Book Review: The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #4)

Heavy rains have burst the banks of the Willamette River; several people have died in the furiously rising waters…but the latest victim didn’t drown. She was killed before she went into the water. Soon, other victims are found, and Police Detective Archie Sheridan realises that Portland has a new serial killer on its hands.

Reporter Susan Ward is on the story, but she’s got other leads to chase, and some secrets can be frightening for prying eyes. With Archie following a bizarre trail of evidence, and Susan close behind, the pair must unearth the identity of a vicious murderer, and uncover the truth behind a mystery more than sixty years old…

Book 1: Heartsick review     Book 2: Sweetheart review       Book 3: Evil at Heart review

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The flood was more terrifying than the killings.

Gretchen Lowell is nowhere to be found in The Night Season. Well, up until the last minute. And as minute her appearance was, it made me excited for the next installment of this series.

Philippines has always been an ‘unwilling home’ to typhoons, which almost always result in floods. I guess you could say it is nothing but a common occurence to us Filipinos. When the city of Portland was submerged in a flood they haven’t seen in ages, I understood it, how scared they were. And the terror was doubled when Archie Sheridan realized someone is using the deluge to get away with murders.

I saw little of Henry Sobol (I actually liked this guy), but got compensated with Susan Ward‘s maturing character, and increasing weirdness (she constantly mouths useless trivia, and I found it entertaining). As for Archie, I am starting to warm to him again. His defiance to not let Gretchen control his life was getting stronger. Just a bit more, and I believe he can defeat The Beauty Killer in her own twisted game.

Looking forward to the next book, Kill You Twice!

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THE NIGHT SEASON by Chelsea Cain

Paperback, 388 pages

Published 2011 by Pan Books

4/5 stars

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Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

Literary Awards: Black Quill Award for Dark Genre Novel of the Year (2010)The Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Nominee (2010)

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Trust Gillian Flynn to twist even the most sacred of all relationships. :))

To rank her novels according to my brand of creepy awesomeness:
1. Gone Girl
2. Sharp Objects
3. Dark Places

Paper clips should not be bought, among other things, according to Libby Day (and I love this about her). This kind of quirky thinking only solidify her already hardened character, that can only come from Gillian Flynn!

Add to that, Libby likes to lift things. As mundane as salt & pepper shakers, paperweight. Curious and curiouser, right? The complexity of her personality was amusing to discover. Libby is not likeable as a person, mind you. But she draws me in, with these little knacks that surfaced when reading her POV.

I daydream about dying.

Patty Day has very disturbing thoughts for a mother. Can you see it?! That line alone was so fucked up to think of, when you wake up and start your day, to take care of your four kids (and you can barely get by). Patty’s chapters are the most compelling, it drove me insane! (Could I think like her, if I were in her shoes? That is what I thought while I read her POVs.)

Ben Day‘s state of mind is disturbing, too dark for a fifteen-year-old. Annihilation. The first time that word burst from his mind, I got goosebumps.. it made me ecstatic! Right then and there, I knew it’s going to be a horrifying read for me. I have no love for Ben though. The bastard was spineless and a cowardly schmuck. Libby on her bad days has bigger balls than him.

When that fateful day (the Days were killed) was finally recounted, the tone of the novel went to downright nasty. It was difficult not to get emotionally attached to Patty =( My insides were in turmoil, but at the same time, I was so keyed up, excited to know who the killer was…

And that fucker.

Dark Places. Gory fun. Typical Gillian Flynn insanity.

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DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn

Paperback, 538 pages

Published May 2010 by Crown

4/5 stars

Book Review: Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #3)

Gretchen Lowell is still on the loose. These days, she’s more of a cause celebre than a feared killer, thanks to sensationalist news coverage that has made her a star. Her face graces magazine covers weekly and there have been sightings of her around the world. Most shocking of all, “Portland Herald” reporter Susan Ward has uncovered a bizarre kind of fan club, which celebrates the number of days she’s been free.
Archie Sheridan hunted her for a decade, and after his last ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong, remains hospitalized months later. When they last spoke, they entered a detente of sorts—Archie agreed not to kill himself if she agreed not to kill anyone else. But when a new body is found accompanied by Gretchen’s trademark heart, all bets are off and Archie is forced back into action. Has the Beauty Killer returned to her gruesome ways, or has the cult surrounding her created a whole new evil?

Book 1: Heartsick review     Book 2: Sweetheart review

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Three books into this series and I am still hooked. Even though I think Evil at Heart has too much mind games for my taste, it never failed to give me what I want: heart-stopping suspense.

I think the character development is the strength of this installment. Archie Sheridan is (almost) over Gretchen. Susan Ward is getting smarter by the day. Henry Sobol is one fantastic friend and detective.

