Book Review: Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

Beneath London's Fog book cover

Title: Beneath London’s Fog 
Author: Iona Caldwell
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 30, 2019
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing


Synopsis

A centuries-old vampire haunts the streets of London at night, but he isn’t the monster one would expect. Jonathan once fell in love with a human, Anna, who died tragically, breaking his heart.  Now he does not kill to feed, though it would make him stronger. He lives in the feared Raven Hollow Manor with his daughter, an orphaned human he adopted.  Since he does not kill, he is safe from persecution, that is, until another vampire comes to town and this one doesn’t share Jonathan’s moral code…

Plot 

This is a novella, which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength, because every word that Caldwell writes serves a purpose to either create atmosphere, plunge the plot forward, or develop three-dimensional characters. It’s also a weakness because I wanted more!

This book is rocket-fast paced. It’s designed as a quick and tumultuous adventure, rather than a long and arduous trek, which is often the case with Victorian-era vampire fiction.

There are many flashbacks throughout the story, but they felt a little too rushed to my liking. It often felt like a scene ended just when it was really beginning.  Caldwell had a dynamic idea that could have easily been extended into a full-length piece.

The plot of this novel did seem familiar, as if I’ve read it before. While deemed “horror” the book isn’t particularly scary. However, it does deal with some dark themes, (and vampires ripping out people’s throats is always considered horror, right?). That said, I would categorize this book more as a compelling mystery masquerading as a Gothic vampire horror.

Characters 

While fast-paced, the novel doesn’t forego necessary character descriptions. Jonathan isn’t a mysterious cloaked figure, but a well-fleshed out character. Caldwell does this through flashbacks as well as present-day interactions with his daughter.

Because of the shortness of the book, we don’t get to see as much of other characters, such as the villain (I’ll leave it vague since that’s a  spoiler!) or even his daughter, Anna. I would have liked to learn more about Anna, her motivations, and maybe experience more flashbacks to when she was first adopted by this creature of the night. What happens when a centuries-old vampire is raising a teenager? I’m hoping that future instalments in this series will give me the juicy details that I want!

Language

Beneath London’s Fog reads like other classic vampire stories–particularly Dracula or Interview with the Vampire. The style is authentic to the time period. The writing is also almost epistolary in the way that Jonathan seems to address the reader, but this isn’t extended throughout the whole story, which might have disconnected the readers from the action.

While Caldwell uses an older style of writing, this doesn’t detract from the quick pace of reading.  There aren’t any long, monotonous speeches, as seen in classic horror novels such as Dracula.  That said, there were occasional parts where the grammar seemed stilted, which is to be expected when using this style of writing.

Setting

Somehow in a 100-page novel, Caldwell hits all four readers advisory (librarian-nerd alert!) appeal factors–including setting, which is often neglected in shorter pieces.  She takes her time describing the city, as well as Raven Hollow Manor. She provides twisted history of this building, which was a delightfully dark surprise. But again, I wish she had delved deeper into the beautiful world she created. I wanted to learn more about the madman that had once lived in Raven Hollow, or the monster that apparently lurks deep beneath it.

Beneath London's Fog

I recommend this novella to anyone looking for a cozy horror story to read on a cold evening while curled up by the fireplace with a cat on one side and a glass of blood–er–wine on the other.

starstarstarstar

*Thank you to FyreSyde Publishing for the advanced reader copy for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Instagram | Blog

Book Review: The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

The Lost Coast book cover

The Lost Coast Book cover

Title: The Lost Coast
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Genre: Fantasy, Literary, LGBTQ+
Date of Publication: May 14,  2019
Publisher: Candlewick


Synopsis

The Lost Coast is a highly literary coming of age tale of a group of teenage witches, self-named the Grays.  Their leader, Imogen, has gone missing, and they’ve tried nearly everything to find her. But when Danny moves to town, she brings with her a unique type of magic that might just be what they’re looking for, in more ways than one.

~My Thoughts~

This book is beautifully written, and the words are like poetry on the page.  It reminds me a little bit of a literary version of an 80s movie, with a bunch of lost kids trying to find their place in the world, but in this book, they’ve found their place–with each other.

There are many different points of view expressed throughout the book.  We get a lot of chapters from Danny’s point of view, and others from the Grays’, but we also get the perspective of the other high school students, which provides context for why the Grays feel so out of place in their little, traditional town.  To reinforce themes of magic in the book, Capetta occasionally provides the point of view of the trees and the ravens, which could be groan-worthy, but it somehow works.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta”

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


Synopsis

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…

Plot

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.

Language

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?)

Character

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.

starstarstar

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

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon