The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

EXCERPT: The sound grew louder.

Tennant had no idea she was screaming, too, until she ran out of breath and choked on the air – dirt, dust, flour – all filling her lungs at once. She coughed it back out, forced herself to stand, clawed at the cellar door.

Why had Poppa locked them in?

They’d die down here.

And Momma and Poppa out there?

On the ground at her feet, Sophie’s hands and arms wrapped around her head, her knees pulled close against her chest. Blood dripped from the corners of her eyes, from her button nose, seeped out from between her fingers over her ears. Thick, congealed blood, dark red, nearly black. One of her hands shot out and wrapped around Tennant’s ankles and squeezed so tight the pain brought her back down to the floor.

The sound grew louder.

Tennant wanted to hold her sister, but her arms and legs no longer obeyed her. Her heart drummed against her ribs, threatened to burst. She couldn’t get air, each gasp no better than breathing water. Her eyes rolled back into her head, her vision first went white, then dark, as the walls closed in. The cellar no better than a grave.

ABOUT ‘THE NOISE’: Young sisters, Sophie and Tennant Riggin, are the only two people to withstand a massive explosion that destroys their community, located in the shadow of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

A team of elite government investigators are sent to research the fallout and the girls – why did only they survive? – but with conflicting objectives. For Dr Martha Chan, a psychologist who analyses large-scale medical emergencies: study them. For Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Fraser, a career military leader with an inherent mistrust of civilians: contain them.

But as the disturbance replicates across the Pacific Northwest, it threatens to topple the chain of command. Dr Chan and Lieutenant Colonel Fraser are caught between the perpetrators of the threat – and those who have the power to resist.

MY THOUGHTS: What the hell did I just read? I didn’t read the publicity blurb prior to requesting this, and I never read the publicity blurb before starting reading. The fact that J.D. Barker is co-author was good enough for me. And I hit the jackpot! I am so pleased I never read the blurb; I would never have requested this and I would have missed out on a spectacular read.

The story is told from the points of view of Tennant, the girl whose sister Sophie is affected by The Noise; Martha a psychologist who deals with large scale medical emergencies, and who is called on to study both this emergency and the sisters; Fraser, a career military officer who dislikes and distrusts civilians, and whose job it is to contain both the sisters and those brought in to examine them and the site; and briefly, the President of the United States, who faces a decision that no other president in history has ever faced.

If you are going to pick The Noise up, and I strongly recommend you do, set a day aside with no distractions or interruptions to read it. It’s not a long read, but it is action packed. This is no runaway train. There is no slow start, no build up. This is a bullet train – it starts fast and just gets faster, more suspenseful, more thrilling, and scarier.

Personally, I find the scariest things are those that are possible. The Noise falls into this category. It scared the living bejesus out of me. And I loved it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheNoise #NetGalley #RandomHouse

I: @jamespattersonbooks @jdbarker_author
@randomhouse

T: @JP_Books @ jdbarker @randomhouse

THE AUTHORS: James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today.

J.D. Barker is a New York Times and international bestselling American author of suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review will also be published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

EXCERPT: A long gallery stretches before her, running the length of the house. The gallery has no windows. The air is cool, controlled to a fraction of a degree. Display cases and framed photographs line the walls, each lit by a single low spotlight. This is his collection; the museum, he calls it. She has heard of it. It is well known, if your interests lie in that direction. The man obtains things that most people can’t. Things that no one should see. He collects artifacts of death. Photographs, vials of blood stolen from evidence, letters in spiky Victorian copperplate, pieces of the unclaimed dead, the pieces the killer did not have time to eat before he was caught.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET’: This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…

MY THOUGHTS: The Last House on Needless Street is one of, if not THE strangest book I have ever read, and loved.

It is told from three points of view: Ted, overweight, a recluse with a disabled daughter, who has episodes where he loses time; Olivia, the cat he rescued as a kitten and who is never allowed outdoors; and Dee, whose little sister Lulu (Little Girl with Popsicle) disappeared at the lake eleven years ago, and who has a pathological fear of snakes. Or, maybe it’s not.

