Cheri Reviews Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn

Per usual, I received this book from NetGalley months ago. I can’t say no to an interesting NetGalley blurb, apparently… So when it finally comes to the top of my TBR list, I’m ready for some good horror. Dead Souls doesn’t disappoint. Before we go any further, here’s the blurb from Goodreads.

When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he’s the devil, she figures it’s just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition, Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she’s now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar “dead souls”—those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim, and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in…and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.

I finished the book a few minutes ago and everything is a little jumbled up in my head. I liked Fiona much more than I thought I would. She was smart, but not too smart, you know? She felt like a real person. The other Dead Souls were interesting from what we got to know and see of them. I do wish we would have gotten a bit more about a few of them but then I’d probably complain about too much info being given that had nothing to do with the story. As it was, I think this was a nice, tight, exciting ride.

The first half has more of a leisurely pace while we get the foundation we need but at about 45% through, whoo-eee, the story takes off and doesn’t stop until the last sentence. There are plenty of twists and turns, too. I had a great time reading this book.

I read the first 30% of the book with my eyeballs but when I saw it was available on Audible, I spent a credit and started over with Julia Whelan reading it to me. She did a good job but I don’t think I enjoyed the audio any more or less than the ebook. Whatever your format preference, if you enjoy dry humor, gory horror scenes, sympathetic-ish characters, and edge of your seat scenes, you’ll very likely dig this book.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Dead Souls by clicking here.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this fun book. Maybe this will encourage a few late sales to make up for my inability to publish a review as a book is released. 🙂

Cheri Reviews Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

I picked this book up from NetGalley a LONG time ago and then I forgot about it. Recently, I found the audio book at the library and figured it was the universe’s way of telling me to check this one off my lengthy “to be reviewed” list.

Suffer the Children is a horror story that focuses on a few families in a what seems to be a smallish town. It starts out right before all of the prepubescent children of the world die. It moved over the globe in shifts but all of the children in this town dropped at the same time. And then they came back a few days later. That’s when the story really begins.

I thought the book was a lot of fun to read. It’s mostly told from the POVs of various adults – parents or medical professionals – and, a few times, from kids. The kids’ POVs I found a bit problematic simply because many times there were words and phrases or other things put forward that didn’t fit for a kid to say or notice or know and it broke that illusion for me. The adult POVs, though, I loved. They showed some great evolution in thought and justification.

There were some things that either weren’t explained very well – like why some industries were expected to not be present anymore because the kids died or why there was a shortage of food and supplies in the grocery store – and others were tough to swallow and went beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

Ultimately, I had a great time reading this book. It was a lot of fun. It was sort of like a good, cheesy, horror movie. There was some humor, a lot of blood, some engaging characters, controversy, and evil kids. I definitely recommend it for fans of the horror genre who are looking for a lighter read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy. The audio book narrator did a good job of bringing it to life so I can definitely recommend the audio version if you prefer reading that way, like I do.

You can download a sample or purchase Suffer the Children by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

I received this book quite a long time ago from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review. Unfortunately, I’m really, really far behind on all my reviews so I was pleased when I saw I could get the audio book from the library. I have much more time for ear reading and I enjoyed the narrator’s work on The Winter People so it was a win-win!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon (skip it if you want to be surprised. I won’t give anything away):

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

This is the first time I’ve read the blurb (the misspelling of Sylvie’s name isn’t mine but Amazon’s) and it’s pretty spot on. I’m glad I didn’t read it first because I had no idea what was going on. The story is told in three different time frames: the 1950s, the late 1980s, and 2013-2014. There are also quite a few POVs. Between the jumping times and changing points of view, I was nervous that I’d be yanked out of the story and have a hard time actually connecting with the characters. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t an issue at all. I became very quickly involved in the stories – Rose and Sylvie, teen-aged Piper, Amy, and Margot, and the grown-up versions of them all.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you’ve not jumped on the bandwagon and read this yet. I’ll say that I enjoyed this book more than I did The Winter People, which I did like. I felt that the story was tight and plausible – which can be tough to do when you’re talking about supernatural stuff. There were plenty of twists and I was so into the story that I didn’t want to stop and think my predictions through too much. Some stuff I had figured out but even a few of those didn’t turn out exactly like I thought. And the creepy, spooky feel of the book was fantastic. It reminded me of when I read Stephen King books in the 80s and 90s – the things that scare one the most are the things that could actually happen and this felt like that.

