Book Reviews

Book Review: Emancipation by Jo Michaels

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I’m a big fan of books about serial killers, whether they’re fiction or not. There’s just something about the mind of a psychopath that intrigues me… Anyway, Emancipation is a must-read for anyone like me who enjoys reading about the more gruesome side of the human psyche.

In this book, Michaels not only takes readers into the mind of a serial killer, but she also provides an up close and personal look at prison life. It was all absolutely fascinating. She also accomplished something quite difficult; she fleshed out Tobias’s character so well that I actually felt drawn to him and bad for him at times, making it completely believable that Jess (the pretty, young lawyer who’s trying to get him out of prison) is enamored by him. Now, that’s messed up, yet really cool at the same time.

A few things that occurred might seem a bit far-fetched as far as what would be allowed in a prison, but truth really is often stranger than fiction, and it all made sense in the end. Speaking of the end…WOW. What a twist! I suspected there had to be a twist and wondered a time or two if it would involve a certain something, but even so, I loved it!

This is the third book by Jo Michaels that I’ve read and definitely not the last. The cool thing about her (besides the fact that she’s a great writer) is her versatility. Historical fiction. Fantasy. Horror. Thrillers. ZOMBIES! And no matter what she writes, she writes it well. So if you haven’t read a book by Ms. Michaels yet, I highly recommend you do so.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen

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A friend recommended this one to me. When I asked her what it was about, she didn’t want to give anything away but said something about the family and situation being messed up. Now that I’ve read it, I concur. Extremely. Messed. Up. But I didn’t want to put it down, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

The Light of the Fireflies is well-crafted with elements of mystery and suspense. At first, it reminded me of ROOM by Emma Donoghue because much of the book is told from the perspective of a young boy who’s lived his entire life in a confined space without contact from the outside world. He’s oblivious to the lies he’s been told by family members and about what exists beyond the walls of their residence, but he eventually begins questioning the way they live and trying to piece things together. Unfortunately, certain members of his family are not what they seem, which impedes his road to discovery.

Pen is a fabulous writer. He pieced together every little detail of this story just right, so I never felt confused or lost. All I felt was intrigued, desperate for answers and emotionally invested in finding out what would happen to the boy.

If you are a fan of suspense and realistically flawed characters who make horrible mistakes, then I highly recommend The Light of the Fireflies.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

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“Hey, have you heard this one before? Two serial killers walk into a record store…”

Brother is a faced-paced psychological thriller. Its hillbilly serial killer theme reminded me of movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, and The Hills Have Eyes. However, it wasn’t just about a bunch of degenerate killers looking for their next victim. As the title suggests, it was more about the relationship between brothers Reb and Michael and why Reb thrives on making Michael’s life miserable.

Ahlborn didn’t waste any time introducing the deranged family in this book. There’s Momma (the ringleader of the bunch), Wade (the dad and enabler), Reb (the psychopathic brother), Misty Dawn (the innocent sister), and then there’s Michael. While Michael is part of the family, he isn’t related by blood. And unlike Momma, Wade and Reb, Michael actually has a conscience and longs for normalcy. Ahlborn did a great job of making me like and sympathize with Michael.

The chapters flow together seamlessly and rotate between Michael’s perspective, Reb’s perspective, and flashbacks that clue readers in on why Reb hates Michael so much. The vivid characters combined with the brutal acts carried out by several of them scared the crap out of me, and most of the twists and turns blew my mind.

If you like serial killer books and don’t mind gore and a bit of torture, I highly recommend this book.

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AMAZON

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Doll’s House by M.J. Arlidge

 

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Few things make me happier than finding an author I can count on to deliver one satisfying read after another.

The Doll’s House is book #3 in Arlidge’s Detective Helen Grace series. Like Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel, I became engrossed in this suspense thriller within the first few pages. And like the first two novels in the series, this one lives up to Arlidge’s characteristic style, which I’ve come to know and love.

In this installment of the DI Grace series, a serial killer kidnaps and traps women in a soundproof room that is custom-designed to resemble the interior of a dollhouse. Why does he do it? How does he choose his victims? How many women have lived in the dollhouse? Only DI Grace can provide you with the answers. 😉

If you’re a fan of suspense thrillers that involve serial killers, M. J. Arlidge’s Detective Helen grace series is my number one recommendation for you. All of these books can be read as standalones so you don’t necessarily need to start with book #1. However, a lot of DI Grace’s past is revealed in Eeny Meeny, and she’s definitely a complex character worth getting to know.

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A big thank you to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy via NetGalley.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Pop Goes the Weasel by M. J. Arlidge

Pop Goes the Weasel is an engrossing thriller starring Detective Helen Grace. After reading Eeny Meeny (the first in this series), I was impressed and knew I would eventually check out more from Arlidge. Now that I’ve read this one, Arlidge is at the top of my list of must-read thriller authors. I’m hooked!

If you haven’t read Eeny Meeny, you can still enjoy Pop Goes the Weasel without much confusion because they’re about two completely different serial killer cases. However, Eeny Meeny provides a lot of Detective Grace’s backstory, and I must say, she is one of my favorite female characters ever. She’s smart, tough and unapologetic about the way she operates–the ultimate detective–but she’s also flawed in ways that make her vulnerable. She’s not even a real person, yet I have such respect for her. I want her to find happiness and companionship, but I also want her to keep on being the bad-ass copper she is.

A multitude of secondary characters (ranging from good to bad to good who’ve simply been driven to do bad things) are included in this story. Arlidge skillfully weaves each and every one of them into the plot. Some made appearances in Eeny Meeny and some are new, but all are relevant and developed just enough to move the story along nicely.

If you like serial killer novels that are full of intrigue and suspense, then I highly recommend adding M. J. Arlidge to your to-read list.

Memorable quotes:

“I’m a copper, Ma’am, not a spin doctor. I chase up leads and hunt killers. I catch killers. You can’t do that through protocols, or liaison or bloody politics. You do it through intelligence, risk taking and sheer bloody hard work.” (Detective Helen Grace)

“No doubt this treasured possession was Gareth’s passport to life, and Charlie felt sure that the key to his death lay within it.” (in reference to a victim’s computer)

“This was a circle Charlie couldn’t square.”

“The rain fell steadily and hard. It was attacking the city, not cleansing it…”

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A big thank you to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy via NetGalley.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

Eeeny Meeny is a page-turning thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat and often made me cringe with disgust and disbelief.

The story starts out with a man and a woman trapped in an empty, abandoned swimming pool. They have no recollection of how they got there. The last thing they remember is accepting a ride and hot coffee from a stranger on a cold, rainy night. Soon after realizing they are trapped, they find out that the only way to survive is to kill. One lives. One dies. That’s the game. Eeny Meeny. I was hooked!

Enter Detective Helen Grace, who is tasked with finding the person responsible for the “eeny meeny” kidnappings. She’s tough, intelligent and independent and has a closet full of skeletons (a few that might even have something to do with the case). Oftentimes, detectives in crime/thriller novels do things that make you think: “Hmm. That was kinda dumb.” Not the case with Detective Grace. She’s no-nonsense and now one of my favorite female protagonists.

The only problem I had with this book is that it did not contain section breaks, which hindered the flow of the story. I had to reread several parts where breaks should have been in order to figure out whose thoughts I was reading or where the scene change occurred. Regardless, the premise is so intriguing and the plot points fit so snuggly together like the pieces of a puzzle that the lack of breaks did not affect my overall enjoyment of the story. Since I received my copy from NetGalley, I assume there must be section breaks in purchased copies. If not, then keep reading even if the lack of breaks bothers you. This book is worth finishing!

If you like suspense thrillers with multiple twists and turns, I highly recommend Eeny Meeny. It is simply brilliant, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

YOU is a dark, twisted story that I couldn’t put down.

Joe Goldberg becomes fixated on Guinevere Beck the moment he sees her. They engage in small talk, flirt with each other a bit, and then she’s gone. This is the point when a “normal” man would either follow a woman and ask her out or simply move on with his day. However, Joe happens to be a sociopath who takes a much different approach. He decides to stalk Beck in person and online, and he eliminates “obstacles” until they become an item. Even when he finds out that Beck isn’t exactly who he thought she was (she’s a real piece of work, too!), his obsession with her continues.

The story is told from Joe’s point of view as if he’s talking to Beck. For example:

“You miss me. And I miss you. It hurts seeing you at that fire, giving your hands to the heat, the way I gave my hand to fire, only different. I imagine pushing you into the red abyss and jumping in after you, with you, so we can burn together, forever, a tree of life, light, sex.”

This type of narration creates an extra creepy vibe because it sucks readers into Joe’s deranged world. I loved it!

Even though Joe is nuts, Kepnes did a stellar job of making me sympathize with him at times. Why on Earth would I feel bad for a psychopath? First of all, as I mentioned earlier, Beck has some major issues, too. In fact, I found myself kind of liking Joe simply because I couldn’t stand Beck. Second, Joe just wants to be loved. He obviously goes about finding love in a totally unacceptable way, but Kepnes really made me feel his deep desire to find it (with Beck). Third, I was quite entertained by Joe’s pop culture references and many of his thoughts. For example:

“Mystic is a bad place for me. I went there once, with my fourth-grade class, on a field trip. At the time, I had a crush on a gruff, odd misfit named Maureen Grady, “Mo” for short. Most kids are assholes, just like most adults, so yes, a lot of people called her “Ho Mo.””

 AND

“Elton John hisses low everywhere because of the state of the art sound system and I can picture Peach pleading with him in a court of fandom. She begs to be his number one fan but Sir Elton slams the gavel and sends a collections officer to seize all his music from that prissy cunt and she has to go work as a greeter at Walmart.”

Favorite quotes:

“What a shame to be so angered by what you don’t have that you treat what you do have like it’s nothing.”

“You grow through love. You don’t postpone love until you stop growing.”

“If you don’t start with crazy, crazy love, the kind of love that Van Morrison sings about, then you don’t have a shot to go the distance. Love’s a marathon, Danny, not a sprint.”

If you like thrillers with seriously messed up characters, you might want to check out this book. I definitely plan to read the sequel.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Homeowner With a Gun by Samuel Hawley

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After reading (and LOVING) Bad Elephant Far Stream, I immediately checked to see if Hawley has written anything similar. Sadly, he hasn’t published any other historical fiction novels, so I picked up Homeowner With a Gun: A Thriller.

When Jeff discovers late-night intruders in his home, he does what he has to do to protect his family. (It’s chilling just how realistic this scenario is.) The safety of Jeff’s family is compromised further when it is revealed that the intruders were members of a dangerous gang known as ‘Ain’t No Game. It turns out that ANG wants revenge, leading to an event that sets Jeff on a mission to do what the police can’t: prevent the gang from harming his family again.

In addition to Jeff’s side of the story, I-Man’s side is told as well. I-Man is a recently paroled, former member of ANG and the only person who knows why his gang friends were in Jeff’s house that night. While revenge is plotted, I-Man is busy trying to keep what he knows hidden from ANG’s leader. He is also trying to figure out a way to retrieve what his murdered friends were looking for.

Hawley seamlessly weaves back and forth between Jeff and I-Man throughout the story, expertly adding suspense along the way. I actually caught myself holding my breath a few times.

While this book was spun together just as well as Bad Elephant Far Stream, it didn’t tug at my heartstrings nearly as much. However, it was a satisfying thriller that kept me turning the pages. Hawley deserves praise for being such a versatile writer. I look forward to more from him, regardless of the genre.

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Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train is a page-turning thriller told from the alternating perspectives of three female characters. The intrigue begins when Rachel (the alcoholic main character) realizes that something she witnessed could be related to the disappearance of a young woman she feels connected to, even though they have never met. You see, Rachel observes people and things closely during frequent train commutes and becomes captivated by one couple (Megan and Scott), in particular. She goes so far as to assign them names, professions, hobbies and even behavioral characteristics. This might sound weird, but doesn’t everyone do this? Make assumptions about others based on outward appearances? Then, we often find out our assumptions were wrong; either people do not deserve the bad rap we’ve assigned them, or people are hiding much darker secrets and personality traits than we imagined. The latter becomes increasingly obvious to Rachel with each new revelation she learns about the real Megan and Scott—individually and as a couple.

I was immediately drawn in by Rachel. She’s lonely, depressed and self-deprecating, and she makes terrible decisions due to her alcoholism and obsessive desire to be involved in Megan’s case. The funny thing is I liked her anyway and felt a lot of sympathy for her. Megan was harder for me to like, but by the end, my heart broke for her. And then there’s Anna, who I disliked from the moment she was introduced to end. As annoying and infuriating as Anna is throughout the story, she’s also very crucial; you just have to wait until the end to find out why.

Hawkins did an excellent job of building suspense. The way she gradually reveals tidbits about the characters while switching from perspective to perspective held my interest throughout the novel and kept me guessing.

One thing I had a hard time with was the way Rachel’s and Anna’s parts were happening in the present, but Megan’s parts were from the past. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth to check dates throughout the first half of the book, and even a few times later on. Overall, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story, but it might annoy readers who don’t like having to create a mental timeline of events. Another thing that bothered me was who ended up being responsible for Megan’s disappearance, not because I liked this particular character but because it just seemed too convenient.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys suspense.

AMAZON

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