Look Beneath the Surface: Reviewing The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

Hi everyone! I’m back sooner than ever with another book review. It has been a while since I read a book in day. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. Thankfully, I found the perfect book to breeze through. In undergrad, I discovered Good Mythical Morning and it has been part of my morning routine ever since. I watch way too much Youtube, by the way. When I saw Rhett and Link were coming out with a novel (and a mystery one at that) I was pretty excited. Normally I am rather hesitant with debut novels but I am always willing to give them a chance and I was glad I gave this one a chance. Now, let’s talk about it.

Bleak Creek is a quaint little Southern town where incoming freshman, Rex McClendon and Lief Nelson spend their days trying to film their magnum opus, PolterDog. With the help of their friend, Alicia, the boy are determined to make history with their film. After an accident happens while filming during the church barbecue, Alicia is sent off to the infamous Whitewood reform school. Rex and Leif decide to take in upon themselves by teaming up with Janine, a film student looking to film her own documentary. As the group investigates, they begin to uncover the dark secrets that lie beneath the unassuming town of Bleak Creek, one that may put their lives in danger.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this novel but I was certainly (pleasantly) surprised by what I got. The novel is way darker than I assumed, with plenty of twists that kept me reading onward. The town of Bleak Creek feels perfectly real as well as shockingly terrifying. There were parts were my jaw dropped from how dark the book became but that was the best part. The novel also had just the right amount of nostalgia that didn’t overpower the scarier elements. It definitely filled the Stranger Things void in my life. You don’t have to be a fan of Good Mythical Morning, either, to enjoy this book. It was a swift read with plenty of twist, turns, and shocks to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Warning: There are instances of blood and violence. It’s pretty PG – 13, though.

Rather die than doubt: Reviewing Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Hello everyone! I was finally able to knock a book off my TBR list! As much as I don’t like isolation or quarantine or whatever you want to call it, it gives me a good excuse to lock myself in my room and read to my heart’s content. This book is also one that has been on my radar for quite some time now. It was one of those books I picked up, read the description, and thought “This is right up my alley.” Now let’s talk about Ninth House (not The Ninth House).

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a survivor. After finding herself in the worst of circumstances, including being the sole survivor a multiple homicide, she is given the chance to join Yale’s freshman class, but this new opportunity comes at a price. Alex is paired up with the charming but arrogant Darlington who is tasked with guiding her through Yale’s secret societies. These societies thrive on magic and are home to many powerful figures. When a girl is murdered and Darlington goes missing, Alex must delve deep into the Eight Houses where she learns of the forbidden magic they use that brings back the dead and preys on the living.

Lately, I have had a fascination with the dark academia genre of novels and Ninth House is a perfect fit for the category. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of mystery and magic, all wrapped up in the politics of higher education. The main character, Alex, initially annoyed me but she becomes more sympathetic and charming, while still maintaining a deadly presence about her. I enjoyed the way that Bardugo set up her magical world with clear rules among the sensory rich and disturbing acts of magic. This book wasn’t too graphic or gory but did have just enough to make the stakes higher. Overall, I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it, whether you enjoy dark academia or not. (Note: I have not read any of Leigh Bardugo’s books so I can’t make a fair comparison there but let me know if they are worth checking out. I have plenty of time.)

Warning to readers: This novel does contain scenes of sexual assault and violence.

The world must bow before the strong ones: Reviewing Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy during this time. My university is moving to online classes at least until the end of March. While it is scary, I prefer caution over anything else. The only bright side I am finding is that I can do some catching up on my TBR pile. Why not combat scary with something scarier? I have mentioned previously that Dracula is one of my all time favorite novels so I was very excited to find this gem amongst the other spin-offs. Let’s talk about Dracul.

As a child, Bram Stoker was bedridden with a mysterious illness and his only company was his nanny, Ellen Crone. Ellen Crone, though, is not what she seems. When mysterious deaths begin to happen around town, Bram and his sister Matilda begin to put together a pattern but their nanny disappears. Years later, Matilda reveals her ongoing investigation into Ellen to Bram. Now, as an adult, Bram must confront the mystery of his childhood and the deeper, darker secrets that put everything he knows and loves in dangers.

I was mostly drawn to this novel as it was co-written by Bram Stoker’s great-great-grand nephew. I am normally hesitant with spin-off novels like these but I was thoroughly impressed with this one. It is equal parts creepy, gory, and suspenseful. The writing is great as it hops back and forth through time, increasing the mystery. The first part of the book does drag on a bit, if you ask me but the ending makes it worth the wait. The novel definitely harkens back to the classic horror I love so dearly. Dracul was thrilling and enjoyable for me and any fan of horror literature. I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance, if you are unsure like me. (Just a heads up, though: There is some serious gore in this book so be wary).

