Title: The Skull Ring
Author: Scott Nicholson
Number of Pages: 160 (PDF)
Summary: Julia Stone will remember, even if it kills her. Many years after the night her father disappeared, a night of chants, pain, and strangers in robes, the past follows Julia tot he North Carolina mountains when a mysterious silver skull ring makes her the focus of a shadowy, sinister cult. Walter, a local handyman, tries to help her, but he has his own secrets. And the ring is closing in…
Price: $1.99 – $14.95, depending on format
Author Bio: Scott Nicholson is the author of seven novels, including The Skull Ring and The Red Church. He’s also written more than 60 short stories, most of which are collected in Flowers, Ashes, and The First. He’s written six screenplays and several comic book series, including Dirt and Grave Conditions. Nicholson is also a freelance editor and operates the interactive writing manual Write Good or Die. His Web site is www.hauntedcomputer.com and his blogs are at http://hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com and http://writegoodordie.com.
Julia Stone’s locked door is unlocked. Wood blocks spelling out her nickname are on her coffee table. Her digital clock is stuck on the same time; 4:06. Her shut window is wide open. Eyes stare at her from the darkness outside. Someone is obviously trying to gaslight her. Or maybe she’s just crazy. After years of therapy, Julia is having trouble distinguishing between what’s real and what isn’t. And she doesn’t know whom to trust. Her therapist who’s trying to help rid her of panic attacks? The local handyman who keeps showing up at her door? Her long-time boyfriend who is anxious to get married? Her nosy old neighbor? Or are they all just creeps like the nameless, faceless entities she conjures in her mind?
The Skull Ring is a psychological thriller, one that had me hooked from beginning to end. In fact, I stayed up till 2:00 a.m. reading the last six chapters because I just couldn’t put it down! I particularly liked Julia Stone; she keeps fighting to maintain her sanity, and rather than act like a helpless victim, she uses her background as a reporter to investigate her own past. She’s determined to overcome her panic attacks through therapy rather than drugs, and once she realizes the true character of someone she trusted, she doesn’t hesitate in rejecting him. She has moments of wanting to give in and give up, but she doesn’t. She keeps trying to overcome whatever obstacles are holding her back, whether they be real or imagined.
The Skull Ringis well written, highly suspenseful, and avoids being preachy despite its religious undertones. The ending was fairly satisfying, because I totally believed the methods and motives of some characters; for instance, the sheriff and the therapist. They had vastly different outlooks on how they wanted this story to end, but I believed them both. I liked the idea of a “long con” being played, and I like the idea of one (or more) fanatical true believers in a cult. But I don’t buy big decades-long conspiracies, especially one that leaves mutilated bodies in its wake. No one notices a pattern? Really? I won’t go into any more detail because I want to avoid spoilers. But I was a bit disappointed in some of the concluding reveals.
I also felt a few loose ends were left hanging, such as Julia’s aversion to a barn near her childhood home. She has a horryfiing memory while in the barn, but it’s never clearly explained how she came to have that particular memory. We’re left to our own conclusions about it, but I prefer things more clearly spelled out at the end, especially when the story has us constantly guessing between the reality and fantasy of the main character’s experiences. We also never find out specifically what happened to Julia’s father–we pretty much know what, just not the how and where. I would like to have known. Morbid curiosity, I suppose. And how the heck do you get a digital clock to stay stuck on the same numbers?
But despite my complaints here, I did enjoy the story overall and look forward to reading more from Scott Nicholson. Be sure to read my interview with him.
Click here to buy the paperback or Kindle version.from Amazon
Posts Tagged ‘Suspense/Thriller’
Title: Evil Angel
Author: RD Larson
Format: Paperback, Kindle, LIT, PDF, PDB, EPUB, RB, FUB, KML, LRF, PRC, IMP
Number of Pages: 192 (Paperback)
Summary: A beautiful girl, tortured by insane jealousy and twisted love, is possessed by an Evil Angel who leads her on a path of manic violence and death in a bid to crush a real love story. Not for the weak-stomached, this is a fast paced, sharp adult thriller full of action and excitement.
Price: $5.50 – $14.27, depending on format.
Author Bio: RD Larson is the author of Evil Angel, Mama Tried to Raise a Lady, and Saving Reverend Clayton, co-authored with Louise Ulmer. She has had stories published in The Paper Journey, and several anthologies.
I have to admit I felt slightly annoyed right from the start when I read Evil Angel. That annoyance became outright irritation by the middle and end of the book. So much so that I complained about the book to my husband and mother-in-law afterwards! But first I’ll tell you what I liked about the book. I enjoyed the main plot: Terri, a mentally disturbed young woman marries her “dream guy” and has a child with him, only to drive him away with her emotional instability. She attempts to win him back by exacting revenge on anyone she thinks is standing in the way of her true love. We watch as she slowly spirals deeper and deeper into vengeful insanity. Watching her
Larson’s writing style is generally good, suspenseful, with some pretty phrases here and there. That said, what annoyed me from the start was the lack of proofreading and editing. I can overlook a typo or two, especially in an ebook, but not mid-sentence revisions and repeated sentences. And not starting in the very first paragraph of the novel! But even that wouldn’t have bothered me if the characters had been more likable. There’s Jack, who has been on the receiving end of his wife’s violence, seen her attempt suicide (apparently more than once), knows that she isn’t seeing her psychiatrist as she claims, and
For her part, Hillary starts out as a sensible, sympathetic character. Still grieving over the death of her long-term boyfriend, we see her stand up to a bullying dad at the ski resort, and learn she’s a social worker who helps abused children and women. But within hours of meeting Jack she’s willing to throw out all sensibility in order to bed him. Never mind he’s married with a baby. When said wife and baby show up in town, this would be a cue for Hillary to quietly bow out, but she still pursues the relationship. But the “jump the shark” moment for me was when Hillary is attacked and beaten. Does she call the police the first chance she gets? Does she warn others who may soon
One last annoyance was when Jack is in the emergency room after a minor accident. A nurse brings him and Hillary bowls of onion soup, French bread, and tapioca. I had to roll my eyes. First, no one is served food in an emergency room, let alone both the patient and his visitor! And onion soup and French bread? In a hospital? You’ve got to be kidding me. The tapicoca I can believe, though green Jell-O would’ve been spot-on.
With a little revamping, I could’ve given Evil Angel 4 stars, but as it is I have to give it 2.
Disclaimer: I received a PDF review copy of Evil Angel. My reviews are not influenced by receiving free review copies, nor am I compensated any other way for reviewing books. I may provide affiliate links where books can be purchased, but I do this of my own volition.