If you guys are following my reviews this year, you’ll have seen a pattern where at least one of my reads per month is something older. I have quite a few beat up paperbacks by John Saul and he tended to be a pretty popular, although I’m not seeing his name around as much nowadays. I grabbed Black Lightning off my shelf a few weeks ago and think I made a poor life decision since many many reviewers have stated that it’s no where near his best work. It sounded interesting to me 🤷♀️
Here are my thoughts and why I’m adding Saul’s books to my giveaway pile now
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Black Lightning
Author: John Saul
Original Release: Fawcett Books, 1995
Length: 438 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐✨ ehhh I wouldn’t start Saul with this 🤷♀️
Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:
Something about this book just absolutely failed to draw me in. Around page 350 I finally became more interested – just to be disappointed by an abrupt and sort of lame ending that left me with questions as to the future of the characters.
Towards the start a poor description of 90s CPR didn’t help. I don’t know the medical history of resuscitation that well but I’m pretty sure the EMTs would have killed Glen. The idea of the spark of life does make a good plot point. I think it’s one of the more interesting serial killer motivations I’ve read, despite the overall book falling short.
It wasn’t a bad plot though, it just never grabbed me. There wasn’t much police procedural or investigation. We get a lot of running around and gore while the characters figure out what is going on. Twisted family secrets and the cycle of abuse at the core of the plot. I didn’t dislike the characters but it was hard to have an opinion on them one way or another.
Black Lightning is fairly gory and descriptive of said gore, which I’ve learned was Saul’s go-to in his earlier books. Reading animal torture turns me off quicker than anything (not the book’s fault) but it didn’t help me stay immersed as I mostly flipped through the – gosh how long does it take to describe what he’s doing to an animal? *Shivers* no thanks. It all fits right in with Saul’s evil entity plots though.
The rating comes from the fact that I just never felt drawn in, until around page 350 when we start seeing … The things. And the stuff. And the connections. The ending was also incredibly abrupt and unsatisfying despite a decent and fast paced build up to the final scenes.
I think by reading reviews that Saul has written better work but I’ve got over 800 unread books here and based off Black Lightning, I boxed them all up to pass on 🤷♀️ I don’t really love paranormal thrillers or horror and I can’t take much scarier than King (who is terrifying) and early Patterson (pretty gorey stuff). I’m glad I gave Saul’s work a chance though.
Thanks for checking out my book review of Black Lightning by John saul. This is a book that has been on my shelves forever and I’m just rambling on about it with no obligation, but as always, all opinions are my own ♥️
Hi everyone, welcome back to Sunday Brunch! Today in episode 30 something a little different is happening as we delve into the horror community 😱 and show some support for an indie author who’s mythology based novella is coming out in two short days!
Adam Godfrey is an author who believes in doing the right thing and so he gave up a publicity opportunity in favor of not supporting someone doing damage to the indie community. I’ve seen some awesome support come to the affected authors and am thrilled and honored to offer him this platform to chat about his project! (If anyone else is interested, I’m here for you too)!
That said, read on to find out all about Narcissus, horror in general, and a debate on whether or not vampires are actually safe from mirrors 😅
🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting thing about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
🎤 When I used to work at United States Joint Forces Command, I provided information technology (IT) support to former Secretary of Defense, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
🥞What’s your brunch order today?
🎤 Oh wow . . . you know, Tony Todd, who starred in CANDYMAN, FINAL DESTINATION, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990), etc. frequently posts about his chicken and waffle meals, which has convinced me that, if I’m ever in the vicinity of a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, there’s going to be an unplanned stop to give it a try. That said, my brunch order today is going to be chicken and waffles. Final answer.
🥞 There is some drama in the horror community right now surrounding the host of a particular podcast, who is receiving harassment claims from female authors? Good on you for not supporting him and backing out of the podcast. Do you have any comments on the situation?
