Insights, News

Insights: How I Review Books & What My Ratings Mean

With how much I am reading this year, I am sure some of you have seen me post reviews on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads…as well as my own blog. Everyone has different criteria for how they rate books and how they perceive the ratings. ⁠

So some you upon seeing my reviews, may wonder how I PERSONALLY review books so the review is HONEST AND FAIR to the author. This is especially important with indie authors, who don’t have as many reviews, so I want to make sure my review is fair to them when a single review can impact ratings. 

I truly try to be fair, honest, and kind in my reviews. I don’t want to let one things sway me from an otherwise good book and give it 1 star because I didn’t agree with how an author handled something or didn’t like a trope. ⁠

So I review books based on 6 criteria. I even have a nifty little spreadsheet to help when I’m unsure what I’m going to rate the book…since I enjoy math like that.

⁠1) The Writing

Not every writer is properly trained. While the book should be cohesive and make sense, I don’t want someone’s writing to hinder my review unless I REALLY can’t read the story. But I also want to give credit to AMAZING writers as well. So 10% of my review is based on writing.⁠

2) The Plot⁠

Did the plot make sense? Did it flow? This makes up 20% of my review…because frankly, if the plot is all over the place, then how am I supposed to enjoy the story?⁠

3) The Characters⁠

Characters can definitely make or break a story. If the characters are entertaining and I connect with their plight, then I want to credit the author for that. This makes up 10% of my review.⁠

4) Tropes⁠

There are some tropes I love, some tropes I hate. Sometimes an author makes a trope I hate work. Sometimes they handle dark topics well, sometimes they don’t. But, if the overall story is good and I loved it, I don’t want my hatred for a trope to completely negate my review, so this makes up only 5% of my review. ⁠

5) The Ending⁠

Occasionally, I might not agree with a book’s ending. But, clearly, the author had a vision. So even if I hated the way a book ended, I don’t want it to completely ruin a review for a book I otherwise enjoyed. This makes up 5% of my review.⁠

6) Enjoyment⁠

Obviously this is the most subjective and guiding factor of my review. Did I enjoy a book? Then I want that to count even if there were flaws I couldn’t avoid. This makes up 50% of my review. ⁠

So…that being said…what do my ratings mean?

★★★★★⁠
This means I CANNOT put this book down. Chances are I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like, and the entire time the story enchanted me. These are books that I highly recommend to anyone who asks. ⁠

★★★★☆⁠
These books are still wonderful reads. But for whatever reason, they aren’t sticking the same way. Perhaps it was due to the writing style, a trope, or just personal taste that knocks it down slightly. Either way, a four-star rating means the book is highly recommended!⁠

★★★☆☆⁠
3-to-3.5 stars is my average rating. This is still a GOOD book. There might be some issues though: possibly the pacing is off, I don’t like the trope, something was wrong with the writing, or another array of issues. But that doesn’t mean the book is bad. It’s still either good or fun, and that’s all that matter!⁠

★★☆☆☆⁠
I haven’t given too many 2-star ratings. Usually it is more of a 2.5 or 2.75 or something. Typically, 2 stars means the book wasn’t for me. Usually I can find redeemable qualities (well written, entertaining enough, etc), but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. That being said, I can see while people will enjoy it. ⁠

★☆☆☆☆⁠
I have not given a 1-star review this year. These are reserved for DNFs (and I do try to finish every book) or a book that has NO redeemable qualities. ⁠These are books that have repugnant sexist/racism/prejudice/pedophilia/etc, as well as books that are just indecipherable. I have not come across any of these (yet) though.

A note…

I will never drop a rating after I rate the book. I don’t think that is fair to the author. I may increase it though if I reread it. ⁠

After reading all this, if you are an author looking for a review, feel free to check out my review policy. I have spots open starting January 2021 and would love to check out your work! 

News

13 Year Anniversary Celebration: Authors Wanted!

Hi everyone!

So let me take you back to October 2007. I was in Eight Grade, tasked with writing a horror/suspense story for Halloween. This story, titled “Red Ink”, became the starting point for what would be years of work on my debut novel The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.

I want to celebrate 13 years of work. While there will be events about my book throughout October, one thing I really want to do is interview a handful of authors about what inspired them to work their novels as well as their creative process.

So everyday in October, I would LOVE to feature an author here on my website as well as on social media. That’s right! I want to interview 31 authors to feature on my blog! Five of these authors will be offered a chance to do a live interview as well, but obviously I am one person, so I don’t have the capacity to do them all.

Note: This is completely different from the massive event I am planning. More details on that will come soon. This is more of a personal celebration that I am putting together.

So with all that being said…are you an author? Do YOU want to be featured on my website and on my social media pages at some point in October?

Fill out the form below! I’ll close it once I have 31 responses OR on October 1st…whichever comes first!

Looking forward to get to know all of you!

Book Review

The Messengers – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 Stars)
Total Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5/5 stars)

The galaxy has been at war for decades. When Zane, a messenger, comes head-to-head with a refugee, he talks just a little too much, getting himself into more trouble than he anticipated. A young man confused by his duties in a war and plague ravaged society, he inadvertently gets a scientist from the opposing side captured. Little does he know that she is a geneticist that sees DNA as something as more than a puzzle: but a messenger itself.

Meanwhile, a seemingly normal mission to deliver a package causes a soldier and a pilot to disclose more about their pasts than they intend. Could their pasts be the key to the future?

While the fates of these individuals do not transform the galaxy, this short audible production, reminiscent of a playwright script, takes us on a simple voyage, asking the single question: how do we carry our pasts? Does it matter what is in our blood, or are we defined by our actions?

While this short play-like story is not revolutionary, it’s fun to listen to as a whole. I got a feel of the different characters, their universe, and their conflict in the one hour listen. Would it have been as good on paper? I’m not sure. But even with only dialogue and sound-effects to tell the story, it was enough to understand the overall conflict and dilemma. Was all the dialogue realistic? Not necessarily. But as is with any play on paper, sometimes you need more dialogue to explain what is going on.

I don’t think this needed to be longer in order to tell its tale. While there is much more in this universe to be explored, the goal of this story was simple: show us the past and how it relays into the future, and the conflicts that coincide with it.

This might not be for everyone, but as a sci-fi lover, I thought it did a fantastic job. If you want a quick listen on audible, I encourage you to check it out. I had fun with it at least.

What’s it about?

A mysterious plague ushers in an intergalactic war that ravages the galaxy for decades. A soldier and a pilot are tasked to deliver a package. A messenger and a refugee decide to work together on a dying alien planet. A love letter is lost that could be the key to a new future. A dark comedy about the messages we carry in our bones.

Book Review

The Magic Misfits: The Fourth Suit – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 Stars)
Total Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5/5 stars)

The Magic Misfits are back in their final act, but will they take a bow at the end? After a tumultuous summer with the nefarious Kalagan stirring up chaos, ultimately resulting in the destruction of Vernon’s Magic Shop, the Magic Misfits have been forced to meet in the shadows. This time, we take a journey through Ridley’s eyes, as she tries to thwart Kalagan’s plans one last time as well as mend the ties between her friends and her family. In a fun, high-stakes finale, filled with the magic of friendship and transformative word, embark on the Magic Misfits’ finale as they question everything they know.

Throughout the entire series, we have seen Ridley as the hard-headed, tough-as-nails, loyal friend. Now, in the finale, we get to see her in full; she is terrified of losing her friends and family, particularly to herself. She is constantly battling her inner turmoil, trying to mediate her personality, while also holding to her convictions. Children need to see this: not every hero is perfect. As truths unravel in Mineral Wells, that made even more pertinent. Things aren’t always as they seem. While many things seemed to come together by coincidence, Kalagan’s influence has been there throughout the whole story, playing each piece, one at a time, to bring our misfits together.

But even those we trust might not be trustworthy. Ridley knows this, and even if the truth hurts, she’ll stop at nothing to make sure her friends understand. Without Ridley, the Misfits might not have taken a final bow. They might have succumbed to Kalagan’s influence.

But they also could never act alone. Neil Patrick Harris has painted this group as equals; no matter their strengths and weaknesses, without each other, Kalagan might have won. While Kalagan is cunning, with multiple twists up his sleeves (one of which I anticipated, but the other I did not), he cannot win against such a close and important group of magical children.

In a satisfying conclusion to the series, we see all these pieces come together. Each child gets the chance to shine. But I think what is even more important about this book is Ridley. The fact that she is in a wheelchair is never seen as an inconvenience or an annoyance to her or her friends. She is strong, smart, and resourceful. There are important accommodations made by her friends, but never as a burden. Children need this…and adults do too: no one is a burden.

In fact, Ridley’s insecurities come more from her behavior. Is she too harsh? Too mean? Is she going to end up like her workaholic mother? What is left unsaid is more important than what is said, proving one heavy point: Ridley is a child just like any other.

Ultimately, this story is about trust. Everyone keeps secrets, but a secret should never cause someone to be misdirected. If a secret is such a burden, you lay the grounds to be manipulated by a man such as Kalagan. In the end, if you want your friendships to thrive, have trust in each other. It’s essential.

The Fourth Suit is a satisfying conclusion to a fun, but also heartwarming, story about a group of magical misfits. I highly recommend, whether young or old, you take a journey with the group. I am sure Carter, Laila, Theo, Ridley, Izzy, and Ollie would be happy to have you.

What’s it about?

Ridley Larsen is everything you want in a friend. She’s tough as nails, she’s fiercely loyal, and she’s smart as a whip. But she can be a harsh critic, which has put her position with the Magic Misfits on the rocks, even as the threat of the group’s longtime enemy Kalagan looms large. Ever since his recent appearance in Mineral Wells, the kids know that a showdown with the vicious magician is imminent.

They must first deal with a series of odd instances and random attacks, though, all of which they use to bring themselves closer to discovering where Kalagan may be hiding, and the nature of his true identity. But can Ridley finally master her temper and put her essential magical skills to good use? She’ll do anything to protect her friends, and when the time comes, she’ll find that the Magic Misfits are strongest when they all work together.

Join the Magic Misfits as they discover adventure, friendship, and more than a few hidden secrets in this finale of the unique and surprising series. Whether you’re a long-time expert at illusion or simply a new fan of stage magic, hold on to your top hat

Book Review

Dead Jack & The Pandemonium Device- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)
Total Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Life shouldn’t be hard for dead guy, but for Jack the only thing that seems to make him happy is pixie dust. He’ll stop at nothing to get some to, taking on odd detective jobs, such as searching for a Goblin Queen’s missing cats. Little does he expect that the search for cats unveils a plot by a former acquaintance to destroy Pandemonium and return to the “real” world.

In a story reminiscent of many adult cartoons – such as Rick & Morty and Futurama – Dead Jack takes on an almost cartoonish, but still fantastical and creepy, approach to a dimension filled dead and undead creatures alike. With the help his homonculus partner, Oswald, as well as from a half-pixie witch and an insane bat god, Jack inevitably is forced to save the day. The characters are fun, unique, and ultimately charming in their odd ways, even if Jack can be petty.

A straightforward story with interesting characters is always the type to keep me engaged. It might not be for everyone, since it does start with Jack behead a leprechaun after a disagreement. He is a zombie (addicted to pixie dust) after all. Dark and twisted in the best ways, you’ll want see where Jack’s antics take him next. Overall, it’s fun, and that’s what matters.

I do wish we could have spent more time with Oswald and some of the other characters. To an extent, Jack as our narrator is one of the more normal and less interesting characters. That probably why he makes a good narrator though. He’s zombie, but he’s fundamentally human at heart. Even though he claims his soul is gone, to an extent, I think he has more soul than anyone else. He just hides it under an exterior of nonchalance.

The story of the Pandemonium Device wraps up nicely, but with enough of a cliffhanger that readers will be back for more. Is his dear little buddy okay? Will he find his soul? Will the Leprechauns get their revenge?

I guess I’ll find out in the next book.

What’s it about?

Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device kicks off a wild and irreverent fantasy / horror series following the exploits of a zombie detective and his homunculus frenemy. In the fast-paced novel, the drug-addicted zombie detective and his shapeshifting sidekick battle and outsmart supernatural creatures, from tough-guy leprechauns to sex-obsessed shark women and insane bat gods, in a hellish, alternate New York City of the 1940s.

Book Review

The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadow – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Total Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)

Everyone knows the story of Sherlock Holmes. The original story, A Study in Scarlet, has paved the way for this notable detective to influence ever element of popular culture. But, even John Watson lies. At the end of his days, Watson has decided to tell us the truth. There is more to Sherlock Holmes than being a witty detective. He had stretched the truth and changed the stories to suit a better narrative, for the truth is much darker. Upon meeting Sherlock Holmes by pure chance in a pub, rather than introduced by a friend as he so claimed (although the friend is still to blame), Watson and Holmes embark on a journey that takes them to the world of Eldritch Gods, the Necronomicon, and deaths that defy humanity.

Sherlock Holmes answers the call of Cthulhu in James Lovegrove’s retelling of Sherlock Holmes. In a tale told in the same format as the original Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this first part of The Cthulhu Casebooks feels as if it comes right out of the original narrative. Even if you don’t know every Sherlock Holmes story, or only have a small knowledge of HP Lovecraft’s work, you’ll be able to follow along with this adventure. The Old Gods are real, and they are haunting London as shadows, taking lives and stumping even the notorious Sherlock Holmes.

While Lovegrove stays true to the original characters, the retelling did grow a little cumbersome. It spent time recounting details, as is customary with Sherlock Holmes’s stories, and I found myself losing focus on certain passages that went into the deep details of the Old Gods. This is of course expected in a story that combines two author’s work: the author is forced to find a balance between telling the readers enough without confusing them.

As per expected, Moriarty becomes the villain, as is with every Sherlock Holme’s tale. To Sherlock, the answers always come easily, and as is per usual with any Sherlock Holmes tale, he always has a cunning way out of every situation. To some extent though, Sherlock facing these Old Gods seemed almost too intense and bizarre, even for him.

Finally, it can’t go unsaid that since the story tries to stay loyal to its source material, there are instances of racism and prejudiced dotted throughout the story. While the author attempts to rectify this in a preface, taking the role of a fictional author from our time who came into possession of the manuscripts, it is important to be aware of these faults. Yes, it keeps them close to the source material, but could they have been handled better? Possibly.

With all that being said, it was an entertaining read. I’ll probably pick up the next book eventually, more so out of curiosity of how Sherlock Holmes deals with these perplexing foes. It’s just not at the very top of my to-read list.

What’s it about?

In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.

Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun. 

Book Review

Werewolf Nights – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5 / 5 stars)

Catherine Mercy is just trying to survive; not from werewolves, of course, but from financial destitution and keeping herself afloat. She still has not recovered from her husband, Frank’s, supposed death, leaving her in financial ruin. All she has is her bakery and two good friends, Anne and Steve. But her memories haunt her: of Frank, of Jimmy – her long lost highschool sweetheart – and of the town’s lore. When a movie begins production about her town’s local legend, suddenly Catherine’s life is thrown into a row of movie stardom and romance. But is she ready cast aside her past and make the plunge into change…especially when real werewolves might just be afoot?

In a story constructed with hefty unique lore that transports the reader into Wereville’s stories of real werewolves, we embark on Catherine’s journey to come to terms with her past. Little does Catherine know, the truth is more complicated than it seems. Hamill does a fantastic job weaving these components into the story, and as I read, I slowly began to work through the mysteries of Catherine’s past. Wereville is enchanting, the type of campy place I would like to visit. In fact, the story has every element of a campy werewolf movie. So it’s fun, at least at its core.

Overall though, the story faltered. The first 60% of the book basically summarizes the first half of the back cover summary. We meander through the first few days, experiencing Wereville, learning about Catherine’s past through long memory-based chapters, and are told what Catherine and the other characters feel without quite experiencing it. The romance that Catherine begins (and subsequently ends) with Charles, feels inorganic. Later, when the same emotions come tumbling around Greg, it once again felt forced.

The last 30% of the novel was the most interest part, coming face-to-face with real werewolves. But the pacing was too fast, especially compared to the beginning. While the first 60-70% covers a series of maybe a week, the last 30% spans months. This works in some occasions, but personally, I would have much preferred the beginning be cut short to spend more time in this part of the novel. We could have explored the legend, as well as Catherine’s confused and budding feelings for her costars. In fact, I hate to say it, but the back cover summary basically surmises 80-90% of the book.

I was hoping for more, overall. I was hoping for an exploration of werewolf myth while delving into the romance between Catherine and her costar. Instead, the story meandered. I learned all about Wereville, and was told everything about Catherine and Greg…but I didn’t get as much real werewolf (or werewolf hunters) as I was expecting.

Everything came together in a nice package though. Like any campy werewolf movie, Catherine gets her ending. All the details come together in a nice box, making sense in the end, even if the execution could have been better.

I can see why people would enjoy this story though. It has steamy romance, compelling lore, and werewolves. Even if I didn’t enjoy the execution, others will, so I don’t want to tell people not to read it.

If it sounds interesting, I encourage you check out Werewolf Nights. It certainly adds a whole new element to werewolf lore.

What’s it about?

Threatened by financial ruin, widowed bakery owner Catherine Mercy leads a solitary life with more interest in reading about werewolf lore than in finding a man. Her one true love disappeared after high school and her now deceased husband kept her trapped in the house claiming that a werewolf might hunt her down one day, just as her grandmother repeatedly warned her. When Hollywood interrupts the town’s monotony by shooting a werewolf movie on location, Catherine’s best friend Anne pushes her to audition. Already in her thirties, Catherine feels ridiculous trying to become an actress, but lands the leading role.

Catherine’s daily routine turns into a hair-raising adventure as fame begins to surveil her wanderings and she falls for her sexy costar Greg Byron despite this actor’s neon warning sign that flashes conceited womanizer. He’s also smitten by her, but just when they are about to find happiness, a wolf bites him.

While Greg’s features turn lupine, Catherine discovers a resemblance between the movie script and her family’s history. Frightened, Catherine recruits werewolf expert Steve to figure out if the movie’s werewolf legend is real and if Wolfern, the werewolf her grandmother dreaded, has finally come for her. If so, Greg will turn into a werewolf. Only undoing Greg’s curse and destroying Wolfern before the next full moon can save their love and their lives.

Mari Hamill blends fantasy, intrigue, and passion to create a chilling, unique story

News

Do YOU Want to Help Indie Authors?

What if there was a week, or maybe a month, that focused entirely on the community coming together and supporting each other? While yes, we’re already a very supportive community, I mean something like this: we host giveaways, interviews, contests, webinars and how-tos, connect readers with reviewers, and other such fun things! Think of it as a digital event, right here, online.

But this would be a serious endeavor, and I can’t do it alone. I need help.

So this is me asking for YOUR help! If you’re interested in this event in any way shape or form (as a host, guest author, or just wanting to be in the know), please fill out this form:

This is all just an abstract idea right now, but I would really LOVE to throw this together.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

E.S. Barrison

Book Review

Broken Melody – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Alana has a demon living inside her that she calls Sunshine. This is demon is dark, constantly throwing her between mania and depression, and the only way that Alana can silence Sunshine is through her addiction to toxic substances. Time is a mere figment. Her relationships are falling apart. And everything is spinning out of control.

In a harrowing, passionately written story, Nikki Haase takes us deep into the psyche of what addiction does to people. It’s unique to find a story specifically about a female addict as well, since most ride off the wave of Breaking Bad, focusing on the lives of male addicts instead. The story, told from Alana’s point-of-view, has the jittery focus of a drug addict. When she is high or stoned, her speech pattern reflected it, and while sober, she is more observant of her friends and her surroundings. Time moves weird in the book; sometimes days go by, or months, and like with any one struggling from addiction and mental illness, it doesn’t always make sense. This was brilliantly done.

Yet, while time becomes meaningless in Alana’s life, it does negatively impact the pacing. The first half of the book is a little slow, while second half moves a little too fast. I would have liked to spend more time with Alana after her life takes a turn for the worst. Possibly we don’t see it because Alana is living in a haze of addiction. She is inwardly focused, and when she’s on her high, she doesn’t feel anything.

