part of the novel.
What would have made Spirit stood out for me so much that I would rate it a 5 rather than a 4.5? Had the ghostly incidents started off more slowly, rather than immediately with the apparition of an actual ghost-like figure. I like the tiny little horror parts in novels, like when the protagonist leaves their keys on the counter, and then finds them on the table when he returns. Or when they hear strange noises at night, that can not be explained. Or when they see shapes out of the corner of their eyes, but dismiss it as being nothing. Lights suddenly shutting off, things going missing, those sort of things. And then, bring in the ghost. And then, a hundred-or-so-pages further down the line, make the ghost go totally murderous. I also would have liked to see more of Margaret, Elizabeth’s mother, and how she might have been effected by the supernatural events. She was an intriguing character, with her severe doubts about her life, her depression over giving up her acting career and her frequent visits to the asylum. There was a small part of the novel in which Margaret saw Peggy first, but no one believed her, and then Elizabeth saw her as well. I would have liked it if this had lasted longer, and they had announced Margaret crazy for seeing things that were actually real, and then have Elizabeth question her own sanity as she starts seeing the ghost as well. Alas, we cannot have it all.
I also liked the fact that this novel read like a mystery novel. There’s the case of the murderous ghost, and then our cast of characters has to find out who she is, where she comes from, and how to stop her, in a race against time – or against the next murder. I also loved the fact that not only our protagonists were seeing ghosts, but that other people throughout the story confessed to having seen dead relatives as well. A more thorough description of the house the Buchanans live in, would have been great as well, or if the ghost was somehow connected to the house as well.
Nevertheless, as I already mentioned, the first part of the novel was a whole new level of scary for me, and if the second part was a tad bit dissapointing, then so be it. I enjoyed reading Spirit, and I would definately read another novel by Graham Masterton in a heartbeat. Some parts of this book were actually beyond brilliant, and left me very impressed, and a tremendously happy reader. If you can get past some of the minor flaws, you will realise, just as I have, that this novel is a masterpiece of horror literature, a true symphony for all things horrifying and supernatural, and a statement on its own: that not all things dead, stay dead, and that ghosts might very well exist. Magnificent.
Tara used to work for The Little Shop of Horrors, a Special Projects division of Homeland Security in the USA. She quit the job after an incident wher...moreTara used to work for The Little Shop of Horrors, a Special Projects division of Homeland Security in the USA. She quit the job after an incident where she herself became the target of a psycho killer called The Gardener. A survivor of the attack, but badly scarred both outside and inside, Tara says goodbye to her job in an effort to lead a less dangerous life. Although there is a reason why Tara’s life can never be fully without danger: apart from being a former agent, she is also an oracle. A cartomancer to be more precise, a person who can predict the future by using tarot cards. Plus, then there’s also Harry Li. Her former love interest and agent of the Little Shop of Horrors himself, Harry must ask for Tara’s help in a case neither his office nor any other office knows what to do with. Former cold war spies, all linked to one project called Rogue Angel, have vanished off the face of the earth, leaving behind all their clothes, wallets and personal belongings. It’s almost like they just seized to exist. Following the trail of a possible serial killer or even a terrorist, Tara and Harry must do whatever it takes to capture the person responsible for the abductions. Even if that means taking a leap of faith, and trusting in the power of intuition.
I always have a lot more trouble writing a review for a novel I thoroughly enjoyed than for a novel I thought was mediocre. Rogue Oracle definitely belongs in the first category. This is fantasy the way it should be. Original, fast-paced, suspenseful and very surprising. First of all, the setting isn’t some fantasy world still stuck in the Middle Ages, or Earth fifty years from now when all demons roam free. No, the setting is the world as we all know it: with the economy crashing, terrorist attacks, radiation poisonings, nuclear bombs. Take all of that and throw in the one aspect that makes this novel so original: Oracles. Now I can safely say I’ve read my fair share of fantasy novels, but never before have I come across a novel that both focuses on Oracles, and uses the present time as a time frame. It was a refreshing change for once, one that was warmly welcomed after reading perhaps a bit too many fantasy novels focusing on vampires, demons and the likes.
Rogue Oracle doesn’t read like a fantasy novel though; it reads more like a thriller, a suspense story, and literally keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I loved the character of Tara – her strong and stubborn personality, her intuition and the way she relies on it, and her nearly unconditional love for Harry and Cassie. She is the sort of heroine who keeps reappearing in your mind, even after you’re long done reading the novel. The kind of person you can’t help but admire, because she finds strength even in her own weaknesses. On the other hand, the villain of this novel, Galen, received a lot of my sympathy as well. Rather than an “official bad guy” whose only purpose is to inflict evil upon other people, Galen really is a tragic figure. Made what he is today by a series of traumatic events in his past, sabotaged by humanity itself, he is left all alone in the world. A monstrosity. A creature that shouldn’t mean to exist – yet human error caused him to exist anyway. The way the author reveals Galen’s background story, piece by piece, and makes him seem so fragile and so very human when doing so, made me not regard him as an actual villain, but more like a person who got a terrible fate thrown upon him, without his own consent or even knowing, and is now tortured so much by the faults of others than he has practically no choice but to be who he is – a person out for revenge, driven by the need for vengeance and retribution. One of the most memorable villains I’ve ever come across.
I loved how Alayna Williams included the drama at Chernobyl in this novel, and carefully crafted a story around that. I was born four years after Chernobyl, and I can say firsthand that we hardly pay any attention to what happened there anymore, although we should. In high school, we are taught about World War II and the terrible tragedy caused by people looking the other way rather than facing what’s right in front of them, and we are warned that humanity should never make that mistake again. Even though so, we stay ignorant for other devastating catastrophes caused by humans, like the tragedy of Chernobyl. I can safely say that, although not an uneducated person, I hardly know anything about what happened on that faithful day. No one ever mentions it anymore, and on the rare occasion that they do, it is simply overlooked. But Chernobyl, more than anything, is another prime example of human ignorance – we basically choose to ignore what happened there, even today. Not because we don’t know what happened, but simply because we focus on other things, and disregard the fact that something like that might happen again someday. Rogue Oracle pointed that out in so many different ways, that it actually was very touching. The novel focused on the tragedy that occurred there, and placed it in a spotlight it hasn’t been in for a very long time now. At some point during the novel, Tara goes to look at photographs taken after the tragedy, and that scene nearly made me cry. It’s important to realize that things that happened in the past – even if already 25 years ago – can still have effects on the world today. That message is beautifully woven in the story of Rogue Oracle.
The storyline itself is fast-paced, with some carefully crafted cliffhangers along the way, and it doesn’t lose it appeal once in those 300 and so pages. It was also a welcome change from the fantasy novels I’m used to read: the theme was original, as was the world-building. I thought the explanation of the Tarot Cards and their use in Rogue Oracle was very interesting; I’ve never been one for fortunetelling, but it does make an intriguing addition to the story.
Perhaps the only thing I wasn’t particularly fond of, was the character Cassie. I don’t know why exactly, but every time the story focused on her I just wanted to skip those pages and go right back to the “real” action with Tara and Harry. I just couldn’t relate that much to her, I guess.
If you’re tired of reading the same fantasy novels over and over again but in different format and with other titles, or you rather stake a vampire than read another love story with vamps in the lead role and you feel like declaring war on both hell and heaven so you could just kill every demon and angel alive, then Rogue Oracle really is the novel you are waiting for. A fast read, entertaining, original, and it doesn’t let you go until the end – and even then, you’ll have some trouble getting away from it. Even if you’re still a huge fan of vampire love stories and demons still hold a special place in your heart, you’ll enjoy Rogue Oracle nevertheless. Because it’s really everything fantasy should be like, but all too often isn’t.
Carved in Darkness is one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in a long while. Melissa Walker was kidnapped by a madman when she was barely seven...moreCarved in Darkness is one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in a long while. Melissa Walker was kidnapped by a madman when she was barely seventeen years old. The madman kept her for several months, raping her, stabbing her, nearly killing her. One day he thinks he’s killed her, leaving her in a churchyard to die. But Melissa survived, saved by the priest, and she started her life again; changing her name and identity. Now Sabrina Vaughn, a homicide inspector, still struggles every year with the memory of what the madman did to her. Around september, she starts to withdraw, reliving the tragedy.
But unknown to Sabrina, the madman is still at large, doing the same things he did to her to other innocent girls, leaving a trail of bodies behind. Michael’s sister got murdered by this demented serial killer and he’s focused on taking vengeance. He works for a special team and intends to use all his resources into tracking down the murderer. But in doing so, he wants to use Sabrina as bait, convinced that she’s the victim the killer has been dreaming for his entire life.
Word gets out in Sabrina’s old town that she’s still alive, and the serial killer finds out about her new identity. Leaving behind a trail of bodies, he tracks her down, intend on enslaving her once more, bringing her back to the darkness.
As you can see from the synopsis I just told you, this book is drenched in darkness from page one until the end. It’s a true thriller, suspenseful and menacing. I loved Melissa/Sabrina. Her character evolution was amazing, her emotional strength boundless. She constantly lived in fear but tried to fight it day and night, and I was impressed by her posture, even as things began to close in around her. I also liked Michael, although considerably less. At first I thought he was a bit of a jerk, especially when he wanted to use Sabrina as bait. I got he wanted vengeance, but not at the cost of another human being, especially someone who’s already suffered so much. He also saw Sabrina as the cause for why his sister died, which I thought was downright crazy – she had no idea the madman would do this again.
The story itself was amazing. I loved how the victim, who managed to survive, played the main part here. I feel nothing but respect for Sabrina and nothing but disgust for the killer. The writing was great, fast-paced and suspenseful. An excellent novel – just don’t read it with the lights out.(less)
Last Days is, hands down, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Considering I read about 50 horror novels a year, that’s definitely saying something. This book has it all, from scary ghosts to shadowy forms burnt into walls to ancient evil ressurrected by a frightening cult.
Kyle is a documentary film maker who has some cash issues. When he’s asked to make a documentary about a cult called “The Temple of the Last Days” that became famous in 1975 after a massacre leaded to the deaths of several members and their leader, Sister Katherine, he takes up the offer right away. Pay is great and the material sounds interesting, although the paranormal angle doesn’t entirely convince him.
He travels to one of the cult’s houses in London where he meets with a former member. But when Kyle and his friend Dan go back for some more shots at night in the house, they feel the presence of someone else, someone who shouldn’t be there. They struggle to get out of the house, chased by an entity they’re not sure is entirely human. However, in the light of day, they dismiss the occurence and go back to gather their materials, convinced it was just a homeless guy or something. But their next journey takes them to the cult’s farmhouse in France, an abandoned lot in the middle of nowhere, and what they find there makes them chance their opinion right away. Something paranormal is going on with the cult. On that faithful night in 1975, they summoned something dark and vile, something that’s been threatening all cult members ever since…
Kyle was an interesting main character, but he wasn’t the main drive. This book was primarily plot-driven, and characters weren’t that important. However, I liked Kyle. He was intelligent enough to recognize evil when it stood in front of him, yet he wasn’t paranoid enough to immediately jump to conclusions either. I thought he was rather brave, especially in the scenes in the farmhouse, which were my favorites. However, he too becomes more and more paranoid as the story progresses and went through a great deal of character development, realizing there are worse things than having to scramble for cash.
The ending was a bit of a let-down however. It was so random and over the top, I would’ve preferred a smaller, less overwhelming ending. However, even with that taken into account, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It was downright scary and even made me glance behind my back every once in a while. An excellent read for horror fans.(less)
Mr. Midnight is a thrilling, suspense, dark fiction novel about good vs. evil, family, and the supernatural. It’s another great published by DarkFuse, a publisher quickly establishing their name and fame in the dark fiction market. This book is another great quality read with a stunning cover and an even more stunning narrative.
Cait has always had bizarre visions, which she likes to call “flickers”. These flickers come and go unannounced, and usually they only show her marginal facts about other people’s lives, like where they left their wallet, or how their cat ran away this morning. Without any real family, Cait has always felt like she got left out somehow, like she didn’t belong anywhere. She’s been looking for her real family for years, but their whereabouts are a well-kept secret she can’t find out. Her boyfriend Kevin has hired a private investigator to find out more about her family though, and he has some stunning answers.
Meanwhile, a serial killer is holding court in Boston. He kidnaps young, innocent-looking prostitutes or drug addicts from the streets, tortures them for days, and then cuts them up until they die. The killer, nicknamed “Mr. Midnight” is the second protagonist of the story. His narrative picks up when he meets a young girl and takes her home for some fun – which would be fun for him, and terrible for her. Strangely enough, Mr. Midnight is being tormented by the same bizarre visions Cait has whenever he meets random people, and these visions only make him even more hateful toward humanity.
There’s a sinister connection between Mr. Midnight and Cait, and she’ll have to find out what, because the moment Mr. Midnight gets a vision of her, he wants nothing more than to completely and utterly destroy her. If Cait doesn’t find a way to stop him, she’ll become his next victim.
I loved the overlapping narratives, the way the stories worked together, the switching perspectives. Even without mentioning, or without the move of setting, it’s easy to recognize when Cait is doing the talking or when it’s Mr. Midnight doing so. What I didn’t like that much however, was how linear the contrast was between good and evil. Cait is good, without question, and Mr. Midnight is evil, without question. It’s portrayed as if they cannot choose whether they’re good and evil. This sort of works because of their background story, but still, the book could’ve been stronger had the distinction not been that big. I don’t believe people are inherently good or evil, but that there’s something as free choice. While Cait chose to be good, chose to love, chose to make the flickers part of her life, Mr. Midnight chose to hate, chose to be afraid of the flickers, or chose to use them for bad things. However, at some points, the novel seems like it wants you to believe neither of them had a choice, that Mr. Midnight would always be evil, no matter what.
That’s surprising considering how well the author portrays the tortured killer, the one uncapable of feeling remorse, love, or any emotion except hate, but actually feeling a tad sorry for doing so. It’s not like Mr. Midnight didn’t want to be loved, at some point, it’s just that he wasn’t, or that he couldn’t love in return.
The sharp, intriguing portrait of Mr. Midnight actually makes Cait come across as a bit dull, but in a good way. She’s had the most normal life you can imagine, never doing anything remotely evil, like most of us. Which makes her a great opponent for Mr. Midnight.
The flickers were a nice touch, but even without those, the novel would’ve been strong. The author has a way to make really intriguing characters, and the way the two stories connected was simply sublime. Mr. Midnight never slips from his role, and Cait gradually becomes a stronger character. The final chapters, when the storylines collide, are downright amazing. This is definitely movie material.
An excellent, thought-provoking read. If only it wouldn’t have been so black and white, this would’ve been outstanding, hence why the 4.5 stars instead of 5.(less)
I wanted to enjoy this book. The moment I read the description, I knew I would like the plot, so I wanted to like the rest as well. Unfortunately it d...moreI wanted to enjoy this book. The moment I read the description, I knew I would like the plot, so I wanted to like the rest as well. Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out like that.
Jason thinks himself a reasonable, calm man. That image however disagrees with the body buried in his backyard, the body he knows is there but he won’t acknowledge. In an effort to hide it even more, he hires a landscaping team who stumble upon a body in his backyard. The only problem? It’s not the body of the man Jason buried. The body belongs to a woman, and Jason has no idea why she’s in his backyard to begin with.
With the police inspectors sensing something is wrong, each passing moment makes Jason more and more nervous. But Jason isn’t the only one with worries on his mind. As the detective, Tim Bayard, continues his investigation, he stumbles upon a second body. And then evidence in Jason’s home indicates a third murder took place in the house…
Leah’s fiancé disappeared years ago, and when she hears about the bodies discovered in Jason’s backyard, she goes out to investigate, wanting to see her husband’s possible grave. The moment Jason and Leah meet, their stories collide and continue onward down the same path as the killer of two of the bodies makes an appearance.
I was kind of hoping something supernatural would happen after the bodies were discovered and the police found evidence of the crimes in Jason’s house. Although I have no idea why I was hoping for something like that, besides my obvious fascination with the supernatural, but anyway, nothing happened. Jason is an interesting character though, and that made up for the lack of action at the start of the book. You figure out quite soon he’s the murderer of one of the people buried in the backyard. He’s a loner with a quiet, calm personality. And even though I wanted to hate him, not just because he killed someone, although that was the primary reason, I couldn’t bring myself to hate him. There was something about him that made me like him, despite my initial feelings. He’s the kind of person you end up feeling sorry for, because no matter what he did, life always backfired on him.
I liked the first part of the book well-enough, but the level drops down significantly the moment Jason and Leah meet up. What happens is a game of cat and mouse with the killer, a car chase and other things that, in my opinion, belonged in an action movie. It made the book on the whole rather appear like a comedy. I like dark humor, but this humor didn’t fit. It wasn’t dark enough, and at times too dark. It was odd for me to read about.
At times, the author showed moments of sheer brilliance. Unfortunately she doesn’t keep that up during the entire book. The end result is an exciting, sometimes suspenseful thriller that shows us deeper insight into the human mind as it follows Jason through his troublesome life. I enjoyed it, but it won’t end up on my favorite-reads list.(less)
After reading a request from a young art historian called Verlaine to look into the archives of Saint Rosa’s convent, based on correnspondence between a former mother superior and the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, Sister Evangeline, a young nun working in the library of the convent, discovers a connection between both women. And it has nothing to do with philanthropy, or art for that matter. Aided by the historian Verlaine, who appears to be love-struck over the young nun, Evangeline is forced to find out more, not only about Abigail Rockefeller and what exactly she and her former mother superior were trying to hide in the convent, but also about her own history, family and who she really is. This search leads them into conflict with the Nephilim, children of angels who are currently still roaming this earth. Nasty, vile and capable of anything, the Nephilim are a worthy opponent not to be messed with. But together, and with the help of angelologists like Evangeline’s grandmother Gabrielle, they must find a way to reclaim an archefact of great power. Something the Nephilim want whatever it takes, but something they must never get, for the consequences will be terrible.
It appears to me that Angelology isn’t all that new, exciting and innovating as it tries to be. Danielle Trussoni is simply the latest author trying to grab a slice from the Dan Brown pie. Dan Brown features demons, secret societies, symbols and century-old mysteries. Danielle Trussoni features half-angels, secret angelologist societies, symbols, and century-old mysteries. See the connection? That’s not to say that the book isn’t impressive, it just has this old ‘been there, did that’ vibe, but now with Nephilim rather than demons.
The research Danielle Trussoni did before writing this book, cannot be described anything other than impressive. The minor details touched – from cars to layouts of convents to locations in France and New York – is amazing. The mythology, the study of Angels through the centuries, the bible readings, are all very interesting facts, and she certainly possesses a great knowledge base to start with. Her writing style is amazing as well. She describes certain things in the utmost detail, and it’s debatable whether that is just sheer brilliance or slows the story down. The lyrical prose, the impressive descriptions and the attention for detail really adds a lot of quality and depth to this novel, especially the part that’s written in France in 1939 – that part is simply brilliant. I had a lot of trouble with the last 100 or so pages of the book though, which I thought were less in quality compared to the previous parts of the book.
I hate to say this, but about some things mentioned in Angelology, it appears that Mrs. Trussoni is simply ignorant. She accuses the Nephilim of basically starting World War II – or atleast convincing the Nazis enough to commit such horrible crimes – and puts them in the middle of Nazi parties in the year 1939. She then goes as far as blaming all evil things that happen in this world on the Nephilim. Her novel is all in blacks and whites: Nephilim bad, humans good, and that just makes it unbelievable. The world isn’t black and white. You can’t blame every evil act on Nephilim and paint them off as the bad guys. Humans do enough evil on their own, without outside-help. I also disliked the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any good Nephilim on this world. They’re all bad, wicked, vile and self-centered. Although, in all honesty, I have to admit that Percival Grigori, the main Nephilim character we see, did appear to be capable of some good, at least in the years 1939. I would have preferred if there were some good and some bad Nephilim. It would seem a lot more realistic. Nothing is ever truly bad, and nothing is ever truly good. There are different shades of good and bad, and unfortunately Mrs. Trussoni fails to acknowledge that.
At first, I was quite skeptical about how large the religious factor would be in Angelology, and I have to say that I’m both surprised and relieved that it only takes up a minor part. You don’t have to be utterly religious to enjoy this novel. There are some bible passages mentioned, but that’s it, and basically it can appeal to everyone, from every religion.
The plot is fast-paced and skillfully unfolded as the story continues. The characters range from being believable, interesting, intellectual and clever – read: Gabrielle Lévi-Franche and Celestine – to somewhat-boring, ‘why the hell did they end up in this novel?’ and rather useless – read: Verlaine. I did enjoy reading the stories of the bad guys, and figuring out that Percival Grigori has a genuine reason for trying to get the artefact the angelologists recovered from the mountains in Bulgary in the 1930s, and that it’s not just about powers. The part about the decay of the Nephilim was a brilliant touch, and adding Evangeline’s personal history to this novel was a nice sidestory as well. I enjoyed the part about Gabrielle and Celestine the most, because it seemed the most well-written, tense and suspenseful part of the novel.
The ending left me feeling rather dissapointed, because it all seems to happen in a blur. Also, when Evangeline’s true heritage is revealed, I felt like hitting myself on the head. A novel of this calibre should not need a sequel, and by making Evangeline as she is, Trussoni has clearly left the path open for a sequel. I don’t know why people want to take an interesting idea, make a wonderful, impressive and fascinating novel about it, and then milk it out for a sequel and maybe even a third novel. What happened to stand-alone novels, that are impressive enough on their own? It seems like everyone has forgotten that the old classics we still remember and enjoy are stand-alone novels. Nowadays, everyone wants a trilogy. It’s getting old-skool people.
Angelology is definately an entertaining read. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse will be delighted to venture into the adventures described in Angelology. The knowledge depicted in this book is impressive, the writing style demands for more and the characters are charming, distinct and well thought-through. The perfect kind of book to entertain you on a rainy sunday afternoon.(less)
Deliver Us is Santino Reynold’s debut novel. Fall seems like the perfect season for suspense novels, and Deliver Us is a great addition to the genre....moreDeliver Us is Santino Reynold’s debut novel. Fall seems like the perfect season for suspense novels, and Deliver Us is a great addition to the genre. It’s a quick read, but an intriguing one, as it combines three different storylines into a novel of despair, honesty, cruelty and love.
We start with hearing the start of the story from three different individuals. Ryan lives in Arkansas and works in the repair shop of his best friend’s brother, Jake. Ryan mainly works there to save money for college, where he wants to join his best friend Tom next year. Ryan may be ambitious when it comes to going to college, his ambitions toward the rest of his life, and the other departments like friendship and love, are low. He hasn’t heard from Tom in about a year, but he’s still eager to hear from him regardless. When Jake tells him Tom will come home, they both decide to hold a party for Tom at his Mom’s trailer. For some reason, they even invite prostitues. I had no idea it was still in fashion to invite prostitues to these kind of small, private events, but heck, what do I know.
The next person we meet is Shawn. He’s old-fashioned, religious and devoted to his soon-to-be family with his pregnant girlfriend, Diane. He works in a diner along with his little brother. I had trouble grasping Shawn’s personality. It seems like he’s a bit all over the place – not in a good way, but it’s interesting to read how the author portrayed this. There’s nothing wrong with the characterization – I think the author wanted Shawn’s personality to be like that on purpose. He’s a confusing character, with a lot of conflicting emotions. I didn’t like him from the start, because I had a faint sense of what was going to happen. I also didn’t like how he was so stuck in his own world to fail to notice the evolving world around him. Unfortunately, lots of people are like that.
Then there’s Javier. He’s from Spanish descent, and stuck in an abusive relationship with a man he’s been dating since senior year of high school. When Javier tries to escape from Rick’s clutches along with his best friend Claire, they end up in the middle of nowhere after Claire managed to trash their car. The nearest repair shop happens to be the one where Jake and Ryan work, and that’s when the character’s storylines become combined.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book, and some things I wasn’t so fond of. I didn’t understand the purpose of the prostitues in neither of the chapters they were introduced with, and honestly I thought they didn’t make me like the characters more or less either. For Tom’s party in the beginning, it would’ve made more sense to me had they just went to the strip club than invite the prostitues to their own home, seeing as how the Mom was there as well. I don’t know, I just thought it was awkward. What I wasn’t so fond of either, was the way gay relationships were treated at times. Being gay plays a large part in the book, but when gay characters suddenly start acting straight, you’ve lost me. I’ve met several gay people in my life, and none of them magically started acting straight simply because they were kissed by someone of the other sex, or something along those lines. I’m not saying it would never happen, but here, it happened a bit too conveniently for my liking.
What I did enjoy, was the three storylines ending up together in one big climax. I also liked how the author touched upon the subject of being gay, and how it’s still a taboo in a lot of communities, even anno 2012. Personally, I think that’s a shame. Gay people are people. We shouldn’t threat them any differently. I have friends who are gay, and quite frankly, I don’t care one bit about whether they’re gay or straight. It’s a shame some people still can’t get over ancient prejudices, like some of the characters in this book. Another element I enjoyed was the characterization. Even though it wasn’t made clear at the beginning of each chapter (which, admittingly, would’ve been easier) I could figure out who was doing the talking simply by how things were said. The main characters were well-developed, dimensional characters, and very different from each other.
I have to admit I liked Claire the most. There was something about her, her innocence and courage, her never-failing strength, that made me like her instantly. The character I disliked the most was Shawn. I didn’t understand his viewpoints, and didn’t want to either.
Deliver Us is a strong novel. It combines intriguing characters with a suspenseful plot. The pace is never too fast or too slow. This book makes for a great read during those stormy October nights, when you’re in the mood for a lot of suspense and a story that keeps you guessing until the end.(less)
What impressed me the most about The Granite Key was the large amount of archaeological and historical detail that crept its way into this novel. It reads very much like an updated version of a Dan Brown book, matching fact with fiction until the reader is unsure of which is which. At the beginning of the book, our main character Cassie, already finds herself going through an enormous challenge. Her sister was murdered, and she saw it happen in a dream. Struggling with guilt, and with coming to terms of what’s happening, and the strange new world she is thrust into, Cassie must withstand several hardships. Cassie learns her sister was murdered because she found a relic of an ancient society called The Arkana. When touching the object, Cassie can see pictures of the past play out in her mind.
Next to Cassie, my favorite character was Griffin. But Cassie remained my absolute favorite. She went through so many emotions, from disbelief to wonder to being amazed, through grief, sorrow and anger, and all those emotions she portrayed so well and in such a fragile, human way.
I love thrillers linking the past to present and books that teach me something. Here I learned a great deal about ancient matriarchal societies. It was a very intriguing, suspenseful and enjoyable read.(less)
In A Small Town tells the not-so-small story of police detective Matthew Longo. Whenwe first meet him, he’s been shot. He wasn’t even on the job at th...moreIn A Small Town tells the not-so-small story of police detective Matthew Longo. Whenwe first meet him, he’s been shot. He wasn’t even on the job at the time, and the experience left him more than a little spooked. The small town of Hutchville is filled with criminals in all shapes and sizes from pedophiles to murderers to wifebeaters to drug dealers. But Matthew has no idea who is after him this time around, and that’s what worries him. His opponent has no face, instead he’s a shadow. And as long as he doesn’t figure out who is behind the attack, it could be anyone.
Matthew hides in his bedroom day in day out, trying to come to terms with what happened. No matter how much his parents and brother push him to go out and back to the job, he’s scared of doing so. His partner, the person he can rely on more than anything, Donny Mello, is attending a funeral in Italy, and as long as he’s not around, Matthew feels like there’s no one who has his back. But then a FBI agent pops up who has some interesting intel on the attack that nearly killed him and the person behind it.
Matthew realizes that sometimes the true villains aren’t the ones that you catch while on the job. The life of a cop is anything but simple.
I loved how the author managed to put so much reality into this book. When I read the author bio on the back, I discovered that the author is a retired police detective and well, it shows. He obviously knows what he’s talking about, both about regular police life, and about the hardships that come when something bad happens. After Matthew is shot, he goes through real pain, real fear as he tries to recuperate, and those emotions are so honest and raw that they left me more than a little impressed. While I did enjoy the side characters, and the fact that they’re all well-developed for side characters, Matthew stayed my favorite character throughout the book. Which is odd. Because Matthew isn’t your standard hero. He’s a cop, which in my book counts for at least some heroism, but he didn’t always work by the book. He tells the readers something about what happened to him and his partner Donny about halfway through the book, about how Donny reacted to a criminal by beating him to pulp, and well, it left me conflicted. I think it would leave anyone conflicted. If a person is bad enough, do you get to kill them? If you’re afraid no justice will be served, does that grant you the right to serve it yourself?
That’s one of the questions Matthew struggles with, but hardly the only one. I liked his inner turmoil. I liked the short, interesting dialogue and the vivid descriptions. The author has a gripping, suspenseful writing style that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. The only downside of this book, in my opinion, was the romance. It didn’t work for me. Sure, there was passion, but that was about it. I can’t believe people would form a meaningful relationship in such a short period of time. It didn’t convince me, and I was actually convinced the book could do well without. The plot is more than strong enough on its own, without an added romantic subplot. But I bet some people will love the addition of romance, and it’s not so bad, nor does it slow down the plot, so I could live with it.
As far as police thrillers go, I was happily surprised by this one. It was gritty and suspensful, nothing over the top, no spectacular but near impossible heroic stunts. This is a detective thriller the way I want it to be, and I very much enjoyed reading it. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should definitely read In A Small Town. It’s a strong, powerful book by a talented author of whom I hope to read more books in the future. (less)
The Rose Red Reaper is a chilling suspense novel that combines a horrific serial killer story, one man’s personal tragecy and a blossoming romance into one story. Mason is a detective in the homicide unit, who decided to join the force after his girlfriend, Jill, got murdered by a serial killer calling himself The Rose Red Reaper. Now, a year later, the same killer resurfaces and starts his killing spree again. He leaves a white rose, dipped in blood near or on his victim’s bodies, and as of late he’s started to leave envelopes with clues as well. Mason and his brother Devon and their police force will have to find out the killer’s identity before he causes any more murders. But the killer is always one step ahead of them, and when he starts targeting Dakota, Mason’s new girlfriend, things become personal.
I liked how the author managed to make everything so personal here. There are thousands of books about serial killers out there and about police officers trying to stop them, but what makes The Rose Red Reaper so unique is how involved the officers are. They’re targets of the killer themselves, or in the case of Mason, his ex-girlfriend was murdered by the Reaper, and his current one is the target. It’s like their lives are so interwoven with the killer’s, and because of that you instantly get the feeling there’s a lot more on stake than just another Jane or John Doe getting killed.
Mason was a good main lead, the tragic, tormented hero personalized. He had a sharp, analytical mind, and the co-operation between him, his brother Devon, and the rest of their team went smoothly. The one thing I didn’t like was how fast his relationship with Dakota developed. Dakota seemed a bit like a Mary Sue – she’s so nice and friendly and everyone instantly likes her. She’s like a saint with no evil thought about her. And she’s oh so in love with Mason although she barely knows him. I would’ve liked to see a bit more personality here – a bad side, or even just a bad habit, something that would make her be less of a saint. Also, I would’ve been mostly okay with it if it weren’t for how everyone liked her. Not just Mason, but also Devon, and well, the entire team – like they’re instant best friends. This was my major pet peeve about the story.
The serial killer storyline was great though. I kept trying to wrap my head around who the Rose Red Reaper could be, and although I had a faint suspicion, I only knew for certain toward the end. I loved how connected everything was, and it was obvious a lot of thought went into putting this storyline together.
The writing was good, and the pacing was fast enough to keep me entertained. I liked the search for the killer and the brief view into the killer’s past and what made him become a murderer. The background story was well-developed and the characters were, for the most part, likeable. Like I mentioned above, my only pet peeve was with Dakota and how everyone seemed to instantly love her, and how Mason, even though they were only dating for a short while, was somehow deeply in love with her. That seemed mostly odd because Mason, having lost his girlfriend just about a year ago, easily opened up to someone else – something I’d personally think would take a lot longer in real life.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful thriller with a truly disturbing serial killer and a heavy dose of romance, The Rose Red Reaper is a good choice. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to the release of the next book in the series, The Blue Line Bone Collector.(less)
If you’ve read my blog, then you know I’m always up for a good ghost story, an extraordinary supernatural thriller or just anything that’s scary enough to keep me up at night. When author Karina Halle contacted me asking if I wanted to review her debut novel, Darkhouse, I was especially thrilled. It had been quite a while since I’d read anything remotely scary, and the synopsis of the book seemed promising enough. But Darkhouse turned out unlike anything I’d expected. It drew me in from page one, with its easy-to-relate to, flawed but loveable characters, its fast pace, the unpredictable plot twists and its eerie, surreal atmosphere. If you’re searching for the scariest book of this season, then search no more. Darkhouse is exactly what you’re looking for.
Our protagonist, Perry, is a very interesting character. She has a great many flaws, which makes her all the more human. She isn’t fond of her job, which isn’t like she imagined it would be, although she’s in her twenties she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she isn’t confident with her appearance. Yes, ring the alarm bells, because we have an actual human heroine on our hands rather than a Mary Sue version of reality. Perry is very easy to relate to, mostly because she knows she has flaws, but tries to live with them. She’s worked on her appearance before, but like with all of us, it’s never enough. People used to tease her all through high school because she was overweight, and that never really goes away, no matter how much weight she lost. Especially not when, like in Perry’s case, her mom used to be a model and her kid sister has all the qualities to be one herself. When compared to these two, Perry thinks herself a bit dull, a bit ordinary, although she always hoped – like most, if not all of us – that there would be something extraordinary and special in her future. Well, Perry, it’s about to happen.
While on holiday at her uncle’s house, Perry and her sister Ada hang around with their cousins and a couple of their friends. Since hanging around with a bunch of teenagers is kind of boring her, Perry decides to check out the old and abandoned lighthouse near her uncle’s house. But she’s in for a surprise though. Not only is the lighthouse extremely terrifying, but there’s also somebody already in it. That, or the footsteps she hears on the first floor belong to a ghost.
Luckily for Perry, the person also investigating the lighthouse is anything but a ghost. In fact, he’s a rather handsome, charismatic and somewhat peculiar stranger. Although Perry’s first reaction is to be afraid of this Dex Foray guy, he sparks her interest when he tells her he went to the lighthouse to do some ghost-hunting. When the two of them hear more noises coming from above, they decide to check it out. While Perry is witness to something that can only be described as supernatural, Dex is nowhere insight. Feeling betrayed because he just ran off when things were getting dangerous, Perry decides to never think about this Dex-guy again. Although that’s not easy, considering the fact she found him quite attractive.
When Ada, Perry’s younger sister, falls ill and is unable to update her fashion blog, she asks Perry to write about something on her blog instead. Perry agrees reluctantly, but knowing nothing about fashion, she decides to write about her supernatural experience in the lighthouse instead. Luckily for her, she had her camera at hand, so she actually has some video/photo proof as well. When her post turns out to be the next internet hype , she suddenly receives a phonecall from aforementioned Dex Foray. Apparently he works for a youtube video company and the latest show he’s working on involves ghost-hunting. That, and he wants Perry and the haunted lighthouse on the show. Perry agrees, but she really has no clue what she’s getting into. The ghosts in the lighthouse might just be real, and they might have very special plans for Perry…
Since I already talked about how wonderful Perry is as a character because she has the same insecurities, problems and fears as more than half of the female population, which gives her this very humane and easy-to-relate to personality, let me talk about Dex now. You know how all those paranormal romance books feature a young, innocent girl and a more dominant vampire/demon/werewolf/other supernatural creature who has some typical bad boy charm, putting them in a peculiar relationship where one is always weak and the other always protective and strong? Yeh…well, not here. In fact, so far I’ve seen Dex portray zero supernatural abillities. He’s very much a human, and although he’s typically described as handsome by Perry, we also see a list of his many flaws indicating that perhaps not all of us would find him so handsome. He’s thin, with a bit of a moustache (personally, I’m not a fan of moustaches, but it seems to work for Dex!), and he leaves our heroine alone when in time of need. Granted, he apologises profusely about that, but still. Aforementioned Vampire/Demon/Werewolf would never do that. Unless they have to feed, or encounter another damsell in distress, or whatever. My point is: Dex has flaws at well, he isn’t the dominant male lead character some people look for when reading paranormal books. Instead, he’s human, he has a crappy low-paying job, he doesn’t look all that appealing when a night without sleep and he can get scared of ghosts as well. Which makes him one of my favorite male lead characters ever. Bonus points for Dex.
Perry and Dex’ relationship is really what drives this book. Sure, there’s the thrilling and suspenseful plot, the wonderful cast of supportive characters, the fast pace and unexpected plot twists, but in the heart of it, it’s all about Perry and Dex. It’s about two people who’ve made mistakes, who clearly aren’t perfect, and who are each desperately searching for love, who find each other. And they may not get there in this book, and maybe not even in the next, but eventually, they will. There’s a chemistry working for the two of them that they won’t be able to deny for long. The spark is there from the moment they meet, in the abandoned lighthouse, and it keeps on growing through this novel. Their interactions are at times hilarious, at other times sweet and always highly entertaining. I love them both, and I can’t wait to see what happens next to them.
As I already mentioned, the supportive characters are great as well. I especially liked Ada, Perry’s little sister, and her interactions with Perry. The two of them, albeit very different people, really do love each other.
The plot is not that original – I’ve read about abandoned lighthouses before, and protagonists dreaming about scary events about to happen to them before they actually happen…well, I’ve been there, done that. What’s original is the way the author deals with these things. She can take these clichés and turn them into something that doesn’t sound all that cliché anymore, simply because she adds the right amount of scaryness, and two of the best book characters ever created into the mix. The plot twists are unpredictable and suspensful, and kept me reading page after page after page until I’ve reached the end. Putting Darkhouse away was as impossible as travelling to the moon on foot. This is one of these books you just have to sit through to the end, or it’ll bug you forever. And even when I was done reading, I was still wondering: what’s going to happen next to Perry and Dex? Where will their next adventure take them? Will they finally get together? Yes, Darkhouse leaves you wanting more.
I would also like to congratulate Karina Halle on her excellent writing style. This book is self-published, but that really doesn’t show. It has the same high-quality writing as one would expect of a traditionally-published book, the editing is great and potential readers really shouldn’t scare away over the fact that this is self-published. There are some rare jewels in the self-publishing market as well, and the Experiment in Terror series definately is one of them.
I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a mix of scary, creepy and supernatural occurences and romance. It reminded me a lot of the X-Files and the Scully/Mulder interactions, and of the television series Supernatural. If you’re a fan of either one of those shows, then you’ll most definately enjoy Darkhouse as well. This book can be read and enjoyed by both young adults and adults. Just don’t read it late at night when you’re home alone.
Darkhouse is the first book in a series of eight. The next book in the series is entitled Red Fox and takes Perry and Dex on an eerie and creepy adventure in New Mexico. My review for Red Fox is coming later this week. Karina Halle’s third book in the series, Dead Sky Morning will be released this fall. I can’t wait to read Dead Sky Morning and the other books in the series. I’m officially hooked.(less)
Avery Norton is your average twelve year old girl, albeit the fact her Mom is an overprotective, meddling and slightly disturbed woman. Although her m...moreAvery Norton is your average twelve year old girl, albeit the fact her Mom is an overprotective, meddling and slightly disturbed woman. Although her mother’s behavior stands in her way of making friends, Avery is perfectly fine with the friend she does have: Paul. He is kind, considerate and caring, and he doesn’t mind that her mother says weird things or looks at them oddly. However, when Avery and Paul follow her mother one night in the back of her car, they discover some disturbing things. Is her mother really ditching a body, or are the two youngsters seeing things?
When Avery’s mom gives her a garden as a birthday present, she doesn’t like it at first. And when her mother tells this crazy story about rabbits cheating on each other, and that they need to be punished for such prudent behavior, she isn’t quite alarmed. That is, until her mother kills the rabbits to set an example. Traumatized, Avery is determined to take good care of the garden, so nothing happens to the water and the rabbits behave appriopriately, so her mother doesn’t see any reason to kill them. But when her world comes crashing upon her, and she incidentally kills one of the rabbits herself, and ends up in a closed shed in the garden with at least a dozen mutilated corpses, Avery is quite sure things couldn’t get any worse. Her own mother is a serial killer. And her long lost father, was her very first victim.
But thanks to some excellent manipulation from her side, her mom convinces every one that Avery is the one responsible for the murders. Locked up in a mental asylum, Avery is determined to prove the truth to the outside world: that it wasn’t her, but her mother who killed all those innocent people. But as she starts to question her own sanity, and wonders if perhaps her mother had been telling the truth, it gets harder and harder for Avery to keep believing in her own innocence.
I fell in love with Rabbits in the Garden from page one. The storyline is thrilling, suspenseful and highly original. But it’s truly the characters that make this book. Avery’s mother’s behaviour seems odd from the start, but I never paid much attention to it until it developed into plain disturbing. She has a firm belief in loyalty to one partner, she’s a very devote person, and wants Avery to believe in the same principles as she does. She’s very suspicious of Avery’s relationship with her neighbour Paul, although the two hardly did anything more than hold hands and share a brief birthday kiss. But Avery’s mother isn’t just delusional and paranoid, or slightly disturbed. The way Jessica McHugh builds the tension in this novel, by slowly revealing the amount of insanity that is possessing Avery’s mom, is really close to brilliant. I was both amazed and pitrified as the events unfolded, and the absurdity of the situation became clear.
I thought the scene with the corpses in the shed/basement was both gruesome and terrifying and really, really well-written. It felt more like being in a movie than like reading a book, and I imagined the heroine in the horror flick putting her hands on things hanging in her way in the dark, without any real clue as to what they are. And then when realisation hits her, the amount of terror she experiences is overwhelming. Naturally, this happens to Avery too, and her emotions, shock and despair are really well described in this scene. It’s probably my favorite scene from the entire book, and from a book as good as this one, that’s saying something.
Although life is far from easy for Avery, she has a very strong and willful personality, and I could not help but think she must have inherited some of these characteristics from her mother. Her sister Natalie, is a lot less determined and headstrong than Avery, perhaps that’s one of the reasons why their mother never saw her as that much of a treat. The scenes in the mental asylum were very authentic as well. I could imagine being there from the way Jessica McHugh described the building, the patients and the doctors. The sence of injustice I got at Avery’s treatment was so strong and profound that I found myself occasionally raging at the system, the police and Avery’s lunatic mother.
I enjoyed the fact that the author doesn’t only focus on Avery’s trials in the mental asylum, but that she provides her with a cast of friends with their own share of troubles. All the characters, from the protagonists to the janitor of the asylum (so to speak, there isn’t any janitor actually mentioned) were very well defined, with their own set of distinct personality traits and their own history. Jessica McHugh’s writing style is very fluent, very gripping, and the storyline is amazing enough to keep you glued to your chair for well over two hours. By the time I had finished reading, I had long left the day-to-day world, and entered the scary, threatening and terrifying world of mental asylums and delusional mothers with gruesome hobbies. When I turned the last page of the book, it did take me a couple of minutes to let go of the suffocating and slightly unnerved feeling I had felt the entire time while reading, and to relax again. I had barely noticed, but my muscles had tensed and I had crawled on the far edge of the seat on the train, practically hiding myself in the corner. I love it when a book does that.
Rabbits in the Garden doesn’t have the most gorgeous cover in the entire world, but this is one of those books that you really cannot judge by its cover. The storyline is paralyzing, the writing style is flawless, the characters are bizarre, intriguing and sometimes even down-right terrifying. This is horror the way it should be – crawling under your skin slowly, from page one till the very end, and turning the world as you know it into something scary and unfamiliar. The kind of book that, after reading it, makes you look at people and think ‘what the heck goes on in their mind’ and wonder if maybe one of them is as sick and disturbed as Avery’s mother. The sort of book that doesn’t let you go, but keeps you in this tightening grip for a long while, and sometimes makes you question your own sanity.
If Hollywood finally grows tired of those zombie-apocalyptic novels, or those scary-monster-ones and needs a really good horror book to turn into a script, then I would recommend Rabbits in the Garden (if I had any connections with Hollywood directors, that is). It’s a master piece in the horror genre, and it left me very impressed. Feel free to read it for yourself, but don’t blame me if you have trouble sleeping afterwards, or if you start wondering if perhaps that old-fashioned and firm-on-principles lady in the apartment downstairs really is a serial killer, and you could be next on her list.
House of Reckoning starts out with fourteen-year-old Sarah Crane, who’s mother died a few months ago, and who gets hit by her Dad’s car when he returns from a night in town, completely wasted. She gets injured badly and will limp for the rest of her life. Her dad gets sent to jail for killing a man earlier that night. Sarah is forced to go live with a foster family, who only accepted the outsiders’ presence for the money it brought them. They’re quick to remind Sarah she has no rights, should do all the chores in the house, etc. The daughter of the family, who has to share a room with Sarah, is less than pleased and starts teasing her at school as well.
Then there’s Nick Dunnigan, a classmate of Sarah’s, who is shunned by most of the high school population as well. Nick hears voices in his mind, countless voices, and all of them tell him to do bad things. Therapy doesn’t help and neither does medicine, although he’d like his Mom to believe it does. But the moment Nick sees Sarah, the voices shut up. He’s surprised by the silence, since they’ve been babbling on for God knows how long, and yearns to find out more about this strange girl who can make the voices go quiet.
Sarah quickly bonds with her arts’ teacher, Bettina. While the entire town thinks Bettina is a witch because she leaves in an old, weathered mansion called Shutters, Sarah finds a kindred spirit in the teacher, who cares for her more than her foster family ever will. But Shutters is a strange place, where the shadowy ghosts of the past live on, haunting the mansion and harming whoever enters with ill-intentions towards its inhabitants…
I liked the idea behind Shutters. It’s not just an “evil” house, the evil is directed toward those who try to harm its inhabitants. I also enjoyed reading about the house’s history, how it used to be a hospital where they took care of the mentally ill, how one sick man turned all those good intentions around and brought forth an ancient evil in doing so. The house itself was so vibrant and entertaining it almost became a character all on its own. Shutters was, by far, my favorite character.
I also liked Sarah. She refused to give up, no matter how many hardships life threw at her, and I can respect that. Nick was okay as well. He was a little less eager to take charge, and was content doing whatever Sarah told him to do. Nevertheless, I liked his personality and thought he was at times quite charming. Bettina was all right as well, even though I wonder why she didn’t just tell the truth earlier. Everybody in town thought she was a witch, while she was probably the sanest person there.
But then there’s the secondary characters, and that’s where the story gets a little meh. Mostly because half what those characters do, doesn’t make sense. It’s over the top, sometimes downright ridiculous and weird. Especially Sarah’s foster family. On top of that, all the father figures kind of act the same way, which doesn’t make a lot of sense either. The secondary characters could use a rewrite, and a lot more personality.
Apart from that, this was a great book. Not that scary, but entertaining enough to keep me reading, and it gave me some goosebumps here and there.(less)
Catalyst starts out promising with a scary, suspenseful air battle that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the book. We meet Griff Avery, our protagonist, who is commanding officer for the flight forces, and whose mission fails. He’s confronted by a guilty conscious over losing his men for the first time, because this time around he’s directly responsible. He struggles with a secret plan he’s helped put into motion, a new relationship that puts him on edge because the woman in question may be involved in a German spy plot, and the world around him is slowly crumbling to pieces.
This book is reminiscent of movies like Inglorious Bastards, a sort of what-if scenario if world war two went differently. I read some reviews on Amazon that tackle the author’s supposed lack of research, but I don’t think that’s what the author was trying to do here. I mean, if this is a what-if version, one must allow an author some creative freedom. The plot for Inglorious Bastards never worked out in real life either, and nobody’s gone off to bash the movie about its terrible research. In Catalyst, it’s obvious that the author has an extensive knowledge of aviation during World War two, and in his what-if version of the war, places the Russians in France at a time when they obviously weren’t there, and does some other things that aren’t historically correct. But this is a spy thriller, not non-fiction, so give it a break.
Anyway, moving on, I kind of liked the build-up of this book. It started out slow, deliberately taking the time to introduce us to the main characters, but then the pace picks up, and we’re sent from an England devastated by bombings to the relatively unharmed USA, back to the heart of the war in Germany. I haven’t read a lot of spy novels before, but I might have to pick them up more often, because I really enjoyed the spy aspect of this book.
That aside, while the plot is strong and well thought-through, there were some things that annoyed me enough to fret over them. I’m not keen on deus-ex-machina, or on coincedences. It gets almost laughable when a German officer spreads classified secrets by talking about them to another officer, in English, with an English captive standing right there. Forgive me if I’m not busying that. And sometimes the rescue missions were a bit too coincedental, while this could’ve easily been avoided.
Avery was a decent character, a mishmash of strength and weaknesses, definitely not a straight about hero, but rather a forced-hero type. I liked his no-nonsense attitude, and his abillity to keep his cool in desperate situations. I rather liked Lincoln as well, especially his laid-back humor. Strovinski was another like for me. His personality was build up of contradictions, which I really enjoy reading about in characters. However, there were lots of other characters we’re introduced to that never reach above the name-on-a-page phase, which was a bit of a dissapointment.
I finished this book in about three sittings, because this is the kind of book that demands a break every now and then to wrap your mind around what happens. By about a third into the book, the pace really picks up and so many things start happening that it’s hard to keep track of what happens first. I enjoyed the fast-paced hunt for the spy, the flight to prevent the attack, and the many action sequences. This book would make a great movie, if anyone ever decides to buy the movie rights. (less)
I purchased Abandoned at a booksale last year for the very low price of $1. The best dollar ever spent, if you ask me. Sure, I wouldn’t rate this book...moreI purchased Abandoned at a booksale last year for the very low price of $1. The best dollar ever spent, if you ask me. Sure, I wouldn’t rate this book a five star, but it was a decent, satisfactory read that kept me chilled the entire time. I had to keep on turning pages to find out what would happen next to the main characters, and if that happens, it’s always a great sign.
Abandoned is the fourth book in a series focusing on detective Smoky Barrett, but it’s not necesarry to read the previous parts to understand what’s going on here. At a colleague’s wedding, a strange woman staggers down the isle, wearing nothing but a white nightgown. It looks like the woman hasn’t been outside in ages. Who is she? Why is she here? It’s up to the detectives to find out. A fingerprint check results in them discovering the woman has been missing for eight years. Where has she been all this time? People don’t just vanish off the face of the earth…or do they?
When they begin to investigate more, in particular into the background of the missing woman’s husband, an array of secrets come to the surface, one darker than the other. Smoky and her team know that serial killers work in a particular way. They feel sexually aroused when they murder someone, they’re in it for the money, or they feel some other thrill. Not this one though. They’re not even sure if he’s a killer, considering the only victim they’ve found so far is still alive, albeit barely. To find out the reasons behind the abductions, the team will have to put aside all normal human logic and dive deep into the mind of a murderer, to the darkest pillars of their imagination…
What I found most intriguing about Abandoned is its premise. The murderer. Why the murderer does what he does, and that he has no obvious drives. As the novel progresses, he kills some victims by making a hole in their skull, lobotomizing them, like they used to do to patients in mental health hospitals two centuries ago. It both shows how distanced the murderer is from his actions, and how insane he truly is.
At some point, the stakes are even higher when the detective gets kidnapped herself. Now, that’s when things got really interesting for me. We see how the killer acts and what he does to the victims he keeps locked up for eight years, sometimes even a decade. We travel into the darkest corners of the human soul, and the journey itself is more than intriguing. Gruesome and cruel yes, but also fascinating, in a morbid kind of way.
I liked the characters, although this is a very plot-driven book, they’re all developed well. I had some trouble keeping track of who is who and what their role was in the team, but I blame that mostly on me not starting with book one, as usually.
I highly recommend this book to all fans of thriller novels. Abandoned offers an elusive killer, endaring detectives and some of the darkest and most delusional minds you’ll ever see. A great book, and ideal to read on a chilly and rainy afternoon.(less)
Russian Dolls reminded me of a mature, gritty version of Veronica Mars. Alexandra Neve, our main character, doesn’t want to become your typical mystery-solving sleuth, but she’s forced into the role after her best friend commits suicide by jumping off a school building. When Alexandra finds a note with a list of names hidden in her best friend’s bedroom, she realizes there may be more going on than just a suicide. She never believed Idrana would take her own life in the first place, and with the clues adding up, it seems like something else is going on.
Alexandra finds an unexpected ally in her blind professor, Mr. Ashford Egan. He’s a grumpy, bitter man, but his intellect and quick wit make him the perfect ally for Alexandra. He recognizes the names Alexandra found as being names of towns all around Russia. When the two of them dive deeper into the mystery, they uncover a secret human trafficking organization, and before they very well realize it, put themselves in harm’s way.
I liked how Neve and Egan were an unlikely sleuthing pair, but yet they work remarkably well. I enjoyed Egan’s sarcastic, dry sense of humor, and Alexandra’s down-to-earth view on life. While the MC is a ‘new adult’ (and fits perfectly within the new genre of “new adult”) this book would be an excellent fit for the older young adult audience, and the adult audience alike. There’s action, mystery, suspense and a lot of character development. Some more grown up topics are touched upon, but in a mature, distanced way. There’s no swearing or profanity, which is a bonus. Lately, it seems like all the mystery novels I’ve read are wrapped in a layer of profanity with a bit of swearing on top. Here, no such thing – thank God.
Russian Dolls is a great debut novel. The author certainly managed to keep up the suspense, and to keep me at the edge of my seat until the end. I can’t wait to read more about the Neve and Egan cases.(less)
I have to admit that at first, I thought Dead Man’s Eye would be a lot like the scary movie called The Eye with Jessica Alba in the lead role. I liked...moreI have to admit that at first, I thought Dead Man’s Eye would be a lot like the scary movie called The Eye with Jessica Alba in the lead role. I liked that movie – didn’t love it to pieces, but that’s sort of difficult when it comes to horror movies anyway – but I did rather enjoy it, and thought it was fairly scary. Now in the movie the girl portrayed by Jessica Alba undergoes a cornea transplant (which basically means she gets a new and shiny pair of eyes) but ever since, she notices things lurking in the shadows. Evil things. She has visions of people dying, etc. In an effort to figure out what the heck is going out, she travels to Mexico to find the person who the cornea first belonged to, where she does a whole lot of things but eventually cannot forsake her destiny. I had a faint suspicion Dead Man’s Eye would be somewhat along this line. There are a lot of similiarities, but there are also some huge differences.
Joanna recently underwent a cornea transplant, and although her life should look a whole lot brighter now (no pun intended); it doesn’t. Because either something went wrong with the transplant or she has gone insane and started seeing things that aren’t there. Like black smoke crawling into a man who just fell under a train, and is now missing an arm due to that freak accident. Concerned that something is wrong with the transplant, Joanna goes to a check-up with her doctor, who convinces her that everything is fine and her cornea is working properly. Meanwhile, she finds out that strange things are happening at the hospital. These strange things are courtesy of Malachi, the demon who chose to inhabit Lincoln, the man who fell under the train. Although Malachi himself isn’t all too happy with his new body (especially with the fact it’s missing an arm, and the previous owner tries to regain control every once in a while), he does use it to summon his brethren. The plan? Well, rule the world, ofcourse. How? By inhabiting dead people’s bodies. Who can stop them? Joanna is the only one who can see the demons, but what can one woman do against an entire army of demons?
I have to state first of all, that I admire people who write novellas. It can’t be easy to develop believable and relatable characters, build a solid world around them, and then craft a storyline as well in less than 40,000 words. Like it takes a certain talent to write captivating short stories, I think it takes a particular gift to write successful novellas as well. Shaun Jeffrey managed to do such a remarkable thing with this mix of horror, thriller and the supernatural. I liked the characters, especially Joanna. She proved herself to be a strong, capable and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to meet danger head on when needed. Her boyfriend, Stephen, is a remarkable person as well, and although he might not have supported her at first, I think that’s quite the natural reaction when your love interest suddenly tells you half of the people you work with have turned into demons. I also liked the way the author described the demon Malachi and his personality. It was a tad bit dissapointing that the supportive characters were nothing more than names on paper, with no personality whatsoever, but then again it’s normal to focus only the main characters in novels of this size.
The storyline was interesting. I certainly didn’t expect to see demons pop up in this novel, but they did nevertheless. Now the problem I have with demons is quite simple. They don’t scare me. I can’t help it: perhaps I’m immune because of an overdose of Buffy kicking demons action while I was younger, or because the good witches in Charmed always managed to defeat the evil demons, but for some reason as soon as the world “demon” pops up, I’m no longer scared. Same goes for vampires, by the way. I blame the media for enforcing the image of loving and caring demons and cuddly and shiny vampires in our mind. I’m convinced that if the shadows Joanna noticed wouldn’t have been works of a demon, but rather ghosts or something along those lines, I would have been a lot more scared by this story. Although I must admit that somewhere halfway Dead Man’s Eye, when Joanna was being chased by a couple of demons, I did have to surpress a feeling of dread and anxiety. Blame it on Shaun Jeffrey’s marvellous way of describing Joanna’s feelings during this chase.
There was one other thing about this novel that had me totally confused. When Joanna finds out that her cornea lets her see demons, she goes to find the person who has the other part of the cornea. A search which turns out to be totally useless, and made no sense to me in the first place. Personally, I would have gone to search for the reason why I was seeing things I shouldn’t be able to see, and I would try to track down the person the cornea belonged to originally. If that person had some connection with the demon world, it might have helped Joanna fight the demons. I have to admit that we do eventually discover who the cornea belonged to at first, but it’s an answer I find quite random, and it just seems a bit far off to me. The story would have been more interesting to me, had there been a more valid reason why the original owner of the cornea could see demons, and had it focused more on Joanna’s search for the reason why she can see demons all of the sudden. Ofcourse I know that’s a lot to cramp into a novella, especially considering the main character spends half the novel being chased by demons, but it would have added some more suspense to the story.
What I loved the most about Dead Man’s Eye, was the ending, without a doubt. Trust me when I say it ends in a blast, and with a nice twist at the end of an entertaining read. If you want some fun entertainment, or a scary story that isn’t going to give you some sleepless nights, but will instead put you on the edge of your seat during the entire experience, then Dead Man’s Eye is definately your kind of novella.(less)
This must be one of the shortest synopses ever, but yet it still intrigued me enough to request a review copy of this book through Netgalley. Let me s...moreThis must be one of the shortest synopses ever, but yet it still intrigued me enough to request a review copy of this book through Netgalley. Let me start by saying that Kill Me Again did not dissapoint in the slightest. When I first started this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought this was going to be a ghost story, or at least a story about a girl who dreams about a past life. While that’s partly true, this novel is so much more as well. Alexis travels back to the town where her Mom grew up. But as soon as she arrives in town, it looks eerily familiar, as if she’d been there before.
According to her Mom, that’s normal because she went there once when she was a toddler. Eerily enough, while she was there, Alexis stumbled upon the body of a teenage girl, who drowned in a pond in the park. But as Alexis spends more and more time in her hometown, she begins to suspect the teenage girl drowning wasn’t a drowning at all. And as for her aunt Nan, Alexis isn’t entirely convinced Nan left home all those years ago.
Then another girl ends up missing, and eventually Alexis is the one to find her body in the same body she found that other drowned girl over a decade ago. As she begins to remember things she couldn’t possibly remember, Alexis grows convinced of two things. She’s the reincarnation of Nan, and she didn’t run away from home – she was murdered. And she wasn’t the only one…A serial killer is loose in the town of Oxford, and Alexis is the only one who can figure out who it is. Before it’s too late and she becomes his next target.
The author does a great job of describing the town of Oxford to the readers. I especially liked the “drowned” city, a part of the city flooded by water which now rests in an underground lake.
I really enjoyed Kill Me Again. All of the topics, from the romance subplot to a serial killer on the loose to reincarnation intrigued me. I was a bit dissapointed that ghosts didn’t play an actual part in this book, but I got over that quickly. Leslie Rule definitely surprises with sublime characterization skills, excellent prose and the ability to hold one’s interest until the very end, revealing the clues slowly enough to keep tension building. If you’re a fan of thrillers, ghost stories and paranormal mysteries, this is definitely a nice read. I hope Leslie Rule’s other book, Whispers From The Grave, is just as good.(less)
City of The Dead is one of the grittiest crime novels I’ve read in a while. Paul Konig is Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, which means he spends most of his time with the dead. His job has taken the best of him for many years – his marriage failed, his wife eventually passed away, his daughter won’t speak to him anymore, and overall, he’s lost most of the things he loves. But this new case is particularly gruesome, and Konig vows to solve it, catching the mad man who has committed a series of brutal crimes and carved a bloody path across the city.
But the clearer the picture Konig gets of the killer, the more the last thing he cares for becomes endangered. For his own daughter has been kidnapped, and with every second wasting away, so do his chances of seeing her alive. With political blackmail on the agenda, someone stealing unclaimed corpses, and a murderer to catch, Konig may be up for his toughest days yet.
This book was originally published in the 70′s, and it’s like an early example of Temperance Brennan. Konig is a medical examiner forever scarred by the long list of people he’s seen ending up on his tables. He’s grumpy, old and has a sarcastic sense of humor not everyone can appreciate. He’s a ruthless man as well, the kind of person whose job is everything for him, who will go to the end of the world and beyond to solve a crime. But at the same time, we see him as a man at the end of the line, who is constantly under stress, who hasn’t got a moment of peace, the kind of man urging toward an emotional breakdown. He is flawed, but his flaws make him come to life, turn him into one of the most endaring, intriguing protagonists I’ve seen for a while.
The unique thing about the story is that it isn’t just a murder to solve. There are several cases going on at once, which adds to the urgent feel of the book. When all the cases come together at the end, it feels like a nice closure, and actually made me think about the brilliance of the mind who could conjure so many storylines and then add them neatly together. There’s the kidnapping of Konig’s daughter, the gruesome murders, some other murders, and the cases of political blackmail going on at Konig’s office. We get glimpses of Konig’s past mixed in as well.
Another bonus is that the author doesn’t shy away from giving the readers heartbreak and doesn’t guarantee happy endings for everyone. Just like in the real world. There is also heaps of technical stuff about the world of forensics that I thought was very intriguing to read, and certainly shows the author did his homework.
If you’re a fan of gritty murder mysteries, check out “City of the Dead“. It has amazing writing, one of the best protagonists I’ve come across in a while, and a suspenseful storyline.(less)
I don’t usually read political novels, although I don’t know why. It’s just that it’s never been my primary area of interest – but Jack Canon’s American Destiny made me look at these types of novels in a whole new light. Jack Canon is an ambitious idealist who wants to be President of the United States. You’d think a man who has it all – charming wife, a gorgous assistant who flirts with him every once in a while, who’s intelligent and handsome, would be all right with ‘just’ being a senator, but Jack has higher dreams. Unfortunately his dreams may well be shattered when he comes the intended victim of an attack.
Jack’s problem is that he’s too much of an idealist, which is ultimately the reason why people are out to kill him. He wants to distribute wealth equally, come up with a plan for cheap energy, stop wars and fighting in general, and all in all, make America a better country than it is today, some sort of Utopia. But in doing so, he basically sets himself up to be killed. However, Jack Canon isn’t one to give up easily. He follows through with his plans, no matter how hard it gets. He shows us a picture of a better world, and a man willing to fight for it, even if the odds are against him.
Jack Canon’s American Destiny was a fast-paced read, with enough twists and turns to keep me interested. The main character was charismastic and amusing, but it was good that he had his own set of flaws to account for. Jack’s dreams are the core of this book, his desire to bring forth a better destiny for everyone is the drive behind his actions and the plot. If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful, inspiring read set against a political backstory, then try this one. I doubt you’ll be dissapointed.(less)
Snow Escape begins by introducing us to Allegra, a single woman in her thirties who works as a teacher and spends her spare time hanging out with frie...moreSnow Escape begins by introducing us to Allegra, a single woman in her thirties who works as a teacher and spends her spare time hanging out with friends or looking for possible dates on an online dating site. Ever since things didn’t work out with her ex-boyfriend Danny – he wanted to keep things simple, while she was convinced they had an actual relationship – things in the love department haven’t been working out for Allegra. She went on a couple of dates, but none of those guys sounded relationship material to her. Now, with a historical snow storm coming her way, Allegra finds herself stuck home on a friday evening with nothing better to do than grade homework and watch a movie, or reply to some of the mails she got from potential dates.
However, when Allegra gets a mail back from a man named ‘Charles’ and starts chatting with him online, the conversation grows eerier with the second. Not only is Charles supposedly living in her building, he also has some unsettling plans for her…Allegra’s panic increases with the minute as Charles not only is able to tell her exactly how many minutes she was asleep, indicating that watched her, but also threatens to harm her. Panicking, Allegra goes to her neighbours for help. However, not all of them believe her so willingly, and some might even be involved in the foul play…The clock is ticking mercilessly, and it’s up to Allegra to find out who she can trust and who she can’t, especially with the power falling out, clothing the building in unforgiving darkness. With a stalker and potential killer on the loose, who can Allegra turn to for help? And how well does she really know the people she’s called her neighbors for the last couple of years?
Snow Escape has an excellent premise, and it certainly delivers. The novel is captivating from the start, building tension slowly and gradually until you as a reader feel you might just be buried underneath the same amount of tension and despair as the main character.That being said, Allegra does make an interesting protagonist. The way she is being portrayed by people differs greatly. There seems to be a category of people who think she was obsessed with her ex-boyfriend and stalked him up to the point he was forced to leave town (Miguel, ex-boyfriend of one of her best friends, is one of those who seem to think that way) whereas others, including me, think that account is greatly exaggerated. From what I gathered from Allegra’s brief interactions with her friends, some of them really don’t threat her right, or have no insight in human psychology whatsoever. Allegra, honey, you definately need to find yourself a new set of friends. And stop dating on the internet.
Anyway, I found it intriguing to see how different some people can think about the same events, and how much opinions can vary. The residents in Allegra’s apartment building all hold secrets of their own as well, and it’s up to Allegra (and the reader) to find out what exactly they’re hiding and whether or not they’re the culprit. The first part of this novel is simply amazing. As I said, it’s a build-up of tension, anticipation and fear. But then the novel takes a different direction with the arrival of police officers and two detectives, and the constant feeling of dread vanishes. It’s as if this book miraculously transforms from an outstanding, nailbiting thriller into a mystery novel featuring two detectives who have to solve a crime.
I wasn’t too fond of this twist of events, but I did like how the officers had to put a timeline together and decipher who was telling the truth and who was lying in order to find out who really stalked Allegra, or if her supposed stalker was, as some of the tenants suggested, imaginative. I found this thought-process interesting to say the least, but it did drop the pace of the story significantly and all the tension that had been building up from page one simply dissapeared. The twist at the ending was unexpected and interesting, but it didn’t make up for the lack of tension in the previous chapters. Especially the fact that the detectives seemingly repeat everything that has just happened not once, but twice is a bit annoying. I would’ve preferred it if this novel had stayed with its original starting point, as a fast-paced, frightening thriller. The second part seems to belong to another book alltogether.
