Book Review: Poison Flower (Stonehurst Prep Elite Book 2) by Steffanie Holmes

Title: Poison Flower (Stonehurst Prep Elite Book 2)
Author: Steffanie Holmes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Reverse Harem
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Victor. Torsten. Cassius – the jock, the artist, the stepbrother.
They made me theirs – body, heart, and soul.
They got inside my head.
They broke down my defenses and made me trust them
… maybe even love them.They betrayed me.

They think they’re untouchable,
but they forget that I’m one of them.
I’m the poison flower in their garden,
beautiful and deadly,
hiding in plain sight.

I know all their secrets,
Their weaknesses,
Their darkest desires,
And I’m going to make them pay.

Poison Kiss is a new adult, dark contemporary romance with three hot, dangerous guys and the blind girl who rules them. It is intended for 18+ readers.

Poison Flower is the second book in a reverse harem series featuring three notorious bad boys: Victor, Cassius (usually referred to as Cas) and Torsten. I previously reviewed the first book in the series, Poison Ivy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Poison Ivy, so I was dying to read the sequel, Poison Flower. Unfortunately, the things that bugged me about Poison Ivy only magnified in Poison Flower, and I was left feeling ‘meh’ about the book.

First of all, in Poison Ivy it is already hinted that the male love interests (Victor, Cassius and Torsten) are part of three notorious crime families. Their mothers form the Triumvirate, in typical Roman-era style, and together they rule the criminal underworld. I found some of the sub-plots related to this already far-fetched in the first book, but it only gets worse here. Murder, torture, blackmail, you name it, and it happens. But it’s not realistic, nor is the way the heroine deals with it.

I still liked Fergie, the main character, but she’s obviously diving off the deep end and I don’t want to see her at the bottom of the abyss. It looks like she’s headed there, though. She had every chance to get out, to redeem herself, but she’s only allowing everyone else to pull her back further and futher into this crime world. Fergie has a strong personality, sometimes, but she allows others to influence her more than she thinks or realizes.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick up book three. I’m a bit disillusioned with Fergie and her antics. I do have to say I really enjoy Steffanie Holmes’ writing though, and reading the synopsises of her other series, I’ll definitely pick them up, but I’ll probably skip Poison Kiss.

Book Review: Poison Ivy (Stonehurst Prep Elite Book 1) by Steffanie Holmes

Title: Poison Ivy (Stonehurst Prep Elite Book 1)
Author: Steffanie Holmes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Reverse Harem
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon

I’ll do anything to get in. I’ll even become theirs.

Victor. Torsten. Cassius – the jock, the artist, the stepbrother.
The Poison Ivy Club.
Ruthless.
Connected.
Violent.
Untouchable.

They rule Stonehurst Prep with an iron fist.
If you want Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, they’ll get you in.
Guaranteed.
But they’ll take their pound of flesh first.
A deal’s a deal – you give them whatever they want, and they’ll make your dreams come true.

And they want me.
In their beds.
On their arms.
Part of their gang.

I’ll do anything to get into an Ivy League school.
I’ll lie. I’ll cheat.
I’ll get on my knees.
I’ll kill.

But those three dark princes will never have my heart.

This is a new adult, dark contemporary romance with three poisonous guys and one fearless girl. It is intended for 18+ readers.

Poison Ivy is the first book in a reverse harem series featuring three notorious bad boys: Victor, Cassius (usually referred to as Cas) and Torsten. For those of you who don’t know what reverse harem means, it’s basically a story where the heroine doesn’t have to choose. She doesn’t need to choose one of these three as her love interest – she can have all three of them, and the boys don’t mind sharing.

Despite that these types of relationships often are a lot more problematic in real life than they are in books, what with jealousy and all (not saying it is not possible in real life, just that I imagine it’s a great deal more complicated than in fiction), the books of this genre often feature at least somewhat realistic scenarios. Here, not so much. It’s not realistic that the three guys in question would run the school, or that their families would have that much power. And even if I’m willing to somehow accept that, the whole Coach Franklin plot (I won’t go into detail because of spoilers) is just too outrageous and over-the-top.

Still… despite the plot certainly being a far cry from believable… I did enjoy this book.

