Book Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

We Are Monsters is a horror novel set in a mental asylum, in which Dr Alex Drexler experiments on his patients, trying to find a cure for schizophrenia. In the process, however, the drugs administered have caused unforeseen and dangerous side effects, unleashing patients’ past traumas and inner demons, transforming them into monsters.

I love the convention of mad doctors and experiments within the horror genre – the last one I read was Doctor Perry by Kirsten McKenzie – so I was excited to read We Are Monsters.

It was dark and interesting to begin with, as we see Dr Drexler attempt a variety of experiments which all fail. This built up well a foreboding sense that something is going to go extremely wrong at Sugar Hill – especially when it is suggested to Dr Drexler to experiment on the asylum’s most notorious, dangerous, and violent patient.

Of course, this experiment does go wrong and, as a side effect, causes multiple characters to hallucinate. I really liked these sections, as I had no idea what was real and what was fake – the narration was delightfully unreliable. There were also some scary and gory scenes, which felt appropriate for the genre.

However, there are some elements on We Are Monsters which, for me, let it down.

Firstly, Dr Alex Drexler is not a mad scientist or doctor – he’s not even slightly psychotic or twisted. This was disappointing, particularly as the book is meant to be primarily a work of horror fiction. Alex only ever seems interested in his experiments in order to financially benefit from them, which made him seem much more like a businessman than a doctor. Personally, I think it could have been an interesting parallel if the doctor working so hard to cure his mentally unstable patients was as equally mentally unstable himself.

Secondly, the book does not solely focus on Dr Alex Drexler, but delves into other the backgrounds and characters of other staff members at the asylum, such as Dr Eli Alpert and Angela. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy their storylines very much, as I was only really interested in Alex’s character, and I didn’t think they were as relevant to the overall plot.

Finally, the latter half of We Are Monsters gets very confusing, very quickly. The patients kept talking about the shadows and the monsters within, but these things weren’t explained particularly clearly.  By the time I finished the book, I still didn’t understand what had happened, and I thought the ending merely added to the confusion.

To sum up, although I was interested in the premise, and some good ideas were displayed throughout, I think the execution of these ideas, for me, let We Are Monsters down.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Flame Tree Press, an imprint of Flame Tree Publishing.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath by Lee Allen Howard

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath by Lee Allen Howard is a fictional journal written from the perspective of Russell Pisarek, a man who fantasises about horrific, violent, and abnormal sexual encounters with women – dreams which always result in him wetting the bed. When Russell begins to desire these encounters in real life however, all the women in Russell’s life are in immediate danger of being targeted.

Granted, this is a strange premise for a book.

I thought that Howard’s decision to write a book from the perspective of a psychopath was a good idea. Unlike other psychological thrillers or crime novels which may focus on either the family members of the victim or the police officers desperately trying to solve the case before the killer strikes again, a journal from the perspective of a psychopath would surely allow the reader to watch their normal life unfold before they unravel and spiral into madness and violence.

Unfortunately, the journal format of The Bedwetter didn’t work in this way. Russell Pisarek frequently writes his journal in coarse, informal language. This was fairly distracting and unpleasant to read, and, to me, it only established early on that Russell was an angry and horrible person – yet not necessarily psychopathic. Consequently, it didn’t feel as if The Bedwetter was a psychopath’s journal for most of the book; I think I at least halfway through before Russell even thought about hurting his female co-workers and acquaintances.

The last third of The Bedwetter is probably the only section where I’d describe Russell as a psychopath because there was lots of shocking violence and plenty of gory details; this was certainly the most tense part of the book.

By the end of the book, Russell hasn’t really changed (for better or for worse). He hasn’t grown more cunning, more deceptive, or more manipulative. He’s as angry, horrible, and violent as he was at the start of the book. I thought this disappointing as it meant Russell didn’t feel like a particularly complex character.

Whilst I feel a little let down by this book, The Bedwetter has some original ideas and an intriguing and dramatic plot. If you want a shocking, fast-paced book full of violence, The Bedwetter would probably suit you.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Haunting of Alice May by Tony Lee Moral

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Haunting of Alice May is about Alice May Parker, a high school student who moves to Pacific Grove after suffering a family bereavement. Whilst out with friends, she almost drowns in a kayaking accident. However, Alice is pulled from the water by the mysterious and handsome Henry Raphael. Alice and Henry develop feelings for one another, until Alice realises Henry is not what he seems.

I love Gothic ghost stories, so a title like The Haunting of Alice May caught my attention immediately. I also thought the setting of the book, in Pacific Grove, a place which entraps spirits in a kind of purgatory, was interesting.

Although, I wish there had been more detail about the destiny of Alice to become a “ghost maven”. Despite finishing the book, I couldn’t fully explain to you what this means; I think a “ghost maven” is destined to hunt ghosts or release their spirits, but I’m not sure. This lack of clear detail is a shame if Moral intends to craft a series of books around this idea.

In addition to these supernatural elements, The Haunting of Alice May also focuses largely on teen romance. This would appeal to fans of other young adult fiction series, such as Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, for example.

However, due to this combination of the supernatural and the romantic, there were some moments I found hard to believe. For example, when Alice finds out Henry is the ghost of a man who died 100 years ago, her first reaction was to worry how this will affect their relationship. She didn’t seem concerned her new boyfriend was dead, but simply jealous Henry has been around for 100 years, dating plenty of girls in the meantime! I know Bella still falls for Edward, despite his vampirism, in Twilight, but at least she expresses initial shock, disbelief and terror about this first. Because of this, I think the characterisation of Alice could be improved, as well as the narrative voice.

The Haunting of Alice May is told in first-person narrative voice, from the perspective of Alice. Whilst this can be helpful for the reader to see events through the eyes of the protagonist, it can sometimes cause problems as, if the protagonist isn’t present for every single event, how can they narrate these events to the reader? For example, in this book, the first-person narration is sometimes framed with phrases like “Henry told me”, followed by an account of what happened – yet still told only from Alice’s perspective. This means other characters, such as Henry – who is clearly a character of supernatural intrigue – are far less developed and focused on, which makes things less exciting.

Overall, I wouldn’t classify The Haunting of Alice May as a Gothic story, or even a particularly spooky ghost story, and I didn’t find the romance plot interesting. Perhaps I wasn’t the target audience for this book (though I am a young adult), or perhaps I simply didn’t get what I expected. Nonetheless, The Haunting of Alice May could appeal to younger teen readers who are fans of both the supernatural and the romantic.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Call Drops by John F Leonard

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Call Drops is a short horror story by John F Leonard. Call Drops is about Vincent, who finds an old phone in a second-hand shop that only he can hear ring and when he answers, he hears sinister messages on the other end of the line – or nothing at all.

Call Drops is the first in a series of stories inspired by Dead Boxes, which are seemingly ordinary household objects yet have mysterious or dangerous properties.

I recently read a enjoyable selection of short stories by Stephen King called Skeleton Crew. Similarly, Call Drops fits in well with the short horror story genre. The idea of buying something dangerous at a second-hand shop reminded me of another great Stephen King work – Needful Things.

However, Call Drops is on the rather short side of a short story.

I understand short stories are not meant to be overly lengthy, but it felt almost too short for me to truly understand what was happening. I think Leonard spent slightly too much time providing background information about Vincent, rather than describing the supernatural events plaguing him.

I also thought the front cover does not match the style or genre of the book; a close-up image of an older man’s ear is an odd choice.

By the end of the story, I understood the gist of Call Drops and thought it was a similar concept to The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, as Vincent is haunted by the memories of terrible things in his life, just as Poe’s narrator is haunted by reminders of his murderous actions.

I liked what Call Drops was trying to do, though I think it could have been improved by focusing more on events happening now than details of the protagonist’s past.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Nursery by Bill Thompson

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Nursery is the third instalment of Bill Thompson’s Bayou Hauntings series about two reporters, Callie Pilantro and Landry Drake, as they explore alleged haunted houses for their TV show.

The Nursery is about a house which has been empty for 50 years, until Jordan Blanchard moved in with his twin daughters. The girls are delighted to find the house equipped with a nursery full of toys and games. It was as if the house was waiting for them to arrive. However, Jordan realises there may be something else – something sinister – waiting for them in the house too.

I like the idea of a haunted nursery full of old toys and creepy dolls with unsettling, glazed stares  had hoped The Nursery would be a dark and Gothic haunted house story. Unfortunately, there were limited descriptions of the house itself, as the book jumps straight into the story. I think this was a missed opportunity for some wonderfully vivid, Gothic descriptions.

The most puzzling part of The Nursery is the depiction of ghosts themselves. Jordan’s daughters encounter the ghost of a woman who desperately wanted to become a mother, but was unable to before she died. Initially, I thought this was going to be terrifying, expecting the ghost to gradually take control of the girls and claim them as her own. However, to the reader, the ghost is presented in quite a friendly way; she talks to the girls cheerfully – who fondly call her “Cherry” – and plays games with them.

It would be much scarier if the reader was never introduced to “Cherry” and merely observed the girls playing, talking, or laughing with thin air.  This means the reader cannot fully sympathise with Jordan – who cannot see “Cherry” and fears he is going crazy. This makes it seem as if everyone, including the reader, are sharing a private joke at Jordan’s expense.

Having said that, the tension does increase once it becomes clear that there is not only spiritual activity in the house but human criminal activity.

Overall, The Nursery isn’t really what I expected; I had hoped it would be a scary ghost story. Unfortunately, it is more similar in genre to a supernatural or crime thriller with elements of the ghostly added in.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Ascendente Books, which is part of Smith Publicity.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.