the Wicked Boy

From the internationally bestselling author, a deeply researched and atmospheric murder mystery of late Victorian-era London

In the summer of 1895, Robert Coombes (age 13) and his brother Nattie (age 12) were seen spending lavishly around the docklands of East London — for ten days in July, they ate out at coffee houses and took trips to the seaside and the theater. The boys told neighbors they had been left home alone while their mother visited family in Liverpool, but their aunt was suspicious. When she eventually she forced the brothers to open the house to her, she found the badly decomposed body of their mother in a bedroom upstairs. Robert and Nattie were arrested for matricide and sent for trial at the Old Bailey.

Robert confessed to having stabbed his mother, but his lawyers argued that he was insane. Nattie struck a plea and gave evidence against his brother. The court heard testimony about Robert’s severe headaches, his fascination with violent criminals and his passion for ‘penny dreadfuls’, the pulp fiction of the day. He seemed to feel no remorse for what he had done, and neither the prosecution nor the defense could find a motive for the murder. The judge sentenced the thirteen-year-old to detention in Broadmoor, the most infamous criminal lunatic asylum in the land. Yet Broadmoor turned out to be the beginning of a new life for Robert–one that would have profoundly shocked anyone who thought they understood the Wicked Boy.

At a time of great tumult and uncertainty, Robert Coombes’s case crystallized contemporary anxieties about the education of the working classes, the dangers of pulp fiction, and evolving theories of criminality, childhood, and insanity. With riveting detail and rich atmosphere, Kate Summerscale recreates this terrible crime and its aftermath, uncovering an extraordinary story of man’s capacity to overcome the past.

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child MurdererThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And just like today, music, video games and exposure to a culture caught in a downward spiral are to blame for everything! Damn those penny bloods!

Yep. The first half of this story is where none of the redemption is, but where most of the stuff worth reading is found. This author is great at taking her research and turning it into an easily readable and interesting story. She is great with details and makes excellent connections that she points out to the reader without sounding pretentious.

Robert was certainly a mystery all on his own. Trying to assess his motive, his reactions and the causes behind his behaviour after the death of his mother are enough to make this book worthy of reading and sharing with others.

I was immediately fascinated by this story and by the characters themselves. Kate Summerscale chose an interesting group of subjects for this book, and knowing that they were more than just simple figments of an author’s imagination made it that much more compelling. Still, I struggled through the latter half of this book. I felt the author ran out of worthy information to convey and much of the last part of this was just padding to create a longer book. Needless information on the people Robert met and was incarcerated with, or in the service with bored me. Very few of the character sketches of these people turned out to be important.

When I finished, I walked away glad to have had the opportunity to read this book. If you enjoy real life mysteries and the Victorian era, this should satisfy.

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

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the Sister by Louise Jensen

The SisterThe Sister by Louise Jensen

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even after finishing this book, I struggled with what I thought of it. On one hand, this is an entertaining and mysterious read with enough complexities to keep you hungrily reading. On the other, some of the characters have so few redeeming qualities that it is hard to feel anything for them other than dislike.

Grace is an interestingly flawed character, but the kind that you want to like. Ever read a book and wish you could slap some sense into the main character because things they entirely miss are so plainly obvious to you, as the reader? That was how I felt about Grace. I understand falling apart at the seams after a tragedy, but there comes a point when you have to move on…and I almost felt like the idea of her grief was the only thin thread holding this book together. Everything else that happened was only possible because the main character was such a clueless mess.

I hated Anna and was mistrustful of her intentions from the very beginning. As the story progressed, I hated her even more, along with Grace’s husband. It was hard for me to read the ending of this book and not think…”that’s it?” As I truly wanted retribution for Grace.

In the end, this wasn’t a bad book, but one that I felt left more questions than answers.

