Tag Archives: paranormal

The Cabin at the End of the Woods: A Novel by Paul Tremblay

This one is a bit of a psychological thriller with a paranormal twist combined with some religious overtones, and for me, it didn’t work. Despite its short, almost novella length, I couldn’t wait for The Cabin At the End of the World: A Novel to be over. Paul Tremblay’s try at suspense was simply gratuitous violence which was painful to read.

It starts out sweetly with a strange man stopping at a little red cabin deep in the woods which a family had rented to relax for the summer in New Hampshire. Leonard is talking to a seven year girl, Wen, who is catching grasshoppers and transferring them into a glass jar, naming and recording each one for further observation. This precocious child had been adopted in China by two dads, Eric and Andrew, who together were a genuine, loving family. (While there is a touch of homophobia in this book, the inclusion of a same sex marriage is secondary to the overall theme). Leonard and his three “friends”, have a different sort of agenda, one which should appall every reader. The rationale for their actions is questionable, if not insane, while the couple’s reaction to the situation is totally understandable. I suppose Tremblay wanted the reader to make some sense out of the chaos caused by these intruders, but the clues he does give do not begin to explain the reasons for this lunacy, leaving us more confused at the end then we were when we started.

While I don’t go looking for titles which feature blood and gore, I don’t necessarily avoid them either, but in this case I question, not only the premise, but the results – and a biblical reference or two just seems like a sop for a weary reader to justify all the bizarre behaviors.

The story is told from the viewpoint of several of the characters, but their thoughts are disjointed and the change in tenses (I’m not a fan of present tense narration) is annoying at best. Perhaps this story would translate better as a visual via Netflix or Amazon Prime for those who like the carnage of Horror Movies, just don’t expect me to be one of the viewers.

Overall, not my favorite.
Two and a half stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Everybody has a secret, but when someone’s past interfere with the lives of others, it’s no longer a secret, it’s a crime. Then to make it all more interesting, add in a twist of the bizarre – perhaps a freak of nature, perhaps a supernatural phenomena, perhaps a curse perpetuated on all mankind hidden away until the right time to strike.

When would such an evil manifest itself? Just look at the hidden endangerments of our past, such as out in the wilderness of the California Trail from 1946-47 where travel was already fraught with jeopardy from the varieties of both human nature and the elements. Take a true story such as, The Donner Party, which already has a tendency to make the reader squeamish, then come up with an alternate explanation for the tragedy which took the lives of half the pioneers heading west through the treacherous Hastings Cutoff and the Sierra Nevada, made even more deadly by the brutal winter, and add in an evil lurking along the trail.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu intertwines historical facts with a fictional explanation to create an aberrant account depicting the lives of a group of travelers heading to California. Put ninety people (young and old, haves and have nots, families and loners) together and there’s bound to be trouble, even without a danger lurking in the background. Warning: don’t get too attached to any of the individual members of this trip, even the ones who sense what is happening, because their chances of survival are minimal.

At first I thought this was just another take on the Donner Party catastrophe, but then I began to realize this particular quirky tale was perhaps a bit more. The breezy style of the author rounded out the personalities of the numerous characters, adding extra details and motivations via letters or backstories from an earlier time. Although I knew the foregone conclusion, the author was able to put a different slant on the saga to keep me guessing right up to the end. My major complaint was the difficulty I had keeping track of all the names and identities of everyone in the story, which could have been easily solved by a brief annotated list or family tree of all the participants in the caravan. It need not be stated that the unanticipated shortage of supplies, along with an enemy with a voracious appetite, leant itself to a title indicating the need for food.

Four stars and a thank you to Edelweiss and Putnam Sons for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Too Sinful to Deny (Scoundrels and Sinners, Book 2) by Erica Ridley

Susan Stanton loves gossip, so much that when she overhears a juicy bit from a wife cuckolding her husband, she finds herself on the wrong side of The Ton, despite the truth to her words. Her mother’s attempt to marry her off to a morally questionable but well off gentlemen was destined to fail (see Too Wicked to Kiss) so she ends up confined to her room until further notice. Yet Susan was determined to attend The Frost Fair in celebration of the Thames freezing over, a rare occurrence. Who knew that despite her stealthy attempts to sneak out, she was discovered when she fell through the ice and drowned. Luckily she was rescued and brought back to life, but only to be banished from her beloved London – packed up and sent to the end of nowhere at Moonseed Manor in Bournemouth, to stay with her cousin Lady Beaune with the closest center of civilization the town of Bath.

