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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

[ 3 ] October 27, 2014

horrostor book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

From the moment Horrorstor found it’s way from the mailbox and packaging and into my hands, I was in love. The concept of the cover and similarities to Ikea and their catalog is amazingly brilliant. Throughout the story there are employee evaluations, coupons to the store, maps, etc. and it was a completely fun book that I just couldn’t put down. The actual story was alright, but the book overall was magnificent.

Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio has something going on at night. Employees arrive in the mornings to open the store and find broken furniture, upended tables and even excrement smeared all over a sofa.

Basil, Orsk’s newly appointed deputy store manager, takes his job, the Orsk mottos and codes of conduct very seriously. An employee named Amy dodges him every chance she gets. She works there for a paycheck and doesn’t buy into the whole “Orsk is a “family” and something that should be loved and respected” mantra.

The events that are occurring in the evening after the store is closed never show up on the security cameras and Basil is determined to find out what is happening with the added stress of knowing the Corporate is arriving in the morning. Basil recruits Amy and two other employees to spend the night in the store with him to attempt to figure out who is sneaking in.

As the night progresses, stranger and stranger things begin happening. They discover a homeless man who says he has been hiding in the bathroom until the store closes at night but he swears he knows nothing about the damage that has been occurring. At first everyone believes him and feels sorry enough for him to not kick him out; they instead enlist his help in figuring the mystery out. That is until he walks through a picture of a door. While Amy knows this is impossible, soon enough they all find themselves walking through this picture into the horrors on the other side.

I would recommend Horrorstor to anyone with an imagination and sense of humor. I cannot express enough how much the cover, maps, coupons, etc. completely make this an extraordinary book and allow you to forgive the story for not measuring up to the cover. It was not a terrible read by far, but it wasn’t quite what I had expected after experiencing the cover of the book.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Quirk Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Code White by Scott Britz-Cunningham

[ 1 ] October 19, 2014

code white book coverReviewed by Amanda Schafer

What would you do if you were the head of security at a hospital and you received a text message that a bomb was set to go off at any moment?  You’d call a Code White which is exactly what Harry Lewton does in this day of crisis.  However, he’s been given strict instructions by the bomber not to evacuate and to keep things running as normal, so Harry has to be quite cautious in his actions.

Dr. Ali O’Day is in the middle of a ground-breaking brain surgery when the Code White comes over the hospital speakers, but since they have a camera crew in the operating room for this special operation none of the staff present can react the way they need or want to. Figuring it is a drill and not a real emergency they all continue on with the surgery and ignore the voice on the speakers. Only after they have finished the procedure do they realize that it’s not a drill and the threat is quite real.

Ali’s ex-husband, Kevin, is the bomber. But Kevin is not alone. Kevin has built a super-computer named Odin who can calculate responses, medical procedures and probable outcomes, and even predict a person’s response to something after working closely with them for months. Kevin and Odin, along with Ali and a few other doctors, have created SIPNI, a specialized device for this surgery, in order to hopefully rewire a young boy’s brain to return his eyesight. However, in the midst of building this medical creation, Kevin has also decided to enact revenge on the hospital and on Ali by setting up multiple bombs throughout the hospital grounds. Little does Kevin know that Odin has taken tiny nuances from Kevin and taken control of their bomb project. When Odin blows up one of their bombs on his own, Kevin realizes that Odin is out of control.

Ali works with Harry Lewton to save the hospital after she figures out that Kevin is trying to get revenge on her. But can they stop the bombs from going off before time runs out? What will happen to Kevin once this day is done?

