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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Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think you will find if you read this book that you don’t blink, forget to breathe and keep screaming at the main character to “Run like your bum is coated in honey and you are being chased by a hungry bear!”

If you are like me and love characters that you can hate and want to see all the worst things in the world happen to them, then you will get that from Jack Angel. Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing cherubic about this guy. He is one of the most finely drawn villains I’ve seen in a while. Sadistic, twisted, immoral, he’s got the full bag.

I liked this book for a lot of reasons. One of which, was the undying devotion of the main character to her sister, Millie. You can read this book and relate to the terror and the feelings of hopelessness, even if you have never been in a seriously abusive relationship, but on a deeper level, you can relate to the feelings of love the main character has for her sister. This is truly a very well thought out, chilling and yet somehow beautiful novel.

I wanted to be there during the final moments of the book, holding hands with Grace. This book made me feel a variety of different emotions, some of them tough to deal with. It is truly an unforgettable novel.

I would have rated this book five stars, had it not been for the ending. I thought it a bit abrupt and I desperately desired to know what happened next in Grace and Millie’s stories. Still, it is definitely worth the read and recommendation. One of the best books I have read this year.

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

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Parenting with Wisdom and Compassion by Ilene Val-Essen

Parenting with Wisdom and Compassion: Bring Out the Best in Your FamilyParenting with Wisdom and Compassion: Bring Out the Best in Your Family by Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D.

Imagine a new paradigm of parenting that dramatically changes the way we relate to our children. Doors open that were previously closed, freeing us to parent with a wiser and more compassionate heart. Dr. Val-Essen reveals a new vision of the parent-child relationship and provides a Six-Step Process to help us realize it. Powerful stories, proven skills, and practical exercises inspire and guide us to expand our minds and open our hearts. As we gain a deeper understanding of our children and ourselves, we’re able to parent with wisdom and compassion even when buttons are pushed and fear takes center stage. Children and parents flourish. Family life becomes deeply rewarding.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I agreed to take this book, it was for one reason. I liked the idea of a book about parenting with the word “compassion” in the title. In my opinion, as a non-expert on parenting and just a mum who loves her kids and wants what is best for them, I have thought many times about the lack of compassion in this world for the needs of our youth. We are always being bombarded on social media, in newsprint and on the television with all the things you can do to screw up your children, but rarely do we get any good advice for how to improve our skills as parents. That is where this book comes in.

Ilene Val-Essen takes a different approach with this book. Rather than slapping parents, educators or anyone else responsible for youth across the face with a message of “you are doing this wrong!” She takes the time to explain her gentle approach and really break down what she means in her title.

This book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand more about why conflicts in families arise, and how they can be resolved. With the understanding that you don’t have to change who you are, what your values are or completely revamp your parenting style to appreciate this book and the advice given in it, you will find that the ideas presented here can work in nearly any situation, regardless of who you are.

There is far too much in this book to do an individual review on each section, or this review would never end, but there are some definite jewels worth mentioning. This book promotes the self awareness of the parent so they can identify with the child’s emotions, reactions and address any issues they might have that remain under the surface. There are tips here for recognising stress in the family and how to calm that stress. The author has included charts and easy steps to follow to defuse situations before they become major problems.

Honestly, I think this book has some very good specific and situational information, but it would work just as well if the principals set forth here were used in other, everyday situations. It is not just children that are affected by the way we view ourselves and how we treat others, and this book, in my opinion, is titled perfectly. We could all do with a dose of compassion, from others, for others.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It is a brilliant read and an honest and open message from an author who has lived what she writes about. Five stars.

Northwoods by Bill Schweigart

NorthwoodsNorthwoods by Bill Schweigart

Some borders should never be crossed. From the author of The Beast of Barcroft comes a waking nightmare of a horror novel that’s sure to thrill readers of Stephen King and Bentley Little.

Ex–Delta Force Davis Holland, now an agent for the Customs and Border Protection, has seen it all. But nothing in his experience has prepared him for what he and the local sheriff find one freezing night in the Minnesota woods.

Investigating reports of an illegal border crossing, the two men stumble across a blood-drenched scene of mass murder, barely escaping with their lives . . . and a single clue to the mayhem: a small wooden chest placed at the heart of the massacre. Something deadly has entered Holland’s territory, crossing the border from nightmare into reality.

When news of the atrocity reaches wealthy cryptozoologist Richard Severance, he sends a three-person team north to investigate. Not long ago, the members of that team—Ben McKelvie, Lindsay Clark, and Alex Standingcloud—were nearly killed by a vengeful shapeshifter. Now they are walking wounded, haunted by gruesome memories that make normal life impossible. But there is nothing normal about the horror that awaits in the Northwoods.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I must now admit that I have been hiding a dirty secret. I am addicted to these books and I fear my addiction has no cure, so keep writing, Mr. Schweigart, I need my next fix.

If you haven’t yet read “the Beast of Barcroft,” what are you waiting for? Everyone needs a good monster/horror tale now and again to remind them how normal our lives actually are by comparison, and these books are not only entertaining, but a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

In this latest book, I was seriously impressed with the growth and development of Alex Standingcloud. He became my favourite character at the end of the last book, and then went on to prove why he is worthy of such a title in the second. I liked the Native American lore that was weaved into this story, and loved the action scenes.

If you can’t handle a little tension and some minor gore, then skip those parts and read the rest, but, read it none-the-less. You will surely find yourself entertained.

I am looking forward to see where these characters find themselves next. Recommended.

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

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Noah’s Wife by Lindsay Starck

Noah's WifeNoah’s Wife by Lindsay Starck

Mary McGarry Morris says it best: “Noah’s Wife may be a contemporary allegory, but Lindsay Starck is a classic storyteller…her novel is an engrossing fusion of wisdom and beautiful writing.” Noah’s Wife is a gorgeously written, brilliantly introspective fable-like novel.

Noah’s Wife is a story of a community battered by a relentless downpour from the heavens, a gray and wet little town teeming with eccentric characters who have learned to endure the extraordinary circumstances of the rain with astonishing human fortitude and willfulness.

When Noah’s wife arrives with her minister husband to this small coastal town, she is driven by her desire to help revive the congregation. However, she is thwarted by the resistance of her eccentric new neighbors and her failure to realize that her husband is battling his own internal crisis.

As Noah and his wife strive to bring the townspeople to the church—and keep the strains on their marriage at bay—the rain intensifies, impeding their efforts. Soon the river waters rise, flooding the streets of the town and driving scores of wild animals out of the once-renowned zoo. And so, Noah, his wife, and the townspeople must confront the savage forces of nature and attempt to reinforce the fragile ties that bind them to each other before their world is washed away.

Full of whimsy and gentle ironic humor, Noah’s Wife is a wise and poignant novel that draws upon the motifs of the biblical flood story to explore the true meaning of community, to examine the remarkable strength of the human spirit, and to ask whether hope can exist even where faith has been lost.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I couldn’t decide what to make of this book until I was nearly finished with it. It wasn’t overly religious as I had feared because of the title, so that was good as I have never really warmed to those books. I loved the concept this book worked with–a town where it never stopped raining.

I liked the small town atmosphere and the way the author allowed us a bird’s eye view of the people in the town. We got to know them as individuals and it allowed the reader to see the dynamic and unlikely connections between them.

This book has a lot of quirky characters, deals with a lot of different issues and retains the dismal atmosphere until nearly the end. I have to say, that for an author with the last name of Starck, this book was pretty stark for much of the reading.

The writing is excellent here, but I’m still not a hundred percent convinced I love this book. If I had to categorise it, I would say that this should be filed under “thought provoking.” The way the author used themes from the bible without trying to force a religious ideal on the reader was interesting. I liked the townspeople, but the use of Noah’s wife as a name for the character rather than giving her a name (on purpose) made me feel more distant from the main character than I was expecting.

Overall, this was an interesting book with a lot to offer the reader, but I can’t pick a specific group I would recommend it to. It is worth a read, most definitely–if you enjoy books that live outside the standard genre fiction groups.

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

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The Witches of cambridge by Menna Van Praag

The Witches of CambridgeThe Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Witches of Cambridge reveals an astonishing world where the heart’s deepest secrets give way to the magic of life-changing love.

“Be careful what you wish for. If you’re a witch, you might just get it.”

Amandine Bisset has always had the power to feel the emotions of those around her. It’s a secret she can share only with her friends all professors, all witches when they gather for the Cambridge University Society of Literature and Witchcraft. Amandine treasures these meetings but lately senses the ties among her colleagues beginning to unravel. If only she had her student Noa’s power to hear the innermost thoughts of others, she might know how to patch things up. Unfortunately, Noa regards her gift as a curse. So when a seductive artist claims he can cure her, Noa jumps at the chance, no matter the cost.

Noa’s not the only witch in over her head. Mathematics professor Kat has a serious case of unrequited love but refuses to cast spells to win anyone’s heart. Her sister, Cosima, is not above using magic to get what she wants, sprinkling pastries in her bakery with equal parts sugar and enchantment. But when Cosima sets her sights on Kat’s crush, she conjures up a dangerous love triangle.

As romance and longing swirl through every picturesque side street, The Witches of Cambridge find their lives unexpectedly upended and changed in ways sometimes extraordinary, sometimes heartbreaking, but always enchanting.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is no secret that Menna Van Praag does magical realism well, but this book brought that talent to a whole new level. Instead of one main character, there are a host of them in this story, and each of them is dealing with different issues in their life, as well as a special magical gift (or curse depending on viewpoint.)

The story revolves around the lives of these various characters and the struggles they are trying to overcome. I appreciated that the magic was more of an accompaniment than the entire point in the story. The magical portions of the story backed up the rest of the important parts and left me feeling like these were real people who happened to be a bit extraordinary instead of a group of crazy witches wielding unbelievable powers that I couldn’t relate to.

As always, I am eagerly awaiting this author’s next book. This is a good book and one that you should check out at the earliest opportunity.

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

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Everybody has a story…these are ours by Audrey N. Lewis

Everybody has a story... These are ours...Everybody has a story… These are ours… by Audrey N. Lewis

Family relationships. Friendships. Finding our Place. This collection is a series of narratives exploring events, experiences and memories. Each short work, while unique, brings the reader in touch with the inner monologue of the characters bringing their reality to life. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Daughter, Son, Wife, and Husband – this book pulls together seven independent stories into a compelling, and thought-provoking anthology. While the focus is on the women – the men in these stories provide an interesting counterpoint. Readers meet: Lexi’s mom, as she struggles to understand her daughter; Abigail, now grown, remembering her nanny Chamele and the life lessons she shared; a sister trying to forge an adult relationship with a once-adored older sibling; a woman finding beauty in a place others have forgotten; another woman finding a true understanding of what holds meaning to her; Claire, the empty-nester and her “girls night out” group with an unusual twist, and Megan – lost but not forgotten. But don’t judge a book by its cover, in each story nothing is exactly as it seems.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Audrey Lewis is an amazingly versatile author. She has written a book of short stories that anyone can relate to, regardless of your family/relationship situation. I was enthralled with the first story in this book and knew right away that I would spend the remainder of my evening reading, reluctant to take a break.

This author has a way with words. She can find her way into your heart with her passionate writing and make you consider things from angles that you may not have done otherwise. You can tell that she cares about her craft, from the first pages of the evolving story, to the ending that leaves you feeling as if you know these people, in some cases, perhaps, that you have lived through these things yourself and can easily identify with them.

I love the way she uses dialogue to create her atmosphere. You can really feel the tension, the fear, heartbreak, happiness, everything through the way she writes. I am usually not much of a short story person, but these are too good to miss. The stories in this book match the title perfectly. These are “our” stories, because the author made sure that the audience would feel included.

I definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in family dynamics and relationships in general.

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

Featherbones by Thomas Brown

FeatherbonesFeatherbones by Thomas Brown

Felix walks the same way to work through Southampton every morning, and the same way home again in the evenings. His life up to this point feels like one day repeated over and over; a speck of silt caught in the city’s muddied waters. Sometimes it is all he can do to sit and watch while the urban sprawl races indifferently around him. But when the city stares back at him, one evening after work, everything changes.

He doesn’t see the statue’s head move, but he feels its eyes on him, studying him from its lofty perch in East Park. From then on he continues to glimpse it, or something like it, encroaching with every visitation. With it come memories, spilling through the streets, crawling through the dark, haunting his night-time flat, until he isn’t quite sure what is real anymore and what is imagined, in this hard, grey place where the gulls watch him sleep…
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What to call this experience? Magical realism doesn’t quite fit right. Magical-psychological-philosophical-realism. Maybe. This is a book that will be unlike any other that you have read, and that, for this reviewer, is why it earned 4 solid stars.

There are some very well crafted passages in this book, and some amazing uses of language. It is really the beautiful language, in my opinion, that makes this a book worth the time to read and share with others. I liked the characters, especially the Main character and one of the secondary characters. I liked the way the story developed and the way the reader is never quite sure if what is happening is actual reality or just the imaginings of a confused mind.

If you enjoy reading books that make you think, and make you wonder at the author’s ability to turn every day ordinary into something else, something a bit more extraordinary, then I recommend this book to you.

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

Monsterland by Michael Phillip Cash

MonsterlandMonsterland by Michael Phillip Cash
Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.
Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a glutton for punishment. We never learn as a society that monsters that are capable of eating us are never a good plan for a theme park. Thank goodness we are slow learners though or there wouldn’t be books like this to keep me entertained.

This book has zombies, werewolves, vampires and all manner of crazy stupid people, just the way a horror novel should be. I can’t say that it wasn’t predictable in the slightest, because that would be an outright lie, but the carnage made it worth turning the pages and see who would become the next victim.

This book has one of those…”man I really hate that guy and hope he gets what he deserves” moments that makes it worth the time to read. Pure satisfaction.

I liked the main set of characters well enough and the dialogue was good, so even aside from the action, it was set up well and interesting to read. If you like carnage and chaos and things that go bump during the day and night, this book will be one you enjoy.

Overall, this was a lot of fun.

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

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