Sunday, 24 April 2022

House of a Thousand Lies by Cody Luke Davis

 Diana Wolf has woken up from an alcoholic blackout regretting it again. And, as usual, she has spent an exorbitant amount of money on something she doesn’t need. But since she can’t remember what she bought, this could be interesting.

Cue Kerry Perkins, the cartographer she hired while in her haze to map out their estate. Kerry arrives and realises it will take some time, as the estate is very large. Diana needs to hide him somewhere for the week to do the work as her rock-star husband won’t be happy with her latest drunken purchase.

On the first day, Kerry comes across a buried skeleton, and carved into the skull is a picture of two wolves. When he calls Diana in to see this, she feigns surprise, but Kerry can see that she has recognised something. Enter the police and investigators and things start getting very weird when family secrets involving the sons, Cy and Jonah, are revealed for the deep lies they are. Not only in actions, but also in bonds.

Kerry becomes suspicious that the body was not just a random stranger and starts doing some investigating of his own. This leads him to Pink, an obsessed stalker of the Wolf family, who knows far too much about them. Together, they uncover horrifying information about the family as very often, where there is one body, others might follow.


I have to admit that I pushed through this book. It started off well and grabbed me, then in places I’d want to skim as the jumps between characters and time became confusing. This made the book feel longer than it actually was, and not in a good way.

I did enjoy the constant questioning of what was real and what wasn’t, whether it was an incident or a connection to someone. However, the main plot that held the book together branched out so much at the end that it went from being believable to being too far-fetched. I was with it through most of the way, nodding my head, and then went NOPE. Just NOPE. Plus, added to that, the ending came so suddenly it was like the author knew where he was going, but had spent so much getting there that he ran out of steam to bring it together smoothly. There were two parts to the ending that I felt stretched believability too much. This was disappointing, as in places I thought I had the tone of the book and felt comfortable knowing that the ending would be plausible.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters and I felt as though the author made them deliberately not likeable so that there were no “heroes”. I think the part I felt the strongest about involved a dog… I’ll leave it at that. I was glad that the story had no major grammar and punctuation errors, as this made for an easy reading experience.


Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to review this book. 


Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Zoe's Haunt by Augustine Pierce

Zoe’s Haunt is a short horror story.


Zoe and her friends love doing crazy things for Halloween. This year Zoe has promised them something new. She has tested out an app that leads you around a haunted house – all in the comfort of your own home and plans on blindfolding her friends and taking them on the journey. As the app begins and the story deviates somewhat from what she remembers, she blames it on AI. However, as friends start disappearing and then turning up dead, this Halloween is going to be the one that tops them all.


I grabbed this one night to read during loadshedding and was disappointed that it was so short (I didn’t realise it was a short story when I started reading as it ended at 64% of the total space). The premise was interesting and the idea that the app was taking them to a different place, while not plausible (but then again what is on Halloween), was something to look forward to. However, I felt really let down at the end of the book.


Some of the scenes are very dialogue heavy, and it seemed as though in certain sections each character had to add a line in turn to the conversation. So, you’d find line after line of Zoe said, Ben replied, Juan added, Rina said, Darren exclaimed, etc. etc. It started to remind me a bit of The House of Twelve by Sean Davies but didn’t quite have the reasoning behind it. Unfortunately, I felt a bit flat about the story as it wasn’t long enough for me to build a connection with any of them. I wish what the app takes them to had a bit more of a backstory to it, but it was more like this happened and then this happened. And since the paragraphs were very short (many pages with just one line or going directly between speech), the action felt very choppy and didn’t lead up to enough suspense. I also think that because some of the characters irritated me, I didn’t feel anything when they disappeared.


I was a great attempt at a horror story with a good basic idea but it left me hanging and feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I’ll have to try another of the author’s stories to see if a longer one draws me in more…

Face the Night by Alan Lastufka

 Face the Night is a horror thriller and a tale of long-awaited vengeance.


Adriana is a mother desperately trying to keep custody of her son, Dylan, while her father, the mayor, wants to remove him as he feels Adriana is an unfit mother. Currently without a job, and trying to make ends meet as a now-and-then tattoo artist, Adriana has asked her ex Eric, a deadbeat druggie, to help plead her case in court. With a month to find something permanent, she must make a plan ASAP.


After a mishap lands her at the police station, Adriana uses her sketching skills to snag a temp gig as a sketch artist. And she meets Officer Hinkley, who seems a little sweet on her. Unbeknown to the officer, Adriana suffers from terrible nightmares where she sees a terrifying face coming for her while she is underwater. These have been happening for years, but the face never gets clearer.