The Last House on Needless Street is weirdly compelling. Twelve hours after finishing it (another one sitting read!) I am still unsure what I read. I am buzzing. It is mind-bending. Unsettling. Almost alive. It twisted and slithered and changed shape as I read. A hall of mirrors with an uneven floor, one that suddenly drops away into a void, one that moves as you walk.

Alice in Wonderland for adults with darker tastes.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheLastHouseonNeedlessStreet #NetGalley

I: @catward66 @serpentstail @viperbooks

T: @Catrionaward @serpentstail @ViperBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #horror #mentalhealth #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail, Viper Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Apologies for disappearing on you so suddenly last week. I was rushed off to ED in the early hours of last Sunday morning with breathing difficulties, which resulted in a five day stay in hospital. I am not yet allowed back to work, and will be going for more tests and follow up during the week ahead.

Currently I am not reading anything. I have finished two books this morning, the delightful Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson

And Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Which as well as being a Netgalley ARC, was a group read for my Goodreads.com Mystery, Crime and Thriller group.

I started listening to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout this morning.

This week I only have one ARC that I need to read for review which is Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A suspense magazine anthology, with contributions by Jeffrey Deaver, Linwood Barclay and John Lescroart, amongst others.

I will use any other reading time I get to catch up on back titles.

I have received ten new ARCs over the past two weeks:

The Haunting of Beatrix Greene by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

The Perfect Life by Nuala Elwood

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Suspicious Minds by David Mark

Without Blood by Martin Michaud

Limelight by Graham Hurley

Our Little Secret by Lesley Sanderson

And finally I’m So Effing Tired by Amy Shah

And on that note, I am off for a nap.

Happy reading ❤📚

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean

EXCERPT: I looked about me at our attic – the library, the horrible bits of Victorian taxidermy we’d picked up from junk shops, the dust-furred oil paintings of bleak landscapes, the interesting and peculiar objects that inevitably gathered on any horizontal surface in the vicinity of either of us. The only significant thing we hadn’t added to the place was a large home-made dolls house, which we had discovered in the attic the first time we ever went up there, and had deemed both creepy enough to keep, and too heavy to move.

‘We’ll have to tidy up a bit.’

‘Yes. Get some extra lights, hide the books, that sort of thing. Make it look respectable.’

Abigail must have read some element of doubt in my face. She leaned forward in her armchair and fixed me with her dark eyes.

‘All we have to do is make out that it’s all fine. We take her up here, she sees how absolutely unhaunted our attic and indeed our entire house is, and that’s that.’ Abi touched her fingertips to her lips. ‘All we have to do is be normal for a while.’

And so it was agreed between us that Janice Tupp would come over to our house after school next Thursday, in order not to see a ghost.

ABOUT ‘THE APPARITION PHASE’: Tim and Abi have always been different from their peers. Precociously bright, they spend their evenings in their parents’ attic discussing the macabre and unexplained, zealously rereading books on folklore, hauntings and the supernatural. In particular, they are obsessed with photographs of ghostly apparitions and the mix of terror and delight they provoke in their otherwise boring and safe childhoods.

But when Tim and Abi decide to fake a photo of a ghost to frighten an unpopular school friend, they set in motion a deadly and terrifying chain of events that neither of them could have predicted, and are forced to confront the possibility that what began as a callous prank might well have taken on a malevolent life of its own.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose’ – Haldane

I couldn’t help but thinking of the Adams family children when I read the physical descriptions of Abi and Tim, intelligent twins with enquiring minds and a passion for the macabre.

Maclean has written an atmospheric and intriguing gothic thriller with all the required elements: a missing person, a select group of people confined together in a creepy old house, and unexplained phenomena. Mass hysteria? Cleverly orchestrated fraud? Or something darker and more sinister? This is what Maclean will have you wondering. His skilful machinations will have you changing your mind with every twist and turn.

Yarlings has a gruesome history and yet has never made it into the books of haunted houses, making it perfect for a scientific experiment to once and for all prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. ‘It seemed that, no matter how bright the day outside, the interior of Yarlings was always dark, always gloomy, always permeated with a troubled air, as if overthinking its presence.’ Ancient timbers crack like knuckles, the rooms are filled with an oppressing and brooding silence, almost an air of expectation, like it is waiting to be brought back to life, a place of ‘weird emotional textures.’ The ideal place in which to conduct a seance, or several.

