The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train
By: Paula Hawkins

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… – Goodreads

Having reached a decent popularity after its release, The Girl On The Train is compared with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (review), which happens to be one of my favorite books. While its not quite the same level as Gone Girl, the novel embraces the culture of people watching to its full potential and structures its point of view between three main female characters as they each experience different sides of the spectrum. The first being Rachel, the girl on the train who lives a routine life and envies the life of this home and couple that the train she commutes on at the same time everyday, making her reminisce her own marriage before it was broken and when she used to live a few houses down from this couple. As she fantasizes about this couple, the second point of view turns to the woman of the house that she looks at, Megan who ends up missing and the police investigation opens for her which leads Rachel to share what she’s seen that could be suspicious and also approach Megan’s husband, Scott which opens up another can of worms as she ends up peaking the attention of her ex-husband’s current wife, Anna who takes up the third point of view. Through these three, the mystery unfolds as to what happens to Megan and who is involved.

The Girl On The Train is a good premise. Mystery thrillers have been rather plentiful to say the least however this one does build up a pretty decent reveal. The novel is well-written and the structure is good as well as the first person view from three characters helps piece together the novel but still with a good amount of unknowns from both their own characters and the people around them. It helps construct these three very different sort of female characters with their own pasts and different values that end up setting up their relationships around them as well. Alternating between characters and point of views is probably one of my own favorite novel structures and this story fits in it really well. This in turn builds up these three characters so that they each can also have their own interpretation. In this case, Rachel takes a center stage since she is “the girl on the train” which is the book is titled after and her character is by far the one with the most depth which crafts her into a rather realistic sort of character who has plummeted into alcohol after her divorce, making most of her life rather blurry and spiraling downwards with this mystery giving her something new to focus on.

The mystery element of the novel is the highlight of the story as a whole. It builds up and is crafted rather well. The thriller element is definitely there mostly because these characters all are rather imperfect in their own ways, making them feel hard to truly erase them from suspicion for one reason or another. However, the thrill is mostly with all the characters, not just the main three female characters but also the other ones who all feel like its one big cycle of waiting for their stories to unfold to rid them of suspicion. It throws a few twists here and there, some land more unexpectedly than others. The big reveal of who is responsible does end up being rather surprising and a decently executed twist.

Overall, The Girl On The Train is pretty good overall. There are some little bits here and there that feel like it could be polished a little better in execution. Sometimes, reading a slew of characters which was completely imperfect also feels a little hard to completely bond into the book and its events as is the situation here which at times feels a bit tiring as it cycles around some events a little too much. However, the mystery is decently crafted, the structure keeps things moving from one side of the story to the next, even if some of it jumps back and forth in the timeline and the thrilling parts are mostly from character development and a believable yet unpredictable reveal.

Goodreads score: 4/5

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1)
By: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy

This is the story of Offred, one of the”Handmaids” whose purpose is to breed. In the new social order in which women are told they are being controlled for their own good, Offred lives in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is sent out once a day to the food market, chaperoned; she is is not permitted to read; and she is hoping the commander makes her pregnant, because if not she’ll be sent to a toxic work camp, or end up as a sex slave in Jezebel’s. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, and a husband and a child. But all of that is gone now… everything has changed. – Goodreads

There’s no doubt that I once bought this novel at the TV series height and wanted to read what it was about in anticipation for when I would get the chance to watch it. Until this very day, I haven’t watched the series yet but here we are, the first book of this series done as well as the first Margaret Atwood book done and dusted. While I want to say that I had in incredibly great time with it, it definitely was not the case. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of Atwood’s most known and popular titles (according to the blurb in Goodreads) and its no surprise that it was adapted into a TV series considering its premise and characters. It is quite suitable content to make for some engaging and compelling TV series. However, as the book itself, there are certain things that aren’t quite to my own preference.

Before we start with the cons, let’s start with some of the good stuff. The Handmaid’s Tale creates a wonderful dystopia future. This future is harsh and takes away the basic rights of women decreasing fertile women to simply being emotionless and obedient birthing machines as their life from what they eat to their lifestyle to their purpose being derived solely from being impregnated by the Commander of their household. What does make it more messed up is that they are doing all this in the presence of the Commander’s wife just like a substitute body. The dystopia world has its underground guilty pleasures and as Offred, the main character starts to be asked to do things against the norm from the Commander and his wife separately, she starts seeing these hidden elements of this dystopian world. That part of the story is where most of the fun is as Offred’s experiences from past and present do shed light on how the situation came to be, how she got to where she is and her observations from the things happening around her.

The issue with the writing itself is that it is very descriptive, at times a little bit overly descriptive that makes the pacing feel a little dragged out in parts. At the same time, the writing also tends to jump around between the past and present a lot. While the story itself doesn’t have an issue, there are times that it takes a while to know exactly which is in the past without warning. Especially in the beginning when learning about all these characters around Offred and their connection and purpose, etc. Perhaps its that I prefer a little more obvious structure in the writing structure and style which makes this element something that doesn’t appeal to myself as much. Its also that as I get older, the amount of structure and description also makes for a great deal of the read experience itself. Over the course of the novel, it does slowly become easier to catch on the past and present since the characters are more familiar. Just for a simple example, there was one part that bothered me was this whole meeting that was supposed to happen and then it goes on this whole detour of a few chapters before it actually happens.

With all that said, The Handmaid’s Tale is an okay reading experience. Overall, it has a really good world building and the dystopia concept is pretty well-executed especially since it is the first book of two and does build a good foundation, seeing as the story does end on a cliffhanger of sorts. The writing structure and style isn’t exactly something that I’m a big fan of but if you don’t mind those elements I mentioned above, then this might be up your alley!

Goodreads score: 3/5

Want (Want #1) by Cindy Pon

Want
By: Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?  – Goodreads

Want is a dystopian sci-fi novel set in a future where the oxygen is no longer good to breath. Viruses and pollution allow only for the most wealthy to be able to travel in suits that circulate good air for them to breathe while the majority who are poor need to live short lives and deal with the horrible environment that surrounds them. The story itself isn’t just a dystopian setting but there is a secondary plot involving the romance between the main characters of the story as they sit on different sides of the situation, a little Romeo and Juliet but a little less dramatic and a lot less tragic. The main plot being the one that does have much more resonance than the romantic angle which seems much more basic.

The story takes place in futuristic Taipei setting. The setting itself is the center of where the “evil” big corporation is located despite its international stance with the wonderful technology that its created for the rich and as it starts to expand to the normal everybody in order to achieve better living. However, the ploy does run a little deeper as the main character Jason Zhou and his friends starts to infiltrate into their operations as he dives into a growing friendship with Daiyu. The whole technology layout and the big Jin Corp building as well as the layout of the city between the rich and the poor area is well-described as well as the world/city setting is rather immersive to read. Its one of the bigger elements of the story especially in the big showdown when the big plan unfurls as it dives into the whole structure of this prominent building in the city.

Another element of this is the friendships between Jason Zhou and his friends. These characters are built really well. There are certain friendship connections and romances and a lot of them are fairly subtle until the big situations happen. All of the characters also have very distinguishing traits where gives them their own set of skills worthy of being a part of this group. The whole infiltration plans one by one also reveals a lot about each of the characters that Jason works with which makes them not dispensable. Of course, the focus is on Jason since he gets to be a character torn between knowing about the struggles of the poor and trying to go through this whole revolution/payback against the big evil corporation while at the same time, he has an undercover identity and gets closer to Daiyu who may be the daughter of the CEO of the corporation but also is a fairly upstanding character overall.

Overall, Want is a pretty decent dystopian sci-fi novel. While the romance sometimes seems to drag out a little, the most exciting part is the world building as it focuses on the Taipei setting but also the economic and social issues of the world. The focus on the technology is also pretty cool plus this future doesn’t feel completely a leap in imagination as the world we live in together struggle with potential causes of what could happen in the future.

Book Tour: The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice by Fred Yu

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice
(The Red Crest Series #1)

Expected Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Genre: Asian Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

He was born of prophecy. If he can’t embrace his destiny in time, his country is doomed.

Ancient China. Spoiled and overconfident, eighteen-year-old Mu Feng relishes life as the son of an honored general. But when his sister is abducted and his friends slaughtered, he flees home. He soon discovers the mystical birthmark on his body has attracted an enormous price on his head.

Pursued across the Middle Kingdom, Feng finds allies in two fierce warriors and a beautiful assassin. When he learns his ultimate enemy plans an incursion with advanced weaponry, he must call on his friends and his own budding military genius to defend his country. His plan is desperate, and the enemy outnumbers him twenty-five to one…

Can Feng fulfill a duty he didn’t know he had and unite the empire against a terrifying force?

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REVIEW

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is an Asian epic fantasy novel set in Ancient China. Being Chinese, its actually the first English novel of this type that I’ve read. However, for those unfamiliar to the genre, its a great way to be introduced to a Chinese epic fantasy. It has a lot of elements and themes commonly seen in a lot of other Asian epic fantasies like the concept of sworn brothers or the war and politics or the world itself with its martial arts and the different techniques that might rule over the different sects. Its an expansive world and being the first novel, it does set up the characters and the world building pretty well. The story itself has a little bit of everything you’d imagine to see in sort of novel from fight sequences, secrets, betrayal and plotting and some romance as well.

Looking at the array of characters, much in the spirit of epics, there are a lot of characters that gets introduced. The core characters all having their fundamental part in the whole story as their characters get developed through the different conversations and their actions. If there was something to criticize here lightly would be that the main focus is on the main character Mu Feng who ends up having the most exposure as a character in this journey and also the most development. There is a well-constructed idea of the boy to man as he goes through his ordeals unlike the other characters which have more of a snippet of their backgrounds but feel a little more one dimensional. This isn’t a huge issue as the main character is the key element here as it is his journey. Hopefully in future novels, the other characters will have more detail added.

There’s a lot to like about The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice. For one, it did have its own view of the genre. It still feels fairly well-constructed and at this point, there are lots of classics who have thread this territory and a mountain of TV dramas that have also been released so to create this world is hard to be create something completely unique. Yet, it is still an engaging read throughout as Mu Feng is an interesting sort of character. What does stand out the most is the use of descriptions to make the action sequences and different ordeals that happen very vivid. Overall, as the starting point, this is a great take on an Asian epic fantasy.

Available on October 5th on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a lifelong student of martial arts, and growing up watching martial arts flicks in the 80s and 90s, Yu decided early on that he would write in this genre. Inspired by George RR Martin’s work, he decided he would write a series in English in this centuries-old Asian genre. Yu has written three previous novels, The Legend of Snow Wolf, Haute Tea Cuisine and Yin Yang Blades. Yu has a BFA Film and Television from NYU Tisch School of Arts. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but presently lives in New York City.

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International Giveaway: Paperback copy of the book
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Tranquil Dreams Podcast #21: What’s Up 2021 August Recap (Week 32-35)

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast as we still try to catch up with the What’s Up 2021 as we cover the month of August (aka Weeks 32 – 35). Between catching up on reading and maneuvering through bigger blogging priorities, this month was heavily focused on TV series while still getting some gaming done in co-stream with my friend BrandelSavage on Twitch.

Thanks for listening! Hope you enjoy!

The next few episodes will still be some form of catch-up in the next week! Keep an eye out for the next episode which is a little special as a do a Fantasia Festival coverage (a little later than expected but still deserves some attention).

Related Links

Hope – Book Review
Blackthorn – Book Review
The Visitor – Book Review
Brandel Savage – Twitch Stream (I co-stream on Friday’s for horror and co-op games)

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

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Book Review: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor
By: Terry Tyler

Genre: Mystery/Post-Apocalyptic

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list… – Goodreads

Having read two books before by Terry Tyler, The Visitor continues on being able to showcase her ability to craft engaging murder mystery thrillers. The Visitor’s plot benefits from our current pandemic situation as it sets itself in the future after another pandemic has struck the world which is 100% lethal and much more brutal but sets it in a little village where another threat has hit them simultaneously in the form of a murderer which causes the fear to grow in its inhabitants. The backdrop is one that feels almost like it could happen in our current landscape with variants popping up in our current landscape, making it hit home a little more.

There’s a lot to love about The Visitor other than its familiar backdrop. One of them is a familiar form in Terry Tyler’s books which focuses around the point of view from a few of its core characters. In this one, its from the view of the few inhabitants living in the cottage and bunker who ends up there through some connection whether it is the leftover family and companions of friends that had gotten the invitation. As they gather in the bunker and keep it secret, they observe the people around them and get to know the different members of the village. As they each struggle with their own loss and current situation, they each have their own speculations. The benefit of jumping between characters is that it leaves some blind spots and blank spaces giving the unknown to spark. At the same time, who actually knows the depths of someone’s mind although the killer’s perspective usually does draw certain clues from one chapter to the next and slowly does give an idea of who is behind it by the end.

The Visitor also crafts really good characters. The group in the bunker themselves having their own differences and backgrounds and how they get there is one that definitely sets their own character as much as what they do after the settle into the village and each having their own pursuits and responsibilities. Two of them being best friends but also old flames, one of them being a survivalist (but also could be viewed as selfish), one dealing with her massive loss but navigating through being more of a loner: add in their own sort of purpose and personality that grows throughout the story as they get more involved into the village’s affairs and the villagers themselves, human nature is a tricky thing to say the very least.

The great part is how the focus of the novel smoothly shifts from its beginning of the big threat with this mystery virus which takes the front seat and determines their own means to survive and the desperation of the whole situation due to its lethal nature. However, subtly the story shifts to the murder and slowly the routine of surviving through this “post -apocalyptical” world becomes secondary as the murders become more frequent. It almost blends the two together so well that the story and character plot shift is done incredibly well.

Overall, The Visitor is a fantastic murder mystery. Not only does it have well-developed characters but it also builds a great post-apocalyptic world that is not only relatable in the current age but also pushes it further. Perhaps at times it feels a little bit too soon to be already diving into it but it also adds to the unsettling and uneasiness. Smooth plot transition and executed well, The Visitor is a well-paced and engaging thriller to dive into.

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan

Lost Girls and Love Hotels
By: Catherine Hanrahan

Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo’s exotic nightlife—teeming with drink, drugs, and three-hour love hotels—enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses memories of her painful childhood in Canada and her older brother Frank’s descent into madness. But Margaret’s deliberate nihilism is thrown off balance as she becomes increasingly haunted by images of a Western girl missing in Tokyo. And when she becomes enamored of Kazu, a mysterious gangster, their affair sparks a chain of events that could spell tragedy for Margaret in a city where it’s all too easy to disappear. – Goodreads

Lost Girls and Love Hotels has a decent premise that explores Japan’s culture and nightlife. At the same time, the book is primarily about Margaret’s journey into this city. Moving between her present and her past, it pulls together the pieces of why she decided to go to Japan to be alone and the reason to escape her life. The novel is a fairly quick read (finished it in 2 days). It mostly has to do with the fact that everything is fairly concise and moves quickly from one event to the next. It moves through Margaret’s past quickly as well, jumping through her past in something like 2 year age progression and using one significant event between her and her brother Frank to portray their sibling and/or family relationship. Drawing a parallel with this is her present to be in Japan to be alone, a concept which outlines how “being alone isn’t about people” (I’m paraphrasing at best, I can’t remember the exact line). An interesting angle for sure as it does focus on Margaret’s trek through how she deals with her loneliness and how she fills up her own void through her nights with strangers at love hotels and her days at her uptight job that she doesn’t seem to take very seriously for the most part.

There are a few elements that is explored in the novel as a whole and everything does get touched on lightly. Which does progress the story quickly but at the same time, some of these elements feels like it could have benefited from having some more depth. Especially in terms of characters, it lacks in building up Margaret outside of the pieces of her past or constructing her decisions. Probably because it strays away from going too in-depth into any scene construction and simply leaving the space for the reader’s imagination. Its not a bad route at times but other times, it can feel a little empty. Much like Margaret, the people she meets and the emotional connection she has with them are also fairly shallow as well. Unlike the synopsis of the dangerous yakuza she meets Kazu, this relationship isn’t nearly as fleshed as it could be. Not in terms of the sexual elements but simply the connection that she has with him. At least not enough to support the extent that she goes and the “suffering” she ends up going through because of this.

Despite the shortcomings though, the setting itself and the pace of moving through the different scenes and the love hotel settings plus the nightlife all does feel very intriguing. The shortcoming from the character development is compensated by the overall structure of the novel which helps in being intrigued by how Margaret grew up and seeing what the deal with her brother is while moving in parallel with her life in Japan. The setting of Japan is portrayed fairly well while it intertwines the missing girl tangent that might not have been explored enough but still manages to bring in the thriller element as it becomes a question of whether she is missing and if so, whether the dangerous life she leads might take her down to some unfortunate endgame.