🎤 Yeah, I generally try to steer clear of most Twitter discourse, but due to the nature of the fast-growing numberof claims being made against this individual, as well as my (previously) scheduled appearance on the podcast, I cancelled the interview out of support for those affected by his behavior, and desire to not be associated in any way with what he had going on. I don’t know the individual in question on a personal level, have not personally read the messages exchanged, and am not here to lay judgement on anyone, but life’s taught me that more often than not, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Enough people had come forth about this individual within a very brief window of time to where I knew he wasn’t someone I wished to align myself with in any way, shape, or form and, although that had been the only podcast I had lined up to promote the release of NARCISSUS, I was more than eager to forego that opportunity in the name of doing what’s right. It’s really infuriating, and there’s no room in this world for such malicious conduct. I will always stand with the victims
🥞 Yeah wow, seems best to avoid that and hopefully those involved get the message that the indie community is a lot stronger than they are. He needs authors, not vice versa, and there’s no time and place anywhere for being a creep🤷♀️
🥞 Is your publication date affected by any of that or are you still on for May 2nd? I’ll list purchase links at the end!
🎤 Oh, not at all. The publisher (Shortwave Publishing) has absolutely no affiliation with that individual, and has also stepped forward to make this known and declare their stance against sexual harassment. They’ve been really wonderful to work with and we’re very excited to release NARCISSUS into the world on May 2!
🥞 So Narcissus is a horror novella based on the Greek myth! I’ve been seeing a lot of fantasy mythology retellings and adaptations, it’s kind of cool to see it in other genres too. What drew you to that myth?
🎤 I always loved Greek mythology, with the legend of Narcissus standing out as one of the more intriguing ones. Something about the destructive nature of self-infatuation, and how we so often see this in play today by way of narcissistic personality disorder (narcissism) among political figures, celebrities, etc. Narcissists gorge their inflated senses of self-importance on the undue admiration of others, and it’s an affliction that is, in itself, such a horrifying, all-consuming monster that impacts not only the afflicted individual, but also all who are exposed to him/her. What better Greek myth to adapt into a modern horror antagonist?
🥞I got scared while reading, sorry I’m a chicken 🥲 Looking at the book’s tag line on your Twitter that says “If your ability to avoid your own reflection were a matter of life and death, how long would you last?” What would your actual game plan be if you avoid your reflection to stay alive?
🎤 Haha! It’s quite alright. My wife doesn’t read horror either (though she’s extremely supportive of my work). She’s very much a horror lightweight.
So, my game plan . . . that’s a tough one. What I found so compelling about the concept of NARCISSUS while writing it was the sheer impossibility of the situation. Reflective surfaces surround us. A glass of water, a doorknob, a window, cell phone screen, a spoon, a freshly-waxed floor. An entity that can access us through our own reflections is a truly inescapable one, so in truth, I have no idea what I would do. And it’s not as if blinding myself would work. I wouldn’t have to see myself for my reflection to gain access to me.
Something funny though. I just sat with Robb Olson on his podcast The ARC Party and he brought up a very good point that I had never considered. Vampires have no reflections. In the world of NARCISSUS, maybe vampirism exists, and if it does, mayyyybe that would be a way to cheat the system. It’s funny, sure, but also pretty dang smart . . . haha!
🥞The cyber security and Department of Defense career sounds interesting, have you based any writing off of your experiences there?
🎤 Not directly (aside from professional publications in the cybersecurity industry), though readers will find a common thread of plausible science and technology running through the center of much of my work. I’m working final edits on a full-length novel now (BODY OF WATER), which contains some of these very elements, and I’m so excited to eventually see this one hit the reading world. It bears a concept never before explored in film or literature.
🥞 Do you have any classic (or non classic) horror favorites or what brought you into writing within the genre?
🎤 When I was young, I was a voracious reader of scary stories, and I’d devour any story anthology I could get my hands on. A couple that stick out in my mind are TALES FOR THE MIDNIGHT HOUR by J.B. Stamper and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK by Alvin Schwartz. But, truth be told, as much as I do love horror literature, I’ve always watched more horror films/tv than read horror books. Early influences include FRIGHT NIGHT, THE LOST BOYS, TWILIGHT ZONE, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, CREEPSHOW, etc. A number of early readers of NARCISSUS have commented on what a cinematic read it is, and this is probably why. When I write, I see it as a movie in my head. For much of my work, if it doesn’t lend itself well to the screen, it just doesn’t work for me.
🥞 I noticed that too with the strong descriptive elements. I can tell and tend to enjoy when books are written with that cinematic feel, it works well with a lot of space opera (and horror)!
🥞What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever read or seen in a movie?