The people who have been carefully selected for the experiment by Graham and Sally, are college students, all known to one another, and who seem to be a fairly ordinary lot. Tim enters the mix quite by accident, the seventh person, and catalyst for all that follows.

The Apparition Phase is unsettling rather than terrifying; unsettling, unnerving and deliciously creepy.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#TheApparitionPhase #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Originally from the Wirral, Will Maclean has been fascinated by ghost stories since he was a child, and has been writing them almost as long as he can remember.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Fireman by Joe Hill

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EXCERPT: His newfound calm did not entirely surprise her. Terror was a fire that held you trapped in the top floor of a burning building; the only way to escape it was to jump. He had been stoking himself up to this last leap for weeks. She had heard it in his voice, every time they talked on the phone, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time. He had made his choice at last and it had brought him the peace he was looking for. He was ready to go out the window; he wanted only to be holding her hand on the way down.

What did surprise her was her own calm. She wondered at it. In the days before the earth began to burn, she had carried anxiety to work with her every morning and brought it home with her every night; a nameless, inconsiderate companion that had a habit of poking her in the ribs whenever she was trying to relax. And yet in those days there was nothing really to be anxious about. Her head would spin at the thought of defaulting on her student loans, of getting into another yelling match with her neighbour about his dog’s habit of tearing open garbage and spreading it all over her lawn. And now she had a baby in her, and sickness crawling on her skin, and Jakob was crazy, sitting there watching her with his gun, and there was only this quiet readiness, which she irrationally believed had been waiting for her all her life.

‘At the end, I get to be the person I always wanted to be,’ she thought.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

MY THOUGHTS: I said it after reading NOS4A2,and I will say it again, ‘Joe Hill is definitely his father’s son. He writes with the same easy narrative flow and sardonic wit.’

Reading Joe Hill’s writing is like sitting down and having a good yarn with someone who has led the most fascinating life. It’s an immersive experience. I forgot I was reading. I experienced every step of Harper’s journey. I smelled the burning, felt the heat, and even imagined the beautiful glowing lacy patterns across my own skin.

Hill has written a chilling novel about a global pandemic long before the advent of Covid-19. Instead of a pneumonia-like infection, this spore causes spontaneous combustion, which threatens to reduce civilisation to ashes. But what if there was a way to harness it, to make it work for you, rather than against you? Enter the Fireman, aka John Rookwood. But are his skills enough to save his group from the Cremation Squad, a group of the uninfected determined to exterminate the infected.

He is aided by the pregnant nurse, Harper, a fan of Mary Poppins. ‘She had all her life longed for a world that operated like an early sixties Disney musical, with spontaneous song and dance routines to celebrate important events like sharing a first kiss or getting the kitchen spick and span.’ Despite these fantasies, this woman has a heart of gold and a core of steel.

There are a lot of parallels between the situations in The Fireman and our current situation. The chaos. The fear. The misinformation. The justification of certain actions – ‘The people in charge can always justify doing terrible things in the name of the greater good. A slaughter here, a little torture there. It becomes moral to do things that would be immoral if an ordinary individual did ‘em.’

But there are some wonderfully ‘good’ characters in this book to counterbalance the bad, the evil, the misguided. The hard part is working out who is who.

There are multiple musical references as well as literary ones. I have made a ‘Joe Hill – The Fireman’ playlist to go alongside my ‘Adrian McKinty – Sean Duffy’, and ‘Ken Bruen- Jack Taylor’ playlists.

I finished this read with tears seeping from my eyes. It doesn’t end how I expected. But the ending is perfect. The Fireman contains many lessons for us. I hope we learn them.

‘So much kindness. So many people looking after us. They don’t know a thing about us except that we’re in need….we need kindness like we need to eat. It satisfies something in us we can’t do without.’

Brilliant, beautiful, terrifying, sad and uplifting.

❤❤❤❤❤

#TheFireman #NetGalley

‘There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.’

