The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens: a review of the freakishly scary

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Seven years ago, New Orleans police officer Dave Creasy comes home to find that Ruby, his seven year old, has been kidnapped. Gone without a trace, Dave will do anything to get his daughter back, including actions that destroy other cases and culminate in his resignation from the police force. In the end, his downward spiral also ends his marriage with Ruby’s mother, Claire.

Claire has spent the last seven years seeing Ruby in the faces of girls around her, living with the pain of her loss. While out with her sister Charlotte, Claire sees a doll in a shop window that looks remarkably like her missing daughter – blonde hair, turquoise eyes, even a strawberry birth mark on her arm. While rushing to see the doll, Claire is hit by a car and taken to the hospital. Upon her return to the shop, the doll is gone and the shop owner is missing. Claire knows that despite the disbelief of her family, the doll is a link to her lost daughter and she is determined to find out the truth. In desperation she goes to Dave for help and together they delve into the darkness that consumed their daughter.

While they search, The Dollmaker, mind twisted with madness, sets a table for a birthday party, surrounded by beautiful dolls and one little girl, who wants nothing more than to go home to her parents.

While it may border on stalkerish that I’m again reviewing an Amanda Stevens book, The Dollmaker is a book that terrified me in such a way that I could not resist the urge to blog about it. It is a thriller with the most twisted twist one can fathom. I finished reading this book one day just before going to pick up my four little girls from daycare. While they waited patiently behind me as I unlocked the door to our house, my four year old with big blue eyes spotted a stranger walking down the sidewalk and began waving and saying hello to him. With The Dollmaker in mind, I frantically unlocked the door and pushed each girl through the threshold, locking the door behind us. Ms. Stevens has a way of pushing the buttons of fear that each of us have inside and making those fears seem like a very close reality. If she continues to write this sort of tale, it may be a good idea for her to invest in a night light company. Her readers are going to need them.

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The Restorer by Amanda Stevens – if it isn’t a zombie… it must be a ghost

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I must have read twenty books in the last two months since I blogged last. I’ve meant to blog, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been reading at a frantic pace, unable to write between the rush to get to the next book. Now that summer is winding down and the kids are back to school, I am ready to spread my inexperienced blogging wings and pray to anyone listening that you look past the fact that I’m not a great writer and remember that I’m just a girl who loves to read.

I’ve been going through my head for days, trying to decide the book with which I should begin again. I couldn’t pick any of the new books that I’ve read in the past two months… A book that I’ve read several times over the last couple of years kept banging at the door of my subconscious, willing itself to be let into this shabby little blog. Before I start with the review, let it be said that I fiercely love this book. While I have been known to passionately share it with others, I love it in such a way that I sometimes have to remind myself not to jealously hug it to my chest, refusing to share, with demented selfishness akin to Bilbo Baggins and his Precious. So, happily, yet begrudgingly, I introduce you to the world of Amelia Gray, the Graveyard Queen.

Amelia Gray is a cemetery restorer. She also can see ghosts.

Amelia’s father, a cemetery caretaker, lays out a set of rules for Amelia on the day that she first sees a ghost at the age of nine. He tells her to never acknowledge the ghosts, never stray far from hallowed ground and to keep her distance from those who are haunted. His rules will keep her safe, his rules will keep the door to the supernatural world shut. Since the age of nine, Amelia has kept his rules.

Then Amelia is hired to restore Oak Grove Cemetery.

On the night that Detective John Devlin steps out of the fog with the spirits of a haughty, beautiful woman and child clinging to him, everything in Amelia’s world changes forever. Devlin is investigating the murder of a body found in Oak Grove and Amelia’s expertise is needed for the investigation, making it impossible to keep Amelia’s father’s rules.

“Keep your distance from those who are haunted.”

As more and more bodies are found and Amelia’s own life is at risk, her feelings for Devlin begin opening the door her father had warned her to keep shut. The spirit world is opening, surrounding Amelia and invading the privacy of her hallowed sanctuary. And there is no hiding place.

 

Amanda Stevens is, in my humble “I’m not a writer, I’m just here to read” opinion, an author who writes in a style so beautiful that it is almost lyrical. She writes in vivid colors, painting Amelia Gray’s Charleston from a palette of words so lovely that even the most unimaginative reader can see themselves in her world. I have found myself, after reading this book an embarrassing number of times, so in love with its characters that I find myself clutching the top of my shirt to keep in the sick ache in my chest when they are in pain or danger. Ms. Stevens has a way of frightening me that makes the nine year old version of me reading an R.L. Stine book under the covers come rushing back into my present day, thirty something body. The type of fear that warns you not to put your foot over the side of your bed or it will surely be eaten by the creature inhabiting the space beneath. The type of fear that leads to an embarrassing conversation with your seven year old about why on earth you were sleeping with your master bathroom light on all night. 

As the door to the supernatural opens to Amelia, the danger that lies waiting will make your heart skip, trip and race through the pages of this book. The connection Amanda Stevens is able to form between reader and character is truly amazing – one bonds with her characters as surely as if they were living, breathing personalities. While reading the Graveyard Queen series, I have often had to remind myself, while trying to dam a flood of tears, that it is a STORY for the love of all things holy. 

Whether you like to read paranormal mystery, romance or are simply a mystery/suspense kind of reader, this book is well worth the investment. But please remember, as Amelia Gray’s father says, “Once that door has been opened… it cannot be closed.”