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

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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: Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story ~ Diane Setterfield

Bellman & BlackBellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who “could go to the good or the bad.” And indeed, although William Bellman’s life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife’s fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called “Bellman & Black” . . .

2 Thumbs-UpAfter having read The Thirteenth Tale, I picked up this book with some trepidation as well as hope that this Author would have developed her writing style and character development into something a little more enjoyable.  However, for those readers picking up this book and expecting the ghost story mentioned in the title, they will be disappointed.  It does have ghostly elements to it, but not enough to make it the ghost story some may be expecting when they open its covers.

In deciding to read this book, one of my main hopes was that the Author would have invested more time and energy into the development of her characters; unfortunately this was not the case.  The main character was as flat and emotionless as the paper upon which he was written, and I found no redeeming traits that would lift my opinion of him as I progressed through the book.  Because of his lack of personality I almost missed a major event in this characters story that was an integral part of the plot and, to be quite honest I really couldn’t care less about his decline by the time this incident took place.  With some of the other characters it appeared as if the Author had invested more time in developing them, but even this could not save this book and turn it around.  The dialogue was pretentious to the point of not reflecting the time period accurately, and every time someone spoke it was more an irritating buzz in my mind rather than something that would propel the storyline to its conclusion

If you are interested in the intricate details of the day-to-day running of a mill, then this is the book for you as page after page is filled with descriptions of how to run and manage a successful business in this area.  In fact the novel goes into so much detail that I felt as if I could manage the task of running one of these mills myself, but overall it just became boring and monotonous to the point where I actually started to skip these paragraphs.

After having now read two of this Authors works, I doubt very much if I will read anymore; because of this and the disappointment I felt at the underdevelopment of what could have been a gripping ghost story in the true sense of the word, I am reluctant to recommend this book to anyone.

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Review: The Demonologist ~ Andrew Pyper

DemonologistProfessor David Ullman’s expertise in the literature of the demonic—notably Milton’s Paradise Lost—has won him wide acclaim. But David is not a believer.

One afternoon he receives a visitor at his campus office, a strikingly thin woman who offers him an invitation: travel to Venice, Italy, witness a “phenomenon,” and offer his professional opinion, in return for an extravagant sum of money. Needing a fresh start, David accepts and heads to Italy with his beloved twelve-year-old daughter Tess.

What happens in Venice will send David on an unimaginable journey from skeptic to true believer, as he opens himself up to the possibility that demons really do exist. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David attempts to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed—a demonic entity that has chosen him as its messenger.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a strange book, not because of content, but because of the way in which the Author chose to write both the storyline and develop the character of the main protagonist.  The story is told through the words of the main character, and the settings in which the storyline takes places are experienced by the reader through the eyes of this character.  One trait the reader learns early on in the novel this character possesses is that of melancholy, and it is this trait that saturates every word, action and observation the main lead takes. This trait has a habit of making the book move at a much slower pace than I would have expected from a topic such as this, but it also serves the purpose of making the reader take time as they progress through the pages to ensure they don’t miss the meanings of anything covered.

The European location is very well written, and after having spent some time here as I could picture the twists and turns that were taken in this city.  The Author obviously thought long and hard when writing his book as to which location would serve as the best setting for this portion of their work; by choosing this one I felt they had done an outstanding job, as it lends itself perfectly to this type of storyline.  It is apparent from some sections of the book too, that the Author did a great deal of research in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and comes up with some very well-educated explanations for some of the verses which really added another dimension to this book.

Although I did enjoy this book, I found after a while the way in which it was written was becoming depressing and, although this may not detract from some readers enjoyment of this novel, I felt like it kept me from liking this read more than I did.  I applaud the way in which the Author tackled the topics covered in this novel, but I don’t think I will be reading anymore of their work as their writing style really isn’t for me.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Historian and also lovers of the Supernatural/Paranormal genre.

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Review: The Keep (The Adversary Cycle #1) ~ F. Paul Wilson

The Keep“Something is murdering my men.”

Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims.

When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that’s both powerful and terrifying. Panicked, the Nazis bring in a local expert on folklore–who just happens to be Jewish–to shed some light on the mysterious happenings. And unbeknownst to anyone, there is another visitor on his way–a man who awoke from a nightmare and immediately set out to meet his destiny.

The battle has begun: On one side, the ultimate evil created by man, and on the other…the unthinkable, unstoppable, unknowing terror that man has inevitably awakened.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is an unusual book for three reasons; it is the first book in The Adversary Cycle, which is also part of a bigger series of books by this Author called The Secret History of the World, it is also a very good standalone read if you don’t want to find yourself tied to yet another collection.

As much I loved this book I did feel that so much more could have been done with the character development of, what I feel were the three major players in this book.  However, having said that, it could easily be argued that there are no main protagonists in this read at all as there are so many characters that are woven into this novels pages, and they are written in such a manner that they interact with each other flawlessly.  From a standalone read viewpoint this lack of development may mar some readers enjoyment of the book and leave it lacking in their opinion, but for me I didn’t mind at all and it made me wonder if, as part of not one but two series, if these characters would be revisited and explained a little more in-depth.  I wanted to know more about the mysterious red-haired man, and why the female protagonist dressed the way she did, but I didn’t find it in the pages of this instalment.  The ‘evil’ in the novel is well written, both the seen and unseen coming off the page and hitting the reader right between the eyes, and at times making it even harder to put this book down.

Despite the lack of character development, this is really a gripping and page turning read.  The Author skilfully depicts the location filling each page with menace and dread to the point where the reader begins to feel a chill in the bones.  It is not the usual run of the mill horror/supernatural story, and the only thing that sparkles in this book is the reflection of the sun off the river.  As the storyline progresses the Author makes the reader feel as if they know the kind of evil that the characters are dealing with, even throwing in some references to bygone images of the vampire; but are we really reading about a vampire, or is it just an impression the reader is given because it is easier for them to visualise this kind of creature?

My real complaint about this book was that midway through all the gore and violence, the Author suddenly decided to throw into the mix an unnecessary, in my opinion, sexual liaison between two of the characters.  Although it didn’t take anything away from the book, it certainly didn’t add any new dimension or understanding to it either, and it made me feel as if the Author had reached some kind of block, and needed something to squeeze into this space until their creative juices started flowing again.  The relationship could have been expressed in a lot more subtle and tension ladened way, given the circumstances and time the novel was set in, with no real need to resort to the easy out of ‘let’s throw them between the sheets’.  I really enjoyed the thought-provoking pages when the ‘cross’ is discussed as it made me think more about the power we let objects have over us, and I do enjoy books that make me think.

If you are looking for sparkly vampires, fluffy werewolves and a neat and tidy stake through the heart ending to make you feel good, this novel is not for you at all.  However if you enjoy reading something that makes you think outside the box, and will keep you captivated well beyond bedtime, pick this up and give it a read.  I would highly recommend this novel to lovers of the non-fluffy horror and supernatural genre, and I will most definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: No Heaven (Imagine Trilogy #1) ~ Lex Allen

No HeavenThe first time He walked our Earth; He came to teach people the Way to inner peace and everlasting life without fear of death or oppression by those with religious or political power.

He failed.

As Jesus returns to save the world from darkness lurking just beyond the public eye, His presence challenges modern Christianity and the core beliefs of a religion founded in His name.  The ensuing struggle to save humanity is on – in a good versus evil battle of epic proportions.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first in the ‘Imagine’ Trilogy and when I first opened the cover I thought it was going to be a quick read.  I was wrong.  I found myself wanting to savour each part of this interesting book, which as it progressed turned into the likes of something I don’t think I have ever read before.  I found myself waiting until I was done for the day before picking it up, and only reading one or two chapters before laying it down to digest what I had read.

In one sense the reader may feel that there is a main protagonist in this book and, if they can pinpoint which of the many characters this is, they will find that they are just as thoughtfully well written as any of the others that appear throughout its pages. All the characters are given different backgrounds and, with their varying belief systems this adds dimension to each encounter they have as the book progresses; it adds layers to an already intriguing and well thought out novel.  The Author chose wisely when including so many ‘religions’ for his characters, as it provides the reader with someone they can personally identify with, whether they be Christian or not.  The flaws and traits of all characters in the book make them believable and possibly, make you feel you have met someone like them in your everyday life.

