Review: The Patient by Jasper DeWitt

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Patient publishes July 7, 2020.

Despite knowing that I have a hard time appreciating books that fall under the Horror genre, I thought the synopsis for The Patient sounded too intriguing to pass up. Unfortunately, it was just another book that proved this genre isn’t for me.

I just found the story really boring. I was not, at any point, even the smallest bit freaked out or spooked by what I read. I thought at the very least there would be a creepy atmosphere around the hospital, but I didn’t really get that. I thought the mystery surrounding Joe seemed interesting, but it was approached in such a clinical way at first, that it never felt scary. Even when the story morphed into something that was obviously supernatural, I was still just kind of bored with it. It did sometimes have some graphically gross descriptions, but gore doesn’t really make up for lack of suspense or thrills for me.

I also thought there was a real missed opportunity in the formatting of the story. Parker is supposed to be sharing his story in multiple online forum entries. He makes reference to people’s comments to his posts, but we don’t actually ever see those comments. I felt it would have lent some credibility to the format to include those. As it was, other than the date that begins each chapter and Parker explicitly stating at the beginning of each entry that he’s writing this on the internet, there’s nothing about the storytelling that makes it any different than a normal narrative.

Overall, The Patient was a letdown for me. It didn’t live up to it’s intriguing premise and I didn’t really understand the narrative choices. However, you should keep in mind that this isn’t really my genre and maybe die hard Horror fans will think differently.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Mexican Gothic publishes June 30, 2020. 

Before I begin, can we all just take a moment to admire that beautiful cover? I’m not even a little sorry to admit that my desire to read Mexican Gothic was totally based on the cover. Unfortunately, it ended up being the only thing that really worked for me.

My lack of enjoyment of this book is mostly one me, though. I took “gothic” to mean a creepy and mysterious setting. Something along the lines of Jane Eyre (which is referenced in the synopsis). This is more “gothic horror”, though, which is definitely not my cup of tea. No matter how hard I try, I really struggle with being able to appreciate the horror genre, so keep that in mind with my review.

The story started out very slowly and I found it really hard to get through in the beginning. I was completely prepared to DNF it, but then I decided to give one more chapter a try and it started to pick up. I became mildly intrigued, but it never really hooked me. I found Neomi kind of shallow and spoiled and not very likable. She did grow on me as the story went on, though. I liked her growing friendship with Francis, who was the only other half-way likable character in the story.

I was hoping to experience a little more of Mexican culture than we got here, too. Despite taking place in Mexico, the story mostly takes place at the isolated house that was built in the English tradition. The Doyle family are also English and only one of them even speaks the language of the country they’ve immigrated to.

Lastly, the whole supernatural/horror part of the story just didn’t work for me. Again, this is probably more me and it might be fine for fans of the genre. I just rolled my eyes a bit and suffered through the explanations. I also found the climax of the story to be kind of predictable.

Overall, Mexican Gothic just wasn’t for me. I love that beautiful cover, but I was disappointed in the lack of Mexican culture and the whole horror plotline. I am, admittedly, not the right audience for this genre, though, so this might be worth the read for those that are.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Bright Lands by John Fram

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Bright Lands publishes July 7, 2020. 

Ok, let me first say that when I requested this book, I was binging Friday Night Lights and I didn’t exactly read the full synopsis. I saw football and Texas and secrets and that was enough for me. The Bright Lands ended up being much different than I was expecting. It wasn’t exactly the kind of book I usually go for, but the characters made me keep reading.

This review is going to be short because most of my thoughts on the plot would be full of spoilers. So what can I actually say? The story was told through multiple points of view and I think those were well done. It really moved the story along and I was invested in all the characters. Early on in the story I wasn’t sure if this was a book I wanted to finish, but the characters kept me going. I expected a small town mystery, but there were definite Horror vibes, too. Horror is not really my genre, so take it with a grain of salt when I say it made me take a lot of things way less seriously than I otherwise would have. There are also major themes of hypocrisy and  homophobia, along with a lot of drugs, violence, assault, pedophilia, and demons (some metaphorical, one real). We spend most of the book waiting to find out what the mysterious Bright Lands are and while I did come to have my suspicions, it ended up being another eye rolling disappointment.

