Review: Riapoke by Bryan Nowak

Controlled by a demon, a town institutionalizes serial killing to free an evil trapped beneath its surface. A suspenseful, paranormal thriller

Title: Riapoke

Subtitle: Controlled by a demon, a town institutionalizes serial killing to free an evil trapped beneath its surface. A suspenseful, paranormal thriller

Author: Bryan Nowak

Genre: Paranormal Thriller, Suspense

Year of Publication: 2017

Self-Published

Rating: 3/5 stars

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review. Thank you, Bryan Nowak, for sending me this book!

“Just be careful up that way. On the other side of the lake, there is a little town called Riapoke. I’d steer clear of it. They are not particularly friendly to strangers up that way. (…) Just stick to the resort while you’re up there and you’ll be fine.” (p. 17-18)

Meghan Johnston and her seventeen-year-old son Kyle go on a trip before the boy leaves for college, in order to spend some quality time together. They drive to Hideaway Resort, a secluded resort in the Virginian wilderness, but along the way, they hear some strange stories about Riapoke, a small town on the other side of Lake Oleander and the mysterious disappearances that took place there. What will this mother-son vacation have in store for them? Will they listen to the warnings and stay away from the obscure town on the other side of the lake? Read and you will find out.

Meghan Johnston has been separated from her husband for twelve years; therefore she became the overprotective parent who suffocates her child with love. Kyle, on the other hand, loves being spoiled by Meghan, but he is a teenager now who needs independence in order to explore the world around him and to date girls. Therefore; it’s not hard to imagine that the boy is not too thrilled about this trip, but their adventure in the quaint town of Riaopke will certainly be an experience neither of them will forget. This journey will help both mother and son to strengthen their relationship and teach Kyle to become a responsible person.

There are some important characters in this story, but the most intriguing one is Reverend Donny Swenson is the Head of Riapoke, of the Church of the Master and anything you can think of because he controls the entire town, perform the sacrifices for the Master and manipulates the whole community to get what he or the Master wants. This character will give you the creeps for sure because he does disturbing stuff an ordinary priest would never do. At first glance, you might think that Donny is a kind and hospitable person, but when you fall into his trap, you realise that it’s too late to escape your fate. However, his intentions don’t lack reasoning and motivation because there is a prophecy he is eager to fulfil both for himself and the Master and it seems that Meghan and Kyle have the profile of the two people the prophecy talks about. Furthermore, the reverend is the only one who can communicate directly with the strange creature and can appease it because Donny’s office is connected to the underground cave in which the Master dwells and awaits its next victims

The place is more like a cult compound than a town. The whole shebang is run by a guy named Reverend Donny Swenson. He’s literally the head honcho of everything around here. He’s in charge of the police, fire department, garbage, even controls the local school board.” (p. 99)

The idea of a secluded town that institutionalized serial killing is very intriguing for a reader who enjoys thrillers, but I felt pretty detached from the story whether it’s because of the characters I couldn’t warm up to or the overall plot which didn’t always grip me. However, this doesn’t mean that the book is bad, but it was just not my cup of tea. While I was exploring this thriller, I realised that I don’t particularly enjoy reading about strange cults and human sacrifice. On a more deeper level, this book questions religion authority/power and manipulation in a secretive and secluded town, good and evil, the importance of having a family who should be bound by love, redemption, (lack of ) humanity and many more.

Riapoke has plenty gruesome scenes; therefore it’s not advisable to be read by a younger audience. The story is told from multiple perspectives (Carl, Waylon Anderson, Meghan, Donny, Matthew and Mike), which help you understand the plot better. I didn’t have a favourite character or scene, but the last quarter of the book was really dynamic and intense, while the ending turned the whole story on its head.

 If you love paranormal more than I do, you might enjoy this book, so pick it up if you are interested.

Review: The Makers by Natalie Wright

Book 2 of H.A.L.F.

 

Title: The Makers

Author: Natalie Wright

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Year of Publication: 2016

Published by Boadicea Press

Series: H.A.L.F.

Rating: 5/5 stars

WarningH.A.L.F. is a book series where every book is the sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this article contains spoilers from the first book. I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review. Thank you, Natalie Wright, for sending me this book!

Erika, Tex, Ian and Dr Randall are taken by the greys to a strange dark planet called Tro which is basically an immense lab used for experiments or to impregnate the Regina, their leader, with a new genetic material in order to create hybrids. The three teens have to endure painful examinations and experiments because the aliens intend to spread a dangerous virus to wipe out the human race.

Besides the oddity of their planet and their advanced technology, the greys which call themselves the Coonexus, have the ability to control minds. The humans are not capable of telepathic communication, but Tex is the perfect victim for the Regina, who tries to lure him into becoming one with the Connexus. It’s very tempting for Tex to seek answers to overwhelming questions he wanted to ask the aliens, but a part of his mind doesn’t want to connect to the Regina and to let go of the memories he shared with Dr Randall and his human friends.

