Friday, September 26, 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Suspenseful and cinematic, Bittersweet exposes the gothic underbelly of an idyllic world of privilege and an outsider’s hunger to belong.

On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century; it’s the kind of place where children twirl sparklers across the lawn during cocktail hour. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted: friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.

But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact - and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.

Review:  Do you ever wonder if there are books that you were just meant to read for some reason?  Initially, I requested this book through Blogging for Books but that was only because I felt the other book selections were nowhere near what I wanted to read at the time.  The story seemed interesting but it's not the first book I would select.  Boy am I glad that I went out of my comfort zone and picked this book!

My first reading, I must've read a little over 100 pages that night.  I couldn't put the book down, it was that good.  I found myself entranced by Mabel and her friendship with rich girl Ev.  Mabel was at this particular college on a scholarship and found herself rooming with someone she never thought she would associate with.  Isn't it something we have all daydreamed or wondered about, what it would be like to know someone from a wealthy family and experience their world, even if it's just for a short period of time.  Mabel was invited to spend the Summer with Ev at her family's Summer estate.  While there, Mabel stayed with Ev at her cottage aptly named Bittersweet.  

Through the course of the story, Mabel meets all of Ev's family members and discovers little secrets about each of them along the way.  The secrets are dark and horrible and Mabel is torn about whether to tell what she knows or keep the secrets silent, as they had been for many generations.  Mabel becomes involved in a relationship with one of Ev's brothers named Galway and falls in love.  He has a secret too which she soon learns and confronts him about it.  Mabel is no saint either, she also has a dark secret which is revealed near the end of the story.

This book was a refreshing read, crafted and written so brilliantly.  No fancy language or flourishes, just good, simple writing with great attention to detail and imagery.  The characters were engaging and seemed true to life.  I could imagine watching a movie based on this book.

"I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review."


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jack the Ripper Unmasked!


WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Jack the Ripper unmasked: How amateur sleuth used DNA breakthrough to identify Britain's most notorious criminal 126 years after string of terrible murders.

Found at the scene: Russell Edwards holds the shawl he bought in 2007, allegedly handed down from a policeman who took it from the scene, which had the incriminating DNA on it
Evidence: Russell points to the part of the shawl where DNA was found

DNA evidence on a shawl found at Ripper murder scene nails killer by testing descendants of victim and suspect, identifications were made.  Jack the Ripper has been identified as Polish-born Aaron Kosminski. Kosminski was a suspect when the Ripper murders took place in 1888. Hairdresser Kosminski lived in Whitechapel and was later put in an asylum.

GUILTY: A DNA sample has proven Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper
It is the greatest murder mystery of all time, a puzzle that has perplexed criminologists for more than a century and spawned books, films and myriad theories ranging from the plausible to the utterly bizarre.  But now, thanks to modern forensic science, The Mail on Sunday can exclusively reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer responsible for  at least five grisly murders in Whitechapel in East London during the autumn of 1888.

DNA evidence has now  shown beyond reasonable doubt which one of six key suspects commonly cited in connection with the Ripper’s reign of terror was the actual killer – and we reveal his identity.  A shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims, has been analysed and found to contain DNA from her blood as well as DNA from the killer.

The landmark discovery was made after businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl at auction and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.

Using cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material and compare it to DNA from descendants of Eddowes and the suspect, with both proving a perfect match.  The revelation puts an end to the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity which has lasted since his murderous rampage in the most impoverished and dangerous streets of London.

In the intervening century, a Jack the Ripper industry has grown up, prompting a dizzying array of more than 100 suspects, including Queen Victoria’s grandson – Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence – the post-Impressionist painter Walter Sickert, and the former Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Read more:

Monday, September 1, 2014

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

There are some things you can’t leave behind…
In If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, a broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Review:  This story was well thought out and I say this because it was believable and very realistic.  This is one of those stories you could imagine seeing on tv, one of those Lifetime movies based upon a true story.  The characters were well-developed and the dialogue seemed natural instead of forced.  If this is Emily Murdoch's debut novel, she definitely succeeded in writing something worthy and meaningful, especially for it being considered a YA book.  This book will capture you from the beginning and you'll want to keep reading until you reach the very end and then some.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

About that Night by Norah McClintock

In the depths of winter, a woman wanders off in the snow. She is a popular former teacher and wife of a local policeman. A full-blown search begins. Meanwhile, Derek is staying with his new girlfriend and her parents while his family is out of town. He can't believe his luck--Jordie is the hottest girl in school, and he's going out with her. When Ronan, school bad boy and Jordie's ex-boyfriend, shows up, Jordie decides that maybe Derek isn't the one after all. But before she can end it with him, Derek disappears. Did he run away? Or did something happen to him? Is there a connection between the two disappearances? As Jordie slowly starts unraveling the truth, she finds that nothing about that night is as it seems. When she finds Derek's body, suspicion falls on her. And then on Ronan. But Jordie knows she didn't kill Derek. And she is sure Ronan didn't. So who is responsible? And why was Derek marked for death?

Review:  I won this book through Early Reviewers at   The summary of the story seemed interesting when I first read it, a mystery thriller.  I love mystery novels that keep you guessing throughout the entire story of what happened to the victims and who did it.  This book delivered on that very well.  

The author ensured that the story was exciting and intriguing from the very beginning, from the time a police detective's wife wanders off into the snow and is found with bloody knuckles to the death of main character Jordie's boyfriend, Derek.  Jordie's ex-boyfriend, Ronan, seemed like the most interesting character because of his quiet, brooding behavior which made the reader want to learn more about why he was that way.

The writing was easy to follow, laid-back and simple.  However, this book as it was intended, is definitely for the YA crowd.  There were times I felt like I was reading my kids' books and felt out of place.  I would recommend it as a good read for those 12 years and a little older.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dark Echo by F.G. Cottam

Dark Echo is an unlucky boat. Despite this knowledge, Martin Stannard falls under her spell and prepares to sail her across the Atlantic with his wealthy father. But his lover Suzanne begins exploring the yacht's past. What she finds is terrifying. 

Because this boat isn't just unlucky, it's evil. It was built for Henry Spalding, a soldier and sorcerer who committed suicide yet still casts his malevolent spell nearly a century after his death. Suzanne must uncover his last, terrible secret before Dark Echo destroys the man she loves.

Review:  The cover art is hauntingly beautiful and the mix of cursive font next to the simple font works perfectly (yes, I'm a geek, I notice things like this).

The characters are well-defined.  Martin has always lived in the shadow of his successful, adventurous father Magnus.  Suzanne seems very intelligent and has a natural inquisitive nature which lends itself well to her skill as a researcher.  She also bears a striking resemblance to a lady named Jane Boyte who becomes a part of the mystery later in the read.  When the author was describing the beauty of Suzanne and Jane, it made me think of Snow White with the short black hair, fair skin, and red lips.  Henry Spalding, a wealthy businessman and former soldier, is evil to the core; he committed several satanic ritual murders in order to obtain immortality.  He was one of the owners of Dark Echo, a luxurious yacht which harbored the horrors of the past inside it.

The plot is intricate and well-woven together.  I enjoyed the scenes of the monastery and Suzanne's trip to an old city that once flourished in the 1920s where all the socialites and wealthy businessmen went for vacation.  Like the previous book, The House of Lost Souls, by F.G. Cottam, there is a journal chronicling past events which help solve the mystery of the haunted yacht.  There are also creepy scenes throughout the book such as strange smells and cries from a dog and a baby aboard the yacht, ghosts reflected in the captain's mirror, ghosts talking to Suzanne, a very frightening barn in the countryside of France with ghosts of soldiers laughing, etc.  This book is a must-read for supernatural horror fans.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam

Just weeks after four students cross the threshold of the derelict Fischer House, one of them has committed suicide and the other three are descending into madness.

            Nick Mason’s sister is one of them. To save her, Nick must join ranks with Paul Seaton—the only person to have visited the house and survive. But Paul is a troubled man, haunted by otherworldly visions that even now threaten his sanity.

            Desperate, Nick forces Paul to go back into the past, to the secret journal of beautiful photographer Pandora Gibson-Hoare and a debauched gathering in the 1920s, and to the dark legacy of Klaus Fischer—master of the unspeakable crime and demonic proceedings that have haunted the mansion for decades.

            Because now, the Fischer House is beckoning, and some old friends have gathered to welcome Paul back. . . 

Review:  The cover is mysterious, creepy, and gorgeous all at the same time.  However, after reading the entire story, I'm still not sure who the person is supposed to be on the front cover of the hardcover edition?  I had high hopes for this book but it wasn't as great a horror story as I thought it would be.  It was more a tale about evil and how it can inhabit a home because of the evil people who dwell inside it.

The beginning started out creepy but then the story started to become chaotic as it reverted to the past to tell Nick's story which was bizarre and eerie and then Paul's story.  When it changed to Paul's story, it was confusing and I hadn't realized at first that it was taking place in the past.  Paul's past takes up most of the book which tended to drag along but it was interesting to read the lost journals of photographer Pandora who was involved with the evil men at Fischer House but suffered greatly from the guilt of what she experienced there.  This author enjoys detailing everything and like another author I just read, it got to be monotonous and made for a yawn of a read at times.

The story picked up in the last few chapters as Nick and Paul enter the Fischer House to retrieve the bones of a young boy named Peter who was sacrificed there decades earlier, to give him a proper burial.  However, the gift that Paul re-discovered about himself seemed anti-climatic.  Like other similar story lines, he realizes he's had the power all along to block out evil with his mind and overcomes the wicked homeowner.