Dalton Black

Review: “Brother” by Ania Ahlborn

Brother_9781476783734_80da8Brother isn’t a book for the faint of heart. I felt completely lost most of the time, yet unable to turn away. I wanted… no, needed to know the end.

The Morrows live just outside of Dahlia, West Virginia on their farmhouse with next to no neighbors around. They are poor and the children have no education whatsoever. Momma and Wade have three kids, well four if we’re counting the eldest who no longer lives with them. Ray, or Rebel as he likes to call himself, is the oldest of the children at home, followed by Misty Dawn and Michael. We find out early in the book that Michael was “adopted.”

Let me stop for a minute and tell you that the Morrows are crazy. Not “adventurous” crazy, but actually certifiable. Michael’s adoption was actually Ray and Wade picking him up off the side of the road because Ray wanted a new pet. Then there’s Momma who likes girls. She likes to bring them home, torture and kill them. As Ray and Michael get older, they are forced to become accomplices to these murders. Ray by choice and Michael by manipulation.

It was unclear to me for most of the book the motivation of these killings. Was Momma just sick and the rest of the family forced to deal with it? Apparently she had a rough childhood filled with rape and molestation which starts to explain why every girl she kills looks the same… the same as she did growing up. But to me that still didn’t make sense. Michael’s job in the killing process was disposing of the body, but we do not discover this until more than halfway through the book. It’s at this point we find out motive. The Morrows are poor. If they can pick up stray girls without family to miss them out in the boonies, Momma gets her fix and the family gets their protein for dinner. Cannibalism.

I rooted for Michael when he finally began to get out of the family. I was hoping that the girl he met in town would take him away like he wanted. They could be happy together and Michael’s life would be easier. But do all books have happy endings?

Brother by Ania Ahlborn (Gallery Books | 9781476783734 | September 29, 2015)

Review: “Swerve” by Vicki Pettersson

Review: “Swerve” by Vicki Pettersson

Swerve_9781476798578_7a5b6Vicki Pettersson wastes no time getting into the thick of the plot with her new book, Swerve. Within the first dozen pages, I knew I was hooked. My nights grew longer as the book got better and I was unable to adhere to my self-administered lights-out policy.

Swerve begins with Kristine Rush and her fiancee, Daniel, driving from their home in Las Vegas across the Mojave desert to visit Daniel’s mother, Imogene, at her high-end home at Lake Arrowhead in California. The couple is forced to pull into a closed rest area along the highway after Daniel nearly crashes the car. As Kristine changes in the women’s restroom, she hears strange noises and calls for Daniel, but he doesn’t answer. Instead, she sees a pair of work boots outside her stall. She tries to fight her attacker, but is knocked out. When she awakens, she stumbles to the car to find that Daniel is gone but his cellphone was left behind. The attacker contacts Kristine through this phone to say that he has Daniel and if she wants him back, she must prove herself.

What Kristine thinks of as a “treasure hunt” begins and she is forced to face her fears along the way. Malthus, the kidnapper, makes it clear to Kristine that this is his game and the rules will be followed. Anyone who gets in the way will be killed. She must complete five stops in 24 hours or she will lose Daniel forever.

It quickly becomes obvious that the “treasure hunt” is really just a sick game of cat-and-mouse when what began as a fight to save the love of her life turns into a fight to save her own life and the life of her 10-year-old daughter.

For readers looking for a thrill, this page turner will have you on the edge of your seat and will keep you up far past your bedtime.

Swerve by Vicki Pettersson (Gallery Books | 9781476798578 | July 7, 2015)

Review: Ask the Dark

Ask the Dark imageBilly is a fourteen-year-old living with his father and pregnant older sister. He doesn’t hide his rough upbringing and reveals that before his mother passed about a year prior, he was a rebellious child–always sneaking out of the house, stealing and breaking into his neighbor’s garages. But as he attempts to his behavior and work for money to save his father’s house from repossession, kidnapping and fear fills his community.

It doesn’t take long for a total of three boys Billy’s age to be taken, forcing neighborhood police to institute a curfew for all those younger than eighteen. Billy finds it difficult to sleep since his mother’s death, so he takes cautious outings in the middle of the night. (Okay, so maybe he’s still a little rebellious). However, this rebellion leads to the solving of what turns out to be a far more brutal crime than anyone expected.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner is a captivating story following the events that transform Billy from rebel to hero of his small neighborhood in the South. Immediately you feel like you’re with Billy as he recounts the story. It’s almost as though he’s noting thoughts for the record. We actually find out later that this is precisely what he’s doing by recording it all in a voice recorder he borrows from his best friend.

Turner does an excellent job of making you believe every word you read with a story I found hard to put down. I caught myself audibly gasping and even crying a couple times. Was the happily-ever-after a bit predictable? Maybe. But by the end, you feel that Billy deserves exactly what he gets.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner (Clarion Books | 9780544308275 | April 7, 2015 | recommended for ages 14 and up)


“The Lost Boys Symphony” by Mark Andrew Ferguson


The old cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” couldn’t be more true regarding The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson. When I saw it in the catalog, I anticipated a story about a love-sick musician mourning the ending of his relationship with high school girlfriend meant for readers of a middle school level. However, the story was one with far more curse words, a love triangle, adultery and an inevitable death.

We begin with Henry, his high school girlfriend Val, and best friend Gabe. They each get a chance to tell the story from their perspective. Henry was always a bit “off” but that’s what Gabe and Val loved about him. He was a talented drummer and always took the time to appreciate the small things. When it was time for college, the trio set out for Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from their hometown. All was perfect until Val decided she wasn’t living life to the fullest. She eventually decides to transfer to NYU for her sophomore year of college, leaving Henry alone and heartbroken.

Gabe does his best to console Henry after the breakup, but Henry begins skipping class, smokes a lot of pot, and spends hours mumbling incoherently and drawing weird geometric shapes on notecards. We soon find out that Henry is hearing music that no one else can hear and it’s the most prominent on the George Washington Bridge. Upon returning to the music room of Rutgers, he comes across a bizarre man. This encounter freaks him out because the man looks just like Henry. He returns to the bridge, feels nauseous and hears the voices of two unidentifiable men.

It becomes apparent at this point that Henry’s “sickness” is much like the 2004 movie, Butterfly Effect. When Henry hears the music, he jumps through time. At first, it’s a few days and eventually he jumps years into the past.

Ferguson demands the attention of his audience by creating a web of stories that weave in-and-out of each other. I found myself many times having to start a paragraph over, thinking from the correct perspective, in order to keep the story straight. But don’t let that discourage you, because the story soon becomes one you can’t put down.

The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson (Little, Brown & Company | ISBN 9780316323994 | March 24, 2015)