Review: Skull Session ~ Daniel Hecht

skullISBN ~ 978-1582344966
Publisher ~ Bloomsbury USA
No. Of Pages ~ 496 pages
Links ~ iTunes, Amazon, Daniel Hecht

Despite his brilliance, Paul Skoglund hasn’t held a steady job for years, partly because of his Tourette’s syndrome. When his eccentric, wealthy aunt asks him to take on the repairs of her magnificent hunting lodge, he is in no position to refuse. But then he finds that the rambling old house has been savagely vandalized: he discovers a scene of almost superhuman destruction, a violence mirrored by a series of disappearances and grisly deaths haunting the region. Paul delves into the wreckage, wondering what dark passion—and what strength—could cause such chaos. As state police investigator Mo Ford pursues the mystery through official channels, escalating events force Paul deeper into his family’s past and into the darker aspects of his own nature.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is an interesting book on many levels, and had me hooked from the first page and, as much as it may seem that this would be an automatic 5 thumbs review, there were parts of this novel that pulled it down to a 4 thumbs rating.

The main protagonist suffers from Tourette’s syndrome which in itself is an unusual choice of malady to use in a protagonist.  However, it works well with the subject matter of the book and, through the struggles the main lead has with his condition the reader learns a great deal about this illness; and this is where the book lost its 5 thumbs, at times there is so much neurological information it slows the narrative down, and that really affects the novel overall, but it did make me wonder if the Author had not had personal experience in some way of Tourette’s.  Back to the main character; it is safe to say that this man has his plate full dealing not only with his own problems but those of his son who also has issues, what kind I am not saying as it would spoil the experience of reading the book.  The reader is often taken inside the mind of the main character and is able to experience the world he lives in and the events that happen to him through his eyes.  This serves to make him a very real person with great depth and, at times, it feels as if the reader is right there with him in this world.

When I first started reading this I assumed it was going to be a purely neurological thriller, and was quite happy to accept this; however, as I soon found out, I was totally wrong.  With a skilful hand the Author turns this book into a cross-genre novel covering everything from horror to supernatural urban fantasy with stops at the psychological and medical arenas along the way.  It may sound that this leads to what is a very disjointed read, but each of the genres are woven seamlessly together making this an easy, if not very fast paced, read.  For the die-hard horror fan out there, the ‘scary’ portions of this book may seem a little tame, but with everything that this book has going for it, it really doesn’t matter in my opinion.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller/mystery, and I will be reading more by this Author.divider

Review: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresISBN ~ 978-0425197547
Publisher ~  Berkley Trade
No. Of Pages ~ 355 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Guilty Pleasures

Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet.

4 Thumbs-UpI had this book recommended to me, and I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read it; after all it has a romantic overtone to it, contains vampires and well just isn’t my usual read or even one I would have thought to pick up.  In this case I am glad I did as despite being classified as romance, it really wasn’t at all.

The main protagonist is the Anita Blake mentioned in the title of this review, and I thoroughly enjoyed her and her character make up immensely.  She is a strong-willed woman, very independent and has a sarcastic tongue that really helped me connect with her.  She has flaws too, she is judgmental and extremely abrasive but these only add to her appeal and make her a character that both male and female readers can get to grips with, even if they cannot relate to her.  I found it absolutely hilarious, and like so many people I know to discover that this character had never developed a working filter between her brain and her mouth.  Through great descriptive writing I was able to build an image of this main lead in my mind’s eye, and this is something that some Authors are unable to do.  All the other characters are treated with equal measure in this book, and are all given their personalities and flaws that the reader will either be drawn to, or dislike instantly.

This book is a quick read and, although gory at times, well it does contain vampires so go figure, it is full of mystery and irreverent humour.  However, I have to mention as a warning to those sensitive souls out there that the Author has managed to include a great deal of implied and actual eroticism in the storyline, so if this is not for you I would advise you to give the book a miss.  My reason for the 4 thumbs review was the dialogue, and I felt at time that the Author was trying to see how many times they could have the speaker use the interlocutor’s name; another reason is that although this is a darned good read it would never go down in the annals of classic writing and, if you want to enjoy them but don’t want to be seen doing so it would be a book to hide in something more ‘high brow’.