🎤 I’ve honestly never really been spooked out by a book, but as far as films go, the scene in FRIGHT NIGHT where Amy turns into this ravenous vampire and goes after her boyfriend has always been downright terrifying. The opening scene of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE where Dan Aykroyd’s character says “You wanna see something REALLY scary?” is one of the most effective horror scenes I’ve seen. Another is the scene from SALEM’S LOT where Danny Glick (having turned into a vampire) is scraping at the window of his friend, floating in the fog just outside and begging to be let in. Yeah, that’s prime material right there.
🥞Have you read any great books recently?
🎤 I’m actually reading Stephen King’s THE STAND for the first time right now, as well as JURASSIC PARK. As a Crichton nut (one of my biggest early influences), it’s absurd that I’m just now getting to that book, but I guess I always thought “well, I’ve already seen the movie”. That was misguided thinking. It’s very different from the movie, and soooo good. I’m a huge fan of DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch, as well as THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman.
A book I recently finished that I really loved was GHOST EATERS by Clay McLeod Chapman. He’s really a brilliant writer that’s rising so fast in the horror community.
🥞 Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! This last is an open forum for you so feel free to talk about anything else you might want to say!
🎤 Thanks so much for the opportunity! NARCISSUS will be available on May 2 in ebook/print format through Shortwave Publishing and other major online retailers, and is already available on audio via Audible and iTunes, narrated by the Audie Award-winning narrator Elisabeth Rodgers. It’s not often that a narrator actually manages to enhance the reading experience, but I feel that’s exactly what she pulled off. Just a phenomenal performance.
Adam Godfrey hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He holds over twenty years of experience working for the United States Department of Defense in information technology and cybersecurity risk management. He holds a master’s degree in cybersecurity, and his professional contributions to the field have been internationally featured across a variety of media platforms.
In fiction, Adam is a novelist and author of short stories. His genre-crossing work ranges from the suspenseful to the horrific, frequently characterized by central threads of plausible science and technology gone awry.
Thank you endlessly to Celadon Books for my early copy of The Angel Maker! I’m coming to love the collection of unique and literary titles I have from them. Regardless of the genre I have come to expect a certain quality of literature and this one does not disappoint.
With the book arriving (unsolicited, but with my thanks) so close to publication date and being in the UK for most of March, I was only able to read it recently. Let’s take a look at this literary suspense & horror novel and then my thoughts!
Bookish Quick facts:
Title: The Angel Maker
Author: Alex North
Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, Feb 28 2023
Length: 322 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of atmosphere, suspense, light horror elements
HEre’s the synopsis via Am*Zon:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Whisper Man and The Shadows comes a dark, suspenseful new thriller about the mysteries of fate, the unbreakable bond of siblings, and a notorious serial killer who was said to know the future.
Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely. Until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever.
Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate the real threats from the imagined. Then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more.
Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Page is facing a particularly gruesome crime. A distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.
As with The Whisper Man, I enjoyed reading The Angel Maker but found it ultimately unsatisfying at the end. The overall pace meanders but maintains a level of dark atmosphere and suspense that kept me engaged through the entire book.
I have to admit that I tuned out slightly during the religious and metaphysical aspect discussions. I have no problem with mystical elements and philosophy, both of which are weaved into the plot in generally small doses. The problem for me is that the ending left a big question mark of what exactly that horror element was. I understand that the point is to have the reader think through the “what if”, but there wasn’t enough for me to grasp the how or the ‘why is this thing making the crazy men create Angels?’
There’s a whole possible discussion on using your gifts for good vs evil here. What would you do if you could see the future? I can see book clubs having a field day because there’s a lot to unpack on this novel.
I liked the story itself. I read this one fairly quickly once I got into it. One stylistic aspect that was hard for me to keep track of was multiple points of view on top of chronological jumps. I spent a lot of time at first flipping back and forth to recall names and events before deciding to just read and enjoy and see what happens.
The result was good, terrifying, sad, and even sadder once the pieces of the mystery started coming together. There are many characters that show the different ways that family can bond, the lingering effects of trauma, adoption, schizophrenia? and sibling rivalry in two dissimilar but sadly parallel situations.
I did like the characters too, as much as one can while they navigate guilt and unfair burdens in their own ways.
Overall, I come across as cynical but I think North is a great writer. I would recommend this book if you liked his prior novels or if you want to try a more literary suspense novel with a moderately light horror element. I know I’ll keep reading his books for sure.
A quick note on the audio: I was provided with an audio code but was not a huge fan of the narrator in that she didn’t vary the character’s voices. She is clearly spoken and has the right accent but without distinct voices it was hard to keep track of times and characters, so I only spent about two chapters in the audiobook!
Thanks so much for checking out my book review of The Angel Maker by Alex North. I received a free advanced reader’s edition in exchange for an honest review and as always, all opinions are my own♥️
This was 100% a Bookstagram made me do it read. I had a lot of friends who read and enjoyed the series it so when I saw the first two books free on Audible, I didn’t want to miss out.
Bookish quick facts:
Title: White Track Warlock
Series: Adam Binder #1
Author: David R. Slayton
Publisher & Release: Blackstone Publishing, 2020
Length: 320 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for urban fantasy fans (I get into content a bit below)
The audio is narrated by Michael David Axtell and he rocks. It is 9 hours and 19 minutes run time thru Blackstone Audio, 2020, and I recommend that route if you like audio!
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:
The complex world-building, well-shaded depictions of poverty, emotional nuance, and thrilling action sequences make this stand out. Slayton is sure to win plenty of fans.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Not all magicians go to schools of magic.
Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.
Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.
It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love.
Overall, I agree with the starred review snippet in the synopsis but I have a few mixed feelings. White Trash Warlock is a very good urban fantasy with a great narrator and surprisingly serious tone, but I absolutely have no interest in reading so much (fairly tame, pretty vanilla) m/m content. I enjoyed the book quite a bit either way.
I am not a huge urban fantasy fan but have found myself reading a lot of it recently, and this is one of the better woven ones that I’ve found. The plot is interesting. There’s a spirit hovering over Denver, wreaking all sorts of magical devastation, and the family needs Adam’s help to fix things. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that and we see everything from leprechauns to elves to Death herself on the search for answers. There’s good action and a sad but real examination of alcoholism, child abuse, and poverty. There’s a difference between poor and white trash and I’m glad he included this within! I loved seeing how the brothers started to work through their past, just, I can’t even imagine after that kind of childhood.
I liked the magic, both big and small. It wasn’t explained so much as just a part of the world. The magic ties into the various magical races a lot which I also liked. The characters are good too, Vic and Jesse are absolute treasures. I liked those two more than Adam and Robert, although I thought all of the characters are well done and I want them ALL to succeed and stop getting hurt! They have a lot to work through and show tons of development & acceptance as the book goes.
Plus there are all the twists and action you’d expect from an urban fantasy. I’d recommend this one for sure if you can do serious content considerations for child abuse, family dysfunction, and m/m romance.
And as a quick note on the audiobook, Michael David Axtell is a fantastic narrator! He did great voices and showed a lot of great emotional inflection, as well as making action scenes exciting and sad things, well, sad. I was impressed overall and especially really liked his voicing of Vic and Jesse.
TLDR: this is definitely one I’d recommend if you like or are on the fence about urban fantasy and supernatural books
Thanks for checking out my audiobook & book review of White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton! I got the audiobook included through my audible membership and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️
Imagine my surprise when a swag kit showed up for Hex You, including a lovely finished hardcover and audio code! I have a rocky relationship with Wednesday Books’ content trends so I appreciate their consideration here!!
I was curious about this series because I’ve seen the Casts all over bookstagram and never read the books, so I am glad to have a chance to do that. Hex you is the end of a trilogy and seeing as I haven’t read the first two, I can only rate it as a standalone YA urban fantasy
Seeing as I pretty much live for audiobooks these days, I also want to thank MacMillan Audio for including this audiobook code! It’s only 9 hours and 49 minutes. Cassandra Campbell narrates so many books and she’s very good. I read the first half and listened to the second, and can say I enjoyed it more on audio because the immaturity of the writing and dialogue felt less important while listening.
These stickers were also included!
Ok let’s talk about the book
Title: Hex You
Series: Sisters of Salem, #3
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 01/31/23
Length: 295 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for younger readers, I would say 14-17
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:
Twin sisters, Mercy and Hunter are witches, direct descendants of the Goode family, the founders of their town. After the murder of their mother at the hands of a foul demon, they have become the protectors of the Gates to different underworlds–ancient portals between their world and realms where mythology rules and the darkest of creatures exist.
Mercy and Khenti are trapped in the Ancient Egyptian Underworld and need Hunter’s help to escape. But while Hunter searches for a way to save them, other evil threatens Goodeville. Amphitrite is still looming–and she wants vengeance against Hunter. With the gates rapidly weakening, Amphitrite lures out a deadly creature and sets it free on the residents of Goodeville. It will take everything in Mercy and Hunter’s power to stop the goddess and seal the gates once and for all
Overall I have mixed feelings on the book. If you don’t think too hard this is a fairly entertaining and fast paced read. It actually had fairly decent themes for teens. I think you’d get more out of having read the first two books but it was easy to pick up the storyline.
I never got into much YA of this contemporary nature. It strikes me as silly that a powerful goddess would give two shits about antagonizing an American teenager. Amphitrite isn’t a goddess who shows up too much in American literature so that was briefly interesting, then disappointing because there’s not much actual mythology here. There’s a hodgepodge of different mythologies and underworlds and while it’s not hard to just read and jump into the story, I do think with a background it would (hopefully) all make more sense.
This is where I surrender my safety pin and stop poking holes in the plot, because I could go all day. (This is why I don’t read much YA)
All plot hole poking aside, it wasn’t a bad story. The dialogue felt immature and the fast pacing felt geared towards younger teens, but then a character casually mentions “bjs” and something about “slut-shaming”, a term which I had to Google. Apparently we are encouraging teens to sleep around now, so that’s… Uh…what? Besides those two instances the book is tame from a sex and mature content standpoint, but I’d still recommend for older teens.
Themes for teens? One thing I liked. The sisters have to resolve their internal & interpersonal conflicts and choose love over power & selfishness. I liked some of the friendships and the emphasis on doing the right thing after learning from one’s mistakes. Actions have consequences!
Character wise, personally I hardly ever enjoy teenage characters anymore. These felt very teenage and self centered, volatile, and changing their minds every ten seconds, so, like normal teenage girls. I liked them well enough and assumed that the characters have been established in the prior books, so there wasn’t as much development in this third novel. I won’t hold that against the book.
Xena the cat person familiar and Khenti were my favorites, I did love their dialogue.
Fast paced plot, some good banter, and a snarky cat person. The ending was actually sad as hell to me so I give the authors credit for that. I enjoyed the audiobook and the narrator tampered down the feel of the writing. It’s a solid YA read with a thankfully cute prologue to take the edge off.
TL: DR – I liked it but it’s definitely geared towards teenagers.
Here is the candle ♥️ thanks again to the publisher for this!
I obtained my free copy from Wednesday Books and am leaving this honest assessment of the book and materials provided. As always, all opinions are my own
Thanks as always to Escapist Book Tours for having me on their tour for A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell by Luke Tarzian! You can check out the book tour’s home page, see the other posts, and find out about the author at the link there!
Here’s the book blurb:
BRIEFLY, A WORD ABOUT ORDER
Order is the focal point around which existence revolves. Without order there is only chaos. And in the halls of Damnation (pronounced Dam-NAWT-ion, thank you kindly) the first sign of impending chaos is a cup of tea made without the water having first been well and properly boiled in a kettle.
Why is this relevant, O nameless narrator, you ask? Who cares about the preparatory order of tea in the fires of Hell?
Lucifer, dear reader. After all, how does one expect to properly greet the newcomers to Hell without having first had a hot cup of tea to bulwark the cold?
Behold The Morning Star, frantic on the annual Morning of Souls, the arrival of Damnation’s newest recruits.
Someone has misplaced the kettle.
See Also: Sad Boi Searches for His Missing Tea Kettle • Bring Your Tissues • Me, Myself, and I and the Times We Got High
I have a hard time rating emotional outpourings, it feels wrong to!! How do you even? What can you say? The story itself is whimsy, clever, and a mix of funny and slightly hard to push through since I also lost a parent very recently and things are a bit .. fresh
The novelette starts in one place and ends somewhere totally different. Join the characters for Lucifer’s therapy session and a joint at a hellish pizza parlor before having a look at the author’s own life.
The story itself is a bit hard to follow in that at first the demon, Stoudemire, is telling the story, then there’s a “real life” letter thrown in, followed by more demon narration before Lucifer is the final voice. He uses the same phrases as Stoudemire too so while it’s not relevant to the story itself, it’s tough for me to follow similar voices on both narrators. Lastly, it switches back to the “real life” narrator before the third section, which is a lovely collection of the author’s own meditations on grief, trauma, writing. I think my point is that the organization threw me off
But overall? Totally recommend. This is great. It’s funny. It’s “whimsy Hell” and you’re traversing trauma and The Phallic Forest at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it (and read it twice), I just think I’d have loved it if he would have grouped the fiction and nonfiction into their own sections to let the respective narratives flow. I’ve actually got copies of the author’s books and 100% going to check them out sooner rather than later.
Once again, thanks so much to Escapist Book Tours for having me. I found my copy of A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell on Kindle Unlimited and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️
I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅
Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.
I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Outsider
Series: Holly Gibney #1
Author: Stephen King
Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
Length: 576 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted
Here’s the synopsis:
An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.
As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second.
Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved. I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.
As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.
I almost always love the majority of King’s characters. Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most. He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice. Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.
After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever. I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.
While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in. At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers. I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.
(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)
Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King!
I continue to have no regrets about reading through my endless Stephen King backlog. In October I finished both Wizard and Glass (The Gunslinger #4) and Later, which is his third surprisingly deep horror & crime novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher.
What I like most about King as a person, and an author, is that it’s 2022 and he’s still writing amazing shit like “he kept moving further west like some fucked up braindead pioneer” to describe the main characters uncle, who kept moving to cheaper nursing homes as the family’s finances got worse. It’s equal parts fucked up and hilarious – King is my go to author when I need a break from the politically correct world.
As an aside, I started and now love following King on Twitter. His comments are like a little morale boost in the middle of a crazy world.
Anyway, ok let’s talk about Later
BOOKISH QUICK FACTS:
Author: Stephen King
Publisher & Release: Hard Case Crime, 2021
Length: 272 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for classic King & horror/paranormal fans
A note on the audio: Later is narrated by Seth Numrich, who has narrated many King novels and is absolutely phenomenal. Solely rating Numrich’s narration, an easy 5 stars. 6h32m long for Simon & Shuster Audio
Here’s the synopsis off Am*zon:
SOMETIMES GROWING UP
MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS
The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.
LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.
Later is a short little novel that has an incredible amount packed into it. It’s a coming of age story for Jamie, it’s a touching-at-times story of different ghosts, there’s a crime aspect, and it’s a horror story.
Like I said, this is a horror story
It’s so much more than that though. I love the characters too, from Jamie to his mom to the old professor that the family stays friends with and eventually guides Jamie through his murdery ghost problem. Nothing like an eccentric old man that likes to make fairy tales sound academic and terrible, right?
Oh, right. I was absolutely never bored, and thankfully never that scared either. Some King books are downright horrifying but Later never quite fit that mold even when it was in it’s horror element. I think he meant to keep a slightly lighter tone and focus more on the people than the scares in this one.
Another of my favorite King aspects is that he loves to shout out his prior novels and other authors too. The Ritual of Chud is back. Jamie’s mom runs a literary agency and mentions many, many books & authors including Sue Grafton.
I was so ready to smash that 5 star button until that very last reveal! It wouldn’t be a King book if someone didn’t have a mommy problem, but, it didn’t work for me at all. I’m glad to see others agreeing with this sentiment🤣
I don’t want to ramble forever but I would wholeheartedly recommend this one if you like fast paced stories with a little bit of humanity, horror, action, ghosts, monsters in all their forms, and King’s classically offbeat sense of fucked up humor.
As a note about Stephen King audiobooks – I don’t know if King personally hand picks his narrators or what but I’ve discovered most of my favorite narrators through listening to his books. They are an amazing bunch including Will Patton and Seth Numrich, both of whom bring their stories straight to life and add that little bite that adds something extra to King’s novels!
Yesterday here in WNY another person with terrorist ties made their way to the area and did something terrible. First the Buffalo massacre, now this attack on Salman Rushdie, it seems insane that crazies are coming from hours away to do their business here. My head is in knots and I am probably going to write a separate post about the actual vs figurative power of words, something weighing heavily.
So…. Dark Days
There’s not much to say about the book that I haven’t said about the series already. I would reiterate a point I made that Landy definitely expected the readers to age with the protagonist, as the content and themes are getting a little darker in each book.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Dark Days
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #4
Author: Derek Landy
Publisher & Release: HarperCollins Children’s Books, January 2010
Length: 414 pages
Rate & Recommend: I do like the series, and the audios.
A Quick Note on the audio: 8:08 narrated again by Rupert Degas. This is his last in the series apparently, sadly. I love his narration. This installment dropped the musical soundtracks which made it feel a lot shorter
Skulduggery Pleasant is gone, sucked into a parallel dimension overrun by the Faceless Ones. If his bones haven’t already been turned to dust, chances are he’s insane, driven out of his mind by the horror of the ancient gods. There is no official, Sanctuary-approved rescue mission. There is no official plan to save him.
But Valkyrie’s never had much time for plans.
The problem is, even if she can get Skulduggery back, there might not be much left for him to return to. There’s a gang of villains bent on destroying the Sanctuary, there are some very powerful people who want Valkyrie dead, and as if all that wasn’t enough it looks very likely that a sorcerer named Darquesse is going to kill the world and everyone on it.
Skulduggery is gone. All our hopes rest with Valkyrie. The world’s weight is on her shoulders, and its fate is in her hands.
These are dark days indeed.
The books in general are getting darker and Valkyrie is now training and fighting with necromancy. While Skulduggery was gone she was working with a necromancer who is trying to recruit her to their cause. I like the Shadow magic, it’s a little more interesting than the elemental magic and going forward we will have to see which branch of magic she chooses to specialize in.
There’s a found family theme too that I like between Valkyrie and Tanith. We got to see the real Kenspeckle.
The stakes are getting higher and the villains are getting nastier. This was still action packed and fast paced, just darker. There is still plenty of humor too, like naming the bad guy club and Skulduggery’s changing 💀
I think the funniest part was how the zombies couldn’t stop squabbling over dumb things and were absolutely not terrifying at all. Poor guys lolol.
And Valkyrie got a boyfriend! Haha ish. Her role is starting to change too as she has finally established herself as much more than a sidekick, able to seek her own resources and set some of her own missions.
With visuals of parental death, torture, and more detailed violence that does balance well with some more hopeful themes, I would still recommend this book to upper middle grade. The first three would be fine for almost any age.
Here’s some interesting reading I found about the series not taking off in the U.S. originally and was reissued with the new covers, in 2018
Whewww I am getting burned out on writing reviews this month, thankfully I’m almost caught up!
As a “fun for all ages” middle grade read I like the Skulduggery Pleasant series quite a bit. Playing With Fire is a fast paced, snarky sequel that I jumped into right after finishing the first book.
Let’s get into it!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Playing With Fire
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #2
Author: Derek Landy
Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, May 2008
Length: 400 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of the first book! *Not a standalone*
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:
Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.
Once Vengeous is on the loose, dead bodies and vampires start showing up all over Ireland. Now pretty much everybody is out to kill Valkyrie, and the daring detective duo faces its biggest challenge yet.
But what if the greatest threat to Valkyrie is just a little closer to home?
I have to admit the book became a bit repetitive after reading the first two back to back. The audio was once again entertaining – and Rupert Degas said hi on Instagram so that was cool – but again, the music is also getting slightly less fun after hearing it so many times in short succession.
I want to keep reading but I’m going to space the next book or two out a bit.
Not to say it’s bad though. Playing With Fire had more one liners and banter and wit, plus we got a little more motivation from the individual “good guy” characters. I liked seeing a little more of what keeps Skulduggery going, and how Valkyrie is regretting her time spent away from home too.
There were quite a few bad guys and henchmen in this one. I couldn’t keep their names, abilities, affiliations straight, and that’s totally on me. It didn’t detract too much and I loved the Billy Ray jokes.
The evil also felt a lot more cartoonish in this one, even for a middle-grade series. I did like the continuing theme of good vs bad vs gray zone though as the team navigated shifting alliances.
Overall: age appropriate, action packed, funny, and seriously grim at times. I can see these books being fun for all ages. There are a few gory horror elements but a strong middle grader would have no problem with these books.
I stuck with the audio as my Libby only has that available. Rupert Degas continues to delight and I’d definitely recommend that route if it is available.
Lastly, here are a few favorite quotes:
If you don’t see me in five minutes, then I’ve probably died a very brave and heroic death. Oh and don’t touch the radio–I’ve got it tuned right where I want it and I don’t want you messing that up.
‘Only a heathen would bring a gun to a sword fight
‘And only a moron would bring a sword to a gunfight’
Bravery, after all, isn’t the absence of fear. Bravery is the acknowledgement and the conquering of fear