Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review | The Trust by Ronald Balson

The Trust is a mystery novel from Ronald H. Balson. It's the fourth book in the Liam and Catherine series.

The Trust by Ronald Balson

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

This was my first Liam and Catherine book. It's the fourth in the series, but the Trust can definitely be read as a stand alone novel.

I really liked the characters of Liam and Catherine. Their happy marriage/family life was refreshing. I also enjoyed the not-so-happy dynamics between Liam and the family he left behind in Ireland. Liam was shunned from his family 16 years ago after they discovered he was a spy for the CIA. His uncle has now passed away, and Liam must return to the family as the trustee to his uncle's estate.

Liam's uncle basically knew he was going to be murdered, and he set up his trust so that his assets wouldn't be distributed to the family until the murder was solved. Answer me this: why do dead people always leave behind the most vague letter possible? Trust no one. I'm no expert, but I feel pretty strongly that it would help solve a lot of mysteries if they included some details in their departing letters.

Liam - who happens to also be a private investigator - must uphold his uncle's estate wishes (and withhold the estate from the family) while simultaneously working to solve his murder.

While I enjoyed the writing and I was interested in what was happening, I didn't really have a reason to care who the murderer was. I realized during the reveal that I had stopped guessing pretty early on.

In the end, The Trust delivered on its promises and I enjoyed reading it, but it didn't particularly stand out from the crowd.

6/10: Good Read

Review copy provided by publisher


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book Review | Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust is a science fiction novel from C. Robert Cargill.

C. Robert Cargill is the author of one of my favorite novels (Dreams and Shadows). I was excited when I heard there was going to be a new Cargill release, and when I heard what Sea of Rust was about, it became one of my most anticipated books of the year.

C. Robert Cargill is also the screenwriter behind Sinister and Marvel's Dr. Strange.

I saw someone on Twitter refer to Sea of Rust as an "eventually true story". I think that's an excellent description. Sea of Rust takes place after the Artificial Intelligence has waged war on the humans and the robots are all that remain. The robots are now creating facets known as OWI (One World Intellengence) and battling against each other.

Even though the law of the land is now to upload to an OWI or shut down, many bots are resisting and fighting to save their individuality.

Brittle is one of the bots who refuses to be absorbed by an OWI. On the run, Brittle hangs out in the Sea of Rust - an expanse of expired and war torn robots - looking for parts.

Along with following Brittle's story, we are treated to the backstory of how AI came to exist and the wars that followed. I had chills reading about the downfall of humans and their robots. It was easy to imagine Sea of Rust as a glimpse into our future.

Sea of Rust is a smart book, and I really enjoyed it.

7/10: Recommended Read

Review copy provided by publisher


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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | September 23

This was not a typical reading week for me. My 8 year old was home sick from school for a couple of days, and I pretty much spent those days playing Nintendo with him and reading. So other than my son being sick, it was a pretty awesome week.

Posted Last Week

Book Review | Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix (with Will Errickson)

Read Last Week

The first book I read this week was the awesome Paperbacks from Hell. You can read my full review here. It's a nonfiction book about the history of the horror genre. It's a must read for horror fans.

I also read Joe Lansdale's Edge of Dark Water. It turned out to be even better than I was expecting.

Sing, Unburied, Sing turned out to be less than what I was expecting. I probably won't be posting a review for Sing, Unburied, Sing because I don't have much to say about it. The writing was beautiful, but it just wasn't a book I connected to. I'm surprised, and I feel like I must have read it wrong.

I won't be posting a review for Saga either. Maybe once the series ends, I'll post some thoughts. I'm still enjoying it, but I feel like I'm getting less of a complete story with each installment so my ratings keep declining.

The last book I read this week was an old horror novella from Algernon Blackwood called The Willows. I loved it. I will be reading everything Algernon Blackwood I can get my hands on.

Review Copies

Hide and Seek (Helen Grace #6) by M.J. Arlidge - Hide and Seek is the 6th book in the Helen Grace series. I don't typically read series book out of order, but this is another book I plan to dive into anyway because I have high interest in it. I'm not going to post a synopsis because it definitely spoils book 5 if you are planning to read the whole series.

Current Distractions

I had several folks ask me last week whether or not I enjoyed IT. I did! I was very nervous about how they would handle the movie only being a part one of two, but I love how they are handling it so far. IT was scary, and it was full of childhood shenanigans. I don't ask for much more than that.

I started watching Marvel's Defenders again this week. If you haven't seen the other Marvel shows, I wouldn't recommend Defenders. It is written for those who have seen all of the predecessors. I'm not enjoying the directing or the storytelling much, either.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review | Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix (with Will Errickson)

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is a nonfiction book from Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson.

Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

This book is astonishing.

First of all, Paperbacks from Hell is a gorgeous book. All of the pages are in full color, and every aspect of this book is high quality. You could call it a coffee table book, but there's a lot more to Paperbacks from Hell than just the stunning paperback images.

Paperbacks from Hell is divided up into the major categories of horror fiction that were prevalent in the 70's and 80's. Topics like 'Hail, Satan', 'Creepy Kids', 'When Animals Attack', and 'Real Estate Nightmares' walk the reader through the history of the horror genre. The written content in Paperbacks from Hell is just as extraordinary as the visual content. There's a lot of information about publishers, authors, and cover artists, as well as insight into what the readers were wanting and how the market shifted throughout the horror boom. The commentary is filled with a lot of humor and a lot of love.

I felt so much nostalgia reading Paperbacks from Hell. Whether I was remembering the books I saw growing up or remembering books I've read and loved, I had a great time revisiting the horror paperbacks of the past. There were also quite a few books that were completely new to me.

After making my way through Paperbacks from Hell, I can't help but have paperback envy and regrets over the books I've purged over the years. Paperbacks from Hell has sparked a love in my heart for even the worst of books.

I can't say enough about Paperbacks from Hell. It's a must read for anyone interested in the history of horror fiction, and I highly, highly recommend it.

10/10: Awesome Read

Review copy provided by publisher


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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | September 17

I had a bit of normalcy this week. The kids returned to school on Tuesday, and I was able to go back to work on Wednesday. It feels like we are starting the school year over again after being out for a few weeks.

I had another great reading week, and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with a couple of reviews. I also have a review book to share!

Posted Last Week

Book Review | Final Girls by Riley Sager
Book Review | Ugly Little Things by Todd Keisling

Read Last Week

The first book I finished this week was Final Girls by Riley Sager. It did a great job of holding my interest. If you love psychological thrillers, you might want to check out Final Girls. {You can read my review here.}

I also read Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling. It contains a novella I recommended earlier this year, and it's actually cheaper to buy the entire collection than to the individual novella. {Review}

Review Copies

The Trust (Liam and Catherine #4) by Ronald H. Balson - St. Martin's Press sent me the latest mystery from Ronald H. Balson. It's the fourth in the series, but it's got rave reviews at the moment so I'm going to check it out. "The newest novel from the author of Once We Were Brothers finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle's funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural." It sounds like it will work as a stand alone.

Current Distractions

I finally have a theater open (post-hurricane) so my mom and I are going to see IT today. I'm sooo excited.

If you've ever had to endure hours of reading Captain Underpants, the movie is super cute. And... that's as far as I'm going to take that recommendation. (My kids loved it.)

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review | Ugly Little Things by Todd Keisling

Ugly Little Things is a collection of horror stories by Todd Keisling.

Ugly Little Things by Todd Keisling


The eleven stories in Ugly Little Things explore the depths of human suffering and ugliness, charting a course to the dark, horrific heart of the human condition. The terrors of everyday existence are laid bare in this eerie collection of short fiction from the twisted mind of Todd Keisling, author of the critically-acclaimed novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man.

Travel between the highways of America in “The Otherland Express,” where a tribe of the forsaken and forlorn meet to exchange identities. Witness the cold vacuum of space manifest in the flesh in “The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Step into the scrub of rural Arizona and join Karen Singleton’s struggle to save her husband from a cult of religious fanatics in “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Visit the small town of Dalton in “The Harbinger” and join Felix Proust as he uncovers the vile secrets rooted at the heart of Dalton Dollworks. And in the critically-acclaimed novella “The Final Reconciliation,” learn the horrifying truth behind the demise of the rock band The Yellow Kings.

With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award-winner Mercedes M. Yardley and illustrations by Luke Spooner, Ugly Little Things will be your atlas, guiding you along a lonely road of sorrow, loss, and regret. This is going to hurt—and you’re going to like it.

After reading and loving Todd Keisling's The Final Reconciliation earlier this year, I was excited to have the opportunity to read more stories by Keisling in Ugly Little Things.

The first thing I want to mention is The Final Reconciliation is included in this collection. You can read my full review for that here. It's my favorite novella I've read so far this year.

I didn't realize that several of the stories in Ugly Little Things had been previously published. This was fine for me as I hadn't read any of the other tales, but your mileage could vary on that.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a few of the tales fell into the novelette/novella range. I'm a big fan of that format when it comes to horror, and I think these longer works are also the best of this collection.

I highly recommended The Final Reconciliation earlier this year, and with Ugly Little Things you get that novella and more. It's kind of a no brainer if you are interested in checking out Todd Keisling's work. He's an author I keep on my radar, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

8/10: Great Read

Review copy provided by publisher


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Book Review | Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls is a psychological thriller from Riley Sager.

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Why did I read Final Girls?

Stephen King put Final Girls on my radar. I may not always like his recommendations, but I do pay attention to them.

“The first great thriller of 2017 is here: Final Girls, by Riley Sager. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like this.”—Stephen King

I've been waffling for weeks about reading Final Girls. The hype has been so strong, but readers I trust haven't had a positive reaction to it. I decided I needed to read it for myself. I think my curiosity won out with this one.

The Strengths

I was able to read Final Girls in pretty much one sitting. It was an easy read which was exactly the kind of book I needed to pick up.

I had a lot of interest in the premise and the backstory of these "final girls". I wanted to know what happened to them, and I was anxious for some twists and turns (whether or not I actually got them).

I enjoyed Riley Sager (aka Todd Ritter's) writing. I will read more books by him in the future.

The Weaknesses

Too many implausible things happened in Final Girls. I feel like I can usually go with the flow in a lot of what I read, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief with this one. I'm just not buying it.

Most of the psychological thrillers I've read the last few years have had really unlikable characters. Final Girls is no exception to this trend.

At this point, I don't even want to see grape soda in the store. Seriously, how much grape soda did the main character have in her house? I would mention the Xanax, but I think a Xanax would come in handy after suffering through the repetition of Final Girls.

Would I recommend Final Girls to others?

Yes, I would recommend Final Girls to others. I have a love/hate relationship with psychological thrillers, and my reaction to Final Girls was keeping in line with my previous experiences. If you typically love them, though, I would say yes, pick this one up.

6/10: Good Read

Have you read Final Girls? What did you think? Are you a fan of psychological thrillers or do you run the other way when a book gets compared to Gone Girl?


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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | September 10

I'm praying everyone is safe from Irma (and Harvey). The last time I posted I was confident Harvey was going to stall out and head north, but I was wrong. Harvey went back into the gulf and came right back at us. Thankfully we had no water in our home, but a lot of our friends and family weren't so lucky. There's so much devastation here; it will be a while before things feel normal again.

I don't have any posts to share or shows/movies to discuss, but I did manage to read some amazing books.

Read Last Week

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale - I am so glad I grabbed this book from the library before the storm. It was exactly the book I needed when I needed it. If you've never read Lansdale, The Bottoms is the perfect place to start.

It by Stephen King - My goal was to finish rereading It before the movie came out. I'm absolutely thrilled to have read it again even if it will be awhile before I get to see it. I remember why I love this book so much.

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill - This was probably my most anticipated book of the year. I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. I will try to get a real review out later this week.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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