Short Story Sunday: I Call Upon Thee (Ania Ahlborn) #novella #horror

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Anyone who frequents Clues and Reviews knows that I am completely obsessed with Ania Ahlborn.  Her novels always keep me glued to the pages, holding on to the edge of my seat and looking over my shoulder.  Really, what more does anyone want in a horror novel,  am I right?

I am especially pleased when Ahlborn publishes a novella.  It really helps to give me my fix until another one of her novels publishes. And, since Ania Ahlborn is an “auto-buy” author for me, I didn’t even pay attention to what her newest novella, I Call Upon Thee, was about until after I had already downloaded it to my Kindle.  Once I realized that it had an Ouija board at the core of the plot, I had to take some time to mentally prepare myself.  Ouija boards TERRIFY me. 

 At 246 pages, this novella packs a serious punch.  Using a back and forth narration between the present after our protagonist, Maggie heads home to help after the death of her sister and flashbacks to her childhood, Ahlborn weaves a terrifying tale.  Even small details (creepy niece, anyone?) had me on edge while I was reading.  That is one of my favourite things about her work; she is able to take regular, everyday occurrences and flip them into my worst nightmare.

 Now that I have finished, all  I have to say is YIKES!

If you like a little fright in your reading, then I would say pick this one up!  I loved it. 

Since #cjsreads enjoys all things creepy, we decided to do this one as a buddy read.  Want to see what Jessica and Chadra thought of this Ania Ahlborn novella?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Short Story Sunday: I Call Upon Thee (Ania Ahlborn) #novella #horror”

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake (Rachel Caine)

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It’s that time of year when Goodreads releases their list for the Goodreads Choice Awards and I begin my frantic need to read all of the nominees!  Luckily for me, I chose to start with Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine.   How did I spend the entire year without this book in my life?? IT WAS FANTASTIC.

The novel surrounds Gwen Proctor, formally Gina Royal, who has worked hard to create a new identity for herself and her children after her husband is arrested and put on death row for the brutal murder and torture of several women.  After being on the run for several years, trying her best to keep her children safe and avoid vigilantes who would like to punish her for her husband’s wrongdoings, the family has settled in Stillhouse Lake, a small town in Tennessee.  However, when the bodies of young women are found in the lake outside Gwen’s home, looking eerily similar to her ex-husband’s handy work, Gwen finds herself in harm’s way. 

This book was truly on the edge of your seat thrilling from beginning to end.  Not your run of the mill serial killer thriller, this one was full of psychological suspense and paranoia.  I loved seeing this new perspective in a novel.  It is rare to read about the aftermath of a psychopath through the eyes of the people close to them.  In fact, the crimes themselves took a backseat.  I loved this spin

Told in entirely her perspective, Gwen was an amazing character as she moves from sweet, naïve, Mid-Western housewife into a kick-ass, gun wheeling super mom who would kill for her children’s safety.  I absolutely loved watching her transformation throughout the novel.   

From the suspenseful moments to the addictive writing style, I was completely compelled from the moments I turned the first pages.

5/5 stars from me.  I cannot wait to dive into Book Two!! 

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This book was also a #cjsreads pick.  Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Stillhouse Lake (Rachel Caine)”

Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 4.21.33 PM.pngIt is no secret that I am a huge fan of the domestic thriller genre.  Give me an unreliable narrator and an up-to-no-good husband and I am hooked.  So, when #cjsreads decided to read Poison by Galt Niederhoffer, I was thrilled.  It seemed like the exact type of book that would keep me up late into the night.

The novel surrounds a picturesque family and their suburban life.  Cass and Ryan make up a newly blended family with their three children.  However, Ryan has a dark side, one that keeps Cass looking over her shoulder, and when she confronts Ryan about his fidelity, Cass begins to wonder if her life is at stake.  As tensions rise, Cass’s sanity is questioned and she begins to worry her children are at risk.

As I began my reading, one of the things that stood out the most for me was the style of Niederhoffer’s writing.  I was drawn in immediately, almost as if I was connecting with old friends.  The prose was familiar and inviting.  It had me turning the pages.

One of the cleverest things about this novel was the use of the title and the ties to the plot; the jealous nature of Cass is poisoning her relationship and Cass believes that Ryan is literally poisoning her.  I loved this play and exploration into literal and psychological poison.  I felt captivated as I watched the story unfold.  Is she actually crazy?  Is she correct?  Who do I believe?

I really like novels with strong characters and Poison fit this bill.  Ryan was incredibly creepy and I found Cass to be very unreliable.    I also loved how Niederhoffer constantly called into question the idea of the unreliable female and the doubt that those in the legal system have with women as the victim.  I felt like this is extremely prevalent in today’s society and I found myself questioning my own judgments and assessment of Cass throughout my reading.

However, I did have a few issues with this novel towards the end.  About 40% of the way into the novel, I did find parts of the novel beginning to drag quite a bit.  The idea of the poison is brought to light very early in the novel and teased in the synopsis, so it was very clear that Cass believed she was being poisoned.  However, this was constantly drilled home for the next 30% of the book.  It felt very redundant.  Also, although I loved the little twist in the end, the final resolution left me feeling as if it had come out of left field.

Regardless of this, I did enjoy the easy prose and the compelling plot enough to finish this book over the course of a few sittings.  This novel really gave me a B.A Paris vibe and I feel like fans of this author will really enjoy PoisonPoison is published today!  Be sure to add it to your TBR pile if you are a fan of the domestic genre!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, the author and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

I mentioned this was a #cjsreads pick; want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of Poison? Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Poison (Galt Niederhoffer) @StMartinsPress”

Buzzworthy Book of 2018: The Chalk Man (C.J Tudor) @cjtudor @CrownPublishing

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Now that the end of the year is quickly approaching (like really quickly…what in the world is happening??!! How is time moving this fast??!) I have been gearing up to read all of my most anticipated 2018 titles. One of the titles I had been most eagerly awaiting was the highly talked about, psychological suspense novel, The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor.   Now that I have finished this novel, I can understand why there has been so much buzz surrounding it. Fast-paced, completely compelling and bingeable, I sat down and read this book in an entire sitting #sorrynotsorry. From the core mystery to the intricately woven characters, I am calling this one of my favourites of 2018, already!

The novel is told in two alternating time periods in the life of our protagonist, Ed. In the present, the loner high school English teacher lives with a lodger and keeps to himself, but, in the past, Ed, known as Eddie back then, was a part of a gang of kids whose lives changed forever after a summer of chalk men and a dismembered body in the woods. As past and present collide, Ed must confront his past and through several twists and turns, the truth of what happened in 1986 will be revealed.

So, first thing is first, I am shocked that this book is a debut. HOW?? HOW?? I can not get over the perfectly fleshed out characters, the timing of the plot and the sheer genius of the prose. The plot is perfectly rolled out, building suspense and leading the reader to its perfect resolution.   There were no muddled bits or confusing characters; everything felt like it fit and were equally important. This is so rare in any book, let alone a thriller! What. A. Debut.

My favourite thing about this book, by a landslide, was the characterization.  This book, from the opening of the first flashback chapters, had a dark “Goonies’ vibe to it.   I have seen the 80s revival thing done well with popular Netflix shows like Stranger Things but had never seen in accomplished in a novel. Tudor manages to do it expertly. The flashback chapters felt nostalgic and realistic; almost like it could have happened to any kid, in any place, over the course of any summer. This familiarity brought something chilling to the text and I was hooked.   Each character is so perfectly developed, from the protagonist down to the bullies; even the secondary characters had a clear image within the text. I was completely invested in them. Truthfully, the plot became secondary to me because I was so wrapped up in the characters.

This will be a book that I will be thinking about for a long time. If you want a book for the top of your TBR in 2018, make it this one. You won’t regret it.

Can I give a book 6 stars?

Thanks to the author, Netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

We made this a #cjsreads pick; keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one (SPOILER ALERT: they loved it too)

Continue reading “Buzzworthy Book of 2018: The Chalk Man (C.J Tudor) @cjtudor @CrownPublishing”

Book Review: The Neighbours (Ania Ahlborn)

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It is no secret to any regular reader of Clues and Reviews that I have a serious Ania Ahlborn novel obsession. She is one of my “go to” authors when I want a novel that will make me filled with unease and keep me looking over my shoulder. With Halloween approaching, The Neighbours by Ania Ahlborn, was an obvious choice to add to my TBR pile.

One of my favourite features of an Ania Ahlborn book, besides the ominious tone and chilling content, is the ease in which Ahlborn delivers her prose. She has a writing stye that cannot be beat. One that you can curl up and lose yourself in for hours. It never takes me longer than a couple of hours to get through one of her novels and The Neighbours was no exception.

The novel opens with Andrew arriving at his new home. After a rough childhood caring for his alcoholic mother, he feels as if he deserves a fresh start and the idyllic suburban neighbourhood where his friend, Mickey, resides seems like the perfect space. Upon arrival, he meets the neighbours, a perfect couple, The Wards, who feel like they came straight out a movie or a Norman Rockwell painting. However, things are not as they appear, behind the white shutters and the picket fence, Mrs. Ward is hiding a secret; a secret that Andrew is about to find out.