Code White was really a very involved and detailed book, but was a delight to read! Once I got started I wanted to keep reading and not stop till I figured everything out.  At first I was disappointed that we know early on Kevin is the bomber, but since we know this we are able to go deeper into his character and know more about why he did it and how he planned on pulling it off. There were a few things that were a bit over-the-top and unbelievable, but not so much that I couldn’t move past them and enjoy the story. I would gladly pick up another Scott Britz-Cunningham novel and dive in!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

[ 3 ] October 17, 2014

the children act by ian mcewan book coverReviewed by Jax Kepple

Ian McEwan’s The Children Act is, like all his other books, beautifully written. At a brief 240 pages, the story packs a lot of detailed legal cases as plot points for Fiona Maye, High Court Judge, as she navigates both marital strife at home and a case that comes a little too close for comfort. Ultimately, there was not enough there for it to be a truly impeccable novel.

Fiona and her husband Jack live a quiet, childless life in the Gray’s Inn section of London, where she is a judge in the Family Circuit and he is a geology lecturer at a university. At the start, Fiona is fuming due to a request posed by Jack, one that she finds unacceptable. She is interrupted by a late night phone call from her clerk, indicating that a new case would come to the bench tomorrow involving a boy, Adam, who has leukemia. Adam’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and therefore are against any sort of blood transfusion. He is also three month’s shy of his eighteenth birthday, when he would be able to make the decision for himself.

As Fiona is reeling from Jack’s behavior, she is faced with this difficult case in court. She decides to go visit Adam to see how his mindset is. While in the hospital, they form a connection through music and poetry. Fiona makes her decision, and, without giving it away, afterwards is continuously confronted with it for months to come.

McEwan is able to easily explain the legal terminology without it being a huge burden to the reader. The Maye’s apartment, Fiona’s chambers, Adam’s hospital room, a weekend circuit trip to Newcastle all explode to life on the page, which add to the somewhat privileged life that Fiona leads. Her problems compared are trivial compared to the life and death decision in Adam’s life, but they are presented in the same manner.

The end twist (if you can call it that) was a little rushed. I felt that almost too much time was spent setting up the Christmas concert that Fiona was playing in, which itself was presented as a “do or die” situation for her since she was playing in front of all her colleagues. However, it really didn’t matter and I felt that a few more pages could have helped to tie up the ending in a more flawless way.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: When We Fall by Emily Liebert

[ 4 ] October 14, 2014

book cover of When We Fall by Emily LeibertReviewed by Rebecca Donatelli

Admittedly so, I was drawn to When We Fall from the beautiful cover it presented. In typical stereotypical female fashion, just as this story reads, I made a quick judgment, not realizing what the book’s contents actually held. Full of hope, I thought this would be a light and lovely romance, but in turn, was the opposite. It was an emotionally challenging read and based on a topic I tend to shy away from: nasty girl drama. When I read, I like to get away from everyday occurrences and enjoy getting swept up in fantasy and light-heartedness. For me, I struggled to get through this novel, even though it was written well. It touched on insecurities, jealousy and flaws of female friendship, which held truth, but was too much for me to handle. While all of these things are seemingly normal, for me, reading is an escape and with this, I felt like it was all too close to home, which made me shy away from really getting into it.

Allison, and her 10 year old son, Logan, move back to New York a decade after her husband passes away. She is eager to move forward, put the past behind her and focus on her career. Ready for change, she befriends Charlotte, her best friend’s wife. At first glance, the friendship seems like exactly what the other one needs, but as it falls apart, the women are exposed for what we all say we are not: jealous, gossipy, judgmental and crass. Maybe I did not enjoy this book because of that. I like to believe that, when faced with horrible challenges and circumstances, that we (women) will all stand together in a united front and love and support each other while fighting the good fight. In this instance, too many comparisons were brought to life. Two women, in transition, going through parallel instances, reminded me of how we like to tear each other down when we are trying to get back up and I did not like it at all.

Although Charlotte appeared to have it all, like most of us, she shielded and hid some of the things really going on in her life. I rooted for Charlotte the entire time and did not particularly care for Allison’s character. She came across naïve and allowed for much animosity to play a part in what should have been two sad people coming together. Although Emily Liebert writes beautifully, and really pulled emotions out of me, I felt drained after reading this. My favorite thing about reading is being able to not think, and I felt that I was thinking way too much while struggling through this one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Rebecca is passionate and insane, empathetic and aggressive, loud and predictable. She loves reading, writing, shopping and creating. She is what she is and it may not be what the world wants but it is what it is. Love.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz

[ 2 ] October 13, 2014

photo22_Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz is a mystery/thriller that follows Daniel Brasher, a counselor for individuals on parole with a quiet, fulfilling life, as he tries to uncover who is leaving cryptic messages of impending murder in his work mailbox. With each message Daniel receives the helplessness and intrigue builds up to an exciting climax. With that said, however, the pacing of the book is slightly disjointed as it gets bogged down in dense detail.

Daniel Brasher is an incredibly interesting character, and Hurwitz excels at portraying him as a strong, yet regular guy with a shadowy family history. Daniel’s moral fiber is clearly a focal point throughout the story. As a public probation counselor, he clearly feels the weight of the run-down, impoverished headquarters and the parolees he hardly has the resources to help. He is quickly faced with a personal dilemma when he decides to write a new chapter for himself and his wife at by starting a private counseling firm. To further the inner conflict that surrounds Daniel he comes from one of the wealthiest families in San Francisco, and has already turned his back on the opportunity to amass great wealth as a financial planner in the family business. This choice brings the ire of his mother, Evelyn, direct onto his shoulders.

The suspense in the novel revolves around a series of cryptic notes that are seemingly delivered wrongly to his work mailbox. Eventually Daniel realizes that the notes he has found are both death threats and ultimatums that have never been read by the intended recipients. This discovery leads Daniel to do everything he can, within his everyday Joe powers, to uncover the author of the notes.

While Hurwitz’s characterization of Daniel stands out throughout the novel, so does his attention to environment and atmosphere. Hurwitz’s use of detail works on both a micro and macro level within the book. His descriptions of the San Francisco cityscape draw the reader into the larger environment within the story, while the details about the psychological atmospheres within each and every scenario add suspense, violence, and desperation into the story. As stated before, however, at points these details, especially within the larger environment, drag the pace of the story down.

Overall, Tell No Lies is a gritty, well-developed thriller if the reader can overlook how it is paced.  Fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French will find strong similarities in style, while fans of James Patterson will enjoy the, for the most part, quickly paced suspense.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Saving the Innocents by Randall Kenneth Drake

[ 3 ] October 9, 2014

saving the innocents book coverReviewed by Shannon Trenton

How far would you go to protect someone you just met? If you sought the truth about your past – and found it – could you let it go and reinvent yourself?

Saving the Innocents by Randall Kenneth Drake seeks to answer these questions and more against the backdrop of a riveting tale of suspense. Mary Jane has spent years searching for the father that abandoned her, following tips from strangers in town after town. Her life will change, though, in the events of eight days that will force her to reevaluate her priorities and her perspective. In the process, she makes unlikely friends and discovers in herself a new purpose at the moment that her life seems to be falling apart.

While Mary Jane is running after her father, young Sera is running from her father. With dedicated guardian Jack at her side, Sera searches for the angel her mother always said would protect her. An unexpected meeting could give her what she’s been seeking – or drive her right into danger’s way.

The narrative flows thanks to a colorful cast of characters, including several archetypes with twists of their own. While some will inspire immediate feelings in the reader, both good and bad, readers will find themselves rooting for the personal journeys of others.

After an exciting beginning, the narrative pace slows for number of expository chapters. However, the build-up is necessary to understand the central plot lines and offers some details that prove to be critical toward the end. Readers who stay committed through the slow parts will be well rewarded as the story unfolds to a riveting conclusion.

Saving the Innocents is an engaging story with dynamic characters and an inspiring message with which most readers can identify. Though I would obviously recommend it to suspense lovers, I am certain that readers of nearly any genre could easily enjoy this wonderful book.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.

Review copy was provided by Randall Kenneth Drake. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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