All Book Reviews by Genre: Thrillers/Suspense

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Larsson, Stieg
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Now that I’ve finished the third book in this series, I realize it falls into the “trilogy conundrum” of having a strong, standalone first part, followed by two sequels that rely on each other to finish out the story. Heck, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest should have just been Part 3 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since it completed the story arc started back in book one. I had my suspicions this book would continue from the exact moment where The Girl Who Played with Fire ended. After all, there were a ton of loose ends, and the story ended abruptly.

Part of my issue with this book was that it was primarily tasked with tying up all the subplots from the first two books. However, it still felt like it needed to spend time on new storylines that didn’t add much to the overall plot and were only there because the main character wasn’t able to do anything interesting. I also didn’t particularly like how some of these story elements concluded, as they felt unfulfilling (the resolution of the conflict with Lisbeth’s father stands out in particular). Overall, these two qualms made the book drag on longer than I think it should have.

There were still some positive elements in this book, including the trial of Lisbeth Salander. In fact, this coup de grace was by far the most entertaining section of the entire trilogy. I also appreciated the tension created early on when Lisbeth was in the hospital, as well as the action in the Epilogue that tied up the very last loose end of the trilogy. In the end, I still think this trilogy was a good read. It’s just that its final volume
felt a little bloated and distracted at times.

A mostly satisfying conclusion to the original Millennium series, I give The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Sleep No More
Pike, Aprilynne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I could not put it down. Surprise
ending that didn't end the way most books do. I am excited to have found this
author, cant wait to read another by Aprilynne Pike.

Reviewer's Name: Janelle
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Stieg, Larsson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite some of its weaknesses, some of which were due to my reading it via audiobook, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great book. In its sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, some of these weaknesses were addressed, but others manifested in their place. Again, these faults might be attributed to the audiobook format, but are fairly minor when considering how fantastic the story is as a whole. In fact, I probably like The Girl Who Played with Fire more than its predecessor. Of course, part of this was how events in the first book carried over to influence the plot of the second.

In the first book of the Millennium series, I didn’t realize just how much sex was in it. This was mostly because of the rape scene that made everything else seem tame in comparison. In this book, the sex is still there, but there’s so much of it at the beginning that it starts to become distracting. At least when book one included it, it was generally through the guise of a budding friendship. This time, it felt more like the author was trying to hammer home the point that the two main characters were sexually liberated. Other than that, it was also a little challenging to keep track of the timeline, since it jumped around a bit when it followed different characters. This is perhaps a limitation of the audiobook format.

Overall, though, the plot of The Girl Who Played with Fire is superb. Uncovering the past of our favorite, titular character was a great way to continue a series that started with such an engaging and enigmatic figure. With less mystery present in this volume, the twists are still believable and entertaining while also focusing more on the action that centers on Lisbeth Salander’s desire to remain as disconnected as possible.

A fantastic follow-up to a great book, I give The Girl Who Played with Fire 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Larsson, Stieg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For many years, I was hesitant to read this book, mostly due to a few intense sequences that I saw in the David Fincher film adaptation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be subjected to them in book form any more than I had been already. Fortunately, these scenes were quite a bit more tolerable in the book, mostly because the descriptions weren’t nearly as visceral as watching them on the big screen. I’m only now kicking myself for waiting this long to read such a fantastic book. While the book and the movie diverge in a few spots, I can see the reasoning behind the differences.

When it comes right down to it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a showcase for its titular character. Lisbeth Salander is tough, smart, and an overall entertaining individual to follow. While it takes quite a while for her to become involved in the main plot, at least the Mikael Blomkvist sections are still interesting enough to carry themselves until that point where the two characters join forces. I did find the distinction between these two characters’ plotlines a little hard to follow early on, but that’s likely an artifact of listening to the audiobook version.

I did find it a little odd that the book essentially starts with the introduction of Mikael’s investigation, only to take almost half the book to start it. Granted, this allowed plenty of room for both Mikael and Lisbeth to be developed as characters, but it felt a little like a sudden realization that the primary focus of the plot wasn’t addressed up until that point. Additionally, I did like the framing of the book around Mikael’s Millennium problems, especially with the much more thorough ending that tied everything up with a nice little bow.

A great book with fantastic characters, I give The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:
Escaping Reality
Jones, Lisa Renee
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The series The Secret Life of Amy Bensen has my three favorite elements: characters I care about, a believable action plot, and scorching hot sex. I noticed few grammatical errors, common in ebooks. My only criticism is of the misplaced clauses in especially long sentences -- they require re-reading to understand. I know I'm picky but someone needs to be, since the editors at Simon & Schuster aren't.

Reviewer's Name: Cindy
Awards:
Ink and Ashes
Maetani, Valynne E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I love this book! I am in 7th grade and this book gave me goosebumps and look behind me when I'm turned around in fear of the "evil" characters in this book. (Granted, I get scared very easily). Ink and Ashes tells the story of teenage girl Claire Takata, and her horrifying experience that was brought upon her by her dead father's passing and his sketchy life. This story perfectly blends mystery and Japanese culture, and is one of the most unique mystery books I have ever read. I highly recommend this book for mature middle school readers who don't read much mystery and want to "test the waters". However, all kinds of readers from 6th grade and up would enjoy this book! Don't hesitate to try it out!

Reviewer's Name: Anna C.
Awards:
The Rules
Holder, Nancy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Rules, by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie, is a great thriller but lacks much else. The focus of the book is on the plot, but it's just an average thriller plot. None of the characters are developed over the course of the book, and it doesn't have enough clues to be a mystery. I felt like the author could've expanded for on the theme of rules, but it was a good idea. The book just kinda lacks sustenance, although it does provide a pretty good thriller experience. I would recommend this book to an avid thriller fan, but not really anyone else.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
The Astronaut's Son
Seigel, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While the modern landscape for space exploration is expanding in ways that are very exciting, it’s interesting to read a story set in the early 2000’s that actually accomplishes something that hasn’t happened in decades: landing on the moon. And yet, this part of the plot of The Astronaut’s Son takes a minor role when compared with the primary thrust of the story. Sure, I would have thought that there would be plenty of things to occupy an astronaut’s time in the lead-up to a significant accomplishment, but apparently, there’s plenty of free time to explore the validity of a conspiracy theory.

I’ll admit that I never thought that there would be Nazi sympathizers in the space program, but The Astronaut’s Son brings up a few interesting and perhaps semi-plausible ideas. These are explored via the main character’s investigation as to whether his father’s sudden death would was truly due to a health condition that could affect him during his own mission, or if it was due to more sinister circumstances. Despite not ever seeming to deliver straight answers, the journey was still exciting and entertaining. The story may be fictional, but there did seem to be some deep-seated elements that had the possibility of being true, thus helping to suspend my disbelief.

Some of the other subplots, like the birth of a child and numerous characters’ marital infidelities, were interesting for character development, even if I thought they would have affected the main plot more than they did. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if there wasn’t even a genetic link between the main character and his father after all? At any rate, I was certainly blown away by this book at first, and it wowed me with its writing and style. However, if you think too much about it, you’ll start to realize there are some holes in it that can’t entirely be covered up, regardless of its entertainment value.

An interesting and perhaps plausible exploration of Germans and Jews in the space program, I give The Astronaut’s Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Bird Box
Malerman, Josh
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Imagine, you are a mom who has had to raise her two kids in a world where going outside was a major undertaking. No! This world is not filled with the usual “monstrous suspects” you come to expect in horror novels, vampires, werewolves etc.. this evil is unseen and unknown. It can’t be known, for you see, the moment any person glimpses it, this “evil” drives them to unspeakable violence and shortly after, their own death. The world didn’t used to be like this, it used to be normal but since “the evil” infested our world, things have never been the same. This evil leaves no survivors, and no one can stop it because no one can see it. It simply is unbeatable.

Malorie and her two children live in this world where evil can ravage anyone if you were just to step outside. To protect her and her children she raises them and teaches herself, to live life almost completely blind with a blindfold on most of the time. They do the best they can, holed up in their home trying to survive. One day through their meager means of communication Mallorie hears of this place 20 miles downriver where her and her family might be safe. But only if they can get there. Malorie and her kids, soon after, set out on a harrowing and terrifying journey downriver, all while wearing blindfolds, that will test them in ways they couldn’t have imagine.

Mallerman creates a horrifying and terrifying experience for readers that will leave them continually guessing. The strength of this story is also what makes it the best kind of horror. It’s unknowable and theirs a mystery around every corner. It could be something that could turn out to be a monster or something that could help the hero’s on their journey. The tense and creepy atmosphere Mallerman creates from the character’s surroundings also adds to the overall terrifying and mysterious aura of the story. Add to this that the evil so talked about throughout the book, is never actually revealed. Mallerman does a brilliant job of revealing some things but not everything leaving the readers imagination to make up the rest. And that is the strength of this book really, it turns the readers mind against them. Highly original and so creepy this book is a solid five stars. Pick up this intense terrifying psychological horror story today. And check out the movie coming to Netflix this December. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Loney
Hurley, Andrew Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The raw intense power of this book is simply incredible. Gothic horror literary fiction at it’s best!

The Loney follows the story of 2 brothers Smith and his cognitively disable brother Hanny, known as the boy who does not speak, their family and their religious community as they take a pilgrimage to a religious shrine at the Loney, a bleak desolate part of the English coastline, in hopes of finding healing for him. This book takes place in the 1970’s and centers around a family and a tight knit religious community. It explores family dynamics, the tight knit relationship between the brothers, which I absolutely loved and felt was so strong, and between the brothers and their parents. Particularly their mom a religious overbearing figure who is definitely seen as not only the leader of her family but a very strong leader within the religious community as well often imposing her will on everyone. It also explores relationships between the religious community. Both among members and between the new more modern/ forward thinking priest and the parishioners as well as between the priest and the two brothers. The relationship study in this book, from a sociological and psychological standpoint is alone worth five stars.

But the Loney is more than just a sociological study, the Loney is also a desolate raw place riddled with secrets, rugged beauty and loneliness, a place time left behind. This is evoked perfectly in this quote describing the Loney.

“A sudden mist a mumble of thunder over the sea the wind scurrying along the beach with it's crop of old bones and litter was sometimes all it took to make you feel as though something was about to happen. Though quite what I didn't know. I often thought their was too much time there. That the place was sick with it. Haunted by it. Time didn't leak away as it should. There was nowhere for it to go and no modernity to hurry it along. It collected as the black water did on the marshes and remained and stagnated in the same way."

Eerie and creepy right! The sense of place and atmosphere that Hurley portrays here is so strong, that it’s like a a whole other character in the book. It slowly gathers itself around you like a invisible blanket and doesn’t let go. Add to that the tight writing, the slow burn of the story, the eerie terrifying conclusion, and the gothic dreary English coastline setting and you have the perfect fall read. Don’t expect a fast moving gore horror but if you like gothic creepy horror that slowly builds and creeps up on you, you will love this book! I highly recommend reading this beautiful piece of fiction! I cannot say enough about Andrew Hurley! No wonder Stephen King said this is a “great piece of fiction.” Hurley is definitely one to watch! You can put your copy of this atmospheric psychological suspenseful horror on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Moonraker
Fleming, Ian
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For those of you who have seen the movie Moonraker (1979), push everything you know about this story out of your head. About the only things that the film has in common with the book are the main character, villain, and an enormous rocket. While the film tried to capitalize on the sci-fi that was popular at the time, the original book takes a look at the threat introduced in World War II by the Germans: ballistic missiles. For its time, the book was relevant in a world that hadn’t even been to space yet.

Having now read a handful of the James Bond books, my problem with this book stems from how formulaic it was. Only three books in, and it felt like Ian Fleming was recycling content and would continue to for books to come (like in Goldfinger ). I mean, never before has a game of bridge been so exciting, but using card games as exposition to introduce the villain already seems done to death at this point. From here, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump through the sexual tension with a female counterpart, the villain’s monologue, and the eventual foiling of plans by Bond.

While I did appreciate the slight twist in the ending with Gala Brand, it seemed slightly out of character based on how she acted previously in the story. Perhaps this was because the narrator is practically half-inside Bond’s head, but it still felt a little misleading. While the conclusion of the villain’s plot was exciting, the comic nature of the comeuppance almost had an eye-rolling chuckle tied to it as well. In the end, Moonraker is a James Bond story, so it delivers on all the tropes and clichés of the series. If you like the series, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

The standard Bond formula in yet another book, I give Moonraker 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Breakthrough
Grumley, Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

All four of these books (Breakthrough; Ripple; Leap; Catalyst) are fast paced, incredible adventure/mystery's, creative, fascinating with wonderful characters both human and animal. Michael is a great author. Can't wait for the next book in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Camille Oliver
Bring Me Back
Paris, B.A.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I slogged through 200+ pages of tedium to reach an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. This will be the last time I see Paris.

Her books have gotten progressively worse. I would lump her in with Ruth Ware. Modern day "thriller" writers who are popular. Why, I do not know.

Reviewer's Name: Alfred Weber
Awards:
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
Beneath
Smith, Roland
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book beneath fallows the story of a teenage boy trying to find his older brother in the abandoned subway systems of New York City. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense books. I would maybe read this book again but for me it was just a one time read.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H
Awards:
Piercing the Darkness
Peretti, Frank E.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

It’s weird how something that was done so well the first time loses all its magic during a sequel. I absolutely loved This Present Darkness , as I felt it accurately captured the invisible war of the spiritual world while also providing a gripping thriller in the human realm to keep the action moving forward. I was not impressed with the follow-up book, Piercing the Darkness. If it was a separate story with separate characters, I might have gotten into it more, but as it is, the tie-in to the first book seemed sloppy and almost unnecessary.

Almost every part of This Present Darkness that I thought was amazing seemed copied into Piercing the Darkness, but without the stakes or “oomph” to make the plot even semi-interesting. I think the reason for this was that most of the subtlety was gone from the characters. It’s a little more terrifying when you learn that normal, everyday people are being controlled by demons, but when a fully-functioning Satanic cult is your antagonist, it just seems like the author isn’t trying that hard. Of course, there wasn’t much of a reason behind the “evil side’s” plans in this book, other than to ruin a Christian school. At least in the original book, a whole town was at stake.

Perhaps Peretti was pandering a bit too much to his core demographic here, but it almost seemed like all the characters were caricatures, with no ambiguity to make the reader wonder whose side they were on. I won’t even mention the few plot holes I noticed, some of which came to light during the trial portion of the plot since it’s pretty apparent how everything’s going to turn out from the beginning. Good triumphs, evil is defeated, blah blah blah. In short, this book reads more like a sermon. The thrill is gone.

A sub-par follow-up to a fantastic book, I give Piercing the Darkness 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Code of Honor
Gratz, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Kamran and Darius Smith made a code of honor when they were kids; be
the bravest of, the brave strongest of the strong ,help the helpless, kill
all monsters. But when Darius graduates at west point, and then joins the
army, he is captured by the Al Qaeda and forced to make public broadcasts
about threats from the terrorist group. After that happened Kamran is taken
to a government facility and decides to prove that Darius is innocent. He
gets the help he needs from Ex-special forces officer Dane Redmond, Aaliya
sayid, Jimmy Doran ,and Mickey Hagan. Together they help Kamran rescue
Darius, but wait, one of someone might be a traitor to the team.

Reviewer's Name: Brendan M.
Awards:
This Present Darkness
Peretti, Frank
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Back in high school, I had to read this book as part of my Religions class and thought it was pretty good. As I have been preparing for writing The Slumberealm Gambit, I decided to give This Present Darkness another read so I could recall how Frank E. Peretti combined the fantastical spirit world with the real world. For a book written in 1986, it’s aged surprisingly well, even if the demise of the newspaper and the rise of constant contact via cell phones would make this kind of book set in modern times a hard sell. Even so, I honestly wouldn’t mind if someone adapted this book into a movie, as the plot is thrilling and the action is top-notch.

Strangely enough, one of my qualms with this book is with its formatting and proofreading. There were a few missed typos, and the right-align text didn’t seem as professional as I would have hoped a widely-printed book would be. Regarding content, though, I wonder if the preacher side plot could have either been cut or enhanced so that it would have had the same intensity/focus as the newspaper main plot. Still, by the end of the book, the exciting conclusion is a result of all the pieces being put in place during the somewhat long buildup.

Some people may debate whether angels and demons are real, but this book certainly gives a fantastical look behind the curtain and imagines these beings in elaborate detail. The angels are all quietly patient, while the demons are gruesome and horrifying. The mixture of fantasy imagery and real-world situations is something I hope to soon accomplish in my own writing style, and this book merely reinforced how awesome it was when I read it for the first time more than a decade ago.

An action-filled and thrilling look behind the spiritual curtain, I give This Present Darkness 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Timeline
Crichton, Michael
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It’s been a while since I read any Michael Crichton. I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park —and to a lesser extent, The Lost World . I enjoyed the action and the science that went into creating these stories, helping to educate as well as entertain (kind of like my own writing style, if I do say so myself :D). For Timeline, the science in question is more quantum in nature, but I felt the explanations given were sufficient to arrive at a time-travel narrative, even if it did require a small amount of scientific hand-waving. Also, a lot of my perceptions about the dark ages were completely flipped around through this book’s meticulous details.

Even though I liked the scientific and historical sections of this book, there were undoubtedly some weaknesses I cannot overlook. First of all, Crichton seems to like hammering home the idea that science as an entertainment business is a bad idea (a la Jurassic Park) but the corporate sub-plot seemed a little less thought out and didn’t play too much into the grand scheme of things. As for the main plot itself, it seemed distracted most of the time, rarely remembering why these characters were sent back in time in the first place. Some of the characters weren’t even that compelling either, which didn’t help.

I wanted to like this book more, but by the end of the narrative, I got the sense that this was more akin to an action-movie screenplay or video game plot than an actual book. The countdown to the climax was a little hard to keep track of earlier in the book, and it didn’t provide the needed tension early on that it did near the end. Plus, the characters were usually the ones calling out the timestamps anyway, making it mostly redundant. In the end, there were some neat ideas regarding quantum physics, time travel, and history that makes Timeline an educational read, even if it is only once.

A Crichton book heavy in action, but light on plot, I give Timeline 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin

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