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.

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 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.

Let’s have some fun

Drop a line in comments below and quote the most memorable line you can recall off the top of your head in a book or movie. Then you will be entered in to win a copy of “Crossing Bedlam” by Charles E. Yallowitz.

I will choose one lucky winner this weekend to receive their copy, I can only gift to US residents via Amazon, but everyone is welcome to play just for the fun of it. Help out an author and share this post if you have a chance. Book details below .

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Available HERE

The United States of America has been crippled. Violently contained by a global military force and left without its leaders, the country has become shattered and chaotic. A decade has passed since the first strike and a new landscape has emerged where survival is more important than anything else. Who will uncover the truth behind the attack and revive this once great nation?

It certainly won’t be Cassidy and Lloyd since they couldn’t care less about that stuff. She is a young woman on a mission to honor her mother’s dying wish, which is to toss her ashes off the Golden Gate Bridge. He is an infamous serial killer she broke out of Rikers Island since hiring a bodyguard wasn’t working out. Not the perfect plan, but having an insane, oddly charming murder-junkie on your side is a plus in the Shattered States.

Bullets and swear words are going to fly as Cassidy and Lloyd travel coast to coast, facing one challenge after another . . . including Nebraska.

A Legacy

My dad taught me to draw. In the beginning it was just doodles and random things. We would go out on nature walks and he would point out animal tracks and different patterns in the bark of trees, the shape of leaves and clouds in the sky that resembled animals. He taught me to create reflections by looking at water and watching the way it rippled outward as it was disturbed. He taught me to find beauty in the most barren of places and to appreciate the things we tend to overlook with an artist’s eye.

We would go home after these adventures and he would pull out a sketch book and show me how to transform the natural world into detailed pictures, and as I grew older, I took the things he taught me and made them my own. He was always telling me that there is no “wrong way” to express your creativity.

When I set out to create “The Beauty of Random Things”, it was with my father in mind. I hope that you will take a moment to thank the people in your life who have taught you things you wouldn’t have learned without them. Dedicate something to them, give them a moment of your time. These things you know, these special skills you possess are something you can leave with your children, a mark you can make upon the world, and are possible because someone cared enough to give you a part of themselves, and the most important commodity we have…time.

Now for shameless promo.

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now available on Amazon.com

and Amazon UK