Bark's Book Reviews

Stay chill, it's only a silly book review.

I read the good, the awful & all of the "meh" in the middle. Mostly horror & romance of all kinds.

Reading progress update: I've listened 180 out of 946 minutes.

Kill Creek - Scott Thomas, Bernard Setaro Clark

Who wants to spend the night in a haunted house?!

 

 

Where do I sign up?!

Five Dares by Eli Easton

Five Dares - Bret Easton Ellis

I needed a little change of pace from all of the darkness and smart-stuff I’ve been reading lately and this book was just the thing. It was also about 6 months late over @ Netgalley. Oops. I don't know why they give me stuff. 

So, the setup is completely ridiculous but you know what? I don’t even care! 

Here it is:

Andy and Jake have been best friends for years. The pair are known for doing stupid stunts but the latest is the stupidest of all. While drunk, Andy decides that holding lit firecrackers will impress their college buds so Jake goes along with it. Andy says he’s tested this out, so why not? The stunt predictably leaves them both with badly burned hands that will take months to heal. They decide to heal together at Andy’s family cottage (his family is wealthy) where two kind souls come in daily to help them shower, provide nursing care and prepare their meals. Soon they tire of Netflix and the inability to, ahem, pleasure themselves (kind of tough without hands) and they start experimenting with each other. Andy, previously straight, starts getting feelings for his bisexual friend who has loved him forever and you just know this is going to get messy.

I told you the setup was ridiculous but hey, I still don’t care. It’s sexy and fun and sometimes you just need a little frivolity in your reading life.




These two were best friends and that came across in their thoughts and actions. Neither wanted to step over a line and lose the other and neither could come right out and express their true feelings fearing they’d lose their best friend. It’s a sticky situation, to be sure. The relationship started out as simply a means to ease their sexual pain but it soon morphed into something that had been simmering below the surface for years.

I really enjoyed this story for all of its sweet sexiness. The only thing I wasn’t too thrilled about were all of the flashbacks to their silly stunts in the past. Those kept throwing me out of the current story. One or two would’ve done the trick, if anyone were asking me. Other than that this story was exactly what I hoped it would be. There was plenty of time spent developing both characters which would’ve been a complete disaster done wrong as they were pretty much the only two in story! There’s a little angst but it was never unbearable. I actually enjoyed Andy’s struggles to figure basically everything out; his future, his sexual preferences, his career path. Argh, so stressful! But when the light finally turns on it feels genuine. That isn’t something I can say about a lot of romances. I really loved these two and almost finished this book in one sitting because I just didn’t want to put it down. They were both sweet and slightly goofy and acted their age without being obnoxious. If you’re ever looking for a fun romance this is a pretty good one. 

Now back to the horror . . .

Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley

Find You in the Dark: A Novel - Nathan Ripley

Martin is a family guy who has what some may consider a very creepy hobby. No, he doesn’t collect Living Dead Dolls or horror movies like the rest of weirdos, he digs up the corpses of people murdered by serial killers and taunts the police with his ghastly finds. His wife and daughter have no idea what he’s doing on the side even though he comes home dirty and smelly after a long day of playing with old bones. The police also haven’t a clue.

 

Find You In The Dark has a twisted and unique to me story. On his last dig, something goes awry that may expose Martin’s strange little hobby to the world and put he and his family in danger. Martin will do anything to keep his family safe (even though one member doesn’t deserve his loyalty, if you ask me) and that is all I am going to say about the plot.

 

I love being in the head of messed up people rather than being stuck reading a story from the lead investigators POV the entire time. Martin, a serial killer and the police officer who gets involved in the case all share page space and I enjoyed that. I see a lot of people taking issue with the female officer but she didn’t bug me at all. The person I didn’t like was Martin’s wife. She was spoiled and selfish and every conversation with her was insufferable and I kept hoping bad things would happen to her. If my spouse took off for a few days and came home smelling of anything foreign, never mind death (frigging death, people!), you can bet he’d be answering questions until his lips fell off. This woman? All she cared about was helicoptering her teenager and getting her boutique ready for opening day. Not a nosy bone in that one’s body. How is she even a wife?!

 

This wasn’t a fast paced book and it took me longer to finish than I had hoped. Something about the pace was just a wee bit off but I liked the strange turns the story took. There aren’t fifty shocking twists but it walks down some dark and unexpected paths. If you don’t mind a slower pace and like to spend a little time with deviants this one is for you!

 

 

Thank you Atria Mystery Bus for surprising me with a copy of the ARC!

Reading progress update: I've read 0%.

Five Dares - Bret Easton Ellis

My brain hurts from all of the classic and horrific reading I've been doing lately and needs something to lighten the mood. I think this one will work nicely :) Plus it's about 6 months late over @ Netgalley, oops.

