A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

H.H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil by Adam Selzer- Feature and Review


America's first and most notorious serial killer and his diabolical killing spree during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil is the first truly comprehensive book examining the life and career of a murderer who has become one of America’s great supervillains. It reveals not only the true story but how the legend evolved, taking advantage of hundreds of primary sources that have never been examined before, including legal documents, letters, articles, and records that have been buried in archives for more than a century.

Though Holmes has become just as famous now as he was in 1895, a deep analysis of contemporary materials makes very clear how much of the story as we know came from reporters who were nowhere near the action, a dangerously unqualified new police chief, and, not least, lies invented by Holmes himself.

Selzer has unearthed tons of stunning new data about Holmes, weaving together turn-of-the-century America, the killer’s background, and the wild cast of characters who circulated in and about the famous “castle” building. This book will be the first truly accurate account of what really happened in Holmes’s castle of horror.

Exhaustively researched and painstakingly brought to life, H. H. Holmes will be an invaluable companion to the upcoming Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio movie about Holmes’s murder spree based on Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.



H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City DevilH. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil by Adam Selzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

H.H. Holmes: The True Story of the White City Devil by Adam Selzer is a 2017 Skyhorse Publishing publication.

Dubbed the “First American Serial Killer’, H.H. Holmes has garnered a great deal of attention in the past, and has been the subject of documentaries and bestselling books. But, recently, the interest in Holmes has spiked.

Just this afternoon, I saw a post on social media claiming a letter had been found in a family Bible, allegedly written by Holmes, expressing remorse for his heinous crimes.

There were also recent headlines involving the suspicion that Holmes faked his own execution, prompting an exhumation of his body.

In the not so distant future, Holmes will be the subject a feature film, starring Academy award winner, Leonardo DiCaprio.

So, with the flurry of rumors and eye catching headlines keeping the notorious serial killer in the public eye, your interest in Holmes might be piqued. If you are looking for a good book that will detail the life of one of the most prolific con men in history, as well as the man who carries the debatable moniker of being America’s first serial killer, this book might be a good place to start.

While I still highly recommend Erik Larson’s book on Holmes, and many of you would probably grab it first because of the bestseller status and the author’s success, I can tell you the book spends nearly as much time detailing the world fair as it does on Holmes. While it was a very good, educational, and interesting book, its focus was not solely on Holmes, whereas this book keeps Holmes as it’s one and only focus. (This author tended to disagree with Larson’s account, but I still think Larson has the killer’s psychology figured more accurately)

The only downfall, and I find it hard to complain about such a thing, especially in true crime, is that it is perhaps too comprehensive.

It is obvious the author has done meticulous research, and has named his sources, providing so much information, at times it got bogged down in minutiae.

The author’s opinion seems to differ from most others, in that he feels Holmes killed out of necessity, rather than any thrill he got committing of the act itself, and he disputes some other common assumptions as well. He deftly lays out his arguments with facts and lots of details, that could support his theory.

But, whether or not you agree with his assessment of Holmes’ reasons for mass murder, the sheer volume of information is mind boggling and paints a picture of Holmes that despite the author’s best efforts to convince me otherwise, only solidified my view of him. Holmes was a grifter, a con man, and a cold- blooded killer. His schemes and cons were outrageous, but so often he got away with them, far longer than he should have.

Even though I was quasi-familiar with the case, I still found myself shaking my head at the horrific way he committed his crimes and, frequency of them, not just the murders, but the con man games as well. Despite some recent claims to the contrary, the man never showed the slightest bit of remorse.

If nothing else, this book paints a very clear picture of Holmes and the author did do an amazing job of bringing him to life, which really gave me the creeps.

It took me a while to get through this one, and I didn’t just sit down and read it through cover to cover, like I do most of my books. I went through it a little at a time, but I’m glad I decided to stick it out, despite the slow going.

I would check out Larson’s version of events as well, in order to get a well -balanced look from all angles. (There are other books, but since I’ve not read them, I can’t speak to their accuracy) I’ll also leave it up to you to decide if you agree with this author’s assessment of Holmes’ psychopathy, or his alternate theories, as well, but for an enlightening view of Holmes, a complete outline of his crimes, and how he was ultimately captured, I recommend making this book your first stop.





Adam Selzer is the proud coiner of the immortal phrase "you don't have to be smart to be a smartass, but it helps." He writes humorous books (both fiction and non) for readers of all ages by day and runs ghost tours in Chicago by night. If you can find two cooler jobs than that, take 'em! He is one of those people you hear about on the news who has to choose between paying off student loans and having a health care plan, and occasionally claims to be the third cowboy from the left in the famous "lost thunderbird photo." He is also credited by film historians as having inspired the film "Bedtime for Bonzo," which starred Ronald Reagan and a chimp. People who point out that said movie was released decades before he was born just don't know enough about quantum physics. Adam enjoys standing in long lines for tickets, and hopes to one day travel back in time to wait in line overnight for tickets to see a Charles Dickens reading. See him online at http://www.adamselzer.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jackie's Girl by Kathy McKeon- Feature and Review


New York Times Bestseller
An endearing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who spent thirteen years as Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant and occasional nanny—and the lessons about life and love she learned from the glamorous first lady.

In 1964, Kathy McKeon was just nineteen years old and newly arrived from Ireland when she was hired as the personal assistant to former first lady Jackie Kennedy. The next thirteen years of her life were spent in Jackie's service, during which Kathy not only played a crucial role in raising young Caroline and John Jr., but also had a front-row seat to some of the twentieth century’s most significant events.

Because Kathy was always at Jackie’s side, Rose Kennedy deemed her “Jackie’s girl.” And although Kathy called Jackie “Madam,” she considered her employer more like a big sister who, in many ways, mentored her on how to be a lady. Kathy was there during Jackie and Aristotle Onassis’s courtship and marriage and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, dutifully supporting Jackie and the children during these tumultuous times in history.

A rare and engrossing look at the private life of one of the most famous women of the twentieth century, Jackie’s Girl is also a moving personal story of a young woman finding her identity and footing in a new country, along with the help of the most elegant woman in America.


MY REVIEW: Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy FamilyJackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy Mckeon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jackie’s Girl by Kathy McKeon is a 2017 Gallery Books publication.

Where were you when it happened?

This question lingered for five years, then ten, then fifty…

This is a memoir, so up front you should know this book is about Kathy McKeon’s life first and foremost, and what an interesting life it has been.

I usually approach books like this one with extreme caution. A famous person's name attached to a personal memoir could be nothing more than a way to quickly cash in, and those sorts of books are often shallow and poorly written.

However, I had a good feeling about this one, and of course, like many other people out there I loved and admired Jackie Kennedy, and was pulled in by the opportunity to witness a side of her few were privy to.

Kathy immigrated to the United States from Ireland and while still a very young woman, landed a job working for the former first lady of the United States.

I really enjoyed this insider look at Jackie's life behind closed doors, which only solidified her image of grace and dignity, but also shows her remarkable kindness and patience.

Kathy has a very funny, upbeat, and personable voice, often filled with wry wit and humor. Her personal life outside of work is detailed along with her working relationship with other members of Jackie’s staff, and Jackie’s children, with whom she kept a long running relationship.

There are hilarious anecdotes, poignant moments of tragedy, all told with heartfelt honesty. Kathy regales us with stories from her childhood, her adjustment to a new country, a few rare moments of rebelliousness and minor rule breaking, and how she juggled a home life with her very demanding occupation.

There is a tiny ‘upstairs/downstairs’ atmosphere present, but the lines are often blurred. I picked up on a real and honest admiration that Kathy had for Jackie and think Jackie felt the same way about Kathy. The pair had a bond that went beyond employer and employee that was truly special.

It was no wonder that friends and relatives of Jackie referred to her as ‘Jackie’s Girl”.

Kathy’s job was demanding and on occasion she complained or mentioned a few moments of personal sacrifice she had to endure because her duties to Jackie took precedence.

Just reading over the vast history Kathy witnessed up close and personal is fascinating, to see first hand the reactions and emotions to these events as experienced by the Kennedy family is enlightening.

Kathy lived through some amazing times, met some of the most powerful, wealthy, and influential people in the country, as well a few celebrities. She traveled, and experienced life from an incredible viewpoint.

But, what sticks out most in my mind were the light hearted moments where Kathy brings Jackie to life again and paints her in a whole new light. I wish I could have seen Jackie laughing out loud, letting her hair down, and enjoying a few moments of genuine pleasure, and I think Kathy played a big role in that.

By the same token, Jackie took Kathy under her wing, smoothing out her rougher edges, sharing and passing on her polish and grace to Kathy, who blossomed and matured into an incredibly loyal companion, confidante and close personal friend of the Kennedy family.

This is a very unique and interesting memoir, told with class, tinged with both sadness and humor, but mostly it’s wrapped in warm heartfelt memories.





Kathy McKeon was a 19-year-old Irish immigrant newly arrived in New York City when Jacqueline Kennedy hired her as a personal assistant in 1964, nine months after JFK's assassination. McKeon soon became a trusted employee, helping to raise young Caroline and John and witnessing life from inside the fabled apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue. For over five decades, McKeon never spoke publicly of her experience. But now she has written a memoir, Jackie's Girl, My Life with the Kennedy Family

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Somnambulist's Dreams by Lars Boye Jerlach- Feature and Review


A lighthouse keeper on the coast of New England discovers a small collection of seemingly deranged writings that have been left behind by his somnambulant predecessor. When he begins to read them, he swiftly becomes an unwitting participant in a nebulous narrative that not only defies time and space, but brings into question his own sanity.



The Somnambulist's DreamsThe Somnambulist's Dreams by Lars Boye Jerlach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Somnambulist’s Dreams by Lars Boye Jerlach is a 2016 Angry Owl publishing publication.

I read the synopsis of this book, which adequately sets the stage and entices the reader to play along, but it didn't truly prepare me for the experience or the journey I was about to embark on.

Lighthouses are fascinating to me. As they stand tall and regal against the isolated, lonely waves, the backdrop tempts the imagination and is the source of countless works of art, sketches and coffee table books, and calendars. But, we rarely think of the lighthouse keeper up there performing such a solitary job.

This book takes the reader exactly to that location, on the coast of New England, on an especially cold, bitter night, where our vigilant keeper discovers a pack of letters left behind by his predecessor.

Reading these letters, written by Enoch S. Soule, the keeper realizes they are the author’s written recordings, addressed to his wife, of his somnambulist dreams, which happen to be amazing, fantastical, and mind blowing, prompting the keeper to question Soule's sanity.

Upon closer inspection, the reader will no doubt find a world of symbolism, creativity, and vivid imagery and a wide- open imagination, as you travel along inside Soule’s world of… dreams? Hallucinations? Dementia? …. Or something even more incredible… something metaphysical perhaps?

I have to confess, I loved reading the dream sequences. I especially latched onto the raven, who appears on more than one occasion, but I did not miss other timeless pointers which traveled through pop culture, music, art, as well as other profound and influential works of literature.

The current keeper, is the solid base the story is built around, but he remains enigmatic, since we are totally locked out of his inner thought processes. The other constant is the lighthouse, the sturdy edifice that houses the keeper, insulatating him from any distraction, holding him hostage inside his palpable loneliness, while he immerses himself in Enoch’s travels, because without that atmospheric setting, the focus and effect would have suffered.

I was incredibly impressed with the imaginative, and mesmerizing prose of the author whose writing is extraordinarily eloquent. He certainly captures the spirit and essence of Poe, among others, but Poe’s influence is the most prominent. This is a very unconventional novel, which leaves much room for various interpretations.

The dreams are like vignettes, in a way, and are individual stories in and unto themselves, some of which really make quite an impression.

I think each person who reads this book will come away with a feeling unique only to them, but can also share the same opinions and experiences that others enjoyed, and could make for some lively debate. speculation, or commentary.

Overall, this is an impressive, imaginative, novel that will challenge your mind and senses, leaving you with much to think about. I think this is one of those novels that you’ll want to keep on your bookshelf to experience and savor again another day.

* I was gifted a copy of this book by the author. I voluntarily provided a review of the book, without compensation or influence over my opinion.




I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and I have worked as an artist and professor of art in higher education for more than fifteen years. 

After having spent the last couple of decades traveling in Europe, the US and the Pacific, I now live in Portland, Maine with my wife the British artist/ designer Helen Stringfellow and our three young daughters. 

Literature has always played an important role in my life and although I have dedicated most of my adult life to the world of visual arts and higher education, I have always found a natural outlet in writing. 
As an avid reader, and now writer, I find it fascinating how stories, whether they are written for entertainment, education, societal critique or as cultural preservation, never cease to inspire us. 

The Somnambulist's Dreams is my first published work and I very much hope you will enjoy it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Found You by Lisa Jewell- Feature and Review


A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.



I Found YouI Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I Found You by Lisa Jewel is a 2017 Atria Books publication.

Tantalizing, Compelling, and very suspenseful.

Three seemingly unrelated people see their lives converge in the most horrific an unimaginable way.

Alice is a harried single mom in her forties trying to keep her head on straight after committing a few horrendous parenting mistakes.

When she sees a man out on the cold, damp, windy beach, she feels sorry for him and brings him an old coat to wear. In the process, she discovers the man has amnesia, and despite the possible dangers, she is determined to help him.

Lily has only been married a few weeks when her husband simply vanishes into thin air. Being in a new country, having never met her husband’s family face to face, having no friends to call, Lily’s search for the truth is daunting. Finally, able to enlist some help, Lily is baffled by what she discovers about her new husband.

‘I Found You’ is a tense psychological thriller, very cleverly plotted, beginning with a somewhat lighter tone that slowly develops into something truly dark and sinister.

This book played tricks with my head from the beginning and kept me guessing, tense, and on edge all the way to end.

I never knew who to trust, who to believe, who was in danger, or what to make of the situation, especially when ‘Frank’ begins to have a few memory jogs. The twists are deep, well timed, and surprising, the suspense is taut, but there is an emotional element at play, as well. At the end of the day, there is a sense of long overdue justice and I experienced palpable relief when I was finally able to exhale again.

Despite the darker tones and subject matter, the book has a deeply satisfying quality to it, which can be attributed to the characterizations, and the way the author adeptly, and realistically drew the book to a close.

Overall, this is another stellar effort by Lisa Jewell, who is now becoming one of my ‘go to’ authors.




Lisa Jewell (born 19 July 1968, Middlesex Hospital, London, England) is a British author of popular fiction. Her books include Ralph's Party, Thirtynothing, After The Party, a sequel to Ralph's Party, and most recently The House We Grew Up In and The Girls.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Man Overboard by J.A. Jance- Feature and Review


In New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance’s gripping new thriller, Man Overboard, two tech geniuses face off—one intent on saving lives, the other on ending them.

Cybersecurity expert Roger McGeary finally has his life back on track after years of struggling with depression. But when he falls from the balcony of his suite on an all-expenses-paid cruise, the police quickly dismiss it as “death by misadventure,” a vague phrase leaving much to interpretation.

Unsatisfied, Roger’s tough-as-nails aunt, Julia Miller, is determined to find answers and closure. By contacting Roger’s childhood friend Stuart Ramey to help her solve the mystery of his fate, Julia unwittingly sets up a collision course with a serial killer.

Stuart, his sidekick Cami Lee, and journalist turned amateur sleuth Ali Reynolds put the full resources of cutting edge online security firm High Noon Enterprises into learning the truth about Roger’s death. With Cami on the high seas investigating the ship from which Roger disappeared, Stuart stays tied to his computer, locked in a battle of wits and technology against an unusually twisted adversary. Aided by Frigg, an artificial intelligence companion of his own creation, the killer targets victims who have lost parents to suicide and attempts to drive them to the same tragic end.

When the heartless killer and his cyber accomplice set their sights on Stuart, High Noon must race against time to save him and countless others.



Man Overboard (Ali Reynolds, #12)Man Overboard by J.A. Jance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man Overboard is a 2017 Touchstone Publication.

This twelfth installment in the Ali Reynolds series centers more around Ali’s colleagues, like Stu Ramey, an introverted, socially awkward, computer whiz who gets a chance to show off his skills when he is assigned the job of proving his old schoolmate’s death was murder, not suicide.

In my opinion, the Ali Reynolds series gives Jance more room to explore and experiment with modern topics or even dabble in the possibilities of future advancements, more so than her Beaumont and Brady series do.

I’m a little bit of a tech nerd, so I found most of the, obviously well researched, details in this novel to be very interesting. The subject of suicide, which plays a prominent role in the story, makes me squirm, but it is handled well, without becoming bogged down in over analysis.

I thought I had been keeping up with the series fairly well, but I’m wondering if I’ve missed something somewhere because Ali’s husband was just flat out missing in this chapter. Ali, herself, was barely present, but I did enjoy the stand out development of Stu.

This case is personal for Stu, which gives him a softer tone, on occasion, proving he's not always such a cold fish. The great technological strides we have taken also raise concerns at times, especially when it comes to the possibility of Artificial Intelligence, which is yet another interesting and though provoking element the author adeptly pursued. Jance's AI plot line may throw a damp blanket over some of the excitement we feel about such advances, by introducing some hair raising possibilities, but despite that cautionary warning, I couldn't help but feel intrigued.

I had a couple of issues, one I’ve mentioned already. Ali played a very small role in the book, and the mystery wasn’t so much of a mystery because we knew from the start who the bad guy was. Sometimes, this tactic works great because the reader knows things the characters do not, which creates a giddy type of suspense that makes me want to help the good guys along.

Unfortunately, I never felt that sense of urgency, and I’m wondering if all those technological details I found so fascinating, may have had an unintentional side effect, hindering the suspenseful build up for the grand finale.

However, despite the lack of intense build up, there is still a taut ‘race against time’ climax, and a few bittersweet moments to deal with along the way, as well.

Overall, this one is slightly offbeat, a little unusual, perhaps, but was still a solid addition to the series. I do hope to see our core players return with more of a starring role the next time around, but wouldn’t mind if Stu gets a large supporting role from time to time, or maybe even get a series of his own someday.





J.A. Jance is the top 10 New York Times bestselling author of the Joanna Brady series; the J. P. Beaumont series; three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family; and Edge of Evil, the first in a series featuring Ali Reynolds. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry- Feature and Review


Amidst the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, losing their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. But when they are forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr Brownawell at Abigale Hall, they find that the worst is yet to come...

There are tales that the ghost of Mr Brownawell's bride-to-be haunts the desolate mansion, and in the village there are shocking rumours of maidservants meeting a terrible fate within its walls. But is it superstition that Eliza should be afraid of or is there something real and deadly lurking in the dark, dusty rooms of Abigale Hall? Yet vicious, cold-hearted housekeeper Mrs Pollard will stop at nothing to keep the mansion's terrible secrets, and she exerts a twisted hold over Rebecca. 

To save herself and her sister descending into madness, Eliza must wage a desperate battle to escape back to London and uncover the horrifying truth before Abigale Hall claims two more victims. Taut and suspenseful, Abigale Hall is a thrilling debut from Lauren A. Forry.



Abigale HallAbigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Abigale Hall by Lauren A. Forry is a 2016 Black & White publishing publication.

I’m always on the lookout for a modern, (recently released), pure Gothic tale, meaning all the great Gothic ‘must haves’ are present and accounted for, such as : the large manor house, the strange housekeeper, some supernatural element or grotesqueries, and the brave young lady who must fight off the forces of evil in one form or another.

This book certainly has all those elements, and the author did a fantastic job of creating that mood and atmosphere that I so love about Gothic mystery and horror.

The historical details added a nice touch, the characters were well drawn, the Welsh setting is of course the perfect location, and the heavy permeation of evil continually lingers in the air.

The narrative sags and pacing lags on occasion, and the plot is not always cohesive or as tightly woven as I would have liked, but I could overlook it on this occasion, mainly because of the chills and thrills, and horrifying shivers I got along the way, which is what really makes the book work.

The ending is an unexpected stunner, and reminded me a little of the old chillers written back in the seventies. I love those books and have long hoped that someone would revise the genre a bit, give it a modern flair, without watering it down or sacrificing the spooky atmosphere in the process. This author has done an admirable job of that here.

Overall, this creepy tale of Gothic horror and suspense is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night. But, beware… you might go to sleep with the lights on!





Lauren A. Forry was brought up in the woods of Bucks County, Pennsylvania where her FBI agent father and book-loving mother raised her on a diet of The X-Files and RL Stine. After earning her BA in Cinema Studies from New York University, she spent some time in film production before moving to London where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. There she was awarded the Faber and Faber Creative Writing MA Prize for her first horror novel, ABIGALE HALL (Black & White Publishing, February 2016). Her short stories have since been published by Brick Moon Fiction, Lamplight Magazine, and in multiple sci-fi and horror anthologies. She currently resides in the woods but can, on occasion, be found in the quieter parts of London.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman- Feature and Review


People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


MY REVIEW: Beartown

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a 2017 Simon & Schuster publication.

If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway. All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Fredrik Backman won me over with ‘Brit- Marie was Here”. I have since read most of his other books, or at least have them in my ‘to read’ list, which means I feel I have become accustomed to the author’s style of writing by now.

However, when this book was released, gossip and loud whispers suggested this one may be a little bit of a departure from what I was used to. However, I trusted the author enough not to let that deter me.

Still, even with those advanced warnings, I found myself ill prepared for the deep impact this novel would have on me.

Hockey is the life blood for ‘Beartown’, a small community without much else going for it. While, hockey is ‘just a game’, it takes on new connotations in Beartown.

The junior team is preparing for the semi-finals, and the entire town is beside itself over it. The story centers around the team, the coaches, and their families who are affected by the town’s fever pitch excitement.

We know something went horribly awry from the very beginning. This knowledge creates a sinister and edgy feeling that followed me from start to finish. I understood the mentality of the hockey enthusiast, not because I know the first thing about hockey, because I don’t, but because I’ve seen that type of hysteria first hand in my own hometown, only with football being the sport of choice.

 That a sport can become like a God to be worshiped, that it is responsible for keeping the town afloat, by becoming a source of influx of revenue, it’s success making or breaking the livelihood of the coaches and their families, and being responsible for the morale of the residents in general, is distressing. But, to see kids living their lives without a spotlight on the arts or education, or presented with other opportunities is sad enough, but also seeing them forced into carrying such a heavy burden on their young shoulders is a disturbing and troubling setup.

However, not everyone is defined by the game of hockey in Beartown. Ironically, they seem to end up being the ones impacted by it the most.

Despite the much darker tone of the novel and the high pitch emotions involved, it is important to see the loyalty, the integrity, the courage and intelligence of those who stand up for what is right, consequences be damned. It is uplifting to see family stick by each other, to see those priorities in place, to see rock solid friendships, unlikely heroes, and unconditional love at its finest.

The cast of characters still embodies the author’s trademark quirkiness at times, but in this novel he doesn’t mask the sadness, anger, or other emotions behind the offbeat charm or dysfunction of the characters, like we’ve seen in the past. To do otherwise would have been an injustice to this story and I feel the author approached this material soberly, handled it with great care and precision, and nailed the situations, as they played out in an all too realistic fashion.

The justice we all feel is necessary doesn’t take place in the orthodox way, but in some ways the powerful equalizer that takes its place is enough to satisfy me. I liked the ending, was pleased by the way things worked out, and the powerful way the author allowed the suspense to build to an almost unbearable pitch while soothingly assuring us all will be well.

I’m not a person who believes an author must write one dimensional material. It’s sad that some readers insist they do, often complaining that one book is not exactly like the others he or she as written. I love it when an author steps out and broadens their scope. Sometimes it fails spectacularly, but sometimes it catapults them to an entirely new level.

With Beartown, Fredrik Backman has done just that.





Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty five territories. His latest novel is BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog: FredrikBackman.com, on twitter @backmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guilded Cage by Vic James- Feature and Review


A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke


Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge. 

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution. 

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts. 

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?





Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gilded Cage by Vic James is a 2017 Del Ray publication.

Those who follow my reviews will notice there is a conspicuous absence of anything young adult, or dystopian on my reading list.

Neither of these genres appeals to me all that much, so I’ve pretty much avoided anything that reeks of YA or dystopian themes, despite their extreme popularity.

However, this one came highly recommended to me and the premise sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go, with a very cautiously optimistic mindset.

The novel is set in Britain, in an alternate dystopian realm, where there are ‘equals’, a small group of people who usually have ‘skills’, running the country. Any of the remaining population born without ‘skills’ are forced to spend a decade of their lives serving ‘slave days’. Those who complete the ‘days’ have better opportunities in life once they have served their time.

Abi’s plan was to have her family, as a complete unit, serve their decade together, so that they could look forward to a better future. But, you know what they say about the best made plans.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is separated from the family, and forced to work hard labor, while the rest of the family got cushy jobs by comparison.

Abi swears she will find a way to free Luke of his circumstances, but the family gets swept away by ‘palace intrigue', while Luke becomes a part of a resistance movement.

The story switches back and for the between Abi’s and Luke’s perspective situations, building the suspense against an obvious politically charged atmosphere. The author does an excellent job of creating vivid descriptions and scenery, as well as the taut edginess that surrounds the Hadley family as they adjust to their new surroundings and learn the lay of the land. However, there were many characters, some without much development, but in a way that did mask the true nature of some of them, which kept me from figuring out hidden motives, and from the ability to fully trust any of them.

Yet, the story did get a little messy in spots, but rebounded quite nicely to conclude with a few stunning developments which commanded my rapt attention.

With a sense of duty and fair play, I feel I should warn you, although you probably already know, that this is a trilogy, which means a continuing storyline, aka, cliffhanger. In any other genre, that wouldn’t fly with me, but in these situations, it’s pretty much a given, so I wasn’t surprised or angered by it.

This is a debut novel, and as such, the author made a terrific first impression. I fully intend on completing the series and eagerly await the second installment!!

I think this book is true to the genre, but is also an unusual and fresh approach to the dystopian novel. Fans of this genre should gobble this one up enthusiastically, but this novel does have the potential for a wider appeal, outside its core fan base. So, even if this type of book is not your usual cuppa, I think you might find yourself very intrigued by it




Vic lives in London’s Notting Hill, but her life is more action-adventure than rom-com.

She studied History and English at Merton College, Oxford where Tolkien was once professor. Relocating to Rome, she completed her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives (they’re nothing like The Da Vinci Code), then spent five years living in Tokyo where she learned Japanese and worked as a journalist. She now writes full time.

Vic has scuba-dived on Easter Island, camped at Everest Base Camp, voyaged on one of the last mailboats to St Helena, hang-glided across Rio de Janeiro, and swum the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. But there’s little she loves more than lying in bed till midday with a good book and a supply of her favourite biscuits.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane- Feature and Review


Rachel's husband adores her. When she hit rock-bottom, he was there with her every step of the way as she slowly regained her confidence, and her sanity. But his mysterious behaviour forces her to probe for the truth about her beloved husband.
How can she feel certain that she ever knew him?
And was she right to ever trust him
Bringing together Dennis Lehane's trademark insightful and emphathetic characterisation, razor-sharp dialogue, stunning atmosphere and break-neck twists and turns, Since We Fell is a true masterpiece that will keep you in suspense until the very end.



Since We FellSince We Fell by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane is a 2017 Little, Brown Book Group publication.

Rachel has been through some pretty hard times in her life. She started suffering panic attacks early on, but while covering the Haitian earthquake, she has an on air meltdown, which leads to agoraphobia, the end of her career, and finally a divorce.

But when she miraculously encounters Brian, an old acquaintance, the couple begins a sweet relationship that eventually leads to marriage. Although Brian’s work requires him to travel often, he is so patient and their marriage is so solid, Rachel begins to slowly venture out again.

It is on one such rare outing, that Rachel’s entire life turns on a dime, prompting her to take a closer look at the man she married. Soon the rock solid trust she had with her husband is shaken to the core.

Should she be suspicious of Brian? Rachel won’t rest until she knows the answer to that question. Her investigation soon lures her into an incredible, and clever, cat and mouse game she is ill equipped to handle, but which could give her confidence and courage she didn’t know she was capable of.

Throw out all preconceived notions you have about this book. If you go into it expecting Mystic River, or a Kenzie & Gennaro type novel, you will rob yourself of the unique genius this story offers.

This book is one part character study and one part literary thriller/ psychological suspense. The story gets off to a bit of a sluggish start, but if you just sit back and allow yourself to be taken along where ever the author leads, before you know it, you will find yourself totally immersed in an absorbingly complex tale, with smart twists and turns, that keep those pages turning and your mind racing to keep up.

For those seeking a smart crime thriller, once the stage is set, you will love the atmosphere, and all the intrigue, action and suspense. For those looking for the literary side of the story, you will love the deep and surprising characterizations, which spotlights the amazing and surprising parts of themselves that people keep hidden from sight. Rachel’s character is central, as we watch a woman coping with intense, paralyzing fear, who has such a sensitive nature, go through an unbelievable metamorphosis.

Combining the character study with the literary prose, wrapping it up inside a dark and twisty, yet very stylish and polished caper -like thriller, is quite a unique experience. I thought it turned out quite nicely.

If you like crime drama, or smart literary thrillers, you can't go wrong with Dennis Lehane.





Dennis Lehane (born Aug 4th, 1966) is an American author. He has written several novels, including the New York Times bestseller Mystic River, which was later made into an Academy Award winning film, also called Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon (Lehane can be briefly seen waving from a car in the parade scene at the end of the film). The novel was a finalist for the PEN/Winship Award and won the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best Novel, the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction, and France's Prix Mystere de la Critique.