Book Review: Voodoo Shanghai by Kristi Charish

Voodoo Shanghai

Voodoo Shanghai book cover

Title: Voodoo Shanghai
Author: Kristi Charish
Series:
Kincaid Strange # 3

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Vintage Books Canada


Synopsis

“Just when Kincaid Strange thinks her life is back on track and she’s finally put her time as a paranormal practitioner with the Seattle PD to rest, her ex (and Seattle cop) Aaron asks her for help with yet another strange and ominous case. Martin Dane, the White Picket Fence Serial Killer who terrorized West Coast families living the suburban American dream, appears to be back at it with a fresh murder in Portland. There’s only one problem: Dane has been dead for three weeks.

Kincaid can’t resist a paranormal mystery. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to examine the Portland crime scene. What she discovers is a place of supernatural power unlike anywhere she’s ever been–and the reason Aaron had been so tight-lipped about the case details. There’s already a voodoo practitioner on the scene: Liam Sinclair, a TV celebrity of questionable talent and dubious intent.

Kincaid wants nothing more than to finish the job and retreat to Seattle, but the deeper she looks, the less the murder adds up. When she uncovers a much more sinister mystery–missing ghosts, scores of them, whom no one is looking for–there’s no turning back.”Goodreads

Plot 

Voodoo Shanghai is one hell of a thrill ride from start to finish. As usual, Kincaid gets herself into trouble, and she seems to make enemies every place she goes.  The novel opens with her dealing with an unruly ghost that’s haunting her parents because they didn’t make the right offering to her spirit. The designer purse was the wrong colour.  This book is full of dark and twisty plot points, but there’s also quite a bit of Charish’s characteristic dry humour, which is part of what makes this series such an entertaining read.

One of the major appeals of this book is the dynamic world that Charish has created. The magic has very distinct rules, and much of the book is spent explaining how it works, either through Kincaid’s interactions with clients or through her lessons with the sorcerer who coerced her into becoming his apprentice for a two year term.  None of this information seems dry, as it all comes from Kincaid’s point of view, which interjects quite a bit of gritty humour into every scene.

Voodoo Shanghai is the third and final instalment in the Kincaid Strange series, and it sure does go out with a bang. Unfortunately, while the major plotline for this book was resolved (no spoilers!) there was still a cliffhanger hinting at what’s to come.  I want to see what’s to come! Gah, Vintage Books Canada better order more books in this series, stat.

Characters

Kincaid is a tough-as-nails practitioner, and she won’t let herself be controlled by the men in her life. That said, even her love interest, the Seattle PD detective Aaron, tries to control her to a degree, and I’m glad to see that she still doesn’t back down on what she believes in, even when Aaron pushes her.  It was interesting to see her starting to try to be more professional in this book, even wearing a blazer to meetings with clients, and she tries so hard to not always say exactly what’s on her mind. Is that character development, Kincaid? Even with the subtle softening of her character, she’s still the Kincaid I’ve grown to love.

We also get a deeper look into Gideon Lawrence, the thousand-year-old ghost of a sorcerer who took Kincaid on as his apprentice in the previous book. Before, we thought he was simply “evil”, but it becomes clear over the course of this novel that he has his own moral code, as grey as it may be, and we get a taste of the past that has made him who he is today.

Setting 

This time, the novel isn’t all set in Seattle, but a good chunk of the storyline is set in Portland, since Kincaid is summoned to work on a federal case.  As mentioned in the Plot section, the America that Charish has created is incredibly unique, authentic feeling, and three-dimensional.  The world of Kincaid Strange is similar to ours, but for paranormal elements which are all seamlessly interwoven into our reality, making for a believably dark and compelling alternate universe.

 

Voodoo Shanghai

I recommend this book to those who want a gritty paranormal mystery with a strong female lead, dynamic worldbuilding, and lots of the undead.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference, Vintage Books Canada, and the author for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg

The Mentor

The Mentor

Title: The Mentor
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: June 14, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books


Synopsis 

When Kyle earns a prestigious position as an editor at a large New York publishing house, he’s surprised and delighted to hear from his favourite professor from his college days.  Apparently, Professor William Lansing has been writing a novel these last ten years, and he asks if Kyle would consider publishing it.  Kyle is thrilled to be the first to read this novel, but that excitement is short lived. It’s a thousand pages of horribly written depravity.  Kyle tries to let his professor down gently, to tell him that the novel can’t be published, but his mentor won’t take no for an answer…

Plot 

The Mentor starts off slow, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me engaged until the novel’s hook was revealed. There are quite a few hair-raising twists throughout this thriller.  A couple were somewhat predictable, but there were enough surprises to keep me on my toes.  The ending (no spoilers!) is downright chilling. 