Because of her inward focus, a lot of her friends are seen through a selfish lens. She sees them as “I don’t know why she loves me,” “I don’t understand why he cares,” etc. This doesn’t always work in a narrative, but I think it works well with Alana’s story…since it is very much about her. Granted it does take away from an emotional event that occurs, leaving two of her friends empty, as well as how her parents feel about her addiction. She’s a teenager, after all, and teenager are selfish.

Despite the book’s flaws, I really enjoyed it. It gave a sort of perspective that isn’t always addressed, and it also creates a sympathy for people who get stuck in a cycle of addiction. The book is also an examination of failed mental health systems, which ultimately led to Alana self medicating. Friends, even if they shouldn’t forgive someone, often are the changing forces in someone’s life. Even if I think some characters should have walked away from her, I understand why they didn’t. In real life, you don’t always give up on someone despite their battles. You might walk away for a bit, but it’s very realistic that you would come back.

I do recommend this book but with a caveat. It is dark. It’s about addiction and the horrors that face it. If this makes you uneasy, then this book is for you. But, if you want to explore the depth of someone’s psyche as they struggle through these horrors, I do recommend you check out Broken Melody.

I think it will be on my mind for awhile.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What’s it about?

I think a demon lives in me. Her name is Sunshine and she wants the numbing chemicals of cocaine. She craves the sweet, disgusting taste of heroin and the sharp flavors of crystal meth. We’re often told that drug addicts are lowly humans that drop out of school, can’t hold down a job, and they always come from a life of abuse and pain. I have friends who love me, parents who care about me, and a beautiful girlfriend who I adore. I was a straight-A student in high school. I was at the top of my class. I’ve been getting high since I was a kid to self-medicate mood swings that feel like whiplash on a good day. And I’ve messed up. Big time. Now, I owe the biggest dealer in town thousands of dollars! If he finds me, I’m dead. I can’t get the money and I can only hide out for so long. I have to get sober so I can get my head straight and figure this out. All I need is one more hit.

Book Review

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 Stars)
Total Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5 stars)

Merricat is content with her life. Sure, her sister Constance never leaves the house, and Uncle Julian seems to be getting worse every day, but she enjoys her life secluded from the rest of town. She explores the Blackwood Estate, left to her after her parents died in an unfortunate accident involving arsenic in their sugar, and keeps to a routine she finds soothing. But people talk. They blame Constance for the murder. When their cousin Charles appears one day in attempts to claim unknown riches, Merricat will stop at nothing to get him out of their house, even if it risks revealing her secrets.

In an intricately woven tale, we see the world through Merricat’s eyes. Her childlike nature, her distaste for most people, and her games infect the reader. We become sympathetic to her pleas, even if they are on the irrational side. Besides, who doesn’t want to be left alone? Who doesn’t want to protect those they care about? And who isn’t afraid of their entire world being upended? Merricat is painted as the perfect sympathetic character, but beneath it she harbors sociopath tendencies, with the inability to connect with anyone else. She likes to watch others squirm. But as the reader, you want them to squirm too.

As an audio book, Merricat’s personality shines, and that helps in the more drawn out portions of the book. While the writing was beautiful, weaving intricately through a maze of problems just like the house, I wonder if it meandered too much. After the most destructive moment, due to Merricat’s hatred of Charles, the book continued wandering through the narrative, almost as if it was uncertain how to conclude. Possibly, the story might have been stronger if it was ended sooner, or was shorter. I am not entirely certain. The thrilling nature of the narrative comes from the way it’s written, but for me at least, that was also it’s flaw.

That being said, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, will chill you to the bone. The revelation is well thought out, and while I figured it before its reveal, the seeds are planted well enough that it’s neither too obvious nor too wild a discovery.

With Halloween approaching, this thriller is definitely one to add to your TBR list.

Before you eat dessert tonight, make sure to check your sugar.

What’s it about?

Six years after four family members died of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and 18-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune—and manages to penetrate into their carefully shielded lives. Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods, resulting in crisis, tragedy, and the revelation of a terrible secret.