First of all, the writing is great. Steffanie Holmes can conjure up descriptions that are vivid and original, and some even made me laugh out loud. She makes her main character, Fergie, sound like such a great person: on the one hand, a total badass, but with a vulnerable side. That’s the second point here: the heroine is pretty awesome. She does have her flaws, though, like how she treats her best friend – not cool at all – but generally, her heart is in the right place and she’s just dealing with some messed-up stuff. A lot of messed-up stuff, really.

Plus, I do have to applaud the author for writing about a main character who is blind. Fergie reads Braille, her descriptions of what is happening are mostly based on auditory sensations, and honestly, it’s quite believable. When reading the Fergie chapters, I feel as if I’m blind–it feels slighty suffocating, and although you can rely on Fergie’s other senses, it sometimes feels claustrophobic to read these chapters because you know her sense of sight is missing. It’s a strange sensation, and I’m sure it was difficult for the author to write this character and no doubt it also took some research, but in my opinion, the author really pulled it off.

The three love interests were interesting, too. Especially Torsten, since it’s obvious he doesn’t quite experience the world the way others do. It’s never mentioned what exactly is “wrong” with him, but there are hints that he has trouble functioning in certain circumstances. I liked how Fergie never judged him for that and instead tried to find ways that did work for him, and allowed him to set the pace for things between them. Then there was Victor, the savior, the knight in shining armor, probably every girl’s dream guy. I could certainly understand why Fergie was drawn to these two.

But then, there’s the last love interest. Cassius. Cas. Who happens to be Fergie’s stepbrother. I don’t mind that trope in general, but what I didn’t like that much, was how instant their relationship was. And although it was basically fueled by desire and anger at the start, it never really develops from there. Maybe it will in the second book, but Cas seemed like the least likely person to do any kind of developing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Characters – like people in real life – should grow and change, but not everyone does that at the same pace. In fact, given his personality, it’s to be expected that Cas would fight any type of change or growth. But I hope that in the second book, he can at least learn from his mistakes, and keep some of his worser traits in check.

As far as contemporary reverse harems go, I rather liked this one. The main downside, for me, was the sometimes rather unbelievable plot. Also, I had expected more bullying from the guys. But they don’t really bully Fergie, except at the start, and Torsten never really joins in. If anything, it’s basically just Cas doing the bullying, and Cas bullies just about anyone except his two besties.

I already purchased the second book, and can’t wait to start reading.

Book Review: Escape From Hotel Necro (The Blood and Gore Collection) by Amy Cross

Title: Escape from Hotel Necro (The Blood and Gore Collection)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon

It’s supposed to be the perfect vacation. When Katie Johnson and her husband Jason arrive at Hotel Necro, they think they’re going to enjoy a few days of peace, pampering and relaxation.

On the first morning, however, Katie wakes up feeling ill, and she has a strange scratch mark on her waist. She quickly realizes that something’s very wrong, and that dark forces are at work beneath the hotel’s facade. Strange nightmares interrupt her sleep, filling her head with hideous images. Meanwhile, the scratches keep appearing.

Soon, Katie discovers that Hotel Necro is far more than just a luxury hotel. As she ventures into the depths of the building, she realizes that something truly horrific is happening in the shadows. Can she and Jason escape before they become the hotel’s latest victims, or does an even more awful secret lurk behind the one of the heavily-secured doors?

Escape From Hotel Necro is a horror novel about a woman who discovers just how far she’ll go to save herself, and about an organisation that exists to save people from their own darkest fantasies.

If you’ve seen Hostel and its sequels, then you’ll be familiar with the concept of Escape From Hotel Necro. Katie Johnson and her husband arrive at the hotel for a romantic weekend, but already on the first day, she wakes up feeling slightly ill and notices a scratch mark on her waist. This only gets worse as the weekend progresses: horrifying images fill her head as more scratches appear on her body.

What is going on at night in Hotel Necro?

Despite the predictability of some of the plot elements, I still enjoyed this read. In fact, thinking back on it, I think this was probably one of the first Amy Cross books I read, and after reading this one, I decided I just had to read some of Amy’s other books. Fair warning though, some of the characters are quite sadistic in this one, and there’s definitely a lot of gore as well, so it fits well in the “Blood and Gore Collection”.

 

 

Book Review: Last Wrong Turn (The Blood and Gore Collection) by Amy Cross

Title: Last Wrong Turn (The Blood and Gore Collection)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Lost on a remote English country road, Penny and her husband are involved in a violent car crash. When she wakes up, however, Penny finds that she’s been tied to a metal table in a farmhouse. She’s the latest victim of a strange family, but Penny is different to the other victims in one crucial respect.

