VirginiaVirginia by William Esmont
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars, rounded up.

The premise of this book is not a novel one. How far would you go to save the life of a loved one? William Esmont masterfully depicts one man's desperate plight to save his dying spouse.

Ray Shelby knows that his wife is standing at the threshold of death's door but can't bring himself to accept her untimely demise. When a fateful encounter with a stranger at the hospital offers hope, he figures he has nothing to lose by trying out the unconventional treatment.

Or does he?

Short stories and novellas can be tricky sometimes but the author writes so brilliantly I felt as though I had read a full-length novel. The pacing was perfect and the character development flawless. I immediately sympathized with Ray and his agonizing dilemma. I was thoroughly immersed in the story from beginning to end.

I just had a couple minor issues. First, regarding Ray's "payment" options. I wondered why he hadn't followed the path of the man who had introduced him to those responsible for the treatment (although doing so would seemingly violate contractual obligations so I'm not sure how that worked for the other person, honestly). Second, I would have liked to know more about those responsible for the treatment. Who were they, exactly? How did they accomplish such miraculous feats? I wouldn't mind a follow-up story....

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Love LiesLove Lies by Evans Light
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nathan was not a believer in love at first sight until he sees Eve Burchette sitting across a crowded classroom. Without knowing anything about her, not even her name, Nathan knows that she's the one. Unfortunately, he lets her slip away, too nervous to confront her. He tries desperately to find her, to no avail.

Then several months later, a chance encounter brings him face-to-face with his one true love. This time, he's determined not to let her get away. But as time goes by, Nathan begins to wish that he had.

This story was awesome from the gripping beginning to the very satisfying ending.

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Book Recommendations - Horror *         Book Recommendations - Other

  • The Bad Box - Harvey Click
  • Kin - Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Cruelty - Edward Lorn
  • Ravenous - Ray Garton
  • The Resurrectionist - Wrath James Wright
  • The Jigsaw Man - Gord Rollo
  • Bad Games series - Jeff Menapace
  • Devil's Day - Kyle M. Scott
  • Held - Kimberly Bettes
  • The Store - Bentley Little
  • ASBO - Iain Rob Wright
  • Survivor - J. F. Gonzalez 
  • Family Night - Tim Miller
  • My Brother's Keeper - Tim Miller

* Anything by Ray Garton, Edward Lorn, Kealan Patrick Burke and Bentley Little!

Her Last Breath (Detective Kerri Blasco #2)Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thirty-three-year-old Mari Gill awakens with a sticky hand and soon realizes that she's covered in blood. Not her blood's from the dead man beside her. She quickly becomes the prime suspect in the man's murder. Her husband, prominent defense attorney Ted Curry, comes to her aid and assures her that everything is going to be fine. Mari doesn't know the man and can't remember how she ended up in his bed. Before long, she's engaged in detective work, trying desperately to piece together the puzzle and keep from being charged with murder. With the help of NYPD detective, Kerry Blasco, Mari may very well learn the secrets of that dreaded night, missing from her memory. But it might not bring her peace of mind....

I typically don't enjoy mystery stories, but this one definitely reeled me in. I didn't even realize until one day when I told myself I'd just read one quick chapter and ended up reading far more than that! I did have a hard time relating to the main character, Mari, though. I thought she was a bit standoffish at times. Then again, being a murder suspect might have a tendency to cause some stress!!!!

Bottom line, this is a great murder mystery story with a fantastic, satisfying ending. Bet you can't guess what happened that night. I sure didn't!

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Annie's RoomAnnie's Room by Amy Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an awesome ghost story with a good, creepy feel to it. At first it seemed as though it was meant for younger audiences. It had an R.L. Stine's Goosebumps sort of feel to it. And didn't. It grew progressively dark and disquieting.

Seventy-one years ago, Annie Garrett lived in the same house, within the same room, as Annie Riley, whose family just moved in from New York. Poor Annie Riley had a biking accident which left both of her legs in hard casts. She has been bedridden since her arrival to the new house. When she sees a woman wearing a white dress near the garden, her mother is quick to dismiss her sighting as part of her overactive imagination. After all, being holed up in a room with nothing to do can get those creative juices flowing, right? Only, what happens when other members of her family begin experiencing supernatural occurrences?

Written from shifting perspectives, between the two Annies, the momentum of this story builds with each chapter. The transformations of certain characters are startling and their actions even more shocking. This story is suspenseful and compelling.

It's the perfect quick read for a chilly, spooky October night!

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Rebel SeedRebel Seed by Eugenie Laverne Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such an uplifting story!

Rebel Seed tells the story of Marcus Allen, the "wash belly" baby (a Jamaican term meaning the last child born) of a good, respectable family. As the youngest, he is spoiled and always gets his way. But the lenience and coddling he receives during childhood work to his detriment as he grows into an out-of-control, selfish, manipulative man.

Marcus enters the seedy world of drugs, gangsters and crime, turning his back on those who love him. His life descends further into despair and hopelessness as his self-destructive behaviors compel him to lie, cheat, steal and maim.

He becomes a drowning man, struggling to stay afloat of his perilous lifestyle.

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Told through Marcus' point of view, readers are taken on a journey into the madness and get a glimpse of a lifestyle fraught with addiction, substance abuse, violence, immorality and deceit. Ms. Mitchell's masterful story-telling will keep you on the edge of your seat, wanting to know what will happen to Marcus and those he so callously hurts in the process of satisfying his selfish needs. Each character is unique and so well-developed, you'll feel as though you personally know them. You'll care for them and worry about them. Even Marcus, with his many faults* and flaws, will earn your compassion.

This is a poignant story of one man's struggle to find and redeem himself. It is a heartwarming and inspirational tale of triumph in the face of adversity. I look forward to the next motivational book by this extremely talented author.

* He does plenty of truly terrible, horrific things

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A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True StoryA Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a simple story that can be read in a single day. The scenes constantly switch from different time periods, telling the stories of the two main characters--a technique I generally don't enjoy--but it worked perfectly here.

In 1985, Salva is an eleven-year-old boy from Southern Sudan, sitting in a classroom. Suddenly, gunfire erupts outside. The teacher tells the boys to run, run into the bush. Salva wants to go home to his family, but everyone is scrambling away from men with guns. He runs and runs, hoping that somehow he'd find his family at some point. The journey to safety is long, arduous and fraught with many dangers.

“He felt as though he were standing on the edge of a giant hole—a hole filled with the black despair of nothingness.”

In 2008, Nya, an eleven-year-old girl who is also from Southern Sudan, makes a daily trek to a faraway pond, in the baking sun, to fetch brown muddy water for her family. It takes half the day to get there and the other half of the day to get back. When the rain stops and the pond dries up, her family must walk for three days to camp by a lake. It, too, is dried up, but they dig deep into the claybed for whatever muddy water they can get.

Salva's story is truly heartbreaking. He is one of the "lost boys," a name given to a group of more than twenty thousand young boys who were displaced and/or orphaned during the second Sudanese War. It's unfathomable to imagine the horrors those youngsters faced as they walked hundreds of miles in search of refugee camps.

I kept thinking about all the things we take for granted, like a simple glass of clean water and home security. Imagine being uprooted in a moment of sudden chaos. You have nothing but the clothes on your back and you wander, if you're lucky, with others, in hopes of finding shelter from the rebels and the lions. Food and water are scarce. You must cross the Nile River, with its turbulent current and vast population of crocodiles. Then you must cross the desert on shoes that offer no protection, or bare-footed. The mere thought is exhausting, really. And yet so many people had to embark on such perilous journeys, propelled by little more than the will to survive.

I loved how everything came together at the end and delivered such an inspirational message of hope and perseverance. I highly recommend this book. It reminded me of a movie I saw a couple years ago entitled, The Good Lie, which is an excellent movie.

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My Brother's KeeperMy Brother's Keeper by Tim Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is simply heartbreaking. Six-year-old Simon has autism and is prone to long bouts of screaming fits and tantrums. His twelve-year-old brother has anger issues but is his loyal caregiver and protector. Their mother and sole guardian, Nadine, is fed up with the stress and her lack of control. She has grown bitter and resentful. Drinking certainly doesn't help. So what's a highly frustrated single mother to do?

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Nadine unleashes her fury upon her children in horrifying ways. Be warned, this book graphically depicts the abuse and horrors that the two young brothers endure at the hands of their mother.

I read this story straight through in one sitting--that's how compelling it was. It evoked feelings of sympathy, empathy, outrage, sadness and anger. Nadine's actions are undeniably reprehensible, but I found the response by the police and child protective services caseworker equally deplorable. Worse, though this story is a work of fiction, I know that there are actual monsters preying on children in the guise of parents and guardians. It truly boils my blood. I don't think the author should be criticized for tackling such a difficult subject. Most people are too removed from such horrors to acknowledge that terrible things like this happen all too often.

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Kudos to Tim Miller for giving us a glimpse into the madness. It is a gut-wrenching portrayal of the depravity that unfortunately exists and is often minimized or overlooked completely.

Readers will live through the cruelty and maltreatment the brothers sustain, but will also have Nadine's perspective, which I thought was very well handled. Though it was difficult to feel much pity for her, personally, I could see how her situation and failure to reach out to the proper resources led to her downfall.

This book will definitely stir up plenty of emotions. It is well-written and absolutely riveting.

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The BackwoodsThe Backwoods by Edward Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Done at last! I can't believe how long it took me to get through this book. I thought I'd be giving it two stars, but it picked up a bit towards the end.


2.5 stars
I had been looking forward to trying an Edward Lee book, but I'm not too sure that I selected the right one. Maybe it was my mindset but I couldn't get into this one at all, really, until the final twenty-five percent or so (and possibly because I was excited to be so close to finally finishing)! Seriously, this book took over almost three months for me to suffer through read. I thought for sure that it would get my lowest rating, but the ending was satisfying enough to enable me to round up to a solid three stars.

So why didn't this one work for me? First, I didn't care much for any of the characters. I wasn't intrigued by the storyline, either. It just didn't capture and hold my attention. The writing, at times, was so poor and at other times, quite brilliant. It was as though two authors were collaborating and didn't bother to synchronize their work. Also, part of the story was predictable.

I admit, I absolutely hated, hated, hated Lee's obsession with boobs. I guess there are no average-looking women in Agan's Point--only buxom porn-star lookalikes and morbidly obese trolls. The Chief of Police (far from the perfect male specimen, mind you) lusts after an underage girl while referring to his wife as a "...pale pile of human lard." Surely it's meant to be humorous, but it in my opinion, it just diminished the quality of Lee's writing, rendering it amateurish and too childish.

Okay...enough of my complaints.

The story really wasn't that bad. Patricia White returns to her childhood home in Agan's Point after her sister's husband is freakishly murdered. Home to a peculiar group of people known as "The Squatters," Agan's point is usually a safe, peaceful place. Suddenly, people are being murdered, supposedly due to their involvement in manufacturing/selling crystal methamphetamine. Before long, Patricia finds herself caught up in the danger.

The majority of the story dragged on but the ending was good. I don't really consider this to be a horror novel, but more of a mystery story with some horrific scenes. The gore was decent at times. I think I'll try another Edward Lee book at some point, but not any time soon.

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TrailerTrailer by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kay and Tony, her eight-year-old son with Down syndrome, are stranded on the road during a nasty snowstorm. She is thrilled to spot a nearby trailer. After all, she can find shelter therein and get some help...right? But then Bugs Bunny shows up. Well, not Bugs, exactly, but something peculiar that reminds Kay of the way the cartoon rabbit tunnels through the ground.

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Something sinister lurks beyond the trail leading to the trailer. But I'm not going to tell you what....

As always, Edward Lorn has created a highly imaginative, gripping tale of suspense. I typically don't enjoy short stories as much, but Lorn's brilliant writing and storytelling delivers quite a punch. My only complaint is that curiosity got the best of me and I would have liked to know more about the origin of the Bugs Bunny imposters....

Okay, I'll say no more.

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The HousematesThe Housemates by Iain Rob Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Damien Banks believes that he's been given a fantastic opportunity to compete for two million pounds cash against eleven others in a ten-day reality show competition. But soon the sinister voice of "The Landlord" fills him and his housemates with dread as they realize that the stakes have changed and that they are now competing for their lives.

Fast-paced and incredibly entertaining, I really enjoyed this story. The characters are realistic and relatable. I pictured each one in my mind and quickly decided which ones were decent and which ones were unscrupulous. Then, situations changed and created uncertainty as to which characters were trustworthy. It added nicely to the suspense. I admit, I was definitely rooting for Damien.

I enjoyed the ending, though wish that Wright had further elaborated and provided more post-competition details. Then again, the way it ended, I wouldn't be surprised to find the story continued in a sequel. We can hope, anyway! :)

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The Boy in the Striped PajamasThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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My daughter read this book with her eighth-grade class and encouraged me to give it a try. She said that it would make me cry. Well, it didn't...but it was a good, enjoyable story nonetheless. Perhaps "enjoyable" isn't the best word to describe this book, considering the subject matter (Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz). Nine-year-old Bruno lives with his mother, father and sister in a huge house in Berlin. One day, much to his surprise and great consternation, the maid packs up his belongings and informs him that the family is moving. Bruno is miserable at his new, smaller house. From his bedroom window, he sees a "nasty-looking place"--a barbed-wire fence enclosing hundreds of boys and men who are all dressed in striped pajamas. Curious, he inquires about this odd group of people. "...they're not people at all, Bruno," his father (the commandant) informs him. Before long, Bruno begins exploring the area and walks over to the fence. He finds and befriends an emaciated boy his age. He visits him often, bringing him food and snacks whenever possible. The boy in the striped pajamas becomes his well-guarded secret. Kept in ignorance, Bruno has no comprehension of the things that happen on the other side of the fence. But one day he will find out the hard way.

This is a simplistic, yet engaging, story. Towards the end I was truly overcome with a sense of dread as I anticipated the events to come. The bitter irony and poetic justice is horrifying and memorable. It's a poignant reminder that true evil exists in the world. But of course, "...nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age." Hmmmm....

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My Dear StrangerMy Dear Stranger by Sarah Ann Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 - 4 stars

It pains me that I am unable to give this book five stars. I truly wanted to love this story. I definitely found it intriguing and it kept me guessing, but mostly I found it frustrating. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the author, too, so I feel awful for not liking this one as much as the books in the I am Her series.

Sadie is a twenty-eight-year-old woman with a husband, Alex, and a six-year-old son, Jamie. While Alex and Jamie are away for the weekend, Sadie takes the opportunity to pull out her old hatbox full of nostalgic tidbits and mementos. Within the box are two books--a spiral-bound notebook diary and a teal blue silk journal. On the verge of a breakdown, Sadie has purchased five extra-large cups of coffee and eight packages of cigarettes to help her cope with facing her past.

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Nope, Sadie hasn't exactly had a charmed childhood/young adulthood. Her parents--though loving--are too neglectful. They give her too much space and freedom. When she's sixteen, a man visits her bedside. He doesn't harm her and she's not disturbed by his presence. Every so often he visits, becoming her dear stranger. It isn't long before their relationship evolves into more than an innocent friendship. Sadie's stranger visits her for years, unbeknownst to anyone. In the process, he causes her an avalanche of emotions, including love, joy and anguish.

Who is Sadie's dear stranger? That question taunted me throughout the story. I even wondered if he were simply a figure of her imagination. This wasn't what was frustrating for me, though. On the contrary, it added to the air of mystery and suspense and kept me immersed in the story.

What I found terribly frustrating was Sadie herself. Quite frankly, she was a mess. And I truly and honestly tried hard to overlook her shortcomings. I knew that she must have had a troubled life but I couldn't excuse her self-destructive behaviors and worse, her denial of those behaviors. (view spoiler)
It seemed as if Sadie didn't make much of an effort to improve her life--she just let all the doom and gloom consume her. Thankfully, having no knowledge of what it's like to face everything she went through, maybe I'm just unable to show empathy/sympathy. It was just incredibly frustrating to read about her descent. Also, I found it too repetitive at times.

I also had some trouble following Sadie's journal entries, as they are not all numbered properly and I wondered if I had missed something. There are two number twelve (XII) entries and no thirteen (XIII). And at one point, jumps from sixteen (XVI) to the second twelve (XII) then to nineteen (XIX). I don't know why I'm so picky and noticed this, but it did throw me off a bit.