The situation is even worse that Susan expected when there is no Lady Beaune to greet her and she is “welcomed” instead by her cousin’s creepy husband, Ollie. The town folks don’t cotton to her overtures of friendship, especially the owner of the dress shop who resents her popularity with the only decent men around including Gordon Forrester, the local magistrate. Susan’s only interest, though, is to find a way home again, if only she can discover a way to get to the closest town where her recognizable family name will provide the means of the necessary escape. Things are looking up when Forrester offers to accompany her to the upcoming Assembly in Bath, occurring in about two weeks, but Susan is not sure she can wait that long. It seems that there have been a series of recent deaths, and the lingering ghosts can’t rest until she does them each a favor. Seeing and hearing spirits seems to be a new but unwanted talent she has acquired after her near death experience and she’ll do anything to shut them up. Of course, these are ghosts of the recently departed, so who exactly is the murderer? There is a plethora of suspects which only a Bow Street Runner could untangle. Then there is the question of her missing cousin. Is she buried under that unmarked grave or is it that freshly dug mound of earth the resting place of some other hapless soul? Nobody’s talking.

Complicatiog her life is Ollie’s friend, Evan Bothwick, a devastatingly handsome rogue tinkering in the Pirate business and bent on making her his latest conquest. If only she could trust him, but she worries that he will not only keep her from escaping, but also steal her heart. Her focus is to keep her eye on the prize – someone from The Ton who loves London as much as she does, ready to marry a chaste and pure innocent, a dream threatened by Evan’s carefree ways.

Too Sinful to Deny, Book 2 in the Scoundrels and Sinners series, never seemed to end. While Erica Ridley tried to capture a sense of gothic all she exceeded in doing was to create a horrifying scenario filled with mean spiritedness and senseless violence which could not be compensated for by the rest of the trappings of a Regency Romance. The ghosts actually provided a bit of levity, if you can believe that. While the love interests had a somewhat decent sensibility, the townsfolk were a horrid unredeeming bunch who I’d just as soon not meet again. The only scene which brought a smile to my lips was when the heroine buys a seemingly endless round of drinks resulting in a packed bar with a tab she can never hope to pay unless her parents cough up her allowance.

If you are a fan of the Saw movies, this one is for you, but if you avoid fare such as chainsaw massacres, then find another book to read. Two and a half stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Too Wicked to Kiss (Scoundrels and Secrets, Book 1) by Erica Ridley

Miss Evangeline Pemberton has a gift or perhaps it’s better to describe it as a curse. The daughter of a gypsy, she has inherited the ability to see “visions”, whether from the past, present, or future, just by touching another. Her mother, forced to marry in the face of disgrace, has died at the hands of her sadistic husband, forcing Evangeline to run away or face the cruelty of a stepfather that feels he owns her and her power. Unfortunately the woman she has turned to in desperation is also quite despicable and she finds herself at a house party in a creepy mansion owned by Gavin Lioncroft, a known killer, with the task of helping compromise her friend Susan, Lady Stanton’s daughter, into matrimony to that very owner of Blackberry Manor. Little does Evangeline expect to develop feeling for the handsome, gruff man who has a tendency to react with his fists, nor does Gavin know how to combat the instant attraction they feel towards one another.

Also at the gathering is Lioncroft’s sister, Rose, with her husband, Lord Hetherton, and their children, as well as Rose’s brother-in-law, Benedict Rutherford and his wife Francine, plus their cousin Edmund. An elderly, doddering gentleman, Mr Teasdale has also been invited (targeted) as a prospective husband for Rose’s eldest daughter Nancy. Hetherton turns out to be a real piece of work so when he turns up dead nobody, except perhaps his children, seem upset. His insulting behavior gives everyone a motive, but the prime candidate is the host who publicly threatened to kill his brother-in-law after witnessing the results of his spousal abuse. Somehow Evangeline’s gift has been revealed, although she claims her insight is because she hears messages from God, and she sets out to discover the truth, hopefully proving Gavin’s innocence. Mayhem ensues. While everyone wants to leave ASAP, it is Jane’s thirteenth birthday and she has been promised a party so they all stay to celebrate resulting in the best day of her life (despite her recent father’s murder), giving Evangeline time to discover the identity of the true murderer.