THE AUTHOR: Joe Hill, born in 1972 as Joseph Hillstrom King, is an American writer of speculative fiction. Hill is the second child of the authors Stephen and Tabitha King. His younger brother Owen King is also a writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Fireman by Joe Hill for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading…

As the Covid-19 numbers continue to escalate around the world, I am very grateful that we live in virtual isolation here in New Zealand. Even our closest neighbour, Australia, continues to have escalating outbreaks, particularly in Melbourne currently, so I guess that there’s little chance of the borders being opened between here and there any time in the near future. But as the Pacific Islands continue to remain Covid free, I would hope that the borders between us and our island neighbours will soon reopen. I would love a week in the Cook Islands to shake off the midwinter blues. In the meantime, I guess we just carry on and read!

Currently I am reading Grown Ups by Marian Keyes. Although I wasn’t too sure about this to begin with, largely due to the sheer number of characters in this mad family, I am now loving it.

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I am listening to All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White.

Sorry, the cover photo just would not download. I think I had the same problem with my audiobook cover last week, which is just downright weird.

This week I am planning on reading All Our Summers by Holly Chamberlain

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It came as no surprise to anyone in Yorktide when glamorous Carol Ascher fled the little Maine town for New York City. While Carol found success as an interior designer, her younger sister, Bonnie, stayed behind, embracing marriage and motherhood. She even agreed to take in Carol’s teenage daughter during a tumultuous patch. Now both their girls are grown and Bonnie, recently widowed, is anticipating the day she’ll retire to Ferndean House, the nineteenth-century family home on the rocky Maine coast.

But forty-five years after leaving Yorktide, Carol suddenly announces that she’s moving back—into Ferndean. Bonnie is indignant. She’s the one who kept the homestead in order and tended to their dying mother. Now Carol expects to simply buy her out? As far as Bonnie is concerned, Ferndean is part of their heritage—not just another of Carol’s improvement projects, to be torn apart and remade according to her whim.

The entire Ascher family is in flux, uncovering secrets that upend their relationships. Carol’s longing to be welcomed home is fueled by a painful truth she’s carried for years. It will take an extraordinary
summer—in a remarkable place—to lead these women back to each other, buoyed by the tides of friendship and forgiveness.

And The Life She Left Behind by Nicole Trope

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You tell him everything. The husband you adore, the father of your child, your best friend. He knows, just by looking at your sage-green eyes, when something is wrong. The two of you can communicate with a glance, or a touch of the hand. Except what if you can’t? What if your happy marriage has plastered over one huge lie? A lie you have even started to believe yourself, in order to survive? What if you have a secret, something you have hidden from your beloved husband and your strawberry-scented baby girl, to keep them safe? What if the guilt has kept you up, night after night, for as long as you can remember? What happens when suddenly, after twenty-eight years, that secret refuses to stay buried? What will you do now everyone you love, everything you cherish, is in harm’s way?

I did a little better with my requesting this week, and have received only four new ARCs, but what a mixed bag!

No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan

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Still Life by Val Mcdermid

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My Mother’s Choice by Ali Mercer

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and finally, The Shore House by Heidi Hotstetter

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Happy Independence Day to all my American friends. Celebrate safely.

Cheers
Sandy

My book mail today…

It only took 4 weeks to get these delivered!

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Have yet to read them…..

Got absolutely no reading done today other than children’s books. I have had a lovely day on Nana duty. Luke is finally in bed, asleep, so time to put my feet up with a cup of tea and my book before I head to bed.

Sweet dreams everyone.

❤😍📚☕🍪

The Institute by Stephen King

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EXCERPT: Her name was Marjorie Kellerman, and she ran the Brunswick library. She also belonged to something called the Southeastern Library Association. Which, she said, had no money because ‘Trump and his cronies took it all back. They understand culture no more than a donkey understands algebra.’

Sixty five miles north, still in Georgia, she stopped at a poky little library in the town of Pooler. Tim unloaded the cartons of books and dollied them inside. He dollied another dozen or so cartons out to the Volvo. These, Marjorie Kellerman told him, were bound to the Yemassee Public Library, about forty miles further north, across the South Carolina state line. But not long after passing Hardeeville, their progress came to a stop. Cars and trucks were stacked up in both lanes, and more quickly filled in behind them.

