Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m just going to say that I love this novel. A lot. It was an absolutely amazing read and I could not put it down for a second. Here is my review:

The village of Saint-Ferdinand might look like a peaceful place with its farmhouses stretching all the way down one street, its small police precinct, and its quaint coffee shops and diners. But it also has something unusual: a large over-used cemetery, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand killer, who has eluded the police for nearly 2 decades. When Inspector Stephen Crowley finally manages to capture the killer, it seems as if the nightmare is about to end. However, this is when the REAL nightmare begins.
When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

This is by far one of the best horror novels I have ever read. It hit the mark on all counts and kept the suspense, magic, and gore coming throughout the story.

First of all, the story itself is ridiculously good. There is so much depth, so many different elements that come together to give an intricate backstory that makes the reader want more. The author does a great job of keeping you in the dark until the right moment while also delivering a story that you can follow along. Every so often, you get clues that make you question what you previously knew…. and the author also provides the perfect opportunities for you to remember those clues and link the story together. It almost made me feel like a detective, and it was just so much fun to read this book! I loved the gore and the horror and the magical elements incorporated into this story; it was truly dark and I was definitely creeped out! The author had multiple POVs going, but he did such a fantastic job of keeping each one unique and fresh and interesting for the reader! The author also managed to show internal (and external) changes in character personalities and roles, which is not an easy feat by any means! There was so much going on in this novel and yet, it never felt overwhelming. Everything made sense, everything had depth, and everything made me want to flip the page and read on. The writing style was also amazing and easy to follow. I don’t want to keep on praising and praising so just do yourself a favor and give this book a shot, because it will definitely be worth your time!

Happy reading ~

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am a big fan of Andrew Pyper. I have absolutely adored every single book he has written because they truly scare the living pants off of me! I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, and I was very happy to have my request approved so here is my review:

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating the mental state of the most dangerous psychotics in the country. But her newest client – a man with no name accused of a very twisted crime – is different from the rest, even with the two ridiculous claims he makes: first, that he is more than 200 years old and has inspired notable Gothic authors like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker; and second, that he is Lily’s father. To discover the truth about her client, her mother’s death, and herself, Lily must go on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

This novel was not at all what I expected – and not in a good way. I’m trying to decide where to start with this book:

I really did not like the protagonist in this novel. She was just so off-putting. Her personality wasn’t likable at all and there was nothing about her that made her stand out. It felt like the author made her a distant character so that it would explain the trauma she suffered in the past, but it really didn’t work. There was nothing very unique about her, and she also did not behave or think in a very intelligent manner as befit her education and job status. To sum up, the protagonist was terrible.

There were a lot of unexplained elements in the plot. How did this monster just go from one place to another? What are all of his different powers? How can he suddenly talk to people in their heads? It was all very confusing and there was a desperate need for more detail. For every chapter, there should have been at least another one to segue the events. The author presented the story as both Lily’s journey as well as journal entries/letters by the monster that explain his past. I would have preferred if there had been actual scenes recounted rather than this format as it would have eliminated some of the holes in the story.

The interactions and relationships between various different characters was really not well done. Lily has some very weird feelings about her “father” and it made me quite uncomfortable. There were quite a few other characters that interacted with Lily and it all seemed so fake and forced that it ruined the story for me.

Finally, this novel didn’t deliver on the horror as much as I would have hoped. Instead, it took on a more psychological thriller view. While I have no problems with psychological thrillers, this novel wasn’t really a good one as it didn’t dig deep enough to back up the conclusions that it made.

Overall, this novel was a bit of a mess. It had so many different elements thrown together that it failed to maintain any semblance of cohesiveness. The protagonist was quite stupid and had no real personality, the interactions between various characters were awkward and fake, and there were gaping holes in this plot that made the whole story collapse. Unfortunately, this was a highly unsuccessful novel and I would have to rate it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Girl From Rawblood by Catriona Ward

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love ghost stories. Pretty much anything that can make me feel scared at night is going to be of interest to me. I love ghost stories or supernatural stories that will scare me to death, but I also enjoy reading stories that make me think. This novel did a bit of both for me.