This book is quite a psychological thriller, as it becomes clear that Professor Lansing isn’t exactly the stereotypical concerned teacher.  He has a dark side, which is gradually revealed as the story progresses. There are times when Kyle questions his own sanity, and the reader can’t help but do the same.  That said, there are other horror elements, such as the “depravity” of the professor’s novel, which are revealed to the reader in snippets.  These excerpts were never too extreme, but definitely not something you’d want to read with the lights off.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg”

Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me

Title: Be Not Far From Me
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins


Synopsis

When Ashley and her friends decide to spend the night camping in the vast wilderness outside their small town, she has no idea what’s in store for her. After a horrible fight with her boyfriend, she runs away from the group, falling and seriously injuring her foot. She soon realizes that her friends thought she went home. They won’t be looking for her. Ordinarily, she’d be fine—she’s a survivor. But she’s far from the path markings and her foot is getting worse and worse by the hour. Does Ashley have what it takes to survive, or will she end up “missing” in the woods like so many others before her?

Plot

I really wanted to love this book. The premise is fantastic, and there are a couple of twists and turns along the way.  However, the pacing is not phenomenal. The book starts with a bang, but there are a few too many flashbacks that weigh down the action in the middle of the book, and I often found myself skimming because I wanted to find out what would happen in present day.  While these flashbacks serve to flesh out the main character and her relationships and motivations, they didn’t seem particularly cohesive. It’s rare that I say this, but I think the book might have benefited from a dual timeline. Perhaps the novel could have began with her lost in the woods, injured, with another timeline/flashbacks revealing what happened to get her there. However, the rationale for her being in the woods in the first place is quite shallow, so maybe the author would have had to have spent more time focusing on this in order to make a dual timeline work.  The lack of focus of the flashbacks made them feel unnecessary, when in fact, they do provide some insight into Ashley’s backstory, making the novel read a little more literary than thriller.

That said, the best parts of the novel are the thrilling bits. We get a few intense sequences while she’s lost in the woods, but not quite as many as I’d hoped. The book gets more graphic than I’d expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The novel itself is a very quick read, so the issues with pacing shouldn’t deter you from this fun night of reading!

Continue reading “Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis”

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Book Cover

Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: 1959
Publisher: Penguin Classics, among others


Synopsis

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.Goodreads

My Thoughts

It’s hard to separate out the four appeal elements for this book, because they’re all so interwoven and dependent on one another.  But I’ll try! 

Language

Jackson’s style of writing is clearly the primary appeal for this novel. This is a classic for a reason, and there is significant imagery and symbolism in everything that appears on the pages. The novel begins with somewhat of a light tone, talking about the house and the darkness within it, but as the story progresses, this lightness is swallowed by darkness, and the tension rises with every turn of the page.  A lot of the horror of this novel is not in what happens, but in how it is written. Jackson has a way of eliciting fear and dread in the reader, just by careful word choice and sentence structure.

Setting 

Set in an old house that’s so peculiarly built that it rivals the Winchester Mansion in California, the setting is what makes this novel so memorable. The house is described not in just physical terms, but also in the way that it makes people feel.  The history of the house and everything else has so much thought and care put into it that it feels more fleshed out than the main characters. And that’s because it is its own character.  

Plot

This novel has a slow pace, particularly at the beginning, but the language is so beautiful and engaging that I didn’t even notice.  That isn’t to say that nothing happens, but it happens at its own pace, and the plot isn’t at all rushed. We don’t get one of those books where so much happens at the beginning that it lags in the middle. The Haunting of Hill House has the opposite effect, where it begins slowly, taking its time to get where it wants to go, but the plot unravels quicker and quicker as the story progresses. I would say that if you have a hard time getting into the story, you should give it another shot, because the book just keeps getting better and better.

Characters

I was surprised by how funny this book was. The characters are witty, and some of the things they say serve to transform them into three-dimensional, relatable characters that could exist today, not only sixty years ago. Some of the imagery made me laugh out loud, particularly in the beginning of the book when Eleanor leaves to find Hill House, and she steals her sister’s car.  While this book is quite short, I felt that I really connected with Eleanor, and her character development (at the risk of spoiling anything) is quite fascinating and beautifully facilitated by Jackson’s firm grasp of the written word.

The Haunting of Hill House

I recommend this book to literally anyone who claims to be a fan of haunted house stories. 

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol

Djinn Patrol book cover

Title: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
Author: Deepa Anappara
Genre: Literary
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Synopsis

Set in Metropolitan India, this atmospheric novel follows Jai and his two friends as they search for their missing classmate.  Obsessed with a police television show, Jai is convinced that he will be able to find the boy, even when the police themselves are indifferent about the case. As more and more children go missing, however, it becomes clear that there is something insidious going on, and Jai’s life will be forever changed by the events that unfold…

My Thoughts

This book is beautifully written. The words seem to leap off the page, creating a dynamic, three-dimensional image of metropolitan India. It felt like I was actually there.  The language, while beautiful, can be hard to follow at first, as Anappara uses many Indian words in casual conversation. While the meaning of the words can be discerned from context, I wish I’d noticed the glossary at the end of the e-book before reading the story.  That said, I don’t think not knowing the exact meaning of words impacted my enjoyment of their use.

The protagonist is a child named Jai, and his entire world is tinted by rose-coloured glasses. He has an innocent and naive perception of everything that goes on around him, which is demonstrated through both his observations and the prose.

The book mostly comes from Jai’s point of view, but we also get scenes from the missing children – their last memories before they disappear. This in itself is heartbreaking, particularly after reading the author’s afterword.  180 children go missing every year in India, which is a shocking statistic that makes the words on these pages even more poignant.

My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Jai’s friend, Faiz, would state that the djinn were stealing the souls of the children. Brought up casually in conversation, I think this served several important purposes. It added a supernatural air of mystery to the story and it reinforced our perception of these children’s innocence, but it also created a beautiful metaphor for the true malignant cause of the disappearances.

This book is marketed as a mystery, but I disagree.  From the description on Goodreads, I’d gotten the impression that it was about a group of children searching for their lost friend, and that it would read similarly to Stranger Things or The Goonies. This isn’t the case. Jai is compelled to search for the missing boy that he barely knew.  The story is not at all plot driven. It is primarily setting and character driven, and the focus isn’t at all on his search. While his friends are three-dimensional characters in this story, I never got the feeling that they have an unbreakable bond and would go to the ends of the earth to find each other should one of them go missing.  The story itself doesn’t carry with it a sense of hope that I prefer to see in coming of age stories. It’s more of a harsh removal of the rose-coloured glasses, and we see the world for what it really is.  Gloomy.

Djinn Patrol

I recommend this book for someone wanting to get lost in the streets of Metropolitan India.  This is a coming of age story more than a mystery, and it delivers a powerful commentary on a true story, and how tragedy can shape an entire community.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and McClelland & Stewart for the arc to review! *

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Book Review: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

book photo

book cover

Title: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Author: Frans de Waal
Genre: Non-Fiction
Date of Publication: May 10, 2016
Publisher: W. W. Norton Company


~ My Thoughts ~

I loved this book. In my undergraduate degree, I only had space for a few electives, and one of the classes I took was “Primate Behaviour”. In this course, we were required to read two Franz de Waal books: Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. Usually when I’m “forced” to read something, I don’t enjoy it–whether it’s because I don’t have the time to enjoy it or because I’m contrary that way is besides the point. My point is that I genuinely loved these books, so much that I’m continuing to read de Waal’s publications even after university.

One thing I love about de Waal’s books is that they’re so accessible to the general public, but not at the sacrifice of accuracy or including information about scientific process. He talks about things in layman’s terms, making them fun and engaging, all the while teaching the reader a ton of information on the topic.  As you may already know, I’m a librarian, and I do a lot of instruction in my job. In the ACRL’s Information Literacy Framework, one of the frames is “Scholarship as Conversation”. I doubt it’s even intentional in de Waal’s books, but the way he effortlessly talks about other researchers’ work and discoveries, how they contributed to general knowledge, how he himself has built off previous studies does a great job of showing how this conversation goes on in his field, and in science in general.

