Bites
October 14, 2017

Published: May 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker , a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own? (book back blurb)

I reviewed the first book a while ago and my recap for it just went up last month at The Devil’s Elbow. This month I’m recapping THE CHASE and having never read it before, of course it needed to be reviewed here too. Oh such Labyrinth-y goodness.

Granted I was a bit torn with THE CHASE. The pacing was a little all over the place and the first sentence in that blurb is really misleading. Jenny doesn’t have dudes falling all over her now. One guy asked her to the prom who wasn’t Tom. The blurb could have started with the second sentence and have been fine. Anyway, pacing. It lingers on minutiae in this book where it didn’t in the last, giving me drawn out scenes when they were postering (as in handing out posters with Summer’s face on it because everyone thinks she’s just missing) that didn’t really advance the plot at all, or the whole thing with this guy pursuing Jenny, which really wasn’t much of a thing. There’s a fair amount of cigarette lighting in the book and things don’t really start to get rolling until a little more than halfway into the book, which is far. I often felt like telling Smith to get on with it up to that point.

However, I did like the total mindfuck going on up to Game #2. They were just spaced far enough apart in that first half that they didn’t connect too well and too much time passed between them to really maintain interest. Plus Smith likes to drag on with unnecessary physical details and expounding a little too much on what’s going on in people’s heads so that slowed the plot down too. But the mindfucking was good. I wish she spent more time there.

About a third of the way through the book I started having real issues with the type of focus Smith was giving Dee, her Aba, and then a Polynesian woman. It seemed like every POC that popped up in her books were in some way otherworldly and deserving of this . . . other type of description that no one else got. Then I remembered Wing from DE mentioning not liking Smith’s othering of Dee. Not sure what that meant I looked it up. Yup. That’s it. That’s what was really bothering me. It’s almost like Smith’s overcompensating by making all of the POC in her book mystical and gorgeous and unreachable . . . except that just plays into typecasting, doesn’t it? Dee, the angry but beautiful black girl who’s regularly described as having lioness and panther-like qualities, who wants to fight constantly, and who is regularly described as having a savage or barbaric smile (OMG NO). Aba, the mystical black grandma offering pearls of wisdom to help the children along. And the Polynesian women, a cop and there for a second, was described as being model beautiful. It was just so glaring and off-putting.

Meanwhile Michael has some variety of spaniel eyes, Audrey has spiky lashes and bangs, and everyone else kinds of blends in. Smith has a real bad habit of using rather unique descriptors repeatedly. They stand out “nicely.”

Anyway, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horror and THE CHASE fits better into that arena than anything else. I really, really liked the mind games Julian played, wearing the group down before taking them one by one. Truly, it’s perfect. But then we get sort of a repeat ending from book one and I want to say it’s lazy but it also plays into Julian’s character so I’m not sure which way to sway on that one. But I like that Smith went with the brain game with book two. Considering how mentally mangled those kids would be after what they went through, and with losing Summer (I have a feeling she’s not actually dead . . .) their brains would be ripe for poking. And Julian did just that. It’s demented and dark and it made me like the story even more. Jenny is standing more on her own two feet and barreling headfirst into things. Tom is no longer her crutch. Instead she stands on her own and that’s kind of awesome.

I’m looking forward to working my way through book 3 next month. Be sure to check out my recap going up at The Devil’s Elbow on the 23rd!

4

September 30, 2017

Pub Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Framed for a murder she didn’t commit…

As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career–some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside.

But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth–unless the killer finds her first. (goodreads.com)

I’m really rather cranky that I’ve effectively spoiled books five and six for myself by reading HIDE AND SEEK. I didn’t realize I was so far behind in the series until it was basically too late. Not enough time in the day to catch up and I had a time limit on this book so I did what I could and hoped for the best.

HIDE AND SEEK is the first book in the Helen Grace series where I questioned a plot device as being a little hinky. It involved suspects in the prison murders and once the guards started getting tagged they started getting all up in armsr about it. The thing is, the way this one prisoner died, common sense, especially for those investigating, would be first to the guards. So a tiny little element that seemed a bit too convenient for the sake of some added drama, but by no means was it detracting. And since it was the only element I took even close to an issue with it obviously wasn’t that big of a problem for me.

Again, pissed that I spoiled two books worth of plot reading this. No one’s fault by my own and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not going to go back and read them. I want to know details! But I know what’s coming and it does take some of the fun out of it.

With this being the fourth book in the series I’m reviewing I’m running out of things to say about it. Arlidge is holding strong in his writing, drawing the reader in immediately and holding them by the collar until the book ends. Even at book six I haven’t seen any deviation from quality of writing or plot. It’s not getting outlandish or anything. Arlidge is holding strong, delivering a gripping story and likable yet incredibly flawed character for whom you can’t help but root (well, maybe not all of them, some are just outright unlikable and that’s okay, they’re still fun). I can’t get enough of this series and I haven’t tired of it yet. Now just to fill in the gaps.

5

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher through First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

Published: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Treehouse Publishing Group
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away.

Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl–Rose–running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.

With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father’s age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust? (goodreads.com)

Montgomery writes a compelling, gripping story about a girl trying to escape a cult and the passive observers around her who are finally forced into action. I couldn’t stop reading and practically swallowed the book whole. Montgomery doesn’t use a lot of flowery, overwritten language to tell her story and sticks to short, succinct passages of time and chapters that make the book feel effortless to read.

It was horrifying to read about the FLDS community up in Colorado City and even more horrifying to know that, while this story was fictionalized, such a cult does occupy the area at the Arizona/Utah border. And yes. These guys are a cult. And just like the first amendment doesn’t protect all free speech, it shouldn’t protect all aspects of religion, especially the abusive, pedophilloic aspects of it. It’s one thing when adults are consenting to this kind of idiocy. It’s quite another when girls as young as 13 for forced into purely procreative marriages with men old enough to be their grandfather while the boys are effectively ejected from their world because they’re useless. When the story went into the POV of the “Prophet” it was grotesque. The man was basically a pedophile and made all the woman under his rule dress in a manner that made them look like children so he could, quite literally, get off. Gross.

Rose’s story was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but root for her as she slowly broken the chains that bound her. Adan, while a great character whom I liked, felt like a weird insert into this world that didn’t quite fit into this grander puzzle. He fit close enough, but not cleanly so even within the confines of the story he felt like an outsider placed there in order to move the story forward. Didn’t stop me from plowing through the story, but he’s the one slightly off element for me.

THE SCENT OF RAIN asked a lot of valid questions, especially centering around Chase and Trak as they came to terms with what they were seeing. They’ve basically spent their lives being silent approvers of what’s been going on and claiming they didn’t know how far it’d gotten. But when something’s happening right under your nose, how ignorant can you be about it? And these two characters really struggled with that toward the end of the story, including a woman within the cult, Beth, who left and came back and had a hard time swallowing what was going on. A definite (probably unintentional) parallel to what’s happening in our society today. At what point is it too much? How far down the slippery slope can one slide before they’re about to crash into a raging river?

The end was a bit anticlimactic for me. I wish there was more comeuppance for the Prophet than what we received but I guess that’s reality, right? Cut off one head of the hydra and three more grow back. Changing the minds of the indoctrinated is a difficult, nearly impossible, thing.

What really hit me were Montgomery’s notes at the end about how she went up to Colorado City to do research and how eerie everything around her was, especially about the children and how they treated outsiders. It makes my skin crawl.

Montgomery’s THE SCENT OF RAIN is an excellent addition to all of the information out there about the FLDS cults that exists and what’s going on. It’s frustrating to know that is it so difficult to take children out of these environments because of the unwillingness of the adults to testify against the men running their lives. And the inbreeding that’s happening and the children suffering in such awful ways as a result of that inbreeding. It’s horrifying. I don’t think people truly understand that this isn’t about freedom of religion but about the absolute control of a few over many, often to satiate latent sexual desires. It’s gross and these cults shouldn’t be allowed to exist, at least not when children are involved. If adults want to be idiots and do that to themselves, fine. But when children can’t make those decisions on their own they shouldn’t be forced into it.

The only real complaint I have is that the digital copy I received was a bit sloppy. This isn’t a self-published book but it is published with a small indie and it would have benefited from a line edit and formatting checks before being released. I ended up with some missing words in sentences, page numbers in the middle of the text, and scene shifts with no demarcation, to name a few. But I was so engrossed with the story that I was hardly bothered by these things.

4

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 2, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ruby wakes up in a strange room. Her captor calmly explains that no one is looking for her. No one wants her. Except him.

When the body of a woman is found buried on a secluded beach, Detective Helen Grace is called to the scene. She knows right away that the killer is no amateur. The woman has been dead for years, and no one has even reported her missing. But why would they? She’s still sending text messages to her family.

Helen is convinced that a criminal mastermind is at work: someone very smart, very careful, and worst of all, very patient. But as she struggles to piece together the killer’s motive, time is running out for a victim who is still alive… (goodreads.com)

Good lord. These books are like crack. I can’t get enough of them and when I start it’s practically impossible to stop. With the super short chapters and tight, succinct language I just rocket from one cover to another and don’t even realize it.

Arlidge doesn’t disappoint in book three of the Helen Grace series, putting the foremost serial killer stopper against another sicko hellbent on imposing his sick fantasies on women. I love how Arlidge weaves Grace’s personal life into her work life so seamlessly. It doesn’t detract from the story at all and he masterfully handles three plots (minimum) like an expert juggler, never dropping any of the balls as the story carries on.

Despite the way her life is carrying on, Grace is appearing less like a train wreck to me. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t make some eyebrow-raising decisions but I’m finding myself in her corner more and more as she tries to sort out her world. I also like how Arlidge gives us a character that the world has gotten forever with men as the lead. It’s always men living reckless, damaged lives who makes poor decisions and yet still seem sympathetic. Grace is that threefold and I love her all the more for it.

I really don’t have much else to say about THE DOLL’S HOUSE. It’s fantastic. An excellent, gripping, face-paced thriller that sinks its claws in and doesn’t let you go. Just shows how out of it I am, though. I received an advanced copy of HIDE AND SEEK from Penguin and I’m all here like okay. I need to read THE DOLL’S HOUSE because I don’t want to read book 4 without reading book 3 . . . Yeah . . . HIDE AND SEEK is book 6. I got some catching up to do. Oh dear me. Whatever will I do . . .?

5

September 5, 2017

Published: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Traversing Z Press (self)
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Caroline Daniels must marry, and marry well. But in her remote corner of England eligible suitors are few and far between, and none hold a candle to her closest friend, Diana Fitzroy.

When Sir Edward Masterson arrives, he seems the answer to Caroline’s financial worries, though she instinctively dislikes the reticent, older merchant. Soon Sir Edward has set his sights on acquiring both Caroline and the decaying Harkworth Hall.

Caroline’s future seems secure, save that his enigmatic secretary hints at a dark secret, and Sir Edward shows an unusual interest in tales of monsters … and the blood in Caroline’s veins. (goodreads.com)

What a delightfully creepy book! I was a little nonplussed about the voice at the beginning, kind of a “oh not another one of these” moments, but the plot unfolded nicely and I got sucked right into it to the point where I didn’t even notice the voice. In fact the voice ended up adding to everything that was going on so it all worked out in the end.

Caroline is a character that’s been shoved into a particular role that she doesn’t really want to be in but society tells her it’s a must so she does it despite her heart screaming otherwise. But soon circumstances change and even though Caroline is desperate for a change, what society wants is so ingrained in her that it’s hard for her to do what’s right by her and by her family. It creates excellent tension among her, Mr Chase and Edward Masterson.

On top of that there’s this sinister, underlying scheme going on and you’re not sure whether there’s a supernatural element to it or if the men involved are just all sorts of shady and Johnson does an excellent job of toeing that line without dragging out the story in any unnecessary way.

And it’s a shorter story, my digital copy coming in as just over 100 pages. Johnson doesn’t waste words and she doesn’t waste time getting to the point but she doesn’t sacrifice setting or character development to get there. Another excellent balance.

I really hope there’s more to this story, at least one more book, because after what happens at the end it can’t just end there!

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.