Book Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie are close friends, until the day Julie goes missing while hiking in Acadia National Park. Two years down the line, Elise is the only one still clinging onto hope, and her prayers are answered when Julie mysteriously reappears. However, she has no recollection of the past two years.

Keen to reconnect, the group of friends arrange a week away at a luxury hotel, but it is clear upon arrival that something has changed. Julie is different. At first, they are small dissimilarities, but, as the week progresses, it becomes glaringly obvious that the group of friends will never be the same again..

As soon as they reach the hotel, things take a menacing turn. From creepy rooms and ghostly cold spots, to extremely odd dreams and disappearing staff members, it is obvious that something is not right with Julie. The clues are evident throughout, but her friends try to ignore them and pretend everything is okay. The slow burn of menace builds up to a chaotic ending, and Julie’s true identity is finally revealed.

I bought this when I saw it advertised on Facebook. I do love a 99p Kindle book. However, upon reading some of the less than favourable reviews on Goodreads, my first impression was a little tainted. I found it slow to begin with, but it definitely improved.

I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads. I really liked it!

Book Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin and his crew set sail from England aboard two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, on an expedition to explore the Arctic. Franklin, an experienced explorer and Royal Navy officer, had taken part in three Arctic expeditions, the latter two as commanding officer. This last expedition was to be a discovery of previously un-navigated areas of the Northwest Passage. However, early on, they suffered fatalities, only to continue and eventually become icebound near King William Island, in what was previously the Canadian Arctic, now known as the territory of Nunavut.

Stuck in the ice for more than a year with no sign of a thaw, the crew abandoned both ships in April of 1848, having lost nearly two dozen members to death, including Franklin. The survivors, led by Franklin’s deputy, Francis Crozier, and Erebus’ Captain, James Fitzjames, set out to find the mainland, and were never seen again.

A search was launched for the missing expedition in 1848, and continued throughout the 19th century, with few clues. In 2014, the wreck of Erebus was finally located, and two years later, the wreck of Terror was found. However, the crews disappearance will forever be an unsolved mystery.

In The Terror, Dan Simmons has used a combination of extensive research, brilliant fiction writing, and a heavy dose of creepiness to deliver a possible explanation for the failed expedition. I don’t mind saying, it is a masterpiece. I have long been fascinated by the lost expedition, and possess a mind that will often veer towards the supernatural and unexplained. This book does not disappoint.

Stuck in the ice for their second summer aboard ships that are slowly being crushed, the crew are dropping like flies. Scurvy is spreading, their canned rations are spoiled and becoming toxic, and there is an in-house malevolence that is slowly and ominously building.

But that is nothing compared to the terror that stalks them out on the ice.

One by one, the crew are picked off by a seemingly invincible monster, an unstoppable force of pure fury unlike anything they have seen before, and hope is fast running out.

Be warned: this is a lengthy tome, and there are many characters, but each play their own, important part in the story. I love a longer read, and at no point did I become bored or feel tempted to skim-read. It was a thoroughly fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

I gave the book five stars on Goodreads. The TV series, The Terror, based on the book, is nowhere near as good.

Book Review: The House Without A Summer by DeAnna Knippling

A novel of gothic horror, this book started out excellently. It is 1816 and Marcus is summoned home from the war after news of his brother, Barnabas’s, untimely death. The new, reluctant heir to the sprawling Penderbrook, the largest pile in England, Marcus is perturbed to find that his father has lost his mind and the land is being overtaken by a strange red fungus. On top of that, his brother’s corpse, held in the basement and showing a mysterious lack of decay, suddenly disappears.

Along with Lucy, his childhood friend and Barnabas’s fiancé, he begins to investigate his brother’s final days, and his experiments with the red fungus. A subtle yet eerie ominousness creeps into the story as they unearth more and more questions that revolve around the weird red fungus, which appears to be slowly infecting the entire area. At the same time, Marcus’s father, James, is deteriorating more and more by the day, transforming the strong Earl into a shambling figure of a man, hidden away in the nursery and surrounded by unexplained shadows and inconsistencies. Early on in the story, we are presented with suggestions of a verbally abusive nature, and an altogether unpleasant man. It isn’t until later in the book that this becomes clear.

Attempting to step into his brother’s shoes, Marcus visits the family cotton mill and becomes acquainted with the workforce. However, upon leaving for Penderbrook, he realises that things at the mill are not as straightforward as they seem. Along with Mr. Abbott, Lucy’s father, he returns to question the staff more closely, and things take a turn for the worse.

The first 60% of this book was amazingly good. Huge, atmospheric mansion, insane father. Eerie goings-on involving an infestation of red fungus that appears to affect people in odd ways. A dead body that disappears from the cellar without any explanation.

But then, things take a turn for the seriously weird. The last 20% of the book was a huge disappointment. What started out as an immensely absorbing gothic horror turned into some kind of fantasy, time travel thing. I’m not even entirely sure what happened in the end, but it wasn’t at all what I had expected. Unfortunately, it ruined it for me, and a book I had enjoyed and had earmarked for a solid four stars became a desultory 3 stars.

Brilliant at first. Puzzling towards the end.

Book Review: Drowning with Others by Linda Keir

3.5 stars. This was my Amazon First Reads choice from September last year, but I’ve only just got round to reading it. To be fair, my TBR pile on my Kindle is horrendously proportioned, so I’m trying to work my way through it while the library is closed – let’s face it, who doesn’t prefer a real book to the electronic variety? Although being able to pick up decent reads for next to nothing is a definite bonus!

Andi and Ian Copeland were high school sweethearts, the “It” couple at exclusive prep school, Glenlake. Twenty years on, they are married and their eldest daughter, Cassidy, is a senior at Glenlake.

A car is discovered, submerged in a local lake, along with the body of Dallas Walker, a teacher from Andi and Ian’s senior year who had mysteriously disappeared. Cassidy’s journalism class is assigned the task of uncovering what happened, but ugly secrets threaten to rear their head.

Both Andi and Ian had dubious links to the former teacher and writer-in-residence, and his arrival and subsequent departure all those years ago made a huge, largely negative, impact on their lives. Both of them had reasons to want him gone, but were they involved in his disappearance? The discovery of his body poses an important question: did Dallas Walker commit suicide, or was he murdered?

I found this quite difficult to get into at first. It was a little slow off the mark, and the characters didn’t really resonate with me. But eventually, it found its footing. The story jumps from present day back to Andi and Ian’s school days, and is told from the POV of Andi, Ian, and Cassidy. I particularly enjoyed the journal entries from teenagers Andi and Ian – I think they added an extra depth to the two characters, and definitely helped me to empathise with them after such a rocky start. Dallas was a particularly vile creature, swaggering around the school as if he was something special, although I guess he was to a bunch of naive 17 year-olds. His untimely ending was not mourned.

3.5 stars on Goodreads. Although it wasn’t bad, the journal entries were definitely the redemption song for me.

What Am I Reading? #Week 4

Well, I was going to post one of these every week. But then, I struggled to finish two books in Week 2, before racing through 4 books over the long weekend. It is therefore a fact – I’d get a lot more reading done if I didn’t have to work during the week! It ruins all my fun.

So, what have I got in store for this week?

1. When I Was You by Minka Kent

“After barely surviving a brutal attack, Brienne Dougray rarely leaves her house. Suffering from debilitating headaches and memory loss, she can rely only on her compassionate new tenant, Dr. Niall Emberlin, a welcome distraction from the discomfiting bubble that has become her existence.

But Brienne’s growing confidence in her new routine is shaken when she stumbles across unsettling evidence that someone else is living as…her. Same name. Same car. Same hair. Same clothes. She’s even friended her family on social media. To find out why, Brienne must leave the safety of her home to hunt a familiar stranger.

What she discovers is more disturbing than she could have ever imagined. With her fragile mind close to shattering, Brienne is prepared to do anything to reclaim her life. If it’s even hers to reclaim.”

I’m actually halfway through this one already, and I’m enjoying it. I love a good psychological thriller, and this is definitely one of those. The first half of the story certainly keeps you guessing, as Brienne’s life seems to spiral out of control. Then the twist hits you, and after that, it’s a race against time.

2. Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks

“Daisy and Simon’s marriage is great, isn’t it?

After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three.

And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies Lies Lies, Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in freefall in a mesmerising tale of marriage and secrets.”

I am a huge fan of Adele Parks and have read every single one of her books. I would describe them as women’s fiction more than anything else; the majority of them are based on relationships gone wrong and dealing with the aftermath. I’m looking forward to reading this, and the Kindle version is currently only 0.99p!

3. Drowning with Others – Linda Keir

“They have the perfect marriage. Did one of them kill to get it?

Prep school sweethearts Ian and Andi Copeland are envied by everyone they know. They have successful businesses, a beautiful house in St. Louis, and their eldest daughter, Cassidy, is following in their footsteps by attending prestigious Glenlake Academy. Then, a submerged car is dredged from the bottom of a swimming hole near the campus. So are the remains of a former writer-in-residence who vanished twenty years ago—during Ian and Andi’s senior year.

When Cassidy’s journalism class begins investigating the death, Ian and Andi’s high school secrets rise to the surface. Each has a troubled link to the man whose arrival and sudden disappearance once set the school on edge. And each had a reason to want him gone. As Cassidy unwittingly edges closer to the truth, unspoken words, locked away for decades, will force Ian and Andi to question what they really know—about themselves, about the past, and about a marriage built on a murderous lie.”

This was my Amazon First Reads for September last year, so I’m thinking it’s high time I gave it a read. It looks interesting enough – a body found in a lake, secrets from the past. Right up my street! I’ll review it once I’m done.

4. The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

“Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn. 

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.

And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you…”

I’ve had this on my Kindle for a while now. The reviews on Amazon look amazing, and I always enjoy a cult-based thriller. Watch this space for my review.

Happy Tuesday! ❤️

Book Review: Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell

If you are a fan of horror fiction yet have never read Ramsey Campbell, then you seriously need to remedy that. The power of Campbell’s writing lies in the fact that, rather than immersing his readers in out-and-out horror, he drops gems of creepiness into seemingly innocent scenes, and so weaves a thread of pure dread throughout the story. This certainly keeps the reader on their toes.

Ray and Sandra are travelling to Greece for a holiday, meeting up with their family on the small island of Vasilema. Upon arrival, they begin to notice strange occurrences which they put down to local traditions; the absence of mirrors, the habit of knocking twice before entering a room. Odd, but nothing they cannot handle. There are far more serious things to consider, such as how to break the news to their children and grand-children that Sandra is dying of cancer.

The creepy happenings seem to begin as soon as they set foot on the island, and do not diminish as the days progress, creating an underlying feeling of unrest. From strange locals seeming to take an unhealthy interest in members of their party, to vivid dreams and disturbances at night, things take a shocking turn when Ray and son-in-law Julian discover the gruesome remains of a missing tourist in a cave. Upon reporting this to the local police, Ray begins to sense that something isn’t quite right on the island and the subsequent interview leaves him with more questions than answers. What is it that the locals are hiding?

Amidst family squabbles, day trips with a sinister twist, and the constant feeling of being watched, Ray attempts to investigate the strange happenings in the nearby resort of Sunset Beach, and eventually discovers a terrifying link between the mosquito bites that have plagued his family and the legend surrounding the spooky monastery on the island.

As a fan of both Ramsey Campbell and Greece, I found this to be an excellent read. The only downside was Ray and Sandra’s insufferable family members, especially Julian, who all deserved to die, but didn’t. Their cringeworthy attempts at parenting only supplemented the uncomfortable feel of the story, and, at times, I wished I could reach into my Kindle and punch Julian in the face. Nevertheless, it was still a fantastic read.

4 stars on Goodreads.

Book Review: Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton

This is an amazing debut novel which gripped me from start to finish.

Living on the remote, windswept Shetland Islands isn’t all it was cracked up to be for obstetrician Tora Hamilton. But husband Duncan, a native of the Scottish islands, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, and the couple uprooted their comfortable life in southern England to move north. Shetland both-and-bred, Duncan has not returned home in 20 years, until now, and Tora struggles to fit in while he works away, leaving her to fend for herself in a strange place.

After the death of her beloved, ageing horse, Jamie, Tora decides to hire a digger and bury him herself in a peat field on her land. However, while in the process, she inadvertently unearths the body of a woman, wrapped in linen and showing signs of a brutal death, buried deep in her field.

As the police swarm over her land, Tora is shocked to discover that the body is not that of a centuries-old, peat-preserved body, which isn’t an unusual occurrence, but that of a more recent murder. The woman’s heart has been removed in what appears to be a ritualistic killing, and rune marks carved into her back. Things take an even more sinister turn when it is revealed that she gave birth just days before she was disposed of.

Tora becomes intent on investigating the crime, even as she receives a number of anonymous, menacing warnings to leave it alone. She doggedly pursues the case and is dragged into a frightening mystery involving powerful men, kidnapping and baby trafficking, and age-old Shetland folklore involving troll-like creatures that steal away human wives. That, along with the desolate Shetland landscape, makes for an extremely thrilling book.

I really enjoyed Bolton’s writing style, and found Tora to be a recklessly brave, socially awkward, and hilariously witty character, with quite an active imagination and an aptitude for attracting trouble, even when attempting to avoid it. I also loved the folklore and the descriptive detail of the Shetland Islands, where I would love to visit.

So good that I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

Book Review: Cujo by Stephen King

During my young teen years, when my reading taste was moving on from my staple animal stories to literature of a more adult persuasion, I devoured the majority of the horror books in my local library, most notably Stephen King, James Herbert, and Peter Straub. I loved those old books, and treasured my battered, second-hand copies of Christine, IT, The Rats, etc.

I might have to review that Top 3 now.

Weirdly enough, however, I never read Cujo. I saw the film; I think everyone from my era saw and were slightly traumatised by the film. But I never read the book, a fact I only alighted on last week when I read a post on Facebook about favourite Stephen King novels (at the time, The Shining, Misery, and The Green Mile).

Upon realising that I hadn’t read Cujo, I logged straight onto Amazon and ordered a used copy. It arrived last week, and I started reading it on Tuesday.


Cujo is a huge St. Bernard dog, weighing in at nearly two hundred pounds, but the softest and sweetest dog ever. He is adored by his owner, ten year-old Brett Camber, son of mechanic, Joe Camber, and Cujo, in turn, adores his BOY.

One day, while out chasing rabbits, Cujo unearths a hole in the ground which is, unfortunately, home to a colony of rabid bats. Sadly, he gets bitten, and from then on, his story takes a downward turn.

As the huge dog, formerly such a good boy, slowly deteriorates, life goes on in the town of Castle Rock. Vic and Donna’s marriage hits a rough patch when her infidelity is brought to his attention in a brutally honest letter, and, struggling to cope, he leaves town on a business trip. Left at home with their five-year-old son, Tad, Donna is racked with guilt, but attempts to soldier on. She is having trouble with her car and decides to, along with Tad, drive up to Camber’s farm to get it fixed.

Unbeknownst to her, the Camber’s dog, Cujo, has gone on a murderous rampage, killing anyone in his path, and Donna and Tad are next on his hit list. Trapped for three days in Donna’s broken-down car with a rabid dog standing guard outside, waiting to rip them apart, Donna and Tad have to fight for survival, and many lives are about to be changed.

Sounds terrifying? This book really is, but it is not all blood and gore. King weaves a story of horror combined with family issues, work problems, and revenge. He knows how to delve deep and really create his characters, giving the reader a huge insight into their persona, their feelings, and their life. As a result, you truly begin to know them.

I have to admit, although Cujo becomes a vicious killer, I actually felt pity for him throughout the book. He was an innocent bystander, caught up in something he had no control over, and the way King describes the dog’s thought processes as the story progresses is nothing short of genius. He creates a killer, but also explains in no uncertain terms that Cujo is a well-loved, soft-natured, good boy who is as much a victim as his victims.

As an animal lover, I thought I would find this book difficult to read, but Cujo’s plight is dealt with sensitively, and by the end of the book, you want him to be killed, just to put him out of his obvious misery. The story also highlights rabies, which is a real threat in some countries and should be brought to peoples attention.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. Highly recommended.

Book Review: The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

Professor Theo Cray is a computational biologist, on a field trip in Montana to study phenotypic plasticity in wood frog tadpoles, when he is caught up in a homicide investigation. An ex-student of his has been found brutally murdered in woodland not far from the motel he is staying at, and Theo is the prime suspect.

Upon further investigation, it appears that the murder was in fact a vicious bear attack, but Theo is not convinced. Against the wishes of local law enforcement, he sets out to investigate the death himself and uncovers a number of disappearances in the area, dating back to years before.

Using a combination of his own computer software, developed to sort through various points of information and identify patterns, and a quizzical and analytical mind, Theo doggedly begins to track a ruthless killer, unearthing bodies and secrets along the way.

But somebody is intent on keeping the murders a secret, and will stop at nothing to ensure that.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It was like a science lesson and a thriller rolled into one, and I learnt some brilliant tidbits of information along the way. Theo is an amusing character too, with some great one-liners and a stubborn determination to get to the root cause no matter what happens along the way.

Can’t wait to read the sequel!

Book Review: When You Disappeared by John Marrs

I really like John Marrs’ imagination. His books are never your run-of-the-mill psychological thrillers, but instead something a little bit different.

Catherine’s morning appears to be a normal one – waking early to get the kids ready for their day, feeding the dog, going about her daily business. However, nothing is as it seems, as she gradually begins to realise. Her husband Simon has disappeared. His running shoes are still beside the door, his car is parked in the driveway, his wallet is on the dresser. But as for Simon, he has vanished without a trace.

Twenty-five years later, he appears on her doorstep, completely guilt-free about deserting his wife and children so callously, yet intent on explaining his life in the intervening years, and his reasons for leaving.

The story jumps back and forth from present day to twenty five years previous, detailing Simon’s story of adventure and debauchery across Europe and the US as a single man, and Catherine’s life of doubt and depression, struggling to raise her young family in the wake of their loss.

I must confess to disliking Simon intensely. He is a pathetic excuse for a man with no evident conscience, but his story is shocking and action-packed, and not what I had expected at all.

A fabulous read. Highly recommended.