Posted in Reviews

Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was such a great gothic-style read,with intense myster(ies) and just enough of a paranormal element to send shivers down your spine. I was totally hooked, right from the beginning.

The plot summary seems complicated but it’s actually fairly straightforward and asy to grasp.

The book has two main storylines, one that takes place in 1950, at Idlewild boarding school, where four roommates bond as they try to survive their own personal issues and the terrible school itself, which is a dumping place for troubled girls. Then one of them disappears and the rumored paranormal presence at the school seems more real. In 2014, Fiona is a journalist who is obsessed with Idlewild, now closed, after her sister’s body was found there 20 years earlier. When she hears that the school is being renovated, she decides to write an article about it, but quickly becomes sucked into the mystery of Idlewild. The two stories collide as shocking discoveries are made.

I loved the setting of this one – Idlewild is a creepy, desperate place and it’s the perfect scary story setting. The supernatural element is just enough to enhance that atmosphere, but not overpower it.

I also loved how everything fit together so perfectly. It really seamlessly blends together so well and that really made the story great, not just “good.” The characters were also another great asset to the book; I can’t think of one person who wasn’t well fleshed out and interesting.

Overall, if you like creepy, spooky reads with some great twists, you will LOVE this book. I wish I could give it 10 stars.

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Posted in Book Extras, For Fun

Teaser Tuesday: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. The meme is hosted by The Purple Booker!
It is very easy to play along:
Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.

This week I’m just beginning “The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James. This book has great reviews so far, so I’m excited to get it started and see how I like it.

There was a chill of foreboding running through Fiona’s blood. She stared at the men, gathered with their heads together, their postures tense and distressed.


About the Book

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .


Posted in Reviews

Blog Tour: Gavin by Russell – Review and Giveaway!

gavin 2


GavinGavin by Russell*

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start: This book is dark. Very dark. It contains some very intense scenes involving sexual abuse and childhood abuse. Those that are looking for a light, warm-hearted read should pick another book. But for those that want to try a mystery/thriller with just a touch of horror: this book is an amazingly suspenseful thriller that will leave you begging the author for more.

The novel begins as Gavin Nolan and his partner – homicide detectives in the Chicago PD – are summoned to a crime scene in which two men are brutally murdered. The killer, who they’ve been investigating for weeks, also leaves a personal message for Gavin: “You could have saved me.” The investigation doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as Gavin wracks his brain for any connection between the victims. How are these seemingly random (and quite, frankly, douche-baggy men that no one seems to really miss) victims connected? And how doe Gavin fit in? We’re about to find out.

Like I said, this novel does not shy away from anything, from the descriptions of the crime scenes, to the events that ultimately connect all the dots. It is not for those with a weak stomach. But I couldn’t stop reading; I was sucked in from almost the very first page. The author leaves a trail that is intriguing and keeps you guessing, while handing you little clues throughout. For example, I had a theory that I formed about halfway through – I was wrong. But that’s part of the fun with these types of novels.

The personal storylines were also good. They contributed to the storyline, but didn’t take away from the mystery. And the author does a good job of advancing them throughout the story – the characters grow and develop throughout the novel in a way that is really satisfying – I hate when characters stay stagnant.

The ending also promises more from these characters, which is great. Normally, I’m not a fan of cliffhangery-type endings, but this one was done in a really great way that gave closure to the story at hand, while promising more excitement coming.

I’ll definitely be reading the next in this series.

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_XPR4892.jpgFor nearly two decades, Russell was an executive chef in the restaurant industry, in which he created succulent entrees and managed various types of kitchen operations. In the last seven years, he began to teach future culinarians how to achieve their professional goals in hands-on classroom and lecture settings. With his recent graduate work in the field of sociology, his interests center on organizational behaviorism, social theory, and food insecurity.

Russell has been writing for the majority of his life. Last year, he published a second edition of his freshman novel, The Tale of Old Man Fischer. Slipping into alternative universes allows Russell to enjoy the process of creativity from the novel’s conception to its final draft. Most importantly, inspiration is a continuous piece of his work and results from the world around him. Currently, he lives in Upstate New York with his wife, two children, and several cats.

Please visit Russell on these social media platforms:
Facebook: Russell (The Author)
Twitter: @Russell_Writer
Instagram: @Russell_Writer


Win one of NINE signed copies of the novel!


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Posted in Reviews

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Ill WillIll Will by Dan Chaon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

This book was interesting. It’s got some great mysteries (two main ones to be precise) in it, but the main character, Dustin Tillman, is a a spacy, damaged man, and the story reflects that vibe. It can be frustrating, but overall, I liked it.

The core of the book is very good and shows a lot of potential – the multiple storylines are well done and incredibly interesting.

Dustin was 13 when he and his twin female cousins, sleeping over in a camper in Dustin’s driveway before a family vacation, found their parents murdered inside the house. Dustin and Kate, one of the twins, testified against Dustin’s adopted brother, saying he killed the four adults in a Satanic ritual. Thirty years later, Rusty has been acquitted, and Dustin and his family are living peacefully in Cleveland, when one of Dustins patients presents him with an intriguing mystery: are young men in Northeastern Ohio simply drowning after two much to drink or are they the target of a serial killer? As these two worlds collide, everyone finds themselves drawn into a dangerous mystery.

The writing style of the book is not typical. It flies not only between narrators but also time periods and events, all of which come together to form the bigger picture of the two mysteries. I didn’t mind it so much, but I could see how it wouldn’t be for everyone.

Also, the ending is kind of vague. Most of the questions seem to be answered by characters at different points, but there’s no “revealing scene” to confirm, “OK so-and-so was correct, this happened.” And there are some new questions which are not answered.

I’d love to hear more thoughts on this book. I really was drawn into the story and I’d love to hear thoughts on the ending.


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Posted in Reviews

The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

The Lost Children (Detective Lucy Harwin, #1)The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Lost Children” is a dark, twisty thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last.

I know that sounds like a bit of a book cliché, but it’s the truth I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. Even after I had figured out part of the mystery, I just had to keep reading to see if I was right.

Needless to say, I loved this book.

Lucy Harwin is back at work after a three-month break, which she took after a case went wrong. On her first day back a body has appeared in an old children’s asylum, which closed in the 1970s, with the injuries resembling a botched lobotomy. Is the modern-day murder connected to the old place? If so, how.

As the modern day storyline unfolds we are also transported back to the children’s ward of the asylum to see the events which have led up to this current predicament.

The book has an intensely creepy vibe, which the author does a great job of keeping up throughout the entire novel. The crimes are brutal and aren’t for those with a weak stomach, but it really adds to the atmosphere of the novel. I mean what’s more creepy than an abandoned asylum and a possibly psychotic killer seeking revenge?

Like I said I figured out part of the ending but I wasn’t disappointed because I still didn’t have the entire picture. Once that entire picture is revealed it really is quite a ride to the end to see how everything turns out.

Also I enjoyed the personal story lines surrounding the officers just as much as I enjoyed the mystery. They weren’t overwhelming compared to the mystery, which still took center stage, but there were enough little nuggets to keep me interested throughout the book.

My only complaint is that the book ended kind of abruptly. I wish some of the storylines got more time in the end. But it looks like this will become a series, based on the author note at the end of the novel, so I will just have to wait until the next book.

And I’ll definitely be reading it.

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Posted in Reviews

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters: A NovelDead Letters: A Novel by Caite Dolan-Leach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would put this book at right around 3.5 stars. It’s a intense story which kept me reading, but much like “The Good Daughter,” “Dead Letters” had some flaws.

But overall, I did like this book, and I enjoyed guessing to see if I could figure it out (I didn’t). It kept me plenty entertained, for sure.

The story revolves around Ava Antipova, who comes from an incredibly dysfunctional family of alcoholics (including her father who left the family and started again and her mother who was diagnosed with Lewey Body Dementia and is barely able to grasp reality at times), who own a vineyard in upstate New York. She has been in Paris for the past 20 months when she gets word that her estranged twin, Zelda, has died in a barn fire. When she arrives home, not only does it come out that the fire is being labeled as “suspicious,” but her sister may have faked her death. She must follow clues Zelda left for her to find out whether her sister is dead or alive, and why she had to resort to such a drastic measure.

Some reviewers have said it’s more of a “family drama” than a mystery/thriller, so they felt let down or mislead. While this novel really is a family drama on a basic level, there is a mystery right at its core – is Zelda alive or dead? – that I think pushes it over the edge into mystery/thriller territory. I was hooked on trying to figure in out, and the author does a great job of keeping up the suspense. I flipped my opinion with each passing chapter: “No she’s definitely dead….No way, she’s alive!…..Are you kidding me? She’s dead!”

I also loved that it was set in Watkins Glen! I live about 40 minutes away, and love visiting there – and the author really gave an accurate depiction of the region, IMO.

My main issues with the book were that I really didn’t like any of the Antipovas. Like, I actively hated each of them at some point. In the book, Ava admits that all four members of the family are alcoholics, but while she can acknowledge that, she doesn’t do anything about it, so the novel is essentially like watching an alcoholic friend destroy themselves slowly while they refuse to get help. It was frustrating. For girls that seemed to have so much potential, both sisters were completely unlivable in their own ways, and I found myself rooting for the whole damn vineyard to burn down; it was probably what was best for all of them.

Also, the ending sucked. It really did. Without spoiling it, it raised more questions than answers. While the Zelda puzzle is solved, not much else is. I actually had to reread the last chapter because I came up with a new question and thought I missed something.

Basically, if you like reading a good mystery, this one is good. You’ll enjoy trying to figure it out. But if you are looking for character development or redeeming endings, they’re not here.

Moderately recommended.

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Posted in Reviews

The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward

I’m so excited to finally be able to share my love of “The Girl from Rawblood” with you all! The book is out now – don’t forget to check out the preview and giveaway for your chance to win a free copy!
The Girl from RawbloodThe Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every so often, I read a book that is so good, when I’ve finished it, I find myself wanting to read another book just like it. The experience was that good.

“The Girl From Rawblood” is one of those books.

It’s a gothic novel that gave me a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein-like vibe. And please note: it is dark and depressing, just like that novel. If you’re looking for happy endings, please find another book.

But I seriously couldn’t put this book down once I got into it. I devoured it.

The novel begins with Iris, a young girl whose father doesn’t allow her to venture outside the confines of their home, Rawblood, or have friends, since their family is haunted by a strange curse which will kill them if they invite love into their lives. The pair are the last of the Villarca line and the story then begins to tell, from their own perspectives, the story of their family and how the curse, known as “Her,” came to be.

As I’ve said, this novel is very much in the style of classic gothic novels and is a dark, sad tale which will rip your heart out in places. But it’s also a tale of the power of love and how much it pervades our lives, no matter how much we try to push it away. Love reaches all of the characters, no matter how hard they push it away.

I think some of the lower reviews were from people expecting a modern-day style novel, and it’s not. It’s very much classical literature-style. You have to go in knowing that. Also, FYI: This book does contain some scenes where animals are harmed. Not anything over-the-top, but it may give you pause.

I do have some questions about the ending, since it’s very symbolic and tries to tie together all the loose ends of the novel, but I can deal with that – most is explained and revealed, there’s just some details I need to confirm. Hopefully, once the book comes out I’ll be able to read some fan theories.

Overall, I’m really still processing this book. It will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. If you’re a gothic horror/romance fan, buy this book, yesterday. I loved it.

I will definitely be buying more from Catriona Ward.

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