Category Archives: Gallery Books

Review: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

within wallsTitle: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In her all-new supernatural thriller, bestselling indie horror author Ania Ahlborn asks: How far would you go for success? What would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. 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.

Review:

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn is an absolutely mesmerizing and downright spooky novel with supernatural elements. Part mystery, part ghost story, this story is incredibly fast paced with a unique storyline that has horror/suspense/paranormal aspects that fans of psychological thrillers will love.

Lucas Graham is a true crime author who desperately needs a best-seller that will revive his stalled career and hopefully save his failing marriage. When he receives a letter from convicted murderer and cult leader Jeffrey Halcomb offering him the exclusive story about the murder/suicides of ten of his followers, Lucas does not think twice before agreeing to Halcomb’s terms. Lucas, along with his twelve year old daughter Jeanie, pack up and move across country to live in the house where the infamous deaths occurred thirty years earlier. Ghostly apparitions, unexplained sounds and eerie sightings begin immediately after their arrival and soon both Jeanie and Lucas experience extreme changes in their personality. Could there be a rational explanation for these bizarre occurrences? Or is the reason far more sinister than either Jeanie or Lucas could possibly imagine?

Lucas is on a tight deadline for his interviews with Halcomb and he immediately immerses himself in his writing project. After he runs into a dead end, he considers packing up and returning to New York, but surprisingly, Jeanie tries to talk him into staying. When a neighbor provides him with invaluable information about Halcomb and the other cult members, Lucas decides to take the book in a new direction. His once close relationship with Jeanie soon begins to suffer when Lucas becomes obsessed with the cult leader and the deaths of his followers.

Jeanie is also fascinated by the history of the house and her research leads to a surprising adulation of Jeffrey Halcomb. She is angry with Lucas for breaking his promises to her and her resentment over his neglect is relieved by her friendship with their new neighbor, Echo. Jeanie’s avid interest in the occult takes a shocking turn after Echo confides stunning information that bolsters Jeanie’s growing fixation with Halcomb. This leaves Jeanie susceptible to manipulation that could have devastating consequences.

The events from thirty years ago are exposed through a series of flashbacks that provide vital information about Halcomb and his followers. The months leading up to the mass suicides/murders are meticulously detailed and reveal how the charismatic leader exploits the weaknesses of those living on the fringes of society. These recollections show how the cult ingratiates themselves with Audra Snow, an emotionally fragile young woman who is estranged from her family. She invites them into her home and over the course of several months, she becomes a believer of their twisted ideology.  The final months and days leading up to the murder/suicides are particularly poignant and it is absolutely heartbreaking when Audra’s experiences with the cult are fully revealed.

Within These Walls is a suspense laden novel that is quite riveting. Ania Ahlborn expertly combines supernatural elements with an intriguing mystery and the resulting story is a spine tingling psychological thriller that thunders to a jaw-dropping and completely unexpected conclusion.

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Filed under Ania Ahlborn, Contemporary, Gallery Books, Horror, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, Thriller, Within These Walls

Review: Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

trampolinesTitle: Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Praised as “a tender exploration of friendship, families, and first love” (Liane Moriarty, New York Times bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret), this coming-of-age novel from bestselling author Frances Whiting is equal parts heartwarming, accessible, and thought provoking.

“Tallulah de Longland,” she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgment. “That,” she announced, “is a serious glamorgeous name.”

From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah ‘Lulu’ de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and by their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river.

Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small coastal town of Juniper Bay. But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood.

Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgivable…

It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.

The Review:

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting is an absolutely beautiful novel of friendship, family, love, betrayal and forgiveness. This captivating story is a wonderful mix of humor that is laugh out loud funny and tender, poignant moments that are heartbreakingly sad. The true to life characters are multi-faceted and flawed but so likable and sympathetic it is impossible not to root for them as they experience all of the joys and sorrows of life.

Despite their very different backgrounds, Tallulah “Lulu” deLongland and Annabelle Andrews became instant friends at the age of twelve. Neither girl has what would be considered an ideal home life but they each find enjoyment in one another’s homes. Lulu helps her dad raise her younger brothers because her mother suffers debilitating depression for much of her childhood. Annabelle’s parents are eccentric artists and her alcoholic father is more reliable than her less than maternal mother. Nonetheless, the two girls giggle their way through adolescence and support one another through the various ups and downs of their respective lives.   But their once rock solid friendship comes to an abrupt end after a shocking betrayal and although Lulu and Annabelle eventually reunite as adults, a split second decision once again threatens their relationship.

Lulu is a wonderful lead character; genuine, kind, loving and incredibly loyal. She is, in so many ways, the anti-thesis of the much more outgoing, rather dominating and larger than life Annabelle. Their friendship is all consuming, intense and excludes Lulu’s other friends, Simone and Stella. In the wake of devastation, Lulu retreats into a safe life until she is forced to step out of her comfort zone. Leaving her family and small town behind, she begins working for a dynamic radio personality who is as wise as he is crass.

Annabelle is, surprisingly, an enjoyable character to get to know. Without a doubt, she is self-centered and she hurts Lulu is the worst possible way, but it is impossible not to like her. In spite of these flaws, Annabelle is Lulu’s staunchest ally and supporter throughout their childhood. As an adult, despite their strained relationship, Annabelle is there for Lulu when she needs her most.

The secondary cast of characters is quirky, well-developed and quite appealing. Lulu’s childhood friends Simone and Sophie are complete opposites but incredibly supportive of her no matter what mistakes she makes. Lulu’s boss and friend Duncan McAllister is deeply flawed but this just adds to his (sometimes dubious) charm. It is impossible not love Lulu’s dad, Harry, who depends on her more than he should but always has a comfortable shoulder for her to lean on when she needs one. Lulu’s mom, Rose, is such a heartbreaking character as she battles to overcome the depression that keeps her from participating in the lives of her loved ones.  And, of course, the list of favorite characters would not be complete without mentioning the lovable canine, Barney, who provides Duncan with the means to aid Lulu as she makes peace with her past.

Walking on Trampolines is an emotionally compelling novel of redemption, forgiveness and love.  With much laughter and a few tears, Frances Whiting brings life’s messiest moments vividly and unapologetically to life. An absolutely breathtaking story that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Frances Whiting, Gallery Books, Rated A, Review, Walking on Trampolines

Review: Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn

things halfTitle: Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Supernatural
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Postbellum America makes for a haunting backdrop in this historical and supernatural tale of moonlit cemeteries, masked balls, cunning mediums, and terrifying secrets waiting to be unearthed by an intrepid crime reporter.

The year is 1869, and the Civil War haunts the city of Philadelphia like a stubborn ghost. Mothers in black continue to mourn their lost sons. Photographs of the dead adorn dim sitting rooms. Maimed and broken men roam the streets. One of those men is Edward Clark, who is still tormented by what he saw during the war. Also constantly in his thoughts is another, more distant tragedy—the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the famed magician Magellan Holmes…a crime that Edward witnessed when he was only ten.

Now a crime reporter for one of the city’s largest newspapers, Edward is asked to use his knowledge of illusions and visual trickery to expose the influx of mediums that descended on Philadelphia in the wake of the war. His first target is Mrs. Lucy Collins, a young widow who uses old-fashioned sleight of hand to prey on grieving families. Soon, Edward and Lucy become entwined in the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor, the city’s most highly regarded—and by all accounts, legitimate—medium, who dies mid-séance. With their reputations and livelihoods at risk, Edward and Lucy set out to find the real killer, and in the process unearth a terrifying hive of secrets that reaches well beyond Mrs. Pastor.

Blending historical detail with flights of fancy, Things Half in Shadow is a riveting thriller where Medium and The Sixth Sense meet The Alienist—and where nothing is quite as it seems…

The Review:

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn is an impeccably written historical novel that is highly entertaining and quite riveting. Written in first person in the form of a memoir, this compelling story is the perfect blend of humor, supernatural elements and mystery. Plenty of twists and turns, misdirects and closely guarded secrets make it impossible to guess the killer’s identity until the novel’s dramatic and pulse pounding conclusion.

Edward Clark is less than thrilled with his latest assignment from his editor at the paper where he is a successful crime reporter. Ordered to investigate the proliferation of fraudulent mediums operating in the city, Edward reluctantly finds himself teaming up with Mrs. Lucy Collins to solve the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor.   Edward neither likes nor trusts Lucy but when she threatens to expose his past, he has no choice but to work with her to prove they had nothing to do with Lenora’s death.