As for the contents of this book, I’ve learned so many things that I can use in casual conversation (though it depends on who you’re talking to). Anytime I see a crow I tell anyone who’ll listen about how they recognize human faces and hold grudges for generations.  

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I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in animal behaviour (not just apes in this book, but a variety of species), and to those who want to crack into reading nonfiction science books but aren’t sure of where to start.

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Book Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom cover

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Viking


Synopsis

When Joan takes her four-year-old son to the zoo for a day of frolicking with the wildlife, of course she doesn’t expect to be staying at the zoo later into the night, fearing for her life while a killer hunts her down. Joan must keep her son out of the clutches of this psychopath–no matter the cost. 

Plot 

This novel is what the publishing business calls “high concept”. The idea behind the story is really quite simple: Joan is trapped in the zoo with her son and there’s a shooter on the loose. While it’s a very intriguing concept, it quickly becomes clear that the author didn’t have any other ideas when she wrote up this story. The plot is quite formulaic, without any real twists in the story. The decisions that Joan makes are at times understandable, but often they’re quite infuriating. Sure, your cell phone glows when you receive a text message, but getting rid of it is not a good idea, Joan. You will need it later. There were some plotholes like this – if you’re carrying a bag around with you, just put the phone in your bag! Put it on airplane mode. Check out the settings and turn off notifications! There were so many better ways that she could have handled that.

Anyway, I’m nitpicking on one plot issue, but honestly, the entire novel was full of these. 

While the book is primarily told from Joan’s perspective, we do get brief scenes from the points of view of some of the other survivors, but that wasn’t consistent. We were, however, consistently provided POV scenes from the shooters. 

The story really lags in the middle, but it picks up again towards the end. There wasn’t much going on in terms of twists and turns in the plot. Everything carries out the way you would expect, although, I would have expected the police to show up a lot earlier. Turns out the explanation for them not showing up is somewhat satisfactory. Somewhat.

Characters

Joan is the typical overprotective mother. One thing that I did enjoy about the story was how insensitive she was to the needs of the other survivors. She finds the talkative girl annoying – and even though it’s clear to the reader that the girl is jabbering on because she’s nervous and it’s her coping mechanism–Joan doesn’t realize this until later, because she’s so wrapped up in her own coping mechanisms.

Joan’s son is really quite adorable at first, but it starts to get laid on too thick when Phillips hounds the reader with one cute anecdote after another. Every parent thinks that their child is a special snowflake, but as a non-parent, I started to find this grated on my nerves. I understand that Phillips was doing this to make the reader invested in the outcome of the story, and that the true story is about how much this woman loves her child, but it definitely wore on me after a while. 

I also really really hate when authors use mental disability or mental illness to make a villain seem scarier. No. Just don’t. 

Language

This novel is very a very easy read, which makes me think of the Mark Twain line, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” It’s a favourite line for me, as a writer, and I do think this applies here. I can critique the story and the characters until the cows come home, but it’s clear to me that Phillips has a talent for getting the words on the page to depict exactly what she means. Her writing style bumped my rating up from two stars to three. The novel is also quite short, and so while some parts drag (as mentioned in the Plot section), these parts are over rather quickly and then it’s on to the next plot point.  

Fierce Kingdom

I recommend this book to those looking for a quick yet linear thriller that focuses on the relationship between a mother and her infant son. 

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red

All Systems Red

Title: All Systems Red 
Author: Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1

Genre: Science Fiction
Date of Publication: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Tor


Synopsis

Set in a distant future, a team of scientists are sent to a planet to conduct surface tests,  and they are required to bring along a Company-issued droid. They’re utterly unaware that this droid has hacked its AI, effectively enabling it to do whatever it wants. “Whatever it wants” means that it spends its free time watching cheesy soap operas.  The droid refers to itself as the Murderbot–though it would never say that to the humans it was sent to protect. When danger is afoot, the Murderbot feels compelled to continue to protect the scientists no matter the cost.

Plot

I don’t usually read hard science fiction, but one of the categories for the PopSugar Reading Challenge is “A book set in space”, so I was thrust into this category, whether I wanted to explore it or not. I decided to read this book because it’s short–only a novella, it had an interesting premise, and very positive reviews on Goodreads. Boy am I glad I picked this book. 

At only 89 pages, this book packs a lot of action and adventure between its covers. The plot never lags, and Wells does a fabulous job of balancing all four appeal elements, which, of course, is likely why this book has appealed to so many readers. The plot is engaging and fun, and Wells resolves the plotline while hinting at the possibilities of what’s to come with the followup books in this series. Books which I’ll be definitely checking out.  Hard science fiction books, here I come!

Characters

The Murderbot is a dynamic and relatable character, despite not even being a human being. It’s funny and socially awkward, which is something that many bookworms such as myself can relate to.  It has a heart, which becomes evident as the story progresses.

Given that this is a novella and the focus is clearly on the Murderbot, I haven’t marked Martha Wells down for not developing the other characters quite to my liking. That said, each of the teammates had a unique personality so that I didn’t have a difficult time telling them apart. They each had their own way of viewing and dealing with the Murderbot, which coloured its perception of these characters in interesting ways. 

Setting & Language

Set in a science fiction world, Martha Wells does a fabulous job of making it easy for me to follow, which is no easy feat considering I rarely read in this genre. All the science fiction-y words were understandable within context. She doesn’t spend reams of pages describing how the world works, but reveals things as they are needed to be known by the reader. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you would know that this is something that I value in a book.  Books with info-dumps automatically receive fewer stars, even if the rest of the book is up to my standards of reading. 

All Systems Red

This is a perfect gateway book into the hard science fiction genre. It contains all four appeal elements, so even if you aren’t interested in reading science fiction, you should give this one a shot, because it might just surprise you.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run by Matthew S. Cox

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

Title: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: January 18, 2019
Publisher: Division Zero Press


Synopsis 

When Mia’s husband buys a beautiful old house at a bargain, she can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with it. She doesn’t have to wonder for long, because it quickly becomes obvious that the house is haunted.  Her husband is delighted–he’s a university professor who’s looking for proof of the paranormal. Mia quickly discovers that she’s psychically sensitive to the spirits in this house. While one of them is a harmless little girl Mia would do anything to protect, there is something else that is much more sinister lurking the halls of Six Minstrel Run…

Plot 

This novel fights a lot of tropes in the paranormal activity subgenre.  First off, Adam, a professor at the university, bought this house because he knew it was haunted. He wanted to see if he could capture evidence of the existence of ghosts on camera.  This automatically sets this novel apart from others like it–where there is that inevitable first third of the book where the protagonists are in denial that supernatural beings exist.  Even Mia, the skeptic, believes that there is a ghost in this house within the first few chapters.

There is a lot of paranormal activity right off the bat, which also sets this book apart. Usually in novels like this the author plays with shadowy figures in the corner of your eye, mysterious noises in the dead of night, and other events that can be attributed to the imagination or natural phenomenon.  But this book escalates things a lot more quickly. The plot isn’t about whether or not the protagonists believe there is a ghost. It’s about Mia getting to know the ghost of the little girl that lives there, all the while questioning if she’s truly a little girl at all, or if she’s something insidious…

The book also has religious undertones, as there is a priest who makes regular appearances at Six Minstrel Run, warning Adam and Mia that they need to leave before its too late.  He fears for their souls, though Adam and Mia find him more annoying than the ghosts inhabiting their home. This theme is carried throughout, as Mia was raised Catholic but turned against her religion for slightly spoilery reasons. 

Characters 

I had to suspend my disbelief just a tad when reading this book. Some of the plot points that I lauded in the “Plot” section make for unrealistic main characters.  Mia is supposedly a skeptic, yet the first time she has a paranormal encounter in this book, she instantly believes. Both Mia and Adam are invested in keeping the house, but as the paranormal events escalate, they remain oblivious to the danger they’re truly in.  Even someone who was desperate to prove the paranormal exists would have run for the hills after some of the events that take place early on in this story.  The main characters’ lack of relatability can be countered by saying that the novel isn’t meant to be horror, and that it at times takes a sardonic tone, but whether that was intentional or not is unclear.  The writing style is a lot lighter than you would expect a book with this type of plot to be.  I talk a bit more about this element a little more in depth in the Language section below.

