Book Review: The Boy At The Door

Title: The Boy At The Door

Author: Alex Dahl

Format: Advance Reader’s Copy Paperback

Published: 2018

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for the advance reader’s copy of The Boy At The Door which is out in just a few days on July 24th!!  I love my psychological thrillers and this one had some unpredictable twists and turns.

Imagine a picturesque lake in Norway with a beautiful mansion on the edge with the perfect husband and wife to the townspeople.  Throw in 2 semi-lovely daughters and there you have it.  Except just because you can have it all, doesn’t mean you really do.  Meet Cecilia Wilberg, the woman who easily could have it all.

I really started to dislike Cecilia.  She drinks a lot, takes quite a few prescription pills, seemingly ignores her daughters Nicoline and Hermine, and doesn’t always treat her husband, Johan, the nicest.  Cecilia works part-time as an interior designer and keeps up all social appearances by regularly holding social events at her house, as well as attending them.

Enter Tobias.  A little boy left at pool class which one of Cecilia’s daughter attends.  The receptionist begs her to take him home and she begrudgingly obliges.  When she arrives at his house she finds that it’s abandoned so she takes him home with her for the night.  He says he goes to school in the next town over so she decides she’ll just take him there in the morning and they can sort out where his parents are.

The next morning, she gets a phone call from the school wondering why she dropped this little boy off as he doesn’t attend school there.  Insert the jaw drop now.  Cecilia ends up taking care of the boy as the authorities try and figure out who his parents are.  Little do we know that Cecilia will figure it all out before they get a chance.

Cecilia goes on with the authorities with an, “I’ll do whatever I want because I get out of anything,” attitude.  A typical rich person attitude when money can buy the finest lawyer if need be.  Does this come back to bite her in the butt?  Only at the very end of the book, you’ll see.

Cecilia is also best described as a compulsive liar and it kept me guessing what was the truth and what wasn’t.  As the story goes on with Tobias’ parents the author does an AMAZING job at having me second guess what really happened.  In fact, I believed a lie to be the truth (and then was angry when it was only a lie).  You’ll have to pick up this book to find out more.  But let me warn you, once you pick it up you will find it hard to put down!

Overall, I give A Boy At The Door a rating of 4.  The ending satisfied me as I felt Cecilia got what she deserved.  The book kept me guessing and I can always appreciate that.  In fact, I read this book throughout my amazing Mediterranean cruise, even waking up at sunrise in Barcelona just to fit a few more chapters before seeing all the sights.  A book that kept me wanting to hang out in a chair on vacation instead of partying it up says a lot.  Do yourself a favor and seek out this book to read it.  Let me know when you do!  Tune in next Thursday for my review of Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King!

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Book Review: Pretty Girls Dancing

Title: Pretty Girls Dancing

Author: Kylie Brant

Format: Kindle Edition

Published: 2018

I judge books by their covers.  There.  I said it.  And this cover caught my eye in Amazon Prime reading so I checked it out.  Amazon Prime really has some great perks in addition to free two-day shipping!!

This book is told to us by 5 people; Whitney DeVries, Janie Willard, Claire Willard, David Willard, and Special Agent Mark Foster.  Each chapter alternates a person while flowing together very well.  This book is about the Ten Mile Killer; he takes young girls and kidnaps them for long periods of time and eventually kills them, leaving them in dancing apparel in a wooded area.  It appears as though the latest victim, Whitney, has been kidnapped by the killer.

In the very beginning of the book I can hear Nev and Max from Catfish just screaming at Whitney.  She thinks she is going out to meet a boy who works at a grocery store in her grandmother’s town.  First of all, she only saw this boy working, never talked to him, and suddenly he found her on Facebook?  Come on…be smarter girls!!

So, Whitney gets kidnapped.  What we are not sure of, is if it is the Ten Mile Killer.  The Willard’s fit in because their oldest daughter, Kelsey, was the last one to be kidnapped by the killer seven years earlier.  We go through many emotions with them reliving the feelings of when Kelsey went missing with Whitney going missing.  The girls only lived about 12 miles apart from each other so the latest kidnapping is hitting home, hard.

Claire Willard, Kelsey’s mother, is a hot mess throughout this book.  She is essentially a zombie.  I did highlight a part of the book with a quote from one of her chapters as it was very profound.  “People saw what they wanted to see. Whatever was most comfortable to believe.”  As you read this book you’ll understand this quote better.

