Book Reviews

Book Review: Fruit of the Gods by William C. Tracey

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Fruit of the Gods by William C. TraceyFruit of the Gods by William C. Tracey
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Sisters Kisare and Belili uproot an ancient box in their owner’s orchard and find a miracle inside: a fifth godfruit in a society that knows only four. It is punishable by death to eat godfruit, so the sisters hide the discovery and plot to escape servitude for good. With the power represented in the box, they could live as nobles themselves.

But Kisare finds her new freedom more difficult than she imagined, and Belili has many secrets she strives to keep hidden. With the help of a people slowly losing their culture and technology to the powerful nobles, the sisters lead an infiltration of the highest levels of noble society.

While Kisare finds she cares for the captured leader of the people helping them, Belili comes to love her noble suitor’s guard—a fierce woman with a similar past to her own. In the end, the fifth godfruit may bring harmony to the world, but the sisters’ only hope of succeeding lies in deciphering ancient mythologies surrounding the gods’ original plan for their people.

Fruit of the Gods is a unique fantasy novel with a surprisingly complex system of magic. It navigates the tropes of the genre with relative ease, delivering a story that bypasses overly predictable beats. For the most part, I was immersed in Kisare and Bel’s world, enriched by the imaginative culture the author created and surprisingly delighted by the fact one of the main characters was gay.

But still, I felt some parts of the book were too dense and it slowed the pacing down to a slog at times. The characters too, were not always as fleshed out as they needed to be. The alternating perspectives between the sisters also made the book far more confusing than it should have been. I wish the chapters were marked with the name of whichever sister would be narrating each passage instead of it randomly switching back and forth.

Still, I appreciate the novel’s ingenuity and I enjoyed myself reading it.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie WardBeautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Published on March 19, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Maddie and Ian's romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian's PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple's tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

Beautiful Bad had all the makings of the tense domestic thrillers I typically love. I’m fond of the alternating timelines and Annie Ward is a beautiful writer.

I was captivated from the early pages but then the novel and the plot lost me as it descended into a war-torn story spanning across a decade between a pairing that never had any good reason to be so in love with one another. I mean why was Ian so infatuated by Maddie?

I understand the idea of “love at first sight” but we were given so little to go off of. I was so confused by several parts of the novel that depended me to believe on the emotional connection between the two because their relationship always seemed shallow at best.

Then the story simply dragged on for hundreds of pages without adding to the actual mystery. Large swathes of the writing and scenes could have been trimmed down or cut out altogether in favor of scenes that would have built on the relationship in a more realistic way.

Needless to say, I got bored and Beautiful Bad ultimately failed to leave an impression.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Silent Sisters by Joanne Lee

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Silent Sisters by Joanne LeeSilent Sisters by Joanne Lee
Published on April 18, 2019
Genres: Nonfiction, True Crime
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 205
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

A deadly secret. A horrifying discovery. For over 20 years, Joanne Lee's mother kept the remains of not one, but three newborn babies hidden in a bin in her wardrobe. She had buried a fourth baby in newspaper and rags in St Helens Cemetery.

For the first time since exposing her mother's crimes, Joanne breaks her silence over her family's horrific ordeal and her fight for justice for the siblings she never knew.
Growing up in chaotic circumstances on Merseyside, Joanne suffered at the hands of a violent boyfriend and controlling relatives, as her mother lapsed into a downward spiral of drinking and casual sex following the break-up of her marriage. But the consequences of her mother's messy lifestyle turned out to be far worse than Joanne could ever have imagined.

She already knew about the baby buried in a shallow makeshift grave next to the family plot. But when Joanne came across a red plastic bin in her mother's wardrobe in 2009, she realized that the family home held an even more sinister secret.

In Silent Sisters, the daughter who was falsely accused of murdering her own baby sister will tell her full story for the first time, detailing her struggle to understand her mother, to piece together the truth and to give the four babies the proper burial they deserve.

Joanne Lee bravely pens the harrowing true story about growing up with a woman capable of hiding dead babies in a garbage bags. If the brutality of that statement startles you, then this non-fiction novel will haunt you as the real tragedy has haunted Joanne Lee for all these years.

If you have heard the name Berndatte Quirk, odds are you are familiar with this story. Bernadette hid four babies in red bin at her home. She claims each one was stillborn, but regardless, hiding their births and keeping their corpses stuffed away like trash is a monstrous act.

I found Lee’s story a heart-breaking and tragic tale of motherly deceit and betrayal. Clearly, Lee has lived both an extraordinary and daunting life. I can’t imagine growing up in those circumstances and I commend her for her bravery in telling the world the truth about her trauma and the trials of living with a woman like Berndatte.

As far as the actual novel goes, it was a pretty quick and engaging read. I did find some segments and stylistic language choice got to be repetitive at times but the material is fascinating, albeit often grotesque. Joanne Lee does not shy away from the gruesome details, but as this is her own experience she is trying to convey, it’s not for me to say if they were necessary or not. It certainly does paint a vivid picture and I feel like she was being true to the horrors she faced in her life.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

I received this book for free from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin StarlingThe Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Published on April 2, 2019
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 411
Format: ARC

Source: Harper Voyager

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

Instead, she got Em. Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

Here are 3 reasons why you need to read, The Luminous Dead, an intense psychological sci-fi thriller about a harrowing caving expedition.