Overall, The Bright Lands wasn’t really for me. I didn’t appreciate the horror aspects and the overall tone of resentment and regret made me a little more depressed during already depressing times (though you can also take that as a compliment to the writing, I guess). I did really like the multiple POVs and was invested in the characters, though. While the story itself wasn’t really my cup of tea, I think there are a lot of readers out there that will enjoy this one a lot more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Other People by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A gripping new thriller about a man’s quest for the daughter no one else believes is still alive, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place.

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.

His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

If you have lost a loved one, The Other People want to help. Because they know what loss is like. They know what pain is like. They know what death is like.

There’s just one problem . . . they want other people to know it too.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Other People will be available January 28, 2020.

I think maybe it’s time for me to just give up and admit that this author’s books are not for me. C.J. Tudor is a talented writer and that makes me want to keep giving her a try, but like the books preceding it, The Other People, left me a little bored and underwhelmed.

The story had a lot going for it: murder, kidnapping, mysterious characters, secretive pasts, and a shadowy organization from the dark web. It really should have been a lot more intriguing than it ended up being. I figured out how the characters were related long before they were revealed. Gabe’s big secret past and the horrible thing he did ended up being not nearly as shocking as I was expecting. The supernatural elements didn’t really make a lot of sense to me and left me a little bit annoyed. And I thought The Other People organization should have been a little further explored.

Overall, The Other People, was ok, but left me pretty underwhelmed. I do like Tudor’s writing style and I liked the main character, Gabe, for the most part. However, the pace was pretty slow, the twists didn’t surprise me, I didn’t think the supernatural element added much to the story, and I found myself pretty bored. I have read several positive reviews for this book, though, so it might just be me. I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more books from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic–and terrifying–consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Dead Girls Club will be available December 10, 2019.

To be perfectly honest, I wanted to read this book because of that beautiful cover. I think I requested a copy on NetGalley without even really reading the synopsis. Unfortunately, the cover ended up being the best thing about the book.

I kind of feel like the synopsis is a little misleading. It doesn’t say anything inaccurate, but I think it frames the story as more of a Horror than it actually was. Instead of a creepy, cat-and-mouse type of story, we get to watch a paranoid woman wander around making stupid decision after stupid decision, interspersed with the re-telling of the events that led to her childhood best friend’s death. The past chapters were a bit of a struggle to get through. The Red Lady is a story Becca makes up and scares her friends with. Many of the chapters were just repetitive stories of the Red Lady and how Heather gets annoyed that Becca doesn’t want to talk about anything else. Eventually all the girls start to think she’s real and it ends in some insanity. The girls are 12 or 13 and I felt like they were too old for this type of behavior. I also thought Becca was a little psycho and I had a hard time understanding why Heather would actually want to be friends with her.

I had a real hard time liking Heather. I just feel like every single thing she did was the wrong thing. As a psychologist I thought she should have recognized her unhealthy behavior a little more than she did. But, I guess it goes along with the cliche that the people who need psychologists the most are the ones that end up going into that field. She also really frustrated me with how she treated her husband and her friends.

One good thing I have to say about the story, though, is that I thought the conclusion was going to be super obvious and it ended up not being what I thought it would be. I was so focused on what I thought was going to happen, that I overlooked all the clues the author left and I liked that it surprised me. I just wish the rest of the story wasn’t so repetitive and slow.

Overall, The Dead Girls Club wasn’t really for me. I found the main character really unlikable and felt the story dragged a lot. It didn’t live up to it’s potential for me, but I have seen some more favorable reviews of it, so it might still be worth the read for some. I’m increasing my rating a bit because the end did manage to have a twist I wasn’t expecting.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

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Review from Goodreads:

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town–while avoiding the enemies he’s made in the years since–is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, CJ Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader.

I received a copy of this title via Netgalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Hiding Place will be available February 5, 2019. 

