Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Review: Chasing Tails by R. Lindsay Carter

by R. Lindsay Carter
Release Date: June 10, 2023
2023 Rock and Flower Press
Ebook Edition; 334 Pages
ISBN: 979-8985907278
ASIN: B0C79VC6BT
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Cozy
Source: Review copy from author

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Cressida Curtain has gone from hunting bad guys to being hunted, and she’s been forced into hiding for safety. She yearns to dig her claws into a new assignment to alleviate the boredom of her current lifestyle. The thrill of the chase calls to her. She never expected adventure to land, quite literally, on her doorstep in the form of two strangers. Both seek help from Cressida to further their own agendas. One is trustworthy. One is not. A wake of death and destruction seems to follow them. Her chosen family is relying on her to make the right choice. And making the wrong one could have dire consequences—for her loved ones, for her personal safety, and even for her world. Nobody told her that being the legacy bearer would be this difficult.

My Thoughts
Chasing Tails is the third entry in this series and I thought i was just as much fun as the first two entries. In this entry, Cressida chafes while she hides from those who are hunting her down, spending this time training and learning to control the new powers she didn't know she had as well as trying to figure out how to break the curse she received in the first book.  Frustrated, she decides to take matters into her own hands. And while I could understand her frustration, after what she has been through, you would think she would have given a moment of reflection when she embarked on this next journey.

For the record, I love the characters in this book and have enjoyed their character development. Naturally, Cressida's development is the strongest as she is the main character, but I am happy to see more of the secondary characters play a stronger role in this book and we get to learn a bit more about their pasts and their motivations.  Grimm is definitely my next favourite character after Cressida and I was happy for him to play a more central role in this book.  It did lead to some interesting revelations and I am really curious as to how the author is going to continue the story line that developed with Grimm in the next book. There were also several new character introduced and I liked how smoothly the author integrated them into the story; they should play pivotal roles as the story moves forward so I can't wait to learn more about them. 

I don't think the plot moved along as quickly as the second book, but it was still interesting and there were a lot of threads from the previous books that were resolved.  The writing style is engaging and the dialogue continues to be witty, drawing you into the story and the plot.  Because Cressida is a shape-shifting cat, she can use that ability to get herself out of difficult situations, except when her opponents know about her abilities, so it was fun trying to see her get out of those situations where she was trapped. I have always liked how Cressida relies on her friends and family for help and the author doesn't make her out to be this big heroine, even though the is supposed to be the one to save the world. The author makes great use of other characters to help Cressida, as family and friendship continues to be a running theme throughout this series. 

Verdict
Chasing Tails is another fun entry into this series, and it is just as compelling as the first two books with great storytelling and good character development. With some unexpected twists and turns, this book had me turning the pages quickly, but I enjoyed every moment of it. If you are looking for a fun, fantasy series, then I highly recommend this series.   


 


Friday, May 10, 2024

Review: Crimson at Cape May by Randy Overbeck

by Randy Overbeck
Release Date: July 20, 2020
2020 The Wild Rose Press
Ebook Edition; 414 Pages
ISBN: 978-1509231638
ASIN: B089P2PG1B
Audiobook: B09D5Z9XQW
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from Cozy Mystery Review

3.75 / 5 Stars

Summary
No matter how far you run, you can never really escape a haunted past. Darrell Henshaw-teacher, coach, and paranormal sensitive-learned this lesson the hard way. Now, with his job gone and few options, he heads for Cape May to coach a summer football camp. The resort town, with gorgeous beaches, rich history and famous Victorian mansions, might just be the getaway he needs. Only, no one told him Cape May is the most haunted seaport on the East Coast. When a resident ghost, the Haunted Bride, stalks Darrell, begging for his help, he can't refuse, and joins forces with Cassie, another sensitive. As Darrell and the street-wise teen investigate the bride's death, they uncover something far more sinister than a murder. Can Darrell and Cassie expose those behind the crimes before they end up becoming the next victims?

My Thoughts
Crimson at Cape May is the second book in A Haunted Shores Mystery series and features Derrell Henshaw, who has recently been let go from his high school teaching position, coaching at a football camp in Camp May. The reasons for him being let go featured in the first book, but the consequences carried into the second book, issues with which I had no problems understanding or sympathizing. I actually thought the author did a credible job merging the two stories without taking the focus of the story being developed in this book. While I did enjoy the overall story and characters, I did find it a bit slow in some parts, it was easy to figure out the actual villain, and there were some inconsistencies, especially for those of us who grew up in the nineties, that I just had to ignore.  

For the most part, the characters were rather interesting and distinct. Things weren't going so well for Darrell at the beginning of this book as he had lost his job and his girlfriend and was in Cape May working at a football camp to earn some money. The stress was creating anxiety and affecting his OCD, so when he again starts seeing ghosts, he doesn't react very well to those sightings and it takes a lot of persuasion for him to help them.  Considering the ghosts got him into a lot of trouble in the previous book, I understood his reluctance as I think it was consistent with his life at the moment.  When things started to go better for him in his life, he was more receptive to the ghosts, and that made a lot of sense. I really enjoyed Cassie as a character and liked how realistically she was portrayed.  Some of her life was definitely downplayed to keep the book clean, but you got enough to read between the lines and understand how difficult it is for kids on the street when their home lives are terrible.  

The pacing was a bit slow at times, but the story essentially had three mysteries woven into it: first, there was the problem with Derrell and why he lost his job, events from the previous book; two, the ghost that kept appearing to Derrell, the mysterious bride, presented the next mystery; and three, the issue with one of Derrell's students whose older sister had gone missing which led into a sex trafficking scenario. I really appreciated the fact the author dove into more serious issues in this book as it's very relevant today. Sex trafficking is definitely not new and I liked how the author was pointing out that everyone who turns their head when noticing something is wrong is part of the problem, and allowing influential people to get away with criminal behaviour is problematic. It was done subtly, and in such a way that we should always be on the lookout for odd behaviours and talk to our children about being wary; you know if a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and you should run as fast as you can.  I find comments about sex trafficking in the nineties quite interesting, especially from those who say they had no idea because as a uni student in the late 80' and early 90's we knew to avoid those jobs where you went to a 'warehouse' for an interview as they were probably for porno and these types of things. So yes, it was definitely around.  And those 'job advertisements' were everywhere. 

Verdict
Crimson at Cape May was an enjoyable read, and if you love the paranormal as well as interesting characters, then this is for you. Personally, I prefer something a bit more gritty, but the themes running through this book were quite serious; they were also presented in a way that were not overly graphic or biased, but are definitely something that are relevant in today's world.  I did find that Derrell's character development was a bit inconsistent, and I had a problem with the whole cellphone thing in this book, not his purchase of it, but his use as he would definitely not have been able to make a call in the backwoods in 1999 as cell reception during that time was terrible. I was also not impressed with who the villain was in this book as I tend to need legitimate motivations and reasons and that was lacking in my estimation.  However, if you are looking for a book that is a mix of paranormal and mystery, and like deeper themes that aren't too explicit, then this book is definitely for you. 
 


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Review: The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

by Chanel Cleeton
Release Date: April 2, 2024
2024 Berkley
Ebook ARC; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593440513
ASIN: B0CBJHCWVD
Audiobook: B0CBQR39L7
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Gothic / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.75 / 5 Stars

Summary
With the Great War finally behind them, thousands of civilians and business moguls alike flock to South Florida with their sights set on making a fortune. When wealthy industrialist Robert Barnes and his wife, Anna, build Marbrisa, a glamorous estate on Biscayne Bay, they become the toast of the newly burgeoning society. Anna and Robert appear to have it all, but in a town like Miami, appearances can be deceiving, and one scandal can change everything.

Years later following the tragic death of her parents in Havana, Carmen Acosta journeys to Marbrisa, the grand home of her estranged older sister, Carolina, and her husband, Asher Wyatt. On the surface, the gilded estate looks like paradise, but Carmen quickly learns that nothing at Marbrisa is as it seems. The house has a treacherous legacy, and Carmen’s own life is soon in jeopardy . . . unless she can unravel the secrets buried beneath the mansion’s facade and stop history from repeating itself.

My Thoughts
The House on Biscayne Bay has many of the elements that I love in a gothic historical mystery: an old eerie house with a secret, mysterious past; a housekeeper who knows more than she lets on; characters who don't get along, but seem to harbour these big secrets; a dual timeline; and an atmosphere that lends itself well to gothic literature. Yet, despite all of these elements, the story struggles from pacing issues and poor character development, and while I enjoyed the overall story, I just couldn't empathize with the characters and their plights.

The story is told in a dual timeline format, Anna from 1919 and Carmen from 1941. I actually preferred Carmen's storyline more as I found Anna to be a bit annoying. I understand that a lot of women from that time period do not have a lot of knowledge of their husband's business affairs, but she seemed especially oblivious to everything that was happening around her. Carmen had a bit more sass to her, and I liked that she went searching for answers when she started to suspect something was wrong. However, there was little depth to any of the characters and it was difficult to track their motivations or their feelings or to even care why they did what they did.  Carmen and her sister did not get along at all, and other than there being an age difference and Carmen wanting to tag along after her big sister all the time, there was little explanation given for the gulf between them other than petty jealousies so it was hard to muster any empathy for either of them, especially Carolina. 

Probably the strongest part of this book was the cohesiveness between the dual timelines and the merging of the stories. I tend to have ambivalent feelings about dual timelines, but these ones were so close together that there didn't seem to be much difference between them.  The sense of atmosphere and mystery were definitely there and there is nothing like a big house and a lush estate by the water to add eeriness to a story.  However, the timing and pacing were off and it took a long time to get to the crux of the story. I could see the twist coming a mile away and I was hoping it wouldn't go there, but it did. And while everything wrapped up nicely, I thought it was a bit forced. It's hard to say more without giving anything away, but let's just say, I didn't feel it. 

Verdict
The House on Biscayne Bay had a lot going for it, but suffered from pacing issues and was really slow to get off the ground. Because of the lack of depth in the characters, I couldn't empathize with anyone as I didn't connect with their feelings or motivations. However, if you like historical fiction with a bit of a mystery and like slower mysteries, this one may be for you.

 


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Review: Murder Road by Simone St. James

by Simone St. James
Release Date: March 5, 2024
2024 Berkley
Kindle ARC & Audiobook Editions; 341 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593200384
ASIN: B0C76XHYL8
Audiobook: B0CB99YKLY (9h10min)
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
 July 1995. April and Eddie have taken a wrong turn. They’re looking for the small resort town where they plan to spend their honeymoon. When they spot what appears to be a lone hitchhiker along the deserted road, they stop to help. But not long after the hitchhiker gets into their car, they see the blood seeping from her jacket and a truck barreling down Atticus Line after them.

When the hitchhiker dies at the local hospital, April and Eddie find themselves in the crosshairs of the Coldlake Falls police. Unexplained murders have been happening along Atticus Line for years and the cops finally have two witnesses who easily become their only suspects. As April and Eddie start to dig into the history of the town and that horrible stretch of road to clear their names, they soon learn that there is something supernatural at work, something that could not only tear the town and its dark secrets apart, but take April and Eddie down with it all.
 
My Thoughts
Murder Road had a lot of the elements that I enjoy in murder mysteries, but I was somewhat disappointed in this latest book by this author. When I first started reading this author, I loved the mix of mystery / suspense / paranormal that could be found in the books, and found them creepy and gripping.The book did start off rather strong for me so I was hopeful at first, but then it got bogged down towards the middle and I started to lose interest. And the thing is, it wasn't that the source material was uninteresting, I think it was the way it was presented.

