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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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 .

61ps44t9jzl-_sx384_bo1204203200_

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.

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.

View all my reviews