While this started out as an enticing read Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley turned out to be long winded with internal repetitive narratives which distracted from the whole. Disguised as a Gothic story, instead of being mysterious, much of this Regency Romance is nonsensical. While there were some potentially interesting characters, none of the secondary cast of players was fully developed. The reason Miss Susan Stanton (one of the better defined individuals) was banned from society and thus reduced to entrapping a husband, was lame and the reader is at a loss for the irrational behaviors of her mother. Edmund was constantly drunk which was perhaps a reason for his inappropriate crudeness which would never have been tolerated at a house party, and the other guests were just as one sided in their descriptions. The children, however, were a delight, and injected some light heartedness into a dark theme. I also couldn’t understand why the Lioncrofts blackballed their brother after their parents death since it was all obviously an accident. Under all the handwringing there was a decent plot, but you had to search to find it. This is Book 1 of the Scoundrels and Secrets series.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on my blog, Gotta Read.

Venn Diagram by Wendy Brant

Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant is as cute as the title suggests. High School Senior Eva (pronounced “ever” without the “r”), is gifted in mathematics and helps tutor other students who need a leg up. A PK (Pastor’s Kid), she has extra responsibilities involving her quadruplets siblings, the eees, who at three are a handful requiring more than one set of hands. With so many mouths to feed, her dreams of attending a top notch college hinge on receiving a hefty scholarship. Then she meets Zenn, (pronounced like Zenn Diagram), who captures her heart as she helps him up his math grades. Zenn is a true artist who also has dreams of attending a prestigious college despite his lack of funds to pay the all-too-expensive tuition.

Sounds like your typical teen novel, but there are a bunch of twists starting with a terrible car accident which occurred when Eva was a baby, killing her parents and leaving her with a rare gift/curse – the ability to decipher the emotions of people through physical contact with them or the objects they have touched. With small children it’s all pastel colors and sweet thoughts, but adults radiate complicated vibes which often leave Eva prostrate as their angst can be overwhelming. Eva fantasizes about touching Zenn, a feat she fears is beyond her ability due to the anticipated negative reaction. Somehow she must figure out how their relationship can move beyond the pupil/teacher stage, especially when Zenn seems to feel a mutual attraction. Of course, Eva is not the only one with a secret, and the mystery in Zenn’s life threatens to affect the future of both of their lives. Add in a lifelong best friend who kinda goes MIA when the popular athletic boy shows an interest and an interesting home dynamic which interferes with any thoughts of romance, and you have a fun little YA novel.

While this debut novel by Wendy Brant is well worth the read, the author needs to watch out for repetitive thoughts (Eva too often laments about her inability to touch Zenn and her difficulty going to her first choice college). However, there are several twists which will keep the reader guessing and a hopeful conclusion which seems reasonable without being too sicky-sweet. Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

We all know that King Henry VIII was obsessed with his legacy which is one of the reasons he ended up with six wives. It also led to England’s break with the Pope who refused to annul Henry’s first marriage. When the King died, his only son Edward became the new King of England at the age of nine, with the crown being controlled by a series of “advisers” whose chief purpose was to line their own pockets, profiting from pilfered land and the titles and funds associated with those properties. Whether King Edward VI, at the age of fifteen, died of TB or was poisoned is still up to conjecture, but immediately prior to his death he signed a proclamation naming his cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her progeny, next in line to the throne in order to keep his older half sister, Mary, from taking control of the country. Mary had different ideas about the succession, imprisoning Lady Jane and eventually beheading her for treason. Jane’s total term as Queen lasted only nine days. Queen Mary I, a devout Catholic, sought revenge for her father’s persecution against the priesthood by beheading self proclaimed Protestants, earning her the title of Bloody Mary. After five years on the throne, Mary died childless, possibly of ovarian or uterine cancer, and her younger half sister Elizabeth ascended to power and ruled for forty five years undoing the damage of Mary’s fanaticism by encouraging the Protestant Church to grow and flourish.

Many writers have replicated these events in books and various theatrical events. However, when three YA authors got together, they decided it would be fun to create an alternative interpretation of these historic events and present an irreverent version of the fate befalling the Tudors in the 1550’s. Instead of dealing with a religious conflict in My Lady Jane, the authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, elected to bestow an alter ego to the population, allowing select individuals to have a separate “personality” in the form of an animal. These Edians were discriminated against by the Verities – those individuals who did not have the shape shifting gene.