As for me I’ll definitely be reading some more in this series and I would highly recommend this book to any reader is looking for a light read, but one that has some substance to it.

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Review: The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

turn of the screwISBN ~ 978-0140620610
Publisher ~ Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Penguin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

4 Thumbs-UpNo one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper.  When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire-place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which it is written, but don’t make any assumptions about this book.

The main character is also the narrator for the tale, and the reader sees the whole sequence of event unfold through her eyes.  In the main lead, the reader is introduced to a character who definitely does not know herself and shows no signs of getting to know herself as the tale progresses.  As we view the world through her eyes the reader is her companion as she descends into madness; or does she, and this is where one of the many twists enter the tale and have the reader wondering.  At times I felt sorry for this character, at others she just grated on me to no end, this I put down to the time period in which the book is set and not the fact the fact that the character was badly written.  In fact none of the characters in this novella are badly written, and each brings their own flaws and traits to play as the storyline unfolds.

This book is definitely ‘old school’ horror genre, rather than being in your face gory and ghastly, an atmosphere is created in this novella that is suggestive and lends itself perfectly to being able to scare the stripes off a zebra.  Eerie and creepy descriptions are used to full effect in this tale and, although only a mere 120 pages long, I found myself getting up and turning a light on part way through.  All the requirements of a truly good ghost story are included in the covers of this novella, and the fact that the reader’s imagination is able to hold full sway over the way in which they react to the occurrences.  I have to say this is one of the better pieces of writing by this Author that I have read, and if it had been a few pages longer it would have received a full 5 thumbs review.

If you are looking for a truly good ghost story to fill your holiday season, but not overtake it completely then I would highly recommend you read this novella.

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Review: The Judas Chronicles: The First Three Books (The Judas Chronicles #1-3) ~ Aiden James

judasASIN ~ B00CHPQAV4
Publisher ~ Aiden James Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 466 Pages
Links ~ Amazon

An archivist for the Smithsonian Institute and also a part-time operative for the CIA, no one would ever suspect the handsome ‘thirty-ish’ William is in fact the most reviled human being to ever walk the earth. His infectious warmth and sense of humor make such an assertion especially hard to believe.

But long ago, William Barrow had another name…one that is synonymous with shame and betrayal: Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ. Twenty-one coins have now been recovered–thanks in large part to the help from his latest son, the esteemed Georgetown University history professor, Alistair Barrow.

Ever hopeful the complete coin collection will buy him a full pardon from God and end his banishment from heaven; William plans a visit to a remote village deep within Iran’s Alborz Mountains to retrieve ‘silver coin number twenty-two’. But the CIA has a different objective for this trip, one that pits both father and son against an unscrupulous Russian billionaire searching for something else that’s just as precious within the ancient mountains of Iran…something that threatens peace in the modern world if William and Alistair fail to reach it first.

4 Thumbs-UpIt’s not often I download a Kindle book that is a three in one offer, but this intrigued me so I made the decision to do so; I was not disappointed.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, as there have been so many books giving a different slant on the Judas story, but this was certainly not the normal fare.

The main protagonist is, of course, Judas, and he is a well written and very believable character.  He bares his emotions and feelings about the longevity of his life, whilst adding humour to his recounting of his life.  This makes him a likable character and one who, regardless of your religious beliefs, the reader will be very hard pressed to not be able to connect to.

With a skilful hand the Author takes a different route from the ones normally read about.  There are biblical references throughout the book which I enjoyed but which some, more religious readers than I, may find rude and blasphemous but these add to the reality of the Judas story and are necessary in the development of the storyline.  There were times when some aspects of the story appeared just a little too farfetched to fit comfortably into the stories as a whole, but this does not detract from the sheer enjoyment that is to be had from reading these books.

These books will be able to hit the spot for most readers as they have a blend of covert operations, horror and the paranormal, to name but three and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyably e read to while away these cold winter days.  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, and possibly others written by this Author.

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Review: Joe After Maya ~ Marina Raydun

Joe after mayaISBN ~ 978-1499593266
Publisher ~
No. Of Pages ~ 268 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Joe is lost.
A sudden widower, he is alone in the trendy apartment he had earned at a great cost to himself. He has nowhere to look but back.
His wife Maya violently murdered, the next week of Joe’s life is a dizzying whirl of revelations and cigarette smoke as he reflects on their time together in the effort to uncover who killed her and why.
On his journey, Joe reluctantly finds and faces himself.

4 Thumbs-UpIt has been a while since I read a book as raw in emotion, setting and characters as this one; it’s also a book that will pull the reader into the storyline and not let them go until the very end.

Joe, the main protagonist is well-developed and written.  His emotions are raw and on display for the reader to see and experience with him, and because of this I felt that I was living through this time of his life with him.  It was quite surprising that the Author wrote all the lesser characters, including Maya, in the same way, making them vivid and real without being overly descriptive.

The book is full of twists, turns, suspense and a touch of horror, with the supernatural aspect of the book being explained to the reader in such a manner as to make it believable.  The way in which the Author weaves together all the aspects of this book with the characters and events add a great deal of depth to the book and made it one that I sat and read in one sitting, only breaking off briefly to make more tea.

If you are looking for a good psychological thriller that will keep you turning the pages to the end, I would highly recommend this book to you.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: The Nameless Day (The Crucible #1) ~ Sara Douglass

The Nameless DayISBN ~ 978-0765303622
Publisher ~Tor Books
No. Of Pages ~448 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble (unfortunately this Trilogy seems hard to come by in its entirety)

The Black Plague. The Pestilence. Disease and death haunt every town and village across 14th century Europe and none are immune from its evil. Some see the devastation of their world as a sign from God for Man’s wickedness.

But Brother Thomas Neville sees this swath of death as something much more. Neville is a man beset by demons. Or is it angels? He has had a visitation from none other than the Archangel Michael, who commands Thomas to a mission. This mission will take Neville across the length and breadth of the continent in a desperate bid to find the means to stop the minions of Satan who have found a doorway out of Hell and are preparing to venture forth, to try and seize this world in preparation for an assault on Heaven itself.

As Thomas Neville encounters angels and demons, saints and witches, he comes to realize that the armies of God and Satan are arraying themselves for the final battle…and that his soul is to be the battleground.

The question is has Neville picked the truly good side?

4 Thumbs-UpThe Nameless Day is the first volume in Sara Douglass’s trilogy, The Crucible, and what a trilogy it is.   Although it may not appeal to all readers, The Crucible is probably the best historical fantasy series I have read in a long time, and unlike other series in this genre you don’t have to plough through double-digit numbers of novels to get to the end.  However, if you or a member of your family is fainthearted or devoutly Catholic this may not be the book for you considering the shenanigans the religious characters get up to.
The main protagonist is a self-righteous, small-minded, hypocritical man, and although this may make him seem the type of character some readers are unable to relate to it also makes him a more realistic character given the period of time in which the novel is set.  Finding someone with his modern liberal views would have been fairly uncommon for this era, but in writing this character the Author manages to make them believable but also one that readers would be drawn to.  In their writing of this character the Author has managed to ensure that there is room for development and one that readers will want to see change as they progress through, not only this book but the remaining two in the trilogy.  Taking place in an alternate version of fourteenth century Europe, readers will recognise many actual historical figures and, although it could so easily have turned into a book with too many characters to keep track of, the Author weaves historical fact and fiction about them together in a seamless manner giving each their own distinct personality and not leaving the reader the task of having to back track to see where they fit into the plot overall.

Taking the ultimate time long battle of Angels and Demons the Author places this a period of history that was fraught with upheaval.  The author incorporates well researched historical elements in their novel and adds enough fantasy to keep the reader from feeling this is just another dry historical work of fiction.  Some dates that certain historical figures appear have been slightly adjusted for the sake of the storyline, but this does not take away from the purpose of the book in any way, and that purpose is to give a great experience to its readers.  This book also manages incorporate a little bit of everything that would draw readers to it that may not otherwise pick up a novel in this genre.  As I have mentioned there is the history portion, but there are also elements of romance and fantasy, and I was glad to see that the romance was not the kind that would have me laying this book aside in disgust.  Added to this there are sections which are definitely dark and sinister which hint back to earlier work in the gothic genre, and the moments of gore and brutality are worthy of even the most celebrated of horror novelists.