Iris and her father are the last members of the Villarca family. For generations, the Villarcas have been haunted by a mysterious entity simply known as “her”. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear: if a Villarca gets married, or falls in love, or has a child, she will come and there will be death. Iris made a promise to her father: she will always be alone. But when she is 15, Iris breaks it. She falls in love – and there are dire consequences.

This novel can be a bit confusing because it is not a linear story. Each chapter is written by a different person who has been affected by “her”. In order to read this novel, you need to pay careful attention or else you will find yourself utterly lost. That being said, I found the story to be highly engrossing. I enjoyed putting the pieces together and seeing how the Villarca curse has affected those in the Villarca family line, as well as those who aren’t directly a part of this family. I liked the fact that the story didn’t flow smoothly; I enjoyed the jarring effect of being caught up in one story just to be yanked out and put into another. It made the reading of this novel so much fun! I also quite liked the way the author resolved the issue of the curse and how she ended everything. This novel definitely gave me chills here and there but it made me think more than anything. Overall, a really interesting ghost story that I enjoyed very much!

Happy reading ~

Night Shift by B. R. Myers – Night Shift #1

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

No one wants to work the night security shift at Willard’s department store. 18-year-old Daniel Gale is about to find out why. Tired of living on the road, he accepts the position of night guard at Willard’s. On his very first shift, Daniel almost falls down an elevator shaft, but is timely rescued by Mary, a bossy and intriguing girl working in after-hours inventory. As each night shift approaches, Daniel looks forward to spending more time with Mary. But the more time he spends at Willard’s, the more he senses that something is not right. There is something downright unnatural about this store and he has a mind to find out what.

I honestly loved this novel! It was such a fun and enjoyable read that it kept me engrossed throughout the journey! I was expecting a ghost story, something a bit more sinister. This novel was actually nothing like what I expected and that was the biggest surprise to me! There was this whole Hollywood-glam vibe associated with this story, with the traditional Willard’s department store and the references to Hollywood classics. The world building was something I really enjoyed reading about it, and it made the story so much more unique! I loved all of the characters and their interactions; it was all very genuine. I think that the love angle that was part of this story was perhaps a bit too quickly developed; it would have been nicer for it to have a slower progression. But that’s my only complaint. Overall, a marvelous entertaining read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Happy reading ~

Lost Gods by Brom

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the cover. I’m serious, it’s an honest work of art. I couldn’t stop thinking about that cover so I knew that I had to go and get myself that book no matter what.

Chet Moran just got out of jail and he is eager to start his life on a fresh note with his pregnant wife, Trish. They leave town to begin again in the hopes that they can forget all of their troubles. But their safe haven isn’t what they imagined, as an ancient evil pursues them. Trapped and murdered by a vile horror, Chet soon learns that pain and death are shared by the dead as well as the living. In order to protect the souls of his wife and unborn child, Chet must journey into the depths of purgatory to find a key that promises to restore everything to its natural order. Alone, confused, and damned, Chet must face unimaginable horrors in the underworld.

In the beginning, I was unsure about whether I would like this story or not. Things moved a bit too quickly with not enough expectations. But after just a few chapters, I couldn’t tear myself away. This story is action-packed and full of interesting twists and turns. There are a lot of different mythological elements in this novel and I found that they were incorporated quite well! The horror aspects were also honestly freaky so I definitely got my money and time’s worth! Every question about the different elements are answered by Brom and that just made it such a satisfying story to read. My favorite part of this novel were the illustrations by the author; they were creepy and beautiful and just amazing! All in all, this was a really cool book with lots of great horror elements. I’m definitely going to check out more by Brom!

Happy reading ~

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

On my quest to find really good horror stories, I have been disappointed many times. The beginning may start off well but most often, something lets me down. All I’m going to say about this novel is: it didn’t let me down.

