All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage (#DNF #review) #OutToday

allthings

Title: All Things Cease to Appear
Author: Elizabeth Brundage
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details: March 8th 2016 by Knopf
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review

Goodreads // Waterstones

bookdepo

 

Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife murdered and their three-year-old daughter alone–for how many hours?–in her room down the hall.

He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at the private college nearby teaching art history, and moved his family into this tight-knit, impoverished town. And he is the immediate suspect–the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional.

While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served.

At once a classic “who-dun-it” that morphs into a “why-and-how-dun-it,” this is also a rich and complex portrait of a psychopath and a marriage, and an astute study of the various taints that can scar very different families, and even an entire community.

Review

What came first…the book, or the book slump? Now there’s a question! I stopped reading this book at around the 35% mark, which I really try not to do for ARCs as I like to fulfil my end of the bargain as much as possible, but I just couldn’t. 

I’m not sure why, as it wasn’t badly written, or even overly dull, I just couldn’t muster the motivation to keep going. It may be nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with the fact that I read two really amazing books in a row and was a bit burnt out…who knows!?

All Things Cease to Appear has the makings of a really great mystery/thriller. George comes home to find his wife dead, brutally-murdered-dead, and his little girl alone and scared. George is instantly the prime suspect and his reaction to his wife’s death is quite strange, so he is always a suspect in the reader’s mind too. 

I think the main reason I couldn’t get into this book was because I didn’t like any of the characters in it. George is aloof and strange, even his parents are a bit – bland. Yes, bland is how I would describe most of the characters. 

I do think that if I was in the mood for this book it could have gone differently. I’m sure it would become clear why the characters were dubious, but I just wasn’t in the mood to get to the endgame. 

ATCTA may not have worked for me, but it might for you. I thought the lack of quotation marks for dialogue was interesting, and it actually didn’t bother me at all, I think it was just a mixture of bad timing and ambiguous characters that turned me off. 

I DNF at 35% and therefore won’t be giving it a rating.  

Good Girls Gone Bad: The Merciless by Danielle Vega #YA #BookReview

themercilessTitle: The Merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Series: The Merciless #1
Format: hardback, 279 pages
Publication Details: June 12th 2014 by Razorbill
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned…

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Review

As a huge fan of YA (obvs) and horror I’m always excited to see YA horror books (Yorror as I’m now calling it) published, as they’re few and far between. It took me a while but I’m so glad I eventually got round to buying a copy of this- especially the awesome pink leather hardback version, which is pretty epic!

The Merciless isn’t a case of your old-school Goosebumps or Point Horror. It’s actual horror, that I imagine some parents wouldn’t be too happy about their teens (and certainly pre-teens reading. I kind of wish this book existed when I was 15 because man, I would have lapped it up then.

The Merciless is about a group of ‘good’ girls who take it upon themselves to exorcise the demon out of bully Brooklyn. A prank gone wrong? Revenge gone too far? There’s a whole lot of blood, torment and, well, torture, and the whole way through you’re left thinking ‘are they really doing this?’ 

I can definitely see where they got the whole ‘Mean Girls meets Stephen King’ tagline from. Unlike Stephen King however, this book is severely lacking in the character development department. But you know what? I kind of didn’t care. It would have perhaps made it easier to believe if we knew more about protagonist Sofia before she became friends with the ‘mean girls’ and got involved in the whole Satanic mess, but it wouldn’t make much difference, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment overall.

Like Mean Girls, this book is pretty shallow. But what it lacks in depth it makes up with in relentless action and chaos. It’s also mightily swift in pace. I definitely struggled to put it down, in fact I’m pretty sure I only put it down once. 

I also really enjoyed the sort-of-twist, and although most of the book felt predictable, it was quite easy to second guess yourself and end up with a genuine surprise on your hands. 

I’m already looking forward to the second book. I just hope Vega can develop the characters a bit more. 

unicorn rating 4

The Merciless is out now, and the second book will be released July 5th

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore [Out this week]

poisonartist

Title: The Poison Artist
Author: Jonathan Moore
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 228 pages
Publication Details: January 26th / 2nd Feb (UK) 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he’s out drinking whiskey when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.

As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial-murder investigation. The police have been fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One of the victims vanished from the bar the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information, nor does he tell them he’s been secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, study the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. The search for the killer soon entwines with Caleb’s hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.

From the first pages up to the haunting, unforgettable denouement, The Poison Artist is a gripping thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape.

Review

I was in the mood for a gritty crime thriller so I figured The Poison Artist was the perfect ARC for the job. Unfortunately, it ended up being a bit of a let down.