1984 by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four - Simon Prebble, George Orwell

This book is quite terrifying. I think most everyone but me has read it or was forced to read it in high school. I was a delinquent student and missed out on this book somehow and decided to read it now. Don’t ask me why. It is perhaps a very bad time to decide to read this book about a world where Big Brother is watching your every move, history is being re-written on the daily and replaced with lies and where most everyone is just another cog in the wheel and basically a Sheeple obliviously going along with things.

 

Anyway, this book was pretty chilling and very readable except for the long winded section where the “hero” is reading the journal/book provided to him about the way of the world. I think that could’ve been tightened up as it repeated much of what the reader already knew but if you need to know all the details you’ll love this part. I wasn’t a fan of the “Newspeak” section at the end where it explains in great detail how language is being slaughtered to control the masses. I also didn’t like the “hero” but I don’t think I was supposed to. In this world no one can be trusted and he is a rather weak and loathsome creature. He’s married, hasn’t a clue where his wife ended up and doesn’t really seem to care, he cheats and he sees a young woman and fears her because she is part of the Thought Police but secretly he wants to hurt and rape her. Ugh, what a loathsome creature. Did I say that already? Despite his distasteful personality and all of my complaints, I think you should read this if you haven’t already because it tackles the absolute absurdity of allowing government complete control over every aspect of your life.

 

The audiobook version I listened to as narrated by Simon Prebble who does an excellent job.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel - Meg Gardiner, Hillary Huber

I gave Unsub three 1/2 stars and this one will be getting three minus the 1/2 and I will be stopping with the series right here. It’s just not one for me. Everyone else seems to love it so I think it’s a case of personal taste. And, to be totally honest, I wasn’t really in the mood for it when it arrived in from Overdrive but I plunged in anyway because I had waited so damn long for my turn.

 

This is book #2 in the Unsub series and follows FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix as she tracks down a serial killer inspired by true life murderer Ted Bundy.  I’ve come to realize recently that I’m not a huge fan of police procedural type books unless the serial killer is given his/her own POV like the most excellent The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker. I love getting into their heads and seeing what makes them tick. I think I’m spoiled for all serial killer books now that I’ve read that one. This is my problem and not the fault of this book. This story was told mostly from Caitlin’s POV and while she’s a determined, single-minded, strong woman, she wasn’t the killer and when the killer was caught halfway through the story (are you kidding me?!), my attention began to wane pretty quickly and it just devolved into something that I didn’t like. A supposedly meticulous killer suddenly goes batshit crazy and starts a-killing willy-nilly? Seriously? Nope, that just didn’t work for me.

 

I listened to the very end but it was only “meh” for me. The narrator Hillary Huber is very professional sounding but I definitely felt as if she were reading to me in many spots (something I didn’t notice in Unsub) and it would pull me out of the story which didn’t help the book go down any easier for me.

Reading progress update: I've read 75%.

Nineteen Eighty-Four - Simon Prebble, George Orwell

Apparently the news isn't scary enough for me.

 

 

 

HIstory is being re-written on the daily, everyone, even kids (especially kids) are spies, women are all part of the Thought Police, our "hero" is scared of them but secretly wants to rape & hurt them, Big Brother controls everything we do. Yikes, it's a terrible time to be reading this book for the first time.

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man - C.J. Tudor, Euan Morton

This book felt very familiar. If you grew up reading King and watching many an 80’s movie, you’ll no doubt feel the same way. It has a beautiful sense of place and a slow sense of creeping dread but there wasn’t anything totally new here and by the end I was beginning to just wish it would hurry up and spill all of its secrets.

 

I listened on audio and the narrator was good with the voices but I really and truly wish that two of the characters weren’t named Nicky and Mickie. Maybe a Nicky and a Peter? Or a Robin and a Mickie, perhaps? This made for so much confusion for me on audio. I’m not sure if it was the light accent of the narrator or the similarity of the names, or both, but it kept tripping me up and that's never a fun experience.

 

The story is presented in two timelines. There’s present day Ed in 2016 and there’s young Eddie in 1980-something. The 80’s timeline is when most of the strange and terrible stuff happens as young Eddie comes of age with a group of his closest chums. The book bounces back and forth between the two timelines as grown up Ed tries to solve a decades old murder after a letter arrives with ominous chalk drawings and an old frenemy arrives soon after. Information is doled out very slowly in both timelines but eventually it all begins to come together. And that’s all I’m saying about the plot because this is a mystery-thriller, people, and a thriller should never be spoiled! But that doesn't mean that I'm done yapping.

 

So, current day Ed is a bit of a dullard, if you ask me. He is dry and rather unemotional and he's telling the story. He’s a grown man living with a young lady named Chloe but there’s nothing sexual going on there so don't get too excited. I’m kind of glad about that on one hand but if I’m being totally honest a little sexy time might’ve perked things up or added some real tension but alas it’s all pretty sexless. Their relationship made no sense to me until the reveals started coming much later in the book. But for most of the story they interacted with some weird sort of passive-aggressive tension that made me a little uncomfortable for them.

 

Young Eddie’s story was more interesting to me, even though he has the same personality as older Ed, because Eddie witnesses some pretty awful things but alas none of them are supernatural even though there are little teases strewn about so don't get too excited about that either.

 

As a mystery-thriller The Chalk Man worked for me because I am terrible at figuring these things out and this one fooled me and kept me going until the end because I HAD to know. My main complaint about the book is with the people and the complete lack of humor. They weren’t people I ever grew to care about. Even the kids. They’re a group of angry, dull, unlikable kids and I didn’t feel their connection to each other. They didn’t seem like a close-knit group to me and that’s where the book fell down hard. In the beginning, I had high hopes but perhaps they were too high. There’s a dog in a few scenes that I loved more than everyone combined and he has no dialogue and only a scene or two. That probably says too much about me but there it is . . .

 

But, oooh, you have to read until the very end because the final dark surprise was fabulous!

 

I’m giving this a 3 ½ bumping down to a 3.

Best Purchase Ever!

It would be perfect if the little evil face were gray & white but it's close enough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Call by Steve Vernon

Cat Call: A Tale of Ghosts and Darker Things  - Steve Vernon

If you think your cat might really be a demon in disguise you need to read this.

  

This is mine. I think many of you are already familiar with him :) His name is Patrick and his purpose on this planet is to slowly drive me insane.

 

 

This story had my name all over it. There’s a cat, a creepy-ass house and the promise of a haunting good time and it delivered on all points plus a few more! I seriously loved this little story and have no idea why I haven’t read this author before now but I’ll be changing that soon because I’ve just purchased two more. 

 

A group of kids decide to investigate the local creepy mansion and dare each other to spit on the porch. Why do boys do such dumb things?! No need to answer that. Anyhow, they see an old gray cat behind the screen nibbling on what looks to them like a piece of raw meat. The dumbest bravest young man faces down the cat and it doesn’t end in a way any of them could ever have imagined!

 

This story is told from Jeremy’s POV and Jeremy knows true darkness having already experienced it twice in his young life. I am absolutely not going to tell you any more of what happened because you should all read this story for your own selves. Just know that it was heart-tugging and you will feel all kinds of emotions for this young boy within the first few minutes of the story that will continue until the end. Unless you’re totally dead inside, that is. If that’s the case, there’s no helping you.

 

This is some fabulous characterization and I loved every moment of it. Very highly recommend!

 

If you pick this up on audio you won’t be disappointed by the narration. Tom Zainea has a down to earth voice that fits perfectly with this haunted little tale.

Weekend Reads

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

The Strain  - Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, Ron Perlman

I have not seen the show created from this material. I DVR’d it but the thing got full and it was deleted. That may have been for the best . . .

 

The Strain begins when a passenger plane lands with its windows all darkened and none of its 199 passengers getting off the plane. Is it a terrorist attack or something even more insidious?

 

I’ll give you a hint. It’s the second one and this part of the book is so very creepy!

 

There was something on that plane that is now wreaking havoc on the family members of the extremely unlucky passengers aboard the plane – and on society at large.

 

This story is basically pandemic via vampiric strain and focuses a lot of time on the rush for experts to discover exactly what the hell is going on and how to stop it before everyone dies a horrid death or worse.

 

The audiobook is narrated by Ron Perlman who gives the material a lethal edge and he doesn’t even attempt to feign a female voice (thank all that is good and kind in this world). He is deadly serious as well he should be for a story like this! It’s tense and gory and action packed.

 

But you need to know something. Terrible things happen to people, to children, and to dogs (gawd, the dogs!) in this book so guard yourself before you step in. Some may say this is a spoiler but I say you MUST know if you have any feelings at all. I wish I had. I might’ve skipped it had I known about one particular scene. That scene had me in complete dread mode guessing what was going to happen and wishing I could unhear it and pretend it never happened after it did. My heart let me know that it hasn’t completely shriveled up yet.

 

I love pandemic and plague stories even though they give me endless nightmares because I know it’s going to happen to us one of these days and that we’ll probably deserve it (well, most of us anyway). But I only sometimes enjoy thrillers and vampire stories. This one combines the two and I mostly enjoyed it before it got too gross and boring because the vampires are evil, hungry and not at all sexy. Nope, there is no sexy to be had here (more on that in a minute). My biggest complaint about this book was the fact that it was mainly a thriller with heavy handed violence and the characters weren’t given enough space for me to get to know them (especially the women) because they were so busy doing important things to stop this blight on humanity. I really didn’t end up giving any craps about any of them because the whole thing lacked an emotional connection for me. I know not everyone necessarily needs that but I do with very few exceptions. I think reading Salem’s Lot as a kid may have spoiled most vampire novels for me.

 

As I said, this book is deadly serious but there is a moment of dialogue that I must share because I am still laughing about it.

 

“I am a drinker of men.”

 

Heh, I’ve never quite heard it put this way before and I think I like it! I wish there had been more unintentionally funny bits to break up the slaying.

 

Towards the middle it gets rather gross and I rarely say that. There’s a proboscis thing, there’s white goo/blood and, grossest of all, there’s peeing/pooping vampires. And they do it as they feed! I told you there is no sexy here and I wasn’t kidding! There is just entirely too much yuck to behold. Even my cast iron stomach was screaming for it to stop. Maybe it’s because I listened on audio and I find audio such an intimate experience that it became way too much? Or perhaps I’m getting whimpy? I don’t know what my problem was but I do know I probably won’t be reading the next two in the series because the last bits bored me to tears. It’s all chasing down vampires and slicing off their noggins and looking at vampire pee/poo and lots of telling and not any showing. I tuned out during the final acts and I’m too chicken to rewind. I was also totally fatigued by the story at this point. I probably won’t be moving on to the two sequels even though my library has them unless someone decides to be super evil and makes me change my mind! Please don’t.

 

I’m going to give it a three because the first half or so was incredibly chilling. I just wish it had all gone another, perhaps less grosser, way in the latter half.

Afterage by Yvonne Navarro

Afterage - Yvonne Navarro

This is a book I had kicking around since the 90’s but just got around to reading when my horror loving friend Char created a buddy read at Goodreads.

 

A vampire apocalypse has occurred. Navarro starts things off after it has happened. The few remaining humans must struggle to survive in a wasteland ravaged by monsters both vampiric and human. And, as usual, the human monsters are always the worst! Only the suicidal dare venture out after dark because the vampires are fast, ravenous and deadly.

 

The book follows a rather large cast of survivors, most of them eking out a life by themselves but eventually they come together to save a group of humans being kept hostage by a vampire called Anyelet for reasons that are gross, disturbing and so, so awful!

 

I loved the fact that the Big Bad was a woman! She was vicious and selfish and so perfectly evil and so much better a villain than Anne Rice’s whiny creatures. I don’t think she had even one “poor me” moment. She was lonely so she changed her situation. It created an apocalypse but thems the breaks! Her human henchman was a vile man and she surrounded herself with lesser vampires that she could easily boss around. There’s some nasty stuff insinuated within these pages!

 

The survivors are all pretty well fleshed out and, despite the high number of them, I miraculously didn’t find myself terribly confused which is usually the case. I think it’s because the chapters were short and I tried to read big chunks of the book at each sitting so it was easier to remember who was who and what they had done a few chapters earlier.

 

This reads like old school horror because, well, it is! It reminds me of those long lost days when I was able to spend an entire day under a tree reading King and McCammon until the sun went down. It’s not quite at the emotional level of those two but it comes close at times and it isn’t overly wordy as some books of that time were. These characters were in peril from start to finish but they find time to love and help each other. The baddies are BAD but there are a few who haven’t totally lost their humanity and I appreciated that.

 

If you’re into nasty vampires that aren’t romanticized you should give this one a try.

Reblogged from Wanda's Book Reviews:
Coffee has been essential today.
Coffee has been essential today.

Stealing from Char Again :

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Scott Brick, Robert Louis Stevenson

I tried to listen to this audiobook this morning but it was just too wordy for me. I mean, I know it's a book, they're made up entirely of words but these words were not at all interesting to me. They were boring, dry, tedious words and they did not please me nor did they scare me. They made me sleepy is about all they did. And I had no a-hole cat around to wake me up if I fell asleep driving.



A man spies another man trample his way over a young girl. The decent man chases down the dastardly man and begins, what I can only guess because I'm a quitter, his own little investigation into who this man is. I only guess this because he says,“If he be Mr. Hyde" he had thought, "I shall be Mr. Seek.”.

I know I'm supposed to pretend I'm smart and struggle my way through this classic but I have too many other books vying for my attention that I know I will find interesting so I'm not going to struggle my way through another few hours with this sucker.

Currently reading

Darktown: A Novel by Thomas Mullen
The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix