Book Review: Illusion

Finished Reading: Illusion
by Frank Peretti

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense

When half of a famous, married magical duo dies, the other half (Dane) is left to carry on in whatever way he can. When the wife that died (Mandy) wakes up alive and well, but thinking she’s only 19 and year is 1970, she has to figure out what’s real and what’s imaginary. Then these two meet, and Mandy doesn’t know Dane, while Dane thinks he’s going crazy. What follows is a tale of intrigue, as Dane helps Mandy with a solo magic act, and Mandy tries to understand a mysterious power she seems to have, which makes her magic much more real.

Frank Peretti has long been my favorite author, but there are still several of his books I haven’t read. This is his latest novel, published in 2012, well after I stopped reading regularly. I read the synopsis and immediately put it near the top of my TBR list. And it did not disappoint. I enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end.

I enjoyed watching Mandy’s abilities develop and the mystery surrounding them unfold. The shows she puts on get more and more spectacular, and I’ll admit, I wish I could see the illusions, rather than read about them, but Peretti does a good job of explaining what’s going on, both from the audience’s perspective and from Mandy’s.

The cause of Mandy’s abilities is not left unexplained, and while it gets a bit convoluted for my mind, I still thought it all played together nicely. There are some sci-fi elements that came together in such a way that I really liked (but can’t say more to avoid spoilers).

My main complaint about the book was that the first third, or so, was filled with so many minor characters that came and went, or that were called by one name, then another later (ex. Mr. Jones at first, then Tom later), that I was really confused more than once. I can’t say they weren’t all necessary, or that the change in name use didn’t make sense, but now and then, I would have like a subtle reminder of who someone was when they showed up again after being absent for a few chapters.

The ending was exactly what I wanted it to be and then some! I was just so happy when I finished this book. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Christian mystery, suspense, or general fiction. Also, the book definitely has a Christian bent, but it’s more in the main characters clearly being Christian and looking to God for help and comfort, then anything preachy.

Find out more about Illusion

Up nextThe Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Strands of Truth

Finished Reading: Strands of Truth
by Colleen Coble

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, romance

Strands of TruthHarper’s mother died just before Harper was born, and she never knew her father. At the age of 15, a man named Oliver took her under his wing and became like a father to her in many ways. His own children detested Harper, though, because of how much attention their father paid to her, and assuming that Harper was only after their father’s money. As an adult, Harper looks up to Oliver as a mentor, and now works with him as a business partner. At the start of the story, a DNA registry site has found a likely half-sister for Harper, and upon meeting, Harper realizes that both sisters have a similar story, with their mothers dying when they were infants, and neither knowing their father. At the same time, both women become the target of attempted kidnappings. Oliver is also attacked, and his son Ridge is determined to find out why, while also attempting to expose Harper for the fraud he believes her to be.

 
This book was a jumbled mess, and my mind feels a bit jumbled when trying to organize a review. I will start with what I did like. The premise was intriguing, and the mystery did hold my attention for the first half of the book. The descriptions of the Florida setting were good, and it was easy to imagine a warm, humid environment. The book brought some subjects to my attention that I otherwise might never have known about (for example, sea silk and other things related to pen shells).
 
However, this also leads me to my first issue. Many things came up in the book that were completely foreign to me, and I was left to figure out on my own what on earth it even was. Or the explanation would come so late that I was confused for a while. At one point early in the book, it says a character was in the “Weeki Wachee parking lot,” but really never actually says what Weeki Wachee is. My first guess was that it was a common supermarket chain in the region. Or maybe restaurant. But after Googling it, it’s apparently a state park and spring in Florida. It would have been really easy to explain this in the book, along with many other things, but instead, I had to Google more than I would prefer while reading a book.
 
Speaking of Google, there was a lot of mention of food and restaurants in the book that weirdly came across like name-dropping. As if, to make the book feel more authentic to the location, the author had done an internet search for popular restaurants in the real-life town in which the book is set, and even went to the online menus so that the characters could mention specific dishes that really do exist in those restaurants (I looked one up; it’s real!). Maybe this shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it got to a point where it was just a bit too much, and took me out of the narrative enough to bother me.
 
