Review: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Ghost StationGhost Station by S.A. Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ophelia Bray is a psychologist specializing in the study and prevention of ERS, a space-based condition, similar to PTSD, that can lead to mental deterioration and violence.

Dr. Bray is assigned to join a small exploration crew as they journey to an ancient, abandoned planet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take Ophelia long to realize that the new crew isn’t exactly excited to have her aboard.

They’ve never needed a Head Doc before, why now?

Ophelia is confident in her purpose though, so she just tries to do her best to fit in and help them to understand the reasons for her attendance. She knows better than most just how imperative her skills may become.

The rest of the crew have worked together before and feel more like a family than a team. Ophelia, as the only outsider, has a long way to go to endear herself to the group.

As they begin to establish themselves on the abandoned planet, they start discovering disturbing signs left behind by the previous colonizers, who apparently departed with haste.

It presents a real mystery for the crew. They have no idea what happened to the previous inhabitants, but signs are pointing to the fact that they didn’t live happily ever after.

The longer Ophelia and the crew remain on the planet, the more unnerving things become, until Ophelia’s worst nightmare starts to come to life.

Ghost Station is the latest from S.A. Barnes, author of Dead Silence, which I read and really enjoyed. I’ve been anxiously anticipating more from Barnes ever since. I loved the SF Horror vibes she delivered in Dead Silence and definitely believe she succeeded on that front here as well.

For me, Ghost Station is way more of a slow burn than Dead Silence, but the content and MC, Ophelia, are so interesting, I didn’t mind that one bit. I enjoyed getting to know Ophelia and learning of her past and motivations, while watching her try to find a place within this new crew.

I also feel like you can see a maturation of Barnes writing in this one, which is lovely to see. We love to watch an author progress over the course of their career.

I really enjoyed the dangerous feel of the atmosphere that was created on the planet they were exploring. There was a sense of foreboding over every page that kept it compelling and also kept my pulse slightly elevated.

The audiobook for this was fantastically narrated by Zura Johnson. I highly recommend that as a format choice if you have the option available to you. The narration style was very soothing to me, in spite of this being an intense story. I really felt myself relaxing into it.

I was extremely satisfied with how Barnes wrapped this up. The conclusion surprised me in the direction it ultimately took. I wasn’t expecting it and I was happy with that.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys SF Horror, or darker SF in general. As far as Science Fiction goes, I would consider this light, with concepts that are easily understandable to a wide audience. You aren’t going to get bogged down in scientific jargon in this one, if maybe that is a concern for you.

This is an easily understandable, compelling story, with chills and thrills, as well as great characters throughout. Additionally, I think this could translate really well to film.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

As mentioned above, I was anxiously awaiting this one and it didn’t disappoint. I look forward to seeing what Barnes comes up with next!

View all my reviews

Review: Diavola by Jennifer Marie Thorne

DiavolaDiavola by Jennifer Marie Thorne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first thing that attracted my attention to Diavola was this stunningly-disturbing cover. What does it even mean?

I had to know.

Then I read the synopsis, which completely sold me. A Gothic-feeling Travel Horror novel, set in Italy, full of family drama and haunted happenings. Yes, please.

I was lucky enough to receive an audio copy, and definitely recommend that format.

The narration style of Andi Arndt was absolutely perfect for this story, and as a representation of the MC, Anna’s, voice. I was transported into the Pace family vacation via this audio.

We follow Anna as she meets her family in Italy, where they have rented a gorgeous historic villa near the tiny town of Monteperso. As Anna tries to settle in, the atmosphere is tense. Her family is complicated.

Mom is always passively-aggressively nagging at Anna about her life choices. Dad seems distant, except when he would like to remind everyone of who paid for their vacation. Nicole, Anna’s sister, has their entire itinerary mapped out to the second, and god forbid anyone question it.

Nicole’s two daughters are also there, as well as her husband. They seem to be the only ones in the family Anna even remotely gets along with. Thank goodness for them.

Then there’s Anna’s twin brother, Benny, attending with his arrogant, asshat of a boyfriend, Christopher.

Anna and Benny’s relationship is the most difficult to figure out. As twins, their relationship has always been a special one, but it is definitely strained at this point. At times it seems good, at other times, not so much.

Honestly, that’s the best way to describe this vacation: strained. Unfortunately, it’s not just the family though. The villa itself, is strange and seems to be affecting everyone.

There’s a locked tower room, odd noises and an ominous atmosphere that’s downright oppressive. I would certainly need a vacation after this vacation.

I was impressed with how immersive this ended up being. When I was in it, I was really in it.

I went through a whole range of emotions and was astounded by the direction it ultimately went. I wasn’t expecting a lot of what occurred in the later half of the story. It fleshed out so many layers that were there all along that I feel like I missed initially.

I am already looking forward to reading it again. I would love to annotate it and really just spend some more time with it. It’s beautifully executed!

I can’t stress enough how gripping and haunting this is. My mind was left reeling, trying to interpret all of the events that went down. The atmosphere is top notch, but it never overshadowed the characters, or the emotions that were raging between them.

I would recommend this to any Horror fan, particularly if you enjoy Travel Horror, or Horror featuring complicated family dynamics. I feel like I know the Pace family inside and out. I’m practically one of them at this point.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review.

Diavola has been my greatest surprise of 2024 thus far. I cannot wait to read more from Jennifer Marie Thorne!

View all my reviews

Review: The Gathering by C.J. Tudor

The GatheringThe Gathering by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The easiest 5-star rating I have given thus far in 2024. I adored every moment of reading this story.

C.J. Tudor has explored new territory here. I can’t wait for more. It’s so good, and C.J., if you happen upon this review, this book was everything…

I basically fell in love with this book the very first time I set eyes on this eerie snow-covered cover. Added to that, the publisher created a fascinating Horror Mystery synopsis.

They had my attention. It was giving me heavy Bone White ((one of my favorites ever)) vibes and I was all over it!

Luckily, I was blessed with an early copy and although I tried to push it off closer to release date, here we are.

In this story, we follow Detective Barbara Atkins, an experienced specialist in vampyr killings. She gets sent to the very small and remote town of Deadhart, Alaska, to investigate the brutal murder of a teen boy.

Deadhart has a Colony of vampyrs living on their periphery with which they have an unsettling history. This most recent murder is the literal match to the wick. The townspeople are fired up and calling for a cull.

Barbara is tasked with determining whether or not a vampyr was responsible for the brutal slaying of the teen, and if so, does that solitary act necessitate a cull.

Needless to say, some of the townspeople don’t warm to Barbara’s presence. They’re a small, tight-knit community and don’t feel they need outsiders dictating how they handle their town and it’s adjacent Colony.

As the Reader, you go along with Barbara as she inserts herself into this town and really digs into this specific case, as well as anything else that may help her make her determination in regards to this Colony.

I was immediately intrigued with this set-up. I enjoyed how it’s essentially our world, with one major difference, vampyrs are real and they live openly amongst humans.

They may live in their own Colonies, but everyone knows they exist. It’s an interesting set-up to imagine.

I think Tudor did a great job of developing this. We learn slowly the details of the relationship between humans and vampyrs, historically, so it doesn’t weigh you down with major descriptors right off the bat.

It’s strictly a need to know basis and I liked that. I never felt like I needed more information. I had exactly what I needed to feel completely enraptured by this world.

I also loved the way the setting of Deadhart is portrayed. The atmosphere is so rich. It’s dark, uninviting and feels dangerous. I was shivering and wasn’t sure if it is from the cold coming off the pages, or the fear. Tudor created a real sense of dread; my love language.

We do get some other perspectives, so you aren’t locked in with Barbara the whole time. The back and forth kept the story going at a nice clip and I felt each perspective added a lot to the build-up.

One of my favorite aspects of this was Barbara’s relationship with the local law enforcement, particularly a former deputy, Tucker. They made a great team. Their relationship felt very natural and I enjoyed their coworker energy.

As you get past the mid-point, the pace really kicks up. You can feel the tension rising in the whole town. You can just tell that everything is going to come to a head.

I was nervous. You do start to care about some of the characters and the dangers were everywhere. I was so concerned for everyone that I cared about. I wanted everyone to make it out unscathed.

Overall, this was just so fun. It was well constructed and super gripping. I honestly hope this sets a new trend for vampire stories. It was unsettling realistic.

Thank you to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to pick up a hard copy for my shelves!!!

View all my reviews

Review: The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden

The House of Last ResortThe House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m just out here chilling on minority opinion island…

…trying to figure out how best to write my review of The House of Last Resort.

Even though this was the latest release from Christopher Golden, an author I have really enjoyed in the past, I was a little hesitant going into this one. While I hadn’t read any reviews, that overall rating of 3.3 was glaring me in the face.

I was concerned. Did Golden have a flop?

I still haven’t read a lot of the reviews, so I am not exactly sure what the issue is, but I have read this one and I really, really enjoyed it!

This went into a surprising Religious Horror direction, which I love. It felt Literary in it’s build-up and I loved the culturally-rich setting. I feel like this would make an incredible movie. It was so vibrant.

In this novel, we’re following American couple, Tommy and Kate Puglisi, who move to the small hilltop town of Becchina, in Italy.

Becchina is dwindling, with the population aging out and young people moving away. In an effort to revitalize the area, the mayor starts a program to sell abandoned homes to anyone for a single Euro, as long as the buyer promises to live there for at least five years.

Tommy and Kate jump at the chance. Tommy has family there and they’re excited about the change in lifestyle and ability to get to spend more time with his family.

Upon arrival, the house isn’t quite giving them the warm, romantic vibes they expected though. It’s giving a more haunted, demonic feel than they would have signed up for.

And why do all the locals whisper about this place?

We follow Tommy and Kate as they attempt to settle in, make their new house a home and become involved with the local community.

Strange things are happening at the house though that they can’t explain. They’ve discovered rooms they didn’t know were there and the more they dig into the history of the house, the more nervous they become.

They ultimately learn that their home was owned by the church for generations and there are dark, dangerous secrets hiding behind every corner, and perhaps even under their feet. With a history like that, will this place ever be able to become a comfortable family home?

As mentioned above, I really enjoyed this. I have always vibed with Golden’s writing. It’s engaging.

Granted, not every moment is smash-bang in your face, it has a lot of quiet, more subtle moments, but all the more for the build, I say. I love a slow burn, as long as the payoff is worth it and IMO, this one is.

Once I started this book, I was definitely consumed by the story. I read 43% in my first sitting. I barely came up for air. I ended up finishing it in a day.

I loved the atmosphere and the feeling of the historic town and property. I was intrigued by the mystery of the house and as a lover of Religious Horror, I was happy to see it take a turn in that direction. The whole feeling of that place was beautifully depicted by Golden.

I would recommend this to Horror fans, or people who enjoy a slow burn set amongst a creepy, mysterious atmosphere. Also, haunted house fans, this is a unique take in the subgenre, so you should definitely check it out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me a copy to read and review. I always look forward to picking up Golden’s latest work.

This one was definitely a win for me!

View all my reviews

Review: Death in the Dark Woods (Monster Hunter Mystery #2) by Annelise Ryan

Death in the Dark Woods (Monster Hunter #2)Death in the Dark Woods by Annelise Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death in the Dark Woods is the 2nd-installment to Annelise Ryan’s Monster Hunter Cozy Mystery series.

This series features cryptozoologist and specialty bookstore owner, Morgan Carter, who helps investigate mysteries that may be linked to potential cryptid activity.

The beauty of this series is that it combines two of my very favorite things: creepy vibes and cozy mysteries.

I really enjoyed the 1st-book, A Death in Door County, when I read it last year and was looking forward to going on more adventures with Morgan and her lovable dog, Newt.

While that first story featured a potential lake monster, in this one, Morgan travels a little farther from home to help investigate possible Bigfoot sightings.

Specifically, the Bigfoot sightings have occurred around the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest area of Bayfield County, Wisconsin. When a man is found dead, with an injury to his throat not thought to be cause by a human, a local warden, Charlie, calls Morgan for help.

Morgan is excited that her cyptid hunter business is finally getting some traction after gaining notoriety following the lake monster case. She’s more than happy to assist Charlie.

Nevertheless, Morgan is a skeptic at heart, so it’s gonna take solid proof for her to claim a Bigfoot is responsible for the fatal attack they’re investigating.

Morgan and Newt travel there and meet up with Charlie, who introduces them to their comfortable temporary lodgings, and then they get straight to work.

Morgan immerses herself in the small town, questioning numerous people about their experiences and opinions when it comes to the area’s Bigfoot legends.

It’s true that some claim to have seen Bigfoot type creatures, but that’s not the only thing Morgan uncovers. She reveals a trail of secrets and lies that could end up having more to do with the recent murder than anyone seems to be suspecting.

As the pressure starts to build, will Morgan and Newt be able to sniff out the killer before they strike again, or could Morgan end up being the next victim?

I had so much fun with this. I actually enjoyed it even more than the 1st-book. I loved that Morgan was traveling away from home, and that she was sort of inserting herself into this new place and digging around, trying to figure out whatever she could.

I loved learning about the local area along with her and meeting the various colorful characters of the small town.

Jon Flanders, the Police Chief, who asked for Morgan’s assistance in the 1st-book, appears in this one as well, as their relationship has continued to grow.

There have been some sparks between them and I love the way the chemistry is continuing to build. They both have some traumas in their past, so I like that it’s moving slowly, at a pace that seems realistic. It makes sense.

I also liked the dynamic between Morgan and Charlie. Charlie, as the local girl, has her own very strong opinions on the Bigfoot legends and I liked how Morgan didn’t let Charlie really sway her one way or another.

The highlight for me though is definitely the relationship between Morgan and Newt. I absolutely adore and appreciate the way that Ryan writes their connection.

As a Dog Mom, who frequently spends the majority of a book worrying about any doggie characters who may be involved, it was so nice to just sit back and enjoy the fact that Newt got to participate in pretty much everything Morgan does.

And I never worried about him! You can tell that Annelise Ryan is a dog person, and I just knew that she wouldn’t take it anywhere uncomfortable. It was freaking great!

At this point, I’m not sure what the long-term plans are for this series, but I really hoping for more books. There’s so much left to explore with Morgan, both as far as potential cryptid mysteries, but also with her personal life.

I am properly attached to Morgan, Newt and even Jon. Keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be getting news of a 3rd-book soon!

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

I recommend this to Cozy Mystery fans. It’s a unique series and a lot of fun. I’ve never read anything quite like it!

View all my reviews

Review: The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto

The ObsessionThe Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Obsession is an intense YA-Thriller from one of my go-to authors, Jesse Q. Sutanto. This novel was released in 2021, and I’m so happy I dipped into my backlist for it.

Totally worth it!

In The Obsession we follow two teens, Delilah and Logan. Logan falls in love with Delilah on sight. She’s perfect. Everything he has ever wanted and he will have her.

He learns everything he can about her by doing things such as watching her at school, studying her social media, and aiming a hidden camera at her house.

You know, all totally normal things.

For her part, Delilah is attracted to Logan, but then they go out on a date and he’s way too intense. Like over-the-top intense. She’s had enough of controlling men in her life. She has no room for one more.

Delilah distances herself, thinking he’ll get the point.

Logan is desperate. He feels Delilah slipping away from him, but wait, she can’t exactly get away from him. He knows what she did. The worse thing she has ever done in her life. He knows. In fact, he has it on video.

He’ll just let her know, she rethink distancing herself from him real quick. But Delilah is not going to be as easily swayed as Logan anticipates. Who will end up the cat, and who will end up the mouse?

I listened to the audiobook for this and definitely recommend that format. The dual narration provided the perfect back-and-forth for Delilah and Logan’s perspectives.

I loved how in your face both of these characters were. There’s not a lot of apologizing for their thoughts or actions. It is what it is with these two.

I flew through this story. It takes turns alternating between the two MCs and at the end of each chapter, I wanted to know more. I had to keep going. How was this possibly going to be resolved? It felt impossible.

Initially, I was so disgusted with Logan. That kept me going, but then I see Delilah come in and I’m like, eyebrows raised, okay, you’re not as sweet and innocent as you first appear. It’s hard not to root for Delilah once you hear her story.

Logan on the other hand, my feelings never changed for him, but he was an interesting antagonist for Delilah’s overall story arc.

I’ll admit, I didn’t read the full synopsis before starting and I recommend you don’t either. Reading it over now, there are some things revealed that surprised me when I came to them in the story. I feel like I would have been bummed if I had gone in knowing those things ahead of time.

This had such a satisfying conclusion for me and it actually really made me think about what makes a villain.

Sutanto never fails to surprise me. Whether it’s by jaw-dropping twists, witty banter, or thoughtful character work, I keep on coming back and will continue to do so.

I’m so glad that I finally took the time to pick this one up. It was a lot of fun. I need more YA-Thrillers from Sutanto!

View all my reviews

A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand

A Haunting on the HillA Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Initially, after hearing of the upcoming release of A Haunting on the Hill, the first-ever authorized novel to return to the world of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, I thought, this is either going to be amazing and nostalgic, or we’re all going to hate it…

After reading it in a day, I’m happy to report, I loved it and though I wouldn’t say it was nostalgic, it did successfully deliver the atmosphere I was hoping for.

It’s funny because going in, I didn’t read any reviews and honestly, I didn’t even know what the overall rating for the book was since its release. I was surprised after I finished it and rated it, to see that the overall rating was only a 3.46.

It looks like I’m in the minority opinion again.

In this story, we follow Holly, a struggling playwright, her girlfriend, Nisa, a singer, their friend, Stevie, an actor, and a sort of washed-up starlet, Amanda, as they move into Hill House to work on the play Holly has been writing.

Holly rented the mansion for a month after seeing it for the first time while on a weekend getaway upstate. It just seemed like the perfect place to bring her play, The Witch of Edmonton, to life. It promises to be a next-level artistic experience for all involved.

From their very first tour of the house things seemed off, like the house has a spirit and mind of its own. Nevertheless, Holly isn’t able to stop imagining them living and working amongst its gothic goodness. She feels inspired.

Thus, the lease is signed and all associated parties make their way to the property. It’s showtime.

As with Jackson’s original, I loved the feel of the house. Hand did a great job channeling the dreadful atmosphere and the more supernatural elements were appropriately paced and eerie. It was interesting to watch the house unravel each of the characters in their own unique way.

I did find the writing style a little uncomfortable at first, but then I started to see it more as Holly’s perspective, her way of viewing the world and the unfolding events. It is how I could picture her relaying what was happening around her.

With that in mind, it began to flow a lot more easily for me.

Even though this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and I have had a hard copy since its release, I decided to wait for a copy of the audiobook from my local library in order to read it.

I had heard from a couple of different people that the audiobook was amazing and I couldn’t agree more. It is a great production, with fabulous narration and sound effects that boosted my overall reading experience.

I’m not sure if I would have rated it as highly had I just read a hard copy, and unfortunately we’ll never know, because I will never forget this listening experience. It was that good.

I also feel like the way this story is told, a bit slower and more subtle in the beginning, with a lot of character work towards the middle, then a rapid increase in supernatural occurrences as it races towards a rapid conclusion, lends itself well to the audio format.

It kept me engaged and I loved picturing the vivid imagery that Hand developed for us. I also enjoyed getting to know this cast of fairly unlikable characters.

The setting, the atmosphere, the relationships and their interactions, this all suited my tastes quite well. I walk away a very happy girl.

I’m already planning to read this again next year, most likely in the Fall. I am going to read Jackson’s original, immediately followed by this. I think that could help to enhance the experience even more.

At the end of the day, I appreciate so much the story that Hand was able to create here. It had to have been a tremendous amount of pressure to take on this task and I think she did an incredible job with it.

View all my reviews

Review: The Watchers by A.M. Shine

The WatchersThe Watchers by A.M. Shine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A.M. Shine’s The Watchers kicks off quickly, with the opening section following a husband and wife, who seeking an adventure, go for a drive through the wickedly-enchanting lands of Connemara, in the West of Ireland.

The events of that drive set the tone, and also the stage, for the rest of the story. Needless to say, I was hooked.

We then meet our MC, Mina, who along with an unusual copilot, a beautiful Golden Conure, also goes traveling through those same wild lands.

Mina’s trying to make a quick buck. It should be easy, delivering the parrot safely to its new owner. When her car breaks down on the abandoned road though, her task suddenly becomes anything but easy. Mina exits her car, bringing the bird with her, as she searches for help.

The woodlands are eerie enough, but the screams make it all so much worse…

With no cell phone reception, or clue as to where she is, Mina has to keep going. There’s no telling how long it could take another car to come along this way.

Eventually she comes across a woman, shouting at her and waving for her to enter a concrete bunker. Scared out of her wits by the woods, Mina does as she’s told and enters the shelter. From there, she becomes captive to that seemingly safe space. A hostage of what’s lurking in the woods.

If you’re expecting answers quickly, don’t be. Part of the success of this story is the way that Shine builds that sense of uncertainty and unease. My thoughts were swirling as Mina entered the shelter.

What the heck was going on? The other residents of the shelter, Madeline, Daniel and Ciara, all seem like they’ve been there for a while, but just how long is unclear? And what is watching them? What are they afraid of?

I will say, about a third of the way through, it did start to slow down for me. We focus more on the characters at that point, and their forced interactions in the tiny shelter.

Part of me feels like that may have been intentional by the author. Perhaps as a way to lull the Reader into a bit of complacency, because just as you forget how much danger these characters are in, it rears its ugly head again and that fear and suspense is back.

Even with this pace change though, I was still intrigued and invested in finding out what the truth was.

This ultimately went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and there were a few reveals, as the conclusion approached, that I found to be so clever and disturbing.

I was definitely impressed with the atmosphere and horror concepts that Shine delivered here. This type of unsettling Folk Horror is something I tend to enjoy and this one will now live rent-free in my brain for a long time.

I recommend this to any Horror Reader, particularly if you enjoy unsettling atmospherea and Folk Horror that can get under your skin and stay there. I would also recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Pines by Blake Crouch, or Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The Watchers is a very solid story of Irish Folk Horror. I found it disturbing in the best ways. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!

View all my reviews

Review: Let Him In by William Friend

Let Him InLet Him In by William Friend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a cover that immediately grabbed by attention, Let Him In impressed me with its exploration of some really complicated family dynamics.

In this story, we meet Dad, Alfie, and his twin daughters, Cassia and Sylvie. Nine months ago, the girls’ Mum, and Alfie’s long-time partner, Pippa, died suddenly and unexpectedly in their home.

Alfie, battling his own grief, is struggling to parent the girls alone. In spite of the challenges, Alfie feels like overall, they’re doing okay. At least as well as could be expected.

Things take a turn though when the girls wake Alfie one night stating, ‘Daddy, there’s a man in our room…’

Cue eyebrow raise, jaw drop and shiver running up spine.

That starts the girls’ new found obsession with their imaginary friend, Black Mamba, who they describe as a man who can shape-shift into any animal. He protects them and also takes them on fabulous adventures.

Alfie calls in Pippa’s sister, the girls’ Aunt Julia, for help with the Black Mamba situation. As a psychiatrist, he feels Julia is probably much more qualified to navigate this situation than he is.

The Reader gets both Alfie and Julia’s perspectives as the drama with the girls’ new friend escalates.

What they both assume is just a coping mechanism following Pippa’s untimely death begins to feel like more, however, as a series of increasingly disturbing events occurs. This includes both Alfie and Julia having visions that could possibly be linked to the mysterious Black Mamba.

Will Julia and Alfie be able to exorcise this hostile presence from their lives? Their family has already been shattered by tragedy, but it seems this being, the hold he has over the girls, could end up causing even further irreparable harm.

I really enjoyed my time with this story. I did end up listening to the audiobook and appreciate that it included the use of dual narration. Having a different voice for both Alfie and Julia helped to bring the story to life.

I thought the family dynamics were fascinating, not just amongst our main characters, but the backstory of Pippa and Julia’s family as well.

This is a debut novel for William Friend and I feel like it’s definitely impressive in that regard. The story has a ominous, haunting feel throughout that succeeded in getting under my skin.

There were a couple places towards the end where I got a little lost, but that could totally just be my own issue. Wandering mind and all that. Besides those couple of spots though, overall, I was extremely invested in this.

One of my favorite Horror tropes is the creepy kid trope. Friend definitely nailed that. Bonus points for them being twins and for the super-disturbing imaginary friend.

I’m not going to say anything else about this one, because I feel it’s best served if you go in knowing just the basics. Settle in and go along for the ride. This is the perfect read to kick off your October Spooky Season TBR.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I’m looking forward to more from William Friend!

View all my reviews

Review: Mister Magic by Kiersten White

Mister MagicMister Magic by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mister Magic is the sophomore-Adult release novel from beloved author, Kiersten White. With a cover that could hang in an art gallery, this one caught my eye right away.

After my experience with Hide last year though, I was slightly concerned about picking it up. I’m happy to report that this is incredibly compelling and kept me glued to the pages, wanting to know more, the entire way through.

I do feel like I cheated a little though. In my friend, Debra’s review she mentioned that she wished she had read the Author’s Note first.

I felt that exact same way about Hide and thanks to her jogging my memory, I decided to do that here. So, before I even started the first chapter, I flipped right to the back and read the entire Author’s Note.

Honestly, I do feel like doing that had a positive impact on my experience. Frankly, I’m glad I did it that way.

Just being able to keep in mind the author’s inspirations and motivations, which I wouldn’t have known had I not read that first, while reading helped to provide a bit of context for a lot of the more emotional bits of the story.

In this one, we’re following a group of adults, who once starred together on a hit-Children’s television series, Mister Magic. The show stopped airing 30-years ago, after a supposed accident on set.

Over the years, Mister Magic has become more of an urban legend than a show. You can’t watch it any where, no tapes exist and no one can seem to really remember anything specific about it, including the actors themselves.

At the start of the story, the group of actors, once known as the Circle of Friends, is reunited under the guise of filming a documentary of the show. Together they return to the actual property where the show was once recorded.

The property itself is disturbing from the beginning. It’s remote, set in a desert landscape and the house has some odd architectural choices. It got my hackles up right away.

The group of old friends are going to be staying in the main house during the course of the documentary, shooting confessional/interview-type footage in the basement.

It’s through their time at the house, their interactions and their interviews that the full picture of Mister Magic begins to fill in. The revelations are shocking to say the least.

I found this to be an incredibly interesting story. The premise was like nothing I have ever read. It was so mysterious from the start and I loved White’s creative use of mixed media to make the phenomenon of Mister Magic feel more real for the Reader.

There was just something about the idea of this program that was creepy to me. How many people could talk about it, remembered it being a part of their lives, but couldn’t list a single real fact about it.

It reminded me of like Captain Kangeroo from my own childhood. The vibes felt sort of similar. I loved that show as a kid. I remember being mesmerized by it, but I can’t recall a single tangible thing about it. It’s so weird.

It had such a dark and ominous feel, even before I had any clue where it was going, I sort of felt afraid. Particularly because of one of the main characters, Val’s, reaction to the house and the idea of the show.

I also feel like it stayed intriguing throughout. White just kept building and building on the idea the show, and its history, right up to the shocking conclusion.

Admittedly, the end slipped a bit, IMO. It got a little too heavy-handed in the messaging and seemed to go off the rails as far as delivering easily understood action. Overall though, a hugely successful comeback!

Thank you to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m so glad I gave this one a shot!!

View all my reviews