Purple Jesus

Purple Jesus
Author Ron Cooper

When Purvis Driggers, a South Carolina Low Country loser with little sense and less hope, seeks out the fortune of a murdered old man and comes up empty-handed, he latches onto the only escape he can find: Martha, the beautiful woman being baptized across the lake. But Martha is not who Purvis thinks she is—she’s every bit as trapped as he is,…

Gems: What does a monk, condensed milk and a town of backward country hicks have in common? Purple Jesus! I admit I was skeptical when I glimpsed a review claiming that this book belongs on the shelf beside Flannery O’Connor’s, Wise Blood, which is one of my all-time favorites. However, after reading Ron Cooper’s writing, I stand-up and applaud.  Hell, I cheer!  I give a woot, dance a jig and shout amen.  Yes, indeed Purvis and his crew can toe the line beside O’Connor’s religious misfits. So how does it compare? The dialogue is authentic, Cooper’s voice original and the symbolism evokes humor, philosophical thought and moral dilemmas as well as perceived sexuality.  A string of items are presented and seemingly unrelated, somehow connect and relate. For me, this story was about perception and assigning meaning to anything. An extremely entertaining read with a deep undercurrent. If you are a fan of Flannery O’Connor or Chuck Palahniuk, you will dig this book. I highly recommend. I received the ebook for review, but intend to purchase the paperback because this book needs to be on my shelf so I can read it again, and again. I’d love to discuss the story in a book club forum. Purple Jesus will definitely make my top 10 must reads of 2010.

* ebook provided for review compliments of publisher and Net Galley

Bitsy’s Rating: 5 Stars

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The Poison of A Smile

The Poison of A Smile
Author Steven Jensen

She will take her pleasure in your destruction ….

When Gabriel Holland and David Leigh are lured to the haunted town of Carliton in search of their beloved Helena, they find only mystery and malice. And Christian Salazar, connoisseur of torments, master of Alatiel, the creature that Helena has become, awaits their company ….

Review: The poetic and careful word choice provides this novella with a classic macabre tone. It’s eloquent and romantic with a daunting dream-like quality. I felt as if I fell head over heels into a Dali painting. Even though it is not a lengthy story, I suggest taking your time to read it. After my first read through, I went back and read the beginning again and was delighted to discover important elements that I missed. However, if a reader misses these subtle clues, they will be lost in the text and become easily disembodied from the story. This can leave you with the ‘what the heck is going on?’ feeling. Some may relish in this approach, where other readers might hunger for some footing in order to follow the plot. I had difficulty keeping track of characters simply because the use of both first and then only last names occurs. It is advisable to stay with one or the other or the reader might assume the author is talking/introducing two totally different characters. Also, the use of ‘we’ was confusing the first go around, but my second time through I caught on. Now, I like this element and would debate whether to clarify to gain a better understanding. I’d like to see the story slow down in spots and some meat added to the bones. I think this can be accomplished without losing the beautiful macabre feel or victorian fun house effect. With a little more grounding this story in my humble opinion would be a must read open for a wider audience. With that all said, I settled in with this book on a late October rainy night and was not disappointed. The ending suggests more to come, and I eagerly await other works by this author.

Bitsy’s Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Drowned Sorrow

Drowned Sorrow
Author Vanessa Morgan

Megan Blackwood has just lost her son in a terrible accident. Now she has come to Moonlight Creek with her teenage daughter Jenna, hoping a change of scenery might help to put her life back together. But something odd is going on in Moonlight Creek. When rain falls over the village, its inhabitants commit grisly murders, leaving the place deserted with the first rays of sunshine. Beneath the lake’s surface, an eerie presence watches… and waits… Waits to reveal a tragic past drowned in mystery and fear. One that doesn’t bode well for visitors. By the time Megan realizes that her daughter’s life is in danger, it may be too late to escape.

Gems: A thirst-quenching blend of sci-fiction with a twist of horror. The fear factor is accomplished not with blood and guts, but through what is not seen. Moonlight Creek provides the perfect setting to intrigue horror fans.  It’s isolated, mysteriously vacant and strangely damp. Simple elements like air, water and fire are used to enhance the claustrophobic entrapment that makes this story a great rainy night read. It’s not often that a horror book can be recommended to young adult readers, but this one fits the bill. It’s not juvenile in any way, but brings the chills without gore, drugs or sexual violence. How, you ask? You’ve got to read it to find out.

Flaws: I’m still trying to figure out why a dog was written into the story. If anyone can tell me why, I’d really appreciate it. I have a few other unanswered questions, which leads me to believe either I missed something or the author did. A couple ends are obviously and neatly tied up, but others are left dangling.

Bitsy’s Rating: 4 Stars

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The Wedding Gift

The Wedding Gift

Author Kathleen McKenna

17 year old Leeann Worthier is the perfect girl in town – or so she says. George Willets is the heir to a booming petroleum business. When they announce their engagement, George’s controlling mother is unimpressed, and Leeann absolutely refuses to live with her mother-in-law. So George gives his new wife a house as a wedding gift – a house haunted by the family’s most violent ghost.

Gems: A downright spine chilling murderous mystery with perfect dark comedic relief that will have the reader laughing out loud at times, and scared at others.  I fell in love with the heroines and will miss their bumbles and bravery.  This is one story that I hope never gets in the hands of an editor with little creative imagination because the voice and tone is so real and consistent that any changes would destroy the overall feel.  I plowed through this book in 24 hours because I simply didn’t want to put it down.  It’s got it all for a Fall read and I highly recommend this gem be added to a MUST read list.  A perfect southern ghost story with humorous appeal!   Go buy it now!

Flaws: The synopsis I found online does not do the contents justice.  I like that it does not give away the goodie bits, but I worry that more readers might not be captivated by the blurb.  And, this is truly one captivating and worth every penny kind of read!

Bitsy’s Rating: 5 stars

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While the Savage Sleeps

While the Savage Sleeps

Author Andrew E. Kaufman

http://www.youtube.com/v/ZVcFoImzlU0?fs=1&hl=en_US

Cameron Dawson’s got a past he can’t seem to shake, but he’s hoping to change that. He’s moved back home to Faith, New Mexico and taken a job as assistant sheriff. What he doesn’t realize is that his newest nightmare’s about the begin. Strange things are happening. People are disappearing, and for others, it’s far worse.  Miles away in Albuquerque, Kyle Bancroft’s life is spinning out of control. She’s seeing, hearing, and dreaming things she can’t explain: Flashbacks to World War II and an eerie hospital ward with locked doors, empty gurneys, and guttural screams. To make matters worse, a ghostly green-eyed girl is complicating her visions with an urgent message: Time is running out.  Kyle’s otherwordly encounters are driving her straight toward Faith … and right into Cameron’s life. The body count is rising, the pressure is mounting, and the clock is ticking as they rush to uncover a dangerous secret hiding just below the surface of this all-American town-one that’s threatening to destroy Faith and everyone in it. A secret they must hunt down quickly … even if it costs them their own lives. 


GEMS:  It takes a lot to rattle this seasoned veteran of the fright night generation, but Andrew Kaufman managed to shake me up with his shadowy serial killer mystery. Shortly after finishing the book, I received the link to the book trailer. Okay, I admit with my first click I nearly jumped out of my skin, then of course, laughed at myself for being ridiculous. What makes the book scary? For me, it’s the realness of the murders and the knowledge that this type of sadistic evil really lurks in the world. However, lots of books portray evils, so what makes this special? After sleeping on it, I determined the story possesses two important elements that when working together, is pure chemistry. First, the tone of the writing. In some plot driven tales, the tone can be lost and sound flat. Here, the tone is never over played or sensationalized. It is contained, restrained, and depicted with such stark detail that the imagination has no choice but to fill in the blanks. As Stephen King said, the best special effects are in our own minds. My mind was lead just enough to create the world Kaufman was hoping I’d see. Secondly, the fright factor is increased because of the story’s honesty. What do I mean? The characters never waver beyond their abilities. There is no super power genius or rich hero budget, but rather hometown people dealing with a crisis. Each character is credible. I can not stress how important this is in suspense writing. I recommend watching the book trailer. All I can say is I’m looking under my covers before I crawl in bed tonight!


