Category Archives: Gallery Books

Frightful Friday: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Frightful Friday is a regular meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781476734217
  • Source: Publisher

The “Beacon Hill Butcher” was a savage serial killer who plagued Seattle in the mid-1980s. Referred to as “The Butcher” because he chopped off the left hand of his victims, he terrorized the women of Seattle until he was killed by the local police chief, Edward Shank.  Now a retired widower, Edward has given his Seattle home to his grandson, Matt, whom he helped raised, and is now living in an assisted living facility.

Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, is eager to move in, but Matt, an up-and-coming restauranteur, cherishes his independence. Matt quickly begins making renovations on the home. When contractors come across a crate buried in the yard, Matt breaks the lock and uncovers something that will haunt him forever. Torn between telling the authorities and confronting his grandfather, knowing that this revelation will forever taint “the Chief’s” image.

Sam is on her own hunt for answers. An author of true-crime novels, she fervently believes that her mother, Sarah, was one of The Butcher’s victims, despite the fact that she was killed two years after the supposed Butcher was killed.  Not realizing how close her life is tied to real Butcher, Sam uses her connections with the local police to uncover the truth…no matter the cost.

It isn’t until murders resembling that of The Butcher make an appearance that local police decide to take notice.  Not thrilled with the idea that the true Butcher has been free for the past 30 years, they consult the Chief on the case to see if he can uncover anything they missed in the investigations decades before. Truly, they have warning of the devastating truth right before them.

I’ve been a fan of Hillier’s work since discovering her two previous thrillers, Creep and Freak. Hillier quickly established herself as a talented thriller writer and she has exceeded my expectations with this one! While the true identity of The Butcher is quickly revealed to the reader, we are granted to hold first row seats to watch the characters discover the truth. This early revelation certainly doesn’t remove the chilling tone from this novel; several times I found myself jumping and squealing out of fear. The revelations at the end of the novel are stunning, taking even this reader by surprise. The twists and turns are terrifying, preventing readers from suspecting the outcome of this brilliantly gruesome thriller.

While there are some pretty gruesome and explicit scenes, they certainly do not fall out of place in this thriller. The Butcher was known for his depravity, terrorizing and torturing his victims before their deaths.  Hillier expertly captures this truly terrifying character, juxtaposing it with the innocent character of Sam, determined to uncover the identity of her mother’s killer.

I continue to rave about this author and how she has managed to quickly make a name for herself as a truly tremendous thriller writer. I will continue to devour everything she has read, and if you haven’t yet, you are in for a treat. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Permuted Press/Gallery Books (May 20, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1476739633
Source: Publisher

One day, suddenly, children die. Not just some children, all children, across the globe. The only warning is a headache and comments of strange smells. Then darkness.  Medical authorities name the disease Herod’s Syndrome, named after Herod the Great, the man who ordered the deaths of all boys of the age of two and under in Bethlehem.  Only children who have not yet reached puberty. The town is devastated. So many children die, funeral homes run out of space. Getting a typical burial is a premium,  there just isn’t enough space for them all. Instead, they are all buried in gruesome mass grave sites.

Then a few days later, the unthinkable happens. The children return. They have memories of what has transpired, memories of their passing. Quickly, a mere hour after their return they begin to weaken…and ask for blood. Without blood, they “sleep,” dying once again. A pint of blood keeps them animated for roughly an hour. Parents are desperate, asking friends and love ones for donations. Blood banks are emptied; no one is donating enough blood to sustain them. Each time the children go to sleep, it is as if their body is experiencing a stroke, so each time they awaken, they are less and less the child they used to be. Citizens, parents, are doing whatever it takes to keep their children alive, even if it is just for brief time…no matter the cost.