There is something out there. If you look at it, you will be driven to deadly violence. No one knows that it is or where it came from. Every country, every part of the world has faced this. Now, 5 years since it began, there are only a handful of scattered survivors, including Malorie and her 2 young children. They live alone in an abandoned house near the river. Malorie has done whatever she can to keep her children safe: she has trained them to rely on their sense of hearing over their eyes, and has repeatedly blindfolded them so that they have never glimpsed the outside world. All Malorie longs for is to be able to escape from this house and go somewhere safe. Now that the children are grown up, she finally thinks they can make the treacherous journey 20 miles downriver in a rowboat. They will have to do this blindfolded; there is still no clue as to whether the terrible creatures are out there or not. They have nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. But were they ever truly safe in the first place?

The scariest part of this novel is the fact that you never find out what exactly it is that people see that causes them to become suicidal. The author leaves the “creature” to the reader’s imagination, so we can each create our own perfectly scary horror monster. The story goes between different periods of time, and I really felt that the author did a great job with that. There is a part in the story when it becomes unclear what is the present and what is the past, and it was such a cool effect that it made me like this novel even more (that’s all the details you get!). The concept for this novel was really good and it was executed well, so I was very pleased with this story. A word of warning: this is a very open-ended story; the author doesn’t give too much and a lot of the descriptions are things your imagination has to put in. While I enjoyed that aspect, I know there may be readers who would prefer more details. Overall, a great horror story that really did justice to the genre!

Happy reading ~

And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

Dawn Kurtagich has made a name for herself in teen horror. I’ve always been meaning to give one of her books a go but I’ve never really had a chance to do so – until now. This novel also has an alternate title, The Creeper Man, which is the UK title.

Silla and Nori arrive in desperation to their aunt’s house, trying to escape their past and the horrors that it carries. And while their aunt Cath seems slightly off-kilter, she is nice and caring. But it soon becomes clear that all is not well in this manor. There is an endless creaking at night, and the woods that surround the manor seem to hold a dark and terrible secret. The more Silla tries to ignore the strangeness around her, the more unavoidable it becomes. Why are the trees creeping closer to the house? Who is this beautiful boy who visits them from somewhere beyond the woods? And most important of all, who is the man Nori is playing with in the basement at night?

I really wanted to like this novel. But I didn’t. At least, not as much as I had hoped. Let me begin with the positives:

  1. I liked the descriptive aspects of the story because they definitely added a creepy factor that was enjoyable. When you are reading a horror story, you are looking for that perfect creepy setting, and the author definitely delivered on that count!
  2. I liked Nori’s character. She was full of innocence and she was adorable to read about. I only wish there had been more to her. The story was told mostly in the perspective of Silla but there were a few times when Nori would speak, and I wish there were more instances of that because whatever Nori said always intrigued me!
  3. The Creeper Man stuff!!!!! I liked when Cath would talk about the creeper man and how everything went wrong. I liked how Silla could feel his presence. This was decidedly the creepiest (and best!) part of this story!

Now, let me talk about the negatives:

  1. The inclusion of diary entries. I usually love when authors do this. But in the case of this novel, it didn’t serve its purpose – unless the purpose was to be really confusing! I didn’t see the point of those entries at all, and even when everything started to make sense, they didn’t really do that much to the overall story.
  2. Silla’s character. It was really hard to connect with her or to even understand her. I’m sure the author wanted her to be an enigma of sorts but it was a bit much, and she just made me feel so bewildered. Half the time I’m wondering why she can’t just do what makes the most common sense. The other half I’m trying (and failing) to understand her reasoning behind not doing that which makes the most sense. I just didn’t like her.
  3. The romance…. it was really fake and really came out of the blue and just was not developed. It was also really cringe-worthy.
  4. The actual plot. I thought this novel would go in a more dramatic direction but it ended up just leaving me feeling cheated of a really scary experience. While the author managed to tie everything together(ish), it all felt unnecessary. Honestly, there didn’t need to be so much of a buildup for that ending.

While this novel didn’t work for me, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad one. Many people liked the story and there are loads of positive reviews. For me, this novel didn’t deliver on the creepiness and left me wanting something more … horror-y.

Happy reading ~

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

This novel has been on my TBR list for a very long time. I love me a good horror story, but I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t able to find the time to fit this book in over the years. Well, since I live right beside my local library, I decided that I would borrow this book and make it my mission to FINALLY get it read!

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are an ordinary couple. Guy is in the film industry, trying to make it onto the big screen. And Rosemary is happy to be by his side. When they land an apartment at The Bramford in New York City, it’s like a dream come true. As they move in, they begin to meet some of the other tenants in this building, like their elderly neighbours and their bizarre group of friends. Unused to this much interest, Rosemary and Guy try to be polite and accept the occasional dinner invitations. But soon, these neighbours become a much larger force in their lives. And by the time Rosemary realizes the dangers of it all, it’s too late…

This story…. where shall I start? The writing style here is unusual yet well done. Everything always sounds just a tad perky, like a happy housewife show where anything unusual is just dismissed as a coincidence or an accident. Rosemary does get creeped out at times but it is usually quite easy for her to just push it aside and move on. I really liked that effect because it put the reader on hyper-alert, waiting for that moment where Rosemary really cannot deny the truth that is in front of her. I liked the interesting characters from the Bramford, all of whom are friendly and seemingly harmless; they’re the kind of neighbours you wish you could have! Knowing that they are somehow involved made the story all the more creepy! I didn’t really like Guy as a character. He wasn’t a great husband and he was just so selfish throughout (this becomes even more apparent as you reach the end); I don’t know why Rosemary put up with it all. He did quite a few things that really bothered me – but I’m not going to say what because that will give away parts of the story!

I think the scariest part of this story wasn’t even the ending when all of the “horrors” are revealed; truth be told, the ending actually came off as ridiculously funny (maybe I just have a warped sense of humor?). The scary part was how little control Rosemary had over her life and her body. She was forced – ahem, coerced – to switch doctors, trust strangers, receive weird concoctions, isolate her friends, and much much more. And it scared me how little say she had over everything. Anything she pointed out was dismissed, and she was made to feel as if she was making a big deal out of nothing. Trying to imagine myself in a vulnerable situation like that, having others make all sorts of decisions on my behalf without asking me… well, that scares me. It scares me a lot.

Overall, this novel is quirky and set in the era of the “Sixties Housewife”, and it definitely gives you the creepy vibes so if you are looking for a creepy story, give this one a shot! It also has a sequel, and I will make sure to read it in a timely manner (hopefully) so stay tuned for that review!

Happy reading ~

Hell’s Doctor by Lee F. Jordan

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m always in search for the next great thing in horror. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find good horror stories these days. I know Stephen King is the King of Horror but for some reason, I’ve always found it hard to get into any of his stories. I will definitely give Stephen King another go this year, but until then, I’m going to look for what else is out there. I was quite excited to receive this novel from NetGalley…. so here is my review:

With the latest death, Hell gets a new Doctor, one who is utterly without remorse. Best – or perhaps, worst – of all, he knows the secrets of the portal. As he is pitted against vicious serial killers and psychopaths, he is determined to gain access to the portal. “There are only three kinds of pain: physical, such as cutting through the bone marrow of a prisoner’s leg with a dull hacksaw; emotional, such as torturing a prisoner’s family slowly; or psychological, which destroys the hope of the mind.” – Hell’s Doctor Edict

Unfortunately, I was unable to finish this novel. It just made no sense. The author’s writing style made it really confusing to follow along with the action, and there was a constant change-up of characters that added to the confusion. The descriptions of the setting weren’t enough for me to understand the world that was being created. Overall, I just felt like I had stumbled into something that was half-baked. Like I mentioned, I didn’t finish this novel; maybe it gets better as you go along! However, I’m just going to pass on this one.

Happy reading ~