Anyway, I don't mean to make this book sound poorly written or too exasperating because it's actually a great story. Walker is an incredible author and I generally enjoy her characters but I didn't bond with Sadie at all. I admit that when everything became clear at the end it helped to minimize her faults to a certain extent but by then I was just too drained. I liked her husband Alex a lot, though. He has the patience of a saint! I also liked a character named Patrick whose personality was very well-written and believable. (view spoiler)

In addition to a riveting storyline, Walker's writing is impressive. There is a poem within the story that is beautifully haunting. Although I personally didn't care too much for Sadie, she is written with such a descriptive depth that I could almost feel her emotions as if I'd somehow assumed her identity. That's talent.

I will absolutely read more books by Walker. I might even read this one over one day. Maybe it was my own frame of mind preventing me from totally loving it. So please don't let this review turn you away from this book. It definitely is worth reading.

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Cause She's a Good GirlCause She's a Good Girl by Groovy Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won a copy of this book through an Amazon giveaway and was excited to give it a try. First, let me just say that the cover does not match the story. I was expecting more of a psychological thriller/dark romance type of book. I think I would classify it more as a mystery/thriller novel. Whatever the classification, I'm happy to report that I truly enjoyed the story.

Teenager Piper Banion comes from a single-parent home with an abusive mother. After she notifies the authorities about a terrible crime her mother, Connie, has committed, she is hailed a hero but soon flees her hometown in search of anonymity.

Five years later, Piper is living with her good friend Shelly when she she learns that Connie has been released from prison for good behavior. Having little doubt that her mother would still be seething with rage, Piper accepts Shelly's invitation to head to her hometown in California.

It turns out that Shelly is from an affluent family and has a five-year-old daughter, whom she left in the care of her parents. Piper is welcomed into the family home with open arms and begins to bond with Shelly's family members, including her Prince-lookalike cousin, nicknamed Oz.

Though in sunny California now, things aren't as picture-perfect as it seems. A serial killer is on the loose in the area. Then Piper starts receiving strange phone calls. Is there a connection? Soon Piper suspects that she may know the identity of the killer. But that knowledge may very well endanger her life....

The story is well-paced and very entertaining, though to be honest, I wish that the author didn't reveal who the killer was so soon. It would have been better to keep readers guessing, in my opinion.

The one issue I have about this book is that within numerous spots throughout the story, the writing switches from past to present tense with the interjection of a narrative voice. I thought it disrupted the natural flow of the story (though not enough to render it unenjoyable).

The characters are realistic and relatable, each with their share of strengths and weaknesses. I especially liked Piper. The ending brought everything together nicely and, though bittersweet, it was good and satisfying.

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The Bad BoxThe Bad Box by Harvey Click
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best horror story I've read in a long while. Review to come....


WOW! When I start a review with "wow," you can be sure that I thoroughly enjoyed the book! This one had it all--excellent writing, a unique and imaginative storyline, suspense, action, adventure, mystery, horror and gore.

I was immediately drawn into this incredible story as I met the mysterious young Angel, a little girl who emerges from some sort of underground dwelling. My curiosity was instantly piqued. Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she alone? Who is her strange older male friend, the one she calls Baby Beddybye? I would have to wait a bit for the answers.

In the meantime, I found myself immersed in the life of Sarah Temple, who recently left her abusive boyfriend, college professor Peter Bellman. Sarah is now living in a dirty little apartment within a shady area amidst some peculiar neighbors. When Peter's attempt at reconciliation fails miserably, the inebriated man decides to be spiteful by hooking up with Sarah's attractive (but largely reclusive) neighbor. Sarah is greatly annoyed by his shameful behavior, but somewhat concerned after days pass without him leaving the woman's apartment. When he finally emerges, he is a strange new man.

With the help of a mutual friend, Sarah begins investigating the bizarre encounter. What she discovers will endanger her life, plunging her deep into a supernatural/occult nightmare.

I truly savored this amazing, original story. The characters are all well-developed and believable. The writing is brilliant, with such rich descriptive language and imagery. Here's a small sample:

"A stench of damp dirt and worms and fungus and rotting animals belched up from the dark bowels."
"Where Baby walked, a trail of hallucinations followed in his wake, as if he warped the texture of reality around him."

My review doesn't do this book justice. All I can add is this: If you're a fan of horror, do yourself a favor and read this awesome book. With Halloween just around the corner, you can't go wrong with this one!

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Panacea: A Novella of HorrorPanacea: A Novella of Horror by Adam Light
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do to save the life of your true love?

Rob Arnold, an elderly man embittered by the inability to enjoy his golden years with his loving wife, Molly, who is on her deathbed, sees a commercial for a "cure-all" elixir. Desperate, Rob purchases the wonder drug, praying that it will "beat the pants off cancer," as claimed. Molly is fading fast and this drug is her last hope. He administers the strange medication to Molly and....

Curious to know more? You should be! This short story has an intriguing premise, is well-written and is greatly engrossing. Short stories can be tricky at times, but Adam Light does not disappoint.

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Ashley BellAshley Bell by Dean Koontz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an incredible story! I feel as though it took me on an amazing adventure from which I've returned satisfied and refreshed. What more can you ask for from a book? To think, I wasn't sure about this novel for a good part of the first 55-60% or so. I thought it was too much mystery and not enough horror, which I was expecting. I still wouldn't classify this book as a horror novel, but it's not quite a mystery either. Let's just say that it's pretty brilliant and leave it at that for now!

Updated 09/23/16

Now here's a story that threw me for a loop. This book is roughly twice as long as the average book I read. At the 55% mark--in the time it could have taken me to read an entire different novel--I felt greatly disappointed. I didn't know where the story was headed but it was surely taking its time getting there.

Don't get me wrong, the writing is great. The author is Dean Koontz, after all. Personally, I'm not too fond of mystery novels and that's what the full first half of this book was to me. I was beginning to think that the main character, Bibi Blair was little more than an older, surfer-chick version of Nancy Drew. But I must admit that certain events within this story were intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages. I'm very glad that I didn't give up on this one.

So what's all the fuss about?

Twenty-two-year-old Bibi Blair is a young woman with an incredibly bright future. Suddenly, she begins experiencing some debilitating symptoms. Fearful that she may have suffered some some sort of stroke, her mother rushes her to the hospital. The diagnosis is far worse than they can imagine. Bibi has an exceedingly rare form of brain cancer and has, at best, one year to live. Bibi isn't devastated, however.

"...Really just one year? We’ll see.”

Defiantly, Bibi challenges the doctor's grim prognosis. Soon something extraordinary happens and the doctors find, to their shock and disbelief, that Bibi is completely cancer-free.

Or is she?

Bibi embarks on a fascinating journey, determined to find the answers surrounding her perplexing medical miracle. Along the way, she becomes entangled in a perilous conspiratorial plot involving occult, supernatural forces.

The story retains its flair of mystery but evolves into an epic adventure, full of action and suspense. Koontz masterfully weaves an incredibly engrossing tale as readers follow Bibi on her valiant path of self-discovery. It's hard to believe a story that started out so dauntingly slow--and dare I say, a bit boring, evolved into one so unique and mesmerizing.

I know many readers have given up on this one and I pity them for missing out on such a great tale. Perseverance will pay off, I promise!

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The Fourth MonkeyThe Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5+ stars!

An ARC of this book was provided to me for my honest opinion.

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"...They watched me with pride. Their son, their joy. I’d look back at the [sic] myself at that tender age. I’d look back at them under that tree, all in smiles. I’d look back and picture their necks sliced from ear to ear, blood pouring from the wounds and pooling in the grass beneath them. And I would laugh, my heart fluttering, I would laugh so."

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For years, the infamous "Four Monkey Killer," aka 4MK, has eluded law enforcement officials. The killer plays a game of sorts, capturing his victims and sending packages containing their body parts. First, an ear ("hear no evil"), next the eyes ("see no evil"), then the tongue ("speak no evil") and finally, the victim is killed.

Detective Sam Porter and his partner, Nash, get a break in the case when a man is struck and killed by a bus. The man was carrying a diary and a familiar package--identical to the others that had been delivered to the victims' families. In the package, as expected, is a severed human ear, leading authorities to wonder whether the Four Monkey Killer's reign of terror is over.

Of course, there's still the matter of the missing victim whose ear has been neatly removed from her head. And so begins the hunt for the young fifteen-year-old girl.

And so begins an incredible story!

I'm not too keen on crime drama stories. When I first began reading, I thought perhaps the focus would be on the detective work and crime solving aspect and that it wouldn't really hold my attention. Boy was I wrong. This story is so well written and intriguing that even the police work portion kept me fully engrossed. Though I admit, I devoured the pages from the diary that give readers a view of the killer's past and upbringing. It was so dark, twisted and depraved (right up my alley!). The story alternates between the detectives' efforts to find the victim and the excepts from the diary. The author executes this technique masterfully--the story never feels disrupted or disjointed, but flows perfectly.

The characters are realistic and well-developed. I instantly took a liking to Porter and his partner, Nash, who reminded me of Pierce and Hunnicutt, respectively, from the old television show, "MASH."

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“Elementary, my dear Watson,” Porter said.
“No, Whatney Vale is a high school.”
Nash chuckled. “I love this guy. Can we keep him?”
“The captain will kill me if I bring home another stray,” Porter said.

There is a fair amount of humor to break up the tension. It's just the right amount in all the appropriate places.

There is even a decent amount of gore, but nothing over-the-top--just enough to provide a good picture of what's happening/what has happened in the past. The writing is rich and descriptive. I felt like I was watching the scenes unfold in my mind like a movie.

I have to say, as much as I liked Porter and Nash, I was also rooting for the Four Monkey Killer. It takes a truly talented author to get readers so involved in the story that they can sympathize with both friend and foe. The killer in this story is clever and sophisticated. He reminded me of a younger version of Hannibal Lecter, minus the cannibalism.

This story is truly brilliant. Action-packed and suspenseful, it kept me guessing. There are some great twists and the most satisfying ending! I highly recommend this remarkable story.

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The Boy on the BeachThe Boy on the Beach by David Brian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After stepping away from her abusive husband Brad, Juliet Carlson finds herself alone on the beach, enjoying the tranquil sounds of nature at the shore. Her solitude is interrupted by the not-too-distant sounds of music and talking. Juliet grows curious and wanders towards what she believes is a group of partying locals. What she finds will forever change her life.

I often find short stories unsatisfying. This one, however, felt as complete and fulfilling as a full-length novel. The characters are well-developed, the story is perfectly paced and the ending left no questions or qualms. The writing and storytelling are brilliant and kept me thoroughly engrossed.

This is the first book I've read by David Brian, but it certainly won't be the last.

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22918 (Held, #3)22918 by Kimberly A. Bettes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young journalist visits the Potosi Correctional Center where serial killer, Lester Wine, is on death row awaiting his execution. The journalist is eager, anxious--even nervous--to hear what this infamous killer has to say. He has come to get the entire story in hopes that it will further his career. The young journalist will not be disappointed. He will get far more than he bargained for....

When I realized that this book was part of the Held series, I just had to read it right away. I'm a fan of Kimberly Bettes and knew that I wouldn't be disappointed. I definitely wasn't!

Though, I must say, this book lacks some of the suspense and mounting dread that was present within the first two books. It is not quite as gory, though it certainly contains plenty of gruesome scenes of violence. I think the fact that it's an account of several killings as opposed to the focus being on a single captive struggling to survive diminishes the emotional attachment. There weren't any characters with whom I bonded or felt compelled to care for/worry about.

Despite this contrast to the first two books, I thought this story was deeply engrossing. It was intriguing to hear the killer discuss his childhood and the events which led to his immoral choices. There were even a few moments where I felt some pity for him. The story is believable--I could see how such circumstances could give rise to someone so cold-hearted and violent. Bettes did a superb job creating a detailed history for Lester and offering her readers an fascinating journey into the mind of a killer.

The ending was great, too!

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BittenBitten by Matt Shaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One night, while driving home, Adam spots a stranded female motorist. Good Samaritan that he is, Adam offers to give her a ride. No good deed goes unpunished, right? The female, dubbed "Helen of Troy" by Adam, shows her appreciation by biting Adam's neck. Fortunately for Adam, another motorist interrupts the attack. Unfortunately for Adam, his life is about to change....

Slow-moving for the first two-thirds of the book, the pace picked up toward the end and the story finally got interesting. This was definitely not Matt Shaw's best writing.

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We are US... (I Am Her..., #3)We are US... by Sarah Ann Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This third book in the I Am Her... series further explores the lives of Suzanne and Z. Though this is a stand-alone story, I highly suggest that readers read the first two books to get a thorough understanding of Suzanne's tragic upbringing and Z's role in helping her to overcome her appalling past.

Tragic is the perfect word to describe Suzanne's life. Years of abuse--physical, mental and emotional--by people charged with caring and protecting her has left her battling her inner demons. She aches for happiness, longs for normality; but she is a broken woman.

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This time around, life's pressures prove too difficult to cope with and Suzanne is ready to give up.

"So, even though we were together and you loved me, I still felt like shit all the time about myself, while you're like the anti-shit.

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The first half of the story deals with Suzanne's struggle to gain self-worth and embrace the unconditional love of her amazingly patient and devoted husband, Z. While the story is surely well-written and compelling, I have to admit that I grew frustrated by Suzanne's insecurities and senseless decisions. So many times, I had to suppress the urge to strangle her...

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...while at the same time, I felt the need to just hug her.

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It was emotionally draining, but not in a bad way, mind you. You see, you have to understand Suzanne and her fragile state to truly appreciate her dilemmas. And I have to say, I truly love this crazy, screwed-up character that Sarah Ann Walker has ingeniously created.

The latter part of the story, in my opinion, is where Suzanne faces her ultimate test. Situations push her patience and sanity to the limit. I won't give anything away, but I feel that the author did a superb job wrapping up this bittersweet, emotional story. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Suzanne and Z (and even Mack and the Kaylas) will always be some of my all-time favorite characters.

Excellent job, Ms. Walker. This series is unforgettable.

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Suicide Forest (World's Scariest Places, #1)Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ethan Childs and a group of young adults, including his girlfriend, Mel, decide to camp out at the infamous Aokigahara Jukai in Japan (commonly referred to as the Suicice Forest). It is a place where many people go to commit suicide. Tomo, an obnoxious, immature young guy within the group is anxious to find a body hanging from one of the trees, while others, including Mel, just want to find a campsite, spend the night and get out of there. As expected, things don't go as smoothly as planned and soon members of the group begin to go missing one by one. Before long, the remaining people realize that they're lost in the forest and contacting help may not be an option.

For the most part, this was a good story. I just felt that it dragged on too much and a lot of time was wasted spent on extraneous background information and drama between the characters. (view spoiler)

It wasn't as action-packed or suspenseful as I had hoped. It's not that it was boring--it was entertaining, just not as eerie and creepy as it could have been. In fact, it wasn't until the very end when there was any real action. That part was very good and engrossing. I just wish that the rest of the story could have been as interesting. And sadly, I didn't like the epilogue at all.

Overall, the writing is good and the author seems talented. I think maybe I was just expecting more from this book. It had great potential that, for me, went unfulfilled.

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Older Reviews

  • Shhh...Gianna's Side - M. Robinson (Dark Fiction)
  • The Truth About Mack - Jettie Woodruff (Dark Fiction)
  • The Thing About Scorpions - Tiffany Nicole Smith (Thriller)
  • Washed - Eugenie Mitchell (Christian, Inspirational)
  • Rebel Seed - Eugenie Mitchell (Christian, Inspirational)
  • Philanthropic Ways - Eugenie Mitchell  (Christian, Inspirational)
  • A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness - (JUST BRILLIANT)!
  • Meat - Joseph D'Lacey (Thriller)
  • Heaven Calling - Matt Shaw (Drama)
  • I am Her series - Lisa Ann Walker (Dark Fiction)
  • Defending Jacob - William Landay (Drama)
  • The Help - Kathryn Stocket (Drama)
  • The Good Father - Noah Hawley (Drama, Thriller)
  • God-Shaped Hole - Tiffanie DeBartolo (Romance)