The PR team at Harper Voyager were kind enough to provide me with a copy of The Luminous Dead, the debut novel from author Caitlin Starling, in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn to The Luminous Dead due to comparisons to Jeff VanderMeer’s horrifying sci-fi novel (and film) Annihilation, which blew me away last year. I’m happy to say The Luminous Dead is a worthy comparison and is one of the most tense, atmospheric, and claustrophobic novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s a marvel Starling was able to create such an intense read when the story only contains two characters, and yet it’s never dull.

If you need more incentive to check out the book, I’ve got three reasons for you.

Read my full review at 1428 Elm.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie GoldingLittle Darlings by Melanie Golding
Genres: Thriller, Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 304
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

The idea of a changeling child is legendary lore passed through multitudes of cultures around the world for a reason. What could be more frightening than the idea of an unknown being stealing away your children – and even worse, what if you didn’t even know they were stolen until it was much too late?

Melanie Golding approaches the dark heart of fairy tales we all know and love. She bypasses the rosy sheen and instead settles among the black, thorny nettles behind every Disney-fied story into the beating Grimm heart of it all.

The story of Lauren Tranter is a tragedy, a sinister tale about a woman lost to the wilds of her imagination and the gloomy enchantment of a shadow witch who may or may not be real. Is Lauren manifesting demons as part of postpartum depression, or is she truly being stalked by an agent of the watery abyss?

Little Darlings is a fine piece of literary work that falls under the disguise of a thriller only because of the police involvment in the story. The menial police casework is one of the weaker elements of the novel – despite Detective Joanna Harper and her keenness to believe Lauren against all odds being compelling, it is Lauren’s journey that proves the more fascinating one. Both in terms of plot and in terms of character.

In the future, I would love to see Golding’s take on other fables and fairy tales. I appreciate female authors who take it upon themselves to explore the, sometimes, hideous introspection of the female psyche, particularly as they pertain to maternity – a subject that is often so nullified and squeaky clean in media, it’s nice to see an author who embraces it with all its potential pitfalls.

Little Darlings qualifies as my first book of the #SpringHorrorReadathon!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Book Review: Paper Ghosts by Julia HeaberlinPaper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
Published on May 15, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 351
Format: eBook

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer. That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted. before his admission to a care home for dementia. Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip. Only she's not his daughter and, if she has her way, he's not coming back.

When I first started reading Paper Ghosts I was quickly absorbed in Grace’s story and her journey to discover the truth about her sister’s killer. Unfortunately, I lost interest just as fast as the book slogged onwards into a meandering road trip story without much thrill or suspense.

The idea of a young girl traveling with a serial killer was interesting at first, but I really didn’t find Carl to be a compelling character. Not to mention the fact we read pages upon pages of endless internal monologue from Grace about how she trained for most of her life leading up to the moment she would spring Carl from Mrs. T’s. But we almost never see this “training” come into play. More often than not, Carl outsmarts her by some small mistake she makes.

Nor did I find the somewhat random love story between her and the detective, Andy, to make much sense. It serves as a background plot more than anything and Andy really serves no greater purpose to the story.

By the end of the novel, when we learn the truth about Carl and his supposed kills, it makes nearly everything that occurred before it ultimately pointless. I didn’t feel like the ending had suited the long, winding journey preceding it.

However, I will say that the book is very well-written. Even though I didn’t love the story, I kept reading because Heaberlin’s writing style more than kept me engaged, it made me hope for a stronger pay-off than I got. While I didn’t find this novel to be my cup of tea, I would certainly consider checking out her other books in the future.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Release Day: Slender Man

Slender Man officially released this past Monday, October 23rd! It’s the perfect book to read this time of year and a novel I truly believe finally gets the Slender Man story right, especially if you were as disappointed as I was in the recent film version!

The book is available for purchase in trade paperback, ebook, and audio formats!

If you’d like to check out my full review you can read it here.

PURCHASE: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Book Reviews

Book Review: Slender Man

  • Author: Anonymous
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Publishing: October 23, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Young Adult
  • Star Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Goodreads

Slender Man is an epistolary novel following the journal entries of Matt Barker as he seeks to discover the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Lauren Bailey.

Continue reading my review at 1428elm  →

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Perfect Couple

  • Author: Elin Hilderbrand
  • Edition: Hardcover
  • Published: June 19th, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Women’s Fiction
  • Star Rating: ★★☆☆☆
  • Goodreads

It’s a perfect summer in Nantucket, which means it’s the perfect time for a wedding.

Weddings are the perfect opportunity for the 1% to show off their over-decorated vacation homes, exuberant boat purchases, and couture sundresses. The marriage of Celeste and Benjamin should be the event of the season, with hundreds of thousands of dollars showered on the affair.

Until a body washes up on the shore, the body of the maid of honor, Merritt, and throws the entire small island into a tizzy.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Perfect Couple”

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Dream Daughter

  • Author: Diane Chamberlain
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Published: Oct. 2, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Star Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • Goodreads

The year is 1970 and Caroline Sears’ baby is diagnosed with a fatal heart defect. She assumes all hope is lost and that she may lose her daughter before she is ever born. Luckily for her, Hunter, her sister’s husband, has a plan in order to prevent that from happening. A maverick of time travel, he has a plan to send Caroline into the future, to the year 2001 to be exact, in order to get the medical care she cannot get in the current era and save her child.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Dream Daughter”