We meet the agent assigned to the case, Mark Foster.  He has his own family issues which don’t seem to really fit in to the story at all, but nonetheless, are still there.  He has his suspicions on who is killer is and will not stop until they can make a break in the case.  He finds enjoyment in consulting a senior special agent, Luther Sims, who worked as a profiler for the Ten Mile Killer.

Janie, Kelsey’s sister, takes detective work into her own hands and sets up a photo shoot with a creepy janitor from her high school.  She discovered risqué photos of her sister shortly after her disappearance and she is determined the man who took them killed her.  Janie almost gets arrested in her attempt at solving her sister’s disappearance, but fortunately for her, she stumbles across some damning evidence and gets off scot free on a trespassing charge.  I also highlighted one of her quotes from one of her chapters, “No one got out of a personal tragedy unscathed. The wounds didn’t go away. It was just a matter of how well each person covered them.”

Janie’s discovery leads the case down a path where eventually we do find out who the Ten Mile Killer is and we find out what happened to Kelsey and to Whitney.  If I say any more I will give away the story and that wouldn’t be nice of me, now would it?  But I will leave you with a highlight from one of Whitney’s chapters. “Monsters looked just like the rest of us. And somehow, that made them even scarier.”  Curious now?

This book is a 5.  It kept me up at night.  Who was the killer?  What is going to happen to Whitney?  Where is Kelsey?  I couldn’t figure it out and I didn’t see it coming.  Brant did an amazing job in penning this crime fiction book.  If you are an Amazon Prime member there is no excuse for you NOT to check this book out!  Join me next week as I do something a little different.  I will not be reviewing a book, but rather, I will be reviewing eBook newsletters!  If you are a fan of reading eBooks, you will NOT want to miss next week’s blog edition!!

Book Review: The Buried Book

Title: The Buried Book

Author: D. M. Pulley

Format: Kindle

Published: 2016

This is another read thanks to Amazon Prime Reading.  As soon as I finished this book I immediately put her two other books onto my Amazon wish list and plan on reading them soon.  This book is out of my typical genre in the historical fiction category but I am so glad I decided to branch out and read this book!

A mother, Althea Leary, drops her nine-year-old son with her brother on his farm.  All she tells her son, Jasper, is that they are going for a drive.  When they arrive at the farm she pulls out a suitcase and it surprises Jasper because he had not packed anything.  She takes off and Jasper is left at the farm.

Throughout this book I just feel so terrible for this poor little boy.  His life gets turned upside down and he is trying to figure it out.  The author does a tremendous job at portraying the viewpoint of everything happening to a nine-year-old.  This was a page turner and I wanted to find out what was happening.

Jasper’s dad comes and visits him at the farm and no one has seen his mother.  She has disappeared.  Detectives start to visit and ask questions.  Her car was found buried under tree branches, everyone is assuming she’s gone for good.

If you go off of her background, she was seen as the bad apple in her family.  She ran away from home and wasn’t worth a dime.  Pulley does a great job at making us feel like Althea was one of those bad people and hung with the wrong crowd.  Jasper starts to uncover the person her mother truly is and how it unfolds keeps you turning the pages.

While reading this book it felt like I was right where it was set; in 1950 just outside of Detroit in farm country.  There is a Native American Reservation nearby and that integration into this story was remarkable.  It felt like I was on the farm watching everything unfold.  The amount of research that Pulley had to do for this book shows and is just written so appropriately well.

The ending left me happy, sad, and mad.  When you get to the end the short quotes at the start of each chapter make perfect sense, and that angered me.  The person gets dismissed as crazy when they are truly not.  They are a soul who is misunderstood and just wants to help.  I was happy for the family and sad at the same time.  Pick up this book and you’ll understand every emotion.  Even though I felt happy, sad, and mad, I also felt satisfied.

Overall, I give this book a 5.  It was a great mystery that I could not predict.  There were many turns and twists and it kept me turning the pages nonstop.  I appreciated how the story progressed and how we found out bits and pieces through the findings of this poor nine-year-old boy.  Go ahead and give this a read and then come back and let me know what you think!  Next week I will be reviewing a Celesta Ng novel so stay tuned!

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Book Review – Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead as a Doornail

Author: Christine Harris

Format: Hardback

Published: 2005

 

When I pick up a Sookie Stackhouse novel, many time I feel like I’m putting on warm fuzzy bunny slippers.  There is a familiar comfort to the cadence and the flow of these books that I simply enjoy.  When I read Charlaine’s books I simply just sit back, enjoy the ride and maybe live a little vicariously through Sookie seeing as she gets to be around the types of beings I only get to dream of, vampires and werewolves and the like.

 

While I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books and they all have that familiar comfort this book felt a little outside of the norm.  I enjoyed the read and it was just as cozy as I described above but it was lacking at the same time.  In picking up one of these novels I’ve come to expect a good bit of mystery and intrigue, Sookie’s life to be in danger on more than one occasion and for there to be some rather sexy moments between Sookie and a supernatural male of choice.  Sadly this was not the case with the book. It had promise it had intrigue – Sookie’s life was in danger but not in such thrilling ways where I was on the edge of my seat.

 

Sookie also spent most of her time swinging from one even to the next trying to keep her head afloat and not really digging into any mysterious events or deaths even though there was a serial killer roaming around trying to kill shifters.  It was kind of clear at least to me who did the shooting long before Sookie even pieced any of it together and honestly the discovery of who did it was merely by chance.  Additionally the only sexy moment was when Sookie was getting her leg licked by a newly introduced shifter.  It sounds kinky and weird I admit but given the situation it was less kinky and more logical and a bit sexual.

 

Honestly this book in the series was akin to the second movie in a trilogy, lot of important information and filler but a bit lacking in the action.  I will admit it made a lot of sense for Sookie as a character to not get too romantically involved with anyone given everything that had happened in her life.  She had recently been through a lot of drama in the previous books and most people like Sookie would need a break and would sort of swing from event to event as it played in the book – so I can credit Charlene Harris for her use of character development in this book but it was still highly disappointing when you are expecting something a little more both romantically and mystery wise.  I am hoping the next book will pick back up with the romantic interludes and mysterious intrigue.  With that said I’ll have to give this book a 3 out of 5 pages – it is not worth skipping but you don’t want to expect to get much out of this book.

Book Review – Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Title: Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Author: Thomas Sweterlitsch
Format: Paperback
Written: 2014

Thomas Sweterlitsch’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a truly haunting take on the near future, as it is one that strikes as not only bleak and disconnected, but also truly possible. It’s the story of John Dominic Blaxton, a poet who lost everything when an explosion destroyed the city of Pittsburgh, claiming the lives of millions, including his wife and unborn child. Yet John continues to live in Pittsburgh–emotionally, at least–through a fully immersive virtual reconstruction of the city called The Archive, which taps into a visitor’s memories and video records of the cities to recreate their lost city.

When he’s not reliving every recorded moment with his wife in an endless cycle of desperation and despair, Dominic works as an Archivist, investigating cold cases within the virtual Pittsburgh for insurance companies. However, his latest cold case involves the murder of a woman whose very existence is somehow being deleted from the Archive. Dominic’s obsession with uncovering the truth behind the woman’s fate takes him down a path that begins to blur the line between physical and virtual reality, as he digs deeper into the illusions and the remnant threads of his own sanity.

Sweterlitsch tells the story beautifully, using his own intimate knowledge of Pittsburgh to paint the city in such a grounded, intricate way that the reader easily finds themselves immersed in the Archive. His use of Dominic as a narrator, tapping into his grief and despair, and his persistent instability, adds the factors of an unreliable narrator to the mystery, leaving the reader at times questioning what is really missing from the Archive and what is truly just the delusions of Dominic’s detached obsession with solving the mystery of the lost girl.

This story also provides a great reflection of technology itself and how we use it today. The Archive serves not only as a great plot device but also as a mirror on our own dependence on digital interaction, the escapist mentality of digital culture, and our need to constantly relive the past. Sweterlitsch not only paints a detailed science fiction landscape, but does so while yearning for a more analog age, with real human interaction in a tangible world.

Overall, Thomas Sweterlitsch’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an immersive, thought provoking, and very fun read. I would give it four out of five stars, and would recommend fans of the science fiction or mystery genre give it a good read.

Book Review: Horton Halfpott

TITLE: Horton Halfpott
-or- The Fiendish Mystery of Smudgwick Manor
-or- The loosening of M’lady Luggertuck’s Corset
AUTHOR/Illustrator: Tom Angleberger
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2011

I first stumbled across Tom Angleburger as an author in person at the Southern Festival of Books. He was doing a presentation of another book (Origami Yoda) where he helped all the kids fold Emergency Yodas and called them all Larry. (He wouldn’t tell me why)
I was so taken by him that I bought a copy on the spot to have signed, and found out about this book in line. Too late to have him sign it if I ran and bought one for myself, so I told myself I’d read it later.

Later has clearly been a little late in coming.

The book starts with M’lady Luggertuck deciding to not lace her corset up quite so tight.
Apparently this is such an amazing thing that the shift ripples through the entire house and weird things start to happen as a result.
Horton Halfpott is the kitchen boy, assigned to perpetual dish duty (652 spoons one day alone!) in a house full of servants and opulence. He gets a pay of one penny a week, which is good for just about nothing, the least of which is helping his parents misfortune, so his family suffers away from him, dad needing medical care, and Horton hanging on because something is better than nothing, right?
This is a silly book – I’d put it in the same sort of type of writing as a Series of Unfortunate Events. In fact, one of my favorite paragraph-slash-ridiculous sentences:

Imagine how many plates, how many saucers, how many bowls, brandy snifters, butter trays, ice-cube mimbles, gin jiggers, melon ballers, salad tongs, salt cellars, teacups, teakettles, teapots, teaspoons, and tea strainers were used every day at the fancy Luggertuck table, where five-course meals were eaten three times a day, tea was served twice, and midnight snacks were offered at eleven, twelve, and one o’clock.

In the midst of M’Lady’s corset loosening, something strange starts to happen, and a detective is brought in who is pompous, arrogant, and totally useless. He does have some good lines in him, telling the stable boy once “Mr. Bump, you have about you the fragrance of equus poopus…” (horse manure) and offering him money to solve the case for him – discretely of course.

I’m not going to give it away, of course, but the case was solved, and this was the proper amount of silly for a reader of the target age of this (which is probably somewhere around ten). And the corset does, of course, get re-tightened.

I’m sorry I put it off for so long. This book deserves every bit of praise it gets. Angleberger once again proves that he’s awesome at his market. I hope he keeps writing for a lot of years.

Solidly, this book gets a 5 out of 5 pages.

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway

Title: Every Heart a Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2016

Seanan McGuire was a Guest of Honor at a recent convention I was at*, so I requested a copy of Every Heart a Doorway before I left. (It arrived the *day* I left, but let’s not discuss that unless you want me to rant at you.) I had previously attempted to read Rosemary and Rue, the first of her October Daye books, but, well, it’s a me vs. First Person POV thing and I lost.

Every Heart a Doorway was different. Written in third person, it was also much thinner than I’d expected – I hadn’t realized that it was a novella. I’m a fast reader, but once I started it, I had it finished in a little over an hour (granted, some of that was because I couldn’t put it down).

Obviously, I enjoyed the book.

Every Heart a Doorway is a story about what happens to the children who have gone through and then have returned to our world. It’s centered around Nancy, who has recently returned from the Underworld and the Halls of the Dead. And it’s centered around Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the place where a former portal child has made a home for those to come after their adventures, to be in a place where they won’t be told they’re crazy or making it all up. A place where they all want, desperately, to remember their trips and to, if possible, return home.

(There is mention of a sister school, which helps those who want to forget. I hope we get a story set there as well.)

The first half of the story is the strongest, as Nancy arrives and begins, impossibly, to settle in. The second half is a murder mystery, but due to the short nature of the novella, it feels very rushed to me (as an avid mystery novel reader). I didn’t predict the murderer, but there are also very few clues to do so with.

The best things about the book are the characters, and the worlds that they came from. I love that Nancy is explicitly stated to be asexual, and that another character is trans. And while it comes up, both are minor plot points. They’re not the Defining Character Trait for these characters, and the point of the story isn’t discovering this about them.

I have hope that there will be another story (or novel, that would be exciting) set in this world. There are so many places that it could go, and so many other stories that could be told. A solid 4/5 pages.

 

*As a total aside, if you ever have the chance to go see her in a panel, GO. Hysterically funny, insightful, and a genuine pleasure to watch on a panel with other people.

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