I don’t need complications for a book to be a good thriller, and Evil at Heart would’ve have worked better for me, if Chelsea Cain just cut through the chase, you know? I keep thinking that Archie is f*cked up enough to be handling intricate puzzles in his miserable lifetime.

Still, I am gunning for The Night Season to keep me at the edge of my seat by the time I pick it up. I want to see more of Gretchen, as an ordinary person same as everyone else. Because it would help Archie if he knew that she really has no power over him. And because I want Archie to have some semblance of a normal life in the upcoming installments.

Am I hoping for too much? Ha.

Evil at Heart shows how much Gretchen loves to play with everyone. Bodies are piling up even though she has no hand in it? Now, that’s a talent.

(I am a member of her fan club, true.)

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EVIL AT HEART by Chelsea Cain

Hardcover, 308 pages

Published September 1st 2009 by Minotaur Books

3/5 stars

Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: She must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Literary Awards: Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2007), The Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger (2007), Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2007), The Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger (2007)

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Disturbing is Gillian Flynn‘s middle name.

I love Gone Girl, so naturally I would try another Gillian Flynn novel. Sharp Objects is just as gripping, me reading it overnight is a solid proof of that. I admit I expected something more, but It is a well researched psychological thriller IMO.

There is always something creepy about small towns (take Cryer’s Cross, for instance). Camille Preaker wanted nothing to do with hers anymore. But the pull of unsolved crimes is too intriguing for an upcoming reporter like her. Going back to her family’s Victorian mansion to stay while she research the story, Camille found herself plunged to her childhood nightmare, all over again. (Sweet.)

300+ pages is nothing to me, if Gillian Flynn wrote it! She painted Camille’s horrid past vividly, leaving me to believe a non-existent future is in store for her MC. I understood now that there will never be a happy ending for her characters. And I am fine with that. 😀

I was a little miffed with the incompetence of the local police over forensic evidence. Hello, Detective Willis, that’s you.

When the truth came out in the open, I thought Camille’s story is finished. Silly me, because the twist is still around the corner, begging to be released. I expected that after a few chapters, thought I was wrong, but it turned out I was right in the end! *pats self on the back*

Now, let’s see… Dark Places, I will read you soon.

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SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn

Paperback, 396 pages

Published 2013 by Crown

4/5 stars

Book Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Hannibal Lecter #1)

Will Graham stands in a silent, empty house communing with a killer. An FBI instructor with a gift for hunting madmen, Graham knows what his murderer looks like, how he thinks, and what he did to his victims after they died. Now Graham must try to catch him. But to do it, he must feel the heat of a killer’s brain, draw on the macabre advice of a dangerous mental patient, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and follow a trail of microscopic clues to the place where another family has already been chosen to die–and where an innocent woman has found the Dragon first.

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I hope the next books in the series are better.

Red Dragon. Ordinary. Interesting but not quite riveting for my taste. Or could I just be expecting more from the famous Thomas Harris? The story seemed so… normal. Heh. I’m beginning to think I am hard to please with this genre (because I love it so much).

Will Graham did not look particularly brilliant, but he’s a good observer. And Francis Dolarhyde was just as I suspected, predictable but not wholly appealing to me.

But… I watched the movie, and I can say that I liked it more than the book. That’s why I will continue reading this series. And Hannibal Lecter is calling my name, urging me to be a fan of his. And I think I will answer him when I read the sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. *grins*

I might have read too many serial-killing themed books, for Red Dragon was just another (almost) forgettable story among them.

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RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris

Mass Market Paperback, 454 pages

Published May 2nd 1990 by Dell

3/5 stars

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife, Amy, has disappeared. Nick is weak, Nick is a liar, and maybe he’s not the very best of husbands — but is he a killer? Amy’s diary reveals turmoil over their marriage, strange sicknesses, and her deep wish to be a mother — but is she telling the whole story? As the evidence slowly mounts, and the police investigation deepens, Nick is incriminated in horrible ways. He swears he didn’t murder his beautiful wife and goes on the offensive to clear his name. The mystery of Amy’s disappearance only gets more tangled as secrets unfurl from the web of their knotty marriage, and it becomes clear that something may have happened more disturbing than death.

Literary Awards: Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013), Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013), Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (RT Award) for Suspense/Thriller Novel (2012), Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novel (2012), Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013), Goodreads Choice for Best Mystery & Thriller (2012), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2013), Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle – policier (2013)

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Is it wrong that I am rooting for Amazing Amy? Dear me, I enjoyed the craziness of this book!

Ben Affleck (a.k.a Nick Dunne in the upcoming movie) is going to get his ass kicked.

First half of the book and I am already condemning the husband, Nick, to hell. You would, too. But it was too early to have done that. Waaay too early. 😀

I don’t like Nick. With his incessant testament that he loves his wife Amy while having furtive glances on his phone, I thought that he is a class-A douche. And when his secrets are revealed one after another, goodness I was electrified with triumph that I should really hate this guy.

But.

The second half of the book turned the story upside down, and how I loved it! The intentional wickedness behind the diary entries was too much glee, I was exhilirating with delight on the freaking twist of events. Oh, Amy. I envy your brilliant mind. Let’s be friends, yes? *winks*

I get that some of my Goodreads friends abhorred Gone Girl. Maybe on a different reading mood, on an alternate time, I would, too. But the desperation from Nick and Amy that borders to insanity was too hard to resist. Thriller and Mystery/Suspense readers will thrive on the nasty environment that Gillian Flynn has created.

And the much talked about ending… let me tell you that while I absorb the subtle, brutal reality of it, my reaction went from being incredulous to shocked to wonder to being impressed. I remembered the slow, slow smile that began to spread on my face while experiencing those emotions. It was such a mindf*ck, I tell you.

They say that readers are split about that ending.

Well… I am married, and I was not personally offended by Gillian Flynn‘s story. I did not feel violated by the emotional blackmail mercilessly thrown back and forth between Nick and Amy, or by the atrocious acts they did to themselves and to each other. My thought is: why be bothered by it? It was not written to degrade.

And I was entertained. Didn’t you?

Ha! Enough of the debate whether Gone Girl is insulting or not. It is amazing, just ask Amazing Amy. 🙂

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GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

Paperback, 555 pages

Published May 24th 2012 by Crown

4/5 stars

Book Review: Game by Barry Lyga

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Genre: Young Adult > Mystery | Suspense

(Jasper Dent #2)

Billy grinned. “Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.

In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Book 1: I Hunt Killers review

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… I thought Game was messy. but it turned out alright in the end. And Uh, what ending? Such a cliffhanger.

I remembered loving I Hunt Killers because of my fascination with books of the serial killer theme. Now I am not so keen on it’s sequel. It was too complicated, the intricacy of the crimes was too much to be handled in a single installment. I did not even like Connie’s POV (I find her cheap, Ha!). The ending saved Game‘s life in my eyes. It was not the cliffhanger, though. It was the promise, a dark promise, from Billy Dent of things to come. *grins*

Jasper Dent did not understand how he can help the New York Police Department with the case they have at hand. A serial killer is carving his way into NY streets, and the cops know zilch on who it is. It’s funny to see Jasper psyching them out, or how the detective who asked for his help was actually afraid of him (when the detective realized that Jasper is very much like his father, Billy). They thought Jasper is all good, unlike Billy. Well, they should know better. =D

A lot of players in the game. Billy’s presence, both in Jasper’s psyche and in real life, was entertaining. He really is one sick, psychotic killer! And the way he sounds so normal, so freakin’ ordinary made him a worthy serial killer for me. My bad boy is living up to his name!

I hope Blood Of My Blood will be better than Game. The evil that is just trying to get out of Jasper Dent might just… get out, finally. And wouldn’t that be nice? Woot!

Not to mention I want to see Billy Dent in action. As sick as it sounds, I am a fan, Billy. 🙂

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GAME by Barry Lyga

Hardcover, 520 pages

Published April 16th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

3/5 stars

Book Review: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

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General Fiction > Filipino > Mystery > Crime

Smaller and Smaller Circles is unique in the Philippine literary scene – a Pinoy detective novel, both fast-paced and intelligent, with a Jesuit priest who also happens to be a forensic anthropologist as the sleuth. When it won the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel in 1999, it proved that fiction can be both popular and literary.

Literary Awards: NBDB National Book Award (2002), Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for English Novel, Grand Prize (1999)

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… So I must have read or watched too many crime stories already, because this was just okay for me. But considering that a Filipino author penned Smaller and Smaller Circles, I will admit it was a little impressive.

Two Jesuit priests are being consulted over a series of murders in the slums of Manila. They do have credentials as consultants, I think the background is anthropology..? Anyway, the victims are boys within the cusp of puberty. As soon as they went missing, it won’t be long before they found the grisly, mutilated bodies lying blatantly in the slums.

It’s a short read, and I liked that I did not feel shortchanged with the story. I liked the gore, on how the killer went on his ritual with his victims. I liked the back story too, on how the priests were able to profile the killer. I guess it did not just struck me as unique or inventive. Like I said, I was already too immersed with Dexter, Criminal Minds, and CSI to really enjoy the novelty of Smaller and Smaller Circles.

I might still recommend it, but if you are a hard-core fan of bloody murders, psychotic killers, and insane killing rituals like me, this will be just an ordinary “murder scene investigation”.

Goodreads – The Filipino Group Book of the Month (May)

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SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES by F.H. Batacan

Paperback, 155 pages

Published 2007 by University of the Philippines Press

3/5 stars

Book Review: Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)

When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland’s Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. This body can’t be one of Gretchen’s—she’s in prison—but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman’s identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can’t focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison.

Archie hadn’t seen her in two months; he’d moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he’s relieved. He knows he’s the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all.

Book 1: Heartsick review

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… so this is a different take on brutal. There are less grisly scenes, but my heart, oh my heart! It took a beating that I never thought would’ve been possible when reading a mystery crime book. 😦

I don’t like Archie in Sweetheart because now I see how his ex-wife Debbie sees him when they are on the subject of Gretchen. He was in denial, inconsolable, stubborn, and over-the-top obsessed. But I admit it was brilliant that despite his uncontrollable feelings for Gretchen, he still managed to come up with a plan to capture her. Too bad his health is failing. and his heart is breaking. He really is messed up to the f*ck.

I was wary of Gretchen because she got Archie wrapped around her delicate, perfect finger. Still, it was always a surprise to catch her off-guard when she displays affection and emotion towards Archie. It sounded sick and revolting, I know, but it felt saddening in more ways than one. Now I am more than curious on her back story! What happened to you, Gretchen, before you were a serial killer?

I liked Henry and Susan. Their devotion for the truth and family was remarkable.

Sweetheart is a heart-numbing read. I really liked that Cain was not afraid to tell a story that was so unconventional it bordered on repugnant. But… I need a breather (like a month or two) before I read the next book, Evil at Heart.

#8 Off-the-Shelf Challenge 2013

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SWEETHEART by Chelsea Cain

Paperback, 352 pages

Published September 1st 2009 by Minotaur Books

4/5 stars

Book Review: Odd Thomas #3: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

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Genre: General Fiction > Mystery & Suspense > Thriller

(Odd Thomas #3)

Loop me in, odd one. The words, spoken in the deep of night by a sleeping child, chill
the young man watching over her. For this was a favorite phrase of Stormy Llewellyn,
his lost love, and Stormy is dead, gone forever from this world. In the haunted halls of
the isolated monastery where he had sought peace, Odd Thomas is stalking spirits of an infinitely darker nature.

St. Bartholomew’s Abbey sits in majestic solitude amid the wild peaks of California’s high Sierra, a haven for children otherwise abandoned, and a sanctuary for those seeking insight. Odd Thomas has come here to learn to live fully again, and among the eccentric monks, their other guests, and the nuns and young students of the attached convent school, he has begun to find his way. The silent spirits of the dead who visited him in his earlier life are mercifully absent, save for the bell-ringing Brother Constantine and Odd’s steady companion, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

But trouble has a way of finding Odd Thomas, and it slinks back onto his path in the form of the sinister bodachs he has met previously, the black shades who herald death and disaster, and who come late one December night to hover above the abbey’s most precious charges. For Odd is about to face an enemy who eclipses any he has yet encountered, as he embarks on a journey of mystery, wonder, and sheer suspense that surpasses all that has come before.

Book 1: Odd Thomas review     Book 2: Forever Odd review

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…for the love of all things terrifying..! I cannot believe I waited three months to pick Odd Thomas again and read his story about his stay at St. Bartholomew’s. But I’m so giddy! I read Brother Odd late at night, and how I relished Koontz’ unbelievable talent to scare me out of my wits (well, what’s remained of them, anyway). This is my favorite Odd Thomas installment so far. 😀

Odd chose to exile himself into seclusion at the monastery. What started out as a quest to find peace after such troubled months turned out to be the most hair-raising encounter with both the supernatural and unnatural in Odd’s already strange life.

For such a gloomy character, Odd is hilarious. His bizarre conversations with the Russian are the highlights for me. It looked harmless, but Odd is actually already fishing out information from the suspicious guest of St. Bartholomew’s. 😀

Usually when I read a Dean Koontz book, I tell myself that there are rational explanations on the otherwise surreal experiences by his main characters. Odd is no different. I felt the horror and the impossiblity of the things Odd faced here, but Odd constantly berated himself (and me, too) that it is less than supernatural than unnatural to him. Whatever that means – but I get it.

Brother Odd is dreadfully amazing. The unnerving feeling I get from reading Odd Thomas adventures is not evident on my gleeful state despite being frightened to new heights, but it’s there. I just ignore it and revel instead in Koontz’ twisted tales.

It would take months for me to pick up the next book, Odd Hours. Just.. let me breathe normally for a while.

#7 Off-the-Shelf Challenge 2013

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BROTHER ODD by Dean Koontz

Hardbound, 364 pages

Published Novemember 28th 2006 by Bantam Books

4.5/5 stars