Genre: Gothic


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest

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Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest
The Toll
Cherie Priest
Genre: Adult, Gothic, Horror
Publication date: July 9th, 2019
by Tor Books

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From Cherie Priest, the author of The Family Plot and Maplecroft, comes The Toll, a tense, dark, and scary treat for modern fans of the traditionally strange and macabre.

State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee River, between Fargo, Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that route from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven.

But you’d better hope not.


Titus and Davina Bell leave their hotel in Fargo for a second honeymoon canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. But shortly before they reach their destination, they draw up to a halt at the edge of a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car . . .

When, much later, a tow-truck arrives, the driver finds Titus lying in the middle of the road, but Davina is nowhere to be found.
 
-A copy was provided by Tor Books for review-

I love southern gothic with a dash of horror and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Cherie Priest so when I came across The Toll, I was curious. I ended up being disappointed. Maybe this book never stood a chance because I read it in the midst of an extreme book hangover from finishing Spin the Dawn but here we are.

For one, there are too many different POVs for my liking. Sometimes many POVs work, especially when distinguished. They were not distinguished in this case so the transitions were always sudden and it took me a bit to figure out who I was following. Honestly, it wasn’t until I hit the 33% mark that I was actually able to differentiate the names and the voices of the characters. So for about 100 pages, I was basically lost and confused. 

The pacing was too slow for my tastes as well. The atmosphere is deliciously creeptastic but… there is literally nothing else going on. Titus’ wife goes missing and the town is sort of weird and there are weird things happening but only the first of those things is a plot point. There is an increasing tension propelling the plot forward but the book is fairly tame. I was not creeped out or concerned.

I also did not connect to any of the characters. Maybe except the old ladies who hate everybody because that’s a big mood. I don’t know. 336 pages is a lot to read when you don’t feel connected to anyone or that invested in the plot or really in anything at all. 

So why did I keep reading? Maybe I just have issues and don’t like DNFing but honestly, the one good thing I can say for this book is that Cherie Priest is undoubtedly a terrific writer. This seems to contradict all of my issues with the book but also, I don’t know what else to say. Something kept me just invested enough to keep turning the pages and I think that for all these book’s faults, Priest is good at her craft.

The Toll is not the worst book I’ve read this year (although I cannot actually think what the worst book I’ve read is.) I think it just needed a lot more work to keep me invested. I think characters needed to be developed, voices distinguished and the plot needed to become more exciting. People who like slower books with that hint of horror sort of lurking in the background will genuinely enjoy this book. Simply put, I was the wrong reader for The Toll and all my love for southern gothic books cannot make up for that.

2 Stars
2 Hot Espressos

Gritty Characters: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Gritty Characters: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Posted by on 04/09/2019 • 1 Comment

CW: Self-harm and manipulative romantic relationship

I was told Wicked Saints would destroy me but I still didn’t realize what that would mean until I read the last couple pages of this book. If you enjoy happiness at all, you will stay far away from this book. If you love gritty characters, none of whom are particularly good (and some who might just be PLAIN EVIL), you will love Wicked Saints.

Right off the bat, we are pushed into the middle of a war with an opening scene where one of our MCs has to watch as many people important to her are murdered. So no, there are no rainbows and puppies in this book. Honestly though, having such a powerful scene was helpful to me because I’ve been struggling…

Review: Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge

Review: Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge

Posted by on 04/08/2019 • 1 Comment

Gothic mystery novels are a favorite of mine, and Dreaming Darkly is an eerie novel that, albeit a bit predictable and dramatic at times, was an exciting read overall. 

After the death of Ivy’s mother, she’s sent back to her family’s old manor on a private island off the coast of Maine. When she gets there, she finds that not everything and everyone is at it seems, and strange dreams start feeling a bit too real. I found this story really intriguing from the very first page. Ivy’s life with her mom, her mom’s mysterious past, her family’s history are all really interesting. I found myself flying to the pages to find out every detail I could about this ominous family tree. This mystery aspect is done really well, with…

Review: And the Trees Crept in by Dawn Kurtagich

Review: And the Trees Crept in by Dawn Kurtagich

Posted by on 09/08/2016 • 8 Comments

I read The Dead House last year and immediately fell in love. It was eerie, scared the bejezus out of me, and twisted my mind into a pretzel. I LOVED the thriller aspects, the mystery and just the plain horror of it so I was excited to dive into And the Trees Crept In. While I definitely enjoyed the novel, I wasn’t as blown away by it as I was by The Dead House.

This novel starts with a happily ever after. Silla and Nori  have escaped their abusive household and are ready to start over at their aunt’s but then things go downhill. Kurtagich is the queen of building tension. When I was half-way through the novel, I had no idea how things could get any worse but holy…

Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Posted by on 09/25/2014 • 16 Comments

The Fall was so very unique and the writing: wonderfully atmospheric. Having really enjoyed Bethany’s Masque of the Red Death (I have yet to read the sequel), I knew that I was in for a stunning read. Masque was very well written, gorgeous in its melancholy, really – and that’s what I love the most about these historically creepy novels: the way they enchant you into their eerie settings. The Fall was no exception. I felt transported into this ancient house which was truly a character in and of itself. I could see every crack and hear every faint footstep. You could say that I was sufficiently creeped out.

Madeline is living with a curse. A curse revolving around a house that feels alive and vengeful, a house they…

Review: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron – Blog Hop, Day 6

Review: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron – Blog Hop, Day 6

Posted by on 09/16/2013 • 12 Comments

With the same atmosphere and wonderfully charismatic characters as the first book, A Spark Unseen is a good sequel to The Dark Unwinding, but I felt somewhat bored while reading it. Even though the pacing in the first book was unhurried, I still found myself entertained by the characters in such a way that I hardly noticed. A Spark Unseen, on the other hand, while it did have the same fun personalities, much of its time is spent expanding the now thicker political layer. Not being a big fan of strong political plots – especially in historical fiction – I had difficulty staying focused during this one.

I can’t say that there is any lack in character atmosphere in this sequel. We have our good old Katharine who…

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Posted by on 09/06/2013 • 27 Comments

A decent dose of creepy, this was!

The Dark Unwinding started rough for me. For the first quarter of the book at least I had a very difficult time getting into it. My attention kept waning, my mind wandering. I think mostly caused by my own restlessness, though, but surely not helped by the ambiguousness of the plot by that point. It has a strong show rather than tell writing style; while it’s not always easy to initially situate ourselves in a story told as such, it does remain my preferred way of storytelling. I find it works especially well for this type of book, the eerie, gothic style, as it leaves room for our own imagination to creep ourselves out. This is where this novel excels, followed closely by…

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Posted by on 07/15/2013 • 39 Comments

“Their faces were white. And grim. They glared at me, streaks of pale moonlight sweeping across their cheeks. They looked somber and gruesome and not like kids at all.”

Highly atmospheric, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a haunting tale of evil and family secrets for every Gothic horror fan!

Although most Gothics are set in the past, this one is not, but it takes place in an old and tired estate which gives this book the perfect ancient feel. It’s not long before strange things start happening in Violet’s extremely small, quaint town, setting about hair-raising goosebumps that last throughout. First we get frightening legends about a kidnapper in a retired tunnel, then creepy kids walking around the cemetery claiming to have seen the devil, but…