Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson

When I found out that this novel was inspired by the Slender Man attack, I was immediately interested. I know that sounds like there is something seriously wrong with me, but I wanted to know how the author would describe it in a fictional setting. This story takes place after the incident and the premise was just too interesting to pass up. Here is my review:


Summary (Goodreads): How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?
At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.
Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…

Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book. Do I think this is a very unique thriller? Yes, 100%. Did I love it? Not entirely.

If you haven’t heard about the Slender Man trials, then let me give you a little recap: a couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype about this creepy character named Slender Man. 2 girls became so obsessed with it that they stabbed another girl, claiming that Slender Man told them to do it. This was the premise that sparked the idea for this book, but the author took it further than just the incident: in this novel, we read about the victim’s life in the future.

The novel started off great. I loved reading from Alice’s perspective. She is damaged, she is paranoid, but she is strong and refuses to be a victim. The author painted a very realistic depiction of a survivor and I wanted to get to know her. However, as the story progressed, I found I didn’t really like Alice as much as I had hoped. For one thing, she’s a blabbermouth. For someone who should trust nobody, she trusts EVERYBODY. Every other chapter involves her meeting a character, deciding to trust them with her life story, and then divulging every little detail, including things that could be used against her. I wanted to shake her and yell at her for this. YOU ARE BEING STALKED BY A PSYCHO!!! DON’T GO AROUND TRUSTING PEOPLE!!! She even ignores the advice of her dead father, who explicitly told her to not trust anybody. It was something that really bothered me with this story.

That being said, I did like the way the story developed. There were a lot of twists and turns and a lot of mysteries explored. I like that things unfolded in their own time; instead of having the reader try to tease things apart, the author let everything come out gradually. It gave the story a good flow and allowed me to just enjoy the story as it came to me. I liked the identity reveal of Mister Tender and the way things led up to the climax.

But it was the climactic point that failed me. Mainly because there wasn’t one. After all this build up, after all the violence, it ended very easily. It was just too simple after all of the tension that was evoked previously, and I just couldn’t feel satisfied by it.

Despite some of the negative aspects of this story, I think that it gives a lot of food for thought about sensationalism and victim fetishism. The story is about how everyone is obsessed with getting to know Alice, understanding her and seeing how she lives her day after her horrific incident. In a way, the reader is a part of that: I am drawn to the grisliness of her story, I’m fascinated by her character and how she behaves. It’s easy to see how I could become another “fan” of Mister Tender… except I would never stoop to that level of depravity and violence. In a sense, this theme of sensationalism also touches on issues with privacy. With the internet, there really is no such thing as having privacy and through Alice’s struggles, we see how hard it can be to remain anonymous. This novel also looks at abuse in a very unique way. There are so many different types of abuse that this novel considers and it is worthwhile to note that abuse doesn’t just manifest itself through physical violence; it can come from a loved one, too, and have disastrous consequences on one’s mental and emotional well-being.

Even though there were things I really didn’t like about this novel, I’m still giving it a fairly high rating of 3.5/5 stars. This is a very unique psychological thriller, with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers interested, so if you are looking for something new in the genre, consider this book.

Happy reading ~


The King of Bones and Ashes by J. D. Horn

Books that involve witchcraft or covens are my thing. I will literally devour any book that mentions the word “witch” in it because I am THAT obsessed! I’m so glad I got to read an ARC of this book because it was such a fantastic read and fulfilled my need for dark stories!


Summary (Goodreads): Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who’ve relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness—willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic’s waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too—caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family’s troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother’s reach while determining the future of all witches.

Review: I never realized how much I love urban fantasy until recently, but it is quickly becoming one of my favourite genres to read. And this book is such a fantastic addition to the genre.

One of the things I loved about the story was the pacing. This was not a very fast-paced story, but the slower pace worked very well because it allowed for the development of the darker elements. And the dark aspects of the story were worth waiting for! I knew this story wasn’t going to be a lighthearted read but even I was taken aback by the sheer evil mentioned in this book – and I loved it! The writing style that the author used was also perfect for building up tension in the plot and between the different characters. There was also no fakeness to any of the character interactions or situations; every remark, every scene was carefully crafted and served a higher purpose of solidifying the themes of the story.