What Worked For Me

-I’m a big fan of Tudor’s writing style. I love the banter, the dark humor, the well-executed multiple timelines. Even though I felt like the pacing was a little too slow for much of the book, I still wanted to keep reading. There’s just something compelling about it.

-Joe. Joe was not exactly a likable character, but I actually liked him a lot. He comes across as an underdog and how can you not root for the underdog? I loved his sense of humor, even it was kind of dark. He’s had a lot of bad things happen in his life and I liked that even though he kept making a lot of bad decisions and was pretty cynical, he still had a sense of hopefulness.

What Didn’t Work For Me

-So, you all know how much I hate it when a surprise supernatural element pops up in a story. I go from reading a believable mystery/thriller to something I can’t take seriously. I honestly think this would work much better marketed as Horror instead of Mystery. I mentally just put it in the Horror category and so it didn’t bother me as much as something like this normally would.

-While there were some surprises at the end of the book, I didn’t really see the point in some of them. It’s hard to explain it without getting spoilery, but I really felt like what happened in Arnhill when Joe was young and why he’s back were the heart of the story, and tacking on an extra reveal at the end that you didn’t even realize you were supposed to be trying to figure out seemed unnecessary.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Hiding Place. I liked the writing and the characters – namely Joe. However, the supernatural angle and the unnecessary final twist did sour me a bit. Still, I think fans of Tudor’s previous work will enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Several years ago there was a popular mockumentary on tv about mermaids. They weren’t The Little Mermaid type of mermaids, either. And there were people who didn’t understand that it wasn’t a real documentary and got really upset over it. When I heard of this book, it reminded me of that tv show and I knew I wanted to read it. This is not the kind of book I normally read and while there were many parts I really enjoyed, there were many I didn’t care for either. My thoughts are kind of all over the place on this book and my review will be, as well.

Science, Science Everywhere! I knew from reviews I read before starting this book that there was going to be a good amount of science involved. This isn’t something I generally appreciate in novels, but I thought I could skim through those parts if I needed to. The thing is, though, that the majority of characters were scientists and scientific thoughts was just part of their POV. There is no getting away from the science in this book. I was thankful I read this on an e-reader that I could easily look things up, as terms were thrown around without any explanation. Even though I didn’t exactly like this part of the book, I thought it was incorporated in a way that made sense and there wasn’t a lot of over the top description.

It was super preachy on environmental issues. If you’re someone who use the terms “Climate Alarmists” or “tree-huggers”, this book might be a little too much for you. It’s kind of one long, never-ending lecture on how humans are bad and ruin the planet. However, the book is about scientists, so you should expect those kinds of conversations.

Lots of great character development, but not very likable characters. The book bounces around many different POVs. While I don’t always like that technique, I thought it worked really well here. We even get the POV of the mermaids a few times, which I really enjoyed. I felt like we got a good deal of character development from all the POVs we got and even though that made the book a little long, it was worth it. Unfortunately, I found almost all of the characters pretty unlikable. And the ones I did like are the ones I probably shouldn’t have (i.e. Michi and Jacques. They were crazy and awful, but fun to read).

There is gore, but not as much as I expected. For being a horror novel, I expected a lot more death and gore than what was involved. There was a lot more time spent on scientific explanations than on horror. There were some really well-written scenes of suspense and fear, but for the most part I didn’t really feel the urgency for survival from the characters that I wanted. While there were many deaths, there were very few that actually made an impact.

Overall, I liked Into the Drowning Deep, but not as much as I was hoping to. The chapters were long and the pace was pretty slow most of the time. I felt like I spent all of my free time reading and it still took me several days more to finish it than I was expecting. I felt like the character development and the moments of suspense were enough to save it from the slower paced science information for the most part, but then I found the ending really anticlimactic. This book is listed as #1 in a series, but I’m not sure if there will be more books coming or just because there was a prequel novella. I do plan on reading the novella and I might consider reading a sequel if there is one. If you’re someone who like a little horror and a lot of science, this book might be for you.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars