Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Review: THE GHOSTS OF PEPPERNELL MANOR by Amy Reade

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I snagged this one from Net Galley since I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. Carleigh Warner and her preschooler Lucy head to Charleston, S.C. to work on restoring a friend’s family home. Carleigh is regrouping after a divorce and starting a new life. Carleigh moves in with the Peppernell family in their manor house, but soon finds out that there is a resident ghost – Sarah, a former slave on the plantation – who does not want the house restored. Things start to get out of control when two family members die and Carleigh’s work is destroyed. Is it the ghost? Or is something else afoot?

I enjoyed this light read (sounds funny to say it’s light with two murders, but it felt that way). That said, there were some things that jumped out at me that did not work for me. Occasionally I felt the writing got bogged down by exposition (for instance, in one place, late at night, the phone rang. Then there were a few sentences about how Carleigh had never heard the house phone because people had been using their cell phones, but this wasn’t a cell phone, it was a landline in the hallway. Way too much info on something I could care less about — it ruined the tension of a late night mysterious phone call). I also was puzzled about the murders. SPOILER ALERT – – one person had a heart attack and died but poison was found in their system. The attitude seemed to be: well, they died from the heart attack, so whatever… Then another person is killed violently and no one seems to make even a vague connection between the two deaths. Then a work colleague is “charged” with the murder of the victim based on the fact that he had an argument at work with him and had a domestic violence charge on record from his past. What?? Of course there was a clear explanation for both these deaths that came out at the end of the book.

That said, I liked Carleigh’s character (though I had some reservations about her lying to her ex about things that impacted their daughter’s care) and I wanted her to succeed. I would have loved a lot more info on the ghost. Why didn’t she want the house restored? There was mention of her having a child at 15 – what was the story there? Why wasn’t she at rest? And I could have done with a lot less of Mrs. Peppernell who was so arrogant and stuffy that she felt like a cliché. At the end there was a tidy wrap-up with mystery solved, but I would have liked to hear one more time from Sarah.

Thanks, Net Galley, and Kensington Books for my copy!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

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Audiobook Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian is one of the most versatile authors I know. Each thing he writes is unique and quite different from his other works. As I loved his THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS and CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS, I pulled this from the library audio shelf (as I’ve mentioned before, I spend a LOT of time in the car).

THE NIGHT STRANGERS reads like a classic Stephen King novel – normal people with extraordinary happenings that are ghostly in nature. The novel starts with a plane crash. Told from the point of view of the pilot, the writing was so accurate and tense that I actually started crying as I was driving down the road (okay – my husband was travelling to Europe that day, so I might have been a little over-sensitive about plane crashes). The story is then told from both the pilot’s point of view — interestingly, using the second person “you” for narration — and the wife’s and daughters’ points of view. The narration on this audiobook is done by a man and a woman for these respective parts.

The plot in short is that the pilot survives his crash, but 39 passengers and crew do not. His family moves to a New Hampshire farmhouse to try to pick up their lives. Chip is still suffering. When he finds a strange door in the basement – with 39 bolts on it – he becomes a bit obsessed with discovering what lies in their basement. Meanwhile, wife Emily befriends the local neighbor women – who happen to be into witchcraft, herbs, and a few other things. Their twin daughters, Garnet and Hailey, are doing their best to adjust to fifth grade in their new town and school. Things start to spiral out of control when supernatural events start occurring and the friendly neighbors reveal their not-so-friendly agenda.

I enjoyed listening to this book. As always Chris Bohjalian is a gifted writer. He’s amazing. That said, I didn’t love his choice of ending – but again, it had that classic “horror” feel to it (sort of a “The Shining” meets “Salem’s Lot”). I just always like a “good guys win” ending! 🙂

Ably read by two distinct voices, this was one audiobook that made me not mind spending extra time in the car!

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Review: Eight Minutes by Lori Reisenbichler

When Kandy at MindBuck Media Publicity offered me an ARC of EIGHT MINUTES I thought it sounded like a fun thriller to read. Well, I was right! I basically read this whole book in one day as I couldn’t put it down!

EIGHT MINUTES starts with Shelly Buckner giving birth to her first child – a son. Her husband misses the birth because he is in a horrific crash on the way to the hospital, an accident that almost kills him (he is technically dead for eight minutes before they revive him). Life rolls along for this fairly typical small-town couple until their child, Toby, is three and he starts to speak of his imaginary friend, John Robberson. Unlike most children’s imaginary friends, though, John Robberson is different. He tells Toby a lot of detailed information about flying planes in Vietnam that Toby couldn’t have known, and he also is pressuring Toby to go visit “Kay”. Shelly worries about everything from Toby’s insecurities in being an only child to schizophrenia, while her husband Eric is almost staunchly at the opposite end of the spectrum: leave the kid alone, he’s fine. Then Shelly discovers that there was a real John Robberson – one who flew planes in Vietnam and who had a wife named Kay. A man who died the night Toby was born.

Yikes! This was one supernatural thriller that I couldn’t put down. Who is John Robberson and what does he want with Toby? And will the quest for answers end up alienating her husband and destroying their marriage? About one-third of the way through I was pretty sure I knew what was happening (and I was right) but I just kept reading right up to the last page.

If I had one disappointment, it was the ending. I wanted a bit more resolution written more explicitly. I went back and reread the end (never easy on a kindle) and I was still left thinking. That might have been the author’s intent (I assume it was) but I just thought a few paragraphs taking place about a year later, even if everything wasn’t answered or tied up neatly, would have been more satisfying.

If you like the supernatural and the bigger question of “where do we go when we die?”, then I recommend EIGHT MINUTES.

Thank you for my review copy!

You can find this book at an indie bookstore near you — I am an Indie Bound affiliate:


Find it at an Indie!

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Review: THINGS HALF IN SHADOW by Alan Finn

It’s post-Civil War Philadelphia, and Edward Clark is on a newspaper assignment to uncover false mediums and spiritualists in the city. Edward has a secret past – he is the child of a famous magician whose career ended in tragedy. He delights in seeing through the tricks and hoaxes. When he crosses paths with Lucy Collins, a fake medium who will stop at nothing to keep herself and her younger brother alive and successful, he ends up having to bring her along on his assignment. They visit a famous medium who seems to be the real deal, but then she falls dead during a séance in front of a room of people.

I really enjoyed this fun read! Between Edward’s voice as narrator and the things Lucy would do, I would often find myself laughing out loud. Yes I had to suspend my disbelief at the end, but it was all in fun. This must be the start of a series as there was no final conclusion. Get writing, Mr. Finn! We need the next installment! I read this as an e-galley but I saw online that it is over 400 pages. I was rather shocked as it read very quickly and I finished it in a couple of days. I love a blend of history, supernatural, and humor – this book had it all.

Thanks, Net Galley and Gallery Books, for my copy!

You can find it at an Indie near you — I am an Indie Bound affiliate:


Find it at an Indie!

Here’s a fun book trailer via You Tube —

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YA Review: WHEN by Victoria Laurie

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I pulled this title from Net Galley a while back as I’m a sucker for a supernatural story!

In WHEN, Maddie Flynn is a typical teenager who has the unique ability to see dates on people’s foreheads. She comes to realize that what she is seeing is their “death date” – the day they will die. As Maddie grows, her somewhat destitute mother sets up shop to make quick money with Maddie seeing clients to tell them their (or a loved one in a picture) death dates. Unfortunately, Maddie’s predicting gets her in trouble when she predicts a child’s death and that seemingly fine child soon comes up missing. She and her best friend find themselves caught up in the police investigation of the missing boy and several others. With the police more than skeptical of her abilities and no other real suspects, Maddie has to solve the mystery before time runs out.

I really liked this book! Maddie was an interesting and strong character, and I found the whole concept of seeing death dates on people’s foreheads as a unique and clever twist. I would have loved this book as a teenager!

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate. It publishes mid-January:

When

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Review: THE CITY by Dean Koontz

I’ve always been a fan of Dean Koontz. I particularly like his creepy, supernatural work. I was thrilled to see his latest book on Net Galley, and was happy to receive an ARC (I also was one of the many bloggers hosting a Pub Day giveaway earlier this month). THE CITY was a bit different from Dean’s earlier works, which just shows his versatility.

In THE CITY, Jonah Kirk tells the story of a strange experience from his youth that shapes and guides his future. The story starts when Jonah is eight. He is a precocious child, and a musical prodigy, living with his divorced mother and near his beloved grandparents in “the city”. An odd woman appears to him and tells him strange information, which later plays a role in his life. This woman, we come to learn, is the heart of the city itself, a metaphor made human. She also magically procures a piano for Jonah. This woman, Pearl, appears to Jonah through the story, to guide and protect him as he comes in contact with several nefarious characters (including his estranged father) who threaten his livelihood and that of the city at large. Throughout the story (again, told by Jonah as an adult looking back) we come to know his hard-working mother, their widowed Italian neighbor, his feisty grandparents, best friend Malcolm, and – my favorite – their sensitive and intelligent neighbor, a survivor of the Japanese internment camps.

I enjoyed this book! I really loved the character of precocious Jonah. This book builds to a dramatic and violent climax, which was fairly upsetting, but Jonah’s spirit and tenacity shines through all the darkness. The ending was one of hope and resiliency.

I noticed that a prequel, “The Neighbor”, by Koontz was only 99 cents for kindle, so I purchased that as well. This story was creepy and highly disturbing, while it introduced us to Jonah’s best friend and neighbor, Malcolm. You can certainly read The City without reading it, but it does add a bit to character development.

You can see these books on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

 

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Quick Review: POE by J. Lincoln Fenn

This Amazon “Breakthrough Novel” award winner was a fun find for me! It is the quick moving story of Dimitri Petrov, an obituary writer at his local newspaper. Dimitri is mourning the death of his parents from the year before. He is also writing a tome on Rasputin in his spare time. Dimitri is sent on an assignment to cover a séance at a local deserted “haunted house”, along with an annoying colleague, the medium, and a young woman he has met before and hopes to attract. What happens that night causes Dimitri to end up in the morgue as a DOA (though thankfully, he revives). After the séance, Dimitri is haunted by a female spirit he calls “Poe”, and he becomes determined to solve the mysteries surrounding the house and some murders, while protecting himself and his new girlfriend, Lisa.

This was a fun and fast read. I just loved the character of Dimitri, who was a bit hapless. He wasn’t strong, overly courageous, or sophisticated. He was smart, though, and very “real”. I couldn’t help cheering for him!

I loved how this novel combined supernatural, horror, and fantasy elements, along with humor. I look forward to more from Ms. Fenn — maybe even more with Dimitri? I would recommend for older YA as well, but be aware of some adult content and language.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate, and where I got my Kindle copy!

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Review: A DOOR UNLOCKED by Calvin Dean

Recently, Mr. Dean sent me an email and asked if I’d like to read and review his book, a supernatural thriller. I said yes as I was in the mood for a thriller/mystery read. In A DOOR UNLOCKED, a home invasion goes wrong when the bad guy kills the homeowner, rapes the wife, and abducts their eight year old daughter. Vanessa Fitzgerald makes it her mission to find her daughter and bring the perpetrator to justice. However, Vanessa has some help from beyond – when unconscious (e.g. in a coma), she can hear and communicate with her recently deceased husband. He gives her guidance in finding and saving their young daughter, Lydia.

This book reminded me a bit of a Mary Higgins Clark mystery. It read quickly and focused on a heroine who was bent but not broken, and very determined to find her daughter. I wish that the storyline had not included rape and molestation (which I don’t like to read), but they did occur mostly “off stage” so to speak (there wasn’t a graphic, violent, drawn out scene to read). I kept reading to make sure that there was a happy ending!

At less than 300 pages, I finished this book in a few sittings.

Thanks, Mr. Dean, for sending me a download of your novel! You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate (as of this writing, it is only $3.49 on Kindle):

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Two Quick YA Reviews: “Fog” by Caroline Cooney and “The Twisted Window” by Lois Duncan

I recently got two creepy, YA suspense thrillers from Net Galley. These are the type of book that I loved to read when I was in middle school! Both were re-releases from Open Road Media – thanks, Open Road and Net Galley for my copies!

“Fog” is the first in a trilogy by Caroline Cooney (who has apparently over 100 books for teens; the one I know best: “The Face on the Milk Carton”). In this story a group of Maine island teens leave their homes to attend school on the mainland. Creepy and disturbing things begin happening and one girl, Christina, fights against the evil. Who will win?

When I started “The Twisted Window” by Lois Duncan I knew it seemed familiar. I had actually read it in the 1980’s. Lois Duncan is a masterful storyteller with all sorts of YA titles to her credit, most of them scary and/or supernatural thrillers. In this one, Tracy Lloyd befriends the new guy in school and gets involved in helping him get his supposedly kidnapped sister back from his stepfather. As a kid, Duncan was always one of my favorite authors as her stories are well-plotted and paced.

You can see these books on Amazon where I am Associate:

 

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YA Review: “Beautiful Lies” by Jessica Warman (releasing 8/7/12)

Tomorrow “Beautiful Lies” comes out. I got this book as an ARC through Net Galley a few months ago. It is thrilling YA fare: identical twin sisters Alice and Rachel share everything (or do they??). When one twin goes missing, some think she’s run away, but her sister believes she’s in trouble, and she has the physical manifestations to prove it. This supernatural, creepy, at times disturbing and confusing book kept me guessing (and reading) to the last page.

I love a good YA read, and this was no exception. However (and this is a SPOILER ALERT), I was confused at times. The twins are switching identities, yet people are calling them by their other twin’s name, but not all people are; and then there is the whole what is real and what is imaginary and what are ghosts theme that was profoundly confusing at times. It’s the kind of book that I like to read twice so that I can go back and pick up clues the second time through.

All in all, a page-turner that I enjoyed!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate. And thanks, Net Galley and Walker Children’s Books, for my copy to review!

 

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