Besides the horror/supernatural stuff – which, by the way, is never very graphic – there’s a lot to do with family and friend dynamics. Honestly, there was a lot to like about The Night Sister.

I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a well-written, entertaining, and creepy story with characters who feel genuine and complex. I hope Ms. McMahon has another book in the works.

The Burning of Her Sin by Patty G. Henderson

I’ve heard about the Brenda Strange series for at least a couple of years now and was always a bit curious about them but never actually read one. I’ve seen Ms. Henderson on various message boards and thought, “she seems really nice and has a cool quote about horror writers as her signature, I should really read one of her books.” And then I’d get sidetracked and read other stuff. A month or so ago, I decided that it was time to buy one and actually read it, so I went to her website – where the link in the title of this review will take you – and looked around. I took a trip over to Lulu where I bought a VERY reasonably priced ebook version of the first in the Brenda Strange series. I had already committed to reading more than one other book or fan fic, so I knew it would still be a couple weeks, at least, before I got to sit down with Brenda but I couldn’t help reading a few sentences. I mean, who has the sort of will power that allows for buying books and not at least flipping a few pages? Not me, that’s for sure. The prologue was FANTASTIC and just grabbed me. It was incredibly hard to put it down without going any further. But I did it. And when I was finally able to commit some time to The Burning of Her Sin, it grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go.

I know this review is sort of backward, but I finished the book less than an hour ago and am fighting with myself not to run over and get the next installment. But, alas, I have other literary priorities right now. Anyway, here’s what the story is about, and I hope not to give too much away: Brenda Strange was about to have her dream of becoming a junior partner in her law firm realized when a gunman mows down just about everyone in her office. Brenda is fatally wounded. Yes, she died, but not for long. When she comes back, she’s got a new psychic talent. She and her partner, Tina, decide to buy a summer home near Tampa but the house already has a few occupants.

As you can tell from the way the review starts out, I truly enjoyed this book. There’s some good mystery action and the author doesn’t just lay everything out for us. Yes, some things are pretty easy to figure out but Ms. Henderson has Brenda figure them out at the same time as, or a little after, the reader does. I’m usually able to figure out nearly every plot twist at the first hint of what’s supposed to be foreshadowing but The Burning of Her Sin left a few important details for us to figure out.

And while the reader and Brenda work to figure out what happened in the past, we are also trying to figure out what’s going on in the present. Someone wants Brenda and Tina out of the house permanently but who and why? There’s also the changing relationship between Tina and Brenda. Speaking of Tina and Brenda, those folks that want erotica mixed with their mysteries probably won’t be happy with the amount or description of sex in the book. For a reader like me, who doesn’t care much about the sexual aspect of the read but more about the quality of the plot and writing, I think you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. There was sex in the book but more of the “fade to black” sort than the “she plunged her fingers into the dripping wet…” sort.

If you like mysteries, ghost stories, teddy bears, and good looking, rich, smart women, the Brenda Strange Mysteries are for you.

The Veil of Sorrow by Crystal Michallet-Romero

The Veil of Sorrow is almost the story of one woman Comtesse Laurensa Catherine de la Fontaine and the women in her life. I say almost because there are two love stories, one with the Baronne Isabelle dela Chorange, and the other with Madame Faivre, but neither are quite delved into. Another love is in the works which, again, is never quite developed.

We know that the Comtesse is a vampire; there are hints to how she became a vampire, but not enough meat to sink our teeth into. There are a LOT of story lines in this book but all were glossed over and, as a result, the characters are almost incomplete.

I am not one for long books or excessive filler but this is one book where I would have liked to read more about the characters and see them in different situations. I wanted to get attached to them and “want” to know what happens to them. I was waiting for the climax, but I never got it.

The other thing is that this is written as the diaries and letters of the different characters and, although this might have worked for other books (namely Bram Stoker’s Dracula), it didn’t quite do it for me in this case.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a hard read. It’s actually pleasant if you don’t expect action or romance. I was expecting much more.

Read it on a lazy Sunday.