This review is based on a complementary copy from the publisher, provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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Jessica

JessicaJessica by Helena Hann-Basquiat

Who is Jessica?
There are rumours that I keep a writer trapped in my basement… but I assure you… Jessica is and always was here of her own free will. Until one day she disappeared, and I began to realize that everything I thought I knew about her was wrong. Everyone has a terrifying story about Jessica B. Bell. Some of them are even true.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What makes for a truly terrifying read? For me it isn’t all about the cover or some creative monster that jumps out of the closet or hides under the bed. I want the author to know, instinctively what scares the hell out of me. I want to face my worst nightmare staring back at me from the page and wonder how the author knew what I feared most and how to bring it to life. Jessica, will do that to you. If you don’t want to sleep at night, perhaps you should read this book.

I think what I liked about this the most, was that I was never sure who was crazier–the people who wrote it, the characters, or me. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, something unexpected happened and the story shifted, leaving me questioning everything I thought I knew up to that point.

This book is filled with good, old-fashioned psychological thrills and terror. That seems to be hard to find these days, and I appreciated that the authors allowed the reader to think for themselves, not over evaluating every little thing and immersing them in miles of pointless description.

If you want to read something different, that will terrify and excite you in equal measure, you can’t go wrong with Jessica.

Dead Dancing Women by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Dead Dancing Women (Emily Kincaid Mysteries Book 1)Dead Dancing Women by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Fans of Sarah Graves will love the Emily Kincaid mysteries by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli!

“Every woman who’s ever struggled with saying no, fitting in, and balancing independence against loneliness will adore first-timer Emily.” —Kirkus Reviews

Following an ugly divorce and the death of her father, Emily Kincaid decides what she needs most is peace and quiet and time to think, so the part-time journalist and full-time struggling mystery writer relocates to a remote house in the woods of northern Michigan. When a severed head shows up in her garbage can, Emily knows she’s been singled out, and suddenly her peaceful solitude feels a lot like isolation and vulnerability.

Discovering that the victim was a member of the Women of the Moon, a group of older local ladies who sing and dance around a bonfire in the woods late at night, Emily’s at a loss to know why anyone would want to hurt one of them. The women claim it’s a harmless act in praise of Mother Earth, a way to feel young again, but certain townspeople don’t see it that way. As Emily digs deeper, more of the women are turning up dead.

Knowing she’ll have to root out a killer to save her peaceful paradise, Emily teams up with the cantankerous Deputy Dolly and begins navigating between eccentric town gossips and reclusive neighbors who would rather be left alone. When the killer gets too close for comfort, Emily knows she’ll have to put aside her fears before the natural life she’s chosen comes to a grisly and very unnatural end.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I began this book, I looked at the cover and the title and thought it would be a gritty, forensics based crime novel. Instead, it is rather like a more complex cosy mystery, but one that I fell in love with rapidly.

Emily Kincaid is a great main character to lead a book like this. She’s witty, funny and determined. She doesn’t show a lot of fear, but isn’t TSTL either. She’s compassionate for the people around her, not just the victims, but the suspects as well. She interacted well with the supporting characters, including the four-legged ones.

This book has that hometown feel that makes you want to return for another novel. You start feeling as if you belong among the citizens and recognise the sights, sounds and scents of the local diner or the woods surrounding you. There were a few quirky spots in this book where I struggled to suspend belief, but for the most part, this was a great book that kept me happily turning pages.

I was hoping the author would delve a bit deeper into the nature and goddess worship aspect of the book, but sometimes not over describing also works, and in this case, she made it more about the characters than the religious practises. In the end, I saw why.

This would be a great book for anyone that wants something more substantial than a fluff cosy, but doesn’t want to wade through all of the CSI details. The characters are memorable, especially Dolly–loved her–and the plot is interesting.

I look forward to reading more of this author’s work and encourage you to check it out for yourself.

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

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Hey, Yo!

Formality. In the age of easy self-publishing and digital books, where has it gone? I understand addressing someone you know pretty well by first name. I understand addressing someone you don’t know by their first name if that’s what they introduce themselves as, or if they have a name tag with only their first name on it.

What I don’t understand, is the finer art of the email query in modern society and the digital age. If you want someone to do you a favor, or consider your work for publishing, or become your agent, your reviewer, your proofreader, editor, whatever role you wish them to play, can you not take the time to at least spell their name correctly and check to see if they even take the kind of work you are trying to push?

Bart Smith is an editor. Now, of course he would never be so narcissistic as to expect anyone to actually address him as Mr. Smith, and certainly not Mr. Smith, Editor in Chief, but he really hopes you will read through your email at least once before sending it, so that you do not end up with this:

“Dear Barf,”

or his other favourite:

“Dear Fart,”

Also, he is a science fiction editor. His profile says so. He has submission guidelines posted clearly on his website. So, please do not send him your book about how to create stunning quilts.

It is hard to get people to notice your work. We all know this. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to stand out. Rather than being cutesy and trying to address another busy person who is simply trying to get through their work day as if you have known them forever, or being funny (because we all know that makes us book professionals laugh,) try getting your foot in the door by spelling our name right. After that, ensure that we take your kind of offering, and find out if there are any other restrictions or guidelines you should be aware of. Are we closed to unsolicited submissions? Do we only accept books or certain kinds of books during specific months of the year? Are we accepting books at all?

I know. Who died and left me the pretentious bitch of the year award? I did. That’s who. I got hit in the head with a random book someone threw at me and it knocked me a good one on the temple. Coma. Very sad for my husband and kids. Please send condolences. When I came back from the other side and chose not to go toward the light, I made a decision. I’ve seen a library the size of Manhattan waiting for me when I die. Shelves and shelves of books that await me. I’ve got a library almost that big now, in fact. And I keep getting more and more queries (if one can call them that–Dear Lonia, Dear Tonia, Dear Reviewer, Hey! Sonia!) The only ones I look at are the ones where the person actually seems to be speaking to me.

A couple of final thoughts. Being careful and addressing someone properly as well as sending a good, clean query where everything is spelled right and geared toward the kind of work the person accepts will get you everywhere.

Do not keep emailing them if they do not respond to you right away. They could be ignoring you for a reason. They might just be busy. You don’t want to become an example used in this blog.

If you are sending out multiple queries at the same time, please remember to use the BCC function in your email. I do not want to know that you sent this email out to a thousand other people. I don’t want their email addresses, and I don’t appreciate them all having mine. Think before you ink.

Sometimes standing out is as simple as being better at the most obvious thing.

Ionia wears a helmet in public now. Don’t make more reviewers paranoid like Ionia.

Love to you all.

 

From Tours to Paris by Linda Kovic-Skow

From Tours to Paris (French Illusions Book 2)From Tours to Paris by Linda Kovic-Skow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Usually, I am not much for memoirs, but Linda Kovic-Skow writes such personal and intriguing memoirs that hers are one of my dedicated exceptions to this rule.

From Tours to Paris is an interesting read of a young woman experiencing life and love away from home. From financial worries to matters of the heart, this honest memoir leaves nothing out. Written from the authors journals and her memories, this is a heartfelt book that will keep you turning pages and happily entertained until the very end.

I liked that she included so much emotion in this book, describing her experiences and love affairs both with the city and some genuinely interesting people. This is the kind of book that reminds you good food, good friends and your will to survive trying situations can get you through almost anything. I could identify easily with many of her thoughts and feelings.

Particularly, I was impressed with the way Linda chose to end this book. I didn’t feel that anything was left hanging and although I was curious about what happened later in her life, I felt satisfied at the end.

Overall, this was a pleasant and enjoyable read that roused a lot of emotion and curiosity within me. Even if you are not a huge fan of memoirs, this book will most likely still delight you. It gets my vote.

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

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On Deadly Ground by Simon Clark

On Deadly GroundOn Deadly Ground by Simon Clark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book. It can be really terrifying, really grotesque and yet, somehow, one of the most entertaining and strange books I have read in the past few years.

I’m usually not one for post-apocalyptic drama, I tend to avoid those books on purpose, but there is something very captivating about this author’s writing style and the way he approaches his plots. I like that you really don’t know until well into the book if people are just imagining things or if they are really happening. Simon Clark didn’t take long to get into the meat of the story and bring some excitement along, and that kept me going into a longer book than I tend to choose.

