Family mystery

‘Secrets of Hallstead House’ – Amy M. Reade

3-star-rating

Secrets Of Hallstead House - Amy M. Reade

Secrets Of Hallstead House – Amy M. Reade

Macy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead. But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions.

Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming. Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…

Goodreads

About the author:

Amy M. Reade

Amy M. Reade

Amy M. Reade is a debut author of romantic suspense. A native of upstate New York, she grew up in the Thousand Islands region and was inspired by the natural beauty of that area to write her first novel, ‘Secrets of Hallstead House’. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, a Bouvier des Flandres named Orly, and two rescued cats who refuse to answer to their names of Porthos and Athos.

Upon graduation from Cornell University and Indiana University School of Law, Amy practiced law in New York City, but soon discovered that her dream job was writing. In addition to volunteering with school, church, and community groups, Amy is currently working on her second novel, set in the area around Charleston, South Carolina.

Though Amy lives within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, she is partial to the blue waters of the Pacific and spends as much time as possible on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the setting of her as-yet-unwritten third novel.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Goodreads

Review:

Family ties, deceit and a murder mystery,  ‘Secrets of Hallstead House’ becomes a “who dunnit” story as readers follow Macy in her search for answers. With a bit of romance and plenty of characters to suspect, I found myself pointing the finger of blame towards many of the cast.

That being said, I did hope that there would be a bit more substance to the mystery that Macy is trying to solve. True, I did not predict the ending but the red herrings became quite obvious as the plot developed. As I have already mentioned, I suspected many characters and think this was because I was hoping author would offer something a little “juicer” than what this novel provides.

Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the directions that the plot took and thought that this made ‘Secrets of Hallstead House’ more of a refreshing read. I don’t think this was maintained throughout the story and am sorry to say that I found it lacking in pace at times.

This is the first book that I have read by author and whilst I enjoyed the secrets that Macy uncovers, wish there had been many more twists and turns along the way. It is a little too wordy with too much intricate detail being provided and I think this lessened my enjoyment of the story. However, if you are after a quick mystery read one afternoon, then I think this would be a suitable choice because there are enough surprises to keep you guessing, even if it is just a little bit.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Buy links:

Amazon / B&N / Kensington

Secrets-of-Hallstead-House-Amy-M

To follow the review of ‘Secrets of Hallstead House’ by Amy M. Reade, please click here.

Interesting characters

‘A Masterpiece of our Love’ – Nikki Lynn Barrett

3-star-rating

A Masterpiece of our Love - Nikki Lynn

A Masterpiece of our Love – Nikki Lynn Barrett

Two Lives Torn by tragedy: Eight year old Becca and twelve year old Hunter cling to each other and life after surviving a plane crash which stole their families.

Two Souls Seeking Love: Each year from the time she was old enough to travel on her own, Becca met up with Hunter on the island that altered their lives forever. Until he stopped showing. Her constant. Her link to the past. Gone in the blink of an eye.

Two Lives Bound by Secret: Suffering more heartbreak, Hunter returns to the one place he’s always sought comfort. The island where he and Becca met. The place that stole from him, and in the same instance gave to him. He hasn’t been back or spoken to Becca in four years.

Though he’s sure she must hate him for disappearing, Hunter discovers the girl gone, now a woman in her place. Hunter is determined to prove to Becca he isn’t the same twelve year old boy of yesteryear. But someone isn’t happy about their reunion… Strange things begin happening, letters showing up in their hotel rooms and at home with cryptic messages.

Two Broken Hearts Heal as One: With the mystery unsolved, Hunter convinces Becca to spend the remainder of the summer back home with him. For safety and to give them a chance to rediscover the adults they’ve now become. Will love get a chance to blossom or will the past come back and tear the masterpiece of their love apart, once and for all?

Goodreads

About the author:

Nikki Lynn Barrett

Nikki Lynn Barrett

Nikki Lynn Barrett lives in Arizona with her husband and son. She’s an avid reader, a dreamer, and loves everything about books. She runs a book blog, an online used bookstore, and writes various genres of romance. Nikki can also be found outside with her camera when a storm is near, snapping photo after photo. Her dreams of becoming a writer started when she was young, when she started writing books in one subject notebooks by the fifth grade. ‘The Secret Santa Wishing Well’ is her debut book.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Blog / Goodreads

Review:

At first I thought this novel would be more of a contemporary romance, focusing on how Becca and Hunter move on from the tragic accident that bound them together. However, Barrett offers something more with the haunting letters that find their way into Hunter and Becca’s lives and it was this element that I thought could have really made more of an impact in the story.

The characters of Becca and Hunter are quite interesting. Readers find more about the accident throughout the novel through Hunter’s flashbacks and this non-linear narrative added flair to the story. Becca, an artist and teacher, has always returned to this island at the same time every year and, for the past four years, Hunter has never showed. She is still loyal to this pact they made and this unwavering devotion starts to come through when Hunter and Becca realise their feelings for each other is more than just friendship. However, what is more unusual is that when experiencing a deeply traumatic or stressful situation, Becca finds her self mute and cannot speak. I thought this was a really unique take on the character and not something I was expecting. It was like I could feel Becca’s frustration about not being able to talk and this was particularly noticeable in the final scenes. As such, this certainly added more dimension to Becca’s character.

On the other hand, I found I just could not trust Hunter at all. Despite him coming across as a hero and protective of Becca, I still felt that there was something he was hiding. Hunter shows he has not been able to deal with the past as well as Becca and the flashbacks and lack of stability really made me question his motives, particularly when the threatening notes arrived. It was this that made me yearn for something a little deeper from the story and I was always hoping that the author would play on this emotional and psychological damage that Hunter is clearly suffering from.

With that in mind, I found the overall plot a little mediocre and wished that Barrett had explored Hunter’s instability a bit more. True, this would have moved this book away from the romance genre but I think it would have made the plot more substantive. For example, when Becca and Hunter find themselves stuck on one of the island’s for the night, there was real opportunity to delve into Hunter’s background. Instead, I was a little disappointed that the two just camp out for the night in an empty holiday home and wait for the morning to come.

My three star rating reflects the average and “plodding” storyline. The ending felt considerably rushed and it felt as if the author was trying to make more of the threatening letters in the final few chapters. As such, the novel concludes on a cliff-hanger and readers are left with little answers about this mysterious character who has been following Becca and Hunter. Instead, we will have to wait until the second book to fully understand the actions of this threatening person. If this had been more of a feature throughout the story, I think the finale would have been better executed and more convincing.

This is an interesting novel to read in terms of characters but I definitely feel there was opportunity to expand on the mystery element of the story. If you are after a happy ending, then this is a book for you. In fact, I think ‘A Masterpiece of our Love’ is certainly the type of book to read on a rainy afternoon when everything outside just seems a little gloomy. Otherwise, if you are after a romance with a bit of a twist, then I don’t think this quite works.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from the novel:

She wondered why he would even bother locking them. The island was fairly isolated and she doubted anyone would try coming in. But with the boat incident, he seemed to be on his guard. Hunter had mentioned more than once today that he thought something was off. He acted a little paranoid. He took her hands in his and helped her climb to feet. He touched the side of her face. “You do look exhausted.” he said quietly. “What a day. If I hadn’t blacked out…”

“You can’t help that you fell overboard!” Why would he even feel guilty for that?

“I spaced out! I lost control and that’s when things went downhill!” Hunter protested. A muscle strained in his neck. He really seemed agitated about the whole ordeal. “I normally pay better attention to the weather, and failed to do that this time, too.”

Becca took his hands in hers, giving them a squeeze. She opened her mouth, hoping the words would come out this time. All that happened were a few squeaks. She stomped her foot in frustration.

Hunter pulled her in his arms again. She leaned against him and soaked in his warmth.

“Don’t try to force the words if they won’t come.” He pleaded softly. Hunter was one of the only people to be so patient with her. When this happened the first time, the only time it had lasted years, her grandparents had yelled, cursed, and belittled her for it. The therapists, doctors, teachers, everyone had made such a fuss about it. She ended up feeling less of herself when she really had been trying. Did they really think she wanted to be like that? To have a lack of communication? Nobody got it.

Except Hunter.

Tears sprung in her eyes at the memories and she held Hunter even closer. She was content there. She was so glad he came back this year. Despite the few years separation from her friend, she felt right at home with him.

At her sniffle, Hunter tipped her chin up. “You are crying! Aw Bec, why the tears?”

“I think my emotions are going haywire. I’m tired, so I’m a little weepy. I’m so glad you’re back this year.” When she finished signing, his lips curled up in a smile.

“ So am I.” He whispered softly. Something in his eyes resembled longing tugged at her. His hands were still touching her face. He inched closer and parted his lips. Without thinking, Becca reacted. They met midway, his lips crashing over hers. Her thoughts ran a million miles a minute. Did he start this? Or did she? What were they doing? No matter how much she wanted this, the last time they had an almost kiss, he disappeared.

It wasn’t about you, you know this!

It didn’t matter.

She uttered a sound when he deepened the kiss.

His kisses were passionate. So tender. Loving. Inquiring. He drew her closer, tightening his strong hold on her. He held on like he never wanted to let go. A sound escaped his lips, but he didn’t stop. Her heartbeat sped up. She placed a hand on Hunter’s shoulder, then slid it around his neck, running her fingers through his hair. She opened her eyes for a brief second and devoured the sight of Hunter. Then she closed them again, leaning into him. His tongue toyed with her, teasing playfully.

