My Rating: 4 Stars
Now here is a collection you don’t read every day. Twisted tales that not only give you shivers but also make you rethink a thing or two.
A collection of 16 short stories and 10 poems that explore several themes going from space exploration, time travel to mythology and supernatural events that will make you sleep with the lights on. If you found yourself stuck in a shoe sized-box for eight centuries, what would your plan be to escape? A parasite that enjoys your nightmares, how far would you go to get rid of it? If you had the choice between sparing or killing a creature, what would you choose? Is the darkness between reality and the dream world real? What if it’s out to get you?
First, I must say, the introduction is chilling to the bone and beautifully written. I got hooked on the book right from the beginning.
There are certain short stories that spoke more to me than others, and some of them are:
• A Deal in the Dark is a reminder to be careful about what you wish for and to whom you make it to;
• Just the Ticket gives a whole new meaning to “The Devil is in the detail”. Like it happens in our daily life, read contracts with attention and read the small letters carefully. You never know when you’re being tricked, and the price of falling for it;
• Breaking the Cycle brings out the fear of closed spaces that took my breath away and made me stopped reading for a few moments. For claustrophobics, this one is a killer, literally.
• Nightmare’s Eve, good boys get gifts on Christmas, naughty boys get… a very different present-bringer. Where did the good Santa go? Was he ever good to begin with? He does look a bit pale there. A great, creative twist to your usually happy Christmas tale!
Certain poems kept replaying in my mind, even days after reading them the first time. Unwound, Upon Reflection, Merlin’s Lament, Lost at Sea and A Never-Setting Sun, talk about loss, the truth behind a mirrors reflection and the nostalgia of lost moments and memories. I found them to be touching and melancholic. I think Stephen Provost uses prose to explore his imagination and poetry to express feelings that he couldn’t express quite as well as writing about them. But then again, this is my own interpretation.
The style of writing is amazing. Stephen Provost is a master with words both in verse and in poetry; it’s like music written with words instead of music notes. It seems like there’s an influence of the gothic style in his writing in all his works which brings out a feeling of melancholy.
I recommend this novel to the fans of short-stories and of stories and poems that drift between genres.
Thank you Xpresso Book Tours and the author Stephen H. Provost for allow me to participate on the book tour of Nightmare's Eve.
My Rating: 5 Stars
The type of novel take gets you hooked from page one. A mesmerising, captivating, suspenseful narrative that will keep you from putting it down.
Anne Chatham desperately needs a new start. After losing her family to Influenza and almost dying herself, Anne is ready to start a new chapter of her life as a typewriter with the Wellingtons family. But her almost-death experience gave Anne a unique gift: she can sense spirits. On her arrival, she’s introduced to the owner of the manor Henry Wellington, confined to a wheelchair, his two sons and the unpleasant wife, Lavinia. Anne soon discovers that the family hides a dark and terrible secret and that wondering spirit she senses in the house may hold the answers to the mysterious disappearance of Henry’s first wife 40 years before. Together with the less favoured son, Owen, they try to solve the mystery of what really happened to Eleanor Wellington. But someone isn’t happy with these meddling. During a masquerade ball, death strikes. Anne slowly becomes aware of the dangerous road she’s taking and the price of getting closer to a horrifying truth. Can she and Owen get out alive?
Highly addictive, captivating and impossible to put down. It’s a real page-turner.
The setting of the novel is amazing and one of my all-time favourites: an English haunted house in 1922. The atmosphere is that of a gothic novel, dark with several characters that slowly begin to reveal themselves as no so pure people. The pace is very steady and builds up suspense and thrill throughout the story. Clues and crucial information are given in a smooth way and it keeps you on your toes. There are enough twists in the story to keep you guessing the identity of the killer. The ending is completely unexpected but the author gives all the necessary pointers and leaves no loose ends.
The style of writing is captivating and the language is brilliant. Phyllis Newman was able to captivate the dark and mysterious atmosphere typical of a gothic novel. At the same time, it was some cosy mystery elements, like the romance line between Anne and Owen, which was perfectly in line with the mystery. The descriptions are perfect as they give a clear image of the setting and the actions of the characters. The best part is that you cannot get bored with them; with the style of writing runs like soft, dark music running in the background. Additionally, Newman introduces the social problems of the period in a way that gives depth to the story and the characters. The main issue is the class distinction, a characteristic from the 20th century. A young woman loses everything, she doesn’t have any rights and she has to find a way to survive. Finding a job was the only way not to end up in poverty. Newman also integrates supernatural elements just at the right times and the right places which creates spine-chilling moments in the story. I enjoyed every single one of them.
