Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne

Brimstone

Brimstone book cover

Title: Brimstone
Author: Tamara Thorne
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: May 9, 2019
Publisher: Glass Apple Press


Synopsis

Eleven-year-old Holly Tremayne has been able to see ghosts her entire life.  When Holly’s mother brings her to stay with her reclusive grandmother, retired actress Delilah Devine, at the Brimstone Grand Hotel, Holly’s excited to be staying at a haunted place. But what she doesn’t realize is that the ghosts are quite aggressive, and that she is personally connected to the most dangerous ghost of all… the Brimstone Beast.

Setting

Set in the 1960s, it is clear early on that the author did her research. There are many pop culture references that make this novel authentic and compelling.  Tamara Thorne’s works put a heavy emphasis on setting and atmosphere.  I’ve noticed this in the other book by Tamara Thorne that I’ve read, Candle Bay, another novel about an inn where the hotel itself seems to be its own character. Brimstone Grand Hotel was originally a hospital, repurposed by Devine when she decided she wanted to run a hotel in this town.  Every word that Thorne uses is carefully selected and serves a purpose, creating a sense of dread and foreboding.  While reading the book, I could close my eyes and see the Brimstone Grand Hotel sitting atop a hill, overlooking the town in great detail.

Plot & Characters

The pace of this novel is slower, as a lot of emphasis is placed on building atmosphere and character development. Brimstone is written in third person, and the reader follows many different characters.  This slows the pace of the book, but increases the depth of the story and the three-dimensionality of the town of Brimstone and the people in it.

Holly makes for an interesting protagonist. She actively seeks adventure. She sees ghosts, and she knows they’re ghosts, yet she’s unafraid. She’s actually eager to meet them.  This is a refreshing take that sets this book apart from stories of other child mediums, where they seem to rarely know they’re talking to the dead (“That’s my best friend, Larry!”) or are desperate to avoid seeing them, like in classic movies such as “The Sixth Sense”.

While the protagonist is an eleven-year-old girl, this is not a book for children. It deals with some dark themes, including abuse and pedophilia, and is definitely intended for adult audiences.  The book is chock full of ghosts, but, to me, the real horror lay in reality.  Some parts of the storyline reminded me of Psycho, one of my favourite Hitchcock films, and the suspense Thorne builds definitely at times feels Hitchcockian (if that’s actually a word).

Everything that happened prior to the events in this book is gradually revealed through awakened memories and conversations between characters. We learn what we need to know as we need to know it, no sooner, which makes for a compelling read.

While the plot of the novel is slow, there is good payoff. There are a few twists that are equally disturbing and surprising, which makes up for the slower pace.

Brimstone

 

I recommend this book to those looking for an atmospheric story that puts a lot of emphasis on setting and developing characters over a fast-paced plot.

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*Thank you to the publisher for the ebook for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

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Book Review: Nobody Move by Philip Elliott

Nobody Move

Nobody Move Book Cover

Title: Nobody Move
Author: Philip Elliott
Series: Angel City # 1

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Date of Publication: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Into the Void


Synopsis

When Eddie Vegas is sent to shake down a man who owes a lot of money to his employer, he makes a fatal error and ends up accidentally killing the guy.  Since Eddie’s boss now holds him personally responsible for repaying the $50,000, he takes off. Now, not only is Eddie on the run from his former boss and partners in crime, but the man he killed had allies that are out for blood. His blood.

My Thoughts

Nobody Move is a rocket-fast paced black-comedy thriller that I finished in just an evening.  It’s one of the books where I kept looking at the clock and saying “All right, I’ll read one more chapter”, and before I knew it, it was past my bedtime and I’d finished the book.

This novel reads like a noir thriller, particularly in the beginning.  Philip Elliott frequently references the movies that clearly inspired his style, like Pulp Fiction and the Godfather.  That said, I did get the feeling he was referencing movies a little too often.  It was humorous, however, that the bad guys were getting ideas for how to handle situations based on the movies they’d seen.  The book itself, including its plot and the way that Eddie keeps making foolish mistakes, reminds me a lot of the movie Fargo.  For example, some of the shadier characters tell little colourful anecdotes throughout the novel.  These little stories often have a hidden (or blatantly obvious) relevance to what’s going on and how the rest of the story will unfold.