There is a lot of cutesy back and forth banter between Mia and Adam, which serves to make me as the reader truly invested in their relationship.  They love each other, and there’s never a point in the novel where I questioned that even for a moment. 

I was particularly invested in the strange yet beautiful relationship between Mia and the ghost girl.  It’s clear that Mia has motherly instincts despite not being a mother, and she worries for the safety of the little girl, what with the other spirits that inhabit this house. She wants to protect her, despite not truly knowing if she isn’t dangerous, and the relationship is quite tender and refreshing.  It also adds to the horror element, as there’s nothing scarier than a child that might just be homicidal.  The little girl ghost is adorable yet incredibly creepy, a beautiful dichotomy that makes this book truly unique.

Language 

As mentioned earlier, the tone of the book is light. It reminded me a little of Jay Ansen’s “The Amityville Horror”, as it has that sense of the author calmly relaying the facts, no matter how disturbing they might be.  Many books rely on language to instill that fear in the reader, yet in this case (and in The Amityville Horror’s case), the language was a mere medium for relaying the horror of the events that unfold.  

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a refreshing take on an old subgenre–the ghost story–with a unique twist.

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*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours  for ebook for review*

Author Bio:

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Author links:

Goodreads | AmazonFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Book Tour List Graphic

Book Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door Cover

Title: Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: July 2, 2019
Publisher: Dutton


Synopsis

Jules Larson is broke. She found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her the same day she lost her job, and now she is also homeless. So, she seeks out a new job as an apartment sitter so she’ll have a place to live while she job hunts. Little does she know that the apartment is in the Bartholomew, one of New York City’s oldest and most historical buildings, and the setting of her favourite novel. When she accepts the job, the rules she is required to follow seem a little strange, but they’re paying her so much money that she doesn’t ask any questions. That is, until she starts to wonder what has happened to the other apartment sitters…

Plot 

This novel has an intriguing premise. The plot is steady throughout, and as is very common in psychological thrillers these days, we’re introduced to two timelines. The present day, where Jules has awoken after a car accident in which she got into after “escaping” the Bartholomew. And one to a week or two earlier, when she first accepts the job as an apartment sitter, all bright eyed and filled with hope. While I understand that this type of storytelling is necessary for the lazy reader these days–I guess we don’t like reading something unless there’s action right away–I rarely enjoy this in novels. For Lock Every Door, most of the story is written about the events leading up to whatever frightened her so much that she didn’t obey the cardinal rule of looking both ways before crossing the street. While Sager may have been forced into this dual narrative, he does a fabulous job of not revealing too much in the present day timeline. He does this by keeping these chapters short and punchy, and they actually left me wanting more. 

The twist at the end of the novel wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting. There’s a development previous to this twist, introduced as a red herring to distract from the truth, and to be honest, I would have preferred if that were the twist. However, the story is just so darn compelling, and the execution of this twist was quite well done, so I don’t mind that it’s a little far-fetched.

Characters 

While the characters are engaging in this novel, I did find that they were generally quite stereotypical, and we didn’t really get that exciting moment of finding out that there’s more to someone than meets the eye (aside from the twist at the ending – being vague so I won’t spoil it for anyone!). There’s the rich former film star, the handsome, charming doctor, and the manic pixie dreamgirl, who actually gets called such in the novel. However, despite the rather two-dimensional side characters, I found that I genuinely connected with the protagonist.  She was a compelling and relatable person who was just a normal woman trying to get by after losing her job, her boyfriend, and her home.  

Setting 

Like any good thriller set in a location of relevance to the plot, the setting is its own character. The Bartholomew has a sordid history that is gradually revealed.  

Language

The prose in Sager’s writing is often what makes the book such a fantastic read. While the plot in this story wasn’t as unique as The Last Time I Lied, the writing was so beautiful that I didn’t care. I can’t wait for Sager’s next book!

Lock Every Door

 

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a psychological thriller with a Gothic feel, a relatable protagonist, and isn’t afraid to suspend their disbelief.

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*Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for the e-copy for review*

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