The characters are fantastic and very well developed. Anne is an intelligent young woman that even after going through traumatic events in her life keeps her head up and takes on the challenge life put in front of her. I loved her reasoning and her courage. She’s like a ray of light in that house and to the character that lives in it. Anne isn’t governed by fear, which isn’t surprising considering that she stared at death right in the face. However, she’s not reckless, she follows a logical approach and preserves herself from the people she doesn’t fully trust or understand. All this while being “ladylike”. I loved walking with her through this dark adventure.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel: the romance, the suspense build-up and the moments of pure horror. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Thank you, Phyllis Newman, for reaching out and sending me a digital copy of your book in exchange for an honest review.
Manga Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Crystal S. Chan (Story Adaptation), Nokman Poon (Art) & Alexandre Dumas
My Rating: 5 Stars
Once again, a brilliant adaptation of the original into a Manga Classic! It keeps the dramatic atmosphere and the gripping suspense of the most complex classic revenge story.
This is the story of a young man that had a bright life ahead of him. He was to become captain of his own ship, marry the love of his life and save his father from poverty. Until, on his wedding day, he's arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and is sent to an isolated prison with no contact with the outside world. After digging into the cell next door, he becomes friends with an old man that helps him discover the truth about his arrest and carefully plans his revenge. Giving invaluable information about a hidden treasure, the old man teaches Edmond everything he knows. As the years' pass, Edmond Dantes is a changed man with a single goal in life: make the people that betrayed him suffer as he did and take everything from them.
A masterpiece that still gives me pleasure in reading. It’s a complex story full of betrayals, murder, blackmails and hidden businesses.
The story is engaging and the complexity of the plot is addictive. Much like the original, the manga was able to keep the same emotion and suspense that defines this French classic in 400 pages. In end, it motivated me to read the translated version of the original again.
The story has been shortened quite a bit but Crystal was able to keep all the important details that keep the story attached and that leave no loose strings. The plot follows the story of the Count and his path to execute his revenge. This is the perfect book for the readers that don’t want to go through the 1000-page original.
The style of writing is faithful to the translated copy but the language is simplified in certain scenes. I imagine that it’s for the reader to be able to fully understand the story.
There is a big number of characters in the manga and for me, it was easy to recognise who is who. The designs are unique to each character, going from facial expressions to the dressing details. I’ve read the novel before and the drawing of these characters go in line with the way I imagined them.
The visuals are captivating and beautifully created. There is a special attention to detail; from the dresses and the suits to the prison itself and Edmond’s home. I could hear the noises in the street and walk around in this world. It definitely pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go until they fall in love with the story and this reality.
I highly recommend this adaptation to both readers that already know the original story and those that didn’t read it yet.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Udon Entertainment, and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
My Rating: 4 Stars
This was the first novel I’ve read of Jack Taylor and despite the dark atmosphere and writing, I found myself enjoying it.
After being misdiagnosed and being involved in a scandal due to it, former cop Jack Taylor has almost everything he needs: his whiskey, his books and his faithful watchdog Storm. Everything, but money. In an attempt to restart his life, Jack gets a job as a night security guard. It doesn’t take long before things are given a turn. When a man offering a considerable sum of money to find “The Red Book”, the first book of heresy, approaches him he knows its way over his head. When a woman from his past reappears in his life and seemly connected to the book, Jack is pulled to a probable deadly path. Haunted by the dark, unfortunate events of his life, Jack soon discovers that the city’s corner hide secrets and some more fatal than others. Unfortunately, for Jack, nothing in his life went as he expected, and this won’t either. Can he make it out alive and with the rest of his sanity?
One thing that I learned with this book is: never take a plot for granted. This is a story that starts at a steady pace and suddenly it takes a much darker and shocking turn, one where the reader realises that characters are going to meet their ends. The first part of the novel the reader faces several plot lines and different characters. In the end, everything comes together perfectly and the revelation is unexpected.
