Bark at the Ghouls

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.

Our Frail Disordered Lives by Mary M. Schmidt

Our Frail Disordered Lives - Mary M. Schmidt

I requested this title from Netgalley thinking it was a horror novel because it was in the horror category. I must be more careful about hitting that request button without doing a little research first.

 

This book is a comedy about a demon gone rogue because his boss Satan is an unappreciative pain in the bum. Satan sends all of his bounty hunters out to drag the demon’s sorry butt back to Hell. But this is not a horror novel. At least not the first 25%. It is written in the sarcastic spirit of Christopher Moore and Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone which is a book that did not get along with me and I normally adore Barker so you can see how this going to go, can’t you?

 

Not well, if you were wondering.

 

I gave up on this book at the 25% mark not because it wasn’t the horror novel I was expecting (so don’t rag on me about that) but because the characters were all loathsome unlikable creatures and I wasn’t in any kind of mood to deal with them. I am also very particular about my humor. This was vaguely amusing but wasn’t making me laugh or snicker or any of those things it should’ve been doing. It was mostly frustrating me because it is written in the “tell don’t show” mode, the plot was extremely disjointed, the ARC had all kinds of pesky formatting errors and it was not keeping my attention no matter how hard I tried. I think a good pass through an editor could easily fix those things but as is, I couldn’t find the will to continue.

 

Thank you Netgalley for sending me the ARC. I wish it could’ve been a five star read for me but you can’t win them all. I'm sure there are many out here that will dig the humor but unfortunately I'm not one of them.

Second Lives by P.D. Cacek

Second Lives - P.D. Cacek

Second Lives has an amazingly creepy cover and an intriguing blurb and when I sat down with it I knew it was going to be an emotionally intense read. The plot is about a group of four people who die, after all, but I wasn’t expecting the heavy blanket of sadness that was dropped over my head to stay there until almost the very last page.

Be warned if you’re feeling blue because this one may need to wait a bit but if you’re feeling too chipper give it a go but make sure you have no distractions and big chunk of time and maybe a notebook . . .

This book starts out telling the backstories of eight characters and five different timelines chapter by chapter. I’ve seen some people say they read like short stories and they do but they do eventually connect but it takes a while before that happens. There is a lot to absorb in the first half or so of the book. I took notes to keep everybody straight because I knew my faulty brain would never be able to keep up and I did find myself referring back to my notes to remind myself who was who. After the first half (or so) it was easy going and I no longer needed them but without them I would’ve been tripped up a time or ten.

The characterization here is incredible and the author really excels at breathing life into all of her people. I found it an easy read for that reason but it left me feeling blue the entire week of reading. It’s incredibly sad and lacks any sort of break from all of the gloom. Each situation is pretty terrible and heartrending for everyone involved.

This one is hard to review and even more difficult to rate. I’m going to settle on a three. It’s not a book I’d ever willingly read again because I found it incredibly depressing but it’s well written and fans of fantasy and reincarnation-type novels might feel differently.

*Thank you Flame Tree Press for the advanced readers copy!

 

I am speechless on this one!

Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe - Scott Cole

Triple Axe is an amusing little serial killer tale written for those of us with warped minds. This isn’t a story about an investigator hot on the case and hellbent on finding the murderer. Nope, it’s not that at all. In this case, the serial killer is targeting porn actresses and the police just don’t give a crap about them. The woman are insulted when reporting their story and the police refuse to take them seriously. It is extremely infuriating. 

So the ladies, tired of being targets of a cowardly murderous freak, take it upon themselves to do something about it. It may involve axes and nudity and glorious, raging revenge. 

This story is so much fun. I really had a blast reading it. I know that probably sounds terribly weird but it’s funny, despite all of the murder and mayhem. It moves fast and the characters are well written, tough, resilient and likable. It wasn’t over the top gross but there’s blood, a little gore and a lot of sex, boobs and body fluids splashing the pages. If you’re up for this type of insanity, I highly recommend TRIPLE AXE to all of you kindred souls!

I also love the fact that the author dedicated it to all the dirty birds, lol, and I can’t wait to read more of his writing.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. It’s a good thing I liked it but even if I didn’t, I’d still tell you the honest truth!

 

A Map Of The Dark by Karen Ellis

A Map of the Dark - Karen Ellis

This is a classic three star read for me. It's a thriller about a missing teenager and Elsa, the FBI agent who is assigned to the case. It was decent, it wasn't boring but it also wasn't super compelling. I guessed one turn of events early on and that made me sad and tells me either the plotting could've been better OR I've finally reached the point where I've read enough of these that I can now figure things out (that is probably not the case, haha). There was a nifty dark twist at the end that I hadn't thought of so that was fun. The characters were all a bit flawed which always makes a read far more interesting if you're asking me BUT the main character has major issues with her past and those issues and thoughts and forays into the past seemed to take up more page space than the main story which made the main mystery seem a little like an afterthought at times.

This is book 1 of a series and I will dig into book #2 if I'm able to find a copy at my library as I did this one. Maybe now that we know all of Elsa's backstory the next one can actually focus on the mystery.

 

I did not read the blurb which is my preferred method of doing things with audios I grab from Overdrive. These are my thoughts going in blind which is the way I think you should do it too!

We Are Wormwood by Autumn Christian

We are Wormwood - Autumn Christian

“When I was fourteen years old the cats in the neighborhood started losing their eyes” 

Eeeeeh! How’s that for a teaser? We Are Wormwood isn’t a straightforward kind of read and it might not be a book that everyone will love equally so know what you’re getting into. It’s dreamy, the narrator and the world around her are basically 100% unreliable and the story and the prose are exquisitely poetic. I love this type of writing when I’m in a mood to sit down and be transported somewhere weird and unpredictable. If you’re like this as well, you’ll want to read it when you have some time to fall into its world. 

 



A book like this is difficult to review because there is a very fine line between saying just enough and saying a little too much and spoiling its surprises. Basically it’s about a young girl named Lily and her strange and dark coming of age journey as she lives off and on with her schizophrenic mother and experiments with drugs. There are some strange sights to behold and Lily spends the majority of the story stumbling through life in a hazy otherworldly hallucinatory state. The reader and Lily are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t. It’s about fear and trauma and it reads like a nightmare. At times lucid, mostly not, the imagery and savagery and monsters on her back are all vivid, dirty and create scenes of disgusting beauty. I loved this book about a young girl growing up with madness nipping at her heels. 

I also enjoyed all of the dark imagery within these pages and can’t wait to find some time to sit down with more from this author.

“Once you invade someone’s dreams you’re a part of them forever. For the rest of their life they’ll be spitting out little pieces of you.”

*I was given an e-Arc by the author. This in no way alters my thoughts on the story.

Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

Dracul - Clive Barker, Dacre Stoker

This is the prequel to Dracula and it was inspired by notes and other tidbits Stoker left behind. I wasn’t sure what to expect and went in blind to what the actual storyline was about which, if you ask me, is often the best way to go into a book. That way it’s all a surprise. It could be a pleasant surprise or a dreadful one depending on the book. This one was a bit of both, haha (but dreadful in the best of ways). The Horror Aficionados group read this together. Click here to read everyone’s thoughts.

 

I’ll tell you a little but not too much about the plot because I think you should all go in blind too and allow the tale to unfold. Dracul tells the story of a young Bram Stoker and his siblings. Set in the 1800’s when Bram is an ill little boy being cared for “Nana” Ellen because his mom is overwhelmed. Nana Ellen was hired without anyone checking into her background. And you know that means something weird is bound to happen, right? Cue the creepy music because the creepy is coming and once it starts it doesn’t let up!

 

After a strange event occurs, Bram and Matilda start to snooping. And I’m just going to interrupt my review here to say that I adored Bram’s sister Matilda. It would’ve been amazing if the story had been told mostly from her POV because she is feisty and smart and nosey as hell and she asks all the best questions. But it’s told from several POV’s and that’s ok too because it’s a good story. Anyhow, the snooping of course leads to more snooping and the discovery of many odd things. None of which I am going to disclose.


With that said, if you’ve read Dracula or seen any vampire film, you’ll likely have an inkling and some insight into what’s going on here but it’s the telling that is all the fun. It’s descriptive and gruesome and the atmosphere is done just right. It digs right down into the dirt and worms and throws you in there, setting up some truly squirmy scenes that will crawl into your brain and settle in – maybe permanently. I love it when a book is able to do that to me.


I listened to Dracul as an unabridged audiobook with a host of different narrators and instead of distracting me as this sort of thing sometimes does, the six (I think there were six but am too lazy to look it up) narrators helped me quickly place who was speaking and let me know which timeline we were currently in. The tale does skip around in time and I am the type who is easily confused but not so in this case. I fell into this story from the very beginning and only wish I could’ve listened to it all in one sitting but it’s over 16 hours long! Even I can’t hide from life that long no matter how hard I might try because they always find me.


And my favorite quote comes from Matilda (of course!):


“If you won’t dig it up I will.”


Read it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

I purchased this audio from Audible.com. All thoughts are my own.

This guy is charging $35.00 for book reviews!

THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS!

 

He then posts them to Amazon (or Ama-zon & Good-reads). This is against TOS, correct? At any rate, he has been reported.

 

Are people desperate enough to pay $35.00 for one terribly written five star book review?

 

As a bonus, he offers additional services to bump your book up to perfection if he finds errors. For an added fee, of course.

 

https://www.wordrefiner.com/review-your-book.html

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AG37NF3MYU5R6KD42BEWOGJU5PSA/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_gw_tr?ie=UTF8

 

https://twitter.com/wordrefiner

 

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/32070785-mark-schultz

 

My reviews were pulled last year for NO reason (they're back after much yelling on my end) and people like this can blatantly disregard TOS. The mind boggles.

You Guys See This?

People are pissed and some are sucking up.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19800171-introducing-the-new-goodreads-help-and-an-update-on-the-feedback-group?comment=191712668#comment_191712668

 

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

The Invited - Jennifer McMahon

I read roughly half of this story before throwing in the towel. I don't do this lightly but I've come to the conclusion that life is far too short to struggle with a book that doesn't mesh with me. It started off on the wrong foot and never improved. I have worked in the construction industry most of my entire working life and found the fact that two teachers building a two story house BY THEMSELVES (oh, with the help of a preteen girl) with their vast knowledge of YouTube videos, Habitat for Humanity weekends, manuals, Google-fu and "working with dad back in the day" incredibly ridiculous and unbelievable. But that's not why I quit. I quit because I was dragging myself back to the book every day and unable to read more than a few pages at a time because I found it all very predictable and dull. Maybe it picks up in the second half but I'll never know.

 

I'm not rating this for obvious reasons. If you've never read a haunted house book before you might have better luck than I did with this one.

 

Thank you to Doubleday Publishing for providing me with an ARC. I wish I would've loved it but not all books are for all readers.

Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds: The First Official Novel - Gwenda Bond

I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this book set before the events that take place in the Stranger Things Netflix series. I mean, I love Stranger Things on tv, but would I love a book set before Eleven, Chief Hopper, and Dustin and Steve’s unlikely bromance hit the screen? I wasn’t sure.

 

We learn all about Eleven’s mom, Terry, who is a college student when she gets involved with Dr. Brenner and his human experiments for nefarious purposes. At first it’s the chance to do something good for the world which is currently sending its boys off to die in Vietnam that pulls her in, later it’s the friendships and strong bonds she develops with the other experimentees and the five year old little girl called 008 who is kept prisoner at the facility that keep her going back. As they all get in deeper and one of them starts seeing monsters, they come to realize that Dr. Brenner may be up to no good. No good at all! Terry starts snooping and gets herself in so deep she may never get out.

 

This book is less about monsters than it is about science experiments, unexpected friendships and uncovering a devious government project. It has engaging characters, is emotionally painful and lacks the humorous bits of the series but I did not want to stop reading. It’s a terrific addition to the series and a fascinating story all on its own and I highly recommend it.

The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark Game - Jonathan Janz

I have to admit that I had a little struggle with this book because the font on my ARC was so teeny tiny I could only read the story in 20 minute increments before my eyes started to cry and reading became an impossibility. After trying to read it this way for over two weeks I finally gave up and requested an eArc via Netgalley. Thank you Netgalley and Flame Tree Press for the arc’s! The author has confirmed that final copies will have an easier to read font so your eyeballs need not worry.

 

This is a story about a group of writers who are invited to join in on a game at a creepy old mansion hosted by a creepier old writer. A Dark Game, mwahaha. The winner will receive fame and fortune and all they desire and who doesn’t want that? Everything about this game and its mysterious host is weird and ultra-creepy but the prize is irresistible. The losers? Well, you do not want to lose this game and that’s all I’ll be saying about that . . .

 

When the story begins it tells the tale of a full cast of characters in alternating chapters and, likely because I was reading it in such short bursts, I had a difficult time keeping track of who was who and whose back story went with who and I kept mixing them all up in my head. I kept hoping a few of them would get killed off fast in order to end some of my confusion. I know, how selfish of me, but it is the truth. I don’t like straining my brain that hard after a long day of life and some of these characters were no good trashy people anyway and no great loss to humanity, if you’re asking me.

 

I enjoyed this book once the cast was trimmed down a bit, as I knew I would. The whole atmosphere was very well done and I enjoyed learning about the darkness hiding inside most of these characters. Reading about terrible and sordid secrets is my one of my favorite past-times and this book delivered on those. There were lots of nasty surprises to be found and watching the characters get all vicious with each other was a bit of blast!

 

This is a wild book that really ramps up in its last few acts. If your memory is better than mine and you can handle a large cast of characters, I bet you’re going to fall right into this deliciously evil story and not come up for breath until you finish.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

An Unwanted Guest - Shari Lapena

This story takes place at an old fashioned hotel/inn (it is called both things so don’t ask me what’s what because I will be no help at all). The guests begin checking in. There are several couples, a few singletons and the owner and his son are the only two employees due to a snowstorm. The storm takes an icy turn, they lose power and they’re all stranded together until the roads settle down. And, of course, there’s no wifi or cell service because this is a place people come to get away from it all. You just know something terrible is going to happen, or at least you hope it does, right? No worries because it isn’t too long before it DOES!

 

Someone takes a topple down the stairs and it may or may not be murder! As they reel from the death and are told to leave the body where it lay until the police can arrive (in several days, probably, yuck!) more of these people start dropping dead and a delicious story reminiscent of a game of Clue begins to unfold. 

 

 

Was it the secretive writer, the lawyer with a whiff of murder lingering about him, the shrew of a wife, or was it her philandering husband, perhaps? Maybe it was the journalist who is just slightly not ok or was it handsome heir to a fortune blowing off some steam? Really, it could’ve been any of these many near caricatures inhabiting the story because when the motive is made clear, I was left scratching my head just a wee bit trying to make sense out of it because it seemed to have all come out of nowhere or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the clues for that particular character because I was too focused on all the red herrings. The final twist however was super fun and I loved it.

 

I didn’t like any of these characters. They were all pretty much either a jerk or a non-character who I didn’t learn enough about to throw them a care. I wish it had been more involving character-wise but it wasn’t a deal breaker because the book was fun and claustrophobic despite me not caring who lived or who died. I think the author was also very self-aware that she had created a cliché or two because one character even calls out their spouse as such which made me laugh.

 

I’m going to give it a 3. A three means I liked it all of you potential haters out there in Goodreadsland who think a three damns a book to the fiery pits of hell!  Do not come bitching on my review here to explain to me that I read it all wrong because you will not be welcomed into my space. Do us all a favor and save your breath for your own review because no amount of explaining will ever change my opinion on a book.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The Hunger - Alma Katsu

This book has a zillion reviews so I’ll spare you from another and only say that I was a wee bit disappointed with the horror aspects of this novel. It was a super slow burn, and I like those usually, but The Hunger was peopled with so many characters and their dramas and romances and jealousies and stupidities and - well, you get the point. There was just too much of all of that and not enough struggle, pain, fear, and horror (and I’m here for the horror) and I was bored throughout too much of it.

