[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Phantom Limb’ by Lucinda Berry

‘Phantom Limb’ by Lucinda Berry

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5

Finished on February 22, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $.99 on Kindle | $9.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Twins, Emily and Elizabeth, had a terrible early childhood. Their mother was an abusive drunk who subjected them to horrible abuse. Their lives change for the better, though, when they’re rescued and adopted into a loving family.

Elizabeth copes better than her sister with the trauma of their past. Emily routinely falls into deep depressions, and she self-injures. Elizabeth does everything she can to try and help her twin, even to the detriment of her happiness.

When Elizabeth wakes up strapped to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward, she must delve deep into their childhoods, Emily mental illness, and her part in it all. She’s forced to relive things she spent years repressing, and the truth will shake the foundations of her world forever.

MY REVIEW:

This book deals heavily with self-harm, suicide, child abuse, and sexual abuse, so reader beware.

‘Phantom Limb’ is a tragic tale of two sisters who suffered unthinkable abuse. They made it through because they had each other, but their unbreakable bond turns out to be more harmful than good.

I like Berry’s writing style. It’s easy to read, and it’s easy to get absorbed in her tales. This book, though, was entirely too predictable for me. I saw the twist coming from a million miles away, and that was disappointing.

The real star of this story is Rose, an anorexic girl in the hospital with Elizabeth. She was charming and funny. It was easier to feel sympathetic to her than it was with Elizabeth. 

I don’t know why this is classified as a thriller. It’s not. It’s more of a study of mental illness and trauma. The most substantial part of the story takes place in the hospital, and nothing is thrilling about a stay in the psych ward.

I had high hopes for this book, but it fell flat for me. Perhaps, it’ll be a better fit for you than me. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Land of Bones’ by Glenn Rolfe

‘Land of Bones’ by Glenn Rolfe

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5

Finished on February 19, 2019

FREE with Kindle Unlimited | $2.99 on Kindle | $8.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Demon lights, granted wishes, strange things, and brutal love at the Lucky Lounge Motel. A haunted sister, desperate parents, a little human touch, and the end of the world…

These are the stories whispered among dead leaves, the script etched bare for all to see. When the chills sink deep and your heart begins to pound…are you alone?

MY REVIEW:

This collection contains the following stories:

“The Land of Bones”

“Ghosts of Spears Corner”

“Simon”

“Not Kansas Anymore”

“Fire”

“Wish”

“The Fixer”

“The Rooster”

“Too Much of a Dead Thing”

“Little Bunny”

“Death Lights”

‘Land of Bones’ contains fourteen stories about ghosts, monsters,  vampires and more. The last story is more of a novella. It rounds out the collection.

I wanted to like these stories. Many of them have good bones, but they are so poorly edited, it severely detracts from what could have been. They aren’t particularly scary. They’re more creepy and disturbing than anything. Had they been more frightening — more gripping — I think I might have been able to get past the lousy editing.

I can typically overlook little errors (the occasional typo, a missing word that’s easy to ignore), but there were too many in this book to overlook them. Not only were there typos and grammar faux-pas, there were also several times in which characters were misnamed. I think another good round of edits could have saved most of these stories.

This was the first work I’ve read from Rolfe. I think his work has a lot of potential, but I don’t know if I will pick up any more of it in the future.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘The Perfect Child’ by Lucinda Berry

‘The Perfect Child’ by Lucinda Berry

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

Finished on February 16, 2019

$4.99 on Kindle | $1.99 on Audiobook | $9.99 in Hardcover | $10.97 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Christopher and Hannah are happy and successful, but their lives are missing one thing: a child. When little abandoned Janie is brought into the hospital where the couple works, Christopher instantly falls in love. This is the child his family has been waiting for. Or so he thinks.

Janie is no ordinary child, though. She’s suffered extreme abuse that damaged her psyche in irreparable ways. While she seems to have formed a connection with Christopher, she’s cruel to everyone else in her life. Hannah becomes the prime target, and it quickly takes its toll. Christopher doesn’t want to believe Janie is anything but his darling little girl.

But as Janie’s behavior threatens to tear Christopher and Hannah apart, the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.

MY REVIEW:

I got this book a Kindle First release. It seemed like something right up my alley, but it was more of a 3.5-star read for me.

As a horror fan, one of my favorite tropes is the “evil kid”, but with this book, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the reasoning behind Janie’s evil behavior. I realize the other is a therapist who’s used her background and knowledge to base the character off of real-life mental illnesses, but it felt kinda icky. 

The abuse Janie suffered was horrific. It was hard to read and was confusing, emotionally. It’s impossible to like or root for Janie, but it felt wrong to blame her at the same time.

Halfway through, I expected there to be a paranormal twist, but there wasn’t. I think I might have liked this better if there had been. 

That being said, I enjoyed Berry’s writing style enough that I immediately went out and downloaded two more of her novels. I look forward to reading them. Even though this plot line felt a little strange to me, her style was smooth enough that I have higher hopes for her other works.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Barriers’ by Patrick A. Skelton

‘Barriers’ by Patrick A. Skelton

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

Finished on February 15, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $.99 on Kindle | $6.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the near future, Barrier domes shield the planet’s wealthiest cities from destructive solar flares, and only the healthy elite are granted protection. Those who are unable to prove their ability to work are sent to live in the Sanctuaries — camps outside the barrier domes where they have little-to-no protection from flares. It’s brutal living there.

Nathan Gallagher is one of the lucky ones who lives inside a barrier. But his luck runs out when his adopted son suffers a paralyzing accident. He’s taken from his parents and sent to the Sanctuaries where it’s only a matter of time before they kill him.

With only days until another flare is due to strike Earth’s Sanctuary cities, not only does his son’s life rest on his shoulders, but the fate of a quarter billion people.

MY REVIEW:

This post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, thriller has an interesting premise. Fifty years ago, something injured the sun resulting in a series of catastrophic solar flares that have devastated the world. Humans, ever-adaptable, have found a way to survive. They’ve built a series of protective domes over major cities.

There’s a couple of problems with this solution, though. A single company owns the rights to these barriers, and they use their power to their advantage. They get to decide who is worthy to live under their protection and who isn’t. 

While this is a story of a father’s love and his willingness to fight for his family, it’s also a story about corruption, power, and greed. I felt Skelton did a good job of melding these subjects together.

There’s a lot going on in this book. Sometimes, I found the switching of plot lines a little dizzying, but for the most part, I enjoyed Skelton’s writing style. I don’t think I could have read this in a single sitting, though. There’s quite a lot to absorb and make sense of.

Overall, this is a compelling, original story, and I’m glad I read it.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall’ by Mommy Moo Moo

‘Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall’ by Mommy Moo Moo. Illustrated by David Hill

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on February 14, 2019

$3.99 on Kindle | $9.99 in Board Book

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Loblolly pine trees fill Mommy Moo Moo’s magical backyard. “Loblolly, Loblolly, you’re so tall. You reach to the sky, up so high.” These giant pines native to the American Southeast have never been so celebrated for their grace, their strength, and their beauty as in this enchanting picture book. Written in a lyrical style perfect for bedtime, “Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall” captures the whimsy of a child’s imagination and the majesty of the outdoors.

MY REVIEW:

I have never reviewed a children’s board book before, but I jumped at the chance with ‘Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall”. This is a lovely book with beautiful, colorful illustrations and a charming story.

I liked the emphasis on the appreciation and reverence for nature. The gorgeous illustrations filled me with both a sense of peace and a quiet joy.

This is a book I would be proud to give to my own child or someone else’s I love. If you’re looking for a gift for a child in your life, pick this little beauty up. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Echoes of the Past’ by Evan Bond

‘Echoes of the Past’ by Evan Bond

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on February 9, 2019

$2.99 on Kindle

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sasha’s husband is abusive. He makes her life hell every day. It seems like an endless loop of terror and hopelessness. After years of putting up with it, she finally can’t take any more.

She takes her little girl and runs as far away as she can — to a small town in Maine, Carlisle. She figures it’s the best place to start over, fresh, where no one knows her. At first, the locals seem friendly and welcoming, but when bodies start piling up in a town that hasn’t seen violence in decades, they turn on her.

All she wanted was a new life, free from fear and violence, but she suddenly finds herself fighting for her life in a town full of vigilantes.

MY REVIEW:

Bond never disappoints. ‘Echoes of the Past’ is a wild, fast-paced, thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat, white-knuckling my Kindle, from the beginning to its exciting and satisfying ending. 

Sasha harbors a dark secret, and all she wants is to provide a safe and stable life for her little girl. She hopes they can have it in the tiny town of Carlisle, but she’s sorely mistaken.

‘Echoes of the Past’ brings a resurgence of the witch hunts of the past into today. It shows just how easily people can be manipulated, and how quickly mob rule can take hold. As the action ramps up, Bond’s characters come into themselves whether that be for the better or worse. 

Pick this book up, but prepare yourself for a wild ride only Evan Bond can craft.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Winter Loon’ by Susan Bernhard

‘Winter Loon’ by Susan Bernhard

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on February 4, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $4.99 on Kindle | $1.99 on Audiobook | $13.87 in Hardcover | $10.37 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Wes Ballot’s mother drowns in a frozen Minnesota lake in a tragic accident. His father takes off, leaving Wes with his cold and strange grandparents. He sleeps in his mother’s old room and is surrounded by memories and questions.

Hoping and waiting for his father to return, he meets a local girl whose mother passed away, too. They fall in love and bond over their mutual heartbreaks. She is his breath of fresh air.

When buried truths come to light in the spring thaw, wounds are exposed and violence erupts, forcing Wes to embark on a search for his missing father, the truth about his mother, and a future he must claim for himself—a quest that begins back at that frozen lake.

A powerful, page-turning coming-of-age story, Winter Loon captures the resilience of a boy determined to become a worthy man by confronting family demons, clawing his way out of the darkness, and forging a life from the shambles of a broken past.

MY REVIEW:

I picked this book up on a whim after stumbling upon it on Kindle Unlimited, and I’m glad I did. This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It brought me to tears multiple times. It’s truly a powerful book.

Berhard’s characters are vivid and easy to become invested in. Wes’ heartbreak has a unique vulnerability to it that draws you in. It’s so utterly human and real that goes straight to your heart. At the same time, we are given a poignant look into Wes’ growth. We watch him struggle to become the sort of man he wants to be and not the kind he fears he might be destined to be. He struggles to parse his grief and guilt over his mother’s death and the anger and abandonment he feels toward his father.

Wes’ blossoming romance feels true to the teenage experience. As someone who has lost her parents, I connected with their pain and hunger for human connection.

Bernhard’s writing is lyrical and pretty without being pompous. It’s really a pleasure to read.

‘Winter Loon’ is a lovely novel. Not just as a debut, but as a whole. I very much look forward to reading more of Bernhard’s work in the future. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Willoughby’s Time and Space App’ by Jon Koons

‘Willoughby’s Space and Time App’ by Jon Koons

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on January 31, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $2.99 on Kindle | $14.99 in Paperback | $7.49 on Audiobook

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Two Human Teens. One Intergalactic Resort. An Alien Pageant Under Attack. Time to Party!

Brad’s trip to the Apple store gets real weird when he and his girlfriend, Stephanie, find themselves transported to another planet — Willoughby’s! It’s like an intergalactic Club Med filled with various different and unusual species.

The teens have been given VIP access to this amazing place, and they’re thrilled. They soon realize, though, that their stay there isn’t going to be all relaxing and alien-watching. Willoughby needs their help.

The only way to save Willoughby’s is to throw a party and the first intergalactic beauty pageant.

Can they get contestants from countless cockeyed worlds to join their pageant, best the baddies, and save the planet?

MY REVIEW:

I loved this book! This was the most fun reading I’d had in a long time, and I did not want it to end. 

