Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia #BookReview

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There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

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This was the first novel I read by Mindy Mejia. I had heard plenty of positive echos about her first novel The Act of Hattie Hoffman and I was also very attracted by Maya’s occuption as a language therapist. It’s an uncommon job and it triggered me, wanting to know more about it.

I was also very drawn to the story of father and son disappearing. What were their reasons and how did they survive? The wilderness and threats of the Boundary Waters were vividly depicted, the nature described in a beautiful manner but from an outsider’s point of view. I would have loved to read scenes of their way of life (as in The Marsh King’s Daughter), their hardships and the struggles of a young boy with his father but the story’s setting doesn’t involve the past but focuses on the present, from the moment Lucas is arrested for breaking into a camping store.

Maya and Lucas’s interactions were interesting and I understood how Maya’s past made her want to help Lucas. Maya was left behind by her mother when she was little and I felt for her. Her past intrigued me and I could really see how this formed her character. The girl who doesn’t want to bond with anybody starts to get an unhealthy interest in Lucas though. She then becomes a bit of a loose cannonball and I raised my eyebrows when I saw what unprofessional conduct she shows. There was definitely a YA vibe in the second part of the novel which came as a bit of a surprise to me and then it seemed to change course once again when Maya and Lucas find themselves in a bit of action as well. It bothered me just a little bit because I was mostly interested in the mystery and I felt I was being kept away from getting to the heart of the story.

In short, I enjoyed the first and last part of the novel where the different pieces of the puzzle fall into place and everything was all brought together brilliantly. It was maybe a bit of a different read then I was expecting but I enjoyed the reveal of Lucas and Josiah’s reasons for taking off and I was satisfied how it was all wrapped up in the end.

I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Sleep by C.L. Taylor #BookReview

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All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

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Sleep by C.L. Taylor was an answer to my prayers as I’ve been trying to find and read more locked-in type novels with a promise of lots and lots of possible suspects. If this isn’t one that fits the description then I don’t know what is! I’m such a fan of these settings where there’s no escape and the person forming a threat is right there.. it gives me a thrill to try and work out who it is.

I don’t know why but at first I thought that sleep itself might be a dangerous thing for Anna but, luckily for me, the novel doesn’t take this disturbing route but even if it’s not spooky scary, the novel can still keep you up and give you a sleepless night in the end ;-).

Anna’s reasons for finding it hard to get to sleep are quite different from mine though. She was involved in an accident where some people lost their lives and she feels terribly guilty even though it wasn’t her fault. Unfortunately, someone else feels she is exactly the one to blame. The motive was quite straightforward but the one with ill feelings was not easy to spot. This mysterious person starts taunting her, asking her how she can sleep. In an effort to leave it all behind her she takes a job in the only hotel on the Scottish island called Rum but it will soon turn out that the taunts haven’t stopped and even increase in intensity. Someone’s followed her and is looking to make her pay.

I very much enjoyed trying to figure out who was behind all of it. The author managed to surprise me halfway through the novel with a great twist and threw in some red herrings towards the end as well so that nobody escapes from being a suspect. At a certain time I thought I’d picked up on a tiny clue and I was getting more excited when there was a reference later again but alas, she still managed to wrongfoot me. It was only right at the end that I was certain I had put my money (figuratively!) on the right person. Yay me!

The novel is similar to An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena so I can recommend this novel if you enjoyed reading the former and can’t get enough of it! Sleep.. or don’t sleep if it’s as gripping to you as it was to me!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Lingering by SJI Holliday #BlogTour #BookReview

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for The Lingering by SJI Holliday. My thanks to the author and to Anne Cater and publisher Orenda Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

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The Lingering is a ghost story but also a story about manipulation and control. I usually stay far from novels that even just hint at something paranormal, ghost stories are simply too unbelievable for me but there are exceptions for everything and this novel is definitely one I’m happy to have made. This is one novel that hooks you right away and impossible to put down. I was completely engrossed from the beginning thanks to Holliday’s amazingly suggestive writing. I never quite knew what was going on exactly.. she introduces a ghost – or two, three – into the story, unless they are hallucinations of course, who’s to say ;-)? It was a thrill to find out is all I can say.

