#ATBR2020 – The Bright Lands by John Fram

Another solid debut author for 2020!

Thanks to Hanover Square Press for the free early copies in exchange for our honest reviews

THE BRIGHT LANDS – John Fram (Released July 7th, 2020)

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Book Description:

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Police corruption, small town secrets, peer pressure, homophobia, racism and misogyny – these are a few topics you can expect to be brought up in this wonderful debut novel by Fram. This suspenseful thriller with light horror undertones is one to put on your TBR. Don’t let the page count dissuade you – each page is necessary to tell this enthralling tale set in a small town in Texas.

This book hooked me right from the beginning, then tapered off while building its suspense and then explodes at the end. There’s quite a cast of characters and I enjoyed being in the minds of all of them. Well, maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word for some of these minds because I found myself flinching at quite a few scenes. For the majority of the read, I was wondering why this was even considered horror at all – we get a hint in certain parts but it doesn’t really show its horror face until a certain part. Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen more of this throughout the read rather than placed mainly just in one spot. HOWEVER, take that with a grain of salt because the horror in this novel isn’t just contained within that part of the storyline.

With loads of mystery and an ending you won’t be expecting, I’m duly impressed that this is a debut novel. Fram is an author to watch out for – I highly recommend adding this to your reading list. I’ll certainly be looking for his next release.

My Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Another incredible debut author for 2020! John Fram’s THE BRIGHT LANDS brings us a suspenseful thriller with a hint of horror. I will admit, the page count (almost 500 pages) had me apprehensive, mainly because most thrillers stick to around the 300ish page mark. However, when I saw all of the rave reviews I knew it definitely should be worth it!

A small Texas town that is borderline obsessed with their high school’s football team is where our story takes place. I feel like this is something a lot of readers can relate to – change football to hockey and that was my high school in Minnesota (let’s be real, as soon as you could skate it was an obsession for some parents). We are introduced to a wide array of characters and all are so well-developed. When you have multiple POVs there are times where some characters get lost in the background, but Fram gives us such authentic and relatable characters throughout the book.

In most of the book, the suspense continues to mount and culminates into one hell of an ending that I wasn’t expecting! The last part of the book I finished in one sitting because I had to know what was going to happen next. I was expecting a little more horror elements to it, but they are definitely present in certain parts and there was an overall creepy/eerie vibe.

I’m anxious to see what Fram releases next and I highly recommend adding this to your TBR. Don’t let the page count deter you like it almost did for me. I’m so happy I listened to Chandra (and others) and moved this to the top of the list once I got my hands on it.

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