She’s pregnant.

As she fights not only for her own life but also for the life of her unborn child, Penny comes face-to-face with the mysterious Enda. As the child of the family, Enda struggles to understand why their latest prisoner has to die. Can Penny find a way to escape, or is she destined to suffer a darker fate? And is her unborn child destined to become not only a victim of the farm, but one of its new occupants?

Penny and her husband are involved in a violent car crash along a deserted country road. When she wakes up after the crash, Penny discovers she’s been tied to a metal table in a farmhouse — the latest victim of a deranged family. Penny has to fight to stay alive, not just for herself but also for her unborn child.

This story is brutal. That’s really the best way I can describe it. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes.  Penny is a strong woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her child, and I greatly admired her for that. As far as the story itself goes, well… It’s fast-paced, relentless, but it’s also familiar. It’s a plot we’ve seen before in countless of slasher movies. There are some small differences, but the jest of it is the same: unsuspecting couple gets a car crash and ends up at the mercy of depraved killers at an abandoned farmhouse. There are probably twenty, if not more, horror movies out there with the exact same story, so if you want to stand out, you need to add a surprising twist to it.

Here, unfortunately, I didn’t really find the twist I was looking for. Still, it was an entertaining story and I enjoyed reading it, but it lacks originality.

 

 

Book Review: The Blood House (The Blood and Gore Collection) by Amy Cross

Title: The Blood House (The Blood and Gore Collection)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon

On the run and deeply in debt, Owen Richards moves his family to a remote house in the middle of nowhere. Despite the strange portrait of an old man in the hallway, and the ticking sound coming from behind the walls, Owen promises his wife and daughter that this is their chance to start a new life.

Soon, however, Owen and his family discover that they’re caught in a horrific trap. Seventy-five years ago, a family of three disappeared while living in the same house. Deadly dangers lurk in every room, and the ticking sound is just the first hint of a monstrous fate that has befallen everyone who has ever dared to step through the front door.

Can the Richards family escape from their supposed dream home, or are they destined to join their predecessors in a gruesome end?

The Blood House is a horror novel about a twisted genius with a vision, and about a family who only want to survive. This is the 2022 edition of the original 2016 book.

Owen Richards is desperate to start a new life with his wife and daughter. On the run from his past, he counts his blessings as he finds a remote house in the middle of nowhere–a perfect hideaway for a man on the run. But what Owen doesn’t realize, is that the house he moved his family into, is far more dangerous than the past threatening to catch up with him.

The last family living here disappeared under mysterious circumstances, an ominous ticking sound acts like a herald of doom, and Owen has no idea that time is running out…

I really liked this book, particularly because I found the concept so intriguing and original. I won’t give any spoilers, but let’s just say this was a twist that I could appreciate.

There’s definitely some gore, though (as the series title suggests) so this isn’t for the faint of heart. I also felt that the book was rushed in some places, but overall, I really enjoyed this story and I thought it was innovative and original.

Book Review: The Haunting of Hurst House (Mercy Willow Book 1)

Title: The Haunting of Hurst House (Mercy Willow Book 1)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

When she moves to a small coastal Cornish village, Mercy Willow hopes to start a new life. She has a brand new job as an estate agent, and she’s determined to put the past where it belongs and get on with building a new future. But will that be easy in a village that has more than its fair share of ghosts?

Determined to sell the un-sellable Hurst House, Mercy gets straight to work. Hurst House was once the scene of a terrible tragedy, and many of the locals believe that the place is best left untouched and undisturbed. Mercy, however, thinks it just needs a lick of paint and a few other improvements, and that then she’ll be able to find a buyer in no time.

Soon, Mercy discovers that parts of Hurst House’s past are still lingering. Strange noises hint at an unseen presence, and an old family secret is about to come bursting back to life with terrifying consequences. Meanwhile, Mercy herself has a dark past that she’d rather keep hidden. After all, her name isn’t really Mercy Willow at all, and she’s running from something that has already almost killed her once.

The Haunting of Hurst House is the first book in the Mercy Willow series, about an estate agent in deepest Cornwall who develops the unusual ability to communicate with ghosts.

The Haunting of Hurst House is the first book in the Mercy Willow series, a series about real estate agent Mercy Willow. Running away from her past, Mercy is desperate to build a new life for herself working as a real estate agent in a small village. Unfortunately, her new career isn’t off to a great start, so Mercy vows to herself that she will do the unthinkable.

She will sell the house no one can sell. Hurst House. Scene of a terrible tragedy, a house that has lain abandoned for years. If she can sell this house, then she can sell any house.

But Hurst House isn’t an ordinary house. Strange noises haunt its corridors, during the renovation, items move from one room to another over night… Then again, Mercy Willow is no ordinary real estate agent, either, so if anyone can pull this off, it’s her.

I liked parts of this book, but other parts were just too far-fetched. The twist about the family who had lived in Hurst House just seemed too impossible for me, not believable at all. Apart from that, I liked the story overall and Mercy is an intriguing protagonist because there’s obvbiously parts about her that the reader doesn’t know yet. I will definitely pick up the next book in the series.

Book Review: One Star: A Horror Story by Amy Cross

Title: One Star: A Horror Story
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

After slogging his way through a particularly awful horror novel, Harry Jenkins leaves a scathing review. He then moves on to another book, and soon he’s forgotten all about The Haunting of Myrtle Roach.

Six months later, however, a strange woman moves into the cottage opposite.

At first, Harry and his wife Debbie don’t mind their new neighbor. Even when she starts to exhibit a few unusual qualities, Abigail Cain doesn’t exactly seem dangerous, just… slightly weird. But Abigail has a very particular reason for having moved to the small seaside village of Hambledown, and she seems very interested in Harry.

Soon, Harry and Debbie find themselves in a desperate fight for survival. Abigail Cain is out to get them, and her fury knows no limit. All because of a one star review that Harry wrote. Can she be stopped, or will Harry and his wife pay the ultimate price at the hands of a murderous and vengeful author?

As an author myself, I was quite intrigued by the premise of this novel. One night, Harry Jenkins leaves a one-star review on a horror novel he thinks is horrible. The book in question is called The Haunting of Myrtle Roach, and in his opinion, it’s about as imaginative as a rock. His review is rather scatching, but of course, like most readers after leaving such reviews, he soon forgets about the book and moves on with his life.

Six months later, a new neighbour moves into the cottage opposite his home. He and his wife, Debbie, try to welcome the new neighbour, Abigail Cain. But when strange things start happening, Harry begins to wonder if his one-star review might bring forth consequences he never intended for…

Although I found the twist quite predictable, I did enjoy this book. The writing was decent, the plot fast-paced, and while we don’t learn that much about the characters, I didn’t really feel like we needed to either. Kind of like if you’re watching a slasher movie, you don’t care about what the characters did ten years ago either; you just want to know if they can beat the killer or not. I had the same feeling with this book: I didn’t really care about Harry’s background, but I wanted to know if he was getting out of this ordeal alive or not.

Plus, especially as an author / reader, this book really makes one think twice about leaving those bad reviews!

Book Review: The Devil, the Witch and the Whore (The Deal Trilogy Book 1)

Title: The Devil, the Witch and the Whore (The Deal Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

 

“Leave the forest alone. Whatever’s out there, just let it be. Don’t make it angry.”

When a horrific discovery is made at the edge of town, Sheriff James Kopperud realizes the answers he seeks might be waiting beyond in the vast forest. But everybody in the town of Deal knows that there’s something out there in the forest, something that should never be disturbed. A deal was made long ago, a deal that was supposed to keep the town safe. And if he insists on investigating the murder of a local girl, James is going to have to break that deal and head out into the wilderness.

Meanwhile, James has no idea that his estranged daughter Ramsey has returned to town. Ramsey is running from something, and she thinks she can find safety in the vast tunnel system that runs beneath the forest. Before long, however, Ramsey finds herself coming face to face with creatures that hide in the shadows. One of these creatures is known as the devil, and another is known as the witch. They’re both waiting for the whore to arrive, but for very different reasons. And soon Ramsey is offered a terrible deal, one that could save or destroy the entire town, and maybe even the world.

The Devil, the Witch and the Whore is the first book in a trilogy about a town and its demons, and about the consequences of making a deal with the devil. Contains scenes of horror and violence.

Last week, I reviewed American Coven by Amy Cross, and this week I’m back with a review of another one of her books. I had The Devil, the Witch and the Whore on my Kindle for quite a while before I finally decided to read it. I kept on pushing it back because there was always another book that piqued my interest more. The blurb just didn’t do it for me. Plus, the book is quite long – 453 pages – so it’s not something you can use for a quick reading fix.