Comparing other Ahlborn novels to this one, I felt like this was lacking some of the classic “horror” elements that I have come to know and love with an Ahlborn’s work. I didn’t find this one as scary as some of her novels. The characters had some creepy elements but I didn’t find myself as on edge as I usually am when I pick up an Ania Ahlborn book.

I still enjoyed the plot for what it was; I loved the Twilight zone vibe and the disorienting feeling of what time period it was taking place in. I loved the backstory of Harlow’s character. However, I feel like someone who is looking for a “scare your pants off” type of horror book (like some of Ahlborn’s other work- Brother and The Devil Crept In comes to mind!) they would feel disappointed.

In the spirit of Halloween, Jessica and Chandra decided to read this one too and make it a #cjsreads pick!  Keep reading to see what those lovely ladies thought of this pick!

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Book Review: Mary Rose (Geoffrey Girard)

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 6.25.10 AM.pngI am such a sucker for a horror read as soon as October hits. I want to grab a cozy blanket, cuddle up in my sweats and scare myself silly. With this in mind, I began to compile my October lineup, and my picks for #cjsreads, one of which was Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard. Going into this novel, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was intrigued by the description of this novel being “a chilling and modern take on a classic ghost story”. I was also intrigued when I found out that the premise for the story was actually written by J.M Barrie for a film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock; not sure what went down with that but I figured there was nothing more chilling than films by Hitchcock, so, if he deemed this story worthy of film, then I needed to check it out!

The general premise brings us Mary Rose and Simon, a couple of working professionals, who are about to be engaged. They travel to England to ask for Mary Rose’s hand and Simon’s plans are slightly derailed when he finds out that Mary Rose disappeared when she was a little girl and then randomly reappeared thirty-three days later with no memory of her time away or knowledge of where she was. Not only does this give Simon the heeby-jeebies, but he becomes obsessed with trying to solve the puzzle of where she could have been and what could have happened.

Would I call this a traditional ghost story? Not really. Did I find some moments creepy? Absolutely! Told in alternating perspectives of Simon and Mary Rose, both characters have the opportunity to show the reader their growing paranoia and fright. I think my favourite character was Mary Rose. She is quirky, to say the least, and when she was acting strangely, I was compelled to continue reading to see what her actual deal was. Would she end up being possessed? Was she actually dead? Perhaps she was a figment of Simon’s imagination? I had no idea what the actual end game would be, so, Girard definitely had me hooked in that regard. I also felt like the general setting of the story added another chilling layer to the tone.

If I am being honest, I was a little underwhelmed at the ending of the story and I felt like maybe something HUGE was missed within the pages; in reality, I feel like maybe it would have been better received on screen, which makes sense when thinking of how this story started out.

I feel like this novel had several components, which would make a chilling tale perfect for Halloween, and, although I didn’t love the full execution of the novel, I did appreciate the general tone and feel.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of this book?  Keep reading to find out!

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Book Review: Without Merit (Colleen Hoover) @AtriaBooks @SimonSchusterCA @colleenhoover

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 6.33.21 AMColleen Hoover is one of those guilty pleasure authors that I pick up whenever I just need to be completely lost in a story and am not looking for anything too heavy or anything too complex.  Pure entertainment value is what I am looking for and, Without Merit, the newest novel by Colleen Hoover certainly delivers.

The novel opens and we meet the Voss family, who is anything but normal.  We meet twin sisters, Honor (who is obsessed with dating boys with terminal illnesses) and Merit (who collects trophies anytime anything bad happens to her).  They live with their father (Barnaby), their father’s mistress turned baby mama, turned wife (Victoria).  Their mother, who is agoraphobic and never leaves the basement.  Their brother, Utah, who is hiding several secrets, Honor’s newest boyfriend, Sagan and Victoria’s brother, Luck, who turns up to add another layer to the plot.

It is hard to even pinpoint what this novel is actually about.  In typical CoHo style, there is a bit of contemporary romance, some messages about family, suicide, loss, and grief.  Many hats are worn during the reading of this novel.  Personally, I felt like it read a little bit more like a YA novel then I would have liked.  I prefer something a little bit more mature, but regardless of my feelings about that, I cannot deny the completely addicting nature of this book.

I picked it up to read and consumed it in a matter of hours.  I couldn’t put it down.

If you are a fan of Colleen Hoover, then this one is a no-brainer.  If you are a fan of books that read like YA, then I think you will enjoy this one too!

4/5 stars.

Thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This book was also our first #cjsreads picks for November.  Want to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Without Merit (Colleen Hoover) @AtriaBooks @SimonSchusterCA @colleenhoover”

Book Review: The Blackbird Season (Kate Moretti) @KateMoretti1 @AtriaMysteryBus

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 10.17.53 PM.pngLast year, I read (and loved!) The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti, so I was thrilled to find out that #cjsreads had obtained copies of her sophomore novel, The Blackbird Season as one of our September picks!    I had absolutely no expectations going into this book; truthfully, I loved The Vanishing Year so much that I didn’t even read the synopsis of this book.  I figured that if Moretti wrote it, I would be interested.  I was right!  Moretti was able to weave a pretty stellar, mysterious novel within these pages.  One that left me binge reading late into the night.

This story surrounds high school teacher, Nate Winters as he is accused of having an affair with a female student, Lucia Hamm.  As Nate’s life spirals and Lucia goes missing, Nate is the only suspect.  As his wife, Alecia begins to question his situation, his only ally comes in the form of co-worker and creative writing teacher, Bridget, who realizes the only way to save Nate’s reputation could be using Lucia’s journals.

Though marketed as a psychological thriller, I didn’t find that this one fit that bill in the traditional sense.  When I think of psychological thriller, I think of a fast-paced, on the edge of your seat, mind-bending plot filled with unreliable narration and lots of “WHOA” moments.  In this case, I felt Moretti created more of a slow-burning mystery.  What happened to Lucia?  Who is telling the truth?  What is the deal with all these birds?  For me, this absolutely worked.

Generally speaking, choppy and disjointed narration usually gets on my nerves, but, somehow, Moretti manages to make this style of narration easy to follow and completely addictive throughout the plot of this tale.  I was on the edge of my seat as I devoured each chapter (both and back and forth in time) and tried to figure out what the true happenings were and what motives the characters were acting with.   Each character gets a distinct POV and I loved hearing the story from each of their perspectives.  I found this to be incredibly interesting.

One of my largest gripes to this story was the situation with the birds.  At the beginning of the story, we are told that thousands (hundreds?  millions?  Who knows) of blackbirds have fallen out of the sky and into the town.  People are horrified by this phenomenon and experts are called into the test the town’s water and air, looking for reasons and possible side effects of this occurrence.   I waited for the entirety of the book for this to be made clear.  And, alas, there was never really an explanation. The birds were more of a metaphor or a representation and I just wasn’t about that.  Personally, I felt like I needed an explanation.

Overall, if you enjoy a tightly woven plot with multiple characters and a compelling mystery, I think you will enjoy this book.  It really reminded me of Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia.  They both had that small town mystery vibe.

Thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of The Blackbird Season; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Blackbird Season (Kate Moretti) @KateMoretti1 @AtriaMysteryBus”

Book Review: White Bodies (Jane Robins) @alfresca @TouchstoneBooks

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 10.18.55 AM.pngI am such a sucker for a psychological thriller; I am always on the hunt for something new that will leave me thinking.  Enter, White Bodies by Jane Robins, a book that topped by fall TBR list and one that I was eagerly anticipating.  Chandra, Jessica and I added this one to our September TBR pile months ago so I was incredibly excited to dive in.

The story begins and develops your typical love story:  man (Felix) meets girl (Tilda), man controls girl, twin sister of girl (Callie) gets mad, man ends up dead.  Ya know, the stuff that makes ya warm and fuzzy inside.    I loved how Robins slowly built and weaved the tension throughout the plot; it truly left me feeling unsettled.    Especially in regards to the Callie character.  What a treat she was.  A completely disturbing and pretty messed up treat, but a treat nonetheless!  I think one of the first “um…WTF Callie??!” moments comes at about 13% into the book.   I don’t think I will ever look at a pair of twins the same!!

I also felt like the writing style of this one was incredibly different; the premise is like other books I have read but the execution felt more original.   The story does not follow a specific linear path; instead, it focuses on alternative narrative moments in time between the present and then two different snapshots from the past.   I think my favourite (is that okay to say something was my favourite when it was so twisted) were the Callie chapters from her childhood.  Creepy.

My biggest complaint with this novel was the pacing.  I felt like the first 100 pages or so really dragged.  I was interested.  I wanted to keep reading but I didn’t find myself tearing through the pages.  However, the second half of the book really shone and I did find myself completely engrossed.  I guess I wish it had paced more evenly so I felt entirely dedicated throughout.   I also had a hunch regarding the “reveal” fairly early on, but that didn’t deter me from completing the novel.  I loved Robin’s style.

Overall, if you want a psychological thriller that will give you the creeps, then I would pick this one up.  It is totally worth the read.

4/5 stars.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

As mentioned this one a #cjsreads pick.  Want to see what Chandra and Jessica thought?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: White Bodies (Jane Robins) @alfresca @TouchstoneBooks”