When Your Eyes Close by Tanya Farrelly

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The images shift between his life and the unknown.

Nick Drake has always had a taste for alcohol, but now he is so far gone that if he can’t get it under control, the doctors will refuse to put him on a transplant list and this is do or die! With a divorce behind him, life has had its difficulties, and with AA failing to help maybe hypnosis is the key. As he closes his eyes during a session, his life is swallowed by memories of someone else. Soon the visions playing in his head turn into to a blood filled nightmare about another man and his family, a man who may well have been a murderer. Surely this is some confabulation in his mind, this can’t be real! But what if it is? What if these are someone else’s memories, or his own from another life? They feel as real to him as his own.

Michelle is Nick’s girlfriend, she has known something is terribly wrong, that he was keeping things from her, but she never could have imagined the wild truth. There is another woman, but one that may have been Nick’s child, when he was someone else, in another time. This person is real, Caitlin is a solid, living breathing reality, not just some fantasy he conjured while under hypnosis. She will find a way to help dig into Caitlin’s life, because if Nick’s ‘memories’ under hypnosis are make believe, how come the people in them existed, the child now fully grown, a violinist, very much alive and real. Getting to know Caitlin seems all too easy at first, even if at times a wall comes up, or things don’t pan out, she refuses to give up, she’ll do anything to help Nick pull through because if he has a chance to get better, Caitlin is the key.

Caitlin’s husband disappeared a year ago, she has received a call from man saying only that he is still alive and not to try to find him. She has built a life for herself, despite the mystery surrounding David’s disappearance. Stranger still are the odd messages on social media. Her friend Andy has been an oak through the long days of not knowing what happened to David, but can she really trust him? Is he just trying to take David’s place? Now there is a strange new couple, Michelle and Nick in her life and some things about them seem a little too coincidental. She likes Michelle, wants to trust in her new friend, surely they couldn’t have nefarious plans, they couldn’t be the ones sending her messages, though they happened at the same time as she bumped into  Nick for the first time, which he claims not to remember, says didn’t happen. Caitlin is schooled in controlling her emotions since her traumatic childhood, and doesn’t trust anyone nor take what they say at face value. As Michelle tries to ease into Caitlin’s life, to help Nick get answers, Caitlin isn’t so honest and forthcoming and is fishing for her own clues about Nick and Michelle.

With Nick wanting nothing more than to make right by Catilin this time around, they begin to dig into her husband David’s disapparance, never imagining it could endanger Caitlin, that maybe she has her own secrets. Reaching into Caitlin’s childhood past, Michelle finds an aunt who knows more than she ever told about Caitlin’s youth.  Then there were David’s secrets before he vanished, that begs more questions. What Caitlin remembers and confides to her new ‘friend’ Michelle doesn’t quite add up to what they know for fact, nor the memories haunting Nick’s mind. It could be a defense mechanism, but what if there is more?

Are some things better left alone? If Nick wasn’t meant to act on these memories, why is he having them at all? Someone has secrets, what began in blood could very well end in it.

Told in shifting perspectives, it’s easy to know that nothing is simple. It has a supernatural bend with Nick channeling a murderer that may have been him, in another life. But it’s also a psychological thriller with damaged characters, the past definitely catches up with people here. It is a story with a decent twist, though it crawled in places. I would have enjoyed it more if I was only in one character’s head, being in all three underwhelmed me because I never felt close enough to anyone but the very idea is enough to sell the story. It is a unique twist on what could have been a bittersweet story of past life, which we’ve read before, here we have a fresh, sinister spin on things.

Available Now!

HarperCollins UK

HarperImpulse

 

 

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The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo

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It was in early summer of my eighteenth year that my destiny arrived, and despite my fancy for premonitions he took me quite by surprise.

This is the story of Katrina Van Tassel, who falls in love with the Sleepy Hollow’s new school master Ichabod Crane. Katrina is delighted when she learns of Mr. Crane’s love for music, and that her father has engaged his services of singing lessons, for her. So begins a love affair that can only lead to doom and gloom with a legendary headless horseman running amok.

Then there is Brom Van Brunt (oh how I love these old names)  nicknamed ‘Brom Bones’ for his large frame,  the town’s beloved favored son,  and bully (when he isn’t leaving sighing women in his wake) who is sure Katrina is his destiny. They are all hung up on their destiny here! Brom is adamant Katrina will be his, has known this since childhood as they were once a tight trio including her best friend Charlotte (of strange gifts). They spent their youth inventing their own mischief until he turned sour, cruel to Charlotte for something she did (which is his fault, really). Now he seems to spend most of his time sniffing around Katrina and informing her that she will ‘come around’ to loving him, to being his wife. It’s only a matter of time, and a lot of harassment. He may have been her first kiss, but she’ll be damned if he’s her last.

Even the most progressive parents weren’t likely to welcome a terrible match for their child. Her father certainly isn’t going to support his daughter’s love for someone like Ichabod, well read and musical talents aside, wealth speaks louder than character when it comes to your precious, privileged child. Is Brom so awful? I mean, really Katrina, the whole town loves him, he is popular and handsome, full of brawn and… well he looks good on paper and that’s what mattered then. Alliances aren’t often made between the pillars of society and the penniless, better the promise of Brom or someone of his ilk. Maybe Charlotte can use her ‘magical talents’, reading tarot cards to see if there is even a slim chance of happiness and a future as Mrs. Crane. Charlotte does seem to have her uses.

Charlotte spends much of the novel giving warnings, or herbs to solve other inconveniences for Katrina. She has ‘feelings’, some of us may just call this intuition, others a wild imagination, depends on who you ask. Katrina isn’t immune to visions herself, in her nightmares of the headless horseman she keeps seeing ominous warnings but he isn’t real!!!! Something is brewing, but is her love for Ichabod truly doomed? Not even the terror of a legend can keep the lusty lovers out of the woods, and each other’s arms.

Circumstances push her to conform to society and it’s demands when Ichabod seems to have disappeared on All Hallows Eve, life becomes its own special hell. Will she ever be reunited with her lover? Or will she have to go to extreme measures to keep herself, and maybe someone else, safe?

It does have a pinch of feminism with Katrina, whose spirit won’t be tamed, who wants to love where she will and thwarts society, maybe even has to resort to manipulations here and there. Herbs as a safeguard against unwanted pregnancy isn’t something new, though it was forbidden (such witchery), even when she is reduced to accepting the turn her life takes, she still tries to hold some sway over her own destiny. My only beef was, I expected more terror beyond the occasional nightmare. Though to be fair, human beings are ugly enough themselves without a headless horseman lurking about and they don’t fail to be so here. I wished for more magic and spells, I mean love can be a spell I suppose or a curse. No? With Spellbook is in the title, I admit I was holding out for witches and spells, all sorts of spooky but I have high demands.

It was fun to visit Spooky Hollow again but came off more as a romance. More seduction than nightmare. Charlotte’s reputation is dangerously ruined by Brom early on, no one takes kindly to any whispers of evil, dangerous accusations, couldn’t the novel have backed up these threats with more than her seeing into the future? Too bad she couldn’t conjure some spell against Brom, but take heart, he seems hellbent on defeating himself half the time.  If you like romance with an old spooky legend thrown in, this will be perfect for you. Just in time for pumpkin patches, and headless men, out in October.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

St. Martin’s Press

St. Griffin

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

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So, thirteen-year old Cora had shivered and cried, wondering if her numbed left arm and leg would work again, or her garbled speech would right itself. And they did- only a few hours later. It never happened again, but the incident reminded Cora that her body held dark sway over her existence.

Cora, birthed three weeks too early in shame to Elizabeth, an unmarried socialite is born with an anomaly, two hearts. When her mother dies giving birth to her, a doctor discovers her extra heartbeat, assured having a chinese father follows all the other pecularities brought to the docks by those ‘foreigners’. Being of mixed blood certainly causes these oddities! Immediately the doctor is hungry to have her for dissection, when she dies of course, because he has no doubt her death will come soon. With the baby, this anatomic jewel,  she would be a great gift to medicine, something to dissect and study! He will pay them, it’s obvious they live in poverty and sorely need the funds.

Charlotte herself knows all too well what life is like as a family outcast, cut out of the family for her own ‘sins’. With her cousin Elizabeth passing and the threat of the doctor looming over their heads, she devises a plan to hide the child. One baby girl takes on two lives, as Jacob and Cora Lee, twins. So begins the adventures of Cora, Queen of Resurrectionists, employed by anatomists! Instead of gowns and all that glitters she chases down the dead from funerals to cemeteries to make a pretty penny. Even the poor that often “died in such dreadfully ordinary ways” can line her pockets, but competition can be fierce! It’s the unique bodies with oddities that are in high demand, people like Cora herself. She watches her marks, waiting until death takes them, keeping always to propriety as a lady should, even when dealing with the stink of death.

Before long, such people are dying unnatural causes, disappearing! Cora knows someone is hunting them and the killer may well be on her heels. Worse, she has met a mysterious medical student, Theodore Flint, poaching her business who knows all too well about Cora Lee’s fierce reputation. Disguised as Jacob, Cora and Flint come to an arrangement and everything gets muddled as her feelings for him become more than just business. Running from passion and love is nothing compared to the killer coming to collect a most sought after oddity for his collection, Cora herself.

Containing two hearts makes it that much more fitting that Cora has led a life as two people in order to survive but Flint could unravel the only protection she has, if he discovers her brother doesn’t even exist. The timeline beginning in 1850 with Cora’s birth, was ripe with body snatching for medical studies you can research this and find out the shocking reality. Too, this is a feminist story in the split necessary for Cora to take on the role of Jacob to navigate the rougher side of life. Cora is fiercely intelligent, full of medical knowledge and yet Jacob is the one the invite to the Grand Anatomical Museum is extended to by Theo Flint. In a world where women were less, Cora has risen to legendary status. Her own aunt and mother’s removal from the well to do family because of their pregnancies out-of-wedlock was the norm of such times and yet we see amazing strength and courage in Charlotte taking on the care of her niece. These were mean times if you didn’t have money, which is why as vile as body snatching is, it’s a sink or swim existance and people did what they needed to in order to survive! Bigotry against mixed- blood children, xenophobia, the poor versus the rich, sexism, it’s all here and it’s quite an adventure.

I was engaged to the very end and genuinely feel Cora makes for a fascinating young woman! This is one to add to your TBR pile, I was still guessing how it would all come together and the ending is just right.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Lake Union Publishing

Tell Me You’re Mine: A Novel by Elisabeth Norebäck

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Her right ear looks like Daniel’s and Maria’s. Elf ears. It’s genetic. 

Stella Widstrand was on a family vacation in a secluded cabin by the sea so long ago, when her baby daughter disappeared, thought to have drowned. All that remains, her  red stroller, turned over in the sand, but could the sea have truly taken her daughter, whose body was never found? One fatal mistake, one walk and it was all over for Stella and Daniel, the blame all hers to bear.

Now Stella has Henrik and Milo, a happy life despite her terrible grief. It’s better to leave that tragedy in the past, where it belongs. Psychotherapy once saved her, pulled her out of the abyss, inspiring her to help others, studying psychology herself. She was good at it, her job, until now. A handwritten letter, a threat or warning is turning her life upside down. It could be the one hostile patient from her past or it could be Isabella, the woman whom she recommends group therapy to and believes could be her dead daughter, Alice. Her child whose body was never found, Alice who could have been taken!It isn’t just grief, making her see something familiar in the stranger, it is possible, she never believed her to be dead, she isn’t losing her mind!

Isabella is damaged, raised by an overbearing mother (Kerstin) who feels her child is slipping away, living in Stockholm, engaging in therapy that she doesn’t trust. Private thoughts should be kept private, she’s of the keep yourself to yourself generation. Her daughter is fragile and should be home where Kerstin doesn’t have to worry about her, can guide her, care for her. Her father, Hans passed away recently, and she’s had a hard time with it, she needs her mother! Why don’t people understand this? Isabella is seeing her caring mother in a different light due to the therapy sessions, questioning things in her life, even her father’s death. Things no longer make sense, therapy is opening her eyes but to what? She wants control of her life and her emotions, but why is that a threat to Kerstin.

Stella is getting too close to her patient, Henrik doesn’t like it a bit, knowing how vulernable his wife his to her past tragedy. Is this all just hysteria, is she projecting on the young patient? It’s impossible, irrational, Henrik doesn’t believe her, worries over her, could she be sick again? Stella is slipping, breaking but she is going to find out if Isabella is her Alice, at any cost.

This was engaging and strange at times, one of those stories about a mother’s worst fears coming true, though what follows seems more than a little impossible. Then again life is stranger than fiction at times too. It was good but not as thrilling as I had hoped, I think because I figured it out early on. It’s more a psychological drama about damaged people and I’ve read other novels with striking similarities but it was still enjoyable.

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Penguin Group

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

The House in the Hills by Rowan Hanlon

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The house stood out but it didn’t brag. It stood back from the street and wowed passersby with its unintentional difference but didn’t necessarily invite them in. While not standoffish it didn’t really care one way or another if you liked it or not.

This novel wasn’t what I expected. The house of Marc and Harmony’s dream is more nightmare than fairytale. From the beginning it doesn’t bode well, it’s cheap for a reason but once Harmony is cajoled by Marc to give the home a chance, she is wooed by the beauty within, such as the perfect kitchen that fits the needs of her life as a food blogger. Like most folks, if an ‘amazing’ house is super cheap you know there is a catch, either an infestation of rodents, insects or ghosts! All joking aside, this house has inhabitants of the paranormal sort. Marc admits, maybe just maybe it’s cheap because… someone died. But hey, people truly do die every day and we have to die somewhere right? But what if the ‘death’ wasn’t some natural passing from old age or illness in bed but possibly domestic in nature?

Oh and did he mention, the guest house on the property comes with a tenant? Just what a young couple needs! A pretty young actress, Darcy Flynn. Upon meeting them, she eyes Marc and asks “Who’s this tall drink of water?” But don’t worry, she promises Harmony she won’t sleep with him. Really, very big of her!

Don’t feel too bad, our Harmony has her shameful guilty secrets too. Things begin to happen, Harmony starts hearing and then seeing apparitions, and questions her sanity? Marc thinks it’s just her nerves, in that patronizing way of his, shrugs her off. Of course, maybe there is even more to the ‘domestic’ story than he lets on. Strange in this day and age Harmony didn’t look into the house from the start. But she starts to piece things together and Marc just has that ‘hey ok, maybe I didn’t tell you everything’ attitude.

The character who gives the novel some life is her elderly neighbor Josephine, another southerner like Harmony (who hails from Tennessee). Two peas in a pod!  Josephine is a self-described big mouth and far more interesting than the young and beautiful characters that should be center of the novel. She is more interesting than the ghosts too, in fact I wish the story was all Josephine. Why are people always trying to shut little old folks up when they are trying to give us all the dirt on our evil homes? Seriously, let them talk- you might just learn something!

Marc, half the time you just want to throttle him. Everything is a secret with him, no harm done right? Guilt by omission doesn’t count, right? Lawdy lawdy! What if it could cost you your life?

I think for me I have read really horrifying stories that are hard to compare to. I got to the point where I didn’t care if they were in danger or not. Marc and Harmony were equally screwed up and self-centered, their marriage was more terrifying a prospect than any earthbound souls tormenting them. It’s a fast read, again Josephine is salvation for a story that would have otherwise remained flat. It was okay but not as haunting as I wanted.

Available now

Reverberator Books

The Pupil: A Novel by Dawn Goodwin

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I’ve been thinking about your book and I’d like to help. Call me, Sam. 

Best selling novelist Sam Morton sees potential in pupil Katherine Baxter, he could be the perfect mentor in guiding her into a best-selling author. He certainly isn’t producing anything of value, nor meeting deadlines at the moment. Katherine spends her days caring for her two children in a beautiful home, provided by her older husband Paul but writing has forever been her passion, one she’s had to put on a shelf. Paul isn’t supportive of her dreams, if she has any chance of finishing a novel and being published, it will be through Sam, but it will require deception and favors from her friend to keep Paul in the dark. Paul treats her as a fragile creature who could break at any moment, something happened in the past, some sort of breakdown that requires medication to keep Katherine stable but she’s had enough of Paul’s watchful eye. She’s ready to move on. It isn’t only Paul who feels her quiet life is safest, after the ‘incident’, her friend Helen believes her writing, and the notoriety it could bring ‘if’ it’s successful is better left as an unfulfilled dream, more risk than it’s worth. Why can’t Katherine just be happy with her very comfortable, happy life?

Sam is attractive, but it’s his skill as a writer that’s the real draw. He has the life she wants, the sense of accomplishment that comes from attaining ones dream. Then there is the wife, Violet- the power behind the man. The woman comes to know Katherine, and realizes she has seen her somewhere else before. Violet will never allow any woman to come between she and Sam, pupil or lover. She knows something damaging about Katherine, something explosive, unforgiveable!

There are flashbacks of Katherine’s youth, from the father who walked out on she and her mother, to her first love that left her with more than just memories. The bond between she and her mother is strained, a mother who had big dreams for her daughter, dreams that didn’t entail settling. All she wanted was for her daughter to blaze a trail to a solid career, so she would never end up as she has, dependant on a man. Her mother has kept things from Katherine too, it seems everyone is deceptive in their own special way in this novel.

Just as she is finally laying claim on her own future, she begins to receive threats through texts messages, someone knows who she is and what she has done, and by the novel’s end so will you, dear reader.

Katherine is the shrinking wife at the start, meant to be content under a husband who acts more like a father than a lover, the bright spots of her day should be going for walks with her friend Helen, eating healthy food that the well to do have the money for, cleaning her beautiful home and nurturing her perfect children. Bury your own dreams and go about your life with a smile, take pills to recover from your tragedy, move along, nothing to see here. I don’t know, Katherine didn’t ever become a woman I liked. I get it, she is meek but even the meek have an inner fire, anger that simmers beneath their calm exterior, especially a woman looking to chase her dream. Sam didn’t feel like a real person to me either, he was just sort of there, I expect a handsome famous author to be more charismatic. I never felt that magnetism. Things spiral madly between Violet, Sam and Katherine and I was left wondering what the point was. It is tragic, it really is, the big secret shadowing Katherine but I was perplexed, and honestly, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Violet, even if she is off her rocker.

Not sure how I feel about this one, I’ve read other novels about mentors that are far more sinister, I don’t think this is a love triangle, which may well be the point. Violet is meant to feel threatened, when there isn’t a true threat from Katherine. She’s done far more horrible things than fall in love with Sam, whether she is to blame or not. I thought this was going to be a wild love affair full of violence and vengeance. Well, I leave it to you reader to decide for yourself.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Aria

 

 

 

 

Her Pretty Face: A Novel by Robyn Harding

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She was having a girls’ day out. Like other women did. Like women whose children didn’t require special diets and structured routines and constant research into treatments and behavioral modification therapies.

Frances Metcalfe clings to the hope that life will be better now that her troubled son is accepted into Forrester Academy, but like all the elite places in the world, it too has it’s hierarchy and one that doesn’t easily forgive children who deviate from the norm. When her son Marcus gets back at a student for bullying him, it’s vile and ‘disturbing’ to the child’s mother and any chance of fitting in seems lost forever, once again they are outcasts. Frances may as well be back in school herself, unlike the wealthy parents she and her husband have modest means, a second mortgage on their house to afford their son’s tuition, anything to help him get a ‘clean slate’ and flourish as he begins middle school. Unlike her handsome, charming husband she is nothing like the other mother’s, not at 5 feet and carrying excess weight, she’s never going to fit in. With their disapproval, she is sinking further into depression. Her social anxiety is at an all time high and the other women aren’t even attempting to make it easy on her. Then salvation arrives, in the form of Kate Randolph.

Kate doesn’t worry so much what the other mother’s think, she is just as beautiful and wealthy as any of the mothers. She doesn’t need anyone’s approval, in fact she enjoys sparring with the other mothers, cutting them down to size which is exactly what she does to Alison Moss in support of her new friend. When Kate’s around, the weight of the world is lifted and why she accepts Frances in all her awkward glory is a mystery, even Kate’s son Charles is the opposite of Marcus, naturally loved by everyone and like a godsend when her son has a meltdown. Charles and Kate save the day, finally her son has someone at school who is in his corner. Nothing could warm her heart more, after years of therapy and struggle, it’s such a welcome site she could cry. For once, she has found support, a mother and son who don’t treat her son like a freak. Could life finally be turning around for the better?

The two form a deep bond, Kate pushing Frances to tap into her wild side. Not all of their fun is ‘harmless’. Kate’s daughter Daisy knows her mother has another side, that she has high expectations of her, Charles is the apple of her eye while Daisy feels unwanted. Daisy should have a perfect life, “Girls who looked like Daisy were instantly popular, no matter the defects in their personality.” So why is she so sad, and distant from her mother, whom she looks so much like? Moving around so much takes its toll, and  teenaged Daisy is flirting with her own disaster. Both Kate and Frances have dark secrets, ones that makes it wise to keep one’s guard up but both are vulnerable with the other, the trouble is one of them is a cold-blooded murderer. Just whose secret is the most devastating?

DJ is a character that wants justice, just a child when his sister was brutally murdered. Amber Kunik is at the heart of the tragedy, and he refuses to forget her. The novel has short chapters that reach into the past, the trial of Shane Nelson for her murder. The moment that changed the entire trajectory of Dj’s life.

Both women are hiding from something, or someone. Each are haunted by the transgressions of their youth that have cost other people everything. Someone is going to uncover their devastatingly shocking secrets, and neither family will be the same. The bonds of their friendship will be tested, just how much do they really know about each other?

This story was engaging and sad. Any mother can empathize with Frances and her struggles with her son. What mother doesn’t want their child to thrive, to be happy and have friendships. In any child with difficulties it’s the little things that make or break your heart, the slights and rejections are just as brutal an attack on a mother’s heart as the child’s. Lacking the confidence to stand up to the ‘in crowd’ (let’s face it, the popularity contest in school can be just as ridiculous in the adult world) who wouldn’t welcome the edgier Kate? Kate’s life is by no means perfect either, she has her own issues that Daisy has a knack for putting a spotlight on. Both women are deeply damaged in different ways. Dj breaks your heart, his story gets tangled in theirs and his own plans go wildly awry, and still it’s hard not to feel for him too. This book evoked both horror and sympathy.

Shocking, brutal and sad both women are guilty but which one can be forgiven? What will it cost the children when revenge comes to call?

Publication Date: July 10. 2018

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Gallery/Scout Press