I was really intrigued by the idea of a toxicologist studying and experimenting with the chemical effects of pain, and thought it would make a great thriller, but the majority of this story was about Caleb’s obsession with a mystery woman, and the whole toxicology thing took a back seat.

I think the main reason I wasn’t enamoured with this book was because I didn’t warm to Caleb at all. He’s ruined his marriage and is heading towards alcoholism which is taking its toll on his work. You know, a total downward spiral kind of thing. All he can think about is a brief encounter with a beautiful woman who drinks nothing but absinthe.

The mystery of the bodies turning up in the bay held my attention for a little while, but I just didn’t get hooked into the story and unfortunately I found it a slog to finish (although the ending did improve it)!

Not for me, but I’m sure some people will enjoy this murder mystery/ dark tale of infatuation.

unicorn rating 2

 

The Light that Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew #BookReview #YA

thelightthat
Title: The Light that gets Lost
Author: Natasha Carthew
Series: N/A
Format: Digital, 320 pages
Publication Details: November 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre(s): YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

A small boy hiding in a cupboard witnesses something no child should ever see. He tries not to look but he still hears it. And when he comes out, there’s no mistaking. His mum and dad have been killed. And though he’s only small, he swears that he’ll get revenge one day.

Years later, Trey enters a strange camp that is meant to save troubled teenagers. It’s packed with crazies, god-botherers, devoted felons and broken kids. Trey’s been in and out of trouble ever since the day the bad thing happened, but he’s he not here for saving: this is where he’ll find the man who did it. Revenge and healing, salvation and hell are a boiling, dangerous mix, and Trey finds himself drawn to a girl, a dream and the offer of friendship in the dark.

Review

The Light that Gets Lost is a lot of things. It’s a little bit murder mystery, a little bit coming of age, and a whole lot of emotions.

Camp Kernow is supposed to be a place of salvation. It’s supposed to turn wayward boys into model citizens by teaching them a trade and hammering a work ethic into them. In reality, it’s far from it.

Trey will never forget witnessing his parents get murdered at an early age, and now he’s heading to camp Kernow which seems to be both a blessing and curse. A curse because the camp is not all it seems, and the boys and staff there are not exactly welcoming, and a blessing because despite all this, Trey begins to make friends, and not only that, but he believes this is the exact place where his parent’s killer can be found.

I found this book interesting on a lot of different levels. The story was new and quirky, and the writing was beautiful and like nothing I’d read before. I felt for Trey the whole way through and needed to know how his story would end.

I was also interested in the whole idea of the camp as a juvenile detention centre and whether its true purpose was for good or for evil – it posed a lot of questions!

I’m sort of at a loss at what else to say about The Light that gets Lost. As you can probably tell, it’s a really hard book to describe, so maybe you should just give a go to find out more!unicorn rating 4

Guest Post: My Love of Murder and Mayhem by Cleo Bannister #HorrorOctober

I discovered Cleo’s blog, Cleopatra Loves Books relatively early on in my blogging life, and have been an avid reader ever since. I really enjoy crime fiction, especially a good, gritty, psychological thriller, but I still find myself only reading them sporadically.

Cleo however, has a seemingly insatiable appetite for all that involves death and murder, something we have joked about before in comments and such. As Horror October approached I thought it would be a great opportunity to find out more about Cleo, her blog, and where her love of crime fiction came from.

Huge thanks to Cleo for agreeing and sending over this great guest post. If you don’t follow her, head over there ASAP (she also covers more than just crime fic btw).

HorrorOct2015

My Love of Murder and Mayhem

by Cleo Bannister, Cleopatra Loves Books

I came to murder fairly late in life, although on reflection the seeds were sown earlier, but up until relatively recently you were more likely to find chick-lit or historical women’s fiction decking the shelves of my bookcase. These days they are dominated by black spines adorned with words such as death, murder or the darkly mysterious single word title!

My earliest introduction to murder stories came in the form of true-crime, more specifically the very trashy looking True Crime magazines with which I scared myself half to death before passing them onto my younger brother (something my more responsible adult self would say is probably not to be recommended).

Buying these magazines was a feat in itself, we lived in a rural town where everyone knew my mother, who certainly wouldn’t have approved, and they were kept on the top shelf. I’m not exactly tall now, and in those days top-shelves weren’t meant to be reached by under-sized teenagers so it was only on trips to the nearby city, Gloucester, that I was occasionally brave enough to get someone taller to pass me a copy.

