Book Review: The Devil’s Picture Book by Arabella Seymour


Genre: Suspense, Drama

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Four women, friends from their school days, have grown apart with distance and time, until one of them puts in motion an ambitious plan for a reunion – at a country house health spa which – unknown to any of them – has a history of murder, intrigue and bad luck all it’s own.
There is Rhiannon, determined to find out who her real parents were; Alexa, desperate for time to herself away from her controlling husband; Alice, whose husband treats her with contempt; and tragic Sunny, whose promising new life has suddenly come crashing down in ruins when she discovers she has a terminal illness.
Across their path comes Andrea, the unhappy and neglected wife of ex SAS officer Roddy DeVille, tipped for New Year Honours glory, desperate to regain her fading beauty and his love along with it.
The women meet without realising that this reunion will change each of their lives in ways none of them could possibly have imagined.

Intriguing is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s very intriguing. Almost from the first page I kept wanting to read more. It’s well written and a nice change of pace from the books I’ve mostly been reading now. It’s very intricate and complex with great characters, mostly. And I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

So why the mediocre rating?

Simply because practically all of the men in this novel sucked. The only one who didn’t was Lexi’s old boyfriend. And while I know this wasn’t a romance or anything, there couldn’t have been at least one marriage that was happy? There are more ways to complicate a woman’s life than to be stuck in a miserable marriage.

Granted, Riannon’s main problem wasn’t her marriage. It was finding out who her parents were. But in the end, her husband, Stephen, turns out to be selfish and mean as well. He starts out nice, but it’s later revealed that he actually believes a girl was asking to be raped because of her clothing and has no problem betraying his wife to save his job. Yeah, so great.

Lexi’s and Alice’s husbands are both controlling, just in different ways. Their storylines are actually so similar that I had a hard time of telling them apart, which really irritated me. Because, again, crappy husbands aren’t the only way to make women unhappy. On top of that, Alice gets conned by a man, confirming her husband’s claim that she’s naive.

Furthermore, the conspiracy with Roddy DeVille feels more like an afterthought than the main story. While a good portion of the story does revolve around Roddy and Andrea, the book could have held its own just fine without them.

And, speaking of afterthoughts, Sunny was barely in the story, despite being one of the main characters. Which is too bad, because she could have had an interesting, if tragic story.

So because of all that, this story is only a three star. However, if you want a well-written suspenseful drama, then I definitely recommend The Devil’s Picture Book.


Dark Secrets and Batshit Families


Most kids see college as a huge adventure, and the last milestone before entering the “adult” world, or the last time they can have fun before they have bills to pay and they need to pay their dues in their fields. But for Paige Alexander, it’s just something to get through before she can disappear with her girlfriend Jess and escape the clutches of her affluent, tyrannical, and batshit crazy parents. It doesn’t help that she now needs to take therapy as long as she was in school, thanks to a suicide attempt and a promise to Jess. While trying to keep her homophobic roommate from knowing her secret, and trying to help her best friend who is stuck in an abusive relationship, Paige needs to come to terms with the family secret that had made her attempt suicide in the first place.

I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book because stories about teen suicides and suicide attempts can sometimes make me uncomfortable, but this story still had a lot of humor which lightened it up some (even though some of it was dark humor) and made it an enjoyable read. The characters were awesome. I think Jess was my favorite one. Being very outgoing, and into nights out at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and meeting people, her character was great contrast with Paige’s more awkward character, and the love story between her and Paige was very sweet. I would totally want Jess as my best friend.

I liked Paige mostly. The strong loyalty she has to her friends and even to her roommates makes her really likeable, and I like her sense of humor a lot too. However, I didn’t like her nearly as much when she decided to use Tom as straight cover. It annoyed me that she led him on like that, especially when she knew he was a nice guy and it seemed like he genuinely liked her. But that storyline got resolved quite nicely in my opinion, and I still like Paige a lot. I thought the storyline over all was very good and well-written, and I’d definitely recommend this book to anybody.

Secrets in the Snow: White Cairns Now in Paperback


Excerpt from: Secrets in the Snow (Early season stories from White Cairns Ski School) by Roz Marshall


When her ski instructor husband is delayed from returning to Scotland, it falls to Jude Winters – creative graphic artist, mother and home-maker – to assemble a team of instructors and get the season started for ailing White Cairns Ski School.

It’s a challenge that’s way out of her comfort zone, especially since even the seemingly confident and extrovert ski instructors are hiding mysterious pasts or secret longings that might threaten the equilibrium of the ski school.

As they battle sabotage, stormy weather and accidents in the first months of the winter season, can she turn things around and keep the wolf from their door until her chief instructor gets back from New Zealand?

This extract shows some of the would-be instructors arriving in the ski resort for their interviews with the ski school.  


Jude twisted her lip. “I just hope today works, and some good people turn up. We’ve only got a couple of days left to get the list to Forbes.”

“She’ll be right,” Mike said again, but anything else he might have added got lost as the door flew open and a denim-clad bundle of energy bounced into the room. Small, ginger-haired and distinctive, rather than tall, dark and handsome, he looked like the boy next door who’d been shrunk in the wash.

“Morning, campers!” He looked round at the almost-empty room. “I’m never first here?”

Jude went over to greet him. She held out a hand, “Hi, I’m Jude, the, erm, ski school owner.”

He shook her hand enthusiastically. “Hi, I’m Callum. Callum Johnstone.”


The main ski resort was a few miles away from White Cairns village. Built in the 1960s, around an existing village, it was a jumble of flat-roofed concrete monstrosities, quaint alpine-pastiche wood-clad lodges, and typical Scottish stone-built houses.

On the high street, a Premier bus pulled away from the bus stop, leaving two passengers on the pavement. The first quickly strode away, ponytail swinging above the rucksack on her back, Doc Martens tapping a rhythm that counterpointed the ski bag as it banged against her leg.

The second passenger looked rather forlorn as she stood amongst her bags, gazing round at the shops and cafes.

Tourists milled aimlessly on the pavements, cameras dangling round their necks like medals on Olympic athletes. Mostly they looked like they had just come off a bus trip to ‘see Scotland in a day’, although a few were obviously there for sporting activities and were dressed appropriately in sensible walking boots, fleeces and Gore-tex. The only local in evidence was a rather dishevelled, stringy old lady with grey hair and a decades-old ski jacket who was pushing a bicycle across the street, plastic supermarket bags swinging on the handlebars.

Debbie hoped that the rest of the skiers round here were a bit more modern, and perhaps more masculine as well. Sniffing, she unzipped a pocket in her sports bag, and pulled out a rather crumpled bit of paper. She studied it, then looked up and down the street. She frowned, turned the diagram through ninety degrees, looked left, and spotted the upper floors of the Regal Hotel. Stuffing the paper into the pocket of her hoodie, she took a deep breath and picked up her bags.


In the hotel car park, a beat-up Fiesta was sitting with its engine running, its windows starting to steam up. Inside, two sets of lips were welded together in a farewell clinch.

After some long minutes, they broke apart and the passenger reached behind him for the door handle. He slid out of the door, lips last, then flipped the seat forward and pulled a snowboard bag off the back seat and onto the pavement. He leaned back in for another kiss. “Last night was awesome!”

She pouted back up at him, saying, “Anytime, cowboy!” Then something across the car park caught her attention, and he noticed her pupils widen.

He turned his head to see what she was looking at, and his eyes narrowed. Another snowboarder was swaggering across the car park. He looked like a surfer dude – baggy cargo pants, a Fat Face sweatshirt, Converse sneakers and Oakleys perched on sun-bleached hair.

Marty stood up, pulled his sunglasses off his curly hair and onto his nose, then smacked the roof of her car and waved her off, saying, “I’ll give you a call.” He wouldn’t.

The other snowboarder approached, sizing him up. From the look on his face, he obviously thought his labels were more impressive than Marty’s jeans and fleece.

“Hi bro, I’m Colin. You here for the job?”

“Yup.” Marty hoisted his snowboard bag onto his shoulder.

“What d’you ride?” asked Colin.

“A Deacon XT.”

Colin sniffed. “I had one of those last season. Got rid of it.” Marty just looked at him. “I got an Oppera Maxride from the rep. Wants me to test it for them. It’s totally rad.”

Marty shrugged. “I heard they were pretty sluggish. But okay if you don’t ride too fast.”

He turned his back and headed for the hotel entrance. They might be fellow snowboarders, but it was obvious they weren’t going to be friends.


Secrets_800x594_PB   Buy links:

eBook:  (Amazon link which takes you to the correct store for your country)

Paperback:$9.99 / £9.99, 374 pages

Volume 2 containing episodes 4-6 will be released later this year.

Fear of Falling by Roz Marshall


Fear of Falling, the second episode in the White Cairns series by Roz Marshall, is as good as the first book. As the ski season get underway, Fear of Falling focuses on Fiona, an instructor who is struggling to overcome a tragedy in her life. We also get more insight on Jude’s struggles with managing the ski school as well as her relationship with her daughter. Also, we see how the ski instructors are faring with their new students, especially Callum’s popularity with teenage girls.

I think it’s a strong follow-up to the first installment, and I can’t wait to read more of the stories. My only possible complaint is that I want to see more of Mike and Jude, because of the heavy focus on them in the first book and the sexual tension between them. Also, if you’re bad at keeping characters straight like I am, then it’s a good idea to read these books back to back, or skim through the first book again before reading the second, because Roz Marshall doesn’t waste time with reintroducing the characters (which is a good thing, because when you already know the characters, it can be tedious to read).

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Books by Roz Marshall:

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Winter Arrives by Roz Marshall

Winter-Arrives_Roz-Marshall Winter Arrives  by Roz Marshall is the first installment about a ski school in Scotland. When Jude’s husband decides to ditch her for the winter just as skiing season is starting, she barely keeps from panicking. Jude has next to no experience managing a ski resort and needs help. Jude needs a manager who actually knows what they’re doing, and five more instructors by next Tuesday. Luckily, Mike, a wandering ski instructor, is willing to help out.

Even though Mike planned to stay for only a few weeks to ski for the first time in Scotland, and he had only been planning to work at White Cairns for a few weeks, he agrees to stay for the season when Jude’s husband leaves her hanging. With his help, they are able to hire six new instructors for the season, and Jude gets enough confidence to fax a proposal to a private school looking for ski lessons, and gets a new major client. Even though the school is facing bankruptcy and the owner is away, Jude has hope of making it all work as the snow starts to fall.

I liked this story. It was quick and entertaining. It played out in my head like a movie, especially the part where the new ski instructors were introduced. There was plenty of showing and not a lot of telling, which I prefer, and for the most part the characters were interesting. There were a few things that were predictable though, like when they were choosing the new ski instructors. It was obvious that Debbie, the girl with self-confidence issues was going to be picked, and that Pamela was going to get cut. I also figured that Colin wasn’t going to be gone for good. And, considering that this is the first installment of a series, I think there is a little too much development of the sexual tension and relationships. There’s not a lot of guessing as to who is going to end up with whom.

But I liked it for what it is– an entertaining read. I would even be willing to look into the sequels to see how it all plays out.  I think this is a good book for anyone who likes dramas, and I think teenagers would enjoy this book, especially those in favor of Glee, Degrassi, and Gossip Girl (if you’re looking for ways to get your kid to read more ;))

Dreams, Teens, and Mysterious Happenings:Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle

All Nara wants is a surprise for once in her life. After all, when you dream your own future every single night, there’s little that can surprise you, which is how she can be a star soccer goalie, and get straight A’s without practicing or studying. That all changed when she called in a bomb in the early morning and then accidentally touched a super cute bad boy who had just moved there. Then her dreams were gone when she needed them most- when people at her school were getting injured because Fate was getting even.

That’s right- Fate gets pissed off when you mess with him (yeah, it’s a him).

Now Nara has to fight Fate and keep it from killing her with the help of Ethan- the super cute bad boy, etc., etc. Ethan, by the way, is cursed himself, first with absorbing negativity, then a strange tattoo that magically adds detail to itself.

Brightest Kind of Darkness is a quick and light read that’s great for a teenage girl who loves fantasy and, of course, romance.