‘Oh,I hate it when this happens,’ Marjorie said, ‘and it always seems to in South Carolina, where they’re too cheap to widen the highway. There’s been a wreck somewhere up ahead, and with only two lanes, nobody can get by. I’ll be here half the day. Mr Jamieson, you may be excused from further duty. If I were you, I would exit my vehicle, walk back to the Hardeeville exit, and try your luck on Highway 17.’

‘What about all those cartons of books?’

‘Oh, I’ll find another strong back to help me unload,’ she said, and smiled at him. ‘To tell you the truth, I saw you standing there in the hot sun and just decided to live a little dangerously.’

‘Well, if you’re sure.’ The traffic clog was making him feel claustrophobic. The way he’d felt being stuck halfway back in economy class of the Delta flight, in fact. ‘If you’re not, I’ll hang in. It’s not like I’m racing a deadline or anything.’

‘I’m sure,’ she said. ‘It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr Jamieson.’

‘Likewise, Ms Kellerman.’

‘Do you need monetary assistance? I can spare ten dollars if you do.’

He was touched and surprised – not for the first time – by the ordinary kindness and generosity of ordinary folks, especially those without much to spare. America was still a good place, no matter how much some (including himself from time to time) might disagree. ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you for the offer.’

He shook her hand, got out, and walked back along the I-95 breakdown lane to the Hardeeville exit. When a ride was not immediately forthcoming on US 17, he strolled a couple of miles to where it joined State Road 92. Here a sign pointed toward the town of DuPray. By then it was late afternoon, and Tim decided he had better find a motel in which to spend the night. It would undoubtedly be another of the cheesedog variety, but the alternatives – sleeping outside and getting eaten alive by skeeters or in some farmers barn – were even less appealing. And so he set out for DuPray.

Great events turn on small hinges.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

MY THOUGHTS: The scariest thing about The Institute? That it is perfectly possible and plausible. Just think about it for a moment. You will think about it for much longer than that when you have finished reading.

I like that King has returned his focus to children, as he did in some of his best and earlier works. And not just to any children, but those who have special powers. Luke Ellis is a TK (telekinetic). His powers aren’t huge, mainly confined to knocking (empty) pizza dishes from the table to the floor. But he is also intelligent. Seriously intelligent. Admission to two colleges at the age of twelve intelligent. Plus he has a good dose of street smarts and common sense. Enough to realise that if he and the other TK and TP (telepathic) teens being held in the Institute can combine their powers for their own use, they may just have a chance of survival.

King’s characterisation is, as always, absolutely superb. We get to know his characters better than we know ourselves. We are privy to their thoughts, we feel their fears, their triumphs, their jealousies, their love. I always feel sad, bereft, when I close a King cover for the final time. I feel like I am farewelling old friends. But that’s all it is, a farewell, a do drop by again. It is never goodbye.

This is a gripping story. If you are a seasoned King reader, or a constant reader as he terms us, the size of this read is nothing. If you are new to Mr King (where have you been?), it may appear daunting. Don’t be put off. You will be spellbound, mesmerized and by the end will be wondering where all those pages went.

If you are wondering what the excerpt I have quoted has to do with Luke Ellis, I can only say ‘lots.’ The two disparate threads are skillfully combined for an explosive and satisfying ending.

The Institute is an emotional read, creepy, horrifying, and perfectly possible. While I don’t think that it’s his best ever, it is pretty much up there. Thanks for stopping by, Mr King. I will see you again, soon.

😱😱😱😱.5

…her fear was like a rat running on a wheel in the middle of her head.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Institute, written by Stephen King, published by Hodder and Stoughton. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker

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EXCERPT: Pittsburgh had a lot of cemeteries. This particular one, All Saints Hollow, was one of the largest.

The mausoleums.

I didn’t much like the mausoleums.

When we drove by a cemetery, Auntie Jo said you’re always supposed to hold your breath to keep the spirits of the dead from finding you. I’m not sure why this rule didn’t apply when you were actually in the cemetery, but if it applied anywhere, it would be at the mausoleums. The air was still here. I pictured the dead peeking out from the cracks in the stone, bony hands ready to reach out and snatch unsuspecting little boys, pulling us into those squat structures, never to be seen again.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child—this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after.

The body of a man found in an alley, every inch of his flesh horribly burned, yet his clothing completely untouched. For Detective Faustino Brier, this wasn’t the first, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. It was no different from the others. He’d find another just like it one year from today. August 9, to be exact.

Isolated and locked away from the world in a shadowy lab, a little boy known only as Subject “D” waits, grows, learns. He’s permitted to speak to no one. He has never known the touch of another. Harboring a power so horrific, those in control will never allow him beyond their walls.

All of them linked in ways unimaginable.

MY THOUGHTS: When I read the promotional blurb for this book, ‘SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE conjures thoughts of early King and Koontz. A heart-pounding ride that creeps under your skin and will have you turning pages long into the night.’, I thought ‘Yeah, right.’ I had not been having a good run with my reading. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. But this did.

I was consumed by it. I woke in the early hours of the morning after dreaming of Jack and Stella, and cemeteries, and read through the remainder of the night until it was finished with me.

And the blurb is right. She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be, is reminiscent of early King and Koontz. ‘As the older woman turned, as she spun around, the wind caught the edge of her coat and I saw something beneath it, an image that is still as clear as day in my mind; the barrel of a shotgun resting against her leg.’ …. ‘The Gunslinger’ was the first thing I thought of. But it is also so much more…there really is nothing to compare this to. It is in a class of its own.

Yes, this is horror, but it is plausible. Do we know what trials/medical experiments are/were being carried out? No, we only know what we are told. And as my favourite uncle was fond of saying, believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

Although the main theme is horror, there’s more. Barker writes with a tongue in cheek humour-
‘What don’t you do while I’m gone?’
‘Open the door.’
‘Except for the pizza guy.’
‘Except for the pizza guy.’…..’What if the pizza guy is an axe wielding murderer and he wants to chop me into little pieces?’
‘Well then, don’t tip him.’

There is romance, and coming to grips with the reality of life and death, and adventure and heartbreak and action all wrapped into one package. And it works, brilliantly. I have in the past, and very recently, criticised authors for trying to pack too many genres into their work, of trying to be too many things to their readers. Barker proves that it can be done, and very successfully.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and yet it is surprisingly easy to keep track of them. Some of them are very ordinary, some are strange, and others just downright weird. All have depth and all, strangely, feel very real.

This book is eerie, and weird. It is enthralling and compelling. It will stay with me for a long time. I will especially remember it whenever I see a white SUV. This is a book that is going on my favourites shelf, and one that will be reread.

❤😱😱😱❤

‘The light of morning reached through my window and tried to grab me under my mound of blankets.’

‘She wore her uniform like a hanger with feet.’

‘Potential parents paraded through in search of a good find, not unlike bargain shoppers at a yard sale.’

‘You don’t answer any of my questions.’…..’Maybe you should stop asking questions.’

And one quote that I think is particularly pertinent right now:’Of all things, I believe I’ll miss the night sky the most. The absolute vastness of it, the unknown. While we’re down here, fighting our pesky little battles, we’re really just a little speck on the shoe of the universe. Any problem life may present seems so small, so insignificant, when you simply look up and realise your true place in all things.’

THE AUTHOR: J.D. Barker is the international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His novels have been translated into two dozen languages and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

A note from J.D.
As a child I was always told the dark could not hurt me, that the shadows creeping in the corners of my room were nothing more than just that, shadows. The sounds nothing more than the settling of our old home, creaking as it found comfort in the earth only to move again when it became restless, if ever so slightly. I would never sleep without closing the closet door, oh no; the door had to be shut tight. The darkness lurking inside needed to be held at bay, the whispers silenced. Rest would only come after I checked under the bed at least twice and quickly wrapped myself in the safety of the sheets (which no monster could penetrate), pulling them tight over my head.

I would never go down to the basement.

Never.

I had seen enough movies to know better, I had read enough stories to know what happens to little boys who wandered off into dark, dismal places alone. And there were stories, so many stories.

Reading was my sanctuary, a place where I could disappear for hours at a time, lost in the pages of a good book. It didn’t take long before I felt the urge to create my own.

I first began to write as a child, spinning tales of ghosts and gremlins, mystical places and people. For most of us, that’s where it begins—as children we have such wonderful imaginations, some of us have simply found it hard to grow up. I’ve spent countless hours trying to explain to friends and family why I enjoy it, why I would rather lock myself in a quiet little room and put pen to paper for hours at a time than throw around a baseball or simply watch television. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to do just that, sometimes I wish for it, but even then the need to write is always there in the back of my mind, the characters are impatiently tapping their feet, waiting their turn, wanting to be heard. I wake in the middle of the night and reach for the pad beside my bed, sometimes scrawling page after page of their words, their lives. Then they’re quiet, if only for a little while. To stop would mean madness, or even worse—the calm, numbing sanity I see in others as they slip through the day without purpose. They don’t know what it’s like, they don’t understand. Something as simple as a pencil can open the door to a new world, can create life or experience death. Writing can take you to places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’ve never met, take you back to when you first saw those shadows in your room, when you first heard the sounds mumbling ever so softly from your closet, and it can show you what uttered them. It can scare the hell out of you, and that’s when you know it’s good.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hampton Creek Press (IBPA) via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and on https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3119732314

The Warning by Paul Pen

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EXCERPT: I don’t wish to frighten you, but it’s impossible to explain any other way. Please do not go to the gas station in Arenas. The American’s store. Do not go there on August 14, 2009. I don’t want to scare you, but it could be the day of your death. Don’t go. I’m sorry, I had to warn you.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: I don’t wish to frighten you, reads the anonymous note introverted and bullied eight-year-old Leo Cruz finds in his backpack. All the sender asks is that he avoid a certain spot on a certain day, or he’ll die. Leo has reason to be afraid. The warning hearkens back to nearly a decade ago—to the same site, where a murder has become local folklore and a favorite campfire tale reinvented year after year by the kids of Arenas, a small Spanish town.

Leo’s parents initially suspect the lonely boy’s cruel classmates. The perfect joke to terrorize an impressionable victim. Unless, as they come to believe, it’s Leo himself who is the author of the warning.

Is Leo being lured to an unavoidable fate? Is someone taking bullying to a dangerous new level? Or is there something else at work in Arenas, a town with intersecting destinies and a century of secrets?

MY THOUGHTS: I am going to start with an excerpt from the author’s foreword….’I reread The Warning today and suffer when I discover certain passages that I’d never write in the same way now. I wince at each confusing shift in point of view, I roll my eyes at certain similes and metaphors, and I cringe at characters’ intrusive thoughts.’

I feel your pain Paul Pen. I really do, as I did throughout this read. The shifts in not only the point of view, but also the timelines, was confusing. Very confusing. The story doesn’t flow at all. It ought to have been creepy and suspenseful – the plot certainly had all the right ingredients – but I felt none of that. In fact, by the time I reached the 40% point, I was skimming, and I continued to do so through to the 90% point where it finally caught my interest.

I felt nothing for any of the characters – they are simply awful and unlikable, except for poor little Leo, bullied both at school and at home, and Linda, the housekeeper.

I would love to see Paul Pen rewrite this book now, knowing what he does now with several more novels to his name. I believe it would be a vastly different book. There is so much potential that could be explored and developed.

😐😐.5

#TheWarning #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Paul Pen is an Amazon top-3 best-selling Spanish author whose four novels have been translated to English, German, Italian, Russian and Turkish. His book The Light of the Fireflies has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide, while his debut novel El aviso —soon to be published in English for the first time—was adapted to the big screen in 2018. Motion pictures of The Light of the Fireflies and Desert Flowers are also in development, the latter scripted by Pen himself. In his capacity as scriptwriter, Paul Pen is also working on a forthcoming Netflix series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Crossing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Warning by Paul Pen for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3150404319?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1