Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne


Brimstone book cover

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


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.


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.



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.


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

Find the book:

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


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?


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”

Book Review: Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Your Life is Mine book cover

Title: Your Life is Mine 
Author: Nathan Ripley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: June 4,  2019
Publisher: Atria Books


Blanche Potter is more than just a documentary film-maker.  She’s the daughter of infamous mass murderer and cult-leader Chuck Varner. Blanche wants nothing more than to leave her past behind her, but when her mother is murdered, she’s forced to return home.  She must go back to the place where it all began, and she fears that her father’s followers are only getting started…


This book is slow paced at the start. Ripley provides a lot of description of the setting and Blanche is quite introspective. The plot picks up as the story progresses, maintaining an even pace until the climactic finish.

There are excerpts from a true crime book scattered throughout the narrative.  They provide much-needed backstory that fills in the gaps in Blanche’s memory and let us know what was going on that Blanche hadn’t known about.  

While slow paced, there are leisurely twists and turns in the plot that kept me engaged in the story line. Despite the introspective nature of the book, it’s a quick read, and I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting.

While an engaging book, the story didn’t move quickly enough for me. I would have preferred for this to have been balanced with more twisted introspection, but the characters were quite tame compared to other books about serial killers.


The most intriguing part of this book is the main character. Blanche Potter is the daughter of a murderer and cult-leader.  She always knew who and what her father was, which makes for interesting backstory.

I was particularly fascinated by her friendship with Jaya. They’re best friends, and there are intriguing parallels in their histories. Blanche’s father was a murderer. Jaya’s father was murdered.  Their friendship is unlikely and compelling, and it was beautiful to see how much Blanche relied on that relationship, how much she leaned on Jaya in times of distress (which was basically this entire novel).

Your Life is Mine book

I recommend this book to any fan of serial-killer fiction. It puts more emphasis on character and atmosphere than on convoluted plots, which will appeal to those looking for a character study of the daughter of a mass murderer.


*Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Social Misconduct by S. J. Maher

Social Misconduct book cover

Social Misconduct book cover

Title: Social Misconduct
Author: S. J. Maher
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Simon Schuster


When Candace Walker starts a job at a marketing company in Manhattan, she’s thrilled about the perks, which include a brand-new company iPhone.  But someone should have told her not to click on attachments in texts from strangers. Her phone is hacked and her personal photos are shared with the world, threatening her career and her sanity.  A week later she’s on the run, accused of murder, and terrified for her life…


This book is a cautionary tale about social media and internet security. Have strong passwords, people! The story line is timely, especially in an era where privacy is almost entirely nonexistent.

The chapters of Social Misconduct plunge forward with very little break in between the action.  The chapters are short, and I often found myself thinking the cliché of “oh, well, I’ll just read one more chapter before bed”. That said, I sometimes thought the chapters were a little too short, since alternating chapters are in different timelines, and the transition between these two timelines often felt abrupt.  I was just learning about another incident of sexual harassment that had happened to Candace at her workplace in the past, and I’m already launched back into the present, where she’s in hiding and peeing into a bucket in a storage locker.

The novel has quite a few intriguing twists, although the final twist was a little obvious.


As I said before, the story is very fast-paced, and there isn’t much time devoted to setting the scene or long-winded physical descriptions of characters, which I greatly appreciate in a thriller. However, the language Maher uses is a little too on-the-nose.  The protagonist is a millennial who works in marketing, and she talks exactly how you would expect a millennial stereotype to talk.  I understand that he’s going for authenticity, but how many times should he say “lame” before it comes across less “genuine”, and more “lazy writing”?  At times it was cringe-worthy, and resulted in an unintended lessening of the suspense of the novel. How frightened can a reader be about a psychotic stalker when the main character is saying “FML”. That made me LOL. (See what I did there?)


I know quite a few vegans, and it’s characters like Candace Walker who give vegans a bad name. I wanted to slap her more than a few times.  She’s self-righteous, even though she gives up her values in an instant for the opportunity to do marketing for a cheese company.  *Insert eye roll here, please.*

I already talked a little bit about her character in the language section, but it became quite evident to me that Candace was two-dimensional. This is fine—since this is a primarily plot-driven book—but I would have been able to increase the number of stars in my rating if the character had been more believable to an actual human female millennial who does communications and marketing as a part of her job (me).

Also – Candace’s career is in shambles, yet she’s worried about her sister moving in on her crush? Seriously? She’s ambitious enough to give up her morals (veganism) in order to get ahead, yet when her future is on the line, she’s more worried about a guy she just met liking her sister more than he likes her. To be honest, I don’t blame him.

Another thing that really grated on my nerves was Candace’s casual considerations of committing suicide. This could be a legitimate character development for someone going through this type of experience; HOWEVER, it was not reflected in Candace’s outlook on life.  It was too casual.  It’s unsettling, how she flippantly mentions that suicide’s a possible way out.  Again, the way this came across might be because it’s a primarily plot-driven book, and Maher didn’t have a chance to delve very deeply into her psyche. But since it’s written in her point of view (in first person), I feel that if she was truly suffering from depression, it should have manifested itself in other aspects of her personality and inner dialogue.

Social Misconduct book cover

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a timely, rocket-ship-paced thriller about internet security.  It’s primarily plot-driven, and meant for those who want a quick thriller to read, not an in-depth character study of a millennial on the run.


*Thank you to Simon Schuster and OLA Super Conference for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face

Girl Wash your Face book cover

Title: Girl, Wash Your Face
Author: Rachel Hollis
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-help
Date of Publication: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Full Title: Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be

Rachel Hollis is the founder of the lifestyle website  She shares lies that she (at one point) believed about herself, and talks about how she worked to overcome them. This book is a “How To” guide on becoming your best self.

My Thoughts

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was.  Turns out, this didn’t matter. The messages she shares are universal, whether you’re a fan of lifestyle websites or not.  She has a witty and light sense of humour, and she only occasionally comes across as preachy as she talks about overcoming obstacles, bad habits, and the lies she believed about herself.  

I did appreciate the disclaimer that she has at the beginning of the book. This book is meant to help those who are unhappy in life. It is not meant to help people who are clinically depressed, or people who are suffering from grief.  Girl, Wash Your Face is targetted to women with goals and dreams that they don’t think they’ll ever accomplish and they’re unhappy because of it.  

Continue reading “Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis”

Book Review: Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Stone Mothers

Stone Mothers book cover

Title: Stone Mothers 
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Minotaur Books


Marianne left her hometown a long time ago, only returning for brief visits with her family.  But when her husband buys a surprise gift–a condo in a refurbished mental institution–she’s forced to come back and face her past.  A past that involves the once abandoned insane asylum and a decades-old secret that’s clawing its way back into the light…


The book begins with a very fast-paced, intense scene that’s wrought with tension. It’s not at all characteristic of the rest of the book, which is very slow and drawn out.  The novel opens with Marianne returning to her hometown outside of London to live in a condominium her husband bought (without consulting her, despite the fact that they can barely afford it).  The condominium is in a renovated mental institution that stood abandoned during Marianne’s teenage years.

Unfortunately I can’t go into detail on the best parts of the plot, because they took place two thirds of the way through the book.  I will say that the book is divided up into parts, and one of the later parts deals with the asylum historically, talking about themes of feminism and mental illness that were engaging, fascinating, and, quite frankly, horrifying.  

Continue reading “Book Review: Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly”

Book Review: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

The boy in the suitcase picture

The Boy in the Suitcase book cover

Title: The Boy in the Suitcase
Author: Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Series: Nina Borg

Genre: Thriller 
Date of Publication: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Soho Crime 


Nina Borg’s old friend Karin gives her a key and tells her to follow her vague instructions, to go to the train station to pick up what’s in a locker, no questions asked. When Nina does this, she finds a suitcase with a tiny three-year-old boy inside. He’s still alive.  Nina hurries back to Karin to demand answers, but she discovers that her friend has been brutally murdered. Nina knows that her life–and the little boy’s–are also in danger.


The book begins by providing the points of view of several seemingly unconnected characters in quick succession. It was confusing, and not at all representative of the rest of the book, which was much easier to follow.  One of the characters that we follow from the beginning is Sigita, the mother of the little boy who was abducted.

The book is very fast-paced, but there are quite a few (quick) flashbacks that bog down the storytelling. The story probably could have been told in a hundred fewer pages.  There is one twist in the novel, which is revealed towards the end; however, it’s quite predictable, with the clues clearly laid out so that I saw it coming less than halfway through the book.  That said, the storytelling is intriguing and it’s a very quick read.


I did find that the characters were hard to relate to.  Told in third-person perspective, we never truly get into the heads of the characters–not even Nina, the main character.  I didn’t quite find that the emotions that different characters were feeling were carrying through in the writing.  For example, Sigita wasn’t panicking enough for my liking. If my child was kidnapped I’d probably spend about twenty minutes rolling on the floor in pure terror. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding her child’s abduction. She didn’t really think her husband had taken him. She knew from the start that he was taken by strangers.

The boy in the suitcase picture

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to dip their toes into a Nordic Noir mystery, but doesn’t know where to start. It isn’t as dark as others I’ve read, and it’s much easier to follow–both because of the writing style and because there aren’t quite as many different characters to keep track of.


Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Androcide by Erec Stebbins

Androcide book photo

Androcide book cover

Title: Androcide
Author: Erec Stebbins
Genre: Mystery, Action, Spy
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Series: Intel 1 # 5
Publisher: Twice Pi Press


A serial killer targetting men is on the loose, leaving their mutilated bodies on display for women to find.  Meanwhile, Intel 1, a top-secret government agency, is tracking down the elusive Nemesis in Tehran… But how are these two stories connected?


