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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL’S WHISPERS: A GOTHIC HORROR NOVEL by Lucas Hault (@TCKPublishing) A Dracula variation for lovers of old-fashioned horror and Gothic stories

Hi all:

Well, I love horror, but this one is for lovers of old-fashioned horror.

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

In a silent, sleepy castle, evil has awakened…

Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.

After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…

In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, his need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive so he can dispel the evil that threatens to destroy his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.

Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like DraculaFrankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Q6HFT83

https://www.amazon.es/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-English-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

Author Lucas Hault

About the author:

Faisal Johar, who writes under his pen name Lucas Hault is an Indian Novelist residing in Ranchi. He received his formal education from St. Anthony’s School, completed his intermediate from St. Xavier’s College and graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in the year 2017. His first novel named The Shadow of Death — The Conquering Darkness was self-published in the year 2018 under Prowess Publishing. Faisal is also a screenwriter and has written a couple of short horror films for YouTube. He considers J.K. Rowling as his role model and aspires to walk in her path of punctuality. Another of his book titled, The Malign : A Collection of 12 Short Stories was published in June 2021. To get to know more about him, you can connect with him on FB and Instagram.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucas-Hault/e/B09QBTBKVD/

 My review:

I thank TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The description recommends this book to fans of epistolary Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I won’t compare the novels, but I have read many reviews querying if The Devil’s Whispers can be considered an homage to Dracula, as it follows the original story very closely, basically changing the names, locations, and some of the details of the monster, but not much else. What came to my mind, when trying to find a way of defining it, is something akin to what music composers call “variations”. It’s been decades since I read Dracula, so I can’t (or indeed want) to write a blow-by-blow comparison of the two, but it is true that they are very similar. Some of the differences I can easily mention are the settings (no Transylvania here, although people who love Cardiff might take issue with the way it is portrayed in this novel), the professions of some of the characters (Raelyn is a doctor, but as many people have mentioned, a female doctor in the early part of the XX century [1903] would have had a very difficult time of it, and that is no way reflected in the novel), some of the myths and the beliefs surrounding the supernatural events are different, and, unless I am mistaken, women and children play much bigger parts than in the original.

This is not a historical novel, and anybody looking for accurate depictions of the era, the place, the language, or even the mores and habits, will be disappointed. Neither the Cardiff nor the London of the story have anything to do with reality, and the characters are not very consistent either. Things develop very quickly, and somebody passes from love to hatred in the blink of an eye (sometimes as a result of supernatural influences, that is true, but not always). Suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cover the reading experience, as we have characters who can leave their jobs at the drop of a hat and disappear for days or weeks on end with no ill consequences, married people who profess their love for their husbands or wives but don’t hesitate before leaving them without a word of explanation or making contact again, to name but two. What the story has, though, is plenty of atmosphere, and an old-fashioned Gothic feel to it. Rather than a reinterpretation of the genre, this is something closer to what many of the stories from the era might have been like, many of which wouldn’t have survived until now or become classics. It makes me think of Little Women, the scene when Prof. Bhaer is disparaging the type of sensationalist romance stories one can find in newspapers, knowing full well that Jo writes them as well, and advises her to write stories that truly matter to her. Those titillating narrations are the kinds of stories that would have been popular at the time, and, why not? (I will not reveal what happens in Little Women, in case somebody hasn’t read it. If you haven’t, please do. I love it!)

I also kept thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlett Letter among many other novels (I recommend it as well), who wrote about the differences between a novel and a romance (not a romantic novel in the sense of a love story, but something quite different).

This is what he wrote on the subject in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851):

When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former – while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart – has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent of the writers own choosing or creation. If he thinks fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture, he will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privilege here stated, and especially to mingle the marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if he disregarded this caution.’

So, a novel has to be plausible, while in a romance, flights of fancy and imagination are allowed, and those are the working tools of the author. From that point of view, this book would fall into the category of a romance, and, readers who approach it as such, are likely to be swept by the story and enjoy the experience, but if you are looking for a well-written and high-quality novel as most critics understand it, you are bound to be disappointed.

To be fair, Bram Stoker wrote to entertain his readers and doesn’t seem to have been particularly concerned about issues such as classic status or high-brow definitions of quality. He had problems in the USA because he wanted his story to remain in the public domain rather than be copyrighted, so perhaps there is something more to the comparison than meets the eye.

I know this isn’t one of my usual reviews, but I hope people will get an idea of what they might find and if it is the kind of thing they’d like to read. There are scenes of violence, bizarre events aplenty, and some gore, but more in the style of classic horror than realistic modern descriptions. And I will agree with the recommendation to read Dracula as well if you haven’t yet. Oh, and don’t forget to keep eating onions!

 Thanks to the author and the publisher for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep the wonder going, the magic, to keep smiling, and to be happy!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington (@louiseworthington9) For those who like to dig deep into the workings of the mind (but notice the content warning) #psychologicalthriller

Hi all:

I bring you a book in a genre I read many books in. This is the first in a series, so if you like psychological thrillers, this might be for you. But it does come with a warning. Or several.

Doctor Glass A Psychological Thriller Novel by Louise Worthington

DOCTOR GLASS by Louise Worthington

THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW.

Psychotherapist Emma-Jane Glass has prioritized work over leisure for far too long. She does whatever it takes to help her clients, and it’s bordering on professional obsession. When she publishes a controversial article about unstable mothers murdering their children, an anonymous letter arrives on her doorstep:

I will expose you.
Then, I will mutilate you…
Wait for me.

After she is abducted into the night, Doctor Glass finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous sociopath. But being a relentless doctor of the mind, she feels an urge to help her fragile captor, even if it might shatter her sanity—and her life. It becomes a game of survival, and only one mind can win.

For fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French, and Alex Michaelides comes the newest voice in psychological fiction.

CONTENT GUIDANCE: This novel explores aspects of psychology and mental health and contains depictions of self-harm, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Please read with care.

 Link to the book:

Doctor Glass: A Psychological Thriller Novel

Link to the publisher’s website:

https://www.tckpublishing.com/

Author Louise Worthington

About the author:
Louise Worthington writes psychological fiction for fans of deeply layered thrillers by Ruth Ware, Tana French and Alex Michaelides. She has a passion for exploring the complexity and darker side of the human heart in tales imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings from poisonous gardens, medieval dungeons to an isolated property by the sea. Common themes are family, motherhood, making money from murder and revenge. 

She is the author of six novels, including Rachel’s Garden and The Entrepreneur, and the gothic horror, Rosie Shadow

 Author’s website:

https://louiseworthington.co.uk/

My review:

I thank Maria from TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This novel had been published before, but this is a new revised edition.

I was intrigued by the premise of the novel (having worked in mental health, I am always interested in seeing how the subject is portrayed), and although the author has published a number of books before, this is the first time I read her work. This is intended to be the first in a series, and I suspect it won’t be the last one I read.

The book’s description offers enough clues as to the story’s content, and I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers by adding too many details. The content guidance also hints at some of the themes. This is a novel that deals with topics that many people might find upsetting or disturbing. Although this is not unusual with psychological thrillers, be warned that this novel is pretty open and honest in its depiction of extreme behaviours (self-harm, abusive relationships, murder/suicide, filicide, somewhat unusual sexual preferences, eating disorders, co-dependency…) and a variety of mental health problems (PTSD, pathological grief, personality disorder, Stockholm Syndrome…) This is not a sanitised version of any of those problems, and readers need to be aware of that. (I worked as a psychiatrist and have seen my share of things, although, thankfully, not everything that goes on in the book, and I didn’t find it disturbing, but I am not the standard reader, so do take the warnings seriously). Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is a touch of the supernatural/paranormal as well.

I am always interested in the therapist in the novels featuring one, and Emma-Jane Glass is a woman totally dedicated to her work, who at first appears very professional and self-confident, but what she goes through makes her question much of what she thought was certain. Her experiences and thought processes, although extreme (I won’t mention suspension of disbelief, because we all know this is a novel, after all), rang true (not that I’ve ever met a therapist who regularly uses hypnosis in my professional capacity, but then I’ve always worked in hospitals, mostly for the NHS, so it might be more common in private practice), although I missed knowing more about her, where she came from, and her background. We only learn about her friendship with Lucy, who has an office next door and works as a nutritionist, and we also hear about her supervisor, Celia (whom we never meet until very close to the end), but there is nothing else of a personal nature. The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Dr Glass’s point of view but not exclusively, although that does not help us understand who she is, beyond her professional identity and interest. (It does give us some interesting insights into the minds of some of the minor characters, though). This being a series, it is possible that those aspects will be developed in other books, but I missed that. Lucy is a likeable character, full of doubts and not as self-confident as Emma-Jane. We know about an important loss she suffered, and there are times when it feels as if her friend was living vicariously through her whilst trying to help her at the same time (as Dr Glass seems to be more involved in Lucy’s life than interested in having a private life of her own). I liked her, but I wasn’t sure the relationship between the two was sufficiently developed either.

I don’t want to go into too much detail talking about other characters. The main antagonist (whom I wouldn’t define as a standard baddie) does terrible things, but he has also gone through some soul-destroying suffering, and he is evidently very disturbed. Although his emotions and his most extreme behaviours come across as pretty realistic, there are elements of his characterization I wasn’t too sure about, but I don’t think anybody will feel indifferent about him. There are some other characters that make an appearance, and I was particularly moved by the story of one of Dr Glass’s patients, Vanessa, and her experience of grief. Some reviewers found the details about the sessions, both Dr Glass’s and Lucy’s, unnecessary, as they felt they detracted from the main story. Apart from my personal interest in the subject, I did think that the sessions help give us a better understanding of the thought processes of the protagonists, and also illustrate the kind of strain and pressures they are subject to, which go some way to explaining how they react at times. The rest of the characters are not fully developed, and there are a few things readers will be left wondering about, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The author writes beautifully, and there are lyrical passages, vibrant images, and masterful use of metaphors, which contrast with the darkness of some of the content while offering readers a reprieve and mirroring how the mind works, finding beauty in unexpected places and in extreme situations sometimes, as a self-defense mechanism and refuge. Some parts of the novel move at a faster pace than others, and, in general, the action picks up speed as the story develops, until almost the very end. There is an unexplained prologue, which many readers have complained about, and although it seems related to one of the topics that appear in the novel, it is not fully contained by it, and it made me wonder.

As usual, I recommend checking a sample of the novel if readers are not sure if it might suit their taste (making sure to heed the warnings first), but I thought I’d share a couple of examples of some of the content I’ve highlighted, to give you a small taste:

She finds the quietness of Vanessa’s sad smile moving, and she respects the way she wears her pain like glass: transparent, fragile. So brave, to not wear a brave face; to wear a real, feeling one.

 She watches a spider slowly crawl across the ceiling and onto the lampshade, sprinkling dust like dandruff. All that ceiling, all those walls, they’re like acres, countries, to a spider. Such freedom. Here she sits, trapped in a web. The spider’s unhurried movement stirs the mounting hysteria building inside her.

I have already mentioned that some things are left to readers’ imaginations, although the main story has an ending, and one pretty satisfying, at least for the main character. Considering the amount of time and detail dedicated to developing the story, I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but as this is a series, such things are likely to get balanced out in the future.

This is an enticing opening to a new series, one that promises to dig deep into psychological subjects, and if the characters keep growing, it will become even more compelling. I’d recommend it to readers looking for psychological thrillers that don’t mind digging deep into dark subjects, but please, make sure to check the content guidance.

Thanks to Maria, to the publishers, and to the author for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, don’t forget to keep smiling and keep safe. 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Closer than You Think (A Broken Minds Thriller) by Lee Maguire (@TCKPublishing) A solid first novel for lovers of psychological suspense and Basset Hounds

Hi, all:

Today I bring you the review of a book that I got sent quite a while ago but had been hiding from me. I’ve finally got around to it, and I hope to catch up on some more that I’m sure are also buried under my long list. Sorry! Better late than never, I hope!

Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire
Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire

Closer than You Think (A Broken Minds Thriller) by Lee Maguire

Meet Bryce Davison, a gifted psychologist who can heal any troubled mind—except his own.

You see, Bryce’s life is falling apart. His marriage is crumbling. His insomnia brings only half-sleep and troubled dreams—visions of dark and buried memories he’d rather forget or ignore completely. And the new female patient in his psych ward just might be more trouble than he’s able to cope with.

…and now he has a stalker.

Somebody’s been watching Bryce for a long time. Somebody who knows his life inside and out—his fears, his regrets, his greatest longings and deepest despairs. Somebody with access to his most private places—his workplace, his home, his family…anywhere Bryce might have felt safe.

They do their dirty work in the shadows… and they want Bryce Davison dead.

So Bryce has got to get his life together. To save his patients. To save his family. To save his marriage…and his life.

Because no matter how close Bryce gets to the deadly truth, the enigmatic stalker is always closer than he thinks.

Fans of psychological thrillers like I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll, Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine, and No Exit by Taylor Adams will love this book.

You will enjoy Closer Than You Think if you like:

  • Psychological thrillers
  • Psychological suspense
  • Cerebral mysteries

Here is the link of the book:

http://geni.us/closerthanyouthinkm

Amazon links:

https://www.amazon.com/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

https://www.amazon.es/Closer-Think-Broken-Minds-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07FZ9XFGF/

Lee Maguire
Lee Maguire (or his representative…)

About the author:

Lee Maguire grew up reading mysteries and thrillers. While he has continued to enjoy medical and legal thrillers, psychological suspense quickly became his preferred genre. Writing such a work became a passion.

Lee has practiced as a psychotherapist, behavioral health consultant, clinical supervisor, and graduate psychology instructor. His clinical experience meshes well with the activities of Doctor Bryce Davison, drawing the reader into the mind of the clinician.

Closer Than You Think is book one of the planned Broken Minds Thriller series featuring Doctor Bryce Davison. Additional information may be found at leemaguirebooks.com

https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Maguire/e/B07G2VJCB1/

Lee’s Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Bryce-Davison-Thriller-Series-1497309670567574/

My review:

Disclaimer: the publisher offered me a free ARC copy of this book. This this not affect my review.

In brief, this is a promising debut novel (in a planned series of psychological thrillers), narrated in the first person, with a solid stalker plot (clues, red-herrings and twists likely to make most readers of the genre happy), an interesting setting (a mental health treatment facility for troubled youths) and a good development of the main character (psychologist Bryce Davison, a man with an unsettled and traumatic past), and a wonderful Basset Hound. On the minus side, it could do with a tighter editing, more development of the secondary characters, and more attention to the pacing of the action.

This book will be especially appealing to those who enjoy psychological suspense, with particular emphasis on the “psychological” part. The author’s professional experience shines through, and that aspect of the novel is particularly well achieved, although it might seem overdetailed to people used to faster-paced thrillers.

The first-person point of view works well for the type of story, as it allows readers to share in the doubts and thoughts of the victim, experiencing his anxiety, reliving the trauma he experienced when he was young, and also trying to piece together the clues with him. On the other hand, the novel reads, at times, like a poorly focused memoir, with plenty of repetition of everyday living activities and chores that don’t help move the action forward and don’t add much to our understanding of the character. (There are so many times we can read about the character having a shower, the fact that his fridge is empty, or his switching or on off the computer). I’ve read novels that meander through stuff that does not seem particularly noteworthy, but the style of writing makes it impossible not to enjoy the detour. In this novel, neither the style of writing nor the genre are best suited for it. The other characters are not very well-developed, partly perhaps to do with the choice of point of view, and in some cases, like Bryce’s wife, that has the effect of making them appear inconsistent or totally at odds with the protagonist’s opinion of them.

The suspenseful plot and the way it builds up work well, although I agree with some of the reviewers that complain about the ending and the final explanation being too rushed. The story is not heavy on action or violence, although there is some, and the ending itself is satisfying.

As I said, this is a solid first novel that could be further improved by another round of editing, and I’d recommend it to people who prefer psychological suspense and who value plot over character building. Also recommended to Basset Hound lovers.

Thanks to the publisher and to the author, huge thanks to you all for reading, if you like it, share it and/or comment, and keep on smiling!

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