Most of the characters are seedy and unlikeable, but Eddie Vegas is somewhat of an exception. He’s made horrible mistakes and done horrible things in his career, but he’s got a quality about him that makes him seem redeemable. Despite the sardonic nature of this thriller, the author combats some stereotypes, making the thugs more three-dimensional and interesting. That said, there’s a female cop named Alison in the book, and her scenes are much more down to earth.  I would have liked to have seen the humour from the other scenes bleed through into her chapters.  All in all, Nobody Move is a great, fun read.  The more deplorable characters eventually get what’s coming to them, and what more can you ask for in a good book?

Nobody Move

I recommend Nobody Move to anyone looking for a quick, fast-paced read with a morally grey protagonist making questionable decisions, a hint of romance, and lots of bloodshed.

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*Thank you to Into the Void for the arc to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man

The Whisper Man Book cover

Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Date of Publication: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books


Synopsis

After the sudden death of Tom’s wife, he moves himself and his son, Jake, to the dreamy town of Featherbank to start over. Little does he know that a little boy was recently kidnapped and killed, in a way that is oddly reminiscent of the Whisper Man, a serial killer that haunted Featherbank twenty years earlier. A serial killer that is supposedly behind bars. Tom’s fresh start might be over before it begins, as the Whisper Man puts Jake in his cross hairs.

Plot

“If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken”.

Chills!

The Whisper Man is one of the spookier thrillers I’ve read in a while. Fast-paced and atmospheric, I finished this book in just a couple of sleepless nights.

The book itself has a relatively common premise – a serial killer from years ago may have had a partner who has struck again. But this book introduces unique elements–The Whisper Man with his nursery rhyme, the multiple perspectives, including one of the father of a potential future victim. The story is gripping, and Alex North has a phenomenal way of taking this trope and running with it.

There are quite a few good twists in the book, and the first one actually had me reeling. I did not see it coming. I had to reread that page of that reveal a few times, because the knowledge would not stick!

Characters

One of the highlights of this book is the touching relationship between Tom and his son, Jake. Even though they haven’t had an easy time since Tom’s wife died, they love each other dearly, and it comes across in the writing. They fight, as many fathers and sons do, but everything is laced with the pain of losing someone so close to them.  There are fatherhood themes throughout the novel tie in together quite nicely to make this book more than just a thriller about a serial killer.

As mentioned earlier, the book is told in multiple perspectives. The protagonist, Tom, has chapters that are written in first person. We also get scenes from the points of view of Jake, as well as investigators Pete and Amanda, but these chapters are all in third person. Jake’s chapters were particularly engaging. They’re well-written, but you can easily tell they’re from the viewpoint of a child, with that wide-eyed innocence shining through in the author’s writing.

The Whisper Man

I recommend this book to those who want to read a serial killer thriller that is fast-paced, engaging, and not quite like the rest of them.

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*Thank you to Netgalley and Celadon Books for the arc to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen

Picture of book

Book cover

Title: The Devil’s Apprentice
Author: Kenneth B. Andersen
Series: The Great Devil War I

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 8, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC


Synopsis

Philip is a thirteen year old boy who has always been well behaved. He’s a boy scout, he does his chores on time, and he’s always eager to help anyone who might need his assistance.  But when he dies unexpectedly, a mix up causes him to find himself in hell.  Not only is he expected to stay there, but he is required to enter training to become the successor of the Devil himself.  Philip must learn to survive, but who can he trust? And, most importantly, will he still be the same person when–if–he gets out of this?

Continue reading “Book Review: The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen”

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the dark

I'll be gone in the dark book cover

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
Author: Michelle McNamara
Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Date of Publication: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Harper


~Synopsis~

Michelle McNamara was a true crime writer who coined the name “The Golden State Killer”.  She was instrumental in connecting his crimes across California.  This book, which is a perfect blend of true crime and memoir, was published posthumously.  The editors pieced together finished chapters with Michelle’s notes and articles about the Golden State Killer that she’d written over the years.

