A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, October 30, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of 70s and 80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix- Feature and Review


Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for 
which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.



Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80sPaperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a 2017 Quirk Books publication.

While most teenage girls my age were reading Harlequin romances or sneaking peeks inside their mother’s bodice rippers, I was glued to Gothic Romance/Horror/Mystery novels, which morphed into a full -fledged obsession with horror novels, which continued until my late teens, slowly fizzling out, as the horror genre went into a different direction, I didn't feel compelled to follow.

I wish I had had the presence of mind to keep those books, put them a plastic protector and store them in a dark, cool place. But, I didn’t. However, I do love searching out these old paperbacks and do have a nice collection of Gothic novels as well as a handful of vintage horror novels, too. This book really has sparked a renewed interest in these vintage horror paperbacks, so I just might start digging around and try to add a few of these to my collection.

But, I digress-

Like myself, the author’s interest in these vintage paperbacks also stems from the ‘collectable’ angle they inspire, and just as I do, he still reads them.

In my mind, horror novels, and horror movies for that matter, of the 1970’s were best. They may seem cheesy now, and of course they followed trends, just like we do now, but…

These books scared me. It wasn’t the same slasher story, told over and over and over. These books had imagination, took risks, were shocking, and terrifying, or… okay- laughable- Nazi Leprachans?

Looking back on these novels now, many of which were adapted for the big screen, I’m reminded once again of the game changing books than shaped the genre and had me sleeping with the lights on.

The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Other, all spent incredible amounts of time on the NYT bestseller list. They spawned countless spin-offs, all with a strong satanic element, which was a huge theme in the first few years of the 1970’s.

From that point on, the horror genre created the most menacing babies and kids you could possibly image, with books like- ‘The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane’ by Laird Koenig, which I happen to be reading right now. But, the sheer volume of books written with this theme, in one form or another, was mind boggling.

Some titles I found intriguing were: ‘Kate’s House’ by Harriet Waugh and ‘Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ by Mendal W. Johnson- (Tonight the kids are taking care of the babysitter!)

Let’s not forget killer animals though- remember Jaws? Of course, you do. How about ‘The Rats’ by James Herbert? There were also a slew of killer dogs, cats, whales, all manner of other creepy crawlies.

Not your thing? How about a good haunted house story, instead? Lots of those! But, not just Amityville!

Every possible angle was covered in the 70’s and 80’s that you could possible imagine. Medical nightmares, horoscopes, psychic teens, UFO’s, Vampires, dolls, Southern Gothic, humanoids, you name it, and this book covers them all.

But, the author doesn’t stop there.

The fantastic cover art is included in the book. The book covers alone make this book worth looking into. Amazing!! It is also interesting to note that some of the cover artists are unknown.

The primary publishers of horror novels are listed too, and frankly, I was surprised by a few- namely ‘Zebra’ which I’ve always associated with those fab historical romance novels of the same period. Who knew?

The 80’s had its ups and downs with some really wonderful contributions to the genre, but also strange additions,such as, heavy metal horror! I’d pretty much moved away from the horror genre by this time, and have no recollections of this, but apparently ‘Splatterpunk’ was a pretty big movement in the mid-eighties.

But, that movement seemed to fade as quickly as hair metal with the onset of the nineties, as did the horror genre as we knew it.

These old horror novels look cheesy, and many are obviously dated, but if you read some of the blurbs, you will see many of them are classics now, and spawned all manner of trends, and influenced many others along the way. They are lurid, gross, often politically incorrect, and misogynist on more than one occasion, but were also groundbreaking. They, also, were a reflection of the era in which they were written, tapping in on real fears, worries, or in some cases, setting off periods of real panic.

But, in the end, the slasher genre won out over killer sharks, haunted houses, creepy kids, and Satan. The name of the game is buckets of blood and revolting gore, without much originality to the plot, which is when I stepped off the horror novel train.

These days, horror is a hard sell for me. On a rare occasion, I’ll try a ghost story or a haunted house novel, or a good vampire novel, as long as the vampire doesn't sparkle, although those seem far and few between these days, or I might settle in for a Stephen King thriller, once in a while.

But, I do have old favorites I read at Halloween, always returning to the tried and true. But, after picking up this book, maybe I can find a few hidden gems from the past to satisfy any lingering craving for a good old -fashioned chiller.

Overall, the author did a terrific job with the organization of this book, deftly adding in well- timed, laugh out loud humor, and his enthusiasm was obvious, and a little catchy.

This is a fun, informative, entertaining, and well researched book, that will appeal to fans of the horror genre, paperback book collectors, or maybe even to those who enjoy nostalgia or pop culture.





Grady Hendrix is the author of "Horrorstör" the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture superstore you'll ever need. It has been translated into 14 languages and is being made into a TV show by Gail Berman ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Charlie Kaufman ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), and Josh Schwartz ("Gossip Girl"). His next novel is "My Best Friend's Exorcism," about demonic possession, friendship, exorcism, and the Eighties. It's out from Quirk Books in May, 2016.

His stories about UFO cults, killer Chinese parasites, Cthulhu dating your mom, and super-genius human-hating apes have appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and "The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination."

He's co-author (along with his wife) of the award-winning "Dirt Candy: A Cookbook," the world's first graphic novel cookbook.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Second Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue Us- by Callie Smith Grant- Editor - Feature and Review



There's no feeling quite like that of getting a second chance and a fresh start. When we adopt a homeless cat--or that cat decides to adopt us--we're not just giving one of earth's most beautiful and inscrutable creatures a chance at a good life, we're giving ourselves the gift of companionship, solace, and love. And plenty of laughter too!

This heartwarming collection includes more than 30 true, contemporary stories told by a variety of writers, including Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, and Kristin Billerbeck. Each feel-good story involves cat rescue, some in a typical way and others in surprising--even miraculous--ways. Sometimes the question becomes: Really, who rescued whom?

A thoughtful gift for the cat lover in your life, Second-Chance Cats is the purrfect companion for cozy nights, lazy weekends, and any time you need a pick-me-up.



Second-Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue UsSecond-Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue Us by Callie Smith Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats we Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue Us by Callie Smith Grant- Editor- is a 2020 Fleming H. Revell publication.

No need to explain why I wanted to read this book. I love cats and am always a sucker for the second chance theme- and happy endings!!

This book is a collection of true stories told in first person, by a variety of contributors, from all walks of life. Each short essay explains how a cat entered their lives, some only briefly, and some for long periods of time, and what impact the cat had on them. Some stories are a little bittersweet, some are inspirational, and some are just sweet stories about a cat that touched the writer in a special way or came to be a permanent part of their family.

As the title suggests, the cats featured in these stories are ones who were rescued, sometimes passing through the person’s life on their way to a longer term residence, and sometimes the writer is able to provide a permanent home for the cat. Yet, very often these cats are the ones doing the rescuing, help to heal and comfort their humans in times of stress, grief or illness- and everyone knows cats are good for our general well being.

I like to tell people that all my cats found me, not the other way around, and that is mostly true.

I have plenty of similar stories, dating back to my childhood, when cats just seemed to find me and stick around. I have tamed feral cats, rescued abandoned kittens, and even shared ownership of a cat with a neighbor once. As an adult, I only owned dogs for a long time before once again adopting a cat. Now, my cats outnumber the dogs- and the stories of how they came to live with us are as special to me as the ones printed in this book. It is for this reason, this book resonated with me, and I found myself nodding and smiling along, knowing how easily felines can worm their way into our hearts and lives.

There is nothing especially fancy about this compilation- the stories are short, told by real people, and are straightforward and simple, but always very heartfelt and sincere.

It goes without saying that cat lovers will not be able to resist these heartwarming stories featuring some very special feline friends.



Callie Smith Grant is the editor of A Prince among Dogs and A Dickens of a Cat. She is also the author of several nonfiction books for young readers and adults as well as many animal-themed stories and poems which can be seen in Guideposts anthologies and in magazines such as Small Farmers Journal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson- Feature and Review


As the town of Greenwich, Connecticut, counts down to a spooky celebration on October 31st, a horrifying murder leaves Melanie Travis pawing for clues in a hair-raising game of trick-or-treat . . .
With just a few days left before Halloween, everyone at Howard Academy is anticipating the guaranteed sugar high they’ll experience from gorging on Harriet Bloom’s famous marshmallow puffs. The private school’s annual costume party revolves around the headmaster’s assistant and her seemingly supernatural batches of gooey goodies. So, it's a shock when Harriet’s elderly neighbor is suddenly found dead with the beloved dessert in his hand. In a snap, police start questioning whether Harriet modified her top-secret recipe to include a hefty dose of lethal poison . . .
Melanie knows her tenured colleague would never intentionally serve cyanide-laced puffs to a defenseless old man. But as explosive neighborhood gossip reveals a potential culprit, it also brings her closer to sealing her own doom. Because on an evening ruled by masked revelers, bizarre getups, and hidden identities, Halloween might just be the perfect opportunity for a cold-hearted killer to get away with murder once again—this time sending a nosy, unsuspecting sleuth to an early grave!



Howloween Murder (A Melanie Travis Mystery Book 26)Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson is a 2020 Kensington publication.

It’s almost Halloween and Howard Academy is gearing up for the annual costume party… and Harriet Bloom’s famous Halloween marshmallow puffs!!

However, Harriet’s holiday tradition may be over, when her neighbor dies of cyanide poisoning after eating a batch of her gooey treats.

Harriet and the school administrator ask Melanie to help clear Harriet’s name and hopefully spare the school any unwanted scandal. After agreeing to help, Melanie’s first task is to hunt down all the recipients of Harriet’s gooey treats, which also gives her a chance to ask a few questions.

In the process, Melanie begins to form a sad picture of the victim, as well a possible motive. But can she prove her suspicions and get Harriet off the hook?

While looking for a light Halloween themed novel, I ran across this book in the Overdrive library. However, when I realized this series was 26 installments deep, I nearly took a pass, but I decided to take a chance on it anyway- and I am so glad I did!

Melanie may be an amateur sleuth, but her approach is very much like a procedural. Lots of legwork, and interviews, pitching theories, slowly putting the puzzle together. There are also some big surprises and a thrilling conclusion!

I enjoyed getting to know Melanie a little bit, and naturally I loved her standard poodle, Faith!

It goes without saying, my gamble paid off. While I still extol the benefits of reading a series in order, if possible- sometimes reading out of order can introduce one to a series, without the daunting task of trying to read through all the previous installments first, and make the author one more loyal fan, in the process. One can always go back and catch up on previous installments later. You can now count me in a future repeat customer!

Happy Halloween!




Laurien Berenson is the bestselling author of the Melanie Travis canine mystery series. Her books revolve around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently twenty-five Melanie Travis mysteries, including the newest book, GAME OF DOG BONES.

Berenson is a four time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Where Light Comes and Goes by Sandra Cavallo Miller - Feature and Review


Where Light Comes and Goes brings back Dr. Abby Wilmore, the young family physician who was the protagonist of Miller’s first novel, The Color of Rock. Abby has accepted the directorship of a summer clinic in Yellowstone National Park where she hopes to expand her medical skills. She arrives to find herself working above the increasingly restless Yellowstone supervolcano, treating visitors, staff, and locals, all while evading the advances of a lecherous concession manager and maintaining a long-distance relationship with her partner who stays at the Grand Canyon Clinic. As tremors in the park escalate and the lakes seethe with bubbling gases, Abby learns that some-one is mysteriously killing the bison.

What follows is an engrossing mystery unfolding in a spectacular setting with rich, quirky, and endearing characters and unexpected plot turns. While an overworked Abby makes new friends among her clinic staff and patients, tension builds as the volcano seems to be moving closer to a major eruption and the bison killings become more frequent. Soon, Abby finds herself in mortal danger as the story races to a thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

Sandra Cavallo Miller demonstrated in The Color of Rock that she is a gifted storyteller. Where Light Comes and Goes deftly combines a gripping mystery set in the accurately depicted routine of a busy medical practice amid the wonders of Yellowstone’s magnificent scenery and wildlife. This is entertaining reading at its best.


Where Light Comes and Goes: A NovelWhere Light Comes and Goes: A Novel by Sandra Cavallo Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where Light Comes and Goes by Sandra Cavallo Miller is a 2020 University of Nevada Press publication.

Medical mysteries and intrigue!

This second installment in the Dr. Abby Wilmore series begins with Abby accepting a summer position at a clinic in Yellowstone National Park. This means a separation from her lover, but the change of scenery might be good for her. However, upon arrival she is faced with an entirely different set of problems that cause her anxiety levels to skyrocket- such as the mysterious killing area bison and an intense patient she would like to help but who remains an enigma.

I am so happy I stumbled across this series. The first installment did place more of an emphasis on the romantic elements, although it could also be classified as a novel of suspense. However, the first installment was all about setting the stage for future installments. Now that our main characters have been established, this story has a bit more of an edge to it, with the focus more on the mystery and adventures of working in a national park than on the romantic element. The characters in this chapter were also a bit more interesting, if I may say so, and I enjoyed meeting the people Abby worked with.

The setting, mingled with the medical conundrums, drama, and suspense are a truly distinctive combination. Abby is such a relatable and realistic character, and the well-drawn secondary characters add another level of depth to the story.

I am excited to see how things will progress from here- this series has a real potential to grow and develop- and could have a broad appeal across several genres. Anyone who enjoys mysteries, light romantic suspense, or medical dramas, will find these books appealing.

Overall, this is an interesting and unique series. It flows well, is easy to read, and hard to put down!



I am a recently retired family physician in Phoenix who has always been a writer in my secret heart. Very little fiction has been written about women physicians, and I find it a great challenge to show the struggles and triumphs of day-to-day practice in an entertaining and informative way. To show the human side and at the same time create an adventurous story. When not writing, you might find me on a horse, hiking with a dog, or exploring my latest hobby, volcanology.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Something Worth Doing- by Jane Kirkpatrick- Feature and Review


 In 1853, Abigail Scott was a 19-year-old school teacher in Oregon Territory when she married Ben Duniway. Marriage meant giving up on teaching, but Abigail always believed she was meant to be more than a good wife and mother. When financial mistakes and an injury force Ben to stop working, Abigail becomes the primary breadwinner for her growing family. What she sees as a working woman appalls her, and she devotes her life to fighting for the rights of women, including their right to vote.

Following Abigail as she bears six children, runs a millinery and a private school, helps on the farm, writes novels, gives speeches, and eventually runs a newspaper supporting women's suffrage, Something Worth Doing explores issues that will resonate strongly with modern women: the pull between career and family, finding one's place in the public sphere, and dealing with frustrations and prejudices women encounter when they compete in male-dominated spaces. Based on a true story of a pioneer for women's rights from award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick will inspire you to believe that some things are worth doing--even when the cost is great.



Something Worth DoingSomething Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick is a 2020 Revell publication.

It is not the certainty that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing regardless of how it turns out.

This is a fascinating fictional account of the life of Abigail Scott Duniway, a journalist and prolific author and early suffragist who worked tirelessly to help women in Oregon gain the right to vote.

I am so glad the author chose Abigail as her subject. I think it’s important not only to remember these important figures in history, but to also educate younger generations who may have little knowledge of the hardships women endured and how difficult their battles for equality were in a time when women simply melted into the background, to become mere extensions of their husbands. Women were to be ‘protected’ from any talk of business or politics, and wives had little, if any, input in the family decision making.

Abigail was known in nonfictional accountings as being ‘strident’ at times. She didn’t agree with some proposed legislations that bound suffragist to prohibition, and she struggled in her approach, at times, which cost her dearly, and slowed down the progression of the movement.

But this story allows the reader to contemplate a softer side of Abigail and gives us insight into the situations that prompted her to become a fierce crusader for the women’s right to vote.

 Reading of how this author was once denied a library card unless her husband signed for her to have one – back in 1968- I find myself feeling grateful for the sacrifices women like Abigail made for future generations- and for all those who followed in her footsteps. Where would we be without them?

It’s easy to take for granted the many rights and privileges we have today, especially for younger women who never knew a different environment.

While there are still many, many, many hurdles still in our way, I hope we can take inspiration from Abigail. She was a woman who experienced many hardships and trials, much loss, and heartbreak, but even in her moments of doubt, when her spirit was broken and she felt defeated, she never lost her faith, and despite huge setbacks, she continued to fight the good fight until Oregon women finally won the right the vote.

In every generation we need these strong willed, focused, and dedicated figures to guide us through the tunnels of darkness, letting their bright lights illuminate the way so that others will not suffer the same adversity, so that future generations will have the richer and fuller lives they deserve!

The best way to honor these trailblazers is to register to vote and make your voice heard!! 



If you'd like more information about me, please come visit my website at www.jkbooks.com and click on my blog. My dog also has a blog and you can find out what it's like to be Bodacious Bo, too. A monthly newsletter called Story Sparks is my way of sharing books about authors I enjoy as well as commenting on life and love. You'll find out more about me than you probably ever wanted to know!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Who Did You Tell? by Lesley Kara- Feature and Review


We said to keep it a secret, that no one needed to know.

Astrid is newly sober and trying to turn her life around. Having reluctantly moved back in with her mother, in a quiet seaside town away from the temptations and darkness of her previous life, she is focusing on her recovery. She's going to meetings. Confessing her misdeeds. Making amends to those she's wronged. If she fills her days, maybe she can outrun the ghosts that haunt her. Maybe she can start anew.

But someone is tormenting me now. Someone knows where I am and what I've done.

Someone knows exactly what Astrid is running from. And they won't stop until she learns that some mistakes can't be corrected. Some mistakes, you have to pay for . . .

The question is: Who did you tell? 



Who Did You Tell?Who Did You Tell? by Lesley Kara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who Did you Tell? By Lesley Kara is a 2020 Ballantine publication.

Realistic, tense, disturbing!

Astrid is a recovering alcoholic, living with her mother, and struggling mightily to hold on to her new sobriety. She also has a heavy, dark secret hanging over her head, complicating her ability to face her demons head on.

As her memories resurface, Astrid’s past relationship with a guy named Simon begins to take shape- a relationship centered around the pain of addiction, but also one with intense emotions attached.

It is obvious that Astrid is tormented by her past, perhaps with good reason, but apparently someone out there is determined to remind her of her misdeeds, keeping her on a perpetual tightrope as she desperately tries to move on with her life-

I nearly read this book in one sitting- not because it is fast-paced, because it’s not- but because of how deeply I was drawn into Astrid’s struggles. The heavy atmosphere and the constant feeling of foreboding kept me glued to the pages.

This is a mesmerizing and intense story, checking all the correct, traditional psychological thriller boxes. However, it was Astrid's vivid characterization, and her will to stay sober, her vulnerability, uncertainty and fear, and the possibility that she could be in danger, that gave the book an extra padding of depth - more than one normally encounters in this genre.

The drama is very engrossing, drawing the reader deeper into Astrid’s troubled world. The suspense slowly, methodically builds, to a point where it almost becomes unbearable.

I still see a multitude of newly released psychological thrillers out there, but I think the fever has finally broken and there is a slow return to normalcy, which means higher quality stories in this category. However, I still started this book with only average expectations. (Keep in mind, though, that I have not read this author's debut novel- although I plan to remedy that ASAP)

However, this book exceeded my expectations, and is decidedly above average for this category. The novel is very well executed, moody, taut, and suspenseful, but has an added layer of emotional drama that compels the reader to invest, not only in the plot, but in the characters, as well.

Overall, this book is an impressive thriller, and I think Lesley Kara may be an author I’ll want to keep my eye on!




Lesley Kara is the author of the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, THE RUMOUR, published in December 2018. Her second novel, WHO DID YOU TELL, is out now.

Friday, October 9, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Wilding Sisters by Eve Chase- Feature and Review


Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.



The Wildling SistersThe Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase is a 2017 G.P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

The Wilde Sisters arrive at the Applecote manor in 1959 to spend the summer with their aunt. The girls, Dot, Flora, Pam, and Margot are close and protective of each other. But, their visit to the lovely country estate is dampened by their aunt’s struggle to overcome her daughter, Audrey’s disappearance, five years earlier. The mystery consumes the girls, but the closer they get to the truth, the closer they come to possible danger, and tensions begin to arise between them over two handsome boys.

Fifty years later, with the memory of her widower husband’s wife constantly surrounding her, Jesse is ready to escape the city. Not only that, her stepdaughter was involved in an ugly incident, which figured into her desire to move. Applecote Manor felt like the perfect place in the perfect setting at the perfect time.
However, trouble starts almost immediately. Her stepdaughter becomes increasingly difficult to handle, her husband is always away at work, and disturbing rumors about the house finally reach her ears. As her stepdaughter becomes nearly obsessed with the strange disappearance of a former resident, Jesse feels her life is slowly unraveling.

This is one of those books I was dying to read, but it just kept slipping down the TBR pile until I gradually lost track of it. Thankfully, while searching for another book in my voluminous Kindle folder, I happened across it and made a point to get started on it. I do recall hearing a lot of buzz about his book when it was first released. I have read other books by Eve Chase and was very impressed with her work. But, what drew me to this one was the constant effusive gushing about the novel’s strong Gothic tones. As a huge fan of Gothic novels, I’m going to have to cry foul on that one, just a little. Yes, there are a few Gothic elements, but I didn’t feel they were as strong or pure as many others have. I was slightly let down on that front, however, the story was very compelling, with dual timelines, and a very atmospheric and absorbing mystery to uncover.

As is usually the case for me, I was drawn more towards the historical elements of the story, but the present -day scenario, while not really adding a lot to the mystery, suggests a possible air of pending doom, which was quite effective, and may have been a slightly underrated element in the story.

The author wound the story around until the two timelines merged in a poignant way, slowly releasing the pent -up tensions, and bringing closure to all in a satisfying way.
I am glad this one didn’t drop completely off my radar. The story has a lot of familial touches, bringing the characters to life in a vivid and emotional way, drawing the reader into their world with lush writing, dialogue, and descriptions. Eve Chase once again impresses.





Eve Chase is the pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. 

Eve Chase always wanted to write about families - ones that go wrong but somehow survive - and big old houses, where family secrets and untold stories seed in the crumbling stone walls. 

Black Rabbit Hall is such a story. 

She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding- Feature and Review

 “Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.



Little DarlingsLittle Darlings by Melanie Golding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding is a 2019 Crooked Lane publication.

Creepy, atmospheric mix of psychological suspense and supernatural folklore

Lauren is understandably exhausted after giving birth to twins, but enough to imagine she saw a woman enter her hospital room and attempt to swap out her babies? Lauren insists someone is out to steal her twins, but the only person who is giving her the benefit of the doubt is Joanna Harper, the officer who responded to Lauren’s initial emergency call.

Then, just as Lauren is starting to feel confident about going out again her babies are abducted, just has she’d feared. Although they are quickly recovered, Lauren has a horrifying reaction, insisting the babies aren’t hers, which promptly lands her in an institution.

As Jo investigates the odd goings on, she makes some interesting discoveries about Lauren’s husband, some lurid folklore tales about twins, and a shockingly similar case that took place decades earlier...

This book was super-hot amongst some of my friends on social media last year. I’d been dying to see what all the fuss was about, but as I was still doing a lot of assigned work at that time the book slid down my TBR list and off my radar. I don’t think I realized the novel had such a strong paranormal tone, thinking it was more of a psychological thriller. As it turns out the novel is adept at genre bending- mixing suspense and mystery with supernatural elements, while painting a vivid portrait of the willing sacrifices parents will make in order to protect or save their children.

It’s an interesting mashup, and it works spectacularly. If all horror novels were like this one, I’d read this genre more often.

I liked Joanna, but occasionally her personal thoughts and relationship woes didn’t really interest me, or add anything much to the story. All her fretting about her feelings slowed down the momentum, occasionally breaking the carefully woven spell. Jo had some far more interesting event in her past that could have been explored more deeply. I didn't think her character was given enough depth, where there was some big potential there.

Other than that, this is a super tense story, very eerie and atmospheric, and despite the slightly disappointing and ambiguous conclusion, it left me with a lingering feeling of poignancy long after the final page was turned.



Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.

Friday, October 2, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman- Feature and Review

                                                             ABOUT THE BOOK:

A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut--for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you? 

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman's enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we're tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.


                                                                    MY REVIEW:

Something in the WaterSomething in the Water by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman is a 2018 Ballantine publication.

Slightly predictable morality tale with a nice hook and a few clever twists-

You just got married, you’re in financial straits, looking at a drastic change in your quality of living standards, but you’ve already got a nice honeymoon planned in Bora Bora- so why not enjoy every minute of your vacation? That's what newlyweds Erin and Mark plan on doing before they head back to reality and an uncertain future.

But, on a standard scuba dive they discover something in the water, a discovery that puts them in a very prickly position. However, the bottom line is they probably hit the Motherload. But, they also make another, very grisly discovery, and in their paranoid horror and glee, make a few whopping mistakes that could come back to haunt them.

 Can they get away with keeping something that doesn’t belong to them? Should they? What if someone finds out?

The pressure they were under before is nothing like the pressure they are under now. As they work to cover all their bases, they face one moral dilemma after another, as lies and rationalizations take over and they slide further into moral bankruptcy every day.

Erin, a documentary filmmaker, is our narrator, laying out the full story going back to when she and Mark first met. Mark’s job as an investment banker, ended abruptly and quite unexpectedly, forcing Mark to face the dismal prospect of having to take any job he can find, in an economic downturn.

The treasure they find is the answer to all their problems, but they aren't prepared for the lengths they will have to go to in order to profit from their discoveries, while trying not to get caught. They soon find themselves rubbing elbows with less than trustworthy people, justifying their moral compromises and keeping secrets from each other.

Right now, psychological thrillers are so popular publishers are rushing subpar novels with interchangeable plotlines into the marketplace in record numbers.

It’s so bad I’ve begun removing PTs from my TBR pile, before I burn out completely. ( Sort of reminds me of the fever pitch PNR and Urban Fantasy reached back at the peak of 'Twilight's' popularity- thank God that's over! Maybe Fifty Shades of Grey knockoffs are on the way out too- one can only hope!) But- I digress.

This book, however, had a very intriguing synopsis and the ratings were mostly favorable, so I had to see why it was popular. While I was hopeful, I also approached the book with cautious optimism.

Thankfully, despite my having picked up on a few ‘tells’ early on in the novel, I found myself caught up more in the character’s fear, guilt and self-loathing, their guilty consciences- or lack thereof- battling against the need to cover their butts and pull off the caper of the century, all so they can maintain a lifestyle they had grown accustomed to. It was an interesting journey, from that standpoint. The parallels between Erin’s documentary subjects and her own life didn’t go unnoticed and the role they played in the story was ironic.

However, the characters were often so naïve, so utterly clueless, I wanted to scream- or maybe I didn't give them enough credit. You’ll have to be the judge on that one.

Overall, the story is a little predictable, but I was very engaged, and very interested to see how everything would turn out in the end. It’s an addictive read, with some well- timed twists, that are every effective. Overall, I ended up enjoying this one for the most part. It has a few flaws but didn’t feel like a book written just to cash in on a trend. Perhaps, Steadman will try her hand at this more often- in between her acting roles, of course.





Catherine Steadman is an actress and writer based in North London. She is known for her roles in Downton Abbey and Tutankhamun, starring alongside Sam Neill, as well as shows including Breathless, The Inbetweeners, The Tudors, and Fresh Meat.

In 2017 she will feature in political thriller Fearless and new BBC comedy Bucket. She also has appeared on stage in the West End including Oppenheimer for the RSC, for which she was nominated for a 2016 Laurence Olivier Award.

Something in the Water is her first novel.