Edward has left his notorious past behind him and he is quite content with the life he has carved out for himself. He loves his job as a crime beat reporter, he is happily engaged to a lovely young woman and he remains close friends with his old war buddy and current police detective William Barclay. No one has any idea of the secrets he is keeping, so when Lucy easily uncovers his real identity, Edward is terrified of the truth getting out. Edward is surprised to discover that lurking beneath his dislike for the charlatan is a grudging respect and a surprising attraction that he works hard to ignore.

Despite the fact she is a fraud, it is impossible not to like Lucy. She is a strong and vivacious woman and she is also well connected and fiendishly clever. With few options available to women in the time period, she is doing what she has to do to keep a roof over her and her brother’s head. Edward quickly exposes her as a fraud but in order to support herself, she has no compunction about coercing him into working with her.  Lucy, too, has a past she wants to remain hidden, but secrets have a way of coming out when least expected and Lucy has to trust that Edward will protect her.

The mystery aspect of the storyline is topnotch and while the investigation uncovers numerous motives for Lenora’s murder, Edward and Lucy quickly rule out many of their suspects. The investigation takes a surprising turn when Edward links Lenora’s death to another young woman’s but trying to figure out the connection between them is not easy. Equally perplexing is the unexpected appearance of Edward’s fiancée’s younger brother, Jasper.  But the most stunning turn of events brings Edward face to face with his infamous past and what he uncovers takes the case in a most shocking direction.

A positively outstanding mystery, Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn is an excellent novel that has a unique storyline and an incredible cast of well drawn characters. The supernatural element of the plot is so well done that even the most hardened skeptic will rethink their stance on ghosts and mediums. The séance scenes are quite eerie and the startling twist at the novel’s end is very spooky. Exciting plot twists keep readers guessing whodunit until the spectacular finale. While all of the story’s loose ends are neatly wrapped up, there are some unexpected revelations that appear to leave the door open for future novels starring the very likable Edward Clark.

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Filed under Alan Finn, Gallery Books, Historical, Mystery, Rated A, Review, Supernatural Elements, Things Half in Shadow

Review: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

before i goTitle: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

The Review:

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley is a bittersweet, emotional and surprisingly humorous novel. It is a thought-provoking and riveting story about a twenty-seven year old cancer survivor who is stunned by the news her cancer has returned and she only has months to live.

Just as Daisy Richmond and her husband Jack are about to celebrate another Cancerversary, their world is turned completely upside down by her shocking diagnosis. The couple try to keep their lives as normal as possible but Daisy soon finds herself consumed with worries about how Jack will go on without her. She devises a plan to find him a replacement wife, but Daisy is surprised by her reaction when it looks like she might have succeeded in finding him the perfect woman.

Daisy is an über organized, strong and capable woman and she does not let her diagnosis defeat her. Her reaction to the news is believable and she definitely goes through all the stages of grief (albeit at an accelerated rate). She tries to maintain her regular routine, but her worry about how Jack will go on without her is soon uppermost in her mind. Daisy turns to her best friend Kayleigh for dating advice, and they concoct a somewhat harebrained but well-intentioned scheme to find Jack a new wife. In the process, Daisy pushes Jack away and in his helpless, absentminded way, he lets her. Daisy eventually figures out the reasons behind her actions, but is it too late for her to repair the damage to their relationship?

Before I Go is an incredibly heartwarming and realistic novel that is a perfect blend of heartache and humor. The cast of characters is appealing and beautifully developed with relatable flaws and imperfections. Colleen Oakley has an engaging writing style but it is the unique storyline that makes the story so captivating. Despite its serious subject matter, it is an overall light read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Before I Go, Colleen Oakley, Contemporary, Fiction, Gallery Books, Rated A, Review

Review: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

life intendedTitle: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the author of the international bestseller The Sweetness of Forgetting, named one of the Best Books of Summer 2012 by Marie Claire magazine, comes a captivating novel about the struggle to overcome the past when our memories refuse to be forgotten.