Our local library didn’t stock YA fiction, it hadn’t been invented back in the 80s, and so once I’d finished the children’s section it was straight round the corner to adult fiction where I continued to read the classics fairly indiscriminately interspersed with the occasional bonk-buster as was required reading for every girl my age! Now either my library didn’t stock much in the way of crime fiction or I simply never really came across it, remember these were pre-internet days, you read what was available and unless you had a title and an author it really was pot-luck when pulling books out of the shelves.

Murder on the Orient ExpressI do remember one holiday home we stayed in, I want to say it was Wales but maybe that is my adult self, superimposing the stereotypical rainy weather on an entirely innocent region, which contained a huge stack of readers digest magazines and a good stock of Agatha Christie books which I devoured with relish and then I returned home and they became the one highlight in a very wet, windy and quite frankly miserable holiday.

In no time at all I left home, joined a library in every place that I called home still without any real structure to my reading, except for an overwhelming need to have a constant supply of books and it was only when I moved to Jersey that I became reacquainted with Agatha Christie with Poirot being played by the marvellous David Suchet which was required Sunday evening viewing for an entire winter, as well as settling down more than happily to watch Inspector Wexford do his stuff in a gentler contrast to Poirot’s more flamboyant manner. I sought out Ruth Rendell’s books featuring the detective and fortunately not only was Jersey library better stocked, it was better structured, books were shelved traditionally but some shelves were designated genres, paperbacks or recently published books, although I found my best bet of getting the choicest picks was to peruse the trolley which had the recently returned books on it. There I picked up a book by Barbara Vine, A Fatal Inversion, and having worked out this was Ruth Rendell whose Inspector Wexford books had filled my need for police procedurals, who used the pen name Barbara Vine when she wrote about crime from a psychological view-point.

Happy Like Murderers - Fred and Rose WestIn 1994 Fred West, an odd-job man in Gloucester had his garden dug up and the bones of his daughter who had been missing for eight years were located, I was in hospital giving birth to my son when the news came through that more bodies had been found, twelve in total. When Fred’s wife Rose was arrested, and later found guilty, I wanted to understand how such a large number of murders could take place under the noses of the residents in Cromwell Street, a road that I had walked along the end of many times while living in Gloucester.

I also wanted to understand why? Particularly in the case of Rose; what sort of woman kills for pleasure? In short this case reawakened my interest in true crime, although I now accept that the answers to the why part of my question will probably never be clear since Rose has refused to say anything at all in the intervening years.

Jersey library had a fairly good stock of the books that spring up after a particularly sensational crime so for a while my days were filled with caring for my young children while my nights were spent looking into some of the most depraved minds to grace the earth. It will relieve all those close to me that I wasn’t particularly interested in the methods used, I was interested in the make-up of these men and women.

The Scolds BridleAt about the same time I came across Minette Waters who wrote in a new style, one which combined my interest in the psychological but felt far more modern than Barbara Vine, whose novels were often, but not always, set in a bygone era. Minette Waters used transcripts and newspaper articles as part of her stories, which were without exception incredibly powerful. In The Scold’s Bridle, Mathilda Gillespie is found dead in her bath, flowers in her hair and wearing just us to a medieval torture implement, the scold’s bridle – absolute genius, no crazed serial killer needed just a deeply disturbing (and it still disturbs me now twenty years later) image.

In many ways my crime fiction reading continued with those books picked up for TV serialisation so I came across the marvellous Dalziel and Pascoe, Inspector Frost and of course the wonderful Morse and true to form proceeded to read the entire series of each – people the books are so much better than the TV series! There is far more to these books than cosy Sunday night viewing, the depth in the Dalziel and Pascoe books whilst brilliantly portrayed on screen, is lost when reduced to a two hour show.

As the years rolled by although I picked up any new books by these now much loved authors, plus a few more favourites found along the way, most notably Gillian White who wrote brilliant psychological thrillers with P.D. James, Peter James and Gill McGown for the more classic police procedurals, my reading was more concentrated on the books of the moment, I loved Bridget Jones, Dorothy Koomson, Lisa Jewell and Jodi Picoult. At the same time I love history and have a particular weakness for dual time-line stories so Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Lucinda Riley also have book that still grace my shelves today.

In 2010, with far more time on my hands, I decided to start reviewing the books I was reading on Amazon, and was lucky enough to be invited onto their Amazon Vine program which offered me free books in return for a review. I was in heaven and here was an opportunity to read books not only before publication but to check out those that I probably wouldn’t pick up in a bookstore.

The books I chose became increasingly dominated by murder and mayhem so that in 2015 out of the 111 books read and reviewed so far 67 are shelved under crime fiction or psychological thriller with a high percentage of non-fiction category also being books about murderous intent. My love of history, and particularly women’s history hasn’t dimmed, but now I enjoy books about Victorian Murderesses, women committed to lunatic asylums and suffragettes instead of love stories.

In 2013 Cleopatra Loves Books was launched primarily so that I had control of the books I’d reviewed and since then, the list of books I’ve found and been recommended that fit into this preferred genre has grown totally out of control. I thank you fellow bloggers for some absolute cracking reviews that has widened my reading to include such a variety of murderers from the domestic to the sadistic serial killer, I simply can’t get enough!

As you can probably tell, I have read loads of books about murder and mayhem so far so I’ll just leave you with a few suggestions from my bookshelves but if you want more detailed advice you can always contact me on my blog – I don’t even bite!

Police Procedural Series
Police Procedural

Roy Grace Series – Peter James
Lewis Trilogy – Peter May
Dalziel and Pascoe – Reginald Hill

Psychological Thriller
Psychological
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly
Disclaimer – Renee Knight
Copycat – Gillian White

Historical Crime Fiction
Historical Crime

The Anatomy of Death – Felicity Young
Out of the Silence – Wendy James
Caversham Lock – Peter Conway

Non-Fiction
Non Fiction
A Very British Murder – Lucy Worsley
The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath – Jane Robbins
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

Thanks again to Cleo! I hope this post has inspired you to pick up a murder mystery or two this Autumn, it certainly has for me! 🙂

Horns by Joe Hill

horns
Title: Horns
Author: Joe Hill
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 437 pages
Publication Details: June 2nd 2011 by Gollancz
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from a friend.

Goodreads // Purchase

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Review

I saw the movie adaptation of Horns when it came out and really enjoyed it, despite not really liking Daniel Radcliffe as a leading man, and it really made me want to read the book.

I usually hate doing it that way round and will usually avoid the book if I’ve already seen a movie or TV version, but I’m so glad I gave Horns a go. It was pretty batshit, but I loved it.

Ig is a pretty troubled guy. His high-school girlfriend, Merrin – the love of his life, his one and only GF who he plans on marrying was raped and murdered, and the whole town is convinced it was by Ig’s hands when they discover that Merrin was planning to leave him.

At the beginning of the book (and the film), Ig wakes up feeling hella rough after yet another night of heavy drinking and casual sex…nothing new there, until he looks in the mirror and see that he’s grown horns overnight, and things get weirder and weirder from there on out.

Horns was definitely an experience. The first page was one of the best openers to a story I’ve ever read. I was stunned, and that’s after seeing the film and knowing what to expect. So good. I loved Joe Hill’s writing style; it was dark and delicious, with a brilliant black humour weaving through it.

The book explores what demonising someone can result in, and I loved the dark themes running through it. There is no ‘good Vs evil’ in Horns, it’s more like evil Vs the lesser evil. We are all evil in some ways, after all.

The movie seemed to stay pretty faithful to the book, which is great, but I definitely found the book even more sinister and mysterious. The only down side was that I lost interest a tad towards the end – I felt like it could have finished earlier!

However, I have the feeling that Horns is just the first of many Joe Hill books that I’ll enjoy.

unicorn rating 4

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

bonesofyou
Title: The Bones of You
Author: Debbie Howells
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: June 30th 2015 by Kensington
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free, advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review!

Goodreads // Pre-order/Purchase

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.

Review

I was totally hooked on The Bones of You from page one. Kate is a down-to-earth woman (literally – she’s a gardener), wife, and mother who is shocked and saddened at the disappearance of the girl next door, Rosie.

Rosie is the same age as Kate’s daughter, and although they were not friends, quiet, little Rosie would often visit Kate and help her look after her horses. It’s only when she disappears that Kate realises that Rosie had kept it a secret about visiting Kate, and all of a sudden, Kate is involved in the chaos that is a missing teenager.

It’s not long until Rosie’s body is found, in the exact place where Kate and her horse got spooked just days before and from there things just get weirder and weirder and the perfect family become much less perfect, page by page.

There were a lot of things that shouldn’t have worked in this book: The switching of narrators, the flashbacks and fluctuating timeline and the ghost of Rosie telling her side of the story from both before and after her death, but I thought it really did work.

The pace was fast, and I was dying to know (not really, don’t kill me) who had killed Rosie even though at times it seemed obvious. I also found it really easy to read and follow despite all the previously mentioned things which usually prevent that from happening where I’m concerned.

The Bones of You is a dark, interesting mystery turned psychological thriller, which ticked lots of boxes for me.

unicorn rating 4