And then there was the really weird part where the narration compared the main male character (Ridge) to “Chris McNally from Supernatural a bit, right down to the thick black hair.” I had to stop right there and look him up. I’ve seen Supernatural quite a bit, but I didn’t recognize the name, so I looked him up. He was in two episodes, 6 years apart, as basically bit roles! I have my theory about why Coble included this bit of obscure trivia, but no matter the reason, it was completely out of left field and made no sense. This reference is not going to help anyone envision the character, and to top it off, this still of McNally in Supernatural does not show him with “thick black hair.” This is indicative of what I felt was a greater issue in this book–it really could have done with another round of intensive editing.
 
This book was half-mystery, half-romance. The mystery half was the only thing that kept me going, because the romance was half-baked at best. For one thing, I really didn’t care about either of the two main characters. I did not connect with them at all. Also, the main characters strongly disliked each other for a while, then started to warm to each other. Then Ridge tells Harper that he misjudged her and wants to start fresh, making it clear that he has some sort of feelings for her. But two days later, she’s panicking over an idea that maybe he just thinks of her as a sister. And since the turn in their relationship came halfway through the story, it was very predictable what the bump in the romance was going to be, and even that turned out to be weakly done.
 
As for the mystery half of the story, it really fell apart in the 2nd half as well. For one thing, there are flashbacks throughout the book showing the life of a woman who was murdered around 1970 in the year leading up to that event, but by the end of the book, I realized that the flashbacks added basically nothing to the story. Spoiler: And to make things worse, Ridge was able to watch some video taken by the murdered woman, that ended right before the murder. After the video is described, the same moment is shown in a flashback, and it didn’t even match up with the video!
 
This review is getting very long, so I’ll try to be more brief in the rest of my notes. Clues to the mystery were given in an order that did not maximize suspense for the reader. The main characters investigated more than the authorities (who didn’t really seem all that concerned about the abductions), and yet the main characters are constantly questioning if these obviously related events are even related. Most of the mystery was fairly obvious (to me) early enough in the book to make any twists near the end fall flat. Several things happen that make no sense and are never explained. Spoiler: There’s a bomb that never goes off and is never mentioned again, that I forgot about until right now!


All in all, this half-mystery, half-romance didn’t deliver in either department. And this time, I don’t think I can chalk my biggest issues up to personal preference. The book has many flaws that clearly others were able to overlook, but I couldn’t. I would not be able to recommend this book to anyone, and again I’d state that with further revision, it could have been a much more enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Find out more about Strands of Truth
Publication date: September 10, 2019

Up next: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Book Review: August Review

In my second month of reading with more intention, I picked up the pace at first, and then seemed to slow back down at the end of the month. Now that school has started (I homeschool), it remains to be seen how much time I have to read, but I will definitely make as much time for it as I can.

Here are the books I read in August:
The Curious Conspiracy on Gamma Ceti by Nemo West (2.5 / 5)
Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker (1.5 / 5)
Thr3e by Ted Dekker (4.5 / 5)
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (4 / 5)
Tilly by Frank E. Peretti (3.5 / 5)
Lock In by John Scalzi (4.5 / 5)
#NotReadyToDie by Cate Carlyle (2.5 / 5)
The Inquisition
by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card (2.5 / 5) (review pending)
Illusion by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5) (review pending)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (review & rating pending)

This list includes 5 ARCs, my first ever, and 1 re-read. My favorite book from August was Illusion. The rest of reviews from last month will go up in the next week and a half. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

The sinister stranger never checked behind him.

(Today’s prompt is a quote from the book I’m currently reading: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti.)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Ultimate Book Tag

I took these questions from a post on Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner and had a lot of fun answering them. It seemed fitting after getting back into reading as heavily as I have.

1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?
Unfortunately, yes, reading, looking at a phone or tablet, etc. can give me a headache and make me queasy. It didn’t used to; I don’t know what changed.

2. The Harry Potter Series or The Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer
Well…I haven’t read either, or watched movies from either. But I have put the first Harry Potter on my TBR list, while I still have no particular desire to read Twilight, so…I guess there’s your answer.

3. Do you carry a book bag? If so what is in it?
I don’t, but in the right situation, I do put a few books into my Handbag of Holding, usually whatever I’m currently reading (if it fits), and at least one notebook.

4. Do you smell your books?
All the time. Though even more than that, I smell my notebooks a lot, especially now that I’ve organized them in a location closer to my computer, and especially those that have leather or wood covers or cotton pages.

5. Books with or without illustrations?
I haven’t read a lot of books with illustrations, but I wouldn’t be adverse to them. I often have a difficult time understanding descriptions, so images can’t hurt.

6. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?
I really hate to say this, because this series was a big deal to me growing up, and I’ve collected some of them as an adult, in the hopes of getting my daughter to love them too, but I have realized that the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard have a lot of issues, both in the plots and characters, and in the writing itself.

7. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!
I remember writing school subject names on the front of some of my books and pretending to teach school with them. I still have a few, one with “Spelling” written on it, for example.

8. What is the thinnest book on your shelf?
It’s technically my own novelette, The Triangle. Not including my own though, it’s Tilly by Frank E. Peretti.

9. What is the thickest book on your shelf?
These 2 questions are difficult to answer, because my books are spread across several bookshelves (not because I have so many, but because our books take up a shelf or two on a bookshelf with movies, on a bookshelf with my daughter’s books, on a bookshelf with my writing stuff, etc. But as far as I can tell, excluding multi-book volumes (because that’s just not fair), I think it’s The Visitation, also by Frank E. Peretti.

10. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future becoming an author?
I do write, to which this blog is a testament. I have published a novelette and am working on a series of speculative fiction books.

11. When did you get into reading?
I was ready as early as I can remember. In first grade, I went to a second grade class for reading. Though I stopped for a while, getting back into it has been like coming home again.

12. What is Your Favorite Classic Book?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (just fyi though, I have not ready many classics).

13. In school was your best subject English or another Language Arts subject?
It was one of my best. That and math subjects. I did well in English, though to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Especially the part about picking apart everything we read for theme, symbolism, figurative language, etc.

14. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do?
If it had been a while since I read it, I’d probably keep it to re-read it and see if my feelings had changed. If I’d read it recently…I’d probably keep it for a while and eventually decide to donate it or give it away.

15. What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games?
The Summoner trilogy, of which I’ve recently finished book 2, reminds me of Harry Potter, though as mentioned above, I’ve not read Harry Potter yet.

16. What is your favorite word?
Surreptitious

17. Are you a Nerd, Dork, or Dweeb? Or all of the above?
I don’t really know…maybe more of a dork than the other 2?

18. Vampires or Faeries?
I’d say neither, but I’m a Buffy/Angel fan. I’m not a vampire fan in general though.

19. Bookmark or Random Piece of Paper?
Bookmark if at all possible, and so far, I’ve managed to keep 2 of the 3 bookmarks I bought over a month ago. If the other 2 disappear though, it’ll be back to random pieces of paper again for a while.

20. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?
Forbidden love. Love triangles just make me sad, especially if I care at all about the characters involved.

21. One book at a time or several books at once?
Usually one at a time. If a book is uninteresting enough for me to not want to keep coming back to it as much as I can, I might start another one along the way, but most of the time, I stick it out with one.

22. Can you stop reading at any part of the book or does it have to be the end of the chapter?
Any part is usually fine. In fact, stopping at the end of a chapter brings the potential of being at a cliffhanger, which isn’t an easy plate to stop either!

23. Do you write in your books?
I don’t think I ever have before. I even have a hard time underlining or writing notes in my Bible.