Goodreads score: 3/5 (its probably more of a 3.5)

In comparison to the film adaptation (you can check out the review HERE), Catherine Hanrahan also writes the screenplay however surprisingly, a lot of the events of the book right down to the characters and how certain elements are panned out are fairly jumbled together. There are pros and cons to either where some elements are done better in the book since it dives in Margaret’s past which the film doesn’t do and outlines her motives of being in Japan more while in terms of Kazu, the film does a better job of giving them a strong romantic connection but still not bringing in some of the elements of Kazu’s personal life that gets intertwined with Margaret which would endanger her. The film does also fall short when it comes to the missing girl plot point. Like I said, a lot of the film is the basic scenario and structure that stays the same but a lot of the events are executed differently which works in one way and doesn’t in some other way.

Blog Tour: Up The Creek by Alissa Grosso (Review/Giveaway)

Up The Creek (Culver Creek #1)
By: Alissa Grosso

Expected Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

SYNOPSIS

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

Being the first book for an upcoming series, Up the Creek sets a good foundation. Up The Creek is well-paced and executes the story back and forth between its characters. In this case, it involves 3 main characters: Caitlin Walker, her husband Lance Walker and the new detective in Culver Creek Sage Dorian, who has been hired to take a look at the cold case. As a thriller, it also is executed quite well to slowly give the reveal of what is the secret with Caitlin and Lance that links them to the disappearance of their child and the cold case. It also sets up the story so that the finale delivers a question that makes you think whether all this could have been avoided if one person’s decision had been different and whether some secrets are best exposed.

One of the best elements of Up The Creek is the character design/development. The three characters each have their own connection to the past that brings up some flashbacks and through various conversations with the new situation that comes up reveals their secrets little by little. With that said, the characters are fairly complexed and suitably so for a thriller. Caitlin’s secret is probably the easiest to piece together: the reason that she takes medication for her dreams and the quick reveal of her tendency for nightmares pieces together easily to see her deal. However, this ends up connecting to her young son Adam that eventually goes missing and no one truly knows who took him and what happened. Lance Walker is probably the character with the most secrets from what seems like every day habits to slowly see that he has a much stronger connection to the case. His character is actually rather fascinating as he unveils and everything comes into place. That leaves Sage Dorian which probably starts to feel like the balance for his part is a little smaller however he is a key part as he pulls the cold case with the new missing child case together. At a certain point at the end, it is fairly clear how it all pieces together however, there isn’t an issue for this character to draw the conclusions clearly. As a side note, while this isn’t mentioned but there seems to be one connection that probably will come into play at the end in future books as it may connect to Sage Dorian that wasn’t addressed.

As a first book of a series, Up The Creek leaves a lot to look forward to for future books set in Culver Creek. Already by the end, there still is the issue of Sage Dorian’s own family mystery that hasn’t been addressed yet and only mentioned that gives his character some foundation. Writing good thrillers are very difficult and something that I mention quite a bit. Up The Creek does a great job to make it both gripping and thrilling to watch from beginning to end with decent pacing and execution. Up The Creek is a great thriller and well worth a read.

Score: 4.5/5

Where to Buy
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can find out more about her and her books at AlissaGrosso.com.

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GIVEAWAY
$50 Amazon Gift Card (Open to Everyone) Ends January 16th
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January 11th
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Blog Tour: The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel by K.T. Rose (Review)

We are thrilled to share this amazing new novel by K.T. Rose! The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel just proves that ghost stories are perfect any time of the year!

Read on for an exclusive peek and an amazing giveaway to enter!

The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel
By: K.T. Rose

Publication Date: November 5th, 2020
Genre: Supernatural Horror/Paranormal

SYNOPSIS

Pride and greed infect the soul, anchoring the dead to Gallagher Hotel.

When Chris, a master thief, and Riley, a contract waitress, get mysterious invites to an exclusive party at the haunted Gallagher Hotel, they discover that there is more at play than simple celebrations.

Hidden truths are revealed, and all hell breaks loose. But the “party” has just begun.

Now, Chris and Riley face their demons as they fight to survive a hellish nightmare full of spoiled secrets, carnage, and vengeful spirits lost to the hotel dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Will they survive the night? Or will their souls be devoured by the most haunted building in Michigan?

Add to Goodreads

EXCERPT

Chapter One

She’ll never forget the day she died.

Torches lit up the town square, illuminating scowling and shouting faces. The townspeople launched stones and spit, pegging Trudy’s arms and face as she trudged through the abhorrent mob. She cringed when a pebble struck her cheek. Pain erupted, shooting through her face like lightning striking the earth.

Deputy Hill yanked her arm, leading her through the narrow path the townspeople created. Fists balled, Trudy groaned as the rope around her wrists dug into her skin. Her bare feet picked up glass shards and debris from the cobblestone path as she shuffled along.

She glared around at the angry faces and recognized the men, women, and children of Holloway. She’d done more for them than any God before her. Many of those people owned the very businesses that lined the stone slab she marched across that night. Building and financing the rows of wooden businesses lining the town’s square accounted for half the things she’d done for Holloway. She fed the hungry, made clothes for cold children, and taught woman’s independence. The ever-growing list of the townspeople’s wants was endless. At one point, she didn’t mind the busy work. Fulfilling dreams of the once poor town kept her boisterous and distracted from her bitter reality. Trudy was Holloway’s personal shepherd, making the people her needy sheep.

Hands snagged at her lavender tea gown, adding dirty prints to the blood drops and grime from the beatings in that putrid cell. She glared at the bare-faced man towering over her. The brim of his deputy hat cast a thick shadow, hiding his dark eyes and pale face.

Deputy would miss her. She was sure of it. He got off on the assaults that bruised her face. His heavy fists pounded her bones and scraped her skin until she confessed. And even after her confession, he continued with his evening visits, slamming her body into cinder block walls and passing off open-handed blows to her nose, cheeks, and eyes.

Trudy sighed. A bath with lavender and Epsom salt sounded good for the swelling. She didn’t realize how bloated and purple her once beautiful, fairly smooth skin had become until she passed by the picture window in front of the town’s jail just before they began her walk of shame. Her dark hair matted to her forehead, washed by sweat and blood. Her plump lips were chapped and bloated with bruises.

Even then, her face pulsed with intense hurt. Pain shot through it whenever she winced.

The sea of convictions roared, growing louder as she drew closer to the opposite end of the square.

“Adulterer,” yelled a woman.

“Traitor,” screeched a boy.

“Murderer,” said a pot-bellied man.

Their accusations sent a sickening jolt through her bones. She watched the path underneath her slowing feet, fighting back the tears.

How could they turn on me like this?

REVIEW

The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel is a decent horror story packing in both elements of haunted house (well, in this case, its a hotel) and the ugly side of humans which is what gathers this “elite” group of invites for an overnight stay at Gallagher Hotel, a place not only known for being haunted but with a lot of history. The story itself follows some key characters, jumping between Riley, a woman specially requested to work there who has suffered quite a bit of loss; Chris, a young man who is part of a thief ring however wants to use this as his final job before leaving town and Trudy, the woman who haunts this hotel.

The story itself does pack a lot. There are a handful of characters which all have their own character build and past which determines why they were invited to the hotel. As each of their motives get revealed and perhaps their ugly side, its where the story is at its strongest especially since it reflects on how they essentially get ended. Those scenes are well-executed and in vivid description. However, the main characters do have these disjointed storylines jumping back and forth. It spends a lot of time with each of these characters separated from each other for most of the story however, its almost like a mystery as the group goes through their own visions that pop up to haunt them from their past. At the same time, Trudy’s storyline fills in the blanks with the history of what lead to her death and how she came to be haunting the hotel and how this world of evil works. The balance between executing the lore and the haunted house was where the pacing started to go off in the middle section.

With that said, the story itself blends bits and pieces from stories told mostly in movies and TV. The element of being invited in, a key book to the story, the hotel resembling that of The Shining, some haunted house elements that give off the vibe of that from the recent Haunting of Hill House. Its not a bad thing to pull certain elements and add their own twist. In fact, it has a certain level of creativity as all these elements and atmosphere do blend well together. Its more an observation than a criticism.

Overall, The Haunting of Gallagher Hotel is decent. Horror novels don’t normally scare me and this one wasn’t a pure horror novel. It has some horror elements from the death scenes and how that was described but it is mostly mild (of course, that differs to the reader but I do watch a lot of horror so my tolerance is fairly high). There are some pacing issues in the middle parts but if anything, this is a rather ambitious story as it does try to build its own lore and history to the hotel while adding in this group of characters and exploring their darker side.

Score: 3.5/5

Where to buy: Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

K.T. Rose is a horror, thriller, and dark fiction writer from Detroit, Michigan. She posts suspense and horror flash fiction on her blog at kyrobooks.com and is the author of a suspenseful short story series titled Trinity of Horror, an erotic thriller novel titled When We Swing, and A Dark Web Horror Series. She also writes supernatural and paranormal horror novels and short stories.

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What’s Up 2020: Week 47

Welcome to another Weekly recap! Week 47 friends! Its almost the end of 2020 and winter is definitely arrived for us as we’re snowing outside as this posts goes up! Its been a decent week overall. Sorting out a few things and finding time to do some other bits and pieces of stuff. Work is still a bit wild so I’m taking it easy on the blogging front so its been fair and few for posting schedule (which let’s admit is close to non-routine at this point). Let’s check it out!

READING

Currently reading: Wayward Kindred

I haven’t actually started it but I figured I needed something to cleanse my palate from reading novels so I wanted to check out my latest graphic novel addition from TO Comics that I had backed for Kickstarter. They always publish really awesome content but they had mentioned that COVID-19 has caused some potential issues so hopefully, it won’t be the end. I haven’t gone back to check on the news regarding the TO Comics situation. Excited to start this one up.

PLAYING

  • Typoman: Revised

We finished an entire game in one sitting on Saturday night which was crazy. Its been a while since we’ve done that. Typoman: Revised is a pretty fun platformer. Short and sweet for the most part. Its fairly straight-forward and plays with the use of battling with words. The words do get a little more repetitive by the end as to which to make but the final battle is about quick reflexes so that was pretty fun. I’ll get a review on Game Warp soon. Game Warp activity should be getting back soon with written reviews as our main focus and the podcast being discussion content but we are organizing schedule to make it all work out right now. Too many projects, too little time..haha!

WATCHING

  • Kevin Hart: Zero F**ks Given (2020)
  • Dumplin’ (2018)
  • Work It (2020)
  • The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)
  • The Crossing (2018)

This week has been pretty great on the watching front. A good pile of fun stuff. Kevin Hart’s latest Netflix Comedy special is very to the times as the audience is all wearing masks plus, its overall a fun time. Some bits worked a little less but that’s normal in any stand-up comedy show. I had a lot of laugh out loud moments so for me, that’s already pretty good.

On the movie front, there were some meh movies but I’ll talk about Princess Switch’s sequel for next month’s Christmas rundown. The movies that I’ve been watching on repeat a lot in the background or whatnot is Dumplin’ and The Crossing. Dumplin’ is a feel-good movie through and through and The Crossing is this indie Chinese film that is done so well. Every time I watch it, I see these subtle details that make it even better. Really awesome stuff! If anything, its made me really focus on hunting down some indie Chinese cinema. There seems to be a lot of hidden gems and some upcoming talent to discover.

BINGING

Currently binging: Meeting Mr. Right S3, You Are So Sweet, Professional Single, Walk Into Your Memory, Our Song S2, Sing or Spin S2, Detective College S3, Everybody Stand By S2, The Wolf, Nothing But Thirty

Everything I’m watching is fairly decent although I’m debating whether to finish Walk Into Your Memory right now as its starting to lose its appeal halfway through. Professional Single and You Are So Sweet are my faves as its really just sweet romances overall but Professional Single is ending soon so I figured I’d share that one since the pairing is really cute.

As for new series, I started up a ton of new things, the only two that will stay right now is The Wolf which was a surprise drop that came with a lot of news which is why it caught my attention. Plus, its the first series of Sean Xiao released after the dumb news stuff that happened in February 2020 which I believe might still be stirring up another wave of stupid, but hey, I support the guy since I don’t think the situation is his fault. This series has high potential to be those revenge and love stories which I might find frustrating. Right now, its still okay. We will see since Sean Xiao hasn’t even showed up yet. I’m hoping his existence will help since I’m really not enjoying the main actress’s acting style. Some issues but nothing detrimental just yet since its only 6 episodes in.

With that said, I decided to finally start Nothing But Thirty because that was the breakout series this year about three ladies in their 30s experiencing different things. It churned up a lot of talk and its been recommended to me so I figured that I’d check it out. I’ll report back when I get further whether I think its worth all the chat.

That’s it for this week’s recap!
What have you been watching/playing/reading/binging?