Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

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Pet SemataryPet Sematary by Stephen King

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Believe it or not, after 700+ books read (and I know there’s at least 100 I’ve forgotten to review over the years), I’ve never read a Stephen King novel. I’ve seen a few movies and enjoyed them (Dolores Claiborne, Misery, It, Carrie, The Shining) but never actually read one. Yep, I’m a loser, I know it… okay, done yelling at me? Let’s get on to the review…

So… I had in my mind a certain expectation of this book. I knew it was about animals coming back to life. I knew it was about a pet cemetery. I knew it had some religious overtones. I knew it took place in Maine. That’s about it. I expected gore and horror. I looked forward to it, if I’m being honest. Then I read the book, and it probably met about 50% of those expectations in a good way. The rest, not so much… I didn’t absolutely love it, but I also didn’t dislike it. I can see why it’s beloved, but I’m not comfortable allotting more than 4 stars.

I won’t summarize the plot because I’ve already said enough that I’m sure you can figure out what goes on. Ultimately, there was a lot more religion in the book than I expected. Maybe spiritualism is more appropriate. It wasn’t a bad thing, but I felt it was either too much or too little in some places. I wanted to see it projected from rooftops in certain points, but it fell light, for instance, in terms of the connection to a Native American tribe that was brutalized years ago in the area where the main protagonist family buys a house. A lot was noted, or perhaps skim-covered (my made-up word for today) so you could imagine what once happened, but I wanted to see more of that vivid detail dripping from the pages to truly shock and scare me. It was written nearly 40 years ago, so perhaps that wasn’t quite the right time frame, but ultimately it fell a little short in this area.

As characters, the family was great. I loved the way the relationship between the husband and wife played out. True to some behaviors from the 1980s, women weren’t treated fairly, so I overlooked that but also respected it was true to the time period. My favorite character was the wife. When she described what happened to her sister when they were children, I thought it was a combination of the Exorcist and Poltergeist all wrapped in one — that was a chilling scene. The interaction among the children with the neighbor, grandparents, and parents was electrifying at moments. Sometimes it was light and fluffy, but those scenes were needed to draw a distinct comparison when things got volatile.

The main character often talks to someone in his head or talks out loud. I found myself trying to figure out who it was all along. I’m not sure how important that aspect was, other than to scare us. Which it did at times, just not enough with a fully rounded answer in the end to make me go “OMG” when it all came together. The writing was good and highly descriptive, but at times, it was too wordy. I think the book was a little longer because some scenes were painfully drawn out when it might have been a stronger read if there was some erratic dialog or narrative prose. It works as it is, but to pop a bit more, I think it needed that missing jagged edge.

It’s a psychological story. If you allow yourself to believe and invest, you will be alarmed and scared. If you are looking solely for amazing crazy things to happen, it’s not there. I liked how this was handled because there were at least 10 scenes that really make you freak out / turn the pages quickly. I skimmed some lines just to get to the ‘what’s going on here’ moment but I would’ve rather slowed down and read something scary with each single step.

It’s made me a fan of the writing. I was already a fan of the story and plot. King’s good, I can totally see it… but this probably wasn’t his best work. I’m placing bets on Misery or Dolores Claiborne… which I need to read soon! What made this a really fun read is that I buddy read with my pal, Medhat, and we could chat about it each day we’re reading along together! I can’t wait to see his review and will link it up once it’s published.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

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Watching YouWatching You by Lisa Jewell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read and enjoyed several Lisa Jewell novels in the last two years. When an opportunity to read Watching You surfaced last month, I requested the book via NetGalley and was awarded it overnight. I was super excited and planned it for my October schedule so I could have a little scary / psychological stuff to read as the temperature got chillier and the sun set earlier. Overall, I was pleased with the book and would recommend it, but there were a few things that needed some additional attention before the final version was released to readers.

The story takes place in current times in an English village where several of the neighbors have a penchant for watching one another through binoculars, cameras, or even just between the separation of curtains in a window. There are ~20 important cast members’ lives we read about and try to understand who’s connected to who when they say things using generic names like “she” or “he” to keep us in suspense. There’s a newlywed couple, a couple with a baby on the way, a couple fighting, a mother and daughter who act weird, young teen friends who are hooking up with boys they shouldn’t be, a teen boy who is a bit peculiar at first (then we learn why)… all-in-all, it’s a fine cast with lots of potential but no one was superb or lovable or hate-able (my new word of the day!). As we understand the connections and who’s misbehaving, we begin to see how everything unravels until the big twist at about 90% in the book.

Unfortunately, I thought it was too easy to guess. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, but I believe it could have used some more mystery, red herrings, and darker tones. Additionally, several characters were manipulated to create red herrings (which I’m totally cool with) but the end of their story and the root cause of why it happened wasn’t really sewn back together. I don’t believe it was purposeful either, just not enough focus on total symmetry across the entire novel. Because of this and a few characters who weren’t as fleshed out as I thought they should be (Rebecca, mother of girl who took lots of photos, the group that met at the house), I couldn’t give it 5 stars.

The plot was strong, the characters were passionate. The dialog and descriptions were vivid and consistent. Rarely did I find myself tempted to skim/skip a few paragraphs. It was just missing something to make it really really pop. This is a genre I really love diving into, so it certainly met a lot of my go-to features but fell shy of where Jewell’s books normally take me. It has a few difficult stories to handle (I’m okay with them, but others might be alarmed) such as child abuse, spouse abuse, possible rape, affairs, teacher/student relationships being crossed. It’s almost as if the book wanted to cross a heavy line into being stark and scary, but it stopped too short to be a total dark psychological thriller and went too far to just say it gently handled these situations. We were in the middle and uncertain which way to gravitate on whether a character was black or white… several were muted grey in their tendencies and behaviors.

For me, in a book, it wavered too much. It’s probably very reminiscent of reality, but I wanted a bigger gut punch or a lighter hint at misbehavior. An example is the spouse abuse. One says “nothing is happening” and the other says “yes, we occasionally hurt one another” — I’m paraphrasing. We never get a real answer, so I’m uncertain why it was left that way when it was (1) not critical to the plot and (2) made us waffle on how we were supposed to interpret what was going on. Given the actual people involved were critical to the murder that happened, I felt we needed something more transparent.

That said, it’s still a very strong book. I will keep reading more from Jewell. And if you can accept these things, and still enjoy a great story, you’ll be fine with this one.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Dark Visions by Dan Alatorre (with Robbie Cheadle and others)

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Dark Visions: an anthology of 34 horror stories from 27 authors: Volume 2 (The Box Under The Bed)Dark Visions: an anthology of 34 horror stories from 27 authors: Volume 2 by Dan Alatorre (Author), Allison Maruska (Author), Jenifer Ruff (Author), Adele Marie Park (Author),

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Today launched an anthology of ~30 horror stories from multiple authors in a collection called Dark Visions, the second in the Box Under the Bed volume. Although it was edited / Arranged by Dan Alatorre, I was given a heads up by a blogger who I follow named Robbie Cheadle. Robbie and her son write children’s books for the Sir Chocolate series, which I’ve read and reviewed, as well as promoted on my blog — they are fantastic and deserve a lot of praise and attention. When Robbie mentioned she’d written a few darker stories, I jumped on it. I knew she’d written other works, but I wasn’t familiar with them. Now I am as she has two in this wonderful collection. As I skimmed the table of contents, I found 4 other authors who blog that I’ve followed over the last year. How fun is that!

I read all of the stories / poems. They range from 2 pages to about 20 pages, and the entire collection is probably around the 250 page mark. From light spooky stories to much darker, its range is strong and inviting. Nothing is so scary that you’ll run in fear, but there’s a lot beyond subtle to find tantalizing. I do like this type of fiction, so it was a good fit for me. There’s also hardly any gore (none I can actually remember, but taste in this subject can be subjective and personal). It’s more about pushing the envelope with the air of mystery, the hint of suspense, and the suggestion of something very bad or impacting occurring.

I won’t point out any favorites since there’s a lot to cover, but I will highlight Robbie’s pieces because I do think she deserves the attention. The first is called “The Haunting of William Cheadle” which makes you wonder… which family member is she trying to spook? An early line: ‘it’s sticky, like blood.’ There’s a housekeeper I pictured as a certain character from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca who keeps someone in line. It’s all covered in a fine dose of murky and sinister fog… which makes for a very eerie and cool story. The other, The Willow Tree, my favorite kind, involves a doctor… something found in a bag… the tree… and a lot more I can’t tell you! But it’s enough to make you want to read more from Cheadle in this genre.

So… if you’re looking for a few traditional and some non-traditional spooky stories, an opportunity to sample different writers and styles, or a collection of short works to read throughout the next few weeks when the nights get shorts and darker, the ghosts come out to haunt us, and the season turns rather chilly, you’ve found a great place to start!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Very Mersey Murder by Brian L. Porter

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A Very Mersey Murder (Mersey Murder Mysteries Book 5)A Very Mersey Murder by Brian L. Porter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One thing’s for sure, I’m a fan of mystery series. When I find a new one I like, such as the Mersey Murder Mysteries, I have to devour them all. I usually read in order, but I found this one after several books had been published, so now I’m backtracking to catch up before #6 comes out soon. Today, I’m reviewing A Very Mersey Murder by Brian L. Porter.

The series focuses on a core group of British policemen and policewomen who handle special crimes–usually ones with complexity and longevity. In this edition, the first series of crimes happen in 1966 when three women were brutally attacked and killed. We read in the first few chapters what happens to one of the victims after she leaves a pub to walk home in a very quiet town. It’s not so quiet anymore. Then we jump 39 years later to when the murders start happening again in the same exact method and order. If what happened in the past rings true again, the third victim will be a policewoman. Will one of our beloved Mersey heroines say a final goodbye? Add in a few chapters where someone in the current time frame has found the killer’s old journal… and shares a little about the creepy nut’s imagination and emotional state. Is it the killer reading from the journal, or just someone else who found it? You’ll never guess until the very end!

Of the three I’ve read, this is by far my favorite in the series. Porter adeptly creates a believable and charismatic set of characters who work together to solve major crimes. Sometimes they fight, sometimes they bond. But they always try to find the killer in as little time as possible. When we meet some of the victims and her friends, colleagues and acquaintances, we feel a connection to the story and the lives being impacted by the crime. Add in some side stories with adoption, illegitimate children, gender identity issues, unrequited love, and friendship, the entire book is so well-rounded, I found it hard to put down.

At times, Porter’s story is visceral and graphic, but also tasteful. Some readers may shy away from the gory details and delicate topics being covered, but if you can handle them, you’ll be thrilled with how this comes together. Just when you think you’ve figured out who the culprit could be 39 years ago and who it is today, you’re thrown another curveball. Up until the very end, you’re not sure if it’s the same person, two different relatives, a copycat, or just a random series of events. That’s good writing, plot development, and suspense!

I encourage everyone to read Porter’s books, but I must say… I’m old-school and traditional — read them in order so you can cherish and enjoy all the little nuggets along the way. It’s not necessary, as each is a standalone mystery novel, but you’ll get to know the characters even better if you see them age and understand their relationships. Regardless, they’re well-drawn, complicated, and full of life. You know their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Kudos to Porter for continuing to push his readers and deliver quality story with powerful messages and imagery. And if you just want a standalone murder mystery, this will still be a fantastic one to enjoy.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Suspects – A Northwest Murder Mystery by Ken Haynes

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I won Suspects: A Northwest Murder Mystery written in 2017 by Ted Haynes through a Goodreads Giveaway contest. It’s a mystery / suspense thriller written in a very methodical manner and focusing on different characters in alternating chapters.

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Candy’s husband is found nearly dead on their back porch. Friend and neighbor Dan had stopped by but he finds Ken with a wound and is uncertain how it happened. Hours later, Ken dies and both Candy and Dan are suspects. As chapters proceed, we hear from members of Dan’s family, the police, and a few other characters. Each character attempts to tell us what they know and clarify if they’re a suspect. Dan, a lawyer but not the criminal kinda, presents as many potential suspects as possible to clear both him and Candy of the crime. As the book progresses, we learn more about the deceased’s life and former family, as well as who actually killed him. There’s a small love/romance story woven in the pages, and there’s a good twist in the end, too.

This is written in a very different manner than I’m used to. It’s procedural, almost explained as someone thinks or talks. There’s narrative and dialog, as well as side stories about different things going on in everyone’s lives, but it’s an atypical read for me. That said, parts were fantastic. Others were a little light or weak for me. But on the whole, it deserves a solid 4 stars. I liked Dan and suspected him of being a misleading narrator, but in the end, I realized why he acted the way he did. I won’t give away if he’s the murderer or not, but he’s a likable guy.

I’m curious to see what else the author publishes and if it’s as procedural as this, meaning it’s his style, or this was done as a one-time style opportunity. I’m glad I took a chance. It has a lot of potential.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: River Bones by Mary Deal

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Author Mary Deal is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. River Bones is the third book I’ve read of hers, and it proves why she’s such a reachable and readable writer. As the first book in her Sara Mason series, River Bones is a fantastic debut offering strong characters, dastardly plots, beautiful scenery, and tangible imagery.

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Somewhere between a thriller and a classic murder mystery, it offers all the suspenseful and horrible actions of a twisted serial killer without a focus on detailed gore. There’s a fine balance in her words conjuring up just enough gruesome thoughts without actually reading about all the blood and torture. Don’t get me wrong… I love a good horror thriller, but if you’re looking for something in between, this is a great option.

Sara’s come home for the first time in about 25 years. Her family was killed in an awful car accident / drowning when she was a young girl. Raised by a distant relative or sorts, she stuck around long enough to grow up but then left the country. She’s called back for a few reasons and buys a large Victorian supposedly haunted. She meets a previous owner, connects with former classmates and begins to re-build a life. Then she starts finding the bodies. Each one is buried with a pet. What’s the significance? A serial killer’s past life seems to come spiraling back to town, but they’re all old murders. Until a new one occurs. Why? What has Sara unearthed and why is she his/her next victim?

What I like most about Deal’s work is how easy-to-read yet complex her novels are. The language and writing style is perfect, not simple but not overly flowery or excessive. She describes the scenes and characters with out to give you a good image, then moves on. Sometimes you learn about the town or the person’s past even though it’s not part of the actual mystery, but it adds to the creation of ambiance and setting without misguiding or boring you. It’s always a wonderful balance of drama and good story, dialog and narration, history and thought.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this novel was the character struck by lightning. He died for a minute but came back to life years ago. Something’s just still a little off with him. Enough to be the killer or a shining knight? I definitely recommend picking up any of the books I’ve read Deal has written, but I’ll be tackling a few more in the next couple of months, too. She’s been a great find and I look forward to hearing all about her next novel.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Weight of Shadows by Karl Holton

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To start with, isn’t the title fantastic? The cover also caught my eye, but once I read the description, I found myself more than intrigued. To end with, yep, it lived up to its hype. Kudos to the author for delivering a well-rounded, complex, and clever web of characters and multiple plots. It’s hard to categorize this in only one genre. There’s suspense and thrills… a bit of horror, fundamental crime detection, family drama, mystery, and international spy-like intrigue.

Holton’s created a strong plot that keeps readers wondering in the first third how it will all intersect. With around 20 characters sharing the spotlight, we grow quite curious who knows who, which one will die, who is being honest, and how it will surprise us. I like how it alternates across various parts of the world, but it also all takes place in less than a week — barely 5 days.

Starting with the first chapter when a serial killer scares the heck out of us… we really don’t know what she did to the detective until much later, and even then, I’m still guessing — just like that ending! Wow… a cliffhanger to keep us coming back for more. And that’s a good thing since there’s a second book in the series within the next year.

Between 4 and 4.5 stars! Big thanks to Holton for merging a lot of different styles and approaches in his debut work. It gives you a different sort of appeal not dissimilar to major international thrillers by famous authors we’ve seen and read before. I’m curious to take on the next one soon.

shadowns

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.