Behrg Reviews “The Neighbor” by Joseph Souza

neighborJoseph Souza’s latest novel The Neighbor is an intricate puzzle box of a story and the epitome of what I consider bold writing. Up front, this is a novel people will either love or hate. It’s story centers around people you will adamantly disagree with. And yet you won’t be able to stop coming back for more.

Souza’s real secret to this story is how he gets the reader to simultaneously abhor the characters yet feel so drawn to them and their plights. It’s like watching a magician perform a sleight of hand trick but never being able to pinpoint how exactly the trick is being done. Despite the characters’ immense flaws he allows for moments of vulnerability that make them surprisingly sympathetic and allow the reader to see themselves in the characters, something that–trust me–you won’t want to happen.

This is compulsive reading at its best, and I felt completely swept away in the strong undertow of Souza’s writing. Dark, disturbing, but completely captivating, this is the best form I’ve seen Souza in, which says a lot for this accomplished writer. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a different approach to your typical psychological thriller.

** I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley. My thanks to the publisher and author. This is no way influenced my thoughts or opinions. **

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Behrg Reviews “Screams You Hear” by James Morris

James Morris excels at finding the right voice when it comes to a YA narrator, and I’ve been a fan of his work for awhile now.  Screams You Hear is a step into a much darker pool for Morris, and this novel is layered with moments that will have even the most jaded reader needing a moment to come up for air.

screams you hearThe concept is great, a young high school girl living on a small island off the Pacific Coast uncovers what could be a pathological outbreak resulting in extreme violence from those infected. What’s worse, only adults seem to be the ones who come down with the disease. The novel is interwoven with Ruthie being back on the mainland, horrifically burned as possibly one of the only survivors, then retelling her tale as we’re transported into the past and the events that unravel. The back and forth work extremely well even as we begin to question Ruthie’s telling of the story, and provides for some twists that wouldn’t work any other way.

As per usual with Morris’s writing, the setting is fantastic and used to full effect, heightening the drama of the bizarre outbreak that occurs. Combine that with some excellent character moments and some jaw dropping scenes to create a story you won’t find anywhere else. The one issue I have with the book is I felt it didn’t know what it wanted to be. At times it felt YA suspense, at times it entered into the darkest caverns of horror, but the juxtaposition didn’t fully mesh and left me a little uncertain as to what it was trying to accomplish. Of course that could be part of the point, the extreme moments meant to crush your ideas of a relatively safe young adult themed world.

Surprising and fresh, this was definitely worth the read, and it’s fun seeing Morris flex his muscles and redefine the boundaries of your normal genres.

Behrg Reviews: Ararat by Christopher Golden

ararat.jpgArarat has a lot going for it beginning with its killer premise – a cave opening up on the top of Mount Ararat which may or may not house the remains of Noah’s Arc. Add to it the cherished (by me at least) landscape of snow sprinkled with a generous dash of horror and I was fully engaged before starting page one.

Whether my expectations were simply too high or the book didn’t live up to its premise is a matter for debate, but when I finished this novel I felt like I do after leaving a buffet — full, but far from satisfied.

The first half of the novel moves quickly enough, though I was disappointed our two protagonists were already looking for the arc. Without getting into spoilers I liked the twist that was offered, defying expectations, but the last half of the novel felt incongruous with the former half. The horror elements for me felt over the top when compared to the compelling premise and, for the first time in a long time, I was left wishing the author had used more finesse and restraint to deliver something truly unique rather than devolve into “more of the same.” Again, I blame my expectations as the first half of the novel kept me engaged with the slow-build of tension and questions, but by the end I was just looking forward to my dinner mint and forgetting the fact that I had overindulged myself at another far too ordinary buffet.

Ararat recently won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, so it certainly has its supporters and fans and I’ve seen mostly rave reviews. I’m glad I tackled this one and did enjoy it, but I feel there was a lot more within the source material that would have made for a stronger story.

Final judgement: Come for the premise, but don’t expect a gourmet meal.

Behrg Reviews “Hellbent” by Gregg Hurwitz

hellbent1500+ ratings at the time of this review with a 4.55 average. You don’t get a score like that by chance.

It’s no secret Gregg Hurwitz has long been one of my favorite authors. From his unique characters to the brilliant way he uses his settings to his carefully crafted prose, he’s truly a writer’s writer. This third installment in the Orphan X series is by far his best and there’s a comfort here as Hurwitz finds his groove, no longer trying to create his own Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher but letting his work shine on its own.

Evan Smoak and the Orphan program works best when the high tech thrills are brought close to home. Hellbent is Hurwitz’ most emotional exploration within the Smoak universe and yet he’s able to accomplish this with a book that never slows down. Some unforgettable character moments — one involving a candy cane which, trust me, if you read this you won’t be able to forget — and a set up for the series which guarantees there will be many more Orphan X books to come.

If you’re not yet familiar with Hurwitz’s work, there’s never been a better time to jump on board this train. And if I can make a suggestion, pick up the Audible versions of the series as Scott Brick is THE voice of Evan Smoak and delivers an amazing performance.

Behrg Reviews “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King

gunslingerStart throwing your stones now, Constant Readers, but despite my immense love of King and his works I have never read the Dark Tower Series. The Gunslinger I’ve read a few times LONG ago, and I think I finished Drawing of the Three back then as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t take hold.

Well that was then, and this is now.

2018 will be the year of the Dark Tower for me, and I’m really excited to read through the entire series from start to finish without the delay of years between novels. I remember book one being more episodic in nature, but this time through I really dug the story and where King took it. For someone as prolific and popular as King is, he’s never been afraid of experimenting with his work, of challenging the status quo and the rules a novel should abide by. The Gunslinger hints at a much richer and darker world (or worlds) than is encapsulated in this single book, and being somewhat familiar with the mythos, it will be fun to fully dive in.

So wish me luck as I venture down this path with our fellow gunslinger on his journey towards the Dark Tower.

The Behrg Reviews “A Guide for Murdered Children” by Sarah Sparrow

guide.jpg“A Guide for Murdered Children” has all the ingredients needed for an amazing book – a unique concept, an inventive hook, troubled characters, and some phenomenal and edgy writing. Unfortunately just tossing all the ingredients into a big pan and hoping it comes out in the end doesn’t always work.

What this book is missing is a solid through-line. There’s no plot. Nothing that drives the story forward. Instead we have half a dozen subplots and tacked together character lines that never coalesce into something stronger.

I really wanted to love this book. Sparrow certainly has some chops and there were some great moments in this, but overall it just didn’t deliver an experience and felt as if it were three drafts short of a final product. Worth checking out, if nothing more than for Sparrow’s unique style. Hopefully others will enjoy what just didn’t work for me.

“Every monster dreams. Every monster imagines, aspires.”

* I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. My thanks to the author and publisher.

Confessions of a Reviewer tackles “HOUSEBROKEN”

It’s always an unexpected surprise to get a notice that one of your books has been reviewed by a review site you respect, even better when said review makes you want to read your own book.

Nev Murray’s fantastic Confessions of a Reviewer site finally got to a book I submitted to them sometime last year. I don’t know the reviewer, Elaine Pascal, but man can she write! Seriously, one of my favorite reviews. Check out this snippet:

Contemporary fiction nihilistically portrays the consequences of complacent inaction, but none with more gusto than Housebroken.

Check out the full review of HOUSEBROKEN, and if you haven’t yet read it yourself, Amazon has the book on a special promo this month as part of their Prime Reading program where for Prime members you can pick up the book for free.

Housebroken is a fantastic horror novel that is not for the faint of heart. I have not been this swept away by a thriller in a long time!

Thanks again to Elaine and the Confessions team.

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