Another loud crack of thunder startled them both. Like kids being caught doing something they shouldn’t, Hunter and Becca pulled apart.

She let out a breath and covered her chest with her hand. She blinked. Hunter stared intently at her.

“I have no idea what came over me. Please know I never meant for that to happen. I don’t want you to think-”

Give-away:

To be in with a chance of winning the five digital backlist from Nikki Lynn Barrett (winner’s choice) and two signed paperbacks of ‘A Masterpiece of our Love’, click here.

Buy links:

Amazon / B&N

A-Masterpiece-of-Our-Love

To follow the tour of ‘A Masterpiece of our Love’ by Nikki Lynn Barrett, please click here.

A vampire’s revenge

‘Parricide’ – S. Briones Lim

4-star-rating

Parricide - S. Briones Lim

Parricide – S. Briones Lim

Stanley Heckley’s world was torn apart the night his wife and infant daughter were murdered by his wife’s ex-lover, James Gandy. Left with no family to call his own, Stanley is consumed with rage and thirsts to exact revenge in the only way he thinks is fair – to kill Gandy’s entire bloodline.  Unfortunately for Stanley, his timid personality and good conscience makes killing a difficult task to accomplish. 

Tormented by his inability to avenge his family, Stanley seeks the help of a distant acquaintance known simply as the vampire, Geoff. Touched by Stanley’s plight, Geoff takes it upon himself to give Stanley a thirst for blood and the talent to kill. As a newly turned vampire, Stanley joins Geoff on a complex mission of murder and vengeance as they hunt each member of the Gandy family one by one, wiping the entire bloodline from existence.

Or so they thought.

Over a century later, Stanley learns that a dire mistake has left one Gandy alive. Once again faced with the monsters of his past, Stanley finds himself returning to his hometown of Meyers to hunt the remaining descendant, Amanda.  From the get-go, Stanley’s mission is plagued with many obstacles including a new henchman for Geoff, a ghost of a young, sadistic girl, and the fact that Amanda looks remarkably like his late wife. For this member of the undead, hunting the final Gandy may just be the death of him.

Goodreads

About the author:

S. Briones Lim

S. Briones Lim

Thanks to her Mom’s unwavering devotion to read a bedtime story to her every single night throughout her childhood years, S. Briones Lim’s love for books began before she could even speak.

Raised in Southern California, author S. Briones Lim initially dreamt of becoming an artist and/or book author. A Psychology Degree (Summa cum Laude), a stint in Art School, and a career in Advertising/Media later, she is finally delving back into her first love – books. As a self-renowned bookworm, S. Briones Lim’s love for books has inspired her to pen her own novels and hopes her readers will fall in love with her stories as much as she enjoyed writing them.

Author of the ‘Life Force’ trilogy, S. Briones Lim’s other obsessions include time with family, POPCORN, watching movies and her pug, Tobi. She currently lives on the East Coast with her husband and continues to write everyday.

Author links:

Facebook / Web / Goodreads / Email

Review:

‘Parricide’ is a different horror book compared to the typical vampire stories I have read in the past. A dual-narrative with flashbacks to how the story began, I found this an intriguing narrative that had my curiosity building as the plot reached its climax.

The narrative moves from Stanley in 1904, when the tragedy of his wife and daughter’s murders sets him on a path of revenge, to present day, when he has returned to his home town to finally finish this mission. Briones Lim also switches between present day Stanley and Amanda, the woman who has returned to find out more about an apparent curse that has haunted her predecessors. I felt that this non-linear narrative works really well; as 1904 Stanley continues his mission of revenge and we learn about how the Gandys were destroyed, readers are brought back to present day and see Amanda getting closer to the truth about what happened. I found it enriching to find out about the past as the narrative moved forwards and felt this just added to my intrigue into events. Rather than being given the past all at once, readers are almost living it at the same time that Amanda is researching events.

The scenes between Stanley and Amanda were quite tense as we see how Stanley tries to keep curious Amanda from learning his secrets. It is at these points that I found the characterisation a little weak. Amanda keeps throwing out questions to Stanley about his knowledge of her family history, his responses are pretty rubbish and, surprisingly, Amanda just accepts this. Maybe because she is blinded by her attraction to him (which, thankfully, does not drive this narrative forwards), but her desire to know the truth just did not match this acceptance to Stanley’s lies. I found myself hoping she would challenge him more and unfortunately this did not happen.

Throughout the present-day story, there is a mysterious little girl who clearly knows Stanley’s secret, but at the same time appears to Amanda which encourages her to question the “truth” she is being presented with. Either I missed something major in the story, but Briones Lim does not reveal who this ghostly little girl is. Her ghostly presence adds to the mystery of the story and by the end of the narrative, I had plenty of theories about who she could be and her purpose. Unfortunately she is dismissed by the end of the story and I wished that the author had expanded on this a bit more.

Throughout the novel, Stanley is warned about his actions from his creator, telling him if the “Bureaucracy” find out about Stanley’s murders, there would be serious consequences. The reader is finally presented with the Bureaucracy as the story builds towards its climax but, like the little girl, I had found myself hoping that this did feature more in the development of the story, particularly as Stanley returns to his home town where he had committed atrocious murders in the century before.

It was a delight to read a story that is not part of a trilogy and did just finish properly on the final page. Whilst I found the ending a little rushed, it was still satisfying and worthwhile. The climax between Stanley and Amanda was fulfilling but I think it would have been better if the author had perhaps included an epilogue to further explain the outcomes. Indeed, whilst this might have ruined the fast-paced ending, it may have lessened my opinion that this was a bit rushed.

‘Parricide’ was a good read for me. I don’t read many horror books and I enjoyed the unique storyline. If you enjoy reading horrors and vampire stories, then I definitely recommend this to you. If not, give this one a go because the mystery and intrigue will certainly have you hooked.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

Author S. Briones Lim is giving away Kindle or Nook copies (depending on the winner’s preference) of her novels ‘Green’ and ‘Red’. This competition is open internationally for readers aged 13 and up, as long as you are eligible for Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble gifting. The giveaway will run the length of the tour (7th April – 14th April). Good luck!

Rafflecopter

Excerpt from the novel:

Stanley                 April 9, 1904

“No! Please don’t shoot!” Her voice wavered slightly though she tried her hardest to remain firm and unfazed. Had it not been for the tremor in her tone and the unmistakable trembling of her shoulders, the intruder might have bought her act of valor.

The terrified cries of my wife echoed against the bare wooden walls causing me to run in a panic. I flew down a flight of stairs towards the parlor area and noticed the dim flicker of a single candle illuminating the room. It added an eerie ambiance to what was to be the most horrifying moment of my life.

“Gandy! What do you think you’re doing?! Get your hands off my wife!” I shouted with pure ferocity. I wouldn’t be surprised if the blood vessels in my eyes had burst open given the tint of red that shadowed my vision.

“Well, well, lookit ‘ere who it is,” Gandy slurred drunkenly as he gripped my wife’s strawberry blond hair between his fingers. “It’s Stanley Heckley! Or might I say, the Great Stanley Heckley.” He cackled and peered down at my wife.

My eyes fell instantly onto Christiana’s tear stained face. I made an attempt to rush forward, however, she shook her head slightly and mouthed, “Go! Save Katie.”

My stomach wrenched as I pictured our three-month-old daughter hidden under the floorboards in the main room upstairs. She was safe – for now.

I cleared my throat and stood up straighter. Holding my hands out as a final plea, I said as calmly, but with as much authority as I could muster, “Gandy, please put down the gun. You had a little too much to drink tonight and I promise that if you walk out of here this instant, I will not tell the authorities of this little incident.”

I braced myself for his reaction and was surprised to hear a hearty chuckle in response. Christiana winced as he continued his belly laugh and pulled tightly against her head. Her beautiful braid was now a rat’s nest and I was surprised not to find clumps of her pinkish locks strewn along the floor.

“Do you think you have the right to tell me what to do?” Gandy laughed hysterically. With his gun toting hand he reached up and wiped tears from the corners of his eyes.

“I beg your pardon but I don’t see the humor in this situation,” I growled.

“You want to know what’s funny?” Gandy snapped. “The fact that Christiana here picked you over me. What does she see in you anyway? Nothing but a stack of cash that your daddy gave you.”

I glanced around the room frantically, looking for any escape route. My eyes focused on the window and my mind methodically went over any possible option I had to get my family out of this situation. It was as if everything was running in slow motion, from the flow of my blood through my veins to the harsh beating of my pained heart.

“Are you listening to me?!” Gandy’s hazy voice interrupted my frantic thoughts.

I gulped. “Yes, Gandy.”

His eyes widened as he pointed the barrel toward me. Christiana gasped and began pleading frantically, begging for him to drop the gun. Ignoring her cries, he lifted an eyebrow as he looked me dead in the eye. “It’s yes, sir,” he corrected.

I nodded my head. “Yes, sir,” I replied through gritted teeth.

His lips curled up into a sinister grin and he began pacing the room dragging Christiana along with him. She grabbed at his hand, trying to pry his fingers from her scalp, but was unsuccessful. The gray skirt of her dress, a birthday present from me, dragged behind her, becoming soiled with the dust from the floor.

“Now, I don’t know why you’re stupid enough to come back to town,” he said through gritted teeth. “The folks here were finally steer clear of the Heckleys, yet here you are infesting our town again with your filthy riches. You think your family’s better than all of us here, don’t you? Just because of your blue blood ways.”

“Gandy,” I said in an even tone. It pained me to even speak, my throat dry and parched from fear. “Please leave my property. We’ll deal with this when you’re sober in the morning.”

“This ain’t about being sober! This is about the abomination that your family has bestowed upon the less privileged. That’s why you came back to town now, isn’t it? To take over all the businesses that your greedy father wasn’t able to get his cold, vile hands on! You should have stayed in God knows where you were!”

“It was a mistake to come back,” I agreed as I nodded my head; and good God did I agree. “We only came back to tie up ends concerning my father’s estate. Nothing more.”

“Ah, yes,” he grinned. “That’s right! Your old man croaked a month ago, didn’t he?”

My blood began boiling and instinctively my fists clenched together. “Yes,” I said in a raspy tone. The pain of having lost my father still burned freshly in my heart. Hearing Gandy speak so nonchalantly about his passing made me want to gouge his eyes out. That would have to wait. For now I needed to focus on helping my sweet wife.

I cleared my throat and continued, “We’ll tie up loose ends and leave town immediately.” I gestured towards the room. “We’ll leave this house and never return to it again.” My eyes widened as realization came over me. “Is this what you want? Do you want my property? It’s yours! Take it! Take everything in here!”

Gandy snickered. “I don’t want your house,” he snapped. He glanced down at Christiana and brushed the gun across her face. She and I stiffened simultaneously, our breaths caught in our throats. “What I do want is your wife,” he continued.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” I replied angrily.

“Why? She’s already mine!” He shouted. “Do you really think your sweet Christiana was a virgin when she met you? When she wed you? Her naked body was under mine before you even had a chance to look her in the eye!”

Though I tried to remain calm and composed, I couldn’t help but glance desperately at my wife. Her eyes were clamped shut and she began to sob, proof that what Gandy had said was true.

“It was a long time ago!” Christiana screamed. “Before I met you!”

“Shut up, whore!” Gandy growled.

I gulped. “I don’t care,” I said sternly. “She is my wife and anything she may have done before me is of no consequence. I took a vow.” Christiana’s eyelids flew open in relief. Her gaze fell upon mine and we held each other’s eyes as if saying silent I love you’s though it felt more like goodbyes.

Gandy stiffened and gripped her hair tighter. Losing composure he stammered, “Well, did she tell you we made love a quarter’s night ago?”

Christiana had been with me, caring for our infant daughter. Gandy was full of fucking shit. Though I felt like rolling my eyes, I knew better. “Gandy,” I said instead. “It is late and I demand you to leave my property.”

Gandy’s hands began to grow limp and for a moment I thought that we would be able to put this whole unfortunate situation behind us. My family and I would leave town immediately, never glancing back. Father’s estate would just have to take care of itself and it could stay rotting. It could be food for the termites and worms for all I cared. Unfortunately, that is not how it happened.

Katie’s cry rang through the household, a cry for food, for love, for attention? A cry that still rings through my head every day.

“What is that?” Gandy cried out in a horrified tone. “Another Heckley?!” He looked down at Christiana’s face in shock and anger. “How dare you breed another member of this foul family?” Gandy released her hair, throwing Christiana to the ground. He quickly turned on his heel making his way through my house. His gangly body made odd shadows on the wall as his loose, wavy, blond hair flew in wisps behind him.

“No!” Christiana shouted. She ran after him, pushing him away as she followed Katie’s cries. She ran quickly up the stairs, frantically searching for our daughter. Though I had hidden our infant under a loose floorboard, the emptiness of the house made it difficult to mask her cries. The acoustics amplified her wails easily marking her hiding place.

Gandy  steadied  himself,  having  never  let  go  of  the  gun,  and  began  sprinting  after Christiana. He raced up the grand staircase, two steps at a time, and was quickly gaining ground. I desperately followed after him and flew up the staircase as rapidly as I could. A surge of adrenaline rushed through me and I quickly caught up with him in the upstairs hallway, tackling him to the ground. I grabbed at his hand and began beating it against the wooden stair rail, trying to dislodge the gun. Briefly looking up, I noticed Christiana through the open door of the master bedroom retrieving Katie, carefully swaddling her in her arms.

“Run!” I shouted as I successfully knocked the gun out of Gandy’s thin hand. He growled in pain as I pushed his palm into the ground.

Christiana nodded and looked around for an exit. Remembering the ancient Servants’ passageway, she turned and headed for the door, trying to make a sudden right into the adjacent hallway. Simultaneously, Gandy managed to knee me in the groin and bit my hand, knocking the breath out of me. I fell backwards for a moment, looking up in time to see him grab his gun. Regaining my balance, I lunged forward in an attempt to tackle him. Unfortunately, it was too late. As if in slow motion I saw him cock his gun and aim toward my wife and daughter. With a deafening bang, Gandy pulled the trigger, the gun recoiling against him. Christiana’s eyes went wide as the bullet flew towards her, penetrating my baby girl and in turn traveling through my wife’s body.

“NO!” I screamed.

My throat went hoarse and tears burned my eyes as I watched my family fall to the ground. Blood trickled from Christiana’s mouth and her eyes rolled back, lifeless and vacant. Red stains smeared Katie’s crocheted blanket, turning pink towards the white edges.

Panting heavily, I looked down at Gandy who appeared surprised himself; disbelieving of his own atrocious act. I yelled out inaudibly and kicked out my black leather boot, hitting him square across his face. He fell backward, loosening his grip on the gun, and his nose quickly began spouting out spurts of blood. Quickly grabbing for the gun, I reveled in the cold steel against my palm. Aiming it straight for Gandy’s head, I pulled the hammer back and placed my finger on the trigger.

“Do it!” Gandy demanded. “Do it! I just killed my one and only love!” He began sobbing, the effects of alcohol wearing off his body.

“She never loved you,” I hissed. My hand began trembling, my grip on the gun growing weaker with each passing second. “So what if she slept with you? It was a long time ago and you were just a warm body who never had a hold of her heart.”

He growled at me with narrowed eyes, but soon started laughing as he focused in on the shaking gun. “You can’t do it, can you? You can’t pull that trigger! You may be a useless fuck getting all you want with daddy’s money, but you don’t have the ballocks to kill a man – even when he just shot the fuck out of your family!”

Trembling with rage I applied pressure to the trigger.

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel:

Amazon / Lulu (paperback) / Lulu (ebook)

parricide tour banner

To follow the tour of ‘Parricide’ by S. Briones Lim, please click here.

 

 

Secrets, lies and memory loss

‘The Making of Nebraska Brown’ – Louise Caiola

5-star-rating

The Making of Nebraska Brown - Louise Caiola

The Making of Nebraska Brown – Louise Caiola

The last thing eighteen-year-old Ann Leigh remembers is running from her boyfriend in a thick Nebraska cornfield. This morning she’s staring down a cool Italian sunrise, an entire continent from the life she once knew. The events of the eighteen months in between have inexplicably gone missing from her memory.

All at once she’s living with Tommy, an attractive, young foreigner asking for her continued love. Though he’s vaguely familiar, she recalls a boy named Shane in America who she reluctantly agreed to marry. Juggling a new world while her old one is still M.I.A is difficult enough without the terrifying movie scenes spinning a dizzy loop in her mind: glimpses of a devastating house fire, a romance gone wrong, an unplanned pregnancy, and a fractured family – each claiming to be part of who she once was – a girl and a past somehow discarded.

Ann Leigh must collect the pieces of herself to become whole again, but she doesn’t know who to trust especially when Tommy’s lies become too obvious to ignore. And above all, her heart aches to discover what became of the child she may or may not have given birth to.

‘The Making of Nebraska Brown’ tells the story of one girl’s coming apart from the inside and the great lengths she’ll go to reclaim herself and find her way home.

About the author:

Louise Caiola

Louise Caiola

As a young girl who spent her allowance on Nancy Drew mysteries, Louise realized that one day, she might have a story of her own to tell. Maybe even more than one story. After years focused on raising her children she eventually reconnected with her passion for creative writing. She soon began to craft a large collection of short stories which were published in the inspirational online magazine, Faithhopeandfiction.com. Shortly thereafter, she authored her first novel, ‘Wishless’, a contemporary Young Adult novel, released in 2011.

Louise devotes a portion of each day to honing her skills. She has several other novels currently in various stages of development. A confirmed bibliophile, Louise enjoys reading outdoors on a warm spring day and watching her pup chase leaves on a breeze. She looks forward to meeting others who share her love of the written word and invites you to visit her blog, her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Twitter /  Web / Blog / Goodreads

Review:

An unusual story from Louise Caiola, ‘The Making of Nebraska Brown’ had me hooked straight from the beginning. At first I thought this was a story about a young woman who appears to have suffered from memory loss, but there is a lot more being offered in this narrative.

Ana (Italian version) or Ann Leigh (Nebraskan version)? The main protagonist feels completed isolated from those around her in what is apparently her life in Italy. Everyone else knows her but she does not. The loneliness and panic that Ana experiences is very believable, and coupled with the flashbacks to her life in Nebraska, the whole idea of disjointed memories leaves readers being as desperate to piece Ana back together as she is herself.

The two lives that we are presented with are very different. First, Ann Leigh in Nebraska looks to be trapped in a marriage that she doesn’t love in return, stuck in a small town and helping to run the family business, a growing diner-restaurant. On the flip side, Italian Ana lives and works with her attractive and wealthy boyfriend, living a typical Italian lifestyle and enjoying everything that is offered. When these two worlds seemingly collide in Ana’s head, she questions her Italian life and what she thinks she knows. Suddenly suspicious of her boyfriend and his apparent support towards her, I found myself hoping that Ana would find inner peace and learn what connects these two very different lives.

This is the first book I have read by Caiola and I really enjoyed it. I was very quickly drawn into the narrative and had lots of questions about where the story would go in a very short space of time. It is a very intriguing plot and with every question that Ana answers, a load more surface to be addressed. The flashbacks between past and present are seamlessly embedded into the narrative and each time Ana returns to the present, the author leaves us on a cliffhanger, desperate, like Ana, to know what happens next.

This is a great read and one I would definitely visit again. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it different to other books I have read recently. I would be interested to see what other books this author has written and am glad I was given the opportunity to read this. You can easily immerse yourself into the story and before you know it, you won’t want to put it down.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from the novel:

Tommy sat down beside me. His musky cologne smelled familiar. His espresso-colored brown hair parted over on the left side of his head, draped over his ears in dogged springiness. I’d told him I liked it shorter. I knew that, too. “Of course. We were supposed to meet there for lunch, like we always do on Tuesdays. What’s going on? Why are you playing games?”

I let my head fall into the cushion. Tears tempted me to cry them. They’d been behaving for hours now. I clamped my lids shut, breathed through my mouth. “I’m not playing. I don’t know what happened. I can’t remember why I’m here or who I am. Who you are.”

His hand fell on my knee like winter’s first snow, easy and without a sound. When he spoke, he used that same tone—sweet and calm as dawn. “Ana, it’s me. Tommy. And you’re you. We’re us. Have been for over a year.”

I wound my fingers with his, searched his face for the other half of this “us” he referred to. He pulled me close. Caramel wafted at me from inside that bag, slapping me around, calling me silly. Tommy held the small of my back in his palm. His hands were large, strong and sure, the kind of hands that had never had a frightened moment in their whole life.

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel:

Amazon / B&N

new-127_zps2b370a3b

A plodding, spooky story

‘Four Rubbings’ – Jennifer Hotes

3-star-rating

Four Rubbings - Jennifer Hotes

Four Rubbings – Jennifer Hotes

Halloween. The night the barrier between the dead and the living is as thin as muslin. Fourteen-year old Josie, haunted by the death of her mother, leads her best friends to an ancient cemetery to rub graves. Convinced she will come away with proof of her mother’s spirit at last, the evening takes an unexpected turn as the teens gravitate four ways into the haunted grounds. Set against the backdrop of the rainy Pacific Northwest, four graves will be rubbed, touching off a series of events that will rattle their once mundane lives. From the lonely World War II hero to an accused witch, the people buried beneath the stones have stories that need an ending. The journey to unravel the mysteries leaves the friends wondering if the graves would’ve been better off left alone.

Facebook / Web / Youtube / Goodreads

About the author:

Jennifer Hotes

Raised across the river from the Hanford Nuclear Reactor, Jennifer grew up looking at the world a little differently. Now she uses her unique perspective and glow-in-the-dark countenance to write Young Adult novels and illustrate for talented authors, preferably with a cat on her lap or dog at her feet. She blogs to teens because she feels the world-at-large gives them a bad shake. Her latest blog is all about finals week and how best to cope/endure.

Mrs. Hotes loves living in rainy Seattle, volunteering in her children’s schools and raising funds for Providence Hospice of Seattle. Her first novel, ‘Four Rubbings’, is out now.

She is a member of SCBWI, society of children’s book writers & illustrators and is currently painting a group of ageing  men posed in an old red truck for a book cover.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web

Review:

I found the novel ‘Four Rubbings’ different to other teenage fiction that I have read. This is a spooky story, (probably best read around Halloween!) and follows the lives of four teenagers who try to find out more about the gravestone they have, quite literally, taken a pencil rubbing from. However, the teenagers have a lot more on their plate than just finding out about the graves and this takes the form of how all of them live in dysfunctional families. As such, I found parts of it quite sad that the teenagers could not find acceptance and had more responsibilities on their shoulders than kids their age should.

The novel switches between all four teenagers so readers are always able to keep up with the mystery that each character is unravelling. At the same time, it was refreshing to read about their different interpretations on events, and, more in the second half of the novel, their changing feelings towards one another. However, at times I did find that Hotes got a little distracted by the family issues that were within each story and this certainly slowed the pace of the story for me.

Each of the lives that the characters investigate are really different. Hotes cleverly makes links to the family life that the teenagers are living with and I found myself always trying to make parallels between the two. I would have liked to read more about Seth and Blaze’s mysteries and I think these take more of a back-seat; Hotes instead brings their family life to the foreground and how this changes over the course of the novel. The truly spooky element lies with Josie, who is still mourning for her mother and the secrets she uncovers about her life, whilst at the same time learning more about her “rubbing”: the grave of a suspected witch. Josie’s actions at trying to find answers make this novel read more like a mystery and I found the climax more chilling than the rest of the story. Indeed, Hotes certainly sets the novel up for a sequel very well and I was keen to know what happens next in the story.

I enjoyed reading this novel and was keen to find out the answers to all of the little mysteries that built up in the story. I was hoping this book would have more pace and excitement, but instead this is more about feelings rather than actions. I think this would probably appeal to teenagers who specifically enjoy reading spooky stories with a good mystery but would recommend it to all as a young adult novel that is a little bit different from the rest.

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from the novel:

WHY DO PEOPLE have to mess with the dead on Halloween anyway? They’re dead. Respect the dead. Didn’t their folks teach them any better? I squint into the distance at a cluster of folks standing inside the cemetery gates.

“I’ll scare them good and give them a piece of my mind along the way,” I mumble as I stomp the three hundred or so yards it takes to reach the cemetery entrance from my caretaker’s cottage. Can’t help but think if I had just done my job in the first place, I wouldn’t be standing knee-deep in a pile of trouble right now.

Not five minutes ago I’d stood staring out the kitchen window watching a dull, dreary day change into something better. Leafless gray trees framed an orange and white fireball sky, framed it like iron gates, and that is when I’d remembered. Damn, Grace.

Ten years of watching over Lakefront Cemetery and tonight of all nights I’d forgotten to lock the gates. My forty-year-old bones felt soggy from a day of rain-chilled grave tending. Clearly, I was thinking more about a hot bath and a cup of warm cider than doing my job. Ah, well. With an hour before sunset, I’d figured I had plenty of time to put things right.

I’d found my mud-caked work boots and damp flannel coat piled on the back porch where I’d shed them an hour ago. As I shoehorned my boots onto bare feet, I’d spotted a group gathering at the cemetery entrance. I checked my watch. Five o’clock seemed awful early to start Halloween trouble, but there they were. I made out four bodies, four or five. Couldn’t tell for certain without my glasses, and I wasn’t willing to trudge back through the cottage with muddy boots to collect them up. I’d know soon enough.

As I stomp across the grounds, I rehearse what I will say. I’ll give them a lecture about respecting the dead, then shoo them off speedy quick. All worked up, I don’t pay no mind to the noise my boots make as I dodge headstones and thunder through wet leaves and mud. I want them to hear me coming and be afraid. Too bad I don’t have time to go back for my hefty flashlight, or better yet, a rusty shovel, to shake at them. Boy, the stories they could tell their friends tomorrow about the crazy cemetery lady and her wicked shovel.

“You’ll all think twice about coming around here again after I get through with you,” I spit into the wind.

As I near, I see they’re decked out in costumes. I count four of them, teenagers, of course. It’s mostly the teens that make trouble around here. I duck behind the Yessir’s family tomb to get a better look. “Sorry if I’m blocking your view, folks,” I whisper.

I steal quick peeks around the white marble structure and make out an oversized superhero, a football player, Pocahontas and some kind of dapper fella.

Pocahontas, a tiny copper-headed girl, is giving them instructions. I can’t hear everything she says, but catch phrases like, “Let a stone call you…. open your heart…. connect with the person buried underneath…”

She doesn’t sound like my typical vandal rat; I give her that much credit. I rub my chest where a knot has formed and lean in closer to catch the gist of her words.

The girl reaches into a tan leather pouch and hands around oversized pieces of paper and chunks of black chalk, not the toilet paper and spray paint I expect to see. Art supplies. My knees give out as the truth dawns on me. They’ve come to rub the stones. They’ve come to remember the dead, not hurt ‘em.

The breath I didn’t know I’d been holding bursts from my mouth. My eyes cloud over. My calloused hands ball into sweaty fists and shake. My cheeks burn with shame. I’ve been wrong about these kids, pegged them as vandals when they are bent on doing something good. I fall apart, but gather it all up again quick. I am wrong and have to atone. Good thing I’m already down on my knees.

It’s been so long since I’ve said any kind of prayer. Too long. I’m clumsy about how best to place my hands, how far to bow my head, and how to muster the words. But I close my eyes, and feel warm tears roll down my cheeks. I send a prayer up to the God I’ve been cursing for the past decade.

“Let them have a journey, Lord, a journey that begins with remembering the dead and rubbing a stone. Amen.”

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel:

Amazon / B&N / iTunes

To follow the tour of ‘Four Rubbings’ by Jennifer Hotes, please click here.