Newlyweds Eddie and April are the main characters in this book and I did enjoy their backstories. Both of them had some struggles in their lives and I found their perceptions of current events based on their backgrounds to be quite interesting; the whole concept that we can never leave run away from who we were is a running theme throughout this book and we have to accept that those experiences have shaped us into the people who we are today. There were a lot of repetitive thoughts and concepts though, and I got tired of April reminding us how beautiful she was even though it wasn't important to her.  Really? I think the author was hung up on this concept and used 'the beautiful woman must be lying because she is beautiful' thing to the point of nausea.  There really couldn't be any other reason why the police officer thought April was lying? Of course it had to do with the fact she was beautiful and was hiding something.  Eddie's story fascinated me more than April's simply because I am married to a vet and understand the impact PTSD and being posted overseas can have on someone. I personally don't think enough is done for our vets so I liked that story line very much. I am definitely biased in that regard.

The story itself was actually interesting, but I wish the author had included more of the paranormal element to it, something that was very much lacking in this book.  I think I was expecting something much more creepy, something with much more of a twist, but I didn't get that. I don't mind the police procedural aspect of the book as I like that kind of thing, but something paranormal thrown in would have been so interesting.  I mentioned that I lost interest about halfway through the book, but I think it was the writing style, not the material, that was the cause. 

Verdict
Murder Road definitely had some interesting elements to it, and there were some themes running through it that I liked. None of these things were fully developed or used in such a way to create that creepiness factor that is necessary to this type of book.  There was little to no twist; in fact, I felt like there wasn't much of a denouement at all.  Overall, while I didn't hate it, I didn't really like it either. If you are interested in reading this author, I recommend The Broken Girls.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Review: Tea With a Minotaur by Adrienne Hiatt

by Adrienne Hiatt
Release Date: April 24, 2024
2024 Independently Published
Ebook Edition; 277 Pages
ISBN: 979-8322046172
ASIN: B0CVFD5RLY
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Fantasy
Source: Review copy from author

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Sometimes, the best adventures come in the form of a good book and the perfect cup of tea.Mahkai, a neurodivergent, bookish minotaur, has never quite fit in with his battle loving clan. He much prefers drinking tea in peace and sketching his ideas and discoveries in his notebooks. After missing an important family event and nearly destroying a neighboring clan's camp in his pursuit of answers to his never-ending questions, he embarks on a journey to gather honey for his tea rather than face his family's ridicule.Caught in a storm while out gathering supplies, he stumbles into the cave of an ancient librarian dragon, unleashing a chain reaction of unexpected events. With the help of the dragon, a quirky fairy, a shifter, and a tiny tea-drinking owl, Mahkai learns sometimes family is not what you are born into, but who you choose.Under mounting pressure from his family to return home, Mahkai must choose to accept himself as he is or give up his love of learning and tea and return home to be his father's son.
 
My Thoughts
Tea With a Minotaur follows a neurodivergent minotaur who prefers tea and learning over the battle-training preferred by his brothers and his clan-chief father. Struggling to find his place in the world, he embarks on a journey to find honey for his tea only to encounter much more than he would have thought possible. This was a sweet exploration of family, friends, and how much you are willing to fight for what you want. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am fast becoming a huge fan of cozy fantasy.
 
Mahkai is the main character in the story and is very different from his minotaur brothers who prefer to train and fight in simulated battles to prepare for invasions. The memory of past battles is still fresh in everyone's mind and being prepared is a huge motto of the clan. The problem: Mahkai wants nothing to do with battles and training. He gets in trouble constantly for asking too many questions, always seeking answers to problems and to things he doesn't understand. Because of this, his brothers and other family members don't understand him, so he doesn't feel like he fits in with his baattle-loving clan.  Mahkai's character development was very well done, and it was fun to see him grow into a more confident person, one who appreciated his own talents, one who stood up for himself and his friends.  I loved how he was always asking questions as the author used this concept to give the reader some insight into the world, something I thought was quite clever.  

One of my favourite characters was Gwen, a little owl companion that Mahkai rescues during one of his adventures. She was so sweet and I loved the descriptions and interactions between them. In fact, I enjoyed all of the characters and thought they had distinct voices and personalities of their own. 

The plot was decent and I definitely like the themes in this book. Delving on the topics of friendship, loyalty, family, self-confidence, and self-worth, there were some moments that really made you think about your own family and your place within it. Both Hartley and Mahkai were struggling with family members who didn't understand them and didn't appreciate them, and their heartwarming talks and support of each other actually brought tears to my eyes.  The story did struggle with some pacing and transition issues however, as there were times when I thought the author was setting up a certain scene only to shoot you a couple of days into the future with the event being completed and you didn't get to see it.  I actually wondered if my book was missing a scene or two. The book is interspersed with tea recipes and they actually matched what was happening in the story and gave hints as to the personalities of the characters as well. I thought they were a nice addition to the story. 

Verdict
Tea With a Minotaur was a sweet story about a minotaur who finds his way in the world through some misadventures and I was happy to be there for his journey.  I enjoyed all of the characters and thought the development was good. Despite the pacing and transition issues, I still enjoyed the overall story. If you are looking for a fun cozy fantasy novel, then I highly recommend this book for you. 

 


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review: The Wickedest of Things by Russel Barrie

by Russel Barrie
Release Date: September 30, 2023
2023 Independently Published
Ebook Edition; 441 Pages
ISBN: 978-1739060718
ASIN: B0C71YFYHK
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from author

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Reid Sheraton is a man in search of a challenge, designing games to keep his haunted mind busy to avoid his past. But when his company is bought by the Horizon Corporation, the mysterious Esin has other plans. At Horizon, the greatest event is their Labyrinth, a vast maze of puzzles and trials meant to test their people and push them beyond their limits. Esin wants to win, and in Reid she sees her chance.With that, the two are swept up in Horizon, a world of dazzling technology, corporate intrigue and a drive to change the world. But as the Labyrinth approaches, sinister things are in motion at Horizon. One man’s ruthless maneuvering corrupts their technology with a betrayal so deep nothing will be the same.As Reid, Esin and the players enter the Labyrinth, something will go murderously wrong…
 
My Thoughts
The Wickedest of Things was a really fun read, but it does have a somewhat slower build up so you can get to know the characters, the company, and some other important pieces of information that play a huge role later on in the story. It takes patience, but the payoff is worth it. The author's writing is so engaging though, that I didn't really mind. And to be honest, I needed some time to organize my thoughts around some of the concepts/themes in this book. 

It says a lot about an author's writing strength when my favourite character happens to be AI. ACESO was developed as a leading-edge medic, capable of withstanding bombs, artillery fire, and other such attacks in order to save people in very dangerous situations. She was compassionate and caring, and wanted to really learn how to interact with people. I absolutely fell in love with her character. So, when everything when bust, and I still felt so much compassion for this AI machine, I have to give credit to the author's writing skills. 

The character building is quite exceptional. While most of the book is from Reid's POV, the author doesn't neglect his secondary characters, so you really appreciate their strengths and weaknesses and root for them all. I especially developed a fondness for Aster, the engineer who created ACESO; he really showed strength when it was needed and was always there for his team mates. And even though Reid has an eidetic memory, it wasn't used to further along the story and get them out of difficult situations, but more as a personality trait, useful when needed, but not something used as a overused plot device, something for which I was grateful.  

While the plot did start off slowly, I still found it really interesting. The whole concept of AI and how it should be used came up constantly in this book, with the owner of the company having more a pacifist bent while one of his vps longed to take the company into a more offensive mode.  And there were some players willing to pay a lot of money for this developed technology. So when the vp decides to take matters into his own hands, things take a turn to the nasty side and this is where the book picked up and literally took off.  The whole point of this story was for the company to challenge this labyrinth again, something they do every year, and the prizes for the winning team are huge, including grant money for their departments. Made up of a series of locked-room puzzles, it's meant to challenge the players; it was the perfect scenario to unleash a devastating machine on the players and to see how everything would play out.  There were so many twists and turns, it left me dizzy. But I couldn't stop turning the pages and stayed up late to finish. 

And while the book was great, the ending...just ended. While there was a bit of a conclusion, and I wasn't disappointed with what happened, there were a lot of threads left dangling and I wanted to know what happened.

Verdict
The Wickedest of Things was both heartbreaking and visceral, flipping back and forth between aggressive behaviour and tenderness, showing the complexity of AI technology and what could happen when technology is capable of showing human understanding and empathy. It's both frightening and compulsive at the same time.  And while I love science-fiction, I am definitely not ready for this in my real world. Full of well-developed characters and a complex plot, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the complexities of artificial intelligence and what that could mean for humans.

 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Review: Born Upon a Curse by M. Kane

by M. Dane
Release Date: May 1st, 2024
2024 Independently Published
ASIN: B0CTJH7821
ISBN: 978-0645520989
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA
Source: Review copy from author

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
When a handsome stranger reveals she’s not an ordinary nineteen-year-old, but a demon, everything she thought she knew about herself is turned on its head. 

After an elemental battle to secure her passage, Alina steps into Astaroth Academy, a prestigious school for demons. Here, Alina seeks the academy’s arcane knowledge, hoping to permanently silence Machina once and for all.

But a brazen other self isn’t her only concern. Aran May, the brooding captain of the Flag Fall team, is as alluring as he is untouchable. As their forbidden desire intensifies, Alina uncovers a sinister plot that threatens not only her stay at the academy but her very life. 

My Thoughts
Born Upon a Curse is an interesting read and overall, I rather enjoyed it. That does not mean that I didn't have issues with the plot and character development, but there was enough to keep me engaged and interested in the story and the characters. I particularly liked Alina's inner conflict with Machina, what she though it was, and what it actually meant. It was a bit of a twist I wasn't expecting and I was rather intrigued by the concept.

First of all, Alina. She is the only character I could honestly say got some character development in this story.  While I didn't necessarily like her all the time, and I didn't care for how she treated people at times, I did like her growing realization that the reason she has a lot of problems is because of her own behaviour and attitude. It totally turns me off when an author places all the blame on others for one's own actions, and while this did happen at times, Alina's friends weren't so complacent with her and let her know when she was a problem. To be honest, I don't think it went deep enough as Alina could be horrible at times and deserved a lot of what she got.  When she realized she wasn't necessarily suffering from associative disorder, I would think the mental games that would play on you would be difficult, especially when you believed one thing all your life only to be told it was something completely different. When she asked her friend to help her with her problem, I definitely understood where she was coming from, but being so new to magic and all it entailed, perhaps doing some more research yourself and making sure everyone would be safe should be your main concern. Unfortunately, Alina acted very selfishly quite often, getting people around her hurt or killed.  

The other characters were quite cliched, including the love interest. I wish more time had been spent developing some of the secondary characters, but except for Raven and Oliver, I didn't really develop any empathy for any of them, even her best friend CJ. I actually thought the author treated CJ terribly in this book, having her party and seem only interested in boys, so when an incident happened, I could see why Alina reacted the way she did. Maybe develop CJ's character instead and the whole thing would be more satisfactory than it was. 

Now the love interest. Not a fan AT ALL And why, for the love of whatever, when Alina is first escorted to the chateau, would a teacher take her to a male's room for her to shower and get ready for the selection, or whatever it was called.  Honestly, there would be dozens of FEMALE rooms for her to do so and be more comfortable. That whole scene left a bad taste in my mouth.  And naturally, what happened next was so predictable. Enter the....gasp....girlfriend.  Let's just say I wasn't a fan of the romance and the book would have been fine without it. I should probably mention that I am not a fan on insta-lust either. Let's just leave it there.

The plot itself though, was fine. While a bit slower at the beginning, I thought it was interesting to learn about the new world and the academy as well as the people.  Yes, it had similiar feeling to Harry Potter, but so many boarding school books that I have read, so nothing new there. I even loved the game they played.  What I didn't like was the constant parties and alcohol sessions. And where were the supervisors? Some of these kids were 12 years old.  And it was constant. Play a game, have a couple of beers. Go to class, have some beers. Win a game, have some alcohol. Have a bad day, drown your sorrows in alcohol. Alcohol everywhere. Even the teachers show up drunk, smoking cigarettes. What? 

Verdict
Born Upon a Curse had a lot of good things going for it, things that I hope the author will continue to focus on in the next book. There was some interesting world building, even if it is only in the infancy stages, and I would love to learn more about the other cities and people that inhabit the world.  And while the ending was satisfactory, there are definitely a lot of threads that need further development in the next book. I am still waiting to find out exactly why all the demons want Alina and there were some cryptic allegations made during the battle that made me curious enough to want to read the next book it is released. If you enjoy books about demons, then this book may be for you. 


Friday, April 19, 2024

Review: Malevolent Nevers by Tom Rimer

by Tom Rimer
Release Date:December 3, 2021
2021 Independently Published
Ebook Edition; 345 Pages
ISBN: 9798775728113
ASIN: B09K389W8R
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from author

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Abel Ward just wants to reconnect with his son.
Simi Ward wants his dad to leave him alone.Sometimes you really can't make up for lost time.

And when a mysterious midnight call summons them both to an old family estate in New England, neither could have expected what would be lying in wait. An ancient evil so rooted in the story of their ancestors, it'd be impossible to dig up.

Will the secret remain buried, or will Simi and Abel finally learn the truth?

My Thoughts
Malevolent Nevers was a really fun book to read, once I got over the fact that I wasn't necessarily reading a ghost story, but a haunted house story. The mix-up is entirely mine as I read the blurb incorrectly and thought the dad was a ghost who was coming back to make things right with his son when his son moves into the house he haunts. Not quite sure how I got there, but it definitely took a few chapters to get this sorted in my head. Once I did though, I enjoyed the story quite a bit.

Abel and Simi are the two main characters in the story, and we learn about them through their alternating POV. I like the fact the relationship was difficult, and I didn't mind that Simi was quite difficult at the beginning because someone can't just return after a 17 year absence in someone's life and expect the relationship to be perfect. I probably would not have continued reading if that was the case. I wasn't crazy about the girlfriend showing up out of the blue, without discussion between the parents, considering it was a 1000 mile travel destination for her. She was a nice addition to the story, but it definitely didn't ring true as a parent to a daughter.  I would have been on the phone, wanting all the details, and I probably would have driven her there myself.  

As far as horror plots go, this one was quite enjoyable, but it definitely is on the milder side. I don't mind that however, as I don't need every book I read to be blood and guts; in fact, I often prefer the milder ones as they are different and a palate cleanser. The story was quite gripping, and the author definitely knows how to create tension and suspense; I read the second half of the novel so quickly because I couldn't put it down. The atmosphere of the house and the town was eerie, and I always enjoy a good atmospheric novel. 

There were a couple of things however, that didn't quite resonate once I finished reading. First of all, despite the people Abel met in town and the ominous warnings he got about his house and that it was his responsibility to fix things, no one stopped to tell him how or why, not even the sheriff.  Why not? This always bothers me when this happens as you can give people information without reducing tension. Instead the author chose to make Abel stubborn and seem incapable of reasoning to create tension instead of him just knowing the truth. He did grow up in that house after all, so he must have suspected something was off. And it would have been nice to learn something about the curse: Why the Wards? What was the bargain? Why didn't the family benefit from it as there is usually a bargain involved? I think more of the background could have enriched the overall story. 

Verdict
Malevolent Nevers was a fun read and overall, I did enjoy it. I liked Simi's character development, but thought Abel's was a bit uneven where he would be portrayed as stubborn to moved along the story. While the plot was slower at the beginning, it picked up quite a bit and the last quarter zipped along to the point I couldn't put it down. The tension and suspense were really good and I thought the author's writing style was gripping. I will definitely be reading another book by this author.