There were quite a few characters to keep track of, and I will admit that I struggled here a bit. The author definitely did a great job of making each of them unique, but I would find myself forgetting how everyone was related or how old the characters were. The author does provide a helpful list of characters at the end of the book, but I wouldn’t recommend readers look at it while they are still reading the story because some of the descriptions of the characters can be spoilers.

But the plot was to die for: it was gripping, dark, and scary. It was everything I could ask for in an urban story centered around powerful witch families and covens.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this dark urban fantasy set in New Orleans. The characters, writing style, and eerie plot were absolutely amazing and I am definitely going to be reading more books by this author in the near future! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

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

Happy reading ~

The Black Painting by Neil Olson

Look at this cover, and tell me you wouldn’t be intrigued to read it (especially if you are a book cover snob like me)!


I thought this was a stunning cover, and when I read the premise, I was immediately drawn to the supernatural aspect of the story. I may not know much about art, but I love everything to do with demons and this novel had everything to make it the perfect read for me.

Synopsis (Goodreads): There were four cousins in the Morse family: perfect Kenny, the preppy West Coast lawyer; James, the shy but brilliant medical student; his seductive, hard-drinking sister Audrey; and Teresa, youngest and most fragile, haunted by the fear that she has inherited the madness that possessed her father.

Their grandfather summons them to his mansion at Owl’s Point. None of them has visited the family estate since they were children, when a prized painting disappeared: a self-portrait by Goya, rumored to cause madness or death upon viewing. Afterward, the family split apart amid the accusations and suspicions that followed its theft.

Any hope that their grandfather planned to make amends evaporates when Teresa arrives to find the old man dead, his horrified gaze pinned upon the spot where the painting once hung. As the family gathers and suspicions mount, Teresa hopes to find the reasons behind her grandfather’s death and the painting’s loss. But to do so she must uncover ugly family secrets and confront those who would keep them hidden.

Review: What a great premise, right? Unfortunately, the actual story failed to live up to it.

The story itself had all the makings to be great. You have a painting that contains a demon in it, and this painting is stolen. The owner of the painting, Teresa’s grandfather, is found dead with a look of horror on his face. And everyone in the family wants to find this painting because of its wealth – and because of the powers it is rumored to hold. The problem with the story, however, is the plot doesn’t really stick to the script. It meanders and flows in so many different directions that it is hard to keep track. I don’t care about any of the other side plots, I just want to know what is going on with this painting! It was so frustrating to read this novel because I never got the information or the story I wanted.

There were also a lot of characters. As in, way too many. There was nothing to really set any of them apart, and there was just so many names being dropped with no proper development that they all melded into one. It almost felt like I was experiencing whiplash, what with the sheer volume of characters and character interactions that were present in this novel. This is what happens when a story doesn’t have any character development whatsoever – and it was an experience I do not want to ever repeat.

As I’m writing this review, I feel quite sad. This novel could have been so good. And I don’t want to bash the author’s efforts to write and publish a book. But there was no redeeming quality about this book. There was no effort made to keep the plot concise and interesting. There was absolutely no character development, leaving the reader swamped by the sheer number of players in this book. It was just not a good book. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

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

Happy reading ~

Top books of January

I can’t believe that it is already the end of the month! I still have a great deal of ARCs to get to, and many of them are January releases that I will only get to in February (oops) …. but they will definitely be done!

There have been so many amazing novels that I’ve read this month and I really wanted to highlight some of these great reads! Here is my list of my top books from this month:

  1. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekannen: I have a very high standard when it comes to thrillers but this novel was actually really good. It had me guessing the entire time, and I loved the intensity and tension that was pervasive in this novel.
  2. The Cruel Prince by Holly BlackThis was one of my favourite YA fantasy books of the month. It had an interesting story and, more importantly, unique characters. This is not the same old story rehashed. I loved the immersion into the world of the fae as well as all the treachery and planning and twists that were thrown in! I am definitely keeping my eye out for the sequel!!
  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgWhile I know that this wasn’t a book that came out in January, I only got around to it this month. It is so beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful. It is a very complex story that looks at what it means to be a mother. I was riveted from page one and emotionally exhausted by the end – and I mean this in the best way possible.
  4. Only Child by Rhiannon NavinI loved that this story was told entirely from the perspective of a young boy. This story is all about how tragedy can change a family and a community. It was poignant and I was bawling my eyes out by the time the story was done. It’s worth the ugly crying!
  5. The Perfect Nanny/Lullaby by Leila Slimani: This was a short read but it was eerie and unputdownable. This book was all about ramping up the tension that eventually led to a complete breakdown and the ultimate death of two innocents. I was blown away by the writing style and the story.
  6. A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave: A very interesting book that deals with a lot of heavy subject matter like cellular memory and vigilante behaviour. It was fast-paced and intriguing, with plenty of twists and turns to keep me occupied!
  7. Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman: This is not a new book by any standards but it featured one of the most unique protagonists ever. Brigid Quinn is a 59-year-old woman who was once a great FBI agent, but has seen sought early retirement. She is quirky and dark and fierce in the best way possible. I loved this novel and cannot wait to start on this amazing series.
  8. Himself by Jess KiddAnother novel that I waited way too long to read, this one was not at all I expected. I love magical realism, and this novel did it right, with plenty of interesting characters and events.
  9. In Case I Go by Angie AbdouThis book was a cross between a ghost story, historical fiction, and had some magical realism in it. It worked beautifully. The story was haunting, the writing was captivating, and I just couldn’t put this book down!
  10. The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen DionneNot only did this novel have a unique premise, it also had a believable protagonist. This is a character-study novel that explores how the protagonist’s childhood shaped her into the person she becomes later on – and how it makes her the best person to kill the most dangerous man she knows: her father.

That’s a wrap for January … can’t wait for the books that February is going to bring!

Happy reading ~

All Things Bright and Strange by James Markert

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

Synopsis (Goodreads): In the wake of World War I in the small, Southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, the town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms.

The people of Bellhaven have always looked to Ellsworth Newberry for guidance, but after losing his wife and his future as a professional pitcher, he is moments away from testing his mortality once and for all. Until he finally takes notice of the changes in his town . . . and the cardinals that have returned.

Upon the discovery of a small chapel deep in the Bellhaven woods, healing seems to fall upon the townspeople, bringing peace after several years of mourning. But as they visit the “healing floor” more frequently, the people begin to turn on one another, and the unusually tolerant town becomes anything but.

The cracks between the natural and supernatural begin to widen, and tensions rise. Before the town crumbles, Ellsworth must pull himself from the brink of suicide, overcome his demons, and face the truth of who he was born to be by leading the town into the woods to face the evil threatening Bellhaven.

Review: I went into this novel with absolutely no idea on how I would feel about it. I emerged from it thinking that it was quite an interesting read.

I really liked the premise of this book and the way events unfolded in this town. The story is told entirely from Ellsworth’s point of view, and he is quite a character. I think the author tries really hard to make him complex, but at times, it was a bit forced. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by Ellsworth and really liked him. There were many different characters who were introduced to the story, and it could be quite confusing to keep them all straight. However, all of the characters had backstories and vices that helped the reader make a connection with them. I did think that everyone’s constant positive regard for Ellsworth was a tad overbearing, but it makes sense in terms of the story.

I really liked the way that the story progressed. We start off with the emergence of this chapel, which has always been present, yet the people of this town have been unaware of it. But once they become aware, they cannot help but visit, enticed by the messages it gives them. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that this chapel is not a blessing – rather, it is curse. The frenzy that developed throughout this story was fantastic, and I really enjoyed every minute of the book…. until we got to the final climax. That’s when I felt disappointment. After all this amazing build up and tension and intrigue, the climax felt lackluster.

Even though the ending was not as great as I had hoped, the story itself was interesting and I enjoyed most of it. I wasn’t expecting it to make references to faith (totally missed out that it was labelled as Christian fiction) but the author made it work in the story. I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

I’ve always been eager to read books that are written by an author whose first language is not English. Usually, these authors are from countries that are very different than where I live and what I am accustomed to, so I like to see how their cultural setting influences their writing. Of course, then comes the doubt about whether the translation was accurate enough to pick up on the subtle nuances … but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I heard about this book and immediately wanted to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Life changes at the orphanage the day seven-year-old Marina shows up. She is different from the other girls: at once an outcast and object of fascination. As Marina struggles to find her place, she invents a game whose rules are dictated by a haunting violence.

Review: I know the synopsis is short but any more information and you would have everything revealed. This was a quick read but it was packed with A LOT. I was expecting a simple creepy story but instead got something a lot deeper and more complex. The story is told from Marina’s perspective and that of the other children in the orphanage. The sentences are short but they convey the brokenness that inhabits the children. A great deal of emotional turmoil is conveyed in this short read, and it haunts the reader long afterwards. This novel is disturbing in its prose, and in the story it tells. I don’t want to speak more about this story, because it is better to experience it. With that, I would say I’m giving this novel a solid 4/5 stars, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a haunting and eerie read.

