Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW: Be Our Ghost

Be Our Ghost
Author: Kate Kingsbury

Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza, run the Merry Ghost Inn in Sully's Landing. The quiet, comfortable atmosphere of Sully's Landing is a real tourist draw. People who want some serious R&R enjoy the small town atmosphere. Unfortunately, a local wants to change the vibe of the town. Jason Northwood is proposing a large arcade and other changes that might transform the town into one of those cookie-cutter, bright lights, jangling tourist trap towns. Three buildings downtown are going to be demolished to make way for the arcade and many local residents and business owners are upset. But how can anybody fight a billionaire? It seems Northwood's plans will go through no matter what locals think. Well....at least until he is found stabbed to death after a meeting about the arcade plans. All of the local residents who attended the meeting are suspects. Who decided to block Northwood's plans by killing  him? When local pub owner Doug Griffith is arrested, Melanie knows he is innocent. She has to find the real killer!

I enjoyed Be Our Ghost, the third book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series. My favorite character is Cindi Metzger, the assistant who moves to the beat of her own drum. She had a rough childhood but got past it. Now she loves to express her individuality through her clothes, jewelry and tattoos. She has her own sense of style and doesn't care what anyone else thinks about it. I enjoy her as a character...quite feisty but loyal to her friends. :) Melanie and Liza are both intelligent and determined women.

The story kept my attention from start to finish. The mystery was engaging and had plenty of suspects and twists. The story was nicely paced....not too slow and not too fast. All in all, a nice addition to this cozy series. I will definitely be reading more!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, October 20, 2018

REVIEW: Sold On a Monday

Sold on a Monday
Author: Kristina McMorris

OMG -- this book is so emotional, distressing and strangely beautiful, all at the same time. It's 1931...the depression is ravaging the economy and families all across the nation. A reporter snaps a photograph of a farmhouse with two children sitting the steps next to a sign. The sign reads: 2 Children For Sale. Ellis Reed never intended to publish the photograph, but he does...and it makes his career. But it has devastating effects on those two children and their family. Ellis and his co-worker, Lily Palmer, work to right the wrong they've done.

I was sucked into this story from the start and couldn't put the book down. I can't even imagine the hardships, difficult choices and heartbreak of farm families during the depression. So many people without work. Unable to pay debts. Unable to even buy food or clothe their children. It must have been so scary. And decisions were made that in easier times never would have even been a possible choice. There are documented cases where children were actually sold. Horrific!

This story is well-written, moves along at a perfect pace and is hauntingly emotional. Kristina McMorris has written several other books. I'm definitely going to read more by this author! This book is fantastic!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Friday, October 19, 2018

REVIEW: A Dark and Twisting Path

A Dark and Twisting Path
Author: Julia Buckley

A Dark and Twisting Path is the 3rd book in the Writer's Apprentice Mystery series. I have to admit that I haven't read the other two books in this series yet. I think I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read the first two books before this one. I was able to follow the story and enjoy it, but I would have understood past events that are very important to the plot and the characters a lot better. So, while it isn't completely necessary to read this series in order, it might be a good idea anyway.

There is a lot of serious stuff going on in this book -- a kidnapped child, murder, burglary, stalking -- it has a little bit of everything. Lena London is an engaging and capable main character. She's intelligent and loyal, standing by her new boyfriend despite his multiple run-ins with the law. She knows he isn't a killer, and she works hard to help him prove it. The supporting characters are well-developed and believable. This isn't a cutesie cozy mystery....it's got some pretty serious crime and complex things going on behind the scenes. The story is on-going through all of the books, which is something I enjoyed. There is enough background information given just in case a reader hasn't read the other books or has forgotten things over time. But, the story line isn't bogged down in back-tracking, either. The mystery moves along at a nice pace, with great suspense building and plenty of twists.

I'm definitely going to read the first two books in this series, then read this one again. Then I will be ready for the next book in this series! Very enjoyable book! I look forward to more!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, October 18, 2018

REVIEW: Little Shop of Found Things

The Little Shop of Found Things
Author: Paula Brackston

After leaving London for a fresh start, Xanthe runs an antique store in Marlborough with her mother, Flora. Xanthe finds herself feeling a connection to the people that owned the items that they offer for sale in the shop. Then it becomes more than just a feeling....she touches one item and finds herself transported back to 1605. A ghost demands Xanthe's help with righting an injustice.

This book is such a nice blend of supernatural, mystery and romance. It's a bit like Outlander meets antique-ing. I found the plot creative and interesting...I didn't want to stop reading! This book is a nice start to a new series. I can't wait to find out what object might send Xanthe back into the past in the next book!

Paula Brackston is the author of several other books including The Witch's Daughter series. The Little Shop of Found Things is the first book by Brackston that I have read. I'm definitely going to check out her other books!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Foundryside

Foundryside
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Sancia Grado is a thief. She's a very good thief, in fact. So good that she gets hired to sneak past multiple guards at the Tevanne docks and steal a magical artifact. And she does -- but she never realized how important and dangerous an item she was stealing. Now powerful people want her dead. She has two choices -- die, or learn to harness magic to save herself. Guess which one she picks?

This book is amazing! I love Sancia as a main character. She is intelligent, cunning and feisty. But...she still gets in over her head. Totally over her head. But, she's wily enough to do whatever she can to get herself out of trouble...which leads to more trouble, of course. This book has engaging characters, an entertaining plot and lots of creative story-telling. Loved it!

Foundryside is an excellent start to a new fantasy series. I will definitely be reading more! Robert Jackson Bennett has written several books including Mr. Shivers and the Divine Cities trilogy.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crown Publishing via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

REVIEW: The Dream Daughter

The Dream Daughter
Author: Diane Chamberlain

It's 1970. Caroline Sears' husband has died fighting in Vietnam and her unborn daughter will be born with a life-threatening heart defect. There is no way to treat her daughter's condition and Caroline is devastated. Then her mysterious brother in law, Hunter, proposes a fantastical solution to the problem that might just save the baby's life. Hunter is a physicist and tells Caroline that she can travel forward in time, access advanced medical care for the ailing baby, then come back to 1970 with a healthy daughter. Only things don't go as smoothly as Hunter promises.....

This story is so creative with many twists and surprises. While it is a tale about how much a mother is willing to sacrifice and endure for her child, it also gives a healthy lesson about not messing with time. There are consequences. While time travel is not a new plot by any means, I loved the premise of this story. The book is well-written, paced nicely and the author really takes a new and creative approach to the idea of time travel.

Diane Chamberlain has written more than 25 books. I really enjoyed this story and will definitely read more of her books!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Stars Uncharted

Stars Uncharted
Author: S.K. Dunstall

There is a lot going on in this sci-fi romp -- body modifications and exchanging, evil and greedy corporations, space exploration, and just lots of action-packed adventure. It's a space adventure that gave me a Firefly-type fix, with more intrigue and genetic modifications added into the mix. Sometimes I just need an entertaining adventure in space to make me happy. This book put a smile on my face. :) See?

For the first third of this book the story dealt mainly with genetic modifications and body exchanges. While that is interesting and I like the Nika (the body modder) as a character, the story moved a bit too slowly for me at first. But, once the action got started, I was so hooked on this story. It definitely kept my attention. The character development and the world is just so richly creative. This was definitely fun to read!

This sci-fi story is well-written, engaging and incredibly creative. I like it when I find a story that is different and new....this isn't just a recycled sci-fi plot with tired trope-y characters. Nicely done!

The cover art is gorgeous!!

S.K. Dunstall also write the Linesman series. I liked this book, so I'm definitely going to read her other series!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Witch of Willow Hall

The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox

In 1821, the Montrose family flees Boston in the wake of a scandal. They settle in New Oldbury, MA with their three daughters. Their new country home, Willow Hall, seems perfect, but the longer they live there the more dark history seems to seep out of the very walls. Secrets never stay in the shadows indefinitely. One of the Montrose daughters is a witch and doesn't know it yet...but she will have to call on her powers to protect those she loves from the secrets and evil lurking at Willow Hall. The Montrose family will never be the same.

I loved this story! It has touches of creepy gothic darkness, social commentary, a bit of scandal, and even a splash of romance. Definitely a lot of dark, gothic fun in this book! The suspense developed slowly, building as the darkness of the story was revealed. I liked how the truth being revealed was not only about the history of Willow Hall and events there, but also the secrets and scandal that caused the Montrose family to leave Boston.

This book is definitely written for the YA audience, but will be enjoyable for adult readers as well. It's age appropriate for teenage readers.

The Witch of Willow Hall is Hester Fox's debut novel. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more by this new author! This story had just the right amount of creepy...not too much, not too little. It kept my attention from beginning to end!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Harlequin/Graydon House Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Under My Skin

Under My Skin
Author: Lisa Unger

Poppy lives in a constant state of confusion and grief. Just a year ago her husband was murdered in Manhattan. She descended into a mental breakdown, disappearing for several days, only to reappear in clothes she didn't even recognize without any memories of the days she was missing. The murder was never solved, and she has never regained the time she lost. Unless the things she sees in nightmares are memories. And now, someone is following her.....     What is real? And what is nightmare?

Wow! This book is dark, disturbing, emotional .... just a great psychological thriller. It was a bit confusing in places....but that's all part of the plot. Poppy is confused and afraid, so a bit of confusion on the reader's part just helps build the suspense. The author does a great job of portraying a woman living in a state of fear, confusion and the after-effects of a mental breakdown. She isn't sure what is reality and what is not. She wants to know the truth of what happened and where she was for the time she was missing.....but at the same time, she is afraid of the truth. The whole time I was reading, I was imaging what I would do in the same situation.....   Yikes! Quite disturbing! Very, very twisted! I had to take the trash out after dark while I was reading this book. I kept looking over my shoulder as if expected a dark, hooded figure to be lurking somewhere in the dark, watching and following me. I hurried back into the house...and kept reading!!

This is the first book by Lisa Unger that I have read. I have heard so many good things about her books that I was excited to read this one. I'm glad I did -- this book was well-written and extremely engrossing. I got sucked right into the story and just had to know what happened to Poppy and her husband. It quickly turned into a late night reading binge. I'm definitely going to read more by Lisa Unger! She has several other thrillers that sound like awesome reading, including The Sleep Tight Motel and The Whispering Hollows. Looks like there are many creepy nights of reading ahead for me!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Kennedy Debutante

The Kennedy Debutante
Author: Kerri Maher

I inwardly cringe every time the Kennedy Family is portrayed as "American royalty.'' No, no, no. Wealthy? Yes. Privileged? Yes. Powerful? Without a doubt. But I hate seeing them put on a pedestal. Digging into the history and behavior of the Kennedy clan can be quite a disturbing experience. One daughter lobotomized to avoid scandal and hidden away for the rest of her life. Another dead in Europe before her time, separated from her family because she defied her father. Two sons shot to death. One son getting away with murder after letting a girl drown in his car at Chappaquiddick. It's not a golden story....but a really dark and sad one. And all for ambition, power and greed. Seems such a waste.

After listening to an audio book about the life and lobotomizing of Rosemary Kennedy earlier this year, I wanted to learn more about her sister, Kathleen "Kick'' Kennedy, so I snapped up this book! Kick grew up in privilege, enjoying Europe in the 1930's when her father was an ambassador and becoming a bright, beautiful debutante. Much was expected of her by her parents. They had ambitions for their family and expected Kick to tow the line. She didn't. She fell in love with an Englishman that her family did not approve of. Kick defied her family, choosing love over duty to her parents' ambitions. Her choices had consequences.

 Although I found the Kick's story disturbing and sad, the book is well-written and filled in some gaps in my knowledge of her life and experiences. This is Kerri Maher's debut novel. I will definitely be looking for more by this new author! This book was informative, obviously well-researched and very interesting.

I think I need to lay off books about the Kennedy family for awhile though. It's just too much......with nothing really hopeful or uplifting coming out of any of it. Sad. No reflection on Maher's book -- the book is excellent! Great debut novel! Just thoughts about the family and all the destruction that came in the wake of extreme ambition. Power corrupts.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Behind the Door

Behind the Door
Author: Mary SanGiovanni

The small town of Zarepath has a strange secret. A door. Nobody knows where it came from or exactly how it works, but if you follow some simple rules, it can ease burdens. It doesn't always work as expected...but it always works. A note sealed with wax and blood slipped under the door...an outpouring of emotion and need....wait three days....and the door does the rest. There is just one Big Rule that cannot be broken -- NEVER EVER open the door. Unfortunately, sometimes broken people break rules.

OMG! This book was so suspenseful and fun to read! I love weird, spooky stories and this story about a magical strange door was wonderfully creepy and awesome! The town did great for awhile dealing with times that the door sort of got things wrong....or letting new people in town know the rules....but their luck certainly ran out when a woman freaked out and opened the door to get her letter back. MISTAKE! There are no take-backs when it comes to supernatural shit-shows....   Who you gonna call?? Kathy Ryan, Occult specialist.

The whole time I was reading this book I wanted to yell at the residents of Zarepath...warning them. If supernatural beings offer you favors, wishes, assistance....ANYTHING...you say NO THANK YOU and walk away. There is always a price. And wishes never ever get granted the way you think they will. All those ghostly tales....like the one where two old people wish for money to pay a debt and just as they utter the wish there is a knock at the door. It's news that their son was killed and there is a death payment due them of exactly the amount they wished for. Like the old saying says....when you sup with the devil, you use a long spoon. It is never never wise to play games with things you don't understand. And it's even dumber to do it right where you live. Plus....if there is one un-breakable rule, it is pretty much a given that some ninnyhammer will come along and break that rule. There's one (or usually multiples) in every group/town/family. Always. The residents of Zarepath certainly learned their lesson. What were they thinking! Sure makes for an awesome story though!

Kathy Ryan is a great main character. She comes in to face the evil that has poured out of the open door, and shows amazing bravery and talents at facing the supernatural. It made for a great, eerie, entertaining story! Loved it!

Another book in this series, Inside the Asylum, is coming out in 2019! I will definitely be reading it!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No magical doors were opened or messed with during the reading of this book.**

Monday, October 15, 2018

REVIEW: They Fought in Colour

They Fought in Colour
Author: The Vimy Foundation

Because World War I is so far in the past and all of the Canadian soldiers who fought in it are now dead, it's hard to put that history into perspective. Black & White photos from that era somehow make the people seem less real, separating us from them. So the Vimy Foundation has colorized photographs of Candadian forces from 1914-1918 to bring them to life. This book gives information on Canadian forces in the war, the battles they fought in, the roles of soldiers and nurses, training, trench warfare, field hospitals and other aspects of The Great War.

The photographs in this book are amazing. I read this book on my Ipad just so I could zoom in on pictures to better see the faces of the troops. So many gave their lives....and now are almost forgotten. This book serves as a remembrance to all of those who gave their lives. They aren't just historical notes from 100 years ago that don't matter anymore.....they were women, men, sons, daughters, spouses, sweethearts.....people. The colorized photos bring these faces and places back to life. I found myself wondering what each person was like, did they miss the family and friends they left behind, and did they survive the war or not.

The information is presented tastefully. There are no photos of deceased troops, graphic injuries or mistreatment of POWs. Most of the photos are of troops, events, trenches between battles and training events. Everything presented in this book is respectful to the individuals involved. The text is in English and in French.

I can't even imagine how scary trench warfare was for the troops...or the new perils soldiers faced like tanks and poison gas. Not to mention the illness and physical toll it took on them.....trench foot, the flu epidemic, battle related injuries. It must have been pure hell. This book reminded me to be thankful of the sacrifices of all soldiers....those in the past and those still serving today.

I very much enjoyed this book. The photographs are accompanied by interesting information about Canada's overall participation in the war. Any history buff or those who had a family member who fought in The Great War will love this book. Beautiful photos and great information.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Dundurn via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Sunday, October 14, 2018

REVIEW: True or Poo?

True or Poo?
The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods
Authors: Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti

Ever wondered how many of those little factoids about animals and insects we've all heard before (like how many spiders we all swallow while we sleep at night) are actually true? This book upholds some myths about animals and debunks others, presenting the information in an interesting and entertaining way. I had a great time reading this book....and even read several selections out loud to the family. The cute illustrations were fun as well.

The facts are on all sorts of topics ranging from mating and courtship rituals to eating and defenses. Facts are sorted into chapters by topic, with each individual fact or myth presented in a few paragraphs. This book is very easy to read and understand, while being very entertaining and interesting. We always have one of those lovely bathroom reader books in each bathroom in our house -- I think this book would do very well in that capacity as well. Especially since the title is True or Poo? :)

The book has many strange and interesting facts. It definitely kept me entertained from beginning to end. Some were disturbing....like a particular type of male octopus that can fling its penis like a harpoon to avoid being eaten by females. And some were just interesting...like the ability of a shark's brain to keep it constantly swimming even while it's sleeping. Some myths were solidly debunked, such as the story that we are never more than six feet away from a rat or that we ingest spiders while sleeping. Not true. Thank God!

I've already pre-ordered several copies of this book. Each year we give bathroom reader books to family members as Christmas presents....and this will be our informational offering for this year. Definitely a fun and educational book!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Hachette Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. And, I was NOT within six feet of a rat while writing this review. Whew!**

REVIEW: Toil and Trouble

Toil and Trouble
Author: various

I love spooky stories about witches, but they can get a bit trope-y at times. Variations on the same theme. Black cats. Warts. Spells. Incantations. It gets a bit repetitive. Toil & Trouble is a story anthology about witches that gives a new spin to the classic tales. These stories are diverse, creative, and entertaining, with a dash of spooky witchiness.

From love spells that go wrong to witch hunts, these 15 stories celebrate all things Witch....with a empowering, feminist overtone.

Each story gives a bit of a new spin to the witch tale. Creative, entertaining and thought-provoking anthology! I really enjoyed this book! Each story is different and interesting. I tried to pick a favorite, but it was pretty much a tie between two: Daughters of Baba Yaga and Why They Watch Us Burn. But, all of the stories are good!



Stories included are:

Starsong - Tehlor Kay Mejia
Afterbirth - Andrea Cremer
The Heart in Her Hands - Tess Sharpe
Death in the Sawtooths - Lindsay Smith
The Truth about Queenie - Brandy Colbert
The Moonapple Menagerie - Shveta Thakrar
The Legend of Stone Mary -  Robin Talley
The One Who Stayed - Nova Ren Suma
Divine Are The Stars - Zoraida Cordova
Daughters of Baba Yaga - Brenda Yovanoff
The Well Witch - Kate Hart
Beware of Girls With Crooked Mouths - Jessica Spotswood
Love Spell - Anna-Marie McLemore
The Gherin Girls - Emery Lord
Why They Watch Us Burn - Elizabeth May

This book is definitely intended for a young adult audience. I still enjoyed it, despite having passed the Young Adult stage a few decades ago. The stories seek to empower women and show a different side to witch tales. A bit of diversity mixed in with the spookiness was a nice change!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Harlequin Teen via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**



Saturday, October 13, 2018

REVIEW: Coldfall Wood

Coldfall Wood
Author: Steven Saville

A sleeping god awakes. Danger. Murder. Mysterious illness. Bad things start happening.....and Joshua Raines will have to become a true hero, stepping up to fight an epic battle. The tale of Glass Town continues.....

When I accept ARC copies of books for review, I promise to write an honest review. And I always do. Even when I have to say that I just did not enjoy a book. I'm always constructive in my criticism, but I'm never going to be less than honest.

Not every book is for every reader. I say that because this book is just not something I can enjoy reading. So....much as I hate to do it....I DNF'd this book at 60%. I tried three times to finish so I could write a complete review....but finally I had to give up and declare it done.

Now....that doesn't mean that this is a bad book. It just means that I, personally, did not enjoy this story. I did not realize it was a continuation of the story started in Glass Town. Even though the book blurb said it can be read as a stand alone story, I found the plot, basic premise and characters confusing because I haven't read the first book. I couldn't get into the story because I didn't understand the motivation of the characters or if this was a mystery/crime investigation or supernatural story. The mixing of the two just didn't work for me in this case. This series is just not for me.

I have heard some very wonderful things about Steven Saville's other books...so I think I will try another selection and see if it's a better fit for me. I did a bit of looking around at other reviews and found many readers like this series....I'm glad. :) It just is not a good fit for me.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Claw The System

Claw The System
Author: Francesco Marciuliano

Anyone who has a cat knows that felines are plotting to take over the world. They have already enslaved much of humanity....it's only a matter of time. Every cat lover knows this is true.....but we all continue to love and adore our kitties. :) It's all a part of their insidious plan.

Claw the System is a collection of photos of cats and poetry expressing their disenchantment with humans and their habits, foibles and just existence in general (other than filling their food dishes and pats when ordered). Some of the commentary is obviously thinly veiled reflections and thoughts about the current political and social atmostphere.....but it's not overdone or ridiculous. Just funny. :) The poems are creative, outragously fun to read, and cute.....yet poignant. Loved it!

I loved this book! I often think my cats roll their eyes and shake their heads at nearly everything I do....and this book just upheld that belief 100%. The color pictures of cute kitties are great, and the poems are cute. This book is by the same people who published I Could Pee On This and other similar books. Definitely a must-read for cat lovers!

Unfortunately my cats read my galley of this book and want to know where they can go to join the uprising. They keep calling me their "minion.''  This could be really bad......I think I'm being stalked....



**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Andrews McMeel Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Friday, October 12, 2018

REVIEW: Merci Suarez Changes Gears

Merci Suarez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina

Sixth grade is a tough year for every child. As a scholarship student at an expensive academy, it's even tougher for Merci Suarez. Not only does she have to learn to endure middle school where she doesn't always feel she fits in with her classmates, but she also has to start growing up and facing changes. Not just changes in herself, but changes in her family as well. Her brother is getting ready to leave for college and her grandfather is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's a time of change and lessons to learn. Merci Suarez faces them with strength and intelligence.

I'm really impressed by the selection of children's books published by Candlewick Press. Every book I have read has just been outstanding! Merci Suarez Changes Gears touches on some major topics for middle school girls -- the end of childhood, growing up, taking more responsibility, seeing grandparents age, the pain of older siblings leaving home, learning to love and care for smaller children in the family, and just the joys and stress of living with extended family. This book is heart-felt, emotional and completely awesome! Merci learns to think of others and grows up a bit, while learning to live in her own skin and love the person she is. Wonderful story!

Meg Medina has written several books for the YA and middle grade audience. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, October 11, 2018

REVIEW: The Toy Thief

The Toy Thief
Author: D.W. Gillespie

9-year old Jack lives with her father and older brother, Andy. At night, something dark sneaks into their house, creeping and crawling through the shadows. Jack isn't sure what the creature is....but she knows it is something she was never meant to see. And it steals things. Particular things that give joy or hold happy memories.....toys. She calls it The Toy Thief. The dark being with the strange eyes doesn't just want to terrorize them....it wants much more than that. Sometimes knowledge comes with a price.

The suspense and darkness of this story build slowly, until the truth of the monstrous situation is revealed. I got sucked right into this story and it held my attention until the very end. How terrifying would it be to have a dark, evil thing sneaking around every night, stealing the very things that are most precious to you? As a child, I was scared of the dark.....and I can only imagine how much more terrifying it would have been to see what Jack saw. And then to realize that you couldn't unsee it....that sometimes knowing about something evil has a cost.

Awesome dark and disturbing tale! Definitely a great Halloween season read!

This is the first book by D.W. Gillespie that I have read. He has written several other horror novels including The Tree Man and All Safe In Here. I'm definitely going to be reading more by Gillespie! This book was delightfully frightening!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Flame Tree Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Blessed Be the Wicked

Blessed Be the Wicked
Author: D.A. Bartley

Detective Abish Taylor has returned to Utah where she grew up.  She's trying to put her life back together after the death of her husband and just had to get out of New York. She never intended to return to Utah. After leaving the Mormon faith, her family relationships are difficult....but this is a chance to start over so she's going to do the best she can. She expected her detective position at the Pleasant View PD to be pretty bland, as the crime rate is incredibly low. But then new homeowners find a dead man in their closet. Not just dead.....his throat has been cut. His clothing and body point to this being some sort of Mormon blood atonement ceremony. The local Mormons want this kept quiet to prevent scandal....but Abish knows she needs to solve this case.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. I'm not usually all that interested in books that lean heavily on religion, especially religious factions that control local government or attempt to hide crimes to stop scandal. But...this story is very well written and definitely suspenseful. Despite a few twinges at the Mormon-centric plot, I found myself engrossed in this story of secrets, lies, hypocrisy, and the many demons that can be hidden behind religion. I felt Abbie's frustration every time local Mormon leaders controlled information, slowed her investigation or put pressure on her and others to keep things quiet, even hinting the case didn't need to be solved. With a father who is high up in the Mormon hierarchy and already strained family relationships, Abbie is really between a rock and a hard place. She can stay true to herself and her career by solving this case, no matter what it brings to light. Or, she can placate her father and Mormon leaders and smooth her job, family and local relationships. 

Great story! Very well-written. The suspense builds quickly and keeps steady from start to finish. The characters are nicely developed. I loved Abbie as a main character. She is strong, intelligent, somewhat broken, but always true to herself.

I will definitely be reading more of this series! That shocks me, really....as I usually just hate books that intertwine religion so much with the plot....but in this case, it really worked. Making waves in a place where religion forms the local culture is difficult and sometimes dangerous. As a former Catholic, I found myself sympathizing with Abbie. The Catholic church fights to cover up things that maybe should see the light of day....like abuse and other crimes. And, my leaving the Catholic church caused a very harsh family schism in my own life...one that still exists today. There will be no smoothing over the rift in my case, which I have had to learn to live with. I can see this becoming a favorite series for me. I can't wait for the next book!

A word of caution:  This book might be a bit offensive for those of Mormon faith. It talks about some of the more violent aspects of Mormon history and shows a local church leadership bent on hiding secrets, even if that means stopping the investigation of a murder. The plot doesn't pull any punches and talks about some aspects of temple and Mormon life that according to a Mormon friend of mine are really not supposed to be talked about. If that would offend you, might be best to pass this one by.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

REVIEW: The House By the Cemetery

The House By the Cemetery
Author: John Everson

Mike Kostner is having a rough time. His wife left him, he's lonely and going into the slow season for construction work. An offer from a friend for a construction job couldn't come at a better time. Perry wants him to strengthen the floors and stairs in the old Bremen House at Bachelor's Grove....an old house with many local legends told about murder, ritual sacrifice, witchcraft, satanism, ghosts.....  What a perfect place to construct a gruesome haunted house! Perry promises if the county makes money from the venture, then Mike's construction company will in turn get more work and more money. It seems a win-win situation...     Until Mike starts working on the house.  Then it seems.....  evil.

I love reading horror novels in the fall! This lovely, demented tale by John Everson is a perfect October release! The old Bremen House is creepy, evil and scary! I enjoyed this story! The suspense builds up nicely and it has just the right mix of creepy, scary, demented and just icky emotions. Nicely done! The ending is unusual....but completely fits with the story.

There is a bit of sex and gruesomeness in this book that leads me to say it probably shouldn't be read by teens younger than 14. Bit adult in places. Nothing too graphic, but not for kids.

All in all, an entertaining, very creepy read. I found myself having discussions with Mike in my head while I was reading. Kinda like when I catch myself yelling at the TVduring cheesy horror movies: "No! Don't go in the basement to check the fuses!''  I kept wanting to lecture ol' Mike about his choices in girlfriends, and his dedication to a job that he should have walked away from when the creepy stuff started. It reminded me of that old Eddie Murphy routine about white guys and haunted houses. When the house screams "get out!'' white guys move in with their kids, their elderly parents, etc. Anybody else sees S like that and they run back to their car and drive away, never looking back. Mike....dude.....you shoulda run while you had the chance.

Too Late.

Anybody who loves horror, haunted house, witchy or devilish tales will enjoy this book!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Flame Tree Press. All opinions expressed are completely my own.**

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

REVIEW: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury
Author: Tracy Banghart

In a world where women have few, if any, rights, Serina and Nomi Tessaro have been raised to accept their fate. All her life, Serina has dreamed of becoming a Grace...a pliant, graceful servant of the Heir. It will be an easy life, and it is expected of her. Her sister Nomi doesn't accept that it's her fate to be an uneducated, subservient woman. She hides a secret.....her brother broke the law and taught her to read. When Nomi's secret causes a role reversal between these two sisters, they both have to become strong and fight for what's right......one on an island prison for women and the other while serving as a Grace to the Heir.

For me, this book was just ok. While I totally understand the point -- women deserve to form their own destinies and have equal rights and opportunity with men -- the plot just seems very contrived. In the past couple of years, stories about women having no rights and being restricted from work, education and simple tasks like reading have just been over-done. I do understand (particularly since I am a woman myself) that this is a hot topic right now. I am  just growing weary of the same tired story line. It took me three tries to get through this book.

On the good side, I do like the characters. The two sisters are witty, intelligent and able to get along despite the fact that they are very different. And, the men are not all portrayed as narcissistic, sexist pigs. There are a few pigs, of course.....but some very redeeming male characters as well. I also like the fact that the book's message is that it's ok to be a smart, intelligent woman. And it's ok to choose to be pretty and graceful......or to be more studious. Either choice is powerful.....and both together -- amazing!

All things considered, I can't say I liked this book though.

I didn't hate the story, but I didn't like it either. I think in this case it's just a matter of this book not being for me. This book is written for a Young Adult audience and just felt a bit juvenile and forced to me. BUT.....I'm 50 years old and nowhere near the age this book is targeting. That being said....I think even a 14-25 year old me would have felt that this story is a bit too contrived to get it's background point across.

Not every book is for every person. This one is just not for me. There are many, many people who have read it and loved it. I'm glad! It's an important point -- women can be strong, intelligent and live their lives unfettered. Be strong! Be amazing! And....women have a right to their own opinions.....and this time I just disagree with the majority. This story speaks to others though -- and that is always a great thing!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Little, Brown Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, October 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel
Author: Alyssa Palombo

I have a weakness for re-tellings. This one had me completely sucked into the story from the first line:

Washington Irving got it wrong. 

Katrina Van Tassel tells her story. All the characters are there.....Ichabod Crane, Brom Van Brunt, the Headless Horseman. Only the tale doesn't unfold as Washington Irving told it. Katrina meets Ichabod, immediately forming a friendship with the new schoolmaster, which soon turns to romance. They begin sneaking off into the woods to meet. But the schoolmaster really has nothing to offer....he's poor and has no social standing. Katrina's father prefers his daughter choose Brom Van Brunt. But, Katrina wants nothing to do with him. Then Icabod disappears. With the help of her friend Charlotte, Katrina searches to find out what happened to Icabod....all the while worrying that the ghostly headless horseman might not be just a legend.

I loved getting the story from Katrina's point of view. She enjoys Icabod's company because they have similar interests, but she is afraid she will be forced into a marriage with Brom because of money. In a time where women were controlled by their families, Katrina wants a life with someone she can love. When Icabod disappears, she is determined to find out what happened to him, even if she has to call on the witchy talents of her best friend to accomplish it.

The Legend of Spooky Hollow is one of my favorite spooky reads for fall. This story puts a brand new spin on a favorite classic tale! I loved it! I feel the author stayed true to the feel of the classic, while giving it a completely new direction. Definitely a great book to read in October!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Boy at the Door

The Boy at the Door
Author: Alex Dahl

Cecelia Wilborg has a nice life. She lives in Sandefjord, Norway with her husband and two daughters. They have an almost idyllic life....enough money, a nice house, good school for her girls...everything is carefully manicured and perfect. Until....

One night after her daughter's swim lesson is done, Cecilia is asked to give a boy a ride home. Nobody ever came to pick up Tobias. The 8-year old has been patiently waiting.....but he has seemingly been forgotten. When Cecilia arrives at the address Tobias gives as his home, she finds an empty house. Not only is nobody there, but it appears the house has been vacant for some time. Little does Cecelia realize at the time that this one little thing -- giving a forgotten boy a ride home from the pool -- will bring all her secrets and lies into the light. Her carefully manicured life isn't as perfect as she thinks it is.

I found Cecilia to be a completely toxic person. She thinks of herself first.....and is willing to do almost anything to keep her life and what she has intact. She doesn't think of the feelings, emotions or needs of others -- not even her own children or her husband. She's just completely unlikable. Watching her life unravel and her make horrible decisions to try and stop it from happening was disturbing and dark. Secrets and lies just have a way of coming home to roost. A person can only hide who they really are on the inside for so long..... 

This story kept my attention from start to finish. As much as I really disliked Cecilia, I wanted to know what happened! The plot is disturbing, but engaging. Very well written!

I will definitely be looking for more by this author! Great read!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Sunday, October 7, 2018

REVIEW: Women of the Dunes

Women of the Dunes
Author: Sarah Maine

Like her great-grandmother before her, Libby Snow is obsessed with Ullaness, a Scottish Island and the Viking Maiden Ulla whose legend gave the island its name. Libby is an archaeologist and she's excited to finally have permission to dig on the site where Ulla allegedly lived. Instead of finding artifacts relating to the legend, the dig uncovers human remains dating back to the Victorian age. The man was murdered, shot to death and his body unceremoniously dumped in a hollow. Clues to the murder bind all 3 women -- Ulla, Libby, and her great-grandmother Ellen -- together across time.

This book is so beautifully descriptive and emotional! I loved the story, the characters and the setting. I don't normally like books that alternate characters and different time lines, but for this story it worked perfectly. We get to share the story of all three women and learn how it all weaves together. Just a lovely story! The mystery and the legend are very engaging. The story kept my attention from beginning to end, with some interesting twists and surprises. Very well written!

Sarah Maine has written two other books including The House Between Tides and Beyond the Wild River. I'm definitely going to read her other books!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton

This book is so creatively twisted and awesome! It's like Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. Aiden Bishop has to solve a murder. Evelyn Hardcastle will die over and over again.....and Aiden will witness the event repeatedly, each time living it as a different eye-witness. His only escape from the loop will be to solve the case. Who killed Evelyn Hardcastle...and why?

At first I had a bit of a confusing time settling into this story....but once I figured out what was going on, I couldn't stop reading. While the basic plot idea -- reliving an event over and over -- isn't anything new, I love how it's applied here. The concept of investigating a murder by re-living the event within the consciousness of different people who were there.....just awesome! Very creative. Very twisty. A bit confusing here and there....but it was meant to be that way.

Very well-written. I really enjoyed this story! Looking forward to  more by this author!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Sourcebooks via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Lies

Lies
Author: T.M. Logan

Imagine that you find out one day.....seemingly out of the blue.....that your entire life is based on lies. All of it. What you thought you could trust, suddenly you can't believe in. An altercation with a family friend leaves a man on the sidewalk injured. Joe leaves the scene to get medical help for his son who is having an asthma attack. When he returns, the man is gone.....but then the text messages start. Joe's life rapidly disintegrates. Lies, lies, lies....all lies.

I found this book a bit hard to read. The plot is disturbing. I didn't feel sorry for Joe. What I felt was more akin to pity, I think. He's just.....stupid. Completely naive. What person today reaches their mid-30s and can't discern anything about human behavior? He is completely blindsided by everything. I guess maybe when you are completely content, you ignore warning signs? The entire time I was reading I kept wanting to grab Joe and shake him, yelling "Stop being so bloody stupid!''  All of the characters are hiding something....lying, manipulating, cheating. Just an unlikable crew. It was hard to sit back and watch Joe's life totally come to pieces all because of one spur-of-the-moment innocent choice to please his young son....BOOM.....   One decision.....and he can never go back to content.

Powerful story. But I felt emotionally exhausted as I finished reading. All the horrible lies. All the twists. The absolute trashing of a man's entire life......OMG. That sort of train wreck is hard to watch. I did stick through the entire book because I just HAD to know the entire truth and what was going to ultimately happen. But I didn't get entirely sucked into the story because I just felt Joe was completely naive....and the rest of the cast were horrendous human beings. But, if a book gives me strong feelings....even negative ones....then it's well written and got its point across. Do we ever really totally know the people around us? Everyone has secrets. Everyone tells lies. How much can any person really trust? And what happens when things start to fall apart? For Joe, they fall apart in a disastrous way.

Well-written, but disturbing. Several surprising twists. I had to watch a few sitcom episodes after I finished this. Needed a fast palate cleanser to clear my head.

I will definitely be reading more by this author! I know now to keep a funny movie queued in wait for me to finish. His other book, 29 Seconds, sounds just as disturbing. The tag line says "How much could you lose in 29 seconds?''   I might just need two funny movies after that one!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, October 6, 2018

REVIEW: Dark Sky Island

Dark Sky Island
Author: Lara Dearman

Dark Sky Island is the second book in the Jennifer Dorey series. Jennifer is a reporter for a newspaper in Guernsey. In this new story, skeletal remains are discovered on nearby Sark Island. Sark is only about 9 miles from Guernsey, but it's a very different place. It's what they call a "Dark Island'' -- the only one in the world in fact. No streetlights. No cars. No airport. No light pollution. Tourists who visit there can have a view of the night sky like no other. DCI Michael Gilbert, a love interest of Jennifer's mother, is also on the island. He's reported from Guernsey to investigate the remains because Sark doesn't have a police force of its own. Turns out the skeletal woman was murdered. The case turns out to be much more complex than just a decades old skeleton, pulling in the death of Jennifer's own father and a long-ago disappearance.

This story had me engrossed from start to finish. I love how the author wove in local island superstitions like the Beast Man and the Tchico black dog along with the more modern dangers like drug traffickers. The story moved along at a fast pace with plenty of twists and suspects. I enjoyed the characters. Jennifer is a strong woman and a great reporter, but has her faults which she is trying to deal with. Michael Gilbert is an aging cop dealing with job stress, a budding relationship and his friendship with a reporter who won't stop nosing into his cases. I have not read the first book, The Devil's Claw, in this series yet, but I enjoyed this second book enough to back-track and read it.

The setting for this story reminded me a lot of the small town I grew up in. Same politics. Same attitude towards strangers. And the same resistance to modernization. There are only 450 residents on Sark Island. They resent outsiders and resist change. Superstitions, old legends and island gossip can hide many things....but also cause local issues to blow up into much bigger problems. This local atmosphere, plus discovery of human remains and other criminal elements at work on the island made for a suspenseful, thrilling story. I'm definitely looking forward to more by this author!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Believe Me

Believe Me
Author: J.P. Delaney

This is the most twisted story I've read in a long time! I got sucked into the story quickly and couldn't put the book down! Deeply disturbing...dark....and mesmerizing.

Claire Wright is a struggling actress. To fund her dreams, she works for a law firm. She isn't a paralegal. Or an assistant. Or anything run-of-the-mill like that. She is....a trap. Claire tricks men. With a hidden camera in her purse and her acting talent, she works as a decoy for Kerr-Adler to provide proof of infidelity in divorce cases. Things work out pretty well at first....until she is assigned to trap Patrick Fogler. When his wife Stella is found murdered, Claire knows she is in over her head, but she can't stop. Not only is she accused of stealing money from the dead woman's hotel room, but she's strangely attracted to Patrick. And it only gets worse.

So many twists. So disturbing and demented. But it works. All of the characters are completely unlikable. I wasn't sympathetic to a single one. But, I couldn't stop reading. Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any more strange and horrible....they always did.

Awesome psychological thriller! Very well-written and quite disturbing! Not, not, not for the faint of heart! J.P. Delaney is a pseudonym used by author Tony Strong. I will definitely be reading more by this author, as soon as I recover from the creepiness I'm still feeling from this one! I feel like I need to take about 4 showers and watch Disney  movies for a week just to recover. ha ha :) A book that creeps me out this badly deserves full stars. Very well written!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Random House/Ballentine via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Burning Ridge

Burning Ridge
Author: Margaret Mizushima

Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 officer Robo, are part of the police force in Timber Creek, CO. When the local vet and his daughters discover partial human remains while horseback riding on a nearby ridge, Mattie responds to the scene with Robo. Finding charred remains of a body in a burn pit, Mattie is soon on the trail of a brutal killer. The case becomes quite complex, revealing secrets about Mattie's own life that she has tried to hide.

Wow! This book totally sucked me right into the story from the very start. Burning Ridge is the 4th book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, but I was easily able to jump right in and enjoy the story, the setting and the characters. I'm definitely back-tracking to the start of this series though. I enjoyed this book so much I need to read them all!

Mattie is a strong character and her bond with Robo is awesome, but realistic. The supporting characters (like the local vet love interest, his daughters, a new teenager in town, her foster mom) are all well-developed and give the story weight and atmosphere. I liked how the author wove the murder case in with Mattie's own horrible childhood experiences. It gave the plot a nice complexity. The story moved along at a fast pace, building suspense throughout with twists and multiple suspects. The ending was well done. I didn't want this story to end -- but, I have three prior books in the series to enjoy now!

I will definitely continue reading this series. Can't wait for the next book!!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, October 5, 2018

REVIEW: Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen
Author: Sarah Bird

Cathy Williams started life as a slave. But her mother never let her forget that she was the daughter of a daughter of an African queen. She was born in Missouri in the 1840s and worked as a slave in Little Dixie until a Union Army general came and burned the farm. Mistaking Cathy for a boy, the general took her to be a cook's assistant. Later, she posed as a boy again to join the Buffalo Soldiers and fought in the Civil War.

What a great book! Cathy is strong, brave and true to herself. She perseveres through intense hardship and the horrors of war. As an old woman she stands up to those who scoff at her to proudly tell her story. Lovely!

For me, this book was absolutely captivating. Cathy is such a strong main character and she goes through so much. She never let anything beat her down. I found this story disturbing because of the images of slavery, war and prejudice...but also quite empowering and uplifting. Cathy had one hell of a life because she never stopped living it like she was the granddaughter of a warrior. Beautiful and haunting story!

I loved this book. I am definitely going to read more by this author!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Exes Revenge

The Exes' Revenge
Author: Jo Jakeman

Actions have consequences.

Phillip Rochester is abusive, manipulative and controlling. There are three women who know just how much of a nightmare he can be.  One decision acts as a catalyst to start a battle in motion. Three women against one man.  If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned....what about three women?

This book is disturbing, action-packed and suspenseful. I usually find at least one redeeming quality in characters, even villains...and I tried. But Phillip Rochester is just a total wanker. Not that the three women he wronged are much better. Imogen, Naomi and Ruby all have their faults and have all made huge mistakes in judgement. And normally they wouldn't have allied with each other for any reason, given their former attachments to Mr. Wanker. But.....adversity makes strange bedfellows.

 I usually avoid books that center around abusive relationships, divorce, kids stuck in the middle, etc.....but this one sounded different. Revenge. Powerful emotions. And dark decisions. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop.....wow....just wow. The story is just incredi-disturbing, scary and wrong....but I couldn't stop myself wanting to finish...to find out what happened. 

This story is heavy....emotional and dark. I think I might just have to watch 2 Disney movies and binge a season of Gilmore Girls to clear out my head. But, a book that can bring me on a emotional roller-coaster ride is well-written. This story moves along at a perfect pace....has plenty of unexpected twists along the way....and is stellar at building suspense and just feelings of dread, disgust, anger, sadness.... 

Not for the faint of heart or for those who just can't handle stories about abusive (mental and physical) relationships.

Kudos to Jo Jakeman for totally creeping me the hell out. By halfway through the book, even I was afraid of Philip Rochester! Total wanker!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Hometown

Hometown
Author: Matthew Keville

Many horror stories are cautionary tales for teenagers.....don't go into the woods alone at night, don't park in out of the way places to have sex in a car, parties can be dangerous, never pick up hitchhikers, don't talk to strangers, don't drink, don't do drugs....  I think the reason why books and movies based on this trope are entertaining is because we all (at some point) did all of those things. And made it out alive. But we eagerly read/watch the story unfold of the unlucky ones who get caught by the killer/monster/predator.

Hometown is a horror story just like that. I could almost see the story playing out as a movie in my head as I read this book. Belford, NY. 1994. Fall. The weather is turning misty and cool. And, the local teens are out doing what all small town teens do before it gets too cold to be outdoors being stupid. But, unfortunately, this time something is in the mist....something old, hungry and unfeeling has awoken....and its hunting them. It's open season on teenagers. Local legends about a creature in Black Lake are true.....

I found this story entertaining and engaging. But I love this sort of story! From the first two victims that die because they parked out at the lake to the bitter end where all is revealed, this book had my attention. The story had so many of the same legends that the small town I grew up in did -- a black car running people off the road, people disappearing at the lake, monsters lurking in the fog.....   I'm glad that the legends from my town were all BS, but it was great to see those stories play out in Belford.

All in all, an entertaining scary read! Anyone who likes slightly cheesy horror stories will love this book. I'm definitely going to read more by this author. Totally entertaining story!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. **

Thursday, October 4, 2018

REVIEW: Adrift

Adrift
Author: Brian Murphy

January, 1856. Captain Alexander Kelley is sailing the packet ship John Rutledge from Liverpool to New York, completing his first transatlantic voyage as a captain. He leaves his wife behind in Liverpool as the voyage will be rough given the time of year, and promises to pick her up in the spring when they can return to New York together.  It is a promise he will break. After 35 days at sea on February 20th, 1856, The John Rutledge struck an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank. 13 survivors boarded life boats. Nine days later, the only survivors were one crew member and the ship's log book.

A disaster tale such as this one is even more emotional when it's a true story. Murphy weaves the story of the fate of the John Rutledge with great skill. It chilled me to the bone thinking about the few survivors floating in open boats in the freezing cold elements, only to die. And the many emigrants from Ireland -- men, women and children seeking a better life -- who never made it off the ship. I had to watch two Disney movies after I finished this book to get the sad, emotional thoughts out of my head. Those poor people....and what a horrible, lonely way to die.

In his introduction to the book, the author says: Scores of ships -- carrying tens of thousands of passengers and crew -- met a similar fate in the Atlantic before twentieth-century advances in communications technology enabled better advance notice on looming ice fields and approaching storms. The names of some lost ships are remembered. So are a few of the prominent figures that perished at sea. But almost totally forgotten are the others who went down with them: emigrants, seamen, travelers, merchants and envoys. Entire families. Young men and women striking out for a new life. Children too young to grasp the dangers of an Atlantic crossing. They are the anonymous dead. The sea is good at swallowing lives without a trace.  It happened that way for so many.....dreams of a new life over so quickly...and now nobody even remembers their names or anything about them. I thought about each and every one of them as I read this book.

A book that can elicit a profound emotional response in a reader is well written. This book sucked me into the story of this doomed ship and kept my total attention from start to finish. I felt an emotional tie to the people I knew were going to die. Brian Murphy is a skilled story-teller. Excellent book. Heart-breaking story. Anyone who enjoys adventure stories, historical tales or the sea will love this book. It's hard to read -- the outcome is bleak. But I'm glad a skilled writer told their story. Those who crossed the ocean before the age of modern communications and safety precautions were taking a huge risk. So many were lost. I'm glad that some are still remembered.

I have a son in the Navy and even though I am not really a religious person, I thought of this hymn while reading this story:



**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Perseus Books/DeCapo Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Premeditated Peppermint

Premeditated Peppermint
Author: Amanda Flower

Premeditated Peppermint is the 3rd book in the Amish Candy Shop cozy series. Bailey King left New York City to return to her roots in Harvest, OH. She helps her grandmother run the family candy business, Swissmen Sweets. It's nearly the holiday season in this newest book and the shop is gearing up for the annual Harvest Christmas Market. Peppermint is the theme for the candy shop's table this year, so the shop is filled with all things chocolatey and minty. mmmmm :) Just as she is feeling her holiday spirit returning, Bailey is horrified when her ex-boyfriend, Eric Sharp shows up with a television crew in tow. While this would help boost business for Swissmen Sweets and all the businesses in Harvest, Bailey knows Eric and his entourage will cause a disturbance in the village. Unfortunately, it's a bit more than just a disturbance...  The executive producer for the holiday special is found strangled to death with Christmas lights in the village square. Decking the halls with a dead producer is not a great way to start off the holiday season. Bailey finds herself investigating to find the killer before the holiday season is ruined.

I really enjoy just about anything Amanda Flower writes. I enjoy the characters in this series and the candy shop theme is just yummy (not to mention the great peppermint bark recipe included in the back of this newest book!). The mystery moves along at a nice pace. Strangling someone with Christmas lights was a nice sinister touch. The plot was entertaining and engaging. All in all, a nice addition to this series.

The next book, Toxic Toffee, will be coming soon! Yay!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

REVIEW: Downright Dead

Downright Dead
Author: Pamela Kopfler

Downright Dead is the second book in the B&B Spirits Mystery series. I really love the humor and the characters in this series. The stories never fail to have me laughing out loud. I can't imagine the annoyance of having a supremely irritating ex-husband come back as a ghost....and in this newest book, Holly Davis has to contend with two spirits. Twice the irritation! :)

While it isn't necessary to read the first book before reading Downright Dead, the first book is a great read and I highly recommend it.

Holly Davis turned the family home, Holly Grove, into a B&B so that she could afford to keep it. Soon after opening her B&B, the ghost of her ex-husband Burl showed up and caused quite a stir. The B&B was featured on a television show, Inquiring Minds, where footage clearly proved that that the haunting was real. But then Burl moved on....ascended....joined the choir invisible...whatever you want to call it. The ghost is gone. Holly is relieved....and then horrified. Sylvia Martin, host of Inquiring Minds, uses a sneaky clause in the contract Holly signed to demand a follow-up visit. Not only is she bringing the film crew back to Holly Grove.....but she's also dared a snarky internet sensation to come de-bunk the haunting. Holly is unsure what to do......since the ghost is gone. Just as the follow-up production is hitting an all time embarrassing low, one of the guests is pushed off the widow's walk, crashing to the ground below. That solves the ghost problem...but the even bigger question is which person is a murderer? And why?

I am definitely going to continue reading this cozy mystery series. Holly and her staff are such a hoot. And the ghost(s) never fail to be entertaining. The mystery in this newest book clipped right along at a nice pace. I love the mix of humor and mystery. The B&B/ghost background theme didn't over power the mystery but added to it.  This is just an all-around fun, entertaining cozy!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Review: Bah! Humbug!

Bah! Humbug!
Author: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: Tony Ross

Harry Gruben has the lead in a school play. He's playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His parents and his sister are going to the production. Harry just wishes his dad would stop thinking about business or reading emails on his phone and just be his dad for once. Little does he know a little Christmas Carol magic will play out for his dad, while Harry portrays Scrooge on the stage.

A Christmas Carol has been one of my favorite books since childhood. I love the imagery, the characters and the happy ending for the ol' curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. I re-read the book every holiday season at least once, and read every retelling I can get my hands on. :) When I saw this book's title, I knew I had to read it! I'm glad I did! Not only does the book include a lot of passages and dialogue straight from A Christmas Carol, giving the lines and actions that Harry is performing on-stage...but it weaves in the tale about Harry's dad, preoccupied with business and missing his son's play, and his lesson in priorities.

This story is such a creative way to give the ageless tale of redemption a modern feel....workaholic parents, smartphones, email, computers, instant information.....and kids who just want their parents to stop running and just be mom and dad for awhile.

Lovely book! I'm buying a copy for my A Christmas Carol theme bookshelf....for when I need a reminder of what my top priorities should be. Sometimes the tech needs to be turned off!! :)

This is the first book I've read by Michael Rosen. I'm definitely going to read more of his children's stories, especially one he wrote about the life of Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Dahl. The illustrations by Tony Ross were perfect and really added to the book! He illustrated the Horrid Henry series and many others. The cover for Bah! Humbug! is awesome....very colorful and festive!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No spirits appeared to point out my poor life choices during the reading of this book. God bless us, every one!**

Monday, October 1, 2018

REVIEW: Born Scared

Born Scared
Author: Kevin Brooks

Elliott is afraid of everything. In fact, he doesn't remember ever not being afraid. His mother, his aunt and his doctor are the only people that don't remind him of monsters. But there are even some things he has to keep secret from them....like the fact he sees and talks to his twin sister, Ellamay, even though she died shortly after they were born. The only thing that shuts down the beast, his fears, are the little yellow pills he takes six times a day. The pills quiet his fears enough for him to not spend every second of every day terrified. Then one day the pharmacy makes a mistake and he might run out of medication during a holiday. His aunt goes to pick up his meds....but doesn't arrive at their house. Then his mother goes out to find out what happened and doesn't come back. It's a bit more than 500 yards from their house to his Aunt Shirley's home. But, Elliott doesn't usually leave the house. It's scary out there. Anything could happen.  Elliott knows he has to brave his fears this one time and find out what happened to his aunt and his mother.

This story is so different. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it at first, but then as the characters developed more and the story started forming, I couldn't stop reading. What an awesome way to bring about more awareness about mental illness and its effects on children. This story is amazing! At times Elliott was so adult -- he understands he has a mental condition, he understands he needs his medication and he understands that at times how he feels is irrational......but then at other times, he is a 13-year old child dealing with a constant mental battle, feeling lost and alone, surrounded by monsters. The story is told from Elliott's point of view, painting a picture of how he views the world. His fears control his life, but he's still willing to step outside and find his mother.

Outstanding book! I'm not sure I would call it a "thriller'' like one of the book blurbs I read. For me, it was more emotional, showing the world from the point of view of a fearful, mentally ill child. It would be terrifying to almost be out of medication on Christmas Eve, then to have your two trusted caregivers disappear. That 500 yard walk to his aunt's house was terrifying.....and the situation that developed afterwards made Elliott face many more fears than just a walk through the snow.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via  NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**