The story was oh so creepy and unnerving! Should this story ever be made into a movie then I’m not sure I’ll watch it because it’s the kind of movie I’m usually too afraid to watch. Holliday brings so many terrific gothic/horror-elements together in this novel that you really can’t escape that ominous feeling of foreboding. Something is amiss and you don’t know what it is and where it will lead but it made me very nervous.

Rosalind House is an old building – a former asylum – and if the walls could speak they’d undoubtedly have many disturbing stories to tell. Some of what happened in the 1950s is told by reports that a doctor made in the past, when he was sent to evaluate how patients were treated and what methods were used. Even further in the past the village had witches to deal with as well, so as for setting, it counts as unbelievably atmospheric.

Add to this a community with their own rulebook, quite reminiscent of a sort of cult, and residents you don’t know anything about and you have the perfect ingredients for this scary story. To top it all off, one of the residents, Angela, strongly believes in ghosts and spirits and she’s determined to prove it. Two newcomers Ali and Jack also join the commune and Angela jumps at the chance to make friends but Ali is closing herself off from contact. There’s definitely something going on with Ali and Jack as well and the reasons for leaving everything behind in such a hurry is shrouded in a big mystery and take their time to unfold.

The story builds up tension and Ali, a firm non-believer, experiences some unsettling and strange events that left me doubtful. Is someone playing tricks, is she mental or are there really spirits from the past trying to make contact? It’s definitely one of the former but Holliday kept me in the dark until my nerves were frayed and my nails almost bitten to the quick. The only regret I have is that I would have liked perhaps more insight and backstory into some of the other characters too, like Rose. It’s just a small niggle though, because I couldn’t get enough and they all intrigued me.

The Lingering is one helluva page-turner that you better not read in the late hours of the night if you still want to have some sleep. If you enjoy scary reads then I can very recommend this one!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

*** Don’t forget to check the other blog tour stops too ***

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Her Last Move by John Marrs #BookReview

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She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.

He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

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Without exception, I very much enjoyed each of the author’s previous novels. It’s no secret either that John Marrs is one of my favorite authors who I often recommend to other readers. Well if someone’s looking for a new detective novel I can now recommend Her Last Move as well. This novel is his first foray into the police procedural genre, using a detective’s point of view and I have to give him another round of applause because he pulled it off in a genre I read plenty of books in: the plot is original, the cast authentic and the writing superb.

Detectives usually pair up in novels, that’s a standard deal, but I’d never read a novel about a duo like the one (Detective Sergeant) Becca forms with Joe Russell. What am I saying, I hadn’t even heard about the job of a super-recognizer before. Joe Russell is the bunny in the hat and it works brilliantly. I was sceptical of his role and his usefulness but quite fascinated as well.

I didn’t even read half the novel before I absolutely had to know if super-recognizers are really employed in the police force. Google and Wikipedia showed that Scotland Yard has a squad of over 200! Huh! The internet also provides many tests as well apparantly if you want to check if you are in doubt (or convinced) that you have this very special ability of being able to recognise 80% of faces, whereas normal people only score a good 20%.

The author peppers Her Last Move with plenty of revelations and both of the main characters have very interesting backgrounds and family relationships that are out of the ordinary and make you sympathise with them right away as they both have their own personal issues as well. I can’t say much about the investigation but I can tell you that I was hooked as soon as the first murder occured in the very first chapter because I felt I could almost touch the murderer myself. The setting of the unfortunate event was a metro station so the thought that someone can harm someone else so easily if it’s a bit crowded makes me want to keep my distance from everyone from now on, even more than before ;-). The second murder was already more gruesome and I could only guess at the reasons why the killer let his victim suffer without remorse. Marrs kept me on my toes the whole time as I was trying to figure out what connected these people and who might have been doing this but the underlying reasons are of course not easy to spot. Just when Joe’s closing in on the suspect and the story shifts into its highest gear, there’s that one big twist that happened that I was totally unprepared for and it completely knocked me out of balance. I’m talking about one VERY intense scene. I still can’t get over it. There were so many thoughts running through my head at the time and I was holding onto my dear heart too. The author kept me guessing about the outcome for sooo long, it was bloody torture and I could only think nooooo in my head. I didn’t expect this turn of events AT ALL and I loved it as much as I hated what came out of his twisted mind.

Overall, Her Last Move was amazingly entertaining so I definitely recommend!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan #BlogTour #Guestpost

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan. Sincere thanks also to Kirsty Doole of Corvus Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I have already read and reviewed both of the novels Jack Jordan wrote this year so I’m sharing an amazing guestpost with you all today that is very touching but first and foremost let’s start with the book itself:

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She can’t see the killer But the killer can see her…

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth. Struggling with living in a small, claustrophobic town, Naomi contemplates ending her life. But then she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her. Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is still the only person who can identify him.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and more victims are discovered, Naomi is forced to answer the question on which her fate hangs: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her very eyes…

Click the links below for my book reviews on all of his books so far :

A Woman Scorned and Before Her Eyes, My Girl and Anything For Her.

Purchase

Before Her Eyes is available in paperback and ebook (audio coming soon) from Waterstones, WHSmith Travel, Waitrose, and all good bookshops and online outlets, including all major e-retailers

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Agoraphobia kept me prisoner, but ultimately set me free 

Most authors will tell you that they have wanted to be writers ever since they can remember, and have always imagined they would have their own stories on the shelves one day. My start, however, was a little different.

            I loved reading and writing as a child. English was one of my favourite subjects in school. I beamed whenever I had the opportunity to exercise creative writing in class and I’ve always loved reading, even if a little out of my age range (I was once told a book was too mature to bring to school… I can’t even remember what it was. All I knew was: it was a book and I was going to read it). But I never remember thinking that my love of reading and writing meant that I could have a book on the shelf too. I never thought that someone like me, a working class kid, could achieve something so monumental. I had put limitations upon myself from the very beginning: I wouldn’t even allow the idea of writing a book, let alone getting it published, to enter my mind, which stayed that way until one day, many years later, my dream finally clicked… but not without struggles along the way.

            Cut to me, aged seventeen. After moving four hours away from home in a wild, rebellious rush, I returned home utterly broken from a traumatic experience. I came home to feel safe, with no idea that the very same home I craved would become my prison for over a year.

            Anxiety is a powerful, intelligent thing. I’ve had it my entire life. Separation anxiety plagued every goodbye. Sunday nights were hell in my house, as my anxiety exploded from having to face another week of school. But even a lifetime of anxiety could not have prepared me for the debilitating power of agoraphobia and PTSD.

            Overnight, I became a recluse. I existed entirely behind closed doors. I gave windows a wide berth to avoid being seen, flinching whenever someone walked by. I shut myself away if there were visitors in the house, and lost all sense of night and day, sleeping in the day and living at night, which made me feel like I was the only person awake in the entire world, a unique breed of loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My anxiety was triggered by everything and anything, however irrational they seemed. And then it got so bad that I couldn’t even leave my bedroom.

            I remember when this happened: I had walked down the stairs at the exact same moment the postman delivered our mail, and the shock of it brought on a horrendous panic attack. I collapsed on the stairs and stayed there, hyperventilating with my eyes on the glass in the door, too terrified to move. I stayed there for an hour. Just like that, I was confined to my bedroom, too scared to even look out of my own window.

            One morning, after another sleepless night, I lay in bed filled with unspent energy. Hiding away day and night takes very little physical exertion, and deprives a person of mental stimulation. The energy builds and builds and builds like traffic, and with nowhere to go, it ends up fuelling the anxiety, the very thing that was keeping me hidden in the first place – a never-ending cycle that I felt helpless to stop. So as the sun rose, I wrote a short story to pass the time. It was only a thousand words or so, written in the notes app on my Blackberry. I didn’t think anything of it, it was just something I did for fun, just another idea that had presented itself inside my mind that I had no idea what to do with or felt I had the right to act on. It was just to help me fall asleep.

            Except… when I woke up, I wrote another chapter. And another. And another. I had no idea that I was writing a book, only that I was creating characters who could exist outside of my prison. I was getting the stimulation I craved and a way out of my hell, even if my escape was only imaginary.

            For six months, I lived vicariously through my characters, escaping the confines of my home using my mind, my characters, the power of words, until one day I looked down and realised I had written a novel of one hundred thousand words. Without realising, I had fulfilled the dream I had never allowed myself to fathom. The second I wrote ‘The End’, I knew I was a writer, and that deep down, I had known all along.

            Writing ‘The End’ was only the beginning, but it unlocked a truth from within me, a realisation that might never have occurred, had it not been for my anxiety: I’m a writer. I always have been. All of those ideas that had plagued my mind for years not only had a way of being released, but they had a purpose.

            You’re not reading the words of a university graduate. I never even went to college. I dropped out of school at fourteen because of depression and anxiety (growing up attracted to the same sex is VERY fun, by the way). You’re reading the words of an author whose lifeline was the written word. As my peers moved around the country to study, I taught myself grammar, spelling, punctuation, how to format a novel, how to structure a story, how the whole publishing thing worked, all from the confines of my bedroom. I spent day and night making my dream a reality, and slowly put myself back together again through years of therapy and exposure. Five years later, I went on to publish my debut novel Anything for Her, followed by my second, My Girl, the year after. The two titles sold over one hundred thousand copies.

            So now, at twenty-five, as I prepare myself for the release of my traditional debut, Before Her Eyes, I look back with complete admiration for who I was at seventeen, and for all the strength it took to face and trust the world again, not only as a person, but as a writer, with my past and pain strewn over the pages of my books and dozens of rejections to my name.

Eight years have passed, but I will never forget how I started, and will always feel the same pride, the same overwhelming confirmation that being a writer is who I am, every time I write ‘The End’.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other blog tour stops ***

Before Her Eyes (Blog Tour)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton #BookReview

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‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

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Stuart Turton. Man! I don’t know how he managed to write such a maze-of-a-novel. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything like this before!

I knew this novel was being hugely praised and it made me even more determined and ready to solve this whodunnit on my own. If you already read this novel you’ll know how ridiculous my assumption was because there is no way that you can anticipate and solve this on your own, as I figured out quite soon as well ;-). There’s so much cause and effect in this novel, so much detail that went into this grand scheme of things that it just wasn’t possible to get a clear picture of the whole puzzle. It didn’t spoil any of the fun though, there was so much to be discovered in this novel, there were new insights and revelations with every character change.

Although I loved the start of the novel I was a bit worried how the story was going to develop and if I’d be able to keep up. I felt quite confused with what was going at first… was it just me I wondered? Should I start making notes of timelines and characters? Bell seemed awfully focused on someone called Anna but I thought it was all about a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle.. and then there was quite a large cast of characters in the novel that were kept an eye on. As the story progressed everything became clear though so not to worry, if you keep going it’ll all make sense eventually, you just have to go with the flow and let the main character lead you on, it’ll all become clear as water.

I had a hunch that the present mystery and a past event were in some way connected but I didn’t know how. I also had no clue who was chasing him, trying to get him killed or who this masked man is called The Plague Doctor. He’s the one who doesn’t let him leave unless he solves the murder but also provides him with info. Is he to be trusted and who is he? Lots and lots of intriguing questions *big smiles*. The main character (Aiden) will have to use each character’s strong points to his advantage and learn as much as he can about the others in order to solve this one. I was satisfied with all the answers in the end though and it exceeded my expectations entirely.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is not an easy relaxed read, one where you’re able to have one eye on your cooking, child or husband, but you will want to keep with it when reading anyway, in the end it’s really insanely twisted!

This novel takes you on a mind-boggling trip with many many twists, secrets, and even a little sprinkle of futuristic sci-fi in it. The details of that last part were not developed but it’s not something I wished for either, the idea was enough to make it work. Even the sci-fi part was great for me, go figure!

I’m going to stop here because I could keep going on forever. I think you’ll have realised by now that this is a must-read! Don’t give up in the beginning, it’s totally worth it. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is the most complex novel I’ve probably ever read. It’s incredibly clever and utterly addictive. I don’t say this often but I most definitely would love to reread this in the future even when I know – and won’t forget any time soon – how it ends and who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s that good!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Fifth to Die by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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In the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has seen in years, the body of missing teenager Ella Reynolds is discovered under the surface of a frozen lake.

She’s been missing for three weeks… the lake froze over three months ago.

Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate but it’s not long before another girl goes missing. The press believes the serial killer, Anson Bishop, has struck again but Porter knows differently. The deaths are too different, there’s a new killer on the loose.

Porter however is distracted. He’s still haunted by Bishop and his victims, even after the FBI have removed him from the case. His only leads: a picture of a female prisoner and a note from Bishop: ‘Help me find my mother. I think it’s time she and I talked.’

As more girls go missing and Porter’s team race to stop the body count rising, Porter disappears to track down Bishop’s mother and discover that the only place scarier than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

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I’m reading some incredible novels this year and this rollercoaster of a read is definitely one of them. This is such an amazing series, you’re missing out if you’ve not sprung on the wagon!

There are not one, not two but three very different angles of investigation in The Fifth to Die that made this an extremely tense and high-speed read, where new things were constantly discovered and really keep the ball on rolling. Sam, the lead detective of the first novel, is on his own fairly soon when someone sets him up and they pull him off the case. He doesn’t start twiddling his thumbs though but continues on his own and follows a small lead that makes him team up with an unexpected but very welcome new sidekick who isn’t a detective. It really brakes the mould of so many clichés and I enjoyed their interactions very much. Then there’s FBI man Poole looking into the information about the Fourth Monkey Killer again and everything Sam left behind and finally the third team consists of Nash, Clair and IT guy Klotz who have technology and resources on their side.

Even with all this manpower splashed about, catching this guy who’s abducting girls is not evident at all. They believe they know the identity of the guy but where he is or determining why he’s doing it is unclear. The scenes of the girls held captive were soooo scary and disturbing. I looooved reading them and witnessing the different reactions but was equally horrified when reading about what they had to endure (nothing sexual thankfully although I wouldn’t boast about the alternative either).

I’m going to stop right here because it’s impossible to describe how wonderfully complex and cleverly plotted this novel was. It was very puzzling but so engaging to read that I did not want to end my reading sessions. So the only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because I was left with so many unanswered questions at the end of this novel and I mean big, important, fundamental questions that were there the whole time. I really don’t have a choice but to read the third (and final?) part of this series and I’m all too willing to do so but I wish it had given me some answers at least. You see things unfold in this novel but I can’t wait to hear the explanation of the why’s and how’s to so many questions I have.

If you’re interested in reading this novel then you definitely have to read The Fifth Monkey first. This is a trilogy where you have to start with the first novel, you simply can’t drop in mid-story, there’s too much backstory and character development that is detrimental to understanding and enjoying the sequel to the fullest. The diary entries of the first novel for example play an important role in The Fifth to Die as well and some of it suddenly seems different than before. You also can’t – I repeat – can’t walk away from this story after you finished this one. This was a crazily addictive read to me and J.D. Barker has so earned his stripes for me as a horror/thriller writer. I wish I could  read book 3 already!

I received a free copy of this novel from Booklover Catlady Publicity in exchange for my honest opinion.