We are one mind. One being. We are Conexus. That is all that is necessary. Soon you too will become Conexus and know the power of the collective mind. Then you shall know all that we know and the Conexus will know you.” (Loc. 306-308)

Meanwhile, Jack goes on a mission with Commander Sturgis’ nephews, Anna Sturgis and her geeky twin brother Thomas to help their aunt break out of prison and to rescue Alecto from Croft’s hands. Anna and Thomas’ parents belong to a secret organisation called The Makers which has its hidden agenda, very different from ordinary people’s needs. Furthermore, Croft (the head of the organisation) and his men are only interested in the survival of the elite in the impending alien war. However, there are also realities between the Sturgis and the Crofts because Anna’s dad, Robert Sturgis, questions some of Croft’s plans; therefore he might be in great danger and Anna knows many of the Makers’ secrets as well because she has been spying on her father, so she could expose all of them before they continue taking more innocent lives.

“The only difference was that Croft’s men wore the Makers’ symbol embroidered on their chests, a gold emblem of two snakes eating each other’s tails set against a pyramid background.” (Loc. 148-149)

This book is my favourite one of the trilogy because it was very dynamic, visual, it had a lot of twists and turns and if you ask me, I felt that I read a great combination of sci-fi, thriller, dystopian and horror with young adult characters. This novel was very intense, bloody, gory, even scary at times, but well-written with characters who fight for their and their friends’ lives or go off the grid to stop an obscure organisation from killing innocent people for their own benefits. Though I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, I really appreciate what Ms Wright wrote this tense yet plausible story.

In the end, I highly recommend this book and the entire trilogy to anyone who enjoys reading young adult sci-fi novels.

Review: Passion, Power & Sin by Mike Wells

 

Book 1 of Passion, Power & Sin

 

Note: Passion, Power & Sin is a freebie as well as all of Mike Wells’ first instalments in this series!

Title: Passion, Power & Sin

Subtitle: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Financial Thriller

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Passion, Power & Sin

Rating: 3.5/5

Have you ever wondered what would you do if you fell behind on your mortgage and you were to lose the house of your parents? This is the situation Heather Bancroft from Passion, Power & Sin has to face. Because she is in desperate need of money to save her North-Carolina house, the twenty-four-year-old woman moves to New York City hoping to get a good job fast, solve her financial issues and live a far better life than she did at home. Unfortunately, she ends up having a poorly paid job at a PR firm where her bosses belittle and treat her like their servant. Being stuck in a rut and with the approaching foreclosure procedure, Heather takes a leap of faith and enters into the world of illegal gambling with the help of an anonymous Friend in Need who sends her strange emails with obscure betting information and accurate predictions.

“If these predictions kept coming in as steadily as they had been, and she could keep betting on them, she might be able to save her mother’s house.” (Loc. 2613)

At first glance, Heather is clearly naïve and a dreamer, but she’d rather gamble and win a significant amount of money than asking her wealthy boyfriend David Windsor to help her, which is a sign of pride because she would feel humiliated and in more debt to do such a thing. However, even if Heather is an independent woman who wants to take matters into her own hands, she also makes mistakes, some of which are pretty stupid, but, I can’t blame her because she is in a desperate situation and she needs money fast regardless of her safety. For example, one of the emails she receives force her to go to a well-known metropolis, where she wants to bet on a sporting event, but she ends up tangled in the underbelly of that city. Though this part of the story was the most gripping and suspenseful, I think that your safety is more precious than anything else in the world and it’s not worth risking it. Though it’s pretty hard to root for Heather because she got involved in illegal betting, even if it was for a noble cause, I wanted to see her safe and I was curious to read about how much money she would win in order to save the house.

I love the way we enter into Heather’s mind and we observe how the psychology of addiction works. Though Heather does this questionable activity to save her family from debt, we cannot overlook the thrill she gets and the addictive effect of gambling just like in the case of narcotics or alcohol.  Similarly to a drug addict, Heather hides her shady activities from everyone else, including her roommate Percy or her boyfriend David. This book outlines scary yet fascinating aspects of the human mind; motivation and what despair can do to you. I also think that this story is pretty realistic because any naive or desperate person under financial pressure can fall victim to an Internet scam which may seem benign at first, but very nasty later.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel, the suspenseful moments that drove me crazy with anticipation, the characters are morally grey and pretty realistic, the simple writing that makes the book easy to read and vivid descriptions of New York City and of another famous metropolis whose culture is very different from the one Heather grew up in. As for what I didn’t like about this book, I anticipated a twist by the end of the novel to turn everything upside down and to prepare the reader for the sequel. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any resolution for the first instalment and I was a bit disappointed. Also, I couldn’t find a section of the blurb in this book. Therefore, without a clear-cut resolution, the story was left hanging in mid-air as well as my expectations. However, I’m still interested in picking up the second book just to see what happens next to Heather.

Did any of you read this book? What do you think about it?

Review: Forbidden by Mike Wells and Devika Fernando

 Book 1 of Forbidden

A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Title: Forbidden

Subtitle: A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Authors: Mike Wells, Devika Fernando

Genre: Romantic Thriller

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: Forbidden

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

For today’s post, I’ve decided to share with you the review I wrote for Forbidden, the first instalment of a romantic thriller series written by Mile Wells and co-authored by Devika Fernando. When I read this novel, there were only three books in the series, but the authors announced the release of the fourth one in late June. There are some mixed opinions about the first book out there, but, in the end, you will decide whether it’s interesting enough for you or not. My opinions and rating are somewhere in the middle because this novel wasn’t that bad, it was pretty much an easy read, but I wanted a little more from content.

The novel follows two alternating plotlines and perspectives: Eleanor’s rebellious teenage years and Jayne’s story from the day she met Lady Eleanor Sotheby onwards, a shocking and life-changing discovery she has never imagined. Though the two plotlines are strongly linked to each other due to Eleanor’s presence, I think that Eleanor’s dark past is more interesting than the present because it’s more suspenseful and its pace is more dynamic than the other plotline which has a steadier pace and some of the events are pretty predictable if you ask me.

At first glance, Eleanor may seem cultured and posh, but her true temper leaks out when things don’t go her way, just like in her early life. She is ambitious, snobbish and now she cares what other socialites have to say about her or her daughter’s reputation. Eleanor is a morally grey and complex character and the way she acts reminds me of another unlikable yet well-built character, Kathy Brogan from Black Widow. Eleanor is also in charge of Jayne’s transformation into a cultured young lady to make her adapt much easier to the new lifestyle and challenges she has to face.

“And what was acting, anyway? Nothing more than being a good liar, and she was very accomplished at that. She had been “acting” ever since she could remember.” (Loc. 591)

 But how Eleanor became a filthy rich widow who has so many connections in socialite circles? Dark secrets should always be buried in the past and Eleanor guards them well because no one should find out how her life was like before becoming Lady Sotheby. She had to take many risks that suited her rebellious nature, but Celeste and Jayne don’t need to know that because the truth would shatter the picture-perfect image of this rich widow and she can’t allow that to happen. Therefore, lies are a useful tool to paint the truth in brighter colours.

The rest of the characters are not complex as Lady Sotheby, but we can easily recognise who is Jayne and who is Celeste because Jayne is sweet, caring, introverted and a girl who works hard to support her loved ones despite her frequent asthma attacks, while Celeste is stubborn, spoiled, posh, self-absorbed, loves parties and speed. And talking about the two girls, one of my favourite scenes is when Jayne and Celeste meet, shock, curiosity and emotions overwhelm each other; it was a truly touching moment.

“This wasn’t her exact reflection she was looking at—this was a version of Jayne dressed in expensive designer clothes, with a fashionably short haircut, and decked out in expensive jewelry.” (Loc. 392)

To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled with the beginning of the book, but the hook came along with Jayne’s journey to Nice to meet Celeste. Though Jayne is a sweetheart and I liked her as a character, I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes because I couldn’t be that selfless to help Celeste, whom I’ve recently met just because she did a mistake that threatens her reputation and Lady Sotheby’s ambitions. However, the book is interesting because you get a glimpse of how the lives of rich people really are, besides the glamour and the influence they have in their exclusive circles.

The writing is beautiful in the main story with an overall steady pace and realistic in Eleanor’s shady story building the suspense. I enjoyed most of the novel and the characters though I would have liked this first book to be longer because it ended a bit abruptly for my taste. I might pick up the second book someday, just to see how Jayne and Robert’s relationship develops, but only time will tell if I will still be interested in reading it.

Review: To Read or Not to Read by Vincent Hobbes

Title: To Read or Not to Read

Author: Vincent Hobbes

Genre: Horror, Short Story

First Published in 2011

Published by Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

Rating: 4/5 stars

“I rent time for people to read, Frau McClain. Time for people who have no time to spare.” Strauss’ eyes twinkled. (Loc. 192-193)

I picked up To Read or Not to Read by Vincent Hobbes a few years ago and I rated it pretty low because I didn’t know at the time that I was reading a short story belonging to the horror genre. However, now I thought that I needed to reread it and re-evaluate the story because I grew up as a reader and I’ve read a more diverse range of books than I used to four years ago.

This story revolves around a quaint little bookstore named Strauss Books after its German owner’s name, Mr Günter von Strauss, a secret place known only to a few people. Despite the fact that Strauss is a mysterious and eccentric old man who rips out pages from the books he stacks to keep his clients safe, he is very polite and friendly to the people who enter his bookstore, including Shelby McClain, the woman whom we follow throughout the entire story. Should she follow her instinct and leave this odd place or should she give in, pick a book and see what happens? Are Mr Strauss’ books magical as the customers claim? Read and you will find out!

I love the concept of a magic bookstore, where you can buy time to read and experience the book of your choice for a few minutes. It’s a bit like in Eliade’s novella, where time flows differently after you close the door behind you and the rules of the outside world just vanish away. The story has a steady pace, it’s suspenseful, the writing is simple but it suits the narrative well and the characters have distinguishable voices. I personally wanted to learn more about the German librarian, who seems to be a kind of link between two very different worlds.

I hope that this review sparked your interest in reading this short and enjoyable book. Personally, I’m glad that I finally gave it a second chance, it was definitely worth it. Happy reading everyone!