A Taste for Murder

A Taste For MurderA Taste For Murder by Burl Barer

Frank Rodriguez, a much-loved counselor of troubled teens, lies dead on the bedroom floor. His wife and step-daughter are in shock, and so is the medical examiner when he performs the autopsy. Aside from being dead, Frank is in perfect health.

Demanding to know the cause of her husband’s death, Angie Rodriguez badgers the police, insisting that Frank was murdered. The cops attribute her assertions to overwhelming grief, but soon they too believe that Frank didn’t die of natural causes.

When the police enlist their number one suspect to help in the investigation, things spiral out of control until police are dealing with a daring plot to murder Angie’s best friend, and allegations of another homicide so evil and perverse that even seasoned L.A County Detectives are shocked beyond belief … and so will the readers!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quick read, that will make you wonder how much you really know about the people around you. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. The author was a bit heavy on inserting themselves into the story via interjection of personal opinion, but otherwise, the facts were there and the flow of the story worked well. I do understand that it was intended to be a rather conversational book rather than a boring recount of documented events, so I suppose that is why it comes across as opinionated.

The central figure in this book is a truly awful person that will make you thank your lucky stars that she is not your mum, sister, daughter, friend or worst case scenario, wife. I was disgusted by her actions, and as far as the possibility that she committed the earlier crime mentioned in the book, well, it really wouldn’t surprise me.

I believe this book is so striking, because it is not fiction. To think that there are people in the world that would go to such lengths to obtain what they want is disturbing and terrifying. This book takes you on a journey through the life and mind of a person who was damaged at an early age, and never recovered. If you are sensitive to things that are sexual in nature, this might be a book that you want to prepare yourself for.

Mostly, I thought this was a really good read with a lot to recommend it. I would definitely give it a solid four stars for the way it was written, the intrigue that the writing style created and the fact checking. However, it lost a star for me near the end when the central figure was compared to a well-known, overweight, Star Wars character. Professional? I think not.

Interesting read.

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

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The Graveyard Apartment

The Graveyard Apartment: A NovelThe Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike

A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.

One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Known in particular for her hybrid works that blend these styles with elements of romance, The Graveyard Apartment is arguably Koike’s masterpiece. Originally published in Japan in 1986, Koike’s novel is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow in to, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil and that longer they stay, the more trapped they become.

This tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing this book, I was left with a lot of jumbled opinions and feelings. In some ways, this book is everything I hope for in a horror novel. It is certainly full of suspense and makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. On the same hand, the never ending suspense was what killed it for me. I like it when things are tense in a book like this, but when that happens, I also expect there to be a big payout and the longer the author waits to give me that, the bigger and better I expect it to be.

After following the lives of this family from the beginning of the book, I truly found the ending to be a huge disappointment. With all the buildup throughout the book, the creepy happenings and the odd events, I thought some moment of absolute horror when good fights evil was sure to happen, but that was not the case. For me, this book just fizzled out, as if the author couldn’t figure out how to end it, so they just left it.

I wanted answers to the underground tunnels. I wanted to know why things were happening. I’m still wondering.

I think that all in all, this is a good book and is worthy of a recommendation, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the end. I was left with questions, and books that do that annoy me.

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

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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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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.

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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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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.