In this fantasy, King Edward barely manages to escape a death by poison, changing into a kestrel and flying to safety. Lady Jane finds herself married to Lord G who is a horse by day, while she morphs into a ferret each night. Using their animal forms, the two are able to allude their executioners. Filling in the blanks with real and imaginary details, the three authors painstakingly paint an absurd portrait of love, romance, betrayal, and conflict as Edward seeks a path back to the throne. Unfortunately, the fantasy portion is in direct conflict with reality, so they also need to develop an imaginative conclusion which somewhat coincides with the realm of possibility.

The readers can tell the authors had a good time ad-libbing an amusing variant to English history. They did their research, visiting such locales as the Tower of London and interviewing historians about the sequence of events. They even threw in some salacious tidbits, such as the scandalous behavior of Lady Jane’s mother running off with the horse master, which sounds like fiction, but is actually true. Unfortunately, I found the entire book too silly for my taste, and at times annoying, especially since the plot dragged on and on for close to 500 pages. While I normally have a sense of humor, (I enjoyed Spelled by Betsy Schow, a twisted version of The Wizard of Oz) and am no stranger to books featuring shape shifters or alternate paths (Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith), this book fell short.

Now don’t let me keep you from reading this novel. There are many who loved the premise and its implementation (it was even voted the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2016), I’m just not one of them. However, kudos for introducing a whole generation of readers to the little known historical event where Lady Jane Gray served a brief stint in the monarchy of England. So for finding a unique way to educate the average reader – three stars. (If you want to read a superior fantasy, although not written to be humorous, that involves animals and humans – please check out Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy).

Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Many Lives by Beau North and Brooke West

“How interesting,” I thought, “Pride and Prejudice from Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy’s point of view.” The plot starts out at the Netherfield Ball where Darcy asks Elizabeth Bennet to dance and she rakes him over the coals basing her opinion on his character on Wickham’s lies. Noting the attraction his friend Bingley has for Jane, the two depart for London, Darcy convinced that they have narrowly escaped from a potential entanglement with the deplorable Bennet family. Yet, Elizabeth has intrigued Fitzwilliam and when she turns up at Rosings visiting her cousin the vicar and his new wife, her best friend Charlotte Lucas, Darcy has a difficult time containing his ever growing attraction. Despite the meddling of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is trying to force a match with her obviously uninterested daughter Anne, both Darcy and his cousin Colonel Robert Fitzwillams dawdle around the vicarage, interacting with the captivating, unconventional Elizabeth. Caught between love and duty, Darcy eventually blurts out an offensive proposal which the horrified Lizzie rejects. Those of you who have studied the original story will be familiar with the plot which the authors have faithfully followed to this point .with a few well placed additions.

It is at this juncture where Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Many Lives by Beau North and Brooke West strays from the traditional events. In a Regency version of the movie Groundhog Day, Darcy is forced to relive that horrible day over and over until he can figure out how to escape the never ending loop of rejection. There is no escape, not even death can keep him from reawakening on that fateful Sunday morning. Not sure whether this is a Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Many Lives by Beau North and Brooke Westpunishment or a warning, Darcy tries different tacks for dealing with the interconnections between those who inhabit his world until he can discover the truth about himself and the ones he loves.

Since this paranormal story is a sort of alternative universe, it deviates from the well known plot found in Austin’s work although the majority of characters are the same. The writing style is appropriate for the era and the story moves along, although it gets a little tedious before a resolution is discovered. Without the diversions found in the original Pride and Prejudice, the climax falls a little flat despite the HEA resolution. The epilogue finds the 78 year old Darcy reminiscing over his life and the family he loves, the heartfelt sentiments only marred by the authors treating his character as a doddering old man closer to ninety than his late seventies (a common error when younger authors try to describe the actions of an older generation).

A creative knock off and one of the better Austin Fan Fictions on the market; Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Welcome to the Village of Arnn, a rural area not too far from NYC where time and legend seem to stand still. Honoria can’t help noticing the differences between her new classmates and her old way of life in the city, a life which was destroyed along with her parents when the Twin Towers collapsed. She imagines her current situation reflected in an imaginary fashion magazine showcasing her new friends’ rustic style vs her old preppie ways at the private school she used to attend. Without her faimiliar school uniform she wonders how to fit into this new environment. When the opportunity comes to visit the supposedly haunted Witchwood Hollow, taunted by her two new buddies, she disappears into the foliage at once feeling comforted yet panicky until she finds her way home. The woods seem to call to her with enticement despite her inherent fear.

Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, the author of Escape From Witchwood Hollow sets up this haunted tale starting in the 1650s when Lady Clifford is eluding capture and certain death for killing her neighbor. Unremorseful, she builds a life for herself in the woods with her magic, determined to trap unsuspecting visitors to provide new provisions and perhaps keep her company. In this way she finds a phusband who eventually deserts her so their child can have a more normal upbringing in the village. Two hundred years later, Albertine Slack has the opportunity to come to the states from her native England to live with her relocated father and marry the neighboring farmer’s son. Eager to join her dad, she attempts to walk to the farm only a mile from the village, but the woods beckon and she becomes entrapped, unable to find a way out. Eventually she meets up with others in a similar situation and, despite their varying backgrounds from different eras, they form a family. Somehow Mierek intertwines the centuries and characters into a cohesive whole as the details of the Witchwood Hollow folklore are revealed.

First off, Mierek is an promising storyteller with a vivid imagination and a pleasant writing style which keeps the reader engaged. Escape from Witchwood Hollow has a touch of Dahl, a pinch of Irving, and some aspects of Lost Horizon’s Shangri La. The lyrics to Hotel California kept playing through my head – “You can check in any time you’d like, but you can never leave.” That being said, I felt this book was an excellent first draft, but at 179 pages there were an additional 50 to 100 pages available to flesh out the plot and turn an engaging tale into one which was truly gripping. While the main character was well defined, I felt the supporting cast could have been better developed to provide plausible motivations for their behaviors. Even the witch was sketchy, with details of her past dropped incidentally throughout the story. Besides Honoria, Allison was the other unambiguous character who provided a engrossing glimpse into the legend. With a little more plot and background information, some of the questionable events would have made more sense. I also found the surprise ending kind of abrupt as if the author thought “That’s all I have to say, let’s wrap this up.” While I wasn’t crazy about the culminating events, I did understand why the author went in that direction and it definitely fit the tone of a paranormal story meant for high school and young adult audiences.

Excellent effort and I look forward to future books which, I am sure, will be honed to fascinating perfection.

Three and a half stars and a thank you to the author for providing an ARC of her book in exchange for an honest review. This post also appears on Goodreads.

The Witch of Painted Sorrow by M.J. Rose

In The Witch of Painted Sorrow by M.J. Rose, the reader is drawn into the cultural world of 1890’s Belle Époque Paris filled with the romance of the sight, sounds, and language inherent to this time and place. Sandrine Salome has fled her self centered husband in New York City who has driven her beloved father to suicide through his embezzlement from the bank they jointly managed. Sandrine turns to the only place of refuge open to her, the home of her grandmother, Eva Verlaine also known as L’Incendie or The Fire, a celebrated courtesan living at Maison de la Lune. To her horror, the lavish house is dark and devoid of human life. Luckily a neighbor brings her to her grand-mere’s new location, a short distance away. While Sandrine is led to believe that the mansion is closed for renovations, the elegant house is really being inventoried and readied to become the Museum of the Grand Horizontals. Although Eva loves Sandrine, she is horrified at the turn of events and encourages her grand-daughter to return home to her husband Benjamin. Sandrine has no intention of returning to a loveless marriage and feels drawn to her ancestral home where she spends more and more of her time, especially when she discovers the charismatic, handsome curator and architect, Julien, who is inventorying the vast collection of artifacts. Sandrine fears she is as frigid as her husband claims, but discovers she does have a passionate side, both in love and in art. This must have been an inherited talent passed on through the generations, unless it is as her grandmother fears, a ghostly interference by La Lune who is capable of invading the soul of the women in the Verlaine family. Grandmother warns, “For the women in our family, love is a curse, not a blessing.” La Lune feeds on strong emotions, especially the erotic, but Sandrine throws caution to the wind, enjoying her new found freedom as a woman. Her life centers around being an artist and a lover as she immerses herself into the Parisian culture of the bohemian crowd.

M.J. Rose weaves an intricate tale. Her detailed back drop makes Paris comes alive and we don’t blame Sandrine for wanting to take advantage of the opportunities, even if her normally timid personality is overcome by an invading spirit. Of course, La Lune does more than direct Sandrine’s life. Tragedy also paves the way for the ever selfish diva to burrow deeper into her host’s soul. The loving grandmother must be punished for her interference. Others as well feel the results of La Lune’s wrath.