Happy reading ~

In Case I Go by Angie Abdou

I always love it when I decide to read a book on a whim and find myself loving the story. That’s what happened here. I saw this sitting on the shelf of my local library and the synopsis, while sparse, was interesting enough that I decided to give it a shot.

Synopsis: 10-year-old Eli and his parents have returned to their family home in Coalton, a small mountain town. The parents, Nicholas and Lucy, hope that by escaping their hectic city lives, they will restore calm and stability to their marriage, but they find that once charming Coalton is no longer the remote idyll they remembered. Development of a high-end subdivision has disturbed a historic graveyard, drawing negative press from national media. While Nicholas works long hours at the local coal mine and Lucy battles loneliness and depression, Eli must make his own way in this town.

Eli is not like other young boys. His birth was complicated, making him more fragile than other children his age. His parents have raised him more like an adult than a kid, making him more perceptive – but also more reclusive. When Eli moves to Coalton, he meets Mary. And while everyone tells him Mary is mute, she speaks to Eli. She calls Eli by his full name, Elijah, the name he inherited from an ancestor who was famous in Coalton.

Eli’s encounters with Mary are not like that between children, between friends. There is a hidden anger in Mary’s eyes, and her words are not always kind. And with each encounter, Eli starts to have visions of a time before this one. Eli stops being himself – and starts having memories of Elijah, his ancestor. And Elijah has sinned.

This book is really hard to categorize; it’s like a cross between a ghost story and historical fiction, mixed in with some magical realism. And it works beautifully.

The story is haunting in its prose and in the way it takes the present and blends it with the past. It speaks about regrets and how one’s sins can carry forward. There are so many layers to peel back with this story, and I love how it was steeped in facts about the Aboriginal community. In fact, the author did a fantastic job of representing this community and the hardships they have faced, which I really appreciated. There is an emphasis on the idea that the past cannot just stay buried and hidden; the truth will out, and we must pay for our consequences. This concept was stressed throughout the story and it is one we should all keep in mind. The story itself was extremely engaging, and I wanted to know more about Eli’s transformation – and whether he would ever be himself again. This is a book that I know I will recommend to many people because it is beautiful, emotional, and deserves to be read. 5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

My Top Books for 2017

This year, I challenged myself to read 300 books. I am pleased to note that I exceeded this amount by 58 books for a total of 358 novels! I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite books of the year! So let’s go!

  1. A God in the Shed by J. F. Dubeau. This was hands-down one of my favorite horror stories of the year! There was so much suspense and mystery to the story, and I was genuinely scared out of my wits! Anyone who loves horror would enjoy this novel!
  2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. While this novel may have targeted young adults, I found the story would work for adults as well. With a mesmerizing story of strength and a Russian folklore background, this novel really delivers a punch. It was one of my favorite fantasies of the year!
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This as such a powerful story about race and gun violence! The author took the difficult subject matter and portrayed it in an impactful way. It really made me shift my own views on the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the issues of police brutality and accountability. Especially given the way society is like today, I think this is a very relevant novel that everyone should read.
  4. Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig. This novel tugged at my heart strings. It has such a wonderful innocence to it, and it is heartbreaking. Readers cannot help but connect with Ginny Moon and root for her. This is a book that is not easy to dismiss or forget!
  5. The Ghsotwriter by Alessandra Torre. I absolutely loved this mystery/thriller. I loved the premise and the style of the writing. The plot had me hooked and I could not put this book down for a minute! If you are looking for a thriller like no other, then this is one you should definitely check out!
  6. Radium Girls by Kate Moore. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction but this was worth it! It broke my heart to read about the poor working conditions that the women in this novel faced and how hard it was for them to get the medical care and fair treatment that they deserved. But their struggle and determination were so inspirational to read about and it made me feel proud to be a woman. This is definitely a novel to read if you want to feel empowered and proud of how far we have come in terms of workplace safety and equality.
  7. Bright Air Black by David Vann. Having never read the story of Medea and Jason and the Argonauts, I thought this was a fantastic read that featured an amazing female character. I was entranced by the story, and by the sheer ruthlessness of Medea. Definitely a novel I will be recommending to people for years to come!
  8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. My first time reading a book by this author and I absolutely loved it! It was funny and engaging and mysterious! It was so hard to put down and I loved the different female characters who got their chance to shine in the story.
  9. Monstress by Marjorie Liu. This was such a wonderful graphic novel! It had beautiful artwork and an amazing story to boot! It’s got steampunk and fantasy and mystery and politics so what’s not to love? If you like graphic novels, then this is one you should definitely be reading!
  10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This was just such a funny and exciting novel to read! It was completely out of my comfort zone but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I loved the whole video game story line, and I loved all of the references to pop culture, which I myself was not familiar with. It may not have been the most deep story but it was definitely entertaining and well worth the read!