The reason for my 4 thumbs review, as opposed to a 5 thumbs that it sounds as if I should have awarded to it is this; by the end of the book there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things remain unsolved.  This makes it the kind of book that would not function well as a stand-alone, so if you are going to read it, be prepared to have the remainder of the trilogy on standby.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good all round read, and a series that they can get their teeth into without having to expend vast amounts of time and money to complete it.  I will definitely be revisiting the trilogy again and probably on numerous occasions.

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What to read next.

After finishing a good book in the early hours of the morning I often find myself with the problem of what to read next.  I usually go through my ‘to be read’ stack in the order of which books were added to it, but sometimes the book on the top of the pile doesn’t appeal to me at the very moment I need a new read.

This flowchart, found on Upworthy.com may help me, and others in the same predicament, head in the right direction and find something we are in the mood for.  Just because it says summer in the chart doesn’t mean you can’t use it anytime of the year, after all what better way is there to spend a rainy day than curled up in your favourite spot reading?

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Review: Asylum (Asylum #1) ~ Madeleine Roux

AsylumFor sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

1 Thumbs-UpOh dear.  I could leave this review at that, but it really doesn’t express what I found so disappointing in this book and, as it is only possibly the third time in my blog history I can remember giving out a one thumb rating, maybe I should elaborate, I’m sure if I’m wrong in this someone will correct me.

I had such high expectations for this based on not only the synopsis but the cover image, and none of those expectations were filled.  As I read through this I got the uncomfortable feeling that, not only was this Author aiming to produce a novel with the calibre of Miss Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children but somewhere in the mix the Author had actually submitted a draft copy to the publishers instead of their final edited copy.

The characters are supposed to be 16 years old, so unless the baseline for all 16 years old has now changed, these were not in that age group.  The protagonist is not the kind I was expecting in a book of this genre; he was whiny, possessive and had a superiority complex bigger than any I have seen in a novel.  Throughout the novel he is constantly telling the readers about how much better he is than anyone else, and after a time this becomes tedious to the point where I wanted to ground him in his room at home without any outside contact;  yes I wanted to put him in solitary confinement.  Despite him gradually losing some of these traits as the book progressed, the damage had been done and I found myself being unable to like or even care about him or what happened to him.  Too many of the characters were written in a stereotypical manner, or how the Author visualized teenagers to be; the female character who the Author felt they had to reminder the reader every few sentences how beautiful they were, the cookie cutter girls’ gay best friend.  This may have been acceptable in this book had the Author only taken time to give the characters depth and something interesting that the reader could catch hold off, unfortunately I found them all to rather too one-dimensional for my tastes.

Abandoned asylum, strange happenings.  All the workings of what could’ve have been a very good horror tale were buried so deeply in this book that they were gasping for air.  I’m also not sure what yardstick the Author used to decide this would be scary reading for the intended audience but, in my experience of teenagers I think only those with a very weak constitution would have found this remotely disturbing compared to the daily horrors they are subject to in the media.  The book does contain some very stunning photographs, unfortunately these are not the Authors original works, which led me to believe that they couldn’t even be bothered to take the time to discover original locations for inclusion.

With good editing and maybe a little more plot and character development this could have been a better book than it actually was; the one thumb rating is purely because I finished it.  I’m not going to be reading any other books by this Author and I understand this is the beginning of a series, which will also go unread.  However if you looking for a book that doesn’t contain a taxing plotline and deep meaningful characters that you can connect with, this may be the one for you.

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Review: The Quick ~ Lauren Owen

the quickLondon, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

5 Thumbs-UpSo, what can I say about this book?  Three things really, a) it is a debut novel for this Author b) I really didn’t see that coming and c) Noooooo!!!

I found this book by chance on a rummage through my local lending library the other day, and was intrigued both by the cover and the synopsis, so home with me it came and I’m glad I took a chance on something so unknown to me.  If other readers have already heard of this novel they may think I live under some rock and rarely venture out; that is not the case, I never read reviews on books and choose them purely on their own merit when out and about and this was the case with this one.

From a character point of view they are plentiful in this novel, and they are morose, they are arrogant; you may love them or you may hate them, but each of them will bring about a reaction in the reader of some description.  In my opinion it was hard to pinpoint one main character in the whole of this novel, as so many come and take centre stage in a way that will impact all those around them; and once they step away from the limelight they do not fade out of the plotline entirely as many Authors have their lesser characters doing.  Despite the time period in which this novel was set, there was one particular character I really connected with and I was rooting for her every time she appeared in the story; there were also others that no matter how hard I tried I could not find anything redeeming in their character and found myself chuckling when rough things happened to them.

Because of the way in which this book is written it is hard to write an in-depth review without giving away the plot.  It is written from a multi-perspective point of view , as each character comes to the front and also includes journal entries; all the good stuff that combine together to make an exceptional Victorian gothic novel.  It is very apparent from the way in which the Author addresses class issues and gender expectations that they have done an extensive amount of research into this period of history; the shock one woman expresses at seeing another wearing trousers is a good example.  The location descriptions are the best I have read in a long time, and in this area put me in mind of Dickens and Conan-Doyle in the way the Author uses the surroundings to propel the storyline along.  The grandeur of some buildings is, in the next paragraph startling contrasted against the poorer areas of London; along with smells and attire I could almost feel I was back in this time with the characters.

This is a moody, dark and gritty novel which really doesn’t show London at its best, but this is what adds to the novel.  There is no sugar coating of the privations some suffered and the excesses others enjoyed.  Because of its abrupt ending however, I am hoping that this may be the start of a series, one that I will definitely be following.  If not, and the Author decided to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger, I don’t really mind as I will definitely be reading this Author again.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, and those who enjoy a good gothic novel.  Also those who enjoy Victorian crime fiction may find this to their liking.

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Review: Haven ~ Stevie Kopas

HavenThe end of the world is not glamorous. The survivors of The Breadwinner have barely escaped the clutches of the undead and are headed into the unknown, continuing their never-ending search for solace in the post-apocalyptic landscape they were suddenly thrust into. The city of Haven, once a paradise for the living, but now crawling with the flesh hungry creatures they try so hard to elude, could be their only chance. Resume your post-apocalyptic survival adventure with Veronica, Samson and Ben as they struggle with hope and loss, and as they battle the futility of existence. Take on a new experience as you find yourself once more at the beginning, thrown into the depths of the end of the world with new survivors. Join Michelle and Lulu, ordinary women faced with extraordinary obstacles on their devastating journey and the pursuit of sanctuary in a world collapsed.

Haven continues the story of The Breadwinner with the addition of new territory, new characters, and new complications. The second book in The Breadwinner Trilogy will leave you stunned and bloodthirsty for the conclusion of the series. Who you once were still does not determine who you will become in the face of catastrophe, especially in Haven.

4 Thumbs-UpSometimes with a trilogy the storyline can lose its pace and way when the second instalment comes out, but I’m glad to say this book did not fall victim to that issue.  As with its predecessor this is not a long read by any means, coming in at 169 pages, but what this Author manages to pack into those pages just has to be read to be believed.

Not only are the characters from the first book included in this one, the Author introduces a new and interesting second set of characters.  When writing the ‘leader’ of this second group, the Author has created the perfect antagonist who is a direct contrast to the lead the reader came to know in book one; together these two make a well-rounded team that, it seems, will be able to take on and triumph over anything that stands in their way.  However reading about this new character will have the reader wondering whether they would rather face off against her or the other things that lurk within the books pages, at times I felt I would rather take my chances with them than her.  Once again, all the characters are well written and very believable, and the reader will become connected to them; whether it is through love or hate they will connect.

Filled with shocking twists in the tale, and the ability given to the reader to follow one woman’s descent into madness, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart; combine this with the fast pace and high levels of action, this is a book that will keep you hooked to the very end.

If all zombie novels were as well written as this trilogy is turning out to be, I could well become a lover of the genre; as it is I would highly recommend this book to lovers of zombie fiction and also horror stories.  I am looking forward to reading the final episode of this trilogy.

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