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 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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Dead Dancing Women by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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Memoirs of a Dead White Chick

Memoirs of a Dead White ChickMemoirs of a Dead White Chick by Lennox Randon

It began as one of those days when I asked myself, what else could go wrong?
And then I died.

Eleanor, a harried, middle-aged White female elementary schoolteacher (and former police officer), begins her day by dying in the year 1999.

Somehow, while her essence is en route to wherever one’s essence goes upon death, she inadvertently ends up occupying the body of a 16-year-old Black male in 1858 Philadelphia.

Not only does she have to deal with the obvious gender, race, and time period changes, but she also has to figure out whether, when lives are at stake, she should interfere with history as she knows it.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do not believe it is humanly possible to read this book and not love it. Historical fiction with a unique twist has always been one of my preferred genres, and this book filled that niche perfectly.

Here’s what I loved:

Lennox Randon writes with such humour that I couldn’t help but giggle out loud. This is the kind of book that you are better off reading at home, unless you want people staring at you as if you have lost your mind for the sudden outbursts of giggles it causes. It has been a while since a book did that to me.

The main character is highly likable in both forms, and I could easily identify with her lifestyles in the beginning–and later became enthralled with the transition and the times she was living through. This novel is witty, intellectually stimulating, hilarious and also makes you stop and think about how much the world had changed in the last hundred or so years–as well ass how many things that should have changed–haven’t. It deals with some very serious issues–race, gender, etc., but is done in such a way that it still feels like a fun, enjoyable read.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an excellent read. I must buy this book as gifts this year for others who could use an escape from daily life.

Two thumbs way up for this one.

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.