As her father campaigns for re-election, as well as to take her child, Adriana must delve into the meaning behind the face as well as put everything she has into securing her child’s future. But as with many small-town secrets, some things do not want to remain buried…


I was hooked by the promise of an early Stephen King-type book and I’ll say that I enjoyed the book and also didn’t enjoy it. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the book, nothing new came out that made me go – wow, I’d never have thought of that. Lots of strange decisions made and some directions not quite explained/closed.


(Spoilers ahead)

Adriana was a likeable character at times, and her desperation at trying to do the right thing for her son came through. Then she’d do something stupid like leaving her ex to look after her child while she decides a “few drinks won’t hurt” and goes out. This with her ex never having looked after the child before.
Then there is the issue with her seeing the face – when she eventually figures out what it’s about, it’s not really something that couldn’t have been guessed earlier. All the clues were there. It was just a case of whodunnit. But why did the face take so long to really make itself known?
The neighbour’s deaf daughter gets used to protect Adriana from doing something bad while possibly under the influence of the face. This seemed very irresponsible on her part and puts everyone in a potential dodgy situation there.
While I get that her new love interest was rebelling against what was happening in the police station, the risks he took for Adriana seemed extreme.


I’d call this a small-town thriller rife with “anything-to-win” politics and a dash of supernatural horror. It needed a lot more to call itself a genuine horror story. It was one of those where, after I turned the last page, I just said, “Oh.” Kinda fizzled out at the end with too many tangents. It was a good effort for a first-time novel, but one I wouldn’t read again, even if to try to pick up more details.


Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review the novel.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

The Rise of Jonathan Flite by Matthew J Beier

The Rise of Jonathan Flite is the third in the series and starts off directly where book two ends, so will be confusing if you have not read at least the one before this. It continues with the theme of life being not quite as we know it.


Jonathan’s memories of the Idle County seven are still hot news, and after the suicide bombings at his mother’s press conference the previous year, the extremists against his suggestions of alternate lives and realities are out in full force. Through Jonathan, we learn how two of the “seven”, Elijah and Molly, became friends, and discoveries that are made regarding family and a missing body. We also share Lyndsey’s out-of-body experience, and clues from the previous book begin to make more sense. These memories of life paths only add fuel to the fire of those who refuse to accept the possibilities of the type of reincarnation Jonathan is proposing.


Add to this that Jonathan’s story is being made into a documentary and it seems someone doesn’t want this to happen. Then, of course, there is Victor Zobel, who they now believe orchestrated the Geneva attack, who seems to have links to the seven. And why is it that people have strange experiences when approaching his estate? Don’t forget Rebecca Sparks, the mind-reading physicist whose ideas about life, religion, reincarnation, and Jonathan’s memories is still in the mix and changing up opinions.


This book is just as convoluted and moves between past and present and between different characters’ viewpoints. Once you get into the rhythm though, the action is fierce and so much information is actually imparted that a lot of the “side” stories (which could probably have books of their own) seem to be superfluous until they are not! There are so many questions still left unanswered and I have a feeling that in the last four books, many more will be offered too. This is a thrilling series and well worth reading.


Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review the book.


Sunday, 20 February 2022

Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle Book 1 and 2 by LJ Smith

 So even though my TBR list is taller than the house, I decided to go back and read some of my old stuff again and see how close it still is to how I remember feeling about it. I think I started buying the books while watching the series, but the moment you read about Elena being blonde and she’s a brunette in the series, I wondered how different it was going to be. I’m actually glad the books and the series veered off in different directions because the books got really weird.


In the first two books we meet Elena (spoilt, snobby, mean girl of the school who is all about herself and writes tragic diary entries), Bonnie (her very immature and constantly prone to weeping friend who is discovering she has witchy powers) and Meredith (loyal, steadfast, logical, and the one who keeps them all together). Elena was going out with Matt (read high school football) but when she claps eyes on Stefan (broody stranger who joins their school, wears leather and sunglasses all the time, and doesn’t want to interact with anyone) she decides she HAS to have him. Poor Matt. On the sidelines are Caroline (a sort of friend who wants Stefan for herself and now can’t stand Elena’s constant need to be #1) and Tyler (dodgy, let’s get drunk and take advantage of girls). We find out a big secret later about Tyler – but with the mention of the big, bright teeth and the moon rising over his family’s grave, you can kinda figure it out already.


So, long story short – Stefan is a vampire (surprise) and into the picture comes his brother, Damon (also a vampire). Turns out Damon hates Stefan for something that happened a long time ago with a girl called Katherine who was in their lives. So now, in the town of Fell’s Church (apparently close to ley lines so strange things happen) there are about to be attacks on people and a murder or two. You’d think those would be the important things. But apparently not, because Elena’s diary has been stolen and she is freaking out about secrets being made public at her coming out ball.  


During all this, Elena manages to seduce Stefan and they go from fighting and avoiding each other, to being in love and cannot be without each other (within the space of probably three seconds), to getting engaged (she is seventeen). Add in some action sequences where Stefan and Damon are beating the @$#% out of each other, and a twist at the end where “old power” affects one of the characters in a bad way, and you have a teenage angsty recipe that could go either way. The story could get better, or Elena’s whining and the eyebrow-raising plot could spiral into a pit of despair.


Definitely one to read with your brain turned off.



Friday, 11 February 2022

The Release of Jonathan Flite by Matthew J Beier

 The Release of Jonathan Flite is a novel that’s hard to place as it falls into the realm of time travel, psychic abilities, action, and “fitting in.” This is the second in the series and I wish I had read the first as it was difficult to pick up what was going on seeing as there were so many characters.


Jonathan has the memories of seven children who all disappeared in Idle County ten years before he was born. Everyone thinks he is crazy, and now, on the cusp of his 18th birthday, he is being released from the centre where he was kept for the murder he committed. The memories come and go, and it’s as if he was right there at the time when things happened to the seven. With parallels being drawn between the memories and a nuclear terrorist attack the previous year, things are beginning to be taken more seriously than before.


Jonathan will be faced with a divided public when he gets out – some will believe him, and others will fear him due to the religious and scientific implications of the actual memories. Memories that could have consequences for the company that seems to be behind so many things that are “good for the world” yet…  


On my second readthrough, I appreciated the book more. Initially, I had found it fascinating to start, then it hit a patch that made me slow my reading and I got confused, and then it speeded up again. There are so many character dynamics in the story and to be reminded of the angst felt when younger about fitting in to the world, it brought memories back to me too (just not the memories of the IC7 though).


I found the book dealt with a lot of different issues in a very open way, and covered things like bullying, homosexuality, blended families, feeling alone, where you fit in in your family, and different takes on religion. The characters came across on the page as so “real” that you could feel the emotions as they felt them. As the story progressed, you were fed bits of info that felt like they didn’t connect, and then all of a sudden, you’d realise where they fitted and it would be an aha moment. I liked that the book concentrated on certain characters and I think the same thing will happen in subsequent ones so that each main character has their own story.


The writing was very fluid, and the chapters being divided up between timelines didn’t interfere with the comfortable flow of reading. The chapters labelled with the infinity sign helped to join it all up.

I look forward to seeing how the characters progress in the next instalment (yes, I have it!) and where this journey is taking us.


Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to review the book.

Friday, 17 December 2021

The Watchers by AM Shine

 The Watchers is a horror story set in the forests of Galway.


Mina needs to deliver a bird to a friend of a friend. On her way, her car breaks down at the edge of a forest – one that you won’t find on any map. Unbeknown to her, the forest hides dark, deadly secrets and once you’re in, you aren’t coming out. Taking the bird with her, she enters the forest to seek help. Hearing a woman screaming at her draws her to a bunker where she finds three people hiding who tell her a tale that sounds far too implausible. Apparently, they have been there a while and by night hide within the light in the bunker and by day sneak out for food. But never too far, as what is out there will kill them before they reach the edge of the forest. The Watchers are waiting, and there is nothing anyone can do…


The book started off very slowly to me and there was a lengthy section where I almost didn’t continue with it as I thought it would just be the rest of the story about that. I’m glad I was wrong, as once it picked up, the story drew me in. The concept of the evil out there being unknown and unseen made it far more scary than a “monster” novel. The idea that you don’t know what they are or how to escape them (as verified by those there) made you think perhaps there was no way out.


The characters grew as the story progressed, and while Mina’s was the main POV, it was interesting to have some of the other chapters from the other characters’ point of view. This really helped to understand their back stories and the reasons they reacted as they did. This allows you to see how Mina views herself as so boring that no one would even miss her if she never came back. It shows how Daniel’s treatment as a child has broken him down so much that he is constantly on the edge. Ciara’s story has us seeing her going from one who is filled with optimism to a shadow of her former self. And Margaret, well, Margaret is a force unto herself. One minute you hate her and her attitude and ways, and the next you appreciate her decisions.


There were elements of the story that seemed a bit too much of a stretch, like the whole boat situation, but the plot twists definitely surprised me. You expected certain things to happen and were then presented with something else, so the story had you on your toes at times. The proofing of the book was done well, with no major errors glaring at you and interrupting the reading experience.


While not your average horror story, this one was creepy enough. I would love to have found out more about the Watchers themselves, and I was definitely rooting for “The Golden One” the whole way through.


Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review the book.