The locations for this novel are sweeping, ranging from Germany to the high desert and all points near and not so near.  It is apparent from the detail that the Author included in his descriptions that he either has an in-depth personal knowledge of these areas or has done extensive research into them to ensure they are as authentic as possible.  However, as with a piece of work that chooses this topic as its subject matter, there is a great deal of artistic license taken in the writing and, in this case, this really works; the inclusion of conspiracy theories, paranormal occurrences and historical accounts mesh nicely together to make this a complete and unbiased viewpoint of what is a highly flammable issue.

There are so many different strata, points of view, opinions and hypotheses to this novel that it would be hard to place it only in the sci-fi genre, it is not just a good sci-fi novel it is more.  Although at times it can read like a personal attack on the Church by the Author, I felt that this was not so much a denouncement of organized religion but another way of looking at something that is so prevalent and influential in a lot of people’s lives today, and as well as promoting good it also serves as a catalyst for war.  Good editing and proof reading add to the consistent and easy to follow flow of the book, helping the reader who may be having trouble getting to grips with the ideas included in its pages have the time to digest and think about what they have read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading the remaining two instalments of this trilogy.

I would highly recommend this book to any reader with an inquiring mind that is open to new interpretations of an old theme; also those who enjoy the sci-fi genre would mostly likely find this book an interesting read.

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Review: The Cheesemaker’s House ~ Jane Cable

Cheesemaker's HouseInspired by a framed will found in her dream Yorkshire house, which had been built at the request of the village cheesemaker in 1726, Jane Cable discovered the historical aspect of her novel. Set near Northallerton in North Yorkshire, The Cheesemaker’s House is a page-turner that will have readers hooked instantly.

The novel follows the life of Alice Hart, who escapes to the North Yorkshire countryside to recover after her husband runs off with his secretary. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including handsome builder Richard Wainwright and kind café owner Owen Maltby. As Alice employs Richard to start renovating the barn next to her house, all is not what it seems. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from? And if Owen is the village ‘charmer’, what exactly does that mean?

4 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut novel for this Author and, in my opinion, signifies the beginning of a long and illustrious career as a writer with this gentle and mysterious ghost story.

The main protagonist in this book is a recently divorced woman, and the Author does a great job of instilling a feeling of loss and sadness into this character whilst at the same time injecting her with a sense of moving on.  Rather than bring in this character’s back story all at once, in an effort to get it over and done with, the Author gradually introduces all her flaws and insecurities over a period of time; this serves to draw the reader in and, even though they may not be in the same position as the character, they can easily connect with her and put themselves in her place.  This serves to make her have a real aura around her, as if she is someone we know personally.  The other characters in this novel are also well written, and once again, there is no cluttering up of the storyline with information that has no relation to the plot.  Being from Yorkshire myself, I could identify with a lot of the traits the Author places on her characters, and also could actually put some faces of people I know to them, this ability created by the Author  just made this book even more enjoyable for me.  All the characters in this book are shrouded with mysteries of one kind or another and the Author feeds titbits to the reader throughout its pages, to aid them in uncovering them.

The Author writes with a style that hooks the reader from the first page, making them want to keep reading until the end, and the initial mystery laid out before the reader is one that is not easily solved; another great way to keep you hooked until the end.  Despite the mild aspects of romance in the book, I actually enjoyed it.  I didn’t find the Author wrote too much of this side of the main protagonists new life, sticking mainly to the ghost story aspect of the plot.  Where I did feel, however, that the book tended to get bogged down was with the minutiae of village life; there are only so many times you can read about onions as big as your head, and the cut-throat world of the village fete before you never want to tend attend one again.  Other than that though, the Authors description of village life in Yorkshire was spot on, and I thoroughly enjoyed her giving some of the characters in the book the local dialect, which came easily to my mind as I read causing no difficulties.  Other readers not familiar with the dialect may find it hard to decipher, as I do when reading novels containing the southern US dialect.  I particularly enjoyed the historical aspect of this novel, and how pulling on her research into her own home, the Author was able to add realism to her work.

I would highly recommend this novel to lovers of the suspense and crime genres, but if you are totally into romantic fiction you may be disappointed in this read.  Thankfully it was not a major part of this book, and as such means I will be looking for more from this Author if she keeps writing in this way.

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