Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma KeyDuma Key by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Duma Key has climbed the ranks and officially entered my ‘Top 5 Kings’ List. This is quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

Edgar Freemantle is a successful businessman.

Living with his wife of 20+ years in Minnesota, they have raised two healthy girls and have a good life. A solid life.

This is, until the day Edgar is involved in a horrific accident on one of his construction sites.

Crushed by a piece of heavy equipment, he is lucky to be alive, although losing his right arm, injuring his hip and scrambling his brain doesn’t seem so lucky to him immediately after the fact.

His recovery is extremely difficult, putting a lot of strain on his marriage, with him and Pam ultimately separating.

His psychologist, Dr. Kamen, suggests perhaps a change of scenery would be best for his recovery efforts, as well as a hobby. Edgar figures, why not? He has the money, what is he sticking around Minnesota for?

He rents a beach house on a remote, undeveloped piece of land on the Florida coast, Duma Key. The house, something of an artist’s retreat, is perfect for him, as he is feeling like doing some sketching himself.

Edgar begins to settle in and does indeed begin to create amazing art.

He’s unsure where some of it is coming from. He just seems to be compelled. The drawings and paintings pour out of him at an incredible rate, becoming more intricate and astounding as he progresses.

During this time, he makes a new friend while out for one of his daily beach walks. Jerome Wireman lives at the big house on Duma Key, caring for its aging lady of the house, Elizabeth Eastlake.

It is mainly through these characters that Edgar begins to learn of the dark history and lore of Duma Key and the Eastlake family.

However, Duma has a lot to say itself and that’s when things really start to get dangerous.

There is so much to love about this story. I knew absolutely zero about it going in. I don’t even think I ever read a full synopsis.

I was delighted as the story unfolded. The relationships, as is to be expected with King, were so deep and well done. The friendship between Edgar and Wireman is easily one of the best I have ever read.

In my opinion, King is great with this type of human dynamics. Further, I really appreciate how none of the relationships in this story were romantic.

It’s friendship, it’s family, and none of them are perfect, but they’re all so real and compelling.

Duma Key itself was incredibly well done. He has such a sense of place, always incorporating the idea that places remember; pieces of history live on through the lifeblood of the land and structures themselves.

You see this type of idea a lot throughout King’s works, from this one, to The Shining, Pet Sematary and everything in between.

Overall, I could wax poetic about this novel for hours. There is so much to unpack with this story. It’s extremely intricate, I would love to read it again someday and most likely will.

If you are a Constant Reader and haven’t picked this up yet, delay no more. It’s a stunner!

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Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My main hope going into this book was that I would love it as much as The Broken Girls. I am happy to report, I loved it even more!!!

While The Broken Girls dipped a toe in the supernatural, The Sun Down Motel dives in headfirst and these waters run deep and dark!

In 1982, Viv Delaney ends up in Fell, New York completely by chance.

Her original intention was to head to New York City, but after stopping in Fell, she ends up staying, working the night shift at a roadside motel.

Never one to shy away from the macabre, Viv isn’t scared off when she notices mysterious happenings around her workplace.

The motel itself isn’t the only scary part of her new life, however, the clientele of The Sun Down also leave a bit to be desired. Not to mention the missing and murdered young women in the area.

Viv decides to begin an investigation. She’s going to get to the bottom of what is going on at the motel, and with the missing girls, one way or another.

We follow Viv’s perspective as her time at The Sun Down edges towards her final night, a cold night in November when she disappears without a trace.

We also follow the perspective of Viv’s niece, Carly, who arrives at The Sun Down thirty-five years later.

Things fall into place fairly rapidly for Carly. It’s almost like she was meant to be there.

She gets hired to work the night shift at the motel, just like her Aunt Viv, and ends up living in Viv’s old apartment.

Carly, who is actively researching her Aunts disappearance, will end up discovering way more than she bargained for.

I absolutely loved every second I spent reading this book.

I was a fan of St. James before, but this, was magic for my mind. The alternating perspectives where fantastic. I felt drawn to each woman and comfortable listening to their stories, in their time.

The pacing was excellent. No filler to get through, just meat. It was perfectly plotted as you raced towards the conclusion.

The side characters were all well developed and each added their own dimension to the story. Both Viv and Carly had allies in their search for answers, even though they often felt alone in their missions.

Of course, the atmosphere was fantastic as well, something St. James definitely excels at writing.

Additionally, I enjoyed the theme of particular dangers to women and how that can make you feel powerless to know you always have to have your guard up. That you can be harmed at another’s will.

At the end of the day. Simone St. James is an autobuy author for me. I hope she continues down this same path for a long time to come. She has such a great gift for eerie storytelling and I’m here for it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me a copy of this to read and review.

I truly appreciate it and have since purchased a finished copy for my shelves. I look forward to seeing what twisted tale St. James will think of next!

