Category Archives: Horror

Destroyer of Worlds (End Times 4) by Shane Carrow

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This is the weakest book of the series so far. I got the feeling that the author had a good idea for the ending sequence, but didn’t quite know how to get his characters to that ending and pad the narrative enough to get a novel-sized book, so he inserted a lot of filler. I mean  A LOT. 

It seems like nothing happens for the first half of the book – everyone is just sitting around the big downed spaceship and twiddles their thumbs. That makes for a very boring narrative. Maybe the author was trying to show us just how stir crazy everyone is getting, but that fell flat for me. Also, even once Matt sets out on the Canberra to find the nuke, the story still progresses at a snails pace. They travel, then travel some more, then spend a couple months diving into the wreck to find the nuke and codes. There is no tension or danger honestly for about 80% of the book. Then all of a sudden everything picks up to a breakneck pace and happens all at once. Then it’s non-stop action until the ending that doesn’t let you take a breath and process what’s happening. 

Unfortunately, this explosive ending stretches my disbelief to the point of breaking. Are you telling me that there is this overwhelming military force that had been amassing  around the Canberra and nobody noticed a thing? Where did they get all the military equipment and fire power? How did they move all that across zombie-infested Australia without bringing a hoard of zombies behind them or making a heck of a lot of noise trying to eliminate them? They just pop out of nowhere like an evil deux ex machina. Not to mention that the fighter jets that make an appearance at the end of the book had to have been stationed somewhere relatively near. They can’t fly around indefinitely. Also, how do those groups communicate with each other? Are you telling me that nobody on the Canberra was monitoring radio traffic? I don’t buy this.

Also, for a zombie apocalypse book, this one has very few zombie encounters in it. The undead are almost an afterthought here, which also makes no sense. We were told in the previous three books that zombies congregate to places where humans are. That’s why all other refugee camps and cities were eventually overrun and infected.  Yet we have characters sitting in one spot for months, with more and more humans slowly congregating towards them… nothing. Where are the hoards of zombies that should be descending on their ramshackle camp? Heck, the characters aren’t even worried about that enough to build walls or defenses…

I liked the explanation for the zombie plague and the bigger treat that looms over humanity, but I would like the author to stay consistent with the lore he established in previous books. I also hope that the next book will be more dynamic than this. I will eventually read it, since I bought the whole bundle anyway, but as of right now, it’s relegated to the middle of my TBR pile.

The Ghosts of Lewis Manor by Marcia Armandi

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

The premise was promising, but the execution is disappointing. Overwritten prose. Some glaring historical errors that could have been avoided if the author had done a little bit of research before referencing certain things. The US Air Force wasn’t officially established until 1947. During the war they were part of the US Army. Yes, a small detail, but it matters, and Google would have given you the correct answer in like 2 minutes.

My other problem is that there were no characters I could root for in this book. I didn’t particularly care for Seraphina, and the supporting cast of characters aren’t very fleshed out. They are there to serve a purpose, or possess one distinguishable treat and that’s it. I particularly didn’t like the fact that the women in this book are all either older than Seraphina and thus fulfill the role of the town gossip or the wise “motherly” figure. And those who are her age or close are either dead, or rather unsympathetic. It’s the usual trope of portraying the heroine as better (wiser, more beautiful, virtuous, etc.) as everyone else by making other women less than her. Ugh, I hate that trope.

Also, the idea that London somehow has less active ghosts than a little town in New Forest is rather ridiculous. London has been inhabited for thousands of years and saw its fare share of tragedies and deaths. For someone able to see ghosts, the city would be positively teeming with them.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance between Seraphina and Ross either. It read rather lukewarm to me. Like the author just wanted to add a romance into the story to draw a parallel between Seraphina and Ross and Rose and Elliott. 

Though I must admit that the concept that ghosts might exist on different planes from each other and not be able to see other ghosts or communicate with those that aren’t on the same plane is interesting. I don’t think I saw anything like that before.