This novel isn’t just a mystery. Just like the Goodreads blurb says: It’s an espionage thriller, a bio-thriller, political satire, and a police procedural.

I hadn’t read the previous four instalments in the this book, yet I jumped into this book with ease.  There are a lot of characters, but they very distinct from one another and Stebbins introduces them gradually enough that they’re easy to keep track of.

There are two main plotlines that are seemingly completely isolated from one another (at first).  There is a serial killer named the Eunuch Maker who is targetting men. Detective Tyrell Sacker is working with a PI named Grace Gone (LOVE her name AND her personality) to track down this elusive killer.

The second storyline follows the Intel 1 team, who I assume seasoned readers have already gotten to know in the previous four books in this series, as they complete a mission overseas.

These two stories are quite disparate, but Stebbins flows between them effortlessly.  That said, I preferred the storyline following the serial killer, but that might be because of my own twisted preferences.

Continue reading “Book Review: Androcide by Erec Stebbins”

Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the new black

orange is the new black

Title: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Genre: Memoir
Tantor Media
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Date of Publication: 2010


Ten years ago, Piper Kerman made a mistake. She fell in love and became a criminal–transporting a suitcase of drug money across borders.  Now she has to pay the price:thirteen months imprisonment in a women’s minimum security prison. This book is her memoirs from this time.

My Thoughts

I came into this book expecting it to be like the TV show. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t.  It isn’t an over the top or blatantly exaggerated or stereotyped version of what prison is like.  

While reading this book I had to keep in mind that it’s memoirs.  The odds are that Kerman is fudging the truth a little. This became apparent a few times. She talks a lot about overcoming adversity in the prison, and her relationships with the other women.  She doesn’t dwell on the negatives, which tells us a lot about her as a person, but weakens her message. Towards the middle of the book she mentions that it’s a ghetto, and that society has left people in this prison to rot.  I think this is ultimately the message that Kerman is trying to get across, and it becomes more obvious as the book progresses. The government and corrections workers were doing nothing to help these women reintegrate into society after they’ve finished their time. It’s the reason why so many ex-cons re-offend–because they aren’t able to succeed in the outside world. There’s one scene where the inmates are going through training on how to survive on the outside. Someone is giving them  a lecture on the type of roofing to have in their new homes. A woman raises her hand and asks how to find a place to rent. The lecturer coughs and says something about using the internet before continuing to talk about roofing. I hope to God this is an exaggeration, but I’m willing to bet it’s the truth. Prison (especially minimum-security prison) is supposed to be about rehabilitation, not retribution, but it’s clear that a lot of the people working in the prison don’t feel this same way.

Throughout the memoirs, Kerman talks about how privileged she is because she’s blond-haired, blue-eyed, has a huge support network on the outside, money to help her through, etc.  Life on the inside wouldn’t be considered “easy” for her, but it was a lot easier than it was for anyone else, and Kerman does a good job of acknowledging this. Hardly a chapter goes by where Kerman doesn’t acknowledge this privilege.  

The fact that this book got published itself is quite telling. Would a book about a hispanic or black woman going to prison have been published in 2010? Would it have become a bestseller? Probably not.  Especially since this story, while well-written, doesn’t have any of the drama or the pizzazz of the TV show. It’s quite bland. She didn’t get into any fights or nary a scuffle.

Orange is the new black

I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in finding out what goes on in those minimum-security prisons.  It’s a heartfelt story of making up for her mistakes, and a woman discovering that society has failed so many of its people.  


Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox

Hometown Boys

Hometown Boys book cover

Title: Hometown Boys
Editors: Mary Maddox
Genre: Horror, fantasy
Date of Publication: January 21, 2019
Series: Kelly Durrell # 2

Publisher: Cantraip Press


Kelly Durrell returns home twenty years after escaping the monotony of small-town Morrison.  Her aunt and uncle were brutally murdered by her high school boyfriend, Troy Ingram, and he claims that he did it because she broke his heart twenty years ago.  Convinced that he’s lying, Kelly takes it upon herself to investigate the murders. Some things have changed in the last twenty years, but others have stayed the same.  The townies are still vindictive and look down on outsiders, which she herself has become.  Will Kelly she be able to find whoever she believes coerced Troy to kill her aunt and uncle before it’s too late?


This is the second instalment in the Kelly  Durrell series, but it isn’t necessary to read these in order. There was a brief mention of the climactic events in the last book, but I didn’t feel like I was missing any critical information.

Hometown Boys has a solid start, with a lot of action and intriguing plot elements, but it does lag a little towards the middle.  However, every time the story pace slows significantly, a surprising and seemingly random event occurs that propels the plot forward, sending jolts of excitement down my spine.  These twists and turns kept the pages turning, transforming the story into a compelling read.

Continue reading “Book Review: Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox”