Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island by Michael Phillip Cash

Stillwell: A Haunting on Long IslandStillwell: A Haunting on Long Island by Michael Phillip Cash

Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife’s spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife’s soul free.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was interesting and the author knows how to set a good story. I didn’t, however, get the traditional sense of horror from this book. Michael Phillip Cash creates a very realistic set of characters and circumstances in the beginning of the book. A family is suffering through the grieving period of losing a young wife and mother and the author did an excellent job of showing how the husband dealt (or rather didn’t deal) with her loss and how the family was at odds over it.

My problem with this book, was that it seemed to me, most of the story was setup, for not much payout in the end. I believe horror novels need a lot of mini-moments of suspense, which this one had, but they also need some hugely frightening moments that make you afraid to turn the page. That was where I thought this book fell down.

It was a good story, and the characters were easy to relate to, but the author didn’t torture them the way one expects a horror author to.

Overall, it was a good book for those who like their horror on the lighter side.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Center of GravityCenter of Gravity by Laura McNeill

The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This is really a very compelling and exciting book. I read this in the space of one evening as I found it impossible to put down.

For anyone who has had issues with a crazy ex–this book will remind you why you were lucky to get away. I loved the relationship between Sam, Jack and Ava. The way the author portrayed the selflessness of the main character and her desperation to be with her children was so on target. I found myself wishing I could jump into the pages and fix the situation for her.

This story unfolds rather quickly, and after the first few chapters there is no way you can put it down without thinking about it when you walk away. The writing is excellent, the conversations seem realistic and the emotions that the characters display are genuine. This is an author who knows how to captivate her readers.

I did find in some places that Jack seemed a bit advanced for his age. Particularly in one spot where he is using a computer, it seems he has knowledge of how things operate way beyond his years, whereas the rest of the book he appears as an intelligent, yet appropriately minded young boy. I wanted to hug him.

Still, this was a nearly perfect book. It grabbed my attention early on and gave me a reason to keep turning pages–I even found that I missed the characters when the story was finished.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read. Fast paced, witty and well planned.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Wonder Fire By B.J. Webster

Wonder FireWonder Fire by B.J. Webster

1666, was called “The Year of Wonders”, despite it being a year of great calamity and disaster in London. The joke was, at least things weren’t worse than they were.

Who really started the Great Fire of London? Nobody knows for certain. The official line is that it was started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. The Privy Council concluded that the fire was caused by nothing other than ‘the Hand of God, a great wind and a very dry season’. But what if that was not the case? Could the Great Fire, which destroyed so much of the City of London, have been the result of a deliberate act? Let’s assume this is the case and delve into the motives of ambition, illicit affairs, unrequited love and political intrigue, none which was a stranger to the court of King Charles II.

Feel what it was like to live in 1666 and better understand the intricacies of politics, power and class divide of the time. Be drawn in by the fascinating web of intrigue and how it plays out to create one of the most devastating events in history.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonder Fire by B.J. Webster, is an awesome book filled with historical knowledge as well as the author’s take on the happenings of London in 1666.

This is a great book for a variety of reasons. The setting was interesting and hasn’t been overused by other authors. The characters were realistic and I found the speech to be very authentically written. I want to shake this author’s hand.

I find that when you read a book that the author was really passionate about, it shows in their writing and this was definitely the case here. The author has written a beautiful book, but has also shown the true historical side of things. The depth of her research is clear in the little known facts available in this book.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended to anyone curious about this period of history.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Awake by Natasha Preston

AwakeAwake by Natasha Preston

Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of five. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past.

When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it…because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents.

And they want her back.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst I liked the idea behind this novel, I felt the execution was somewhat lacking. I struggled with getting into this book, since I didn’t find the main character’s personality to be very appealing. If I can’t relate to the MC, I have a hard time relating to the rest of the story.

The author has a good imagination, and some interesting ideas and I think this is a matter of staying tuned to see what happens next, after this book.

I thought the beginning of the relationship between the main character and her love interest had promise and hoped that would be the redeeming agent for the rest of the novel, but in the end, that did not happen in my opinion either.

I didn’t hate this book, but I can’t recommend it as one of my favourites either.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

The Idea of LoveThe Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

As we like to say in the south: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love—until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.

When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers?
But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right? –goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating novel right from the start. The premise here–that two people could fall in love even if they hadn’t been honest with one another from the start, was explored in detail in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined.

Patti Callahan Henry has a gift for creating characters that are flawed, but in such a way that they feel so human, so familiar, you want to know them better. When I read her stories, I often find myself forgetting that this is a book and that these are not real people. They become your friends, your family, people you feel you could open up to. That’s a hard quality to find in a lot of contemporary literature.

From the start we, as the reader get that the characters are not being completely honest, and it makes for an interesting journey. Whilst part of me wanted to scream at them and tell them–“Stop! You are going to ruin a good thing,” part of me wanted them to continue and see how things would turn out.

This book also has some of the most honest sounding and genuinely believable dialogue I’ve seen in a long time. The writing flows so smoothly that you feel as if you are overhearing a private conversation.

The story never slowed down, the plot never lost steam and the characters got more intriguing with each turn of the page. A great book that you won’t want to miss out on.

An unusually enchanting novel with captivating characters.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Trust No OneTrust No One by Paul Cleave

In the exciting new psychological thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?

Hailed by critics as a “masterful” (Publishers Weekly) writer who consistently offers “ferocious storytelling that makes you think and feel” (The Listener) and whose fiction evokes “Breaking Bad reworked by the Coen Brothers”(Kirkus Reviews), Paul Cleave takes us down a cleverly twisted path to determine the fine line between an author and his characters, between fact and fiction.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought this book had a really interesting premise and was excited about it–but wasn’t as excited after I started reading it. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it as much as some of the other reviewers have.

I expected that the story might be a bit difficult to follow based on the idea that the main character had Alzheimer’s, but that wasn’t really too bad. What bothered me was that it seemed like this story would get going for a bit and become exciting and then drop off into useless exposition again–just because. Perhaps that was just my interpretation of the story, but I felt like the harshness of the coarse language was only there for shock value, and not that it really added anything valuable to the story.

This is interesting, but I viewed it in a rather removed sort of way, as there were no characters I felt close to, nor any that I really desired to get to know better.

Overall, it wasn’t a book that I think everyone will love, but one that I would recommend to those who like to read things outside the box.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Decapitating the Union by John C. Fazio

Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate LincolnDecapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln by John C Fazio

This is a comprehensive work on the assassination of Lincoln and the attempted decapitation of the United States Government in the closing days of the Civil War. After a Foreward by Joan L. Chaconas, it begins with the prelude to the national fratricide and ends with the incarceration, trial and sentencing of all but one of the assassin’s action team and one innocent man and an in-depth analysis of conspiracy. In between, the author covers the underground mosaic; John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators; the great kidnapping ruse that concealed the attempted decapitation; conundrums, enigmas and mysteries relating to key players (Parker, Forbes and Cobb); the assassination itself and Booth’s escape; attempted decapitation of the government; the death of the President; pursuit of the fugitives and the death of Booth; and Edman Spangler’s innocence. The author makes use of hundreds of sources to justify his rejection of the simple conspiracy theory and his affirmation of the Tidwell, Hall and Gaddy thesis of the complicity of the highest levels of the Confederate Government and its Secret Service Bureau, including the operatives in Canada, whose twofold purpose was retribution and snatching independence from the jaws of a toothless and chaotic government.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know what you’re thinking…oh no, not another Lincoln book–and whilst I understand that sentiment, allow me to ensure you that this one is worth the time to read and actually does present some new information and ideas.

Being fascinated with this subject myself, I’ve read most everything about it that I can get my hands on. When I saw this book I had fears that it would be a compendium of repeated information, but that is not the case. This author has made great strides to correct false information that has been repeated as truth, and to present ideas and back them up with hard evidence. Mr. Fazio asks questions in this writing that I have not seen elsewhere.

I found this to be a well-rounded book, with a good, solid background history. Whether this is your first Lincoln book, or if you have been studying the man and his life and death for some time, this book will have something to offer you.

Some of the points discussed at length in this book are:

The attempts on Lincoln’s life prior to the actual assassination.

Who was who in each circle, the president’s and that of the confederates.

Charles Forbes and his involvement.

A sensible debate over Booth’s supposed jump from the presidential box and his resulting broken leg.

Differences of opinion of historians on multiple events

As well as many more points. I was most impressed by the research this author compiled on Booth. John C. Fazio has presented the most worthwhile description of the man and his motivations that I have seen yet in any book.

There are photos included in this book that I have not seen used in prior books. I also appreciated the author’s view on Spangler and his role in the events.

This is an extensively researched, well-worded book that did more than just repeat a conspiracy theory for the millionth time. I appreciated the author’s approach to presenting information and not attempting to sway the reader in any particular direction.

This would be a perfect choice to introduce this subject to anyone who is just beginning to research it, as well as a great addition to any collector’s library. I was greatly impressed.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A Duke but No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins

A Duke but No Gentleman (Masters of Seduction, #1)A Duke but No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins

The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess Norgrave have always had the wildest of friendships. Best friends growing up, they bask in the pleasures the rich, opulent world that London has to offer, consuming drink and women at their leisure.

But Norgrave has always been a step behind. Blackbern can best him at anything—playing cards, riding horses, and bedding women. So when the stunningly beautiful but innocent Lady Imogen Sunter strays across their path, both men agree a friendly competition for the lady’s affections cannot hurt.

But when Blackbern’s feelings turn into something deeper and Lady Imogen’s desire become clear, Norgrave will do anything to win the wager. Only one man can lay claim to Lady Imogen’s heart… and one shocking act will change them all irrevocably…

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like your romance steamy and filled with all kinds of tension–romantic and otherwise, this would be a great book for you to choose.

I love it when the hero is not perfect, but overcomes his own issues to be what the heroine needs. The villain is really bad, as all villains should be and the story is exciting. I thought the author did a good job on the love scenes, filling them with passion that seemed realistic and the chemistry between the characters was apparent early on.

There is a lot going on in this book and the threads were all tied together nicely at the end. Although there are a lot of different situations involved in this novel the characters were easy to keep separate so remembering who was who wasn’t a problem.

Imogene is a lovely heroine. She is smart and strong whilst at the same time being feminine. I also really enjoyed the dialogue between the various characters.

Overall I thought this was a great book from an interesting period in history. Good characters, imaginative story and excellent descriptions.

Thumbs up.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Somebody I used to Know by David J. Bell

Somebody I Used to KnowSomebody I Used to Know by David J. Bell

The breakout author of The Forgotten Girl and Cemetery Girl, “one of the brightest and best crime fiction writers of our time” (Suspense Magazine) delivers a new novel about a man who is haunted by a face from his past….

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.

The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really found this to be quite an intriguing book. The mystery is set up in the very beginning and continues to mature throughout the story.

The main character is able to carry a novel like this well enough, and I thought his profession and lifestyle was a good choice. He seemed like a ‘regular guy’ and it made it easy to relate to the way he thought about things and see his side more clearly.

The supporting characters in this book are good, and I enjoyed the various unexpected twists the plot turned. The only issue I had with this book, is that I felt like about 75% of the way through, too much was revealed, and I was able to guess the rest before it happened. The end came off as rather predictable. I’m still not sure if I could logically reason that things would work out so well in the real word–but hey, it is fiction. I did respect the author for spending time describing the importance of the character’s ex-stepson. It was nice to see a bit different relationship dynamic than the usual father protects flesh and blood scenario.

I liked the interactions between the main character and his dog. With all of the intense things happening in this story, I felt that simple thing really helped to ground this story.

Overall, I was impressed with this book. It made me wonder what was going to happen next for a large majority of the story. It made me laugh a couple of times and in the end, the characters and story were memorable.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York

The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York: A Yarn for the Strange at HeartThe Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York: A Yarn for the Strange at Heart by Kory Merritt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book and everything about it from the concept of the story to the illustrations. I am not always one for graphic novels as often times I don’t feel like they tell a complete story, but that was not the case with this book.

The story here is fun, interesting and different. It wasn’t predictable and the illustrations are so good that you want to go back and flip through it again just to admire them. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the main character. He goes through a lot.

The use of limited colours really worked here. They weren’t distracting as you read the story and I think people of all ages will have fun with this. According to the author bio, this is the first published work of this author, and I really hope that there will be more to follow. This would be a great addition to anyone’s collection.

The mixture of prose and traditional storytelling in this book makes for a nice flow as well.

Also–this book has a great message about getting out there and creating a life for yourself that is worthy of talking about later. Loved the monsters. Two big thumbs up for this one. I recommend you check it out–you will have a good time.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.