Friday, May 27, 2022

Review: Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

by S.A. Barnes
Release Date: FEbruary 8, 2022
2022 Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 343 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250819994
Audiobook: B092NYBM4Q
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.75 / 5 Stars

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.
My Thoughts
Dead Silence had such an interesting concept, the same pull that I crave when reading about haunted houses: finding an empty ship that has been lost for years, then discovering the bodies are still on the ship killed in grotesque ways.  How does something like this happen? How does a luxury liner with the most famous and the richest of the rich just suddenly disappear for many years? A space concept I love. Alas, that was not to be the case as the story did not live up to its potential and I really, really struggled to get through it.  
First of all, the ideas were really interesting and I really liked the first couple of chapters.  It was ghostly, eerie, and I really soaked up the atmosphere as the crew explored the ship, horrified at what they discovered.  You could just sense this eeriness and I was expecting someone to jump out at any time, having pulled some survival botanist trick (Mark Whatney-esque) from their butt.  Unfortunately, the execution soon fell flat and I had a hard time getting through some of the scenes.  I am not a fan of dual timelines, but I do wonder if this book would have benefited from that type of writing style which would have allowed the reader to experience what actually happened originally on the ship and allow the suspense to build up as they worked through the fear with its passengers and crew.. That same fear could have carried through the present day as the current crew dealt with the same fear which would have kept up the tension and fear. The way it was written destroyed the suspense for me as it was more telling the reader what happened which is wasted in a horror novel as it lowers the suspense and tension. And honestly, it got boring. 

The biggest issue I had with this book was with the main character, Claire.  I could have happily opened up an airlock at any point and tossed her out.  I understand that she is dealing with some significant issues, but the author didn't allow for any character development or growth, not even one iota. It felt very tropey, making a main character weak so others can behave in certain ways and walk all over you even if you are the leader, creating tension between the crew.  I just had a hard time believing that someone like Claire would be in charge of something like this in such an organization. I did like the other characters though, and wish the author had focused a bit more on them, especially Cain, I adored Cain.
Dead Silence had a lot of potential, and overall, I did like some aspects of the book.  When the writing and story were good, they were GOOD, and I was entranced and couldn't read fast enough, the horror elements being interesting and eerie.  Unfortunately, the writing style was also a weakness, and there were times I had to drag myself back to continue reading, especially when Claire was being particularly annoying or the story took on more of a telling mode and lost me completely.  Maybe I am being particularly difficult as I read a lot of horror?  That being said, I will definitely read another book by this author and I am hoping she will write another space horror in the future.  

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Review: The Letter from Briarton Park by Sarah E. Ladd

by Sarah E. Ladd
Release Date: March 1st, 2022
2022 Thomas Nelson
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0785246725
ASIN: B09831LP11
Audiobook: B09886RVJ6
Genre: Fiction / Historical Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.25 / 5 Stars

Cassandra Hale grew up knowing little about her parentage, and she had made peace with the fact that she never would. But Cassandra’s world shifts when a shocking deathbed confession reveals a two-year-old letter from Mr. Clark, the master of Briarton Park, with hints to her family’s identity. Stung by betrayal, she travels to the village of Anston only to learn Mr. Clark has since passed away.

The more time Cassandra spends in Anston, the more she begins to suspect not everything—or everyone—is as they seem. As details emerge, the danger surrounding her intensifies. Using wit and intuition, she must navigate the treacherous landscapes between truth and rumor and between loyalty and deception if she is to uncover the realities of her past and find the place her heart can finally call home.
My Thoughts
The Letter From Briarton Park was a light, easy historical mystery.  This book was a mix between some light romance, family secrets, and a murder mystery, and while I enjoyed it, I did find it predictable and felt that really nothing new happened in this book. 

Cassandra was a fairly strong woman and I enjoyed her search for her family's identity. She was a bit trusting of others, believing they all had her best interests at heart, but her sheltered upbringing hadn't really taught her how to be wary of people. James was a lonely widower with a deep sense of family and I liked how he interacted with his daughters and his sister. He had nothing but patience with his demanding mother-in-law as well.  I did feel like all of the characters were stereotypical, including the antagonists, and I while I enjoyed them, I didn't feel particularly empathetic towards any of them and I didn't really notice any development in them throughout the story.  They just were.

The plot was fairly predictable, with Cassandra discovering a letter written to her with information about her family.  It was fairly easy to figure out what that information was and who her father was, but I did think the search was interesting.  I like this kind of intrigue so that part of the story was something I enjoyed, even if the story was more about telling and explaining than about figuring it out.  And while I really liked James, I didn't really buy into their relationship as the chemistry simply wasn't there.  You can't build a relationship simply on shared experiences over a secret and that's what I felt this was.  To be honest, I kind of liked the mom-in-law as she seemed to see clearly the situation that actually existed during this time period.  

The Letter from Briarton Park was a fairly predictable read.  I did enjoy the mystery, but thought the characters were a bit shallow and one-dimensional. There were hints of Gothic overtones, but the plot  focused more around Mr. North and James and their pursuit of Cassandra as well as the mystery of Cassandra's parentage without going too deeply into any of it, so it felt fairly superficial. I did like the author's writing style, so I will try another book in the future; if you are looking for a light, fluffy read, you may enjoy this one.  