~My Thoughts~

This book isn’t about the Golden State Killer. Well, I suppose it is, but not directly. To me, this book is about the woman who was compelled to catch him.  I think this is important to distinguish, because many true crime books focus on the killers, on the horrible deeds they did, and barely touch the surface of the people who fought for justice.  I strongly believe that this shift in focus from the killer to the investigator is one of the reasons why this book became a bestseller.  Michelle McNamara was a truly special woman, and her ambition, drive, and hard work was instrumental in catching the Golden State Killer.

This important perspective is represented in the way that Michelle tells the story.  She talks about herself as well as others who investigated the crimes.  She talks about how her “obsession” (her word, not mine–it’s in the title!) affected her personal life. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, was a well-known actor, and she provided anecdotes, such as one where she was accompanying him to red carpet event, but all she could think about was the latest break she’d made in the case.

Continue reading “Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara”

Book Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

Dear Wife book flat lay

Dear Wife Book cover

Title: Dear Wife
Author: Kimberly Belle
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: June 25, 2019
Publisher: Park Row


Synopsis

Dear Wife tells the story of a woman who escapes her abusive husband, changes her look, changes her name, and goes on the run. Now Beth Murphy, she is desperate to be free from the man who made her live in fear for so many years. Back home, Jeffrey returns from a business trip to find that his wife, Sabine, is missing. Dear Wife follows their two stories, as well as the story of the police detective who will do anything to find the missing woman.

 My Thoughts

Dear Wife is an engaging read from cover to cover. While I predicted the plot twist early on, it didn’t matter. The tension Belle weaves into every page kept me riveted throughout the story.

That said, realizing the twist early on did allow me to spot a few plot holes. The story is told from three points of view, each first person. To not reveal the lies of one character is difficult, since we’re inside their head and we know exactly what they’re thinking. The selective thoughts of one character in particular make for a few plotholes, but I forgive this, since the book is otherwise quite well written.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle”

Book Review: Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire

Closer Than You Think

Closer than you think book cover

Title: Closer Than You Think
Author: Lee Maguire
Series:
Broken Minds Thriller #1

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: October 22, 2018
Publisher: TCK Publishing


Synopsis:

In the first instalment in this “Broken Minds” mystery series, we’re introduced to Dr. Bryce Davison, a psychologist with his own broken mind.  His marriage is on the rocks, his insomnia is threatening his livelihood, and now he has a stalker. Someone who’s been watching him for a long time and is determined to destroy his marriage, his career, and his mind…

Plot

Dr. Bryce Davison is a mental health professional.  When he realizes that he has a stalker, the list of potential suspects is quite long.  This makes for an interesting mystery. I could immediately tell that the author works or has worked in the industry, because the writing has an authentic feel that permeates through the setting, the plot, and the way that Bryce talks about his career and his patients.

Maguire jumps right into the story with little explanation as to who the characters are. This made it a little difficult to get into and to understand. (For instance, it took me a few pages to figure out that “Max” was his dog).  That said, it’s definitely worth pushing through those first few chapters, because the excitement starts up pretty quickly and doesn’t let up for the whole book.  There are many twists and turns that make this book a one-sitting read.

Continue reading “Book Review: Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire”

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood book cover

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books


Synopsis:

Alice has never met her grandmother, infamous fairy-tale writer Althea Prosperine.  Althea earned her fame decades ago by penning a single collection of fairy tales about a strange place called the Hinterland.  Afterwards, she isolated herself in her enormous estate, the Hazel Wood, cutting herself off from the rest of the world.  Alice has spent her seventeen years of life on the road; her mother moves them from place to place as mysterious bad luck seems to follow them wherever they go.  But when Althea dies, Alice’s mother is happy. Ecstatic, even. She says they can finally settle down and place roots in New York. But this decision might have been a tad too hasty.  Alice’s mother is kidnapped by someone who claims to be from the Hinterland.  Now Alice must team up with a fellow classmate–Ellery Finch–who just so happens to be an expert on the stories that her grandmother wrote. Together they will go to the Hazel Wood and uncover the truth about the Hinterland

Plot 

The Hazel Wood reads like a fairy tale, but set in a gritty, modern world with iPhones, baristas, and high school classes.  Melissa Albert writes with a beautiful, lyrical style that is quite unique. Because of this, I was able to get into the head of the protagonist, Alice, quite quickly. I found myself understanding her and her predicament almost immediately.   