Koons writes simply. It’s almost like Brad and Stephanie are right there, for real, telling you their story. It doesn’t feel like reading at all, which I’ve no doubt would make this novel appealing to younger audiences. 

This is a funny, often goofy, and heartfelt story. Every character is delightful, and the world Stephanie and Brad find themselves in is vivid and fun. The plot is clever (especially the use of iPhones), and moves along at the perfect pace. 

I liked the relationship between Brad and Stephanie. It felt very true to what it felt like to be fifteen and in love. And they seem to have a realistic, healthy view of their relationship as well. 

Sometimes, the humor felt a little dated. I mean, it works for me as a thirty-four year old woman, but I found myself wondering if current teenagers would get it/find it funny. 

I could see this book turned into a movie, or perhaps a show. Koons’ writing is that vibrant. Also, I bet this book is especially fun in audiobook.

I am super excited to see where this series goes. 

Give this book a read if you need a lighthearted, rollicking ride. (Who doesn’t nowadays?) You will not regret it, I promise. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Brutal Bedtime Stories’ by Various Authors

‘Brutal Bedtime Stories: A Supernatural Horror Story Collection’ by Various Authors

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5

Finished on January 30, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $3.99 on Kindle | $7.49 on Audiobook | $16.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Is there anything as horrifying as what David’s wife gave birth to?

How about that advertisement Tobias found that was selling a human head, condition used?

Then there’s Hayong’s experience in heaven (which isn’t nearly as nice as it sounds)…

… and Kyle encountering that bionic cult that’s a long way short of being human. 

Spine-tingling terror from horror writers around the world. Dozens of diverse short stories containing gruesome murders, supernatural mysteries, grotesque hellscapes, and deranged psychopaths to keep you up at night. Surprise twists ensure you keep guessing until the last page. 

MY REVIEW:

This collection was a solid 2.5-stars for me. I only enjoyed half of the stories. 

‘Brutal Bedtime Stories’ includes stories by Tobias Wade, David Maloney, Ha-yong Bak, and Kyle Alexander.

I enjoyed the first half of the book. The stories in the first half were exciting and interesting reads. Then, I got to the third author included, and I could not make it through all of their stories. I read two and a portion, but I just couldn’t do it. It felt as though violence was used for shock value, and that’s not the sort of horror I enjoy. Someone else might, though.

Also, this collection could stand another round of editing.

I felt like the calibre of authors wasn’t equal in this collection. Some definitely outshined the others, and that made for an unbalanced read.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Within These Walls’ by Ania Ahlborn

‘Within These Walls’ by Ania Ahlborn

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

Finished on January 27, 2019

$12.99 on Kindle | $26.95 in Audiobook | $8.80 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Writer Lucas Graham’s life is a mess. His marriage has fallen apart, and he hasn’t written anything successful in years. When he’s contacted by death row inmate, Jeffrey Halcomb, to write his story, Lucas thinks it might be his second chance.

Halcomb is a notorious cult leader and mass murderer. He’s been quiet about his crimes for thirty years. With nothing left to lose, Lucas takes Halcomb up on his offer. 

With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

MY REVIEW:

I listened to this book through Audible. 

‘Within These Walls’ mixes Helter Skelter with a ghost story. Jeffrey Halcomb and his followers are reminiscent of the Manson Family, and it’s an interesting concept to weave that in with the supernatural.

I have been a fan of Ahlborn’s work since I read ‘The Bird Eater’ a few years ago. None of her other works have lived up to that book for me, unfortunately. Still, I enjoy her writing style. She writes simply yet still beautifully. Sometimes, her phrases are almost poetic without reading as overly pompous or preachy. She also has a compelling imagination.

This novel did not scare me, but it was certainly gripping. I think I might have found it more spooky had I read it rather than listened to it, if that makes sense. 

There were a couple of parts that felt irrational or unrealistic (not relating to the supernatural element, obviously), but Ahlborn’s lovely prose made it easy to overlook them.

I will continue to read Ahlborn’s work in appreciation of her style. She has become rather renowned for a reason.