 

The supernatural aspect was woefully underplayed for my taste and I didn’t care about any of the characters. It also wasn’t nearly as gruesome as I was expecting knowing what happened to these people. The terrible things were mostly skimmed over. Those things all combined made the read slow down to a crawl for me. With all that said, the historical details were excellently written and life on the trail did come alive but this is a long book and those things weren’t enough to keep me glued to the pages.

 

 

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

Come Find Me - Megan Miranda

I don't know if I'm going to bother with a real review because I'm feeling lazy and don't have a lot to say and I'm just posting this because I HATE with all of my dark passion the fact that Goodreads keeps telling me that I'm 2 books behind on my reading challenge. I know, I know, already! I am reading as fast as I freaking can! Anyway, that's why I wrote this, haha.

I requested this from Overdrive thinking it was another secret filled thriller about awful people doing awful things - as they usually do but that wasn't this book. I doubt I even read the blurb because the cover fooled me so much. Doesn't it look like one of those types of books? Is it just me? 

Anyhow, this one does have secrets but it's a young adult novel about two teens whose lives have been shattered by tragic events and there's a signal (aliens!? I was hoping for aliens or at least a visit from Fox Mulder) that calls to them and tells them things and also brings them together. They have two mysteries to solve and fall in love during the process. It was decently written and engaging enough on audio and the dual narrators did great work but it wasn't quite the book I thought it was going to be and it didn't connect with me on an emotional level which is strange considering the tragedies hanging over both of their lives. I felt no feelings which is a shame. There was also way too much going on and it got bogged down and was a wee bit of mess there for a bit. One mystery would've been plenty. Thus it's getting a three from the likes of me.

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

The Night Olivia Fell - Christina McDonald

No one ever calls at 3 am to tell you you’ve won the lottery, am I right? When Abi’s phone rings in the middle of the night she knows it’s going to be bad news but she never imagined just how devastating that news was going to be. Her teenage daughter Olivia has been in an accident and the outlook is bleak. She has irreparable brain damage, is on life support and she will never awaken. She’s also pregnant. Poor Abi was not at all prepared for any of this news. 

 

This is how the book starts so don’t go yelling at me that I’ve spoiled everything. My fingers are in my ears and I am singing “I do not care, it happens in the first five minutes”! Just kidding, sort of. This book isn’t about Olivia’s sad fate. It’s about how and why she ended up braindead and pregnant, poor thing, and also a plethora of other things.

 

Olivia was always the perfect daughter, the good girl who listened, worked hard and did everything right but Olivia was keeping secrets and so was her mom, Abi. This book goes back and forth in time to tell their stories and I found it fascinating – as I always do with these kinds of tales. I never seem to get sick of peeking in on the lives of the perfect people who are never quite-so-perfect as they first appear.

 

Olivia is a great character. She’s down to earth and sweet. She keeps secrets and she tells lies but she does so to protect others and herself from pain. I liked Olivia and I don’t typically enjoy teenage characters. There seems to be no malice in her heart unlike many of the people in her circle and her fate left a sad pallor over the whole story. My heart also went out to Abi who must deal so much pain and frustration and fear. The grief of losing her daughter, gaining a grandchild (if the baby survives) and feeling as if no one is taking her seriously when she points out that she believes Olivia’s death wasn’t accidental.

 

The story is filled with twists and sharp turns but none of them were all that shocking but then again I read a steady diet of horror so I’m pretty unflinchable when it comes to murder and mayhem. The writing here is so engaging that I always wanted to keep going even if I anticipated most of the twisty-twists. I had to know EVERYTHING but especially how poor Olivia met her doom.

 

THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL is a tear-jerker, I’m not going to sugar coat that. You know what is going to happen to Olivia from the very beginning and it is so very tragic because by the time the book ends the reader has come to know her quite intimately. So go in prepared to peel some onions at the end so you don’t look like a big baby as I did.

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