The depth of the characters was something that impressed me. Even though I haven’t read the previous books, I got glimpses of the past of each character and ended being fascinated with a few. None of them is simple, they are all complex Emerald was one of the best for me. She’s a complex character not only due to her multiple personalities but also her determination to hold on to her consciousness. She’s both the source and the weakness of poor Jack. There are moments that I felt my heart squeeze a little for him and his torments. Jack is a complex character that has been both virtues and flaws. He’s a lost character that suffers most of his misadventures due to bad decisions mostly. As the reader is taken through a combination of what he’s doing and his thoughts and feelings, one way or the other, they grow attached to him. He takes time to look back on his life, to confront some of his ghosts and to reflect on his mistakes and his decisions. For me as a reader, it taught me a few lessons.
The style of writing is great. It’s smooth, flows perfectly with the events of the story adapting to the general mood of the plot and of the characters. The author’s vivid imagination and rich vocabulary are seductive and pull the reader to such depth that even when it gets gruesome, it’s very hard to let go of the book. It’s a distinctive style, worth remembering.
I think that I should read the previous ones to truly see how much the characters and the author’s style developed through the series. It can be read as a stand-alone but it still felt like I was missing something.
I recommend this novel to all the fans of a complex, thrilling story that stands out for all the right reasons.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Mysterious Press and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
My Rating: 4 Stars
I didn’t think the sequel to Still House could get any better as the first novel raised a high bar. I was wrong; I’m both glad and disturbed that it was better. This collection takes a dark turn in this novel and even though it’s cruel and agonising at times, it’s next to impossible to stop reading it. I’m getting ahead of myself though.
When Gwen Proctor won the battle to protect her children from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, she thought the war was won too. She was wrong. Things take a dark turn when Melvin escapes from prison and threatens her family’s lives. This time, however, she refuses to be the hunted. Not longer safe at Stillhouse, Gwen leaves her children, Connor and Lanny, in the custody of a well-armed neighbour and goes hunting. Who knew that knowing one of the sickest serial killers gave you some essential knowledge? Together with the brother of one of the many victims, Larry, how far is she willing to go to protect her children? Very, very far.
It’s a strong and dark sequel; it made me stay glued to its page even when it got unbearable. A complete washing machine of emotions and moments that keep the reader on the seat. The pace of the story is fast, full of action and non-stop suspense. Unlike the unique perspective of the main female character, in the sequel, the reader has four perspectives: Gwen, her children and Lanny. Rachel Caine manages the different points-of-view perfectly and it’s easy to jump from one to the other without getting lost in the process.
The setting is much darker than the previous instalment. Caine takes us on a dark journey through the world of torture, child pornography and the exchanges made on the dark side of the internet.
The characters are incredible, more than in the first book. Now that we’ve been introduced to Gwen and her works of her serial killer ex-husband, this novel explores the effect of all the moving, close calls and the lasting repercussions of being implicated in the horrid works of a monster. It was a bit heartbreaking to read the doubt in the minds of the children, questioning their mothers’ motivations and actions. Gwen is still a woman to be reckoned with, even more than before. Now, she’s tired of running and ready to do whatever it takes to have peace. Her emotions and her attitude make her one of the most believable characters I've read so far this year. The villain is both scary and incredibly imagined. The way he's described and his style of hunting had me looking over my shoulder in the street.
Caine raised the bar very high for the next installment. I can’t wait to see what she will create next. I recommend this book to all the fans of a good, heart-stopping thriller filled with action.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Thomas & Mercer and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
My Rating: 5 Stars
This book is like of those that shouldn’t be judged by its cover. I was expecting an adventure and instead, I was taken of a roller coaster of emotions and genres that brought this book on my top reads for this year. The perfect mix: mystery, drama, suspense and a bit horror great an almost-perfect novel.
Lydia Smith has a past marked by horrors that she wishes to forget completely. Years later, she lives quietly, unseen, working in the Bright Ideas Bookstore, towns away from her childhood home. Having cut any relation with her father, Lydia lives for her books, her close friends and energetic colleagues. Until her friend, Joey commits suicide by hanging, in her bookstore. He leaves Lydia clues and notes with information that will lead her to find a connection between him, her dark past and a killer that never truly left her life. When Raj, a childhood, reappears in her life, they have to work together to discover the truth of the event that changed their lives forever. However, the truth comes with a cost and it can be very, very, unexpected.