The plot and pacing of this book is phenomenal.  Albert lays out clues like bread bread crumbs, but I still didn’t know where they were leading until the twist smacked me in the face. That twist. Omg. Now I know why people were raving about this book last year. I’m doubly embarrassed for not reading this sooner. But how are you supposed to know what books are ‘must-reads’ until after they’ve already been out for a bit? 

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows Book Cover

Six of Crows Book Cover

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 
Date of Publication: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company


Synopsis

Six teenage criminal outcasts in the bustling city of Ketterdam come together to pull off an impossible heist. The result could change the world they live in forever. But do they all want the same thing?

World-Building

I never read the Grisha series, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this new book set in that same world. It was easy to jump into this elaborately created world.  Bardugo provides just enough information about the world for readers to understand how it works, but not so much that it feels like an info-dump. She interweaves this information into the plot, revealing what we need to know as we need to know it.  Perfectly done!

Plot and Characters

There are a lot of critical characters in this book, and many of them get their own point of view chapters. For any other book, this would bog down the pace, making the story unnecessarily complicated and hard to follow.  Yet somehow Bardugo manages to propel the plot line forward while delving deep into every single character. She even integrates flashbacks to provide such depth to these characters. There isn’t a single two-dimensional, uninteresting character in the bunch. Even Wylan, who, at the beginning, I thought might be the one dud, has an interesting character-development, and I absolutely loved his interactions with Jesper.  

Having this many three-dimensional characters should result in a less-interesting plot. That’s not the case. The heist they plan and pull off is intense and compelling at every corner.  

I did find that the characters weren’t quite like teenagers. This is one thing I enjoy about books like these. The characters are mature beyond their years because of the situations they’ve had to survive, yet they still have some small resemblances to the teenagers that they actually are. There might be a hint of naivety or a touch of teenage narcissism. But this gives each character some growing to do, even though it already seems like they’re grown up.

Language

This is touched on in the plot and characters section.  How can you develop such intriguing characters and a compelling plot without being an expert at the English language? Bardugo selects every word carefully. There’s no extraneous paragraphs that should have been cut at the chopping block. Everything she writes has its purpose and is elegantly written. I suspect this is another reason why this book is so dang popular.  

Six of Crows Book Cover

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good high fantasy novel, even if they’re not necessarily interested in young adult fiction.  This is a perfect gateway book into the young adult and fantasy genres, as it’s strong in all four major appeal elements of reading – setting, language, fictions, characters, and plot.  There are some surprisingly gory scenes, which is why I wouldn’t recommend this book to younger readers.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd. by Flo Fitzpatrick

Sweet Cream Ladies Ltd.

Sweet Cream Ladies Ltd. book cover

Title: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd.
Author: Flo Fitzpatrick
Genre: Mystery, Comedy
Date of Publication: May 15,  2019
Publisher: Encircle Publications LLC


Synopsis:

Bootsie and Binnie are two average middle-aged actresses with ex-husbands and professional rivals that they love to complain about.  While getting drunk at a bar in Manhattan, they jokingly plan to create a hitwoman company–Sweet Cream Ladies, Limited–and off their enemies in creatively violent ways.  But if it was all a joke, then how come these people are dying off–in the exact same ways that the ladies humorously plotted?

Language

For this review, I put language first, because the way this book is written is what will make it or break it for a reader. Either you love it because of this writing style, or you hate it.

Continue reading “Book Review: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd. by Flo Fitzpatrick”