So there you have it! These are the top 10 books of 2017 for me! Of course, there were a lot of other books I loved reading and gave very high ratings for, but these ones really stuck out for me! I can’t wait for the new year and all of the books that it will bring with it! But for now, I hope you all have a happy new year, surrounded by family and friends! See you in 2018!

Happy reading ~

The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

I was feeling in the mood for a horror story and this short novel, with its creepy cover and even creepier premise, seemed like the right fit. I grabbed it from the library and read it in just over 2 hours. Here is my review:

Maggie, Russell, and Henry have been friends for a long time. For their last college vacation together, they decide to play archaeologist in an old abandoned house in the woods outside of town. But as they excavate the outhouse, they find way more than what they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child. But disturbing the skeleton comes with a price. The trio find themselves being followed by an unknown intruder, and the people they care about are brutally murdered. Something has been awakened, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.

This novel wasn’t a horror story as much as it was a horror-comedy. The tone of the story is very jovial, and it is told from Henry’s perspective. There’s a fair amount of cussing and joking around even in the midst of danger. I didn’t actually mind the humor because it made for a fun ride. However, the thrill I was looking for was never there. Since this was a short book, everything happened too quickly for me and there was no time for that creepy chill to set in. The humor, while fun, also impeded the ability of the story to amp up the tension. Even though there was murder and a scary creature thrown into the mix, nothing was actually scary. This was an interesting story that had a good overall plot. But the novel suffered because it was just too quick and funny to be chilling. I would recommend this to someone looking for a quick and interesting read, but horror enthusiasts might find themselves disappointed with this one. I’m giving it a 2/5 stars; while it was an interesting read, it wasn’t the horror it was made out to be.

Happy reading ~

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

When I read the premise for this novel, it reminded me of You by Caroline Kepnes, which I had absolutely adored. But in this story, the psychopath is female. I have been so excited to read it so when I got the book, I locked myself in my room with plenty of food, turned off my phone and just read. Here is my review:

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret. Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. She hates her day job as an editorial assistant for a newspaper. And her evenings are filled with boring girl’s night outs. Which gives her plenty of time to make a kill list. From the man on the Lidl checkout to the driver who cuts her off, to the people who actually deserve to die, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge. Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

The story starts off with a small list of the people who Rhiannon wants to kill and why she wants to kill them. Each chapter has this list in the beginning, and I found it to be quite funny. The people on this “kill list” and her reasons behind putting them on the list are actually quite normal in the sense that all of those things also annoy me very much – just not to the extent that I would kill them for it. Right off the bat, we are introduced to Rhiannon who is a sarcastic and twisted character. She’s quite funny and her diary entries (which is the point of view for the entire story) is quite interesting because she literally just says everything that is on her mind. Now, I don’t mind the idea of having the story told from her perspective but the diary style didn’t really work for me; it made the whole novel more of a comedy, when I was looking for something a bit more scary. I also got quite tired of Rhiannon complaining constantly about the same thing. I mean, really, if you have a problem and you are a psycho killer, why not do something about it? Most of the novel was just her complaining and it really started to annoy me after a while. I just wanted to get to the good plot bits! And while the plot was interesting, I had to get through a lot of mundane things. This novel is about 470 pages …. but it could have been shortened by about 200 pages. There’s a lot of bad language and explicit scenes so consider yourself warned; if you don’t like reading about blood and torture and murder and gore, then stay away from this novel! Overall, I thought that the author created a very sarcastic and darkly humorous character and the story had a really interesting plot. However, it dragged on a bit too much at times and it was hard to stay interested for the entire length of the novel. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2.5/5 stars, rounded to 3.

Happy reading ~