To devour what they left behind…:Reviewing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Hi everybody! I know, I know. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finish this novel, but I’m super excited to share this with you. Lately, I’ve been on a historical mystery kick. I feel the genre is very under appreciated. Despite this book taking me forever to read (not because of length, but because I’m lazy), it was absolutely worth my time. Now let’s talk about The Shadow of the Wind.

Daniel Sempere was just a young boy when his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He immediately found himself drawn to The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julian Carax. Being the son of a bookseller, Daniel uses his father’s connections to find more books by Carax. Soon, he finds out that all of Carax’s books have been destroyed and he may have the only remaining book of Carax. Daniel’s search for the truth reveals the dark and tangled web of Barcelona, full of murder, lies, and forbidden love.

Zafon’s twisted and intricate novel is worth the deep dive that requires to read it. Admittedly, it can be a bit of the struggle to keep up with the plot as so many characters are being introduced at every turn, but it all ties together in the end. There are points in this book that made me audibly gasp. Some people might say I’m spoiling the book by saying it has plot twists, but they are amazing plot twists. It is a mystery, after all. That is part of the genre. This novel is immersive, suspenseful, and thoughtful all at once. The atmosphere of Zafon’s depiction of Barcelona in 1945 is enough to pull the reader into the story. The novel has bits and pieces of many other genres, which is what makes it so interesting to read. I highly recommend The Shadow of the Wind to just anyone at all as it has something to satisfy every reader and will keep you hanging on until the very end.

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

Bring Back God, Then We’ll Talk: Reviewing Only Human (Book Three of the Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel

Hey everyone! I’m back at it again with another book review. I hope you all missed me. In exciting life news, my grad school orientation is happening this upcoming week as I’m writing this. I’ll definitely try to give some more life updates about grad school, if anyone is interested. For now, let’s talk about the final book of The Themis Files trilogy.

It’s been almost ten years since Dr. Rose Franklin, Vincent Couture, Eva Reyes, and General Govender were transported to the alien world of Esat Ekt. They successfully returned to Earth, only to find a war between Russian and America raging on. With the use of alien technology, the human population is doomed to destroy itself unless Rose and the rest can find a way to stop it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi trilogy as I haven’t read one that had such a strong human element that balanced out the fantastical sci-fi elements. I will admit that this novel did feel slow in the beginning as it goes back and forth between them discovering their new alien home and them being interrogated in Russia. I did enjoy the parts of Esat Ekt, though, and how it felt so similar to the world as we know it. It almost gave the feeling of walking into your living room, but everything was moved two inches to the left. Another element I enjoyed about this book is how it was able to include the very timely topic of racial profiling and interning people just because of their ethnicity. Some people might see it as preachy. I, however, appreciated how Neuvel was able to integrate it into the story without it feeling like it was coming out of nowhere. I was also able to appreciate Neuvel’s take on familial relationships and what it means to be a family. Only Human was nice, solid ending for Neuvel’s trilogy. Overall, I found the trilogy immensely enjoyable and would recommend it to all sci-fi fans, especially fans of giant robots.

The Masks We Wear Betray Us: Reviewing The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Hi everyone! I hope you all missed me. I have finally had some time to read and I am so happy to be talking to you all about this book. This is one of those novels that I picked up, read the back, and said “This is mine.” I have grown up on murder mysteries so I was drawn to this like a magnet. Needless to say, I’m excited to talk about Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Evelyn Hardcastle is a young and beautiful heiress who is returning home after nineteen years. She doesn’t know that she will be murdered again and again. Aiden Bishop must solve her murder in order to break this loop. Every time the loop begins, however, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Aiden must fight to save Evelyn and himself before time runs out.

Before I begin, I just want to say I’m going to be pretty vague as I really don’t want to spoil this book. I was absolutely enthralled from page one. I had such a hard time putting this book down. Turton does an amazing job inserting twists and turns that will make you stop in order to put together the puzzle he presents. It’s also very interesting to have a main character who has to rely on the character traits of others. Aiden Bishop is somehow personable protagonist with no discernible personality traits. It’s a wild ride, needless to say. If I were to best describe this novel, it would be a combination of Groundhogs Day, Freaky Friday, and an Agatha Christie novel. The novel is so full of surprises that I’m afraid to talk about it anymore. I highly recommend reading The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as you will get whiplash from the plot. I absolutely love this novel and, as a huge murder mystery fan, this was definitely an exciting new take on the genre.

Yield to It or Fight It: Reviewing The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Hi everyone! In case you haven’t been able to tell, I am sucker for books that have been adapted to television and/or movies. I have watched some of the Netflix adaptation of this book, but I haven’t watched enough to properly compare the two. I just wanted to give you a heads up about that. Shirley Jackson has been on my radar for some time now. I did read her short story, “The Lottery,” in high school and I absolutely loved it. Since this novel has arisen in pop culture once again, I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review of The Haunting of Hill House.

Four strangers arrive to the infamous Hill House in order to find out the truth about the paranormal. First, Dr. Montague and his assistant, Theodora arrive to find the truth behind the mystery of Hill House. Eleanor, affectionately called Nellie, must use her knowledge of poltergeists to help them. Lastly, Luke, the heir to Hill House, is trying to clear the mystery behind his odd inheritance. Soon, the four realize that Hill House isn’t simply full of death. It is full of life that is growing stronger and stronger.

The Haunting of Hill House is the quintessential haunted house story. I have always loved classic haunted house tales and Jackson has an interesting take on this tale. The book is atmospheric in every way. The characters and setting are well-defined but also have an air of mystery that morphs throughout the novel. You feel unsettled throughout the novel as Jackson adds unsettling detail after unsettling detail. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this novel scary, I did certainly find it creepy. It is a relatively quick read also. I think all horror fans and non-horror fans can find enjoyment in this novel. I would definitely recommend The Haunting of Hill House. If you don’t feel like reading it, then at least read “The Lottery” as it is just as chilling.

See No Evil: Reviewing Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Hi everybody! I’m just out here cranking out more book reviews. I’m sure a lot of your have already heard of this novel or seen the Netflix movie based off of this book. I watched it when it first came out and, overall, I did enjoy it. I’ll be making some more comparisons in my review. For those of you who are interested, let by tell you about Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

The apocalypse started and no one saw it coming, literally. The world has been invaded by creatures that drive people to madness with a single look. Malorie, a mother of two young children, must take her chance to get her and the children to safety. With her only chance being a rough trip down a river, Malorie must embark on the perilous journey and escape whatever might be chasing her and her family or lose her mind and life in the process.

This novel carefully straddled the line between character-driven and plot-driven. Overall, the plot is certainly intriguing but the characters felt a little bland to me. It felt as though the only reason I really cared about any of them was because of their situation. The whole situation with the creatures actually gets a better explanation in the movie. In fact, the movie actually did a slightly better job depicting the whole chaotic nature of this apocalyptic scenario. I did, however, enjoy the suspense of the novel and the quick pacing. For those of you who have seen the movie, it’s not a spot-on adaptation. It is pretty close, though. The novel doesn’t hold back in depicting any graphic violence, of which there are a few instances. In conclusion, Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a good read if you are interested in apocalyptic/survival stories. The whole thing felt a little overhyped to me, but I can’t say I didn’t find enjoyment in this novel. Overall, I’m going to go ahead and recommend reading this novel.

Outlast the Truth: Reviewing In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Hi everybody! I’ve been on one hell of reading kick lately. I did a full KonMari on my bookshelves recently. While it was difficult to let go of my precious books, I was able to make room for some new ones, including this one. It is also perfect timing since today is International Women’s Day. Ruth Ware has been getting a lot of hype lately so here in my review of her novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood.

Nora Shaw is an up and coming crime writer living a quiet life in London. One day, she gets an odd email. It ends up being an invite to the bachelorette party of a former friend she hasn’t seen in years. Nora, to her own surprise, decides to go. She arrives upon a glass house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by one friend and five strangers. Soon, the group find themselves in the middle of a shocking and violent tragedy. Nora must then piece together her fractured memories in order to save herself and solve the case.

Like I mentioned before, Ware has been getting a lot of hype recently and I can definitely see the reason why she is so liked. She definitely falls into the same writing style as Gillian Flynn. In a Dark, Dark Wood has a good amount of suspense. I did enjoy the main character, Nora, as she felt imperfect in a realistic way. I liked how the novel was paced as the chapters went back and forth between the weekend and what happened afterwards. There were some interesting plot points but others that felt a little shaky to me. I didn’t find this novel “scary” by any means. I mention that because a lot of the reviews talked about how it was so “scary” or “creepy.” It did kind of feel like a slightly less intense version of a Gillian Flynn novel. That, however, did not make it any less entertaining. I still wanted to find out what happened at the end, even if it was a tiny bit obvious. The writing is solid and the plot is well thought out. If you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers, I would go ahead and say to try out In a Dark, Dark Wood.