When I started reading, I was mildly intrigued but never more than that. I tend to read every day while jogging on my treadmill, but if I enjoy a book a lot, I often squeeze in some more reading time. Not so with this one. I looked forward to reading a bit every day while jogging, but the book wasn’t enticing enough that I wanted to finish it asap. The pacing was a bit uneven too. Some parts went rather fast – like the gory scene in the beginning of the book – while other parts, especially the parts in the tunnels, seemed to drag on. Plus, with the perspectives jumping from one character to another, and even from one timeline to another, it just seems like the story is all over the place.

For me, this was just an ‘okay’ read, and I started the sequel but I’m having trouble finishing it. Given that I usually breeze through this author’s books, that’s saying something. This just isn’t my cup of tea, I guess. But if you like horror, don’t mind time-jumps and multiple character POVs, give it a shot. Note that the story is rather gory, though, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to stay away from this one.

Book Review: American Coven by Amy Cross

Title: American Coven
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

After being snatched from the street near her home, Holly Carter wakes up in the basement of a mysterious rural house. She’s not alone: two other women are also in the basement, and they quickly start to tell her about the strange ritual she’s going to endure. Soon, her kidnapper will take her upstairs and submerge her in the ice bath.

Many years later, having long since escaped from the house, Holly tries to put her experiences in the past. When someone starts digging into the story, however, Holly starts to realize that the truth is going to come out. After all, no-one has ever found out exactly how the three women escaped from that strange basement. If the truth ever emerges, Holly’s life – and the lives of her two fellow captives – will be ruined forever.

American Coven is a horror novel about three women who make a startling discovery while they’re being held captive, and about a deadly entity that lurks in the darkest recesses of an old building. This is the 2022 edition of the original 2013 book.

I read a lot of books by Amy Cross. If you’re a fan of horror, then I definitely recommend reading her books. She has a lot of imagination, and the books are usually fast-paced and most of them also have an original twist. Having read so many books by this author, though, I definitely have a few favourites, a few I didn’t enjoy that much, and a few I thought were okay but not the best. American Coven falls in the latter category. It’s a fun read, the plot keeps you guessing, but it’s not as mind-shattering or jaw-dropping as some of Amy Cross’s other work.

The book flips between one timeline and another. In one timeline (the past), Holly Carter ends up in the basement of a madman, trapped with two other women who tell her about a sickening ritual she’ll be forced to endure at the hands of her captor: an ice bath. The second timeline (set in the present day), follows Holly fifteen years later as she is confronted with the events of the past again.

The main reason why I didn’t rate this book higher, is that I found the evil to be too vaguely described. There was a mystery-behind-the-mystery, and that wasn’t fully explored, in my opinion, leaving me with some remaining questions, hwich was a little frustrating.

Still, it’s a decent horror read, and certainly has some unexpected twists, so I definitely recommend this to horror fans.

 

Book Review: Playing Doctor Part Two: Residency

Title: PLAYING DOCTOR; PART TWO: RESIDENCY: (Blundering along with imposter syndrome)
Author: John Lawrence
Genre: Autobiography, non-fiction
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Ready to learn how (not) to be a doctor?
Well, neither was John.

John’s adventures in medical training continue with this insightful, often hilarious, self-deprecating medical memoir of bumbling into residency with a severe case of imposter syndrome. This second part in the series brings John’s unique, irreverent and candid med-school storytelling to the world of residency training.
Initially, John penned email blasts while being held captive on-call nights. His descriptions of the escapades, mishaps, disorder, and terror that surrounded his training, led several friends to enquire if he has broken into the hospital pharmacy. Eventually, someone asked to publish the stories, so John replied that he’d write down the whole adventure of becoming a doctor from medical school through residency.

Playing Doctor Part Two: Residency, is a medical memoir written by John Lawrence, that focuses on John’s residency training. The books talks about John’s connection to his patients, about the situations he finds himself in while practicing medicine – sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes surprising – and he always tells these stories with an undercurrent of humor that really makes this book stand out from others.

I really liked John’s honesty about the good and not-so-good parts of the job, and his ability to shoulder through it all, no matter what happens. It’s an honest, insightful and inspiring memoir that I think should be a must-read for all aspiring doctors out there.