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Review: Mickey7 by Edward Ashton

Mickey7 (Mickey7, Book #1)
by Edward Ashton
Release Date: February 15, 2022
2022 St. Martin's Press
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250275035
ASIN: B092T7R689
Audiobook: B094DTWPNV
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Mickey7 is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous—even suicidal—the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact.

On a fairly routine scouting mission, Mickey7 goes missing and is presumed dead. By the time he returns to the colony base, there’s a new clone, Mickey8, reporting for Expendable duties. 
Life on Niflheim is getting worse. The atmosphere is unsuitable for humans, food is in short supply, and terraforming is going poorly. And the native species are growing curious about their new neighbors. 
My Thoughts
Mickey7 had a very interesting premise, and when I first started reading this I had pretty high hopes for a unique and interesting read.  We have this man who decides to become an Expendable, something I don't think has been explored very much in the sci-fi world, at least not to my knowledge, so I thought the author could have a lot of fun with this concept.  The first few chapters were intriguing, with fast-paced action and some interesting character interactions, but then, all of a sudden, it just ...stopped.  
I actually liked the characters and thought Mickey7 was interesting. But even though I liked them, there wasn't a lot of depth or development to them and I was wishing for more emotion, even some conflict. I understand the crew were having difficulty with food and were rationing, but a lot of Mickey7's inner dialogue seemed to center around his stomach and his lack of food. There were also a lot of flashbacks to the difficulties other colonies had during settlement and other issues, and while they were intriguing, it didn't really have anything to do with what was happening in the actual story.  Some of the flashbacks as to how Mickey7 chose this job were a bit more relevant, but when we returned to the story, it didn't really add anything other than to give more information about Mickey7.  
The plot had a pretty interesting concept and I did enjoy the first few chapters of the book. But after the first few chapters, the conflict just seems to be about what to do with Mickey8 and the fact that Mickey7 is no longer willing to be used so callously, even though it is his job.  The intention was to make the character sound cheeky and sarcastic, but the flippancy kind of wore on my nerves after a while as it just didn't work the way I think the author intended.  Don't get me wrong, the story was okay, and it moved along quickly and easily with good transitions between the flashbacks and the current time period, but there was little conflict and the story just plodded along with very little happening.  I was quite intrigued by the sentient life that was discovered as well as the difficulties the colonists were having with their food supply and other issues, but the author just glossed over a lot of that to focus on Mickey7 and Mickey8 and their empty stomachs as well as a commanding officer who always seems to make poor decisions.  

Mickey7 had so many concepts that could have been explored and developed, ones in which I was extremely disappointed were overlooked in this book: the lack of food and the problems the colonists were having with cultivation; the sentient beings, known as the 'creepers', who were an intelligent race; Mickey7 retiring as an Expendible now that Mickey8 was here; and, the ethics behind the 'Expendible' program.  While the author chose to focus on the conflict between having a Mickey7 and a Mickey8, he did overlook some necessary character and plot development to do so.  However, I did think the overall book was decent, so I do recommend it to anyone looking for something a bit different. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

by Heather Gudenkauf
Release Date: January 25, 2022
2022 Park Row
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778311935
Audiobook: B093FC4J1J
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 Stars

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.
My Thoughts
The Overnight Guest had an interesting premise and I would have liked it a lot better if the dual timeline didn't give away so much information and lower the overall suspense and mystery of the story. It was quite easy to figure out Wylie's connection to the town as well as figure out who actually did it and I pretty much continued reading as I enjoyed the setting and the atmosphere of the story.  Who doesn't like it when your heroine is trapped in a cabin during a snowstorm with no power and few options? 
Wylie was an interesting character and I still wish the entire book had been focused on her, her reasons for returning to the town, her research into the book, and let it slowly unfold that way as I think it would have been far more suspenseful.  There was a lot of untapped potential in this character. Because of the way she handled herself in certain situations, it showed that she was smart, capable, and able to think her way through a problem which makes her likeable right there. It bothers me when people make stupid decisions just to advance a plot because the author just can't think of an alternative way to write about a situation.  
Unfortunately, the dual timeline gave away too much information for me and while I did enjoy it, it became pretty formulaic and predictable. If the story had simply been about Wylie, that would have been so much more suspenseful as the reader would have had no idea what was happening which would have upped the level of suspense.  Like I mentioned, it was interesting, but in no way suspenseful or shocking, and because this novel is meant to be a mystery, not a literary novel, I would have liked a bit more suspense.  
The Overnight Guest had a lot of potential, but I think the author missed the mark by using a dual timeline which gave away far too much information and destroyed any sense of suspense for me.  While this author does have a way of drawing you into the story and making you care about the characters, focusing on Wylie would have kept the eeriness of the setting and upped the level of suspense.  While this one was a bit too predictable and formulaic for me, I will recommend it, and I will definitely continue to read this author in the future.