In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

The Review:

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel is an incredibly poignant but ultimately uplifting novel of healing. In this thought-provoking and beautifully written story about love and loss, lead protagonist Kate Waithman rediscovers what matters most to her. Through a series of exceptionally vivid and moving dreams, Kate experiences the life she would have had if her husband had not passed away, but is it the life she was supposed to live?

It has taken nearly twelve years, but Kate has finally moved on from the death of her husband, Patrick. She is engaged to Dan, a terrific man that her friends and family adore, and she has a fulfilling career as a music therapist. But her happiness is tempered by an unexpected medical diagnosis and she still deeply mourns Patrick’s loss. On the night she accepts Dan’s marriage proposal, Kate’s dreams about Patrick begin and she is soon seeing her life from a different perspective.

The first thing that Kate begins to question is her relationship with Dan. He is a wonderful man and everyone agrees he is perfect for her. But Kate soon learns they have some fundamental differences and that maybe they are just coasting along. Kate is content with Dan but is she willing to settle for happy enough?

Another area of change in Kate’s life begins with her enrollment in an American sign language class. A discussion with her instructor, Andrew Henson, leads to a volunteer opportunity that forces her to fully re-evaluate her future. It is Kate’s friendship with Andrew that becomes the catalyst for many of the decisions she soon makes.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel is a mystical and heartwarming novel of love, family and friendship. Although sometimes a little predictable, it is nonetheless a captivating and emotional journey that will resonate with readers who have struggled to move on after losing a loved one.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Gallery Books, Kristin Harmel, The Life Intended

Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

missing placeTitle: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

The Review:

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is an utterly heart-wrenching mystery that is so compelling, I found it impossible to put down. The novel is a starkly honest portrayal of two very different women who are united in their search for their adult sons who have inexplicably vanished from a remote North Dakota town. Set against the backdrop of brutal winter, their investigation uncovers disturbing information about the oil company both men work for but yields very few clues about their sons’ whereabouts.

The only thing that Colleen Carroll and Shay Capparelli have in common is their missing sons. Colleen is wealthy, uptight and married and she and her husband have given their son Paul every advantage that money can buy. Shay is a laid back single mom, devoted to her children and while money is scarce, she provided her kids a happy, stable life. Shay is quick to anger and she often acts before she thinks. Colleen is completely out of her depth, but her ability to smooth over difficult situations is particularly useful during their investigation.

Shay’s son, Taylor is outgoing, friendly and well-liked. Despite Taylor’s move to North Dakota, the two remain very close and they talk almost daily. In sharp contrast, Colleen’s son Paul is shy and quiet but he has a bit of a troubling past. His relationship with his parents is volatile and Paul shares very little information with them. Despite these differences, Taylor and Paul are close friends and their disappearance on the same day certainly seems to indicate foul play.

Colleen and Shay reluctantly join forces to search for their sons and they are immediately stonewalled by the local authorities and Hunter-Cole Energy, the oil company that employs Paul and Taylor. Their progress is slow and while they uncover alarming information about unsafe working conditions, workplace accidents and outright corruption, it is impossible for them to link the oil company to the disappearances. Further clouding their investigation is the discovery of Hunter-Cole’s unfair land leases on the nearby reservation, but again, Colleen and Shay are frustrated by the tribe’s unwillingness to discuss their sons’ disappearances.

As a mom with a son the same age as the missing men in The Missing Place, I can completely relate to Shay and Colleen’s frantic need to do whatever it takes to find their children. As someone who has lived in a small isolated town far from most modern conveniences, I think Sophie Littlefield does an excellent job of capturing not just the loneliness but the desperation to escape an area with limited resources. And since I have lived in areas with similar weather, I can safely say Ms. Littlefield’s depiction of the harsh winter conditions is incredibly accurate.  This close attention to detail greatly enriches the overall story, and brings the entire novel vibrantly to life.

The Missing Place is an incredibly complex and intriguing novel with a well-developed and diverse set of characters. The mystery surrounding the boys’ disappearance is captivating and the novel does not end once the truth is finally revealed. Sophie Littlefield provides readers with a glimpse of what happens after the key players return to their regular lives. While the loose ends are mostly wrapped up, everything is not all pretty and perfect but the conclusion to the story is realistic and true to the characters and their various relationships.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gallery Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Sophie Littlefield, The Missing Place