Solid characters with intriguing personalities offering a look at humanity in total, and on how perspectives can differ a lot from one individual to another. A nailbiting thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for more than the first half of the story and then changes into a mystery novel with two detectives taking the front row. I enjoyed Snow Escape, and I read it in one sitting, desperate to know who was stalking Allegra this entire time, but it could’ve been better had the pace not dropped significantly in the second part, hence why only the 3,5 rating rather than a 4. But all in all, for a debut novel, Snow Escape has an intriguing premise, it’s well-executed, the characters are intriguing and Roberta Goodman’s fluent writing style makes up for a lot of the flaws in the second part. I would definately recommend it to people who are fans of thrillers like Night Stalker by Carol Davis Luce. The novel is intriguing and captivating, and I certainly enjoyed reading it. I’m looking forward to reading more works by this author.
In Blind Rage, young girls are killing themselves. First by jumping from a bridge into the Missisippi River, then by drowning themselves in a bathtub....moreIn Blind Rage, young girls are killing themselves. First by jumping from a bridge into the Missisippi River, then by drowning themselves in a bathtub. Everywhere she looks, detective Bernadette St. Clare sees a connection between these suicides and water. But are they truly suicides, or is something more sinister going on? With her second sight and her abilities to see ghosts, Bernadette St. Clare is the ideal person to solve this mystery. But the suspects are plenty, including a young psychiatrist and his brother. Can she find out who the real culprit is in time before someone else gets hurt? Solving this mystery means digging into the past, and not everyone is keen on her finding out their secrets…
I haven’t read the first one in this series, Blind Spot, but it appears to be unnecessary. I could follow the plot of this book well enough. First, we’re introduced to our main character, Bernadette St. Claire who’s a police officer and who sees ghosts. Awesome combination, but it does cause a lot of tension Bernadette probably doesn’t want. Bernadette has a strange relationship with her boss, Tony Garcia, the other main character. At times, there’s a lot of romantic tension between them, but sometimes they also push each other away in a cat and mouse game that reminded me of the relationship between Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth in the TV Series Bones. I loved the underlying romantic tension and the developing relationship. It was very well done and believable. I also felt like I could relate to Bernadette from the start, although we have practically nothing in common. She’s a bit of a loner, hides her ability to see ghosts, and isn’t all that talkative, but she’s a great detective and willing to fight to find out the truth, which I admired a lot.
Apart from the intriguing characters, Blind Rage has a pretty straight-foward plot. Alleged suicides on college girls with mental problems turn out to be murders after all. It’s up to Bernatte and her boss to find out what’s happening, and most importantly, who’s behind it. While there are a handful of suspects, I was a bit disappointed I could pick out the culprit early on in the novel. The mystery and the reason why the murders happened is well thought-through and original. It may’ve been used before – isn’t every idea used at some point in some form or other? – but I haven’t read a lot of thrillers that focus on this particular event in the character’s history to explain why they turn out as a murderer. So while the concept behind it was definitely intriguing, the lack of complexity in solving the mystery was a disappointment. I hate it when I can pinpoint the culprit before the final pages, and unfortunately I knew early on in this book. Not enough suspects to choose from, and not enough twist and turns to keep me guessing.
I did enjoy the book though, and read it in one setting. Parts of it were dark and disturbing, and I think I loved those the most. To be able to take a quick look in how the antagonist is thinking was a revelation as well, as was the reason behind the killing. Bernadette St. Clare makes an intriguing main character, especially with her ability to see ghosts. The writing was solid and kept me turning the pages. I even lost track of time while reading and nearly missed my bus stop.
I recommend Blind Rage to all fans of thrillers and suspense novels. It may not be the best book out there, but it’s definitely a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. If I get the chance to, I’ll definitely read Blind Spot, another book by this author.(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by The Goddess and The Great Beast. The setting is Baghdad in the middle of World War II, at least that’s where the story starts. Vivian, the hero of this story, is bored and spends most of his time hanging out with Farouk, a smuggler who also happens to be a member of a secret cult, which intrigues Vivian endlessly. He begs Farouk to take him to one of the cult meetings, and what he sees there, changes his life forever.
He takes a secret drug no one should know about it, and enters a hallucination about an ancient Babylonian Goddess. Afterward, he nags Farouk to bring him along again, and he does so, even if it’s against custom. But the further Vivian gets trapped into the world of ancient rites and customs, the more he feels the rituals may be dangerous. Until the goddess attacks him with a knife, then he decides it’s time to quit.
The goddess, Ishtar, continues to torment him though, while he travels through the Middle East. After the war, he settles down in London, convinced the Goddess has finally left him alone. He gets a girlfriend, JJ, and starts to enjoy life again. That is, until he meets Ishtar once again, this time as a singer in a London bar.
The story is unique and intriguing, and I had no idea what was going to happen next. The author has a way with words that is definitely intriguing to read. He knows his vocabulary well. The characters were also very interesting, especially Vivian. They’re not your standard cardboard cut-out characters. They’re three-dimensional, with enough qualities and flaws to make them stand out.
An excellent read, and one I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys supernatural thrillers.(less)
I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers. Within the thriller genre, they rank second on my list, just below supernatural thrillers. So of course I was thrilled to get started on The Asylum. The book was originally published in Sweden and has since travelled all across the globe. With that much buzz going on, it had to be good. And it was, except that I was a tiny bit dissapointed. A lot of plot points here are based on random events and coincedences. I don’t believe in coincedences, and I think if a book has to rely on coincedences too much, that’s always a bad sign. Anyway, here we go.
Jan Hauger is a loner and a bit of an oddball. He arrives at St. Patricia’s, a psychiatric hospital, to take up a position as teacher. There’s a small school next to the hospital where kids of the patients are gathered. They get to visit their parents through an underground tunnel leading to Saint Patricia’s. As you can gather from the description, the setting is superb. It’s ideal for a psychological thriller. The asylum and the tunnel connecting the hospital and the school are well-described, creepy and chilling. But Jan has alternative motives for being there. He wants to get as far away from his past as possible. And he suspects someone he used to know is now a patient at the asylum. While everyone accepts Jan at face value, giving him the benefit of the doubt, the reader gradually learns more about Jan’s past. He isn’t as clear-minded as he appears. He hides dark secrets and menacing thoughts and soon enough, the lines between reality and fiction begin to blur.
St. Patricia’s, or Saint Psycho as it’s called by the local population, harbors a few secrets of its own. There’s a woman locked up who makes deranged picture books, and Jan is immediately intrigued by her. There’s a well known serial killer hiding behind its walls as well, and the teachers Jan works with aren’t as innocent as they seem either.
I liked Jan. Not as a person, of course, but as a character he had so much potential. We know right away, from his hasty and worried thoughts when the head of staff of St. Patricia’s asks for information on past teaching jobs that he did something bad in his past. This immediately made me curious, and practically hooked me to the book. Because apart from that, and the growing descent into Jan’s madness, this book isn’t actually THAT good. There are a lot of spots where the plot drags, or the character’s reactions seem so out of character. The author also seems convinced that anyone who works at an asylum must either be going insane themselves or have ulterior motives. Halfway through the book, everyone became a suspect. It was a bit tiring, and I kept thinking “not everyone has issues”. The characters are hard to get as well. We get a good picture of Jan, but the secondary characters are less developed. Like you paint a detailed painting of one person and use quick, vague strokes for all the others. Their motives aren’t clear either, not even when they’re explained. I kept asking myself “why”.
And then there’s the mystery about Jan’s past which, when it’s cleared up, is actually pretty dissapointing. Except that there’s another huge reveal at the end, which all made it interesting again. But at around 3/4 into the book, I began getting bored. The mystery wasn’t all that great, the plot dragged, the characters had no direction. Then the bomb exploded (not literally) and everything happened extremely fast, which was great. The ending was thrilling, fast-paced. Too bad the first half of the book wasn’t like that. I like a slow build up, but at times this was too slow.
All in all though, The Asylum had a lot of potential, but didn’t always deliver. It was an enjoyable read, and a different experience for once since we know right away the MC is hiding something. The book could’ve been darker, more sinister and more thrilling though. (less)
The Restorer is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Since I average 150 books a year, that’s saying something. I bought the first book in the series, was thoroughly impressed, and immediately went out to hunt for book two and three. This week I will review all three books, and give you my honest opinion about what I consider one of the best series ever. The only downside? I find it remarkably tough to write reviews about books I enjoyed immensely. Anyway, on we go.
Amelia Gray, main character, restores old graveyards, which instantly gives her one of the coolest professions ever. I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Victorian graveyards, and so is Amelia, which instantly made me bond with her. The second quirky thing about Amelia is that she sees ghosts. She’s seen them ever since she was a little kid. She tried to stay away from them and ignore them because her father told her to, but that doesn’t always work out. When the dead see you, they grow attached to you, they feed on your energy, and Amelia tries to avoid that. She spends most of her time on hallowed ground, such as graveyards, to avoid seeing the dead. If she’s not safe on hallowed ground come nightfall, things might get ugly.
Her ability to see the dead has made it difficult for Amelia to make friends and to date guys, so she’s a twenty-seven year old single woman who easily reminded me of “Bones” from the TV series. Intelligent, brave and actually a nice person, but someone who has trouble befriending people or dating people. I liked her personality, her attitude, her spark. She doesn’t see her ability as much of a gift, and to be honest, it isn’t really, at least not for her. It hinders her in everything she does or tries to do, sometimes even putting her on harm’s way. She’s the opposite of a superhero, her powers a true curse for her. I liked that. The tragic hero thing, a person who genuinely is hindered by her abilities, even though others might find them awesome.
At the beginning of the book, she’s working to restore Oak Grove Cemetery when a bound is recovered on the cemetery. This could be no news at all, if the body didn’t belong to a missing person and was quite recent. The detective on the case, John Devlin, is the kind of man Amelia could fall for. Southern charm, handsome, strong, intelligent, he’s practically every girl’s dream. But Devlin has his own ghosts to deal with, and Amelia has learned the hard way not to get close to people who are haunted by their past, sometimes quite literary. As a male lead, John Devlin doesn’t do that much though. I wanted to see more of him. The entire story is told from Amelia’s POV, which is great, but I would’ve liked a few more scenes with Devlin so I could have a better idea of his motives and what drives him.
When another body turns up at the cemetery and Amelia finds out the body the police found isn’t the first body to be discovered there, those are the first clues for one of the best mystery novels I’ve ever read. There’s an evil force at work in Oak Grove Cemetery, and Amelia may have to use her ability to communicate with ghosts if she wants to find the culprit before he finds her. Her safe harbor, the hallowed ground of cemeteries, suddenly isn’t so safe anymore.
The plot itself was pretty much kick-ass awesome all the way. The mystery was amazing, and I could barely keep up with the rapid pace, luckily interrupted with moments of self-reflection from the main character. Toward the end though, those moments started to annoy me. I was in the middle of the plot and boom, suddenly, Amelia started her self-reflection habits up again. Ugh. So not the moment. Luckily this was a small hindrance and not enough to make me dislike the book or something.
What I also liked is how this book mixes all sorts of genres. There’s romance, there’s a paranormal mystery, but there’s also a suspense novel, a thriller, and even a bit of horror here and there. I like books that break the genre boundaries, and in that aspect, The Restorer definitely succeeds.
I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys reading books with a paranormal element. Even if you’re not generally a fan of romance, the romance subplot is small enough here not to distract you from the main plot. If you dislike thrillers or suspense novels, the romance and ghosts may be enough to lure you in. And if you’re a fan of horror, then this book has something for you as well.(less)
When I started reading, I was immediately pulled into the story. The Ghost House offers a relatable heroine, Annie, who unwillingly gets thrown in the middle of a horror movie when she promises to take care of her brother’s farmhouse, near a dilipidated, crumbling old mansion. The mansion calls for her, but the moment she walks inside, strange things happen. She finds the diary of a former resident of the house, Alice, which she brings along to the farmhouse. She starts reading the diary and discovers more and more horrific clues about the mansion’s troubled past…
But in the present day, the mansion isn’t safe from perils either. A serial killer out to destroy young women has made the mansion his working area. The ghost of the mansion has found a tool to do his bidding…And now he’s seen Annie, he has got his eyes set on her. He will destroy her, no matter what it takes.
I loved the premise, the idea of the past interacting with the present, of reincarnation, of vengeance. I kind of wished that the guy who Alice fell for would’ve sort of loved her back, even if it was in some twisted, weird way. I thought so at first, what with him taunting her – this could be some strange way of showing he actually liked her – but when it was revealed it was money he was after all along, that was a bit of a let-down for me. Sick, twisted love is more intriguing and unique than money issues.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story, the characters and the plot. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some plotholes. Like: what really happened to Alice? Maybe we’re not meant to find out, but I would’ve wanted to know.
Apart from that, I liked the book. It was an atmospheric, spooky read, ideal for the season. I could’ve done with a bit more ghosts and a bit less crime novel though.(less)
Awakening is a deeply disturbing story about a small town mysteriously infested by snakes – and not the garden variety, but dangerous killers brought here from Papoea New Guinea. When veterinary surgeon Clara, a recluse by her own making, gets summoned to help when a hysterical mother finds a snake in her baby’s crib, that’s only the beginning of the madness. Later on, a man dies from a seemingly innocent snake bite, and 39 snakes are found in one of the neighboring houses. Is it just a random occurence, or is someone behind it?
At first Clara wants to stay out of this as much as possible. She’s a recluse by choice, preferring to stay away from company ever since she was harmed when she was a baby, leaving her with terrible scars on her face. But she can’t help but get involved in this case, as every occurence requires the help and assistance of a veterinary. On top of that, old man Witcher, a man she somewhat got along with, has returned from the death and is now stalking her every move, even appearing in her home. So maybe Witcher isn’t dead at all, and he’s the culprit behind the snake attacks, or maybe someone who looks a lot like the old man she used to know has returned to town…
With Clara’s life and reputation at stake as more and more fingers begin to point in her direction, she must take matters into her own hands and find out what is going on. Her search leads her back to the town’s history, to a church that burned down decades ago, to the Witcher family…
I actually really liked Clara, which is strange because she avoids all human contact if possible and prefers to stay on her own. I liked that – it was new, it was fresh. We don’t offer get a protagonist who’s scarred for life and too afraid to talk to people, and it was an original asset to the story. The novel actually had a very gothic feel, both because of the descriptions of the town, and because of the protagonist, who acts like she just ran away from a gothic novel. I also liked the hint of romance in the book, and how Clara learns, along the way, that looks aren’t everything. People might start to care for her, even though she has a disfigured face. People might treat her like an ordinary human being and look past those scars if she gives them the opportunity. So in that sense, this novel is a bit like a coming-of-age story, although Clara is already in her thirties. The protagonist goes through an almost insane amount of character development here, which was great.
The story itself was intriguing as well, although it was also a bit awkward here and there. I liked the setting – the old town, the abandoned house, the snakes – but some things were a bit too random for me to ignore. Like when at some point Clara is chased by some other village people, I was continuously wondering “why”. I mean, these people are stupid and ignorant, sure. But is it just because she’s scarred that they’d chase her down and call her names? I doubt that, unless they were highly intoxicated or something. Either way,that was just one of the few things that didn’t make sense to me. I also thought the story of what happened in the past was a bit over the top.
All in all, the book was a great read, even if some parts of the story made me frown. It had intriguing characters, especially the protagonist, and a mysterious setting to match the extraordinary plot. I wouldn’t mind seeing more books by this author, especially if she brings me another one featuring the same protagonist.(less)
The Poison of A Smile is a haunting, terrifying and breathtaking trip into the mausoleum of things rotten, undead and vicious; a journey through the a...moreThe Poison of A Smile is a haunting, terrifying and breathtaking trip into the mausoleum of things rotten, undead and vicious; a journey through the asylum of the deranged and mentally disturbed; a one-way ticket to hell. The writing style is pretty disturbing on its own, like you just lost track of reality, like things are slowly falling out of your grip, and your mind is getting detached from your body – or is it the other way around? When I first started reading this novella, I vaguely wondered if I hadn’t somehow dozed asleep and stumbled into my worst nightmare, or if I had unconsciously taking some kind of narcotic that made my thoughts uncomprehensible, strange and deranged, and, since I hadn’t been feeling very well that day, I remember constantly checking my temperature to see if this wasn’t the result of some high fever. It wasn’t any of those three options, I can say. The Poison of A Smile is mesmerising, thrilling, but also gruesome, detached, insane, and uncomprehensible. Truly a masterpiece.
Alatiel, a woman of great beauty but with hideous secrets, becomes the new muse of a group of self-acclaimed artists, who struggle to make a living in the city of Paris in the 19th century. The sister of one of these artists, Helena, soon becomes the new subject of interest for Alatiel. In a desperate search to get their beloved back, Gabriel Holland and David Leigh make a trip to the haunted mansion of all haunted mansions, to the palace of sins and destruction, to a mausoleum of unspeakable crimes and to the home of creatures so vicious and rotten they cannot be anything other than Satan’s spawn. And in that place of sheer darkness, in that house of torture, blood and murder; they must face the master of all evils, the instructor of pain himself: Christian Salazar.
Its sheer beauty lies in the fact that it’s so abstract, macabre, terrifying and at the same time, utterly fascinating. From page one, i had the feeling that The Poison Of A Smile was devouring my own soul to feed its own unholy pages, because each sentence transported me further and further away from my safe and well-known home, to unfamiliar, dreadful and nightmarish surroundings. The descriptions are beautiful, haunting and written in that gorgeous, crafty style that was so popular at the turn of the 19th century. This novel vaguely reminded me of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Woman In Black and Dracula, as the settings are very much the same, and I got the same dreadful feeling with those novels as well. Looking back upon this, I sometimes wonder if nowadays hack and slash horror hasn’t forgotten about the most important aspect, namely the horror that is within oneself. The horror that is one’s soul, when it’s as deranged and bestial by nature like the soul of this story’s antagonist, Christian Salazar.
Although some of the scenes in this novel are particularely gruesome, this isn’t just your average horror story. The scenes may cause you to feel like vomiting, but that isn’t the real horror Steven Jensen is trying to describe. By creating this feeling of otherworldliness, disentachment, confusion, his novel is constantly feeding of your own basic worries, indulging in human’s own wicked nature, and gettings its very own inspiration from the things that haunt the corners of our own minds. I was suffering from the ‘haunted mansion’ disease that is common in older fictional works like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre from the very start of this novel, as the eerie atmosphere and creepy characters introduced themselves to me. This feeling of uncomfortableness, sometimes even downright fear, continued throughout the entire novel. The words escape me to explain to you how surprised and impressed I was by this masterfully-crafted tale of horrors, this unmistakable piece of art.
What can I compare it with? I have never read any scary novel before that managed to frighten me as much as The Poison of A Smile did, and never before have I been so close to the distortions and monstrosities that hide in human nature. It was an experience both terrifying and enjoyable, as it was truly an entertaining read, even if it was fear rather than good tension that glued me to my chair. If I had to compare this novel with another fictional work, I would choose The Picture of Dorian Gray, for that is the only novel that comes close in comparison, and has the same haunted and disturbing atmosphere.
There is no characterization, or character development. The characters are loose words on paper, as estranged from the reader as they are from themselves and the world they are living in. They have no actual personalities, and the only emotions often portrayed are nothing more than bestial. The need for vengeance, bloodlust, sexual lust…But that is all. Humans are reduced to animals, the good only slightly better than the wicked because they do often fall to prey of the same bestial desires. The story is difficult to follow at times, a plot practically non-existing, and the entire tale seems to be made out of seperate, equally macabre scenes, that work together and form one long, breathtaking, mesmerising and ghastly story of terror.
If you ask me if there’s anything about this novella that I didn’t like, then the answer is yes. In my opinion, it shouldn’t have ended. At about 80 pages long, I wish the author had just continued till the end (write maybe a 20 or 50 pages more or so) and then put a hold to it. I don’t know what it’s with people and sequels or even trilogies nowadays, but they seem to have forgotten that the best novels ever written are all stand-alone novels. As a stand-alone novel, The Poison of A Smile is as good as horror can possibly get; but I fear that it might not retain this statute in the sequels. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to write an equally haunting story without diving more into characterization and plot building – and by doing so, sacrificing the deranged, insane and going-out-of-your-mind feeling that I got when reading this novel.
I’m completely overwhelmed by The Poison of A Smile, and even now I’m still haunted by the writing style, the detached narrator’s voice, the characters’ primate natures, and the eerie, shivers-running-down-your-back atmosphere. In all fairness, I believe I have discovered a masterpiece of gothic horror literature; a work of art that very well might succeed to redefining the horror genre all together. After reading The Poison of A Smile, you’ll never think about gothic stories in the same way again.(less)
It’s been a while since a book grabbed me around the throat in such a way as Intelligenz one did in the opening scenes. A young woman, trapped in a shower. The door won’t open, and she’s dying, slowly, losing consciousness and slipping away. It immediately set the mood, which is dark and brutal, and the theme.
The book reminded me of a movie I once saw of a robot who started to behave like a human, and wanted to kill the dad of the family he worked for, and take his place. But no matter how dark that movie was, this thriller is even darker.
Nanobots, gadgets and technology have slowly taken over civilization. We need them for everything. In “Intelligenz”, set in the near future, that is even more so. After we witness the death of the young woman, we meet Brandon, one of the main characters, and spokesperson for the organization behind the technology that attacked her. At first, Brandon is convinced it’s nothing more than a computer glitch. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. But when Clara, a rookie journalist, has to investigate the case by her boss’ orders, she stumbles upon something more than just a computer glitch. At the same time, college drop out Karl starts his own investigation into what’s going on. They make a few startling discoveries – maybe the glitch was on purpose?
The novel grows increasingly darker with every turning page, showing us the kind of plot Hollywood would turn into a scifi thriller in no time.
The characterization was all right. I found Karl a little immature, but I liked Clara. She had insight and spunk, and didn’t back down, no matter what. The writing was okay too, but the book could’ve been a little shorter. Sometimes it dragged a little because of lengthy descriptions and use of adverbs.
However, the plot was strong and compelling enough to look past that, and I really enjoyed this read.(less)