Category Archives: review

Review: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Disappearance at Devil's RockThinking her fourteen year-old son Tommy is spending the night at one of his best friend’s house, Elizabeth Sanderson in disturbed to receive a phone call saying her son has gone missing. As the shock sets in, Elizabeth can’t help but feel that history is repeating itself. Tommy’s father vanished in the night years before. Could it be that her son has followed in his father’s footsteps?

The answers are far more compelling and interesting than that and they make this book one that was, at times, next to impossible to put down. Add in an element of the potential supernatural and you’ve got the another winner from Paul Tremblay — an author who after reading just two of his books has been put onto my “must read anything he writes list” and whom I eagerly seeking you his back catalog.

Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock starts with a heck of hook and doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. The question of how well you really know your kids and your family haunts every page of the novel and drives much of this superlatively told, suspenseful mystery. Like his earlier haunting A Head Full of Ghosts this is one of those novels that defies categorization beyond “a really good book that everyone should read.” Continue reading

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Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest RoomTrying to be a good older brother and best man, Richard Chapman offers his home for his younger brother’s bachelor party. But Richard couldn’t know that the “entertainment” for the evening wouldn’t be mere strippers but instead Russian sex slaves who were looking to exact a piece of revenge on their captors and escape. Before the night is over, Richard will endanger his marriage, find his home a crime scene and his world collapsing around him.

The first two-thirds of Chris Bohjlian’s The Guest Room is a fascinating, dark story of people trying to make good decisions under the worst possible circumstances. Chapters alternate between the backstory of one of the young girls who is preyed upon by her captors and forced into a life of selling her body for money and the events current unfolding during and after the infamous bachelor party. As with many of the best crime writers today, Bohjalian is less concerned with the who-done-it aspect of the crime and more interested in the impact of the crime upon his characters and their community.

As Richard finds his world collapsing around him (his wife mistrusts him, he’s put on suspension at work and one of his brother’s friends tries to blackmail him), we see how the crime and its implications have far reaching tendrils both before and after the murder of the two men sent to guard the two sex workers.

At its best The Guest Room is a compelling, character driven, page-turner that offers up a fascinating dilemma without any easy ways out of it. Well, that is until we get to the last third of the novel when things take a turn that feels like it’s right out of a Hollywood blockbuster and not the well-established and realized world that Bohjalian has created to that point. It’s not the ending is terrible so much as it’s a disappointment. Richard begins to make decisions to get his life back and I’d hoped to see more of the implications of that than the ending we got here.

I’m being vague here to avoid SPOILING too much of this novel because I really think the first two-thirds of the story are worth reading. It’s just the last third that let me down.

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Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

No One KnowsSeven and seventeen and five. That’s how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.

The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend’s bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven’t provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.

As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey’s life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh’s rather large life insurance policy.

With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows could easily feel like it’s just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh’s disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story’s length. Continue reading

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Review: The Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner

The Girl From HomeThe Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once a high powered financial whiz, Jonathan Caine’s world has come crashing in around him. Accused of insider trading, his assets are frozen and his seemingly charmed life has evaporated around him. With no where else to turn, Jonathan decides to head back to his family in New Jersey to care for his ailing father, just in time for his twenty-fifth high school reunion.

Jacqueline Williams is the former prom queen who married the high school quarterback. But Jackie didn’t get the happy ending she was hoping for — her husband abuses her and has threatened to kill her and cut off access to their children should she ever bring up the word “divorce” to him again.

Back in the high school, Jonathan couldn’t have thought of approaching Jackie. But now he’s back and the two soon strike up a romance. If only they could find a way to get Jackie’s husband out of the picture without creating more harm for Jackie or her kids.

Adam Mitzner’s The Girl From Home starts off with a great hook and then slowly unravels the lives of Jonathan and Jackie. The first section of the novel moves from the past to the present, painting a solid picture of how and why Jonathan and Jackie have got themselves into their respective situations and then beginning their affair together. It’s one the past and present merge that the novel hits a bit of bumpy spot and loses some of its early momentum. Continue reading

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Review: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

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As part of the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience and getting in early for Vintage Sci-Fi month, I thought I’d offer up some thoughts on Arthur C. Clarke’s classic genre novel Childhood’s End.

I read this one a decade ago as part of a vintage genre campaign, but large chunks of it had slipped my memory. So when SyFy’s new mini-series showed up on the DVR, I decided to re-visit the original material before I started watching the new adaptation.

So, here we go….

Childhood's EndOne of my big complaints about the current state of science-fiction and fantasy is the overwhelming need to make EVERY single concept into a trilogy or on-going series.

Which is what makes going back to the classics of the genre such a pleasure.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of the most economic genre novels ever published. But I’d argue that the novel packs more ideas and punch into its two hundred pages than some on-going series have packed into their thousand plus (and counting) pages.

In many ways, Clarke created the mythology of the alien invasion. The Overlords arrive in ships that hover over the greatest cities on Earth, saying that they are here to help humanity. The Overlords put an end to petty conflicts and help point humanity toward a better tomorrow — but there could be a price to it all. They refuse to allow human beings to see them as they really are for the first fifty years of their overseeing our world. Instead, a single human is chosen as the intermediary for humans and Overlords. Continue reading

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Reviews: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Madeline lives a fairly contained life. She’s home schooled, rarely ventures beyond the the walls of her house and has little contact with the outside world beyond her mother and her nurse, Carla.

Madeline has a very rare condition that makes her extremely susceptible to any kind of germ. Her immune system can’t fight them and so Madeline has to live inside her sterile, clean home, experiencing the outside world only by looking out the window and the books she reads (all brand new and properly sterilized, of course!)

She’s perfectly content in her world until one day a new boy moves in next door and Madeline has become intrigued by him and his family. Suddenly, her world seems a bit smaller and Madeline is willing to do and risk whatever it takes to get to know this boy and possibly fall in love with him. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbor, the Doctor begins to investigate how it got there and what can and should be done about. Also hot on the trail is a familiar time-travelling archaeologist, though as the cover warns you, it’s not necessarily the one you were expecting.

In his afterward, Gary Russell says that the reason he decided to use Benny Summerfield instead of River was because series runner Steven Moffat nixed the idea. Russsell goes on to say that Moffat suggested bringing Benny back because he’d always liked the character and that then novel turned out to be better because of it.

I’m glad Gary thinks the novel turned out better than he originally imagined. Because this reader found the novel a pretty big disappointment. Continue reading

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