My biggest issue is with the identity of the killer though. I found that it came out of nowhere. There was no foreshadowing anywhere in the book before the big reveal, no crumbs disseminated throughout the story to make the protagonist, or at least the reader suspect anything. It was just “bham! He is the killer! Queue evil laughter”. It’s almost like the author decided to make him the bad man just for shock value. I am all for shocking reveals, but they need to be justified.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Night in Amsterdam by Melanie Atkinson

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Stars: 3 out of 5.

I am honestly amazed at the amount of 5 star reviews for this book. Did I read a different book from everyone else?

I mean, yeah, it starts great if a bit slow, introducing us to the two main narrators and showing us what brought them to Amsterdam before the fateful emergency podcast. Problem is, the rest of the book is like watching a train wreck in Zack Snider slow motion with heavy dose of flashbacks and exposition inserted between all the action. Which, you guessed it, kills any type of tension or momentum of the story. It doesn’t help that the two narrators relate that story after they had already survived the events, so there is really no need to worry about them not making it.

I mean, you have a scene where a guy is literally about to get tackled by zombies, and he is running for the door to a building… but our protagonists realize that if they open that door to save him, all the zombies will get into the building as well, so not only he would be dead, but all of them would as well. Tense moment, right? Life or death stakes, right? Why oh why do we have to read through 4 pages of those characters reminiscing about their guilty feelings and PTSD about that episode WHILE that episode is unfolding? No more tension. And my interest in the story is as dead and mangled as the body of that guy once he is savaged by the zombie horde.

And the whole book is like that. I don’t mind the inner monolog and some explanations of the character’s feelings, or a couple flashbacks here and there, but not when it bogs down the story and kills the flow of it. I ended up skimming the last fifty pages of the book ignoring all of the “feelings” just to see what happened. And it was nothing much.

It’s better written then some zombie books I read, but definitely not a 5 stars or even 4 starts read.

Reborn by Stephanie Ellis

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

While this was a dark and immersive world, I didn’t particularly enjoy it for several reasons. 

Firstly, the pacing was off in this book. There is no sense of urgency or how much time actually elapsed between different events. There is talk that the three brothers need to reach Cernunnos before his resurrection, but exactly how urgent is that? This whole book just reads like a long road trip movie where they just meander around and take their time. 

This would have been fine if I had enjoyed the characters, but I didn’t. Tommy, Fiddler, and Betty are horrible beings. Yes, they act according to their nature and the purpose for which they were created, but that doesn’t make them any less monstrous. Or does it make me less inclined to follow their stories. I don’t care if Betty gets a new heart. I don’t care if the Wheel turns and they are reborn. In fact, I’d rather they just pass into oblivion and not repeat the pain and suffering they seem to joyfully rain onto humankind.

I didn’t particularly like Megan either. I found her mopey and dull. But then again, I haven’t read the first book, so she might have a good reason for being this depressed, but it makes for a very unlikeable character to follow.

But I think my biggest gripe with this story is just how hopeless it is. The monsters win in the end. The Wheel is turning again, the weirdkin are running free to murder and torture and terrorize humankind again, and the only human in the group died without accomplishing anything she wanted. She didn’t free her husband. She didn’t get her revenge. She didn’t even get closure, because her husband’s murderer was resurrected and forgiven despite everything he had done. Talk about a depressing end of the story. 

I know that this ending opens the door for another book in the series, but I have no desire to read it. Yes, the world is fascinating, in a dark and horrifying sort of way, but it lacks even a ray of hope or a character I want to root for, so I think I’m done.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Watchers by A.M. Shine

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

How can a horror book be so boring? By being full of overwritten purple prose, that’s how.

The premise was very promising: a mysterious forest where all electronics die. A group of people trapped in a bunker in the middle of it. Haunted and hunted by mysterious Watchers. What’s there not to love. Unfortunately, the execution is more than lacking.

The author doesn’t know how to show, not tell, or that less is more. No, they choose to tell us every little thing the characters are doing or feeling at every given time. ALL the characters, ALL the time…

Well, there is nothing that kills the tension faster than having all the characters reminisce about their pasts or ponder what they are feeling WHILE they are running for their lives through a forest full of monsters. You have to reach the river, find the boat, and escape before the sun sets, or you will be murdered in a horrible way, but yes, by all means, let’s sprinkle this high octane flight with page upon page of useless filler. Tension – gone. Boredom – fully set in.

Every scene in this book that was supposed to be high stakes, heart pounding, and horrifying is diluted to ineffectiveness by constant flashbacks and inner monologs. I got so tired of this that I literally skimmed the last third of the book just to read the major plot points and get to the ending.

You would think that as much as we spend reading the characters’ inner thoughts, I would have grown to care for them? Nope. Not in the slightest. They are all annoying and lack substance. I honestly didn’t care for any of them, so any character deaths that might have happened didn’t have the intended impact.

This book would have benefited from a rewrite that would have cut about 100 pages of purple prose and added better character development.

The Anomaly (The Anomaly Files 1) by Michael Rutger

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This was an entertaining story with very likeable characters. Wasn’t particularly scary, but I had a good time following our unfortunate crew, even if they didn’t have a good time at all.

This starts like one of those lost tape movies (kind of like Blair Witch Project) about a group of amateur mystery hunters filming a YouTube documentary about the Kincaid Cavern in the Grand Canyon. The location of this cavern is unknown, and even its existence has never been properly acknowledged. Plus, our crew has a bad track record when it comes to actually finding things. As in, they never do. But lo and behold, they find the cave this time, though by the end of this adventure, they will all be wishing that they never did.

As I mentioned before, this wasn’t particularly scary for me, though some situations the characters found themselves in were particularly uncomfortable. Stuck in a cave with no light? Having to negotiate a narrow passage back to the others by feel alone and in pitch darkness? Yeah, even not being claustrophobic, that had an extra eek factor for me.

But the main strength of this book is in the relationship between the characters. You can feel that they are complex individuals with their own agendas and desires. You can also tell that they worked together for a long time and really know each other well. The banter, and good-natured insults they throw each other’s way, but then they are always ready to help and support each other when needed. I grew to know and love them for that, so I was invested in their well-being. I was worried about them, and I really wanted all of them to survive this ordeal and see the light of the sun again. 

The titbits of information and conspiracy theories that Nolan shares with the viewers of his future documentary are also very interesting. I love The Unexplained series on Netflix, so this was right up my alley. 

I must admit that the conspiracy plot in this book was a bit over the top. And the villains were a lot less rounded than the main characters. They were very one-note, in fact. I still don’t understand what their motivation was behind switching on the terraforming machine ahead of schedule. Did they think they would be spared by creatures that are programmed to wipe out all of humanity? On what grounds? What made them the chosen ones to be spared annihilation? Maybe we will find out in future books, since it is mentioned that the society that financed this expedition has their hands in a lot more projects one of which directly involves Nolan’s ex-wife, so I’m sure he won’t let this slide.

In any case, this was an enjoyable read, and I am definitely excited to pick up the next book in the series.

The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co 5) by Jonathan Stroud

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and the series as a whole! What an original idea with wonderful characters that I learned to love and care about during the 5 books. And yes, even though this series is told from Lucy’s perspective, all the other characters are fully fleshed-out and lovable, even if some took a bit to grow on you, like Kipps or the Skull.

This book picks up a few months after the events of the previous book in the series and the pretty earth-shattering revelation at the end of that story. And as an aside, this book can’t be read as a standalone. In fact, all of the books in this series have to be read in order, because each book builds on the events and revelations of the previous one. But hey, who would want to start a series on the last book instead of experiencing the joy of discovering this world and the characters and growing with them from the beginning?

I will try to review this book without giving out too many spoilers for the events in this whole series, but let’s just say that things put in motion in the first book and even before then are finally getting to a head in here. Our little agency has fallen afoul of some very powerful people… with deadly consequences. Things looked pretty dire for most of the book. 

Not to mention that the whole world in this series seems to get grimmer and grimmer as the books progress. The Problem isn’t going away, no matter how many agencies fight on the frontlines to tackle the visitors. In fact, there seems to be more and more of them, and they are getting more and more vicious. People live in constant fear, and even the weather seems to get gloomier and more dismal as the series progresses. 

I am glad that everything was resolved in the end of the book, even if it’s not a neat ending and a happy ever after. The Problem still exists, and putting things right will take years and long perilous excursions into the other side. 

I also liked that Lockwood finally got all the answers about what happened to his parents and who was responsible for their deaths. It finally helped him get over this and start living instead of constantly standing with one foot in the empty grave next to the graves of his family. Everyone got a satisfying send off by the end of this book, even though I wouldn’t mind reading some short stories about the characters and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the fall of Fittes Agency.

All in all, this is a series I will definitely recommend. Even though this is more on the YA side, it lacks all of the tropes so typical to the genre. No love triangles or annoyingly immature characters acting in annoying immature and hormonal ways. Honestly, the grim reality of life with the Problem makes kids grow up so much faster in this world. You don’t have to worry about your make up or if the boy next door likes you when you literally fight for your life every night.

This is the second series I’ve read by this author, and I really loved them both. I will definitely check out anything else he produces in the future.

Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I come to the conclusion that I don’t like how this author writes her protagonists. I had that problem with her previous book, and it’s even worse in this one. Ophelia is a horrible person, at least in my opinion, and instead of punishing her for her shortcomings and making her grow up and become a better human being, the author rewards her for them.

I mean who you have a protagonist that LIED about her past to get the job she has now. Mind you, this job is to help people suffering from a psychological condition that can make them violent and delusional. Moreover, this is a condition Ophelia is very familiar with because her father had it… yes, that’s the part she lied about. Oh, and she also has PTSD from her experience with things her father did, and a plethora of other psychological issues herself, yet she thinks she can be objective enough to help others with this? I mean how self-absorbed do you have to be to think that this is okay?

Also, no professional board in their right mind would ever authorize something like that, so no wonder she had to lie about her identity. Oh, and use the influence and money of the family she despises so much just to get what she wants. So it’s okay to disparage your relatives and pretend that you are better than them, but still use their name when it suits you… okay then.

Not only that, but Ophelia also accepts a posting that will put her in the precise situation that will trigger her PTSD. She know is, in fact, she mentions is a few times… yet she fights tooth and nail to still get that position. I mean is that supposed to endear her to me? If this protagonist spent even a moment thinking about anyone other than herself, she would realize that she is the LAST person that needs to go on this mission. That by going she is putting everyone else in danger. She is supposed to provide psychological counseling and stability to the crew put under difficult conditions. How is she supposed to do that when she has several psychological breakdowns just being in an abandoned space station? But no, that thought doesn’t even cross her mind.

And, as I mentioned before, the author thinks this is perfectly normal and in fact brave of Ophelia to do that. She is rewarded for being this reckless and selfish at every turn. She is saved from though situations by plot armor and deus ex machina solutions. 

That’s the other issue I have with this book – the ending is extremely underwhelming, just like the previous book by her, Dead Silence, has been. We get this huge buildup with so many mysteries and horrors… and it all circles back to the evil corporation will be evil trope.. that we already saw in the previous book as well. This is getting old, and it cheapens the plot, in my opinion.

As for the supporting characters, there is really nothing much to say about them. They are more a collection of stereotypes than realized individuals. We have the gruff team leader with a hidden heart of gold who will become the protagonist’s possible love interest. Then we have the rude macho dude that hates her from the get go (for good reasons, mind you). And another male character that might as well be a non-entity. As for females, we have the b76chy female that will turn out to be evil, and a sweet young innocent girl that everybody wants to protect. Actually, if you look at the cast of characters in this book and compare it to the characters in Dead Silence, they are identical. Only the names changed.

I think I’m done with this author. Their stories sound so great when you read the blurb, and the covers are top notch, but the execution is sorely lacking, at least in my opinion. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The September House by Carissa Orlando

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Stars: 3 out of 5.

This was excellent until about 3/4 through the book. I honestly thought this would be a solid 5 start book, but then the ending ruined everything, at least for me. But let’s talk about the good parts first.

This was a very unusual haunted house story, because unlike many other stories I read, the inhabitants or said haunted house (well, at least Margaret) aren’t trying to get rid of the ghosts. They learn how to cohabit with them instead. I don’t think I’ve seen that done before, but then I haven’t read a lot of haunted house stories.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to live like that, because despite the matter of fact way Margaret talks about the hauntings, things in this house are pretty horrible. Sure, it’s bearable 11 months out of the year, but the things that happen every September are a little bit too much to coexist with. I mean, walls that leak blood for a whole month? Constant screaming that won’t let you sleep? A ghost that bites if you come to close to him? Visions of horribly mutilated children haunting you all month? Thanks, but no thanks.

I think it’s more a testament to how horrible Margaret’s life has been even before the haunted house that she manages to settle into this and survive, even thrive most of the year in a house of horrors like that. And the more you learn about Margaret’s live with her “loving” husband, the more you understand why she prefers to live with ghosts. Heck, one of them basically does all the house chores and even cooks for her most of the year.

What I liked about this book was the ambiguity of the situation. Especially when Margaret’s daughter arrived and couldn’t see or hear any of the hauntings. I loved that even Margaret started doubting herself. Are the ghosts in this house real or are they simply a figment of her imagination? Especially since there is a history of mental illness in her family. And honestly, who would have blamed her for loosing her mind after everything she’d had to endure from Hal? I was perfectly okay if the story chose to take that direction, because that would have made Margaret even more endearing to me. 

Unfortunately, the author chose to take a different route and ramp up the fear factor in the last third part of the book to rather ridiculous levels. I mean, those deaths at the end were absolutely useless. They didn’t drive the story forward, they didn’t serve any purpose except for shock value. And even then, not much shock value, because the readers didn’t particularly care about those policemen. We literally met them in the previous chapter. 

It also made the ghosts seem extremely overpowered, which… well, I can only suspend my disbelief so much. It also raised a lot of questions as to how that haunting works. How is a ghost able to cook actual meals? How is it able to learn how a cellphone works? Or why the other members of the Vale family aren’t haunting this house, when all the other victims of Master Vale seem to be stuck there? Also, why didn’t Hal appear as a ghost?

Honestly, you shouldn’t think about this book too much after you are done reading, because the more you question this, the more holes you see in the reasoning and the narrative, and the more disappointing the book gets. I would suggest that you just enjoy it for what it is and don’t question it too much. After all, it’s a very good book almost all the way through. Too bad the ending was so disappointing. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

The blurb for this book is what drew me in, and for the first 50% of the book I was a happy camper joyfully following the story and getting creeped out by the excellent descriptions… Then the book started to drag. The descriptions were still excellent, but there was no “meat” to them. There are episodes that didn’t bring anything to the story but took up extra pages, like when Vera drives several towns over to go to a bar… only to leave because the bartender is too chatty. That added nothing to the overall story or Vera’s character that we didn’t’ already know. And of course the ending was a total miss for me. I expected a twist, but what the author choose for a twist simply didn’t work and made no sense, at least for me.

So this leaves me with a sense of frustration and disappointment. I was ready to love this book to pieces and give it my first 5 stars of 2024… then I was so mad I almost 1-stared it. But upon reflection and some cooling down, I will give it 2.5 stars for the excellent first half.

I think the biggest problem is that there are no good people in this story. Vera is an awful person. The more you read about her, the less you want to spend time with her. I mean it’s one thing to have mixed feelings about how you should feel about your father. On one hand, he is a serial killer that literally tortured and murdered people in the basement of his house. On the other hand, he is still your dad, and he loved you when your mother really didn’t. So I understand why Vera still loves him and clings to her memories of him, and why she feels guilty about it.

But as the book progresses and you discover more and more of Vera’s past, things turn very creepy and plain wrong. Just reading about her childhood and her reactions to what her father did made me feel dirty on the inside. Not a feeling I particularly enjoy, thank you very much. Also, not a character I want to root for. And I cared less and less for Vera the more the book progressed, so I quickly lost interest.

All the other characters are just as awful and honestly got everything they deserved, but also, not interesting to follow along with. So this left me with a protagonist I ended up hating and a story I grew more and more disinterested in. So this was a miss for me.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.