Little Darlings by Melanie Golding #BookReview

TITLE: Little Darlings | AUTHOR: Melanie Golding| PUBLISHER: Harper Avenue | PUBLISHED ON: April 30, 2019 | PAGES: 330| RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by publisher for review consideration. 

This book right here is an excellent example of why I choose to go into most books as close to blind as possible. If I’d gone based solely on the blurb, I probably would have taken a pass on this book as your typical domestic thriller. But this novel is so much more than what it says on the tin, and I’m so glad I gave it a shot! This book grabbed me from the very first page, and didn’t let up until I’d devoured the entire novel.

This novel takes one of my most loathed tropes and completely turns it on its head. I haven’t made any secret of my hatred for this trend of thrillers where no one believes the traumatized female main character, and I cringed a little when I saw that this book was heading in that direction. However, it takes a sharp, completely unpredictable turn early on and keeps you guessing all the way through. Honestly, I spent this entire novel second-guessing myself because the unreliable narrators here are just that good. Every time I thought I had things figured out, the author would pile on a new aspect that would have me back at the drawing board, trying to figure out what was ACTUALLY happening here.

I really loved how vividly the author brings her characters to life. None of them are entirely likeable, but they’re so realistic that I couldn’t help but feel strong emotional ties to all of them (yes, even Patrick…anger is an emotion!). The less-than-rosy portrait of new motherhood that the author paints here was raw, visceral and wholly compelling, in a way that I don’t think I’ve encountered before. My heart broke over and over for Lauren as she tried to protect Morgan and Riley as her world crumbled around her.

The folklore behind the story was a fantastic touch, and added an extra level of doubt to my reading. This book left me with more questions than answers, which would have been frustrating if the writing and detail of the plot weren’t so damn well done. Nothing ties up neatly, there are no right answers here, but it’s so deftly handled that I felt satisfied with just a hint of residual doubt niggling at the back of my mind when I finished reading.

This is a stunning debut, with big ideas and fresh takes on themes that have been saturating the thriller market for years. This novel beautifully showcases that you can absolutely write a new and unique story off the backs of existing tropes. An amazing thriller that I’m sure I’ll be recommending for months to come!

Deeper Into Darkness by Maria Ann Green #BookReview

TITLE: Deeper Into Darkness | AUTHOR: Maria Ann Green| PUBLISHER: Self-Published | PUBLISHED ON: April 12, 2019 | PAGES: 317| RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by author for review consideration.
**NOTE: Deeper Into Darkness is the second book in the Darkness series. Click HERE for my review of the first book, Nothing But Darkness.**

My Thoughts:

Well here’s a first. I never thought serial killer romance would be a niche genre I’d be into, but here we are. I enjoyed Aidan’s story in the first Darkness book, even with its extremely violent and sexual undertones which I’d normally shy away from in non-horror books. So I had fairly high hopes for the sequel. Hopes that have been completely blown away, because I completely loved this book!

First off, I absolutely loved, LOVED that the story is from Bee’s perspective. There aren’t nearly enough female serial killer stories out there, and that alone sold me from the beginning. As a character, you can’t help but love Bee (even though you really probably shouldn’t, what with the whole murderer thing). She’s fierce and violent and immoral, but also deeply human and sympathetic. I loved the depth to her character, and the complex, conflicted feelings I had about her.

The tone of this book is completely different from book one in the series, but it never felt forced or disconnected because of the fact that we’ve got a brand new narrator and therefore a completely new and unique voice. The tone here was also much more my speed than Aidan’s story. There’s still plenty of killing and sex, but it’s far less violent and explicit while still maintaining the sort of sexy shock factor that the author does so well in the first book. The cat and mouse game between Bee and her victims is completely chilling, and I loved every page. It also felt like the stakes were much higher in this book, and I found myself extremely deeply invested in the plot, dying to find out what would happen next!

I really enjoyed seeing Aidan and Bee’s courtship in the first book, so it was fantastic to get a deeper look into their engagement from Bee’s point of view. I know I complain a lot about romance in non-romance books, but it’s so well done here and so central to the plot that instead of bothering me, it completely absorbed me. Their emotions are so raw and real and intense. They really jump off the page and again serve to make it nearly impossible not to sympathize with Bee as she and Aidan face the ups and downs of their relationship. Plus, what’s not to love about a serial killer power couple?

I seriously devoured this book, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next through the plot’s twists and turns. I found myself just a little bit in love with Bee, and, charismatic as Aidan was in the first book, I felt that Bee’s perspective lent itself better to providing more depth to the story. And, obviously no spoilers but UGH, that ending! THAT ENDING. A fantastic page-turner of a thriller, trust me when I say that you’re going to want to get into this series before the next book comes out.

The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper #BookReview

TITLE: The Homecoming| AUTHOR: Andrew Pyper | PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster | PUBLISHED ON:  February 26, 2019 | PAGES: 353 | RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Self-Purchased

My Thoughts:

Andrew Pyper has been one of my auto-buy authors for a while now. Even when his books aren’t perfect, they’re always fun and I’m never left disappointed. With his newest novel though, I’ve been completely blown away. This is basically my perfect thriller, and I loved every page.

I like going into books knowing as little as possible about them, and in this case, I think it definitely added to my enjoyment. Because of that, I’m going to keep this review fairly vague, because the slow-burn of watching this story unfold is a huge part of this novel’s appeal. This is going to be a lot more about how this book made me feel than the actual characters or contents because I really feel like this book needs to be experienced with as little forewarning as possible. I will say that this novel treads the line between about 5 different genres and somehow never feels muddied or like it’s trying too hard. There are horror elements, some sci-fi, maybe a little bit of dystopian, all blended seamlessly into the central plot’s locked room (or, more accurately, locked estate) thriller.

On more than one occassion while I was reading this book, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It just has this creepy, insidious vibe to it that had me feeling incredibly unsettled while I was reading, and I live for that kind of feeling. This book isn’t horror, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it scary, but the uncomfortable sense of foreboding bleeds off of every page in the best possible ways.

On to the actual content of the novel: I loved the characters in this book. All of them felt real and authentic, if maybe just a tiny bit off in an indescribable way that certainly added into the creep-factor. The flow of the plot was also seriously perfect for me; it had just the right ratio of twists to hints, leaving me guessing to the very end. A lot of the chapters ended in mini-cliffhangers which made this one impossible for me to put down. If not for a migraine rudely interrupting my reading time, I’m pretty sure I could have happily devoured this book in one sitting.

This novel has easily taken the top spot for me as the book to beat for 2019. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a thriller this unique and satisfying, and I doubt I’ll find a better one any time soon. If you haven’t picked up any of Pyper’s novels yet, you absolutely wouldn’t be going wrong to start with this one.  

The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer #BookReview

TITLE: The Sea Was a Fair Master | AUTHOR: Calvin Demmer | PUBLISHER: Unnerving | PUBLISHED ON: June 5, 2018 | PAGES: 130 | RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by author

My Thoughts:

Flash fiction isn’t a style I’ve pursued much. I’ve read a couple pieces here and there as part of a collection of longer short stories, but it isn’t something I’d normally seek out. I’m more of a novel reader, I like my stories to have some meat on their bones, but I was intrigued by this collection after seeing so many incredible comments about it. This book definitely taught me that fiction doesn’t need to be lengthy to be extremely satisfying and extremely, extremely creepy.

I think the range of these stories was probably the most impressive part of this collection to me; all too often I’ve read a collection and gotten to the end with no idea which story was which because they all blend together, with no individual tone or voice to each story. That was absolutely not the case here. Each story is creepy, there’s no doubt about that, but the horror leans towards the atmospheric in some stories, tinged with sci-fi in others, and bordering on campy in still others. It was a really fantastic mix that made it easy to absolutely fly through this collection while still keeping each short tidbit fresh and unique in my mind.

My tastes ran towards, of course, the more insidious, atmospheric stories. It’s always my favourite style of horror, and Demmer does it wonderfully. If I had to pick my three standouts from the collection, they would be the first story, “On the Seventh Day”, the titular “The Sea Was a Fair Master,” and my absolute favorite of the bunch, “Underneath.” All of these have a fascinating human/maybe paranormal, maybe not element to them that I loved, and it’s kind of insane to what extent the author is able to examine that and cast doubt for the reader in so few pages.

This was a really excellent collection, with not a bad story in the bunch. I was worried I’d struggle to connect with the contents, given the short length of each story, but the author really works a ton of depth and emotion into every single page. I would completely recommend this collection for anyone looking to explore flash fiction as a style. This is a wonderful, horror-filled treasure chest of a book.