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Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

The ReturnThe Return by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. But as with many such relationships, as time goes by and circumstances change, friends can sometimes see each other less and less.

For this fabulous foursome, that is definitely the case. They all live pretty far apart geographically and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, the women are devastated to have lost one of the their own. Although they have a funeral after a significant amount of time has passed with no sign of Julie, Elise genuinely doesn’t believe she is gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she has been or what has happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. How can this be?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is just so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up like they were never apart.

The more time that goes by however, the more they begin to notice that Julie is different.

There’s something very wrong with her. It seems she is falling apart minute by minute. Her odd behavior and appearance; let’s not even get into the smell, but who’s going to talk to her about it?

They’re scared, even though mostly, they won’t admit it.

Well, I’ll tell you, they weren’t the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out. I’m talking contemplated putting it in the freezer.

There was so much to enjoy about this. I loved, loved, loved the setting. Reminiscent of a locked room mystery as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie.

I also enjoyed the dynamic among the women. I found it to be very relatable as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was unique to me. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went in.

It did give me heavy Jennifer’s Body vibes and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me it worked. That is how I would have wanted it to end.

At it’s heart, this is really a lovely examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would pretty much be this book. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.

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Review: The Moor by Sam Haysom

The MoorThe Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

This creepy, campy tale incorporates many things I love: chilling stories around a campfire, multiple POVs, the use of mixed media sources and a delightful, ‘is it supernatural, is it not supernatural’ feel.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and ended up completing it in under 24-hours.

I was drawn in right away, thanks to the lore of the Moors, and the clever use of newspaper articles of missing persons and bodies found in the area.

Haysom has definitely created a compulsively readable story here. However, as intrigued as I was, it still felt very surface level.

I wanted MORE…

All puns aside, it felt like an abridged version of what the story should have been.

With this being said, I know not everyone enjoys 500-page tomes as much as I do, so for a lot of people this book will tickle that horror spot just as they want it to. If you like creepy, outdoorsy stories you should check this one out.

This did remind me a lot of Nick Cutter’s, The Troop, mixed with a creature feature of the 1980s.

In case it’s not clear, those are both great things!

Overall, I think this is a good horror novella. I see a lot of potential in his writing and would definitely pick up more works by Sam Haysom!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Unbound Digital, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it very much.

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Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Berube

The Dark Beneath the IceThe Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Marianne’s world is falling apart. She has quit dance, which once seemed her life’s purpose, her best friend has moved away and ghosted her, her parents are separated, again, and it seems like this time it’s for good, and her mother has checked herself into a mental health facility after a breakdown.

Now staying with her Aunt, Marianne notices other things going on with herself. She is losing time and objects are moving and breaking around her, seemingly on their own.

She feels afraid, like a dark spirit is constantly around her, messing with her head and her world.

Her fear is so strong, she’s not sleeping well and soon begins to feel like she is coming apart at the seams. She seeks help from a girl at school whose mother is purported to be a psychic of some sort.

Marianne believes the presence after her is some sort of ghost and her hope is that Rhiannon’s mom will be able to get rid of it.

As Marianne and Rhiannon, who goes by Ron, begin to get to know one another, a really precious friendship forms. Both ostracized by their peers, the girls find acceptance within one another.

This friendship was one of my favorite aspects of the story, made stronger once you begin to see that the girls have developed feelings for each other deeper than friendship.

Once it is clear that’s Ron mom won’t be as much help as they would have thought, the girls strike out on their own to try to banish the spirit. Unfortunately, their actions make it worse. A lot worse.

I really enjoyed the majority of this book. At first, the writing style threw me off, but I came to really enjoy it.

It is metaphorical in nature, more so than I tend to enjoy, but very dark and beautiful.

I thought the paranormal elements were well done. The intensity kept being amped up and it truly kept me glued to the pages.

The ending made me a little uncomfortable, but I may be reading too much into it. I just wasn’t sold on the conclusion.

Anyway, overall I did really enjoy this. I had a ton of fun reading it and even had moments where I was legitimately creeped out. I think this would make a great movie.

If you enjoy movies with paranormal activity or possession, you should definitely check this one out. Bonus points if you enjoy dark, metaphorical writing.

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The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ!?!?

First of all, how am I complete trash for this series at this point in my life? It is beyond me.

I have no explanation. I can’t explain it, but I am currently obsessed with this.

I feel like this second installment gave me more questions than answers, but who the f* cares! I have one more book in this trilogy and I plan to devour it. Soon.

Sure, if you contemplate the storyline for too long, it’s definitely problematic, but for some reason, it this case, I couldn’t care less.

My plan is to read the final book this month. Then, sadly, I will have to find a new backlist trilogy to obsess over.

Anyone else who wants to join me on the tragically delayed hype train, you’re welcome.

Mara and Noah are LIFE.

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Review: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Rules for VanishingRules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A haunted wood, a mysterious road that appears and disappears, the legend of a missing girl; these were the things that first attracted me to this story.