24. Can you read while listening to music or watching TV?
Maybe lyric-less music, but even that can distract me, so usually, I prefer quiet. Though I may soon try out using coffitivity.com with my reading like I do with my writing. It may help me block out sounds of people going about their lives around me, though to be honest, as long as I’m not being directly addressed, or the sound is not loud or persistent (or strange), I can usually ignore it.

25. Do you read out loud or silently in your head?
In my head. When I read out loud, I actually have a very difficult time understanding what I’m reading.

BONUS QUESTION: Physical book, e-book or audio book?
By and large I prefer physical books, both for the feel, the look, the sense of tradition, and the smell. I’ve recently realized the benefits of reading on my Kindle, because of the potential for hands-free reading, so that’s a good alternative. I avoid audio books as much as possible, because I have a difficult time focusing on the words, and then end up lost. There’s also the fact that when I’m reading, I often go back in the book to remember a character, or a scene that is referenced later but didn’t stick out in my head at the time, or even in some cases, to go back to a scene that I find out later had a lot more going on in it than I realized at the time, and I want to re-read it with a new understanding. (I did this so much with one particular time-travel book that I ended up bookmarking the earlier section so I could find it again easier.) Anyway, with audio books…well, all of that is a lot harder to do.

Book Review: Tilly

Finished Reading: Tilly
by Frank E. Peretti

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian drama

Tilly

Tilly is a touching novella about a woman coming to terms with something from her past that she regrets. It begins when a husband and wife, Kathy and Dan, are in a cemetery, and she spots a gravestone with the name Tilly one it, and only one date. From that point on, she can’t get that gravestone out of her mind, to the detriment of her family.

I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading, but it was short, and Peretti is my favorite writer. According to the back of the book, it was originally a radio drama, and it took me somewhere between 1-1.5 hours to read it.

Maybe because of my experience with Peretti’s other works, I expected more of a mystery than this book contained. In fact, if you read the synopsis on Goodreads, half of the book is almost unnecessary (thankfully I didn’t look the book up on Goodreads at all before reading it, though I normally do).

A good amount of the book is spent in a dream, with beautiful imagery and tender moments, as Kathy comes to grips with a mistake she made in the past, which has affected her family for 9 years. The reason for the past choice is not expounded on, which was probably one of the things I most wished was different about the story.

No matter what the past decision was that Kathy and Dan regret, the important message in this story is of the forgiveness we can have in Christ, though I’ll admit it’s only lightly presented. Maybe the greater message is that, even when we know Christ has forgiven us, sometimes we are unable to let go of that mistake, and that until we do, we will never truly feel we can accept God’s forgiveness.

I would recommend this light read to anyone who struggles with past mistakes, especially those they might consider unforgivable, but also for anyone interested in dramatic Christian stories.

Up next: Lock In by John Scalzi

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire

Finished Reading: Things You Save in a Fire
by Katherine Center

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

Things You Save in a Fire

Multiple events conspire together to cause Cassie Hanwell to move away from the city in which she’s just received an award for her service as a firefighter to a new city where, she’s told, they don’t even think women should be firefighters. But Cassie has taught herself how to overcome almost anything–by keeping emotions and feelings at bay and always following a schedule and a plan. This method serves her well, but also poorly, in her new life. A very strained relationship with her sick mother and a crush on the rookie at her new fire station both lead to changes she could never have expected.

This book was a fun read for me, and I think it is interesting that it isn’t quite as much of a pure romance as I thought it would be. The romance is a key factor, but it’s not the only factor. Other important elements include recovering from past trauma (or lack thereof), mother-daughter relationship (focusing on abandonment of the daughter), surviving in a not-entirely-friendly workplace, and most of all, forgiveness.

I really liked the fact that the book had that last angle in it, because I think it’s something that many people don’t really take the time and effort to try to do. The book may have taken a fairly simplistic approach, but for what it was, I appreciated it.

There are a lot of tropes wrapped up in Cassie, but at the same time, she had some traits that I really connected with. For example, I watched as she pushed another character away, and then was truly disappointed that the other character left. She wanted this person to push harder to reach her, help her, get her to open up, whatever, even while at the same time knowing that she would never let that person in. I am like that as well, especially with my husband, though with his help, I’ve identified it and am working on it.

One thing that bugged me throughout the book was Cassie’s mother. I had a really hard time sympathizing with her, for reasons that I won’t explain, because it would broach spoiler territory. But in the end, I decided that I didn’t have to agree with Cassie’s assessment of her mother or the situation. It wasn’t my mother, so I just let it be.

The ending had a few wrap-ups that were a little strange to me, but I enjoyed the book overall. I recommend it to fans of romance, especially those where the romance isn’t quite so in-your-face.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a copy of this book to review!

Find out more about Things You Save in a Fire

Up next: Tilly by Frank E. Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: July Review

At the beginning of this month, I decided to devote more time to reading. Of course, in my case, based on how much I’ve read over the last 10 years, more time meant…any time. Over the course of the month, I read 6 books, which surprised me. But even more importantly (and more excitingly), I quickly rediscovered how much I loved reading. Two days ago, my husband saw where the bookmark was in my 6th book for the month and said, “You really are getting back into reading, aren’t you?” My response: “Yes! This is what I used to do, and I’m loving it!”

So while in my first post announcing this new feature (and hobby re-kindling), I suggested that posting about what books I’m reading would be a way to hold myself accountable, I know that’s not necessary. Now I’m just posting what I’ve read to share it with others and make my recommendations. But while I planned for this feature to be weekly, and thought it might even sometimes have to be filled in with something besides a review of what I recently read because I wouldn’t read fast enough, my reading pace has made me realize I’m quickly going to get behind in posting reviews.

My plan going forward will be to post on a Tuesday now and then to catch back up, because I can’t guarantee this pace will be consistent. For example, The Novice (a YA book that I enjoyed), I read in 3 days. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (an adult murder-mystery with a complicated premise) took 7 days. I’ve also been lucky to have had a quiet month, but I know that at times I will be too busy to finish books this quickly. So I’m not ready to completely move to a twice a week schedule, but I’ll stick in some extra posts to stay caught up.

Here are the books I read in July, only half of which have been posted about:
Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Oath by Frank Peretti
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Novice by Taran Matharu (review pending)
The Trials of Lance Eliot by M.L. Brown, a.k.a. Adam Stück

The rest of these posts will go up in the next few weeks. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: The Oath

Finished Reading: The Oath
by Frank Peretti

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian Thriller

The Oath

People are disappearing, possibly dying, in or around a small mining town in the Pacific northwest, and the the people in town seem to know what’s going on, but are unwilling or unable to talk about it. When an outsider dies, it opens up their small-town secrets to the rest of the world. The brother of the outsider who died starts to dig and uncovers a creature that he is determined to bring to light, but the town’s occupants won’t let go of their dragon without a fight.

The Oath has been my favorite book pretty much since I first read it, at least 20 years ago. Up until maybe 10 years ago, I re-read it just about every year. It used to scare me when I read it at night, despite how well I knew the story. Now that I’m getting back to reading regularly, I realized how much I wanted to read it again, and part of that was curiosity about whether or not its status as my favorite book would hold up. I’m happy to say it did!

I fully admit that the book could have been shorter, as there is a decent amount of description of old mining operations and mountain views that I generally skim, but overall, the book is a great example of a Christian thriller. It is also an allegory, which I think is important to realize while reading it.

Once again, by the time I was in the 2nd half of this book, I found myself caught up in the hunt and the excitement of what was happening. I did not have any issues reading at night though, so apparently I’ve either gotten used to it enough, or I’ve grown out of that problem. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and in a way felt like I was coming home as I read this classic favorite.

Find out more about The Oath

Up next: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Finished Reading: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Mystery Thriller

(Recommended by amusing2write)
7.5 Deaths

Imagine coming to consciousness in the middle of a dark forest, mid-sentence, with no memories of who you are, where you are, or why you’re in the middle of a dark forest yelling someone’s name. That is how this book begins, and it only gets more interesting from there. The main character & narrator eventually finds out that he is going to relive the same day 8 times, and that each time, someone will die (the same someone). Only if he can solve the murder will he be released from doing all of this over again, wiped of memories at the start of doing it again.

I had my ups and downs with this book, but in the end, the ups did outweigh the downs. I’ll start with what I enjoyed.

The murder-mystery itself was intricate and well-planned. It kept me guessing throughout the book, especially in the later half, when answers were finally starting to come, yet kept being not what they appeared to be. No one is ever quite who they seem to be, even the people that you are certain couldn’t possibly be hiding something. And I really appreciated the way that the narrator’s different hosts contributed their own abilities toward solving the murder.

As the same day is being relived by the narrator, it reads a lot like a time travel story, as the narrator sees the same events happen over and over. The author did a good job with the continuity in this respect. There were a few things that confused me in this area, but they were intentional (not intentionally confusing, but intentional as in not a continuity issue). I can’t say more without giving some spoilers.

I was certain throughout the book that there would never be an explanation given for the greater mystery–who or what was behind the narrator being trapped inside the various guests at Blackheath, forced to solve a murder. A combination of some reviews that I read and my own assumption that this wouldn’t be explained, due to the why not being the focus of the story, led me to this certainty. I was pleasantly surprised to find that an explanation was given, and while I was still left with some questions when the book ended, a Q&A section at the back of the book clarified things. To be clear though–this wasn’t a cheat on the author’s part to leave out some information and fill in the blanks later. It didn’t bother me to be left with the questions I had–it was the kind of thing where the reader was left to infer their own answers, and it turned out I had inferred them correctly.

Here were the downsides to the book for me (as spoiler-free as I can be), which can be mostly chalked up to personal preference:

Early on, I struggled with how long it took to get into the mystery, and what was happening that seemed to be completely unrelated, or at least very different, from what the book was going to be about. Between the title of the book and the inside of the book jacket, I knew a lot more than I feel like I was meant to know, and grew impatient waiting for that information to be presented in the book. Even the name of the narrator is right there on the book jacket, but that information wasn’t given until at least 1/4 of the way into the book. I don’t think this is the fault of the book itself though, so much as the fault of the blurb and, to a lesser degree, the title.

The book is written in 1st person and present tense. It works well for the premise, but the downside to this is that certain events are a little too up-close and personal for my taste. This mainly relates to violence and death, but other situations as well. By the end of the book, I felt like I should take a shower, as the mustiness and decay of Blackheath and the alcohol- and smoke-covered guests is described so often, and in such intimate detail that at times it felt like I was swimming in it. I also didn’t care for the extreme way that the author portrayed one of the narrator’s guest’s overweight body, with such disdain, and not to mention as if the host could barely walk 10 feet without being out of breath. I was as thankful to be out of that host as the narrator was.

The last downside I want to mention is that I didn’t personally care for the author’s style. There was so much figurative language that, by the end of the book, I actually said to my husband, “I’ve read this sentence 5 times, but I can’t tell if something big just happened, or if it’s just a metaphor.” There is also quite a bit of description, so between that and the figurative language, the narration often bogged down the story for me. I came to appreciate the dialog, because it was much more straight-forward, but a lot of the story happens in the narration. By the last third of the book, though, I had started to skim the descriptions (how many different ways can you tell me that a new room we’ve entered is dirty, run-down, and dark?), hoping I wouldn’t miss anything important along the way.

To sum up, I did enjoy the book, and once I really got into the mystery, I found myself wanting to come back to it whenever I could. I would recommend it for people who enjoy mystery, especially those with intricate plots. I think many would struggle with the complexity of it though. I would not recommend it to my friends and family, however, as I think the violence and debauchery might bother them as much as, if not more than, it did me, so keep that in mind if you don’t care for that sort of thing.

Find out more about The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle*
*This is the US title. The book is elsewhere titled The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Up next: The Oath by Frank Peretti

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!