Ok, ok, I know this sounds gruesome and gaudy. I’m not going to lie, Suffer the Children is a pretty difficult read, whether you have children or not. I can’t imagine losing my children over and over again, the only way to sustain their life is by giving them a part of mine.  All this said, what made this novel, and others like it, truly outstanding was that it is not only a story of an apocalyptic event but also a character study into how we, as a society, react to such a horrific event. Although the act that transpires is devastating, it isn’t the act that brings the horror. It is society, our response to the situation. Slowly, yet steadily, even the strongest individuals transform into monsters.  You won’t find gratuituous violence in this novel; everything is expertly crafted is drawn out in order to demonstrate the effect this devastation has on society.

Additionally, DiLouie doesn’t quickly gloss over what happens, the transformation society takes in response to Herod’s Syndrome. Instead, readers follow a handful of families and their children, we watch how they slowly decline into shell of human beings. This…this is what makes me love and appreciate the horror genre. Well-done horror makes you think, dwell, on a subject. It has a lasting effect, not because it is gruesome and gory, but because of the impact it makes on your soul. When we hear the term vampire, we instantly picture a horrible, blood-sucking monster. What if that monster was a child, your child? Would we have the same desire to destroy them?

I can’t recommend this novel to everyone for obvious reasons, but if you are looking for an intellectual piece of horror fiction, this is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended (with warning)!

Check out this interview with DiLouie with other horror greats about his motives for writing Suffer the Children.



Review: Above by Isla Morley

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (March 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1476731527
  • Source: Publisher

At just sixteen years old, Blythe Hallowell is abducted by a survivalist, kept prisoner in an abandoned missile silo. She tries without success to escape, he captor spouting stories about the the end of the world. He believes that the two of them alone are humankind’s salvation, destined to repopulate the world after the apocalypse.  Slowly, reluctantly, Blythe understands there is no hope for her escape and she has a sudden realization about the bleakness of her situation.

It isn’t until she is expected to raise a child in confinement that she has some sense of hope.  She is determined that he have the life that was stolen from her.  It isn’t until, years later, when Blythe is able to step outside that she realizes the enormity of what has transpired since she was taken, the vast differences in the world she had in the silo, down deep in the earth, and the strange, unknown world above.

So. I am intentionally being very very vague with my synopsis of this novel!  Going in, all the reader needs to know is that this young woman, carefree and young, is abducted by a man who has been obsessed with her for most of her life. Everything that happens after that must be discovered by the reader, and the reader alone.  What happens while Blythe is held captive in that silo is bleak, it is dark, it is depressing.  Your heart will be broken. You will cry. You will yell. You will utter expletives. And then…something happens that totally changes the outlook of this book. And you will shout more expletives, but you will want to hug the author for the sheer brilliance of this novel.  For Above is a novel that I will be shouting about from the rooftops, a novel that is impossible to categorize into just one genre.  It is a novel like none other; I can’t even begin to think of a book to compare it to for it is wholly unique.

Readers of all ages, from young adult to adult will find a connection with Blythe. She starts out as a young, carefree teen and we follow her as the cruelty of being held captive wears away at her soul and willpower. Then we see her, determination regained, when she becomes responsible for another life.  And then, Morely stuns her readers as she reveals that Above is not only a novel about Blythe’s situation, but what has been transpiring in the world above, around her. It’s simply brilliant. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it again.

I guarantee that this is a novel that people will be talking about. I’m predicting a wide range of opinions and emotions for it is a novel that induces that sort of reaction in its readers.

So…I implore you to give this book a try. When you do, come back and share your thoughts here. I haven’t seen a lot of prepublication buzz on this one and I’m dying to hear other opinions of this dynamic, truly memorable read. Highly, highly recommended.


Frightful Friday: The Troop by Nick Cutter

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Troop by Nick Cutter:


  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1476717710
  • Source: Publisher

Scoutmaster Tom Riggs leads his scouts on an annual trip to the Canadian wilderness.  On this trip, he leads a group of five young men to Falstaff Island, PEI.  The boys: Kent, Ephraim, Max, Shelly, and Newton, have known one another all their lives.  The camp out is relatively short; a boat will pick them up the following day to take back to the mainland.  Or so they think.

Their peaceful tranquility is severed when a strange man shows on the island. Emaciated, he appears to be quite ill. Riggs attempts to keep the strange man away from the boys, for his medical expertise tells him there is something very strong with the man. The man’s body is emaciated, he begs for food with an uncontrollable hunger raging within him. This hunger is endless and Riggs is stunned as he watches the man pick up anything he can getting his hands on and devouring it.  The troop is completely unaware that the military is hunting this man, aware of the bio-engineered horror residing within his body.

Riggs and the boys assume help will come the next morning. They don’t know that the military has established a no-fly zone over the island, the small island quarantined from the mainland just minutes away. Their hope for help is futile, only they alone have control over their survival.  Yet as the sickness spreads and the hierarchy within their group begins to collapse, they are faced with unimaginable terror, fighting for survival from not only the parasite that ravages the body of victims but also one another.

Using journal entries, magazine interviews, and military reports, Cutter provides readers with insight that the scouts themselves don’t have access to. The reader gets a unique glimpse about what is going on on the mainland, off the island, while they are fighting for their lives. A great deal of time is spent relaying  information on the science experiment gone wrong, the source of this terror, all  at the hands of a Dr. Clive Edgerton. Combined together, a novel that is so gruesome, yet so thrilling and addictive, those that have a strong stomach won’t be able to tear themselves away!

While the plot of the story alone had me sold on this book, the added dimension of the crumbling of the boys’ social structure and hierarchy added a completely unique element. The reader is an observer, watching the boys lives fall to pieces. A true story of a survival of the fittest, the conclusion left me completely stunned.

I most certainly won’t recommend this to the weak of stomach (and it would probably be best to avoid eating pasta of any sort while reading this), I would highly recommend it to fans of classic horror. Stephen King himself said “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it’s a perfect gift for a winter night.”

In my opinion, the plausibility of such a scenario is what makes this novel so terrifying. Science is scary, people! Nevermind the fact the first time I read this novel, about six months ago, my own fourteen year old was away on a camping trip with his Scout troop. I don’t think I slept a wink until he returned!

If you are looking for classic, terrifying horror, this is the novel for you. Highly recommended…with warning :)

Review: The Descent by Alma Katsu

  • Series: The Taker Trilogy
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (January 7, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1451651821
  • Source: Publisher

*Please Note: This is the third book in a trilogy. If you have not read the previous two books, The Taker and The Reckoning *gasp* please do not proceed in reading this review.*

Lanore McIlvrae has struggled to rid herself from the grasp of Adair. Yet when she begins having nightmares of Jonathan, her deceased former lover, is being tortured in the dark depths of the underworld. Reluctantly, Lanore  admits that Adair is her only salvation. It is he alone that can devise a means for her to go to the hereafter and beg for Jonathan’s release.

She finds Adair on a secluded island off the coast of Italy.  The reunion is bittersweet; the passion they shared for one another is still quite alive.  Lanore finds two female tourists, Terry and Robin, living with Adair. Although he admits to spending his nights (and days) in bed with them, he hasn’t formally made them his companions. The jealousy is double-sided, for the two women are less than thrilled to see Adair’s reaction to Lanore’s arrival.

When Lanore finally gets around to asking Adair for help, his quick response shocks her. When the journey to the hereafter begins, neither Lanore nor Adair or quite prepared for the battles they are both forced to endure, both physically and emotionally. It is quite possible that Lanore will, too, become one of the captives of the Queen of the Underworld, never returning to Adair as she promised.

In this thrilling conclusion to the Taker trilogy, readers will notice a marked difference in overall tone as compared to the previous two books. The Descent itself is a journey, not only Lanore’s to the Underworld but a journey to the past, to Adair’s youth and the start of his obsession with alchemy. Readers glimpse a wholly different side of Adair than previously witnessed, a side that shows his vulnerability and genuine love for Lanore.

The imagery in The Descent, too, is spectacular. Her descriptions of the secluded island in which Adair resides are so genuine and real that you’ll feel the harsh wind across your face, feel the desolation that the island exudes. Lanore’s journey through the Underworld, her encounters with those from her past, are absolutely mesmerizing.

Fans of this blog know that I’m not fan of romance. That said, the love that Lanore and Adair share, a love that transcends time, space, and other worlds, is one that I couldn’t help but appreciate. Never did I fathom that I would find myself rooting for this unlikely couple!

In conclusion, I do believe that The Descent is the perfect conclusion to a truly stunning trilogy.  Highly, highly recommended!

Side note: I will be interviewing Alma at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA at the release party for The Descent (Tuesday, January 14th at 7pm). Have any questions you would like asked? Add them to the comments below and I will do my best to include them in the interview. Want to order a personalized copy of the book? Click here!

Disclosure: I consider myself a friend of the author, Alma Katsu.  I am mentioned in the acknowledgements and have offered the author words of encouragement and support throughout her publication journey. That said, this relationship did not at all influence my review of this book.


Review: Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (December 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451668325
  • Source: Publisher

It’s been two years since billions of the dead rose, hungry for human flesh. Sheriff Danielle Adelman now leads a band of survivors through the decimated Midwest.  The dead have evolved: mixed in among the savage zombies (or zeroes) are those that have retained a modicum of humanity: they speak.  Danny’s sister is one of these “talkers” and she’s torn between protecting the safety of the survivors from the zeroes and protecting her sister from the hunger that rages inside her.

They hear word of of safe place in the Dakotas but Danny knows that promises of safety are often balanced against danger and death.  Along the way, they pick up a young mute boy and his dog, both somehow surviving the horror of the past two years.  As they make the long and dangerous trek, they must not only fight against the hungry undead but troops of hunters who, for some reason, have started collecting children.

Upon their arrival, Danny is horrified to uncover a secret far more devastating than she could have ever imagined. Their haven is a small town in which adults are only allowed entry if they have a child with them, one adult per child is granted entry.  Those that hold power in the town are far more dangerous than the walking dead beyond the perimeter. While the children are promised safety, Danny learns that this safety is only temporary. Their purpose for keeping the children alive is unspeakable and Danny must use every ounce of strength and determination to destroy this ultimate of horrors.

Rise Again Below Zero is the sequel to Rise Again, one of my favorite zombie novels of last year. As I stated in that review, don’t let the fact that this is a zombie novel turn you off from reading it.  More than just your typical zombie novel, Tripp has created an intense and powerful examination of humanity, showcasing the lives of those who have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have survived the attacks from the undead.  The characters he has created are expertly drawn, so genuine and full of faults and failures. Watching Danny evolve from a small-town sheriff to the only individual able to withstand the grasp of the undead is incredibly rewarding for she goes through enough trials and tribulations to last a dozen lifetimes.  The amount of loss she is dealt would be enough to bring the strongest of individuals down, but instead she uses the pain as a weapon, refusing to let those who feed on the weak (figuratively and literally) win.

I listened to the audiobook of the first book in this series and I was taken away by the audiobook performance. It was so breathtaking that, when the print review copy of this title arrived, I found myself worrying that reading the print version wouldn’t be as oustanding as the audio. Fortunatenly, I had no reason to fear for Tripp masterfully depicted a world so genuine that it was quite easy for me to become drawn into the story.

If you are looking for something to occupy your time as you wait for The Walking Dead to return, I encourage you to pick up this series. Much like this highly popular television series, the Rise Again series examines the lives of survivors amist a world decimated by death and destruction.  Highly, highly recommended!

Review: Death Overdue by Mary Lou Kirwin

  • Series: Librarian Mysteries
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (November 5, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 145168466
  • Source: Publisher

In this second book in the Librarian Mystery series, Minnesota librarian Karen Nash is in London helping Caldwell, her love interest, locate a site for their dream bookstore. This is a big step for her; it wasn’t long ago that she was in heartbroken in London after she discovered her previous boyfriend was having an affair. This step would mean leaving her life in Minnesota and making the permanent move to London. Obviously, this is a concern for Karen and she finds herself questioning every decision she and Caldwell make together.

Even more chaos erupts when Caldwell’s former flame, and joint owner of his B&B, Sally Burroughs, appears out of the blue, demanding that her share of the lucrative business be split with her. She disappeared without a trace nearly seven years ago, leaving Caldwell in her wake. Before Karen and Caldwell can even discuss what is to be done about this situation, a freak accident occurs. In the middle of the night, a bookcase falls and an avalanche of books traps Sally beneath it, killing her instantly.  Caldwell is arrested and taken into custody, charged with her murder. His fingerprints are found on the bookcase and the hook that secured it to the wall. Karen immediately begins to investigate. While Caldwell does have a reason to want her dead, surely he isn’t capable of such a brutal killing, specifically when it involves the disruption of his treasured library?

As mentioned, this is the second book in a cozy mystery series. I discovered the previous book, Killer Librarian, during Cozy Mystery Week last year. I instantly fell in love with the setting Kirwin created and Karen’s sassy attitude!  I was thrilled to learn that she and Caldwell connected and really looked forward to their life together.

That said, while I did enjoy Death Overdue, everything I loved about the previous book seemed to be absent or lacking. I didn’t feel the spark between Karen and Caldwell.  It was almost as if their relationship was more of a business one than anything else. Additionally, while the mystery aspect had me intrigued, I really wasn’t invested in learning what happened. Sally was a truly detesting character and I could have cared less what happened to her. I wanted to get back to Karen and Caldwell’s life together and their hunt for the perfect bookstore location.

All in all, I did still enjoy this book as a part of this series. It could definitely serve as a standalone, but would recommend starting with the first book, Killer Librarian. Despite my issues with this one, I am still looking forward to reading more about Karen and Caldwell and their dream bookstore!

Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

  • Hardcover: 320 pgs.
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 2, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1476707723
  • Source: Publisher

My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak, like hiding’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on..

Mississippi, 1963: Nine-year-old Starla Claudelle hasn’t seen her mother in six years.  When Starla was just three years old, Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer.  Starla’s father works on an oil-rig in the Gulf, so she is under the watchful eye of her grandmother, Mamie. As is quite typical for her age, Starla has a streak of defiance in her and, despite being put on restriction due to mouthing off, she sneaks out to watch the Fourth of July parade. After she is discovered, Starla is fearful for the punishment Mamie is certain to invoke, so she begins walking. Even after she reaches the outskirts of town, she continues to walk. If she can only reach her mother in Nashville, surely she will find salvation.  Once her father learns of her actions, he too will move to Nashville and they will be one big happy family again.

As she is walking down a desolate country road, Starla accepts a ride from a black woman with a white baby. It is this decision that alters her life forever, shedding light on the world outside Starla’s quiet, safe home.  Despite her young age, by the time Starla reaches the end of her long and harrowing journey she has discovered and experienced more than most adults do in a lifetime.

One can’t help but fall for ginger-hair, spitfire Starla Claudelle. She has no qualms with speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in. Unfortunately, this tends to get her in a great deal of trouble. Raised by her father’s mother, a woman not prepared or meant to raise a young girl, Starla often feels as though she is a forgotten child, a burden to those around her. So certain that her mother has made a life for herself living as a famous singer in Nashville, Starla abandons what is actually a safe and protected home and journeys out into the unknown and unfamiliar South in 1963.  This historical setting plays a key an active role in what transpires with Starla, a white child traveling with a young black woman. Crandall details life in the South without holding back any of the darker, harsher realities of segregation and racial tension.

A harrowing coming-of-age story filled to the brim with tense and terrifying moments, as well as uplifting points of hope and proof of an undying human spirit. Rich with vibrant, memorable characters, Whistling Past the Graveyard is a novel certain to pull at your heartstrings, rooting for young Starla in hopes that the life she imagined, while unrealistic, is in some way attainable. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: When She Was Gone by Gwendolen Gross

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (March 19, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451684746
  • Source: Publisher

Linsey Hart is supposed to head to Cornell, embarking upon her new life in college, in a week. When she goes missing her mother, Abigail, is obviously frantic, calling on her neighbors for help. No one seems quite as concerned as Abigail about Linsey’s disappearance; she’s a typical teen, forced to break up with her boyfriend so she can start anew. As a matter of fact, her neighbors seem more concerned with their own personal issues to become to invested in hunting for Linsey.

Mr. Leonard, the Hart’s next-door neighbor and former piano teacher, is dying from cancer he refuses to treat. Suffering from insomnia, he’s often seen playing his piano wearing his deceased mother’s ballgown. He is the last to see Linsey before she disappears, watching her leave her house early one morning before dawn. Reeva leads the clique of mothers. Rather than being concerned about Linsey’s disappearance she’s more concerned with her latest obsession: a young (young!) barista she’s with whom she’s having an affair. Then there is Timmy, Linsey’s heartbroken ex-boyfriend and George, an eleven-year old whom Timmy calls upon to help him locate Linsey.

A huge cast of characters, many of which having nothing to do, or have concern about, Linsey’s disappearance. While I understand the author’s intent, to show how a small community seemingly unravels after the disappearance of a young girl, the story really didn’t connect with me. So many characters, most of which lacked depth and I honestly had no connection with. Even Linsey, the “victim” in this novel, generated zero sympathy from this reader. Perhaps if each of the characters were more developed, even if that meant an increase in page count, I could have become more invested in this novel. Unfortunately, that was the case and I honestly felt little attraction to this book. As a fan of the author’s previous book I kept holding out, hoping something would spark my interest and pull me into this novel. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I was left feeling completely empty upon reading this book.

Perhaps I have high expectations, demanding more from the characters I read about? Reading this novel after a truly exceptional one, perhaps my standards were set too high? Perhaps this just wasn’t the novel for me? I do implore you to make your own judgement on this novel, read it yourself before judging solely on my opinion.

Review: Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 12, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451685033
  • Source: Publisher

Over a year ago, Jason Getty killed a man, burying his body in his own back yard.Jason spends every waking moment thinking about the body and its potential discovery. Just as he gets close to accepting his crime will go undetected, the police uncover two bodies buried on his property, neither of which is the body Jason buried.  Jason is desperate to keep the police from discovering the body.  His attempts to lay low are thwarted when the wife of one of the victims begins to snoop around the property. Add Detective Tim Bayard, a small town detective who can’t get rid of his suspicious feelings about Jason’s involvement and Jason has his work cut out for him.

Three Graves Full is a novel full of potential. Interesting and engaging storyline, intense plot and eloquently written prose. Unfortunately, all this vast potential was left unmet. It is clear in Mason’s writing that she is a truly talented writer. Unfortunately, the cookie-cutter characters and uneven and inconsistent writing left this reader craving for more.

I’m a fan of incredibly descriptive prose…when appropriate. In reading Three Graves Full there were scenes in which I thought the writing to be a bit too descriptive and others where it wasn’t descriptive enough.

Additionally, I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters. The point of view alternated between each of the main characters, providing the opportunity to develop each individual. Jason’s character was created to generate sympathy from the reader, yet I couldn’t care less as to what happened to him. Unfortunately, the only character I found a connection with was the incredibly intuitive dog belonging to the small town detective.

Bottom line: While this novel wasn’t a winner for me, the fact that Mason’s writing is so strong lends me to believe that subsequent novels will have marked signs of improvement. My feelings about this title won’t prevent me from reading Mason’s future works. If you are looking for a psychological thriller with a tinge of dark humor, this is the title for you.