This book highlights the desperation people would feel if something changed the world so suddenly, and shows both the darker and lighter sides of the human situation. The dialogue was believable and easy to digest and I was really impressed with the author’s ability to create three-dimensional characters that I either loved or hated with a passion. There are plenty of heart-pounding moments in this novel, and I wasn’t ever sure how things would turn out. The relationships are fiery and intense and the disaster elements were very well described.

What I didn’t love in this book, was all the pointless sex scenes. Not that I’m a prude, but they felt forced, and there were so many of them that it all began to feel a bit monotonous. I think the book would have been better if there were fewer of them, or if they had been more varied.

Overall, this is a great book with a lot to recommend it. I enjoyed my journey through this book, and happily recommend it to others..but you might need a strong stomach and a nightlight. Hell, you might want to read from the highest ground you can find even.

Great book.

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

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The Stars in the Sky (Starlight Book Release)

So excited! If you haven’t read her work yet, you are missing out on one of the very best.

The Claymore and Surcoat

Today is the day!

After my whole family spent a week eating cereal for dinner and the laundry piled up, it’s finally the big day! My Highland books are always the hardest for me because I tend to get REALLY emotionally involved. Can’t help it. It’s SCOTLAND. I’ve dreamed about writing these novels since the first grade.

(Testing… 1…2…3…) Anyone manage to read this far? Awesome, now do me a huge favor and reblog this if you are a blogger or share this post on Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.

Without further ado:

Starlight on Amazon.

Scotland 1608Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00023]Darcy looked at Graham for the first time in months, and realized that her memory had not done him justice. He was gold and bronze, perfect like a statue. His eyes were ice blue. They were eyes that could pierce a man’s resolve, and probably had many times. But not now. Now they…

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With Love from the Inside

With Love from the InsideWith Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel

Angela Pisel’s poignant debut explores the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, and their quest to discover the truth and whether or not love can prevaileven from behind bars.

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.
Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.
Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.
Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book emotionally wrecked me. Who doesn’t love that in a book? This is one of those books that you can’t wait to tell everyone about and you wait until your friend is on the last couple of pages awaiting their reaction, holding your breath.

Try as I might, I couldn’t quite decide what I thought might happen at the end. This story is about family, marriage, motherhood, forgiveness, hope and hopelessness all at the same time. From the beginning I was hooked on the lives of the two main characters and didn’t want to put this book down.

The author did such a good job creating believable characters that struck the heart, I found myself in tears by the end, which is something that rarely happens. If you are looking for a great any time of the year read, might I recommend this book.

This review is based on a complementary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgally. All opinions are my own.

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The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi

The Night ParadeThe Night Parade by Ronald Malfi

First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

They call it Wanderer’s Folly–a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares. A plague threatening to wipe out the human race.

After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking that the worst was over. By midnight, he’s bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he’s on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure.

Ellie is a special girl. Deep. Insightful. And she knows David is lying to her. Lying about her mother. Lying about what they’re running from. And lying about what he sees when he takes his eyes off the road . . .

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never been much for the contagion type books that result in near total apocalypse, but this book may have changed my mind about all that. Ronald Malfi has quite the imagination and the ability to scare you out of setting down his books. Combined–that’s my kind of horror novel.

This book is really fantastic. The main characters are interesting and the author introduces the mysteries of what is happening to them and why slowly, so you have some guesswork to do before getting the answers you will undoubtedly crave.

The buildup of suspense and terror in this book was crafted beautifully. You aren’t ever sure if it is going to end the way you think it might or not, until the very last page. The bonds between father and daughter in this book create the emotional tie that it needs for it all to make sense, and for the main character’s every motion to be believable.

I found it impossible to put this book down and read it in a straight shot the day I started it, actually annoyed when I had to set it down for “real life” disturbances.

If you enjoy early Stephen King books, where nothing is quite as it seems, this is a book I feel good about recommending to you. It had a very similar feel and the terror was palpable, even early on in the book.

I loved it!

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

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