I got so much more than that, parts I am still trying to wrap my brain around.

Told through interviews, written statements and found footage, this story tells the tale of Sara, whose sister, Becca, went missing a year prior.

The mixed media pieces together her quest to find her sister and the people who go along with her.

This book reminded me a lot of Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, mixed with the Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and unfortunately, I think that had an effect on my overall enjoyment.

Honestly, the audio was a little hard to track all of the characters and keep them all straight.

That paired with the dreamlike quality of all that occurs on the road, I felt confused for the majority of the middle portion of the book.

I think if I had read the physical copy it would have been easier to follow along with the character dialogue of the found footage and interviews.

Overall, I think this is a solid YA Horror novel with a very dark and spooky premise. It definitely solidified my belief that you must always beware of hitchhikers on the road.

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Review: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven, #1)The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all know babysitting comes with a lot of responsibility. You are literally responsible for maintaining the health and wellness of little humans. But did you also know that some babysitters are responsible for protecting the entire Earth from evil forces?

It’s true and when Esme Pearl formed her Babysitter’s Club, she didn’t know that either. Unfortunately for Esme, she’s about to find out the hard way.

I feel weird sort of giving that away but it’s nothing you won’t read in the synopsis of the book. Part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part the good ole’ Babysitter’s Club series, this book brings horror comedy to a whole new level.

I was giggling to myself for over half of this novel. Apparently, the author and I share a brain and have exactly the same sense of humor.

Esme was such a fun character to read about and although parts of this were predictable, I had a great time reading it. The culminating scene does occur on Halloween as well, so perfect for the Fall Spooky season.

I loved all the pop culture references, the definite homage to Buffy and that fun teen horror atmosphere. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fast and funny teen scream.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to seeing what this author comes up with next!!!

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Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HexHex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A town cursed by a witch or a woman cursed by a town?

This was an odd book that has certainly provided me with a lot to think about.

Welcome to Black Spring. A charming little village set in the Hudson River Valley. As picturesque as can be, an outsider would have a hard time imagining the horror that this town’s citizens endure every day.

The Black Rock Witch, a 17th-Century woman, murdered by her contemporaries after having her mouth and eyes sewn shut, lurks amidst the townsfolk to this day. Not a hazy apparition that only certainly people sense or see, she’s there, in the flesh. They can touch her and even harm her if they choose.

No one ever does though as they anticipate her vengeance would be swift and brutal. Why don’t they just move away, you wonder?

Well, that’s just it. They can’t. No one can. Once you are settled in the town and privy to its secrets, you can never leave. As in, a supernatural force literally blocks you from escape.

This was a really unique take on a haunting. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I also really enjoyed the way the town dealt with it. They had developed, as town, a great system for tracking and monitoring the spirit. They used high tech surveillance to make sure all was well with her, but in turn, ending up tracking a lot of the citizen’s actions as well.

When some of the teenagers become frustrated with living under strict regulations they start acting out towards the spirit. Their cruel actions ultimately cause all hell to break loose.

Although, I was never able to fully sink into this one, I still decided to round up to 4-stars due to the unique nature of the overall story. Haunting stories have been done numerous times but this one did offer up something new in my opinion.

Also, I am wondering if the difficulty I had connecting to the story was more due to the fact that it is translated from the original Dutch than the actual story itself. The writing style seemed very blunt. I was always aware I was reading a book instead of being told a story, if that makes sense.

Overall though, I would definitely recommend this to horror lovers. Especially people who are looking for something out of the ordinary. This story is definitely worth giving a shot!

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Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

CampfireCampfire by Shawn Sarles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up because I feel this book deserves a higher overall rating**

((How’s that for honesty?))

When Maddie Davenport heads on a friends and family camping trip she has no idea that it is a trip that will change her life. But we all know what happens when teens go camping.

Y’all, this book is a teen slasher flick come to the page. If you enjoy the campy, bloody, sometimes ridiculous movies like Cabin Fever, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th, House of Wax or Wrong Turn, I think you could enjoy this.

It’s all about the mindset you go into a book with. I was looking for a campy, silly slasher that would make me nostalgic for my Junior High years, devouring every Fear Street book I could get my hands on. This did that. It gave me exactly that.

This does definitely read on the younger side of YA so if you aren’t into Tween reads, I would steer clear. I would put this at a target audience of 7th through 10th grade, which is completely fine. People in that age group deserve to have books too and for a fun, Spooktober read, this is great.

The writing is simplistic and the storyline was easy to follow. There are a ton of flawed characters to hate on so when bodies start dropping, you probably won’t shed too many tears.

If you are looking for a quick read, something to remind you of your younger years, when you first started to learn that scaring yourself was fun, you should probably check this one out. I was laughing out loud to the cheesy lines at the end. It was a good time. Glad I picked it up and I feel like you should too!

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