The novel is addictive and very well organised. The plots are engaging and they both fit perfectly, bringing an intriguing challenge for the reader. There are quite a number of characters and all of them fit the story perfectly until the end. The first plot is the search for the murderer that killed Lydia’s friend, when she was younger, and her family. The second plot is to discover the history of Joey and the search for his biological family. The story is told in the third person, jumping between the past and the present of Lydia. The main question the reader faces is if both plots are connected and why. Why would Joey leave clues? How did he know about Lydia’s past?
The style of writing flows perfectly with the story and the descriptions are just enough to give the reader an idea of their surroundings. All the given details, however, are important to the plot and they give away pieces of crucial information from time to time. Even when the story switches between the past and the present, it’s very easy to follow the story and connect with the character in both timelines.
The characters are special in their own way and the author thought very well of how they are all connected. They felt real; the reader gets glimpses of their childhoods and how their relationships develop over time. Even with the little descriptions, I felt as if I truly connected with the characters and through their actions understand them better.
A mystery novel full of suspense that I highly recommend to the fans of the genre looking for a more complex story.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Scribner and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
My Rating: 5 Stars
A memorable, unique historical thriller packed with action and an impressive research of historical poisons. It’s very hard to believe this is a debut novel.
This is the tale of a female assassin on the 16th century that uses different poisons as weapon of choice. Lavinia Maud craves for the death fashioned by her own creations, her preys both poor and rich. However, fame brings risk to a higher level. Between avoiding the anger of her patron and struggling between love and death, Lavinia finds out the hard way that the heart is hard to silence and that revenge is served better with a tasteless poison.
Now, this is a new, refreshing novel with an original plot and a fantastic main character. A femme fatale that murders all levels of society, aiming for the ultimate game of her career: what is there not to like? It’s darkly compelling and addictive until the very last page.
The plot is brilliantly thought and developed. It’s fast paced with twists and turns that will swep the floor from under your feet. The originality of the plot is a breath of fresh air in the world of historical thrillers and the level of suspense is enough to make any heart skip a few beats.
The setting is perfectly chosen, the research made by Kara Pohlkamp on the time period and the poisons are impressive and perhaps even a bit scary. The Tudor era is one of my favourites in English history so I was more than pleased to jump into the story. The author provides just the right amount of detail to give the reader the perfect view of this dark tale.
The seductive and hypnotic style of writing pulls the reader deep into the story of this murderess and turns this journey of sin, obsession and murder into a pleasant ride. Pohlkamp is a magician with words, so smooth and seductive that will make readers fall for her novel like clockwork.
The main character is great and memorable. I know she’s an assassin and I know she has an unhealthy obsession with poisons and killing, but at the same time, the way the author presents her, it’s impossible not to connect with Lavinia and admire her. She is a powerful, deadly intelligent woman that uses everything she has to survive a world ruled by men. Her battle between cold logic and her heart is mesmerising to read and her struggles give her an incredible depth as a character.
I can’t wait to see what other tricks Kara Pohlkamp has up her sleeve!
For all the fans of historical thrillers looking for something new and exciting, you can’t let this one get away.
I want to thank the author Kara Pohlkamp for reaching out and sending me a digital copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 5 Stars
This collection is the perfect read for lovers of books and mysteries. What can be better than murders themes around books?
These 15 short stories were written by distinguished mystery writers and they make every story count. The editor Otto Penzler put together an anthology of crime between books that fill fit the likes of most readers. From hidden messages inside old books, a deadly bookseller and the deep secrets a library might hide, make this book impossible to put down.
Each storyline is different but they all have something in common: books. The title was definitely well picked and it describes perfectly its content. All the stories take place in modern times and they all involve different types of books or characters related to books like booksellers, book collectors, books privately owned, public displayed books and even an old scroll. Even though most of the stories can be classified as thriller/mystery, some of them have a fantasy touch to them and one fits in the fantasy genre completely.
The authors with stories on this collection, by order of appearance, are:
The editor Otto Penzler did a great job putting this anthology together. All the authors have different styles of writing, different ways of describing and interaction with the reader which is very refreshing when you’re jumping from story to story. Some of the authors I’m familiar with and it was a treat to read some short works from them, like Jeffrey Deaver, Thomas Cook and John Connolly. Additionally, discovering other authors just made my to-read list a bit longer for next year.
I absolutely recommend this anthology to all the fans of murder mysteries and books. These great authors write great stories and getting to know other creators of this genre might help you discover some great books you haven’t read yet.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Pegasus Books and the editor for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
My Rating: 4 Stars
The perfect phrase for this book is: Never judge a book by its movie. This is a must-read for all horror fans, a classic that still manages to leave your skin crawling.
In modern Iraq, a Jesuit at an excavation of an ancient site discovers a strange figurine of the demon Pazuzu entwined with a metal of St Joseph. In the city of Georgetown, the daughter of a famous actress falls victim to a disease that medicine cannot explain. When paranormal events start happening around young Reagan McNeil, her mother turns to a Jesuit priest, Father Damien Karras. When all his effects bare no fruit, Father Karras calls upon Father Lankester Merrin, another priest just returned from Iraq. Together they will attempt to exorcise the demon within the girl, but at what cost? Doubts are brewing and evil never rests.
I must admit, when I started reading this book I struggled to keep reading it but in the end, it was worth it. It’s one of scariest books one can read.
The depth of this novel is great and there are no loose ends. The plot is disturbing but at the same time compelling and will stay in the memory of the reader for a long time. The research that William Blatty uses in the novel is very well integrated and it gives the feeling that the reader is reading about something that really happened. The lines of thought, the psychology and the knowledge of human behaviour were incredible to read and it’s easy for the reader to identify itself with one of the characters and its reactions.
The characters are very well developed. Father Damien, the main protagonist is a great character with his own flaws and his doubts make him more human. The loss of his mother and the confrontation with something he doesn’t understand and therefore, doesn’t know how to help, makes the reader feel for him. As he battles a crisis of faith, he still holds on with the simple objective of saving the young girls’ life.
The style of writing is simple and easy to follow, built on mundane vocabulary to describe the activities of every day. The narrative develops at a steady pace and Blatty narrates the story without getting lost in unnecessary details. The beginning of the story is mysterious and descriptive but it’s needed to set the scene, not only in Iraq but in Georgetown as well. No main characters are introduced though, and the reader is left hanging with questions. The writing is seductive and Betty knows how to keep the reader absorbed in the narrative even when it gets creepy.
I highly recommend this book to horror fans that like to stay awake at night for more reasons than one.
My Rating: 5 Stars
This book includes everything I enjoy in a story: a good, scary Gothic tale set in Victorian times.
The story starts with Elsie Bainbridge, a young woman that is recovering in the hospital, unable to speak about a number of murders that she’s accused of committing. Since she doesn’t speak a word, she’s advised by one of the doctors to write down her story. Elsie is a recently married and recently widowed young woman that moves to her husband’s old estate, The Bridge, in order to bury him and give birth to her child. Surrounded by her husband’s cousin Sarah and three servants, Elsie begins to realize that in the walls of the old estate dark secrets are whispered in its walls. From strange figures of children and maids painted in wooden boards which seem to watch every move and seem to never stay in their designed place, to some old diaries that described the horrific events that took place in the beginning of the Bainbridge family’s downfall, Elsie slowly begins to transform from a confident and bright young woman to a broken shell governed by nightmares of past events she doesn’t fully understand.
A creepy Gothic horror novel that left me afraid to look at the walls and the paintings of my house for too long. It’s a deeply unsettling story that I will remember for a long time as being one of the books that made me be afraid of the dark for a few nights.
The setting is perfect for me, it hold everything for this novel to be a true horror story. It takes place in 1866 in Victorian England and in an old estate that has more history than its inhabitants realize until it’s too late. The story-line is solid and all the historical facts make this novel memorable in many ways. It’s a psychological horror story that develops perfectly from beginning to end, suspenseful until the very last page. The fact that the author started with the end, the reader is fully aware from the first page that this story doesn’t have a happy ending.
The style of writing is brilliant and it creates this atmosphere of suspense within a complex plot. I’m an admirer of the authors that manage to recreate a Victorian novel with all the phrase structure and vocabulary that truly brings the reader closer to the plot and its characters. The way that Laura Purcell writes builds up the horror throughout gets the reader completely addicted to the story even if deep down they're waiting for something scary to take palce.
The characters are amazing and as mesmerizing as the plot itself. Elsie is a great character and it’s impossible for the reader not to get involved in her story and feel for her as she walks down a dark path without realizing. Her transformation from a strong woman to a depressed, hollow, traumatized, mute, full of scars character is both admirable and scary.
A brilliant, creepy novel that will scare any reader out of hers/his wits. I highly recommend this novel for the fans of the genre and of Victorian fiction.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Bloomsbury, and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.
Hope you find an idea for your next reading here.