Review: The Wall of Winnepeg by Mariana Zapata (2016)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/29/2017

Blurb:

 

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable. Continue reading “Review: The Wall of Winnepeg by Mariana Zapata (2016)”

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Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/27/2017

Release Date:  Apr 18, 2017  (you can pre-order here)

Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden’s supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror will love Ararat, the thrilling tale of an adventure that goes awry. When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone.

My Review:

This is the best full-on horror novel I’ve read in some time. It feels like vintage Michael Crichton to me, with a plot something like: Dan Brown meets “The Thing”.

A huge earthquake and avalanche at Mt. Ararat (in Turkey) exposes a cave in the snow. That mountain has long been rumored to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, so a number of teams set out to explore the newly uncovered cave hoping to find archaeological gold. The first team to the cave will win the scoop. This “race to the cave” is only the very beginning of the novel.

The team to reach the cave first is an engaged British couple, Adam and Meryam, a quintessential digital age couple who make adventure videos together. They find that the cave is, indeed, the ark, complete with various levels of ancient timber floors and walls, “stalls” ,and the remains of a human family and animals. Also in the ark is a sarcophagus that contains the skeleton of something with horns that might or might not be human.

A group of scholars, Turkish bureaucrats, archaeologists, local guides, an American man sent from DARPA to see if the find can be weaponzed (uh-huh), a UN observer, priest, etc, all end up at the ark to investigate. They are high up on Mt Ararat, isolated from the world by a blizzard, when sh*t hits the fan.

At times, this feels like a monster movie, ala “The Thing”, with the isolated group of people being hunted and picked off one-by-one. There’s a supernatural element here, so this is definitely more horror than thriller. There were some nice touches having to do with dreams and the past history of several of the characters that gave the horror some depth and the book a bit of a literary edge. The story becomes quite tense and scary. It’s quite a nail-biter. If you don’t like violence, you probably need to skip this one.

I really enjoyed the pseudo-history/religious elements in the story, though they stay at an Indiana Jones sort of level. The characters were all unique and had some layers. Meryam, for example, who heads the project, is a woman who is not always likable but she is smart and ambitious and generally makes good choices.  The sexism she faces from the local guide was quite realistic.  Another stand out was Walker, the secret DARPA agent, who is a tough fighter but also compassionate and a thinker. The writing style was tight and unadorned. The plot moves forward at a fast clip and there’s no fluff or filler.

I guess this has already been tapped for a movie. I’m not surprised as it totally reads like one.

Loved it! If you miss old-school horror, give this one a try.

Book Links

Goodreads

Amazon

Review: Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens (2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 3/25/2017

Blurb:

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

My Review:

This domestic thriller about an abusive husband is an interesting but fairly long read. The novel has several times lines and POVs which add interest.

The story is told out of order with flashbacks to the past to follow the development of Lindsey and Andrew’s relationship, from happy newlyweds to the years of abuse and finally to Lindsey’s desperate night flight from the marriage with young Sophie.

These flashback sections are interposed with the story being told in the present (2017), when Andrew has been released from jail and shows up where Lindsey and Sophie now live, on an island near Vancouver. In this present-day section, the POV moves from Sophie, now a teen who wants to know her father and thinks her mom is paranoid and/or exaggering about how bad he was, and Lindsey, who is terrified that Andrew still wants to kill her.

A series of threatening events begin to happen around Lindsey which she is convinced are caused by Andrew, but she can’t prove it to the police or Sophie. But is it really Andrew? Or has he sincerely changed? The reader becomes less sure about who is doing what as the story progresses.

There are some twists and turns and red herrings. I guessed who was behind everything at about 70%, but the ending was still fairly satisfying.

I found the writing unremarkable. There was no attempt at being poetic or literary in its descriptions of setting or tone, and the dialog was very basic. I’ve read some really amazing writing lately, such as Andrew Pryer’s “The Only Child”, so by comparison this style felt flat. However, the writing didn’t detract from the story and it never felt “off”. The motivations, words, and actions of the characters felt on target, even in those of the teenaged girl, Sophie.

But, of course, in a thriller, the main thing is the plotline. I thought the portrait of the marriage was quite good and subtly terrifying. Andrew was less a physically abusive husband (though that happened a few times) than a controlling and threatening one. He did not want his wife, Lindsey, to have other friends, a job or money outside what he provided, and he watched her constantly. He drank and could fly into jealous rages. The parts of the novel that were flashbacks to their relationship were quite disturbing and, unfortunately, realistic.

If I have one complaint about the book it’s that it felt quite long. There was a period in the book, from about 50% to 80%, after a certain character is removed, and before the final climax began, that really dragged for me and felt redundant. It slowed the “thriller pacing” quite a lot and became more of a slog than a page-turner. It’s too bad that hadn’t been tightened up as it might have been a 5 star read otherwise. But then the ending picked back up again and I enjoyed the rest of the book.

Overall this is a good solid read if you like domestic thrillers.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC for review.

Booklinks:

Goodreads

Amazon

 

 

Review: The Cradle Will Fall by Mary Higgins Clark (1980)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/22/2017

Blurb:

A minor road accident landed county prosecutor Katie DeMaio in Westlake Hospital. That night, from her window, she thought she saw a man load a woman’s body into the trunk of a car…or was it just a sleeping pill induced nightmare? At work the next day, Katie began investigating a suicide that looked more like murder. Initial evidence pointed elsewhere, but medical examiner Richard Carroll saw a trail leading to Dr. Edgar Highley. He suspected that the famous doctor’s work “curing” infertile women was more than controversial — that it was deceitful, depraved, and often deadly. But before Richard could tell Katie his fears, she left the office for the weekend and an appointment for routine surgery…in Dr. Highley’s operating room. Continue reading “Review: The Cradle Will Fall by Mary Higgins Clark (1980)”

Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/21/2017

Release date:  September 5, 2017

Blurb:

A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old by now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. Continue reading “Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)”

Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/18/2017

Release date: May 23, 2017

Blurb:

The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist radically reimagines the origins of gothic literature’s founding masterpieces—Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula—in a contemporary novel driven by relentless suspense and surprising emotion. This is the story of a man who may be the world’s one real-life monster, and the only woman who has a chance of finding him.

As a forensic psychiatrist at New York’s leading institution of its kind, Dr. Lily Dominick has evaluated the mental states of some of the country’s most dangerous psychotics. But the strangely compelling client she interviewed today—a man with no name, accused of the most twisted crime—struck her as somehow different from the others, despite the two impossible claims he made. Continue reading “Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)”

Review: Windswept by Sabrina Jeffries (1996, reissued 2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 3/18/2017

New Release  (revised reissue of a 1996 title)

Challenges:

  • New Release Challenge
  • My Romance Challenge

Blurb:

Originally written under the pseudonym Deborah Martin, this unforgettable tale of mystery, treasure, and passion is back in print at last and newly revised for today’s audience—and available as an ebook!

Welsh widow Catrin Price is haunted by a family death curse. Any man whom she marries without first drinking from an ancient Druid chalice sold by her ancestor long ago is unquestionably doomed. But when she hunts it down to purchase it, the chalice’s former owner ends up dead. Who will believe her innocent with the man’s treasure in her hands? Now she lives in fear of discovery, afraid to trust, afraid to give away her heart… Continue reading “Review: Windswept by Sabrina Jeffries (1996, reissued 2017)”