As in all Gothic novels, at times you must suspend your belief and accept the surreal. So, while the story seems a bit far fetched, despite the supernatural theme, it is still an enjoyable read (just don’t look too closely at all the details). Even though there is quite a bit of action within the story, a lot of the narrative consists of Sandrine’s introspection as her desires are awoken. She fears her grandmother is right about the danger of becoming possessed and wonders if her new behaviors come from within or is she reflecting the nature of La Lune. Yet, Sandrine is enjoying life too much to want this experience to stop. My main criticism is that too much time is spent on these repetitive thoughts. I would have liked to have seen more action or a better development of the plot and minor characters. Also, the author tends to go to extremes where the tragedies are just a little too tragic. The husband is made out to be a bigger villain than he really is – not abusive, just an inconsiderate lover. While he brought dishonor through his actions to her father, was he truly a murderer? Then again, when evil is in the heart, who knows how it will be expressed. While Sandrine’s initial reactions to Benjamin seem to be misplaced (as if her life were in danger), perhaps it was her newly discovered personal freedom which she wanted to keep from his grasp. The mores of the times are forever in the background, where women had limited rights in a male dominated world. This puts Sandrine’s outrageous behaviors into greater perspective. Since this is the first of a series, the ending, by necessity, had to be open ended enough for the sequel, but I felt the conclusion was satisfying.

My advice is to read at least the first hundred pages or so before judging the book. Once the stage is set, the pace picks up as Sandrine explores her expanding universe, including Parisian Night Life and the occult, as she sets out to break down barriers. Three and a half stars.

A thank you to Atria and Netgalley for allowing me to read a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Half Dead, Fully Broken by Kevin Craig

What does it mean to be a twin? Is it this mystical connection which transcends time and space, even after death? When one hears of a tragic accident involving a teenager, we groan with dismay, but if we discover that the victim is also a twin, we cringe even more. It’s something about the idea of two beings who are almost one that gets us in the gut when they are torn apart, as if they were conjoined at the heart.

Kevin Craig uses this pull in his story Half Dead, Fully Broken. Identical twins Marcus and Carter Colby may look alike, but they are polar opposites. One is the popular guy while the other is the loser, almost as if they were the yin and yang symbols – only one can shine while the other is left out in the dark. The dominant twin (there always seems to be one who is the stronger of the two) convinces his brother that it’s too nice a day to walk to school – no, it’s the perfect day to get out the motorbike, nicknamed Rosie, and ride to school in style. Even though Marcus is the trustworthy one, he does something foolish that fateful day, run a red light and get smashed to smithereens by a pickup truck driven by fellow student, football captain Justin Dewar.

From the beginning our emotions are rent. Enter grieving girlfriend Melanie, devastated star athlete Justin, and forlorn twin Carter and the author creates an unlikely three musketeers. Only it’s not a trio, but a quartet, because Marcus still has a task to complete. He hangs around his bro, appearing and disappearing at will, offering the opportunity to “meld” into one (which includes super hero talents such as feats of flying, strength, and invisibility, as well as an ability to walk through walls). All these skills will be necessary if the three friends have any hope of finding some kind of normalcy in their lives.

This book is less than two hundred pages, yet it feels like more as the reader experiences the grief of family and friends. It is definitely not a feel good story. The narrative is told through the eyes of surviving twin Carter, although we are able to experience his newly found friends’ viewpoints through their IMs. The author cleverly has Carter be a novice with this communication device, so that some of the abbreviations can be explained to any nonsaavy reader.

To me, the technology seems old. How many kids still IM? This makes me wonder about the date of the setting. I know the location is in the US, but it must be somewhere up in the Northeast since the kids hang out at Tim Horton’s which they call Timmy’s. These coffee shops were started by the Buffalo Sabre’s Canadian hockey player, Tim Horton, who was tragically killed in a car accident (a coincidence?) so he didn’t live to see the successful development of his franchise throughout Canada and the bordering states. I live in WNY where Tim Horton’s is very popular (super competitive with Star Bucks and Duncan Donuts). I visit there all the time and nobody I know calls it Timmy’s, but then, I’m not a teenager.

While the premise of this book is intriguing, there is just something about it that I find off putting. Perhaps there should have been more character development, perhaps the plot could have been fuller, perhaps the ending was too abrupt. The chapters are super short and the book is under two hundred pages which would make it appropriate for those hard to please middle school students, especially since there is no graphic sex (just some handholding and a few kissing sequences). A theme dealing with the death of a high schooler might also make it appealing to older students. There is more introspection than action in the story, although the final results have the potential to be deadly. The author is contemplating a sequel and it would be interesting to see what happens next, especially since the book ends so quickly after the climatic sequence. So, if I am curious about the future of these characters, I guess I did like the book. However, I predict a preteen boy would like it much better. Three stars.

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.