Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One Perfect Lie By Lisa Scottoline

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He's applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he's ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he's being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin's baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

This was a slow burner for me. It took a while to get going and for the suspense to start building but once it did I was into it.  There is a lot going on besides the arrival of Chris Brennan who is not at all who he claims to be. There are multiple back-stories happening at once including  Heather struggling as a single mom, Mindy who is suspicious of her cheating husband for all the wrong reasons, and who had my suspicions aroused as well!  

I received an advance copy for review

Monday, February 27, 2017

Crawl by Edward Lorn

You’re out in the middle of nowhere.

You’ve been crippled and left for dead.

There’s something in the woods.

It’s coming.

There’s only one thing you can do…


It's hard for me to write a detailed review of a short story without giving too much away. I will just say Edward Lorn has done it again.
An unhappy couple are about to separate. Perhaps that separation would have been temporary, or perhaps this trip would have led to eventual divorce, had it not been interrupted by the horror they encounter during their travels. A quick and creepy read. 4 out of 5 stars from me.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.

In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people died—including almost three hundred infants and children—after being ordered to swallow a cyanide-laced drink.

Guinn examined thousands of pages of FBI files on the case, including material released during the course of his research. He traveled to Jones’s Indiana hometown, where he spoke to people never previously interviewed, and uncovered fresh information from Jonestown survivors. He even visited the Jonestown site with the same pilot who flew there the day that Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on Jones’s orders. The Road to Jonestown is the definitive book about Jim Jones and the events that led to the tragedy at Jonestown.

You probably know the expression... "don't drink the Kool-Aid." You may not know it was actually a cheap knock off  called "flavor-aid" laced with cyanide that hundreds of people were forced to drink under threat of armed guards that fateful day in a South American jungle.  Years ago I saw a short documentary on Jim Jones, but until reading this book I never knew the road to Jonestown was paved with good intentions. The Peoples Temple began with like minded people who wanted only to help the downtrodden, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Elderly people were housed in nursing homes by followers of Jim Jones where even if they could not afford to pay, were given care that met or exceeded state standards. Young people were given college educations that they never could have paid for on their own. They were made to feel that Jim Jones truly cared about them, and at first maybe he did. Then it all began to go horribly wrong.  This detailed and factual account  begins before Jim Jones was even born to a negligent mother who wouldn't allow him to be in the house when she wasn't home, and a sickly father who was too weak to stand up to her. It ends with the aftermath of murder and suicide that took 918 lives. If you ever wondered why or how so many people could allow themselves to be led astray this is the book for you. 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

And Then There Was Me by Sadeqa Johnson


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Something (Wisteria, Book 1) by Shelby Lamb

“I will find true love and everything will be okay. I will find true love and everything will be okay…” she chanted.

They say be careful what you read. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong. It can happen to anyone. This is just four teenagers’ story. Aubrey Golding hates her face, her body, and is devastated after Nathan Silva leaves her. Alone, suicidal, and desperate for love, she discovers a book called Something and unknowingly links others to a dark and terrifying curse that is beginning to consume her. Nathan is glad to be moving on with someone new and can hardly believe what is happening now. Wild child and amateur porn star, Bella Broadhurst, loves bullying that “emo whore” Aubrey with the other girls, but mostly she loves partying, hookups, and plain ol’ drama when terror arises. And Kendra Coke is just a new teen mother working on a delicate relationship when things start becoming utterly bizarre. Chilling sleep disturbances and figures hiding in the corners of their rooms are just warnings of what is to come. Be careful what you read, they say. Tread carefully.

I don't know what I just read. Is it porn? Is it horror? Is it horror porn? Part of me wants to say this book is for younger readers as the main characters are in their late teens, though it would not be appropriate for anyone under 18, with it's vast amounts of sex and partying.
Aubrey is suicidal over her break up with Nathan, who unbeknownst to her has hooked up with her best friend. At one of many parties (all these kids do is drink get high and switch sex partners) someone tells a creepy story of sleep paralysis and a stick woman who moves things around and leaves twigs behind. After this, everyone starts seeing strange visions, and shadowy demonic figures, and waking up with weird marks or pustules on their bodies. It's a complicated and convoluted tale.

I received an advance copy for review.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Death & Pestilence A Horror Anthology by Sands Press (Editor)

Twenty authors from Canada, USA, England, South Africa, Australia and Brazil take you on a journey of terror and fright that will leave you looking over your shoulder, wondering what lies beyond the next turn and asking yourself what is hidden in the shadows.
Sands Press collected the top twenty submissions from a short story horror contest and showcased them in "Death & Pestilence." These stories will have you sitting on the edge of your seat questioning your better judgment as to why you decided to read this book when you were alone.
Stories by B.G. Strong, E. J. Walker, Guy Cheston, Caito Caol, Dennis Stein, Flynn Gray, Rob Powell, Steve Kreidman, Micky Neilson, Victoria Griffen, Chevoque, Andrea Merchak, Michaela Turcotte, Nathan S. M. Knapp, Rod Martinez, J. P. Frost, Rick Weiss, Jasmine Love, Paul Pickett, Jay Michael Wright II

I love short horror stories, and more than that I love discovering new (to me) authors, So I got a lot of enjoyment out of these creepy little gems. Some of my favorites were "Plague II" by B.G. Strong in which the world has become a place where you can smell your own eyes rotting in your head. Too gross for you? Don't worry there are some less graphic stories, though others that are even more so.
"The Curse of Greenwater Falls" by Flynn Gray is a good old fashioned spooky tale, and for anyone like me who lives in a small town we all know there are certain roads best not traveled if you can avoid it. "Trail's End" by E.J. Walker Is a not so cheery story even though the birds are chirping in the awakening forest as Thomas and his wife share what will be their last camping trip together. "Blood of a Sinner" by Guy Cheston tells the story of an abusive foster mother and the boy she will not be abusing any longer. "My Friend Bruce" by Caito Caol was probably one of the most brutal but also most impressive stories as we are told by Robert how he came to meet Bruce and what happened to that friendship. "Vodka Memories" by Victoria Griffin was both chilling and heartbreaking as we learn how Melanie lost the love of her life. "The Monsters Outside the Well" by Nathan S.M. Knapp was probably my absolute favorite of the bunch. 5 boys uncover an old well and after they do, there are only 4 boys left to fill it in. "The Lantern" by Dennis Stein is the story of a woman who is drawn to a lamp in a curio shop who learns that some things are best not illuminated. "Captive" by Kristine Barker is the story of a woman who finally finds the strength to get out of an abusive relationship, but at what cost..

I would highly recommend this anthology to any horror fan.
5 stars from me

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Doll House by John Hunt


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix

Book One in the Firefly Hollow Series, Women's Fiction Romances set in Appalachia.

In 1960, a tragic death in the family calls young Sarah Browning back from college to her Appalachian homestead. Unable to return to school and finish her degree, she finds herself facing a future that isn’t what she’d planned. Lost and grieving, she wanders onto her reclusive neighbor’s property where she stumbles across the all-too-attractive Owen Campbell, a man hiding secrets she’d only ever thought were legend.

Owen Campbell was raised on the folklore of Eastern Kentucky, tales of men and women with magical abilities from shape-shifting to healing powers. Rejected by those he loves because of his own abilities, he isolates himself from the world. When he meets Sarah, he’s faced with the tough decision of whether to let her in or stay hidden away to keep his heart safe.

Please note - this book is NOT a typical paranormal romance. No rage-beast shifters or alpha dogs here. It is, however, at its heart a romance, with a few intimate scenes between the hero and heroine, as well as adult situations dealing with tragedy.

"Firefly Hollow" is the first book in the Firefly Hollow series. Other titles include "Butterfly Lane," "Dragonfly Creek," "Cattail Ridge," "Cricket Cove," "Stormking Road," "Fern Valley," and "Snapdragon Way."

This first installment in the Firefly Hollow series begins in the 1950s when Sarah Browning is a lonely high school student and a target for her older sister Kathy to pick on.  The Browning's property borders the Campbell's who live up on the mountain and are rarely seen. It is understood that one does not cross that border and trespass onto the Campbell's land. However Sarah is unable to resist and begins walking there regularly, which is the first time Owen ever lays eyes on her, though she does not know it at the time. A few years later Sarah is called home from college where she is a year shy of graduating and becoming a teacher. A tragedy has befallen her family and again Sarah finds herself drawn to the Campbell's property. Gradually she and Owen find themselves falling in love, but circumstances seem to conspire to keep the young lovers apart and Owen's secrets may be too big to share. This was a story not just of romance, but family relationships, and heartbreaking tragedy.
4 out of 5 stars from me

I received a complimentary copy for review

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

A happily married couple take their toddler on a family vacation to the beach, life is good. Until it's bad... very very bad. Now Finn is on the run with their child and Violet is devastated, and wondering why. What did she miss? How could her husband just walk out without a word, stealing their child. Or did she choose to ignore the obvious? Were there questions she should have asked instead of burying her head in the sand and letting it go?
"All the wrong people know all the wrong secrets here." and with that one quote from Catlin I was made to wonder, when is a good time to tell a secret? And when if ever is it just too late to tell?
Caitlin and Finn were the best of friends long before he ever married Violet, and although Caitlin and Violet became very close, secrets always remained between them. Only Violet's Grandmother who raised her after the loss of her parents ever felt that something was just a bit off in Finn and Violet's marriage but she never spoke up about it until it was too late.
This was an emotional read. 4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Curiosity Quills Presents: Darkscapes- by multiple authors

Curiosity Quills Press explores yearning, regret, and fear with the Darkscapes Anthology — a spellbinding collection of dark fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror, and detective fiction.

Delve into worlds of terrible family secrets, unexpected doppelgängers, a home invasion on an alien planet, androids and assassins, places and people who aren’t as stable as they seem, frustrated musicians going to desperate lengths — and more.

EXLEY AVENUE: In 1920s upstate New York, a tormented girl learns that her family’s new stone castle was built on a former cemetery, and in 2014, a former police detective uncovers horrible secrets.

LENA’S SONG: In the near future, two frustrated musicians and creative partners get in on the ground floor of neural firestreaming — but an old guitar creates an unexpected effect.

SORRY FOR THE MOUSE: A veteran back from Afghanistan develops a strange hobby to stay sane — but it doesn’t work as well as he had hoped.

SKELETON JIM: A skeleton detective who leads a double life as an Internet sensation takes a beautiful woman on as a client — and gets more than he bargained for.

OF LUSHER AND SLEEP: In this modern, alternative imagining of Romeo and Juliet, a veteran from an old-money family returns to London for his mother’s funeral and is confronted with a toxic history of two warring families — and a lost love.

ROOMIES: Housemates experience something deeply unsettling during an earthquake.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SONG: An American’s car is rear-ended by a lost Muslim traveler with diplomatic immunity; the traveler sings in the American’s place at his daughter’s school recital — with surprising results.

THE GIOVANNI EFFECT: A man who lives alone with his family on a terraformed wind turbine farm receives a disturbing visitor.

FOUR HUNDRED EYES, SIXTY-FOUR HUNDRED TEETH: An existentially anxious former star of a London goth rock band, missing fame and creativity, regains something he thought was lost.

CIRCULAR ARGUMENT: A severely dehydrated man is trapped in an endless loop on an external tram-shuttle around his base — and his patience with the on-board AI is fraying.

MOSES AND THE TALKING BUSH THAT WAS INCONVENIENTLY ON FIRE: An exhausted Moses herds sheep for his father-in-law until a burning bush gives him a holy quest he’s rather reluctant to do.

FAIL HOUSE: On the night the Chinese land the first mission to Mars, unemployed roommates in a crumbling American city navigate through riots to their government-subsidized housing — but is it the safe place they thought it would be?

ICU: A workaholic lawyer wakes up in an intensive care unit with painful regrets.

BOOTHEEL: An aged German soldier returns to the Missouri Bootheel where he picked cotton as a POW, digs up an old mirror — and dares to look at his reflection.

SECOND SENTIENCE: In this New Weird goat fantasy, two caprifauns explore a lost city — and their possible past lives.

LANDING A JOB IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR: When an Imperial assassin’s Keeper betrays the Empire, the assassin goes off-planet — to transition out of government work as fast as possible.

TRAPPED: A woman is trapped inside a body with Alzheimer’s disease.

OUT OF SIGHT: Unwanted kids wake up in an escape pod after years in stasis, and an AI bracelet is their only chance to make sense of a wild uncharted planet.

Darkscapes is an eclectic mix of stories touching on horror, sci-fi, religion, and fantasy. All were enjoyable, some were truly exceptional. My favorites in this collection were "Skeleton Jim" by J.R. Rain in which a skeleton hanging in a classroom has somehow come to life.
"Roomies" by B.C. Johnson was a chilling tale of friends suddenly finding themselves trapped in their apartment. Nobody can get in or out until the blood curdling conclusion.
"In the Shadow of the Song" by Piers Anthony sounds almost like the start of an off color joke to say that a Christian and a Muslim get into a car accident but in light of recent events this story takes on a life of it's own.
"Moses and the Talking Bush That Was Inconveniently On Fire" by Andrew Buckley was the much needed satirical comedy relief in the midst of so many dark stories.
"Trapped" by Ann M. Noser was both frightening and heartbreaking, and if you should read the author's notes at the end you will probably not be surprised to find the reason it was  so well written is because the subject matter is sadly well known to her.

I received a complimentary copy for review

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

"Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.
After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, " The Roanoke Girls" shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart."

Lane never understood her mother's depression, or hatred of her childhood home, until it was too late. She had never met any of her mother's family. They never wrote, or called. She always thought maybe they were dead, until her mother's suicide when she was told her grandparents wanted her to come and live with them. What at first seemed to be the first time Lane would ever have a normal family life turned out to be anything but normal. When Lane ran like hell after that summer in her grandparents home, she never expected to come back.
I liked the way it was told in alternating time periods of "Then" and "Now" as we learn what Lane ran from, and how it came to shape every aspect of her life and relationships.
Although a bit too predictable to hold any truly shocking moments it did hold my interest.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sam by Iain Rob Wright

When washed-up priest, Angela Murs, and skittish ghost hunter, Tim Golding, are summoned to a vast country manor to help a sick little boy, they have no idea what to expect. It’s clear that young Sammie is a very disturbed child, but there’s surely no way he could have been behind the recent spate of accidents, or the death of his father. The child is dirty, malnourished, and perhaps the victim of a negligent mother, but as Angela and Tim’s investigations take them deeper into the mystery, they realise that there is much more going on than they ever could have expected. When the blood begins to flow, there will be no escape, and little Sammie will finally be forced to show his true nature.

I admit I have a soft spot for creepy little kids. They scare the bejeezers out of me, so I got quite a case of heebie jeebies from Sam.

When Angela and Tim are basically forced into a meeting with Sam's wealthy mother they are expecting it to be some sort of scam or hoax, but it is so much more involved than that. Sam is not just acting strangely and looking seriously ill, he possesses knowledge that no mere child could possibly have. Things quickly escalate from strange to dangerous and not everyone will survive their encounter with Sam.
4 out of 5 stars from me.