Flaws: The most gruesome scenes happen within the first 50 pages. Luckily, the suspense keeps climbing, but those who can’t handle graphic detail might wuss out. The basic background plot of the male main character was a bit cliche as far as crime fiction goes. The cop who blames himself for someone’s death. Still, I shrugged it off because it worked with the story. Do I wish for perfection and want him to be shaped by a more original character formula, yes, but I’ll live.


Bitsy’s Rating: 5 Stars

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On the Gathering Storm

On the Gathering Storm
Author Jason McIntyre

At 29, Hannah Garretty is pursuing her lifelong dream of being a paid photographer. But, in a curl of circumstance, she’s snatched from her bohemian life on the island and vanishes into a forest lair where unspeakable things have happened…and will continue to happen. As Hannah grapples with her captivity and the knowledge bestowed to her by a special gift, we catch glimpse of her past life, before the abduction, through the lens of her childhood on the mainland and the last time she came face to face with her own mortality. The story is visceral and powerful, exploring the duality of our consuming lives versus our feeling lives, our purpose in being, and whether there is a scrap of light in anything as dark as Hannah’s ordeal.

Gems: The story  is chalk full of vivid descriptions that are carefully constructed to forge a lasting impression.  When you close your eyes, you will likely be haunted by Hannah’s ordeal and the events of her life.  What makes the story even more frightening is Hannah is a  character that an everyday girl can relate to.  She becomes as recognizable as a friend, a sister or a girl from work.  Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, I am familiar with the setting (Canada) that is described.  I could easily visualize each place and because of this, it made the terror even more real.  Hints of the paranormal coming in the form of flash visions are introduced in the beginning.  The insertion will be easy for even the most skeptical to accept because the character development and overall story is cemented in the now.  Parts of the story are delivered in a series of flashbacks.  I found myself deeply committed to these parts of the writing and felt the author squeezed all the use from penning the important scenes. Often, this technique can be flawed, but not in this graphic tale.  I felt the flashback was actually a strength in the over all telling.  A note:  The story includes sexual detailing, violence and sexual violence related to a kidnapping that might be disturbing to some readers.

Flaws: I’m a big fan of the simile, but this story was packed with them.  I was pleased they were original and did not lead to cliches.  However, in my humble opinion it was a touch over done.  The scene involving Hannah at her brother’s apartment loses it’s footing and touch with reality.  Up until then, I was on board with the flashes and paranormal visions.  Also, the bad events that take place there are a bit hard to digest.  At one point, I was thinking this is going to end up being just a ‘dream’ kind of book because this is too fantastical.  Lastly, the epilogue threw me for a jerky loop.  Epilogues used as a lead to a series or teaser are widely popular and I admit, I use them in my own stories.  However, I detest epilogues used as a summary device.  I don’t want a sudden ‘by the way’ this is what happens to the characters (players) the next day, week or year.  It feels insincere and frankly, rushed.  I just spent three days of horror with this character and now I’m getting the rest of her life summed up in a few pages?  I know some people dearly want to know, ‘then what happened,’ but I’m not that reader.

Bitsy’s Rating: 3 Stars

* Electronic book submitted for review.
* Mature content:  Includes sexual violence and drug use.

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Caraliza

Caraliza

Author Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick
http://www.caraliza.com/

A seventy-five year old secret waits in a lovely old portrait studio, at the end of a street in New York City’s Lower East Side. It is a secret, that drove to madness, a renowned photographer, ‘Papa’ Menashe Reisman, and left him to waste and die in his own studio, but haunted by every photograph he tries to take. When his great-grand daughter, Shelly, begs to have the old building, for a new renovation, she awakens more than any secret that Papa kept. She also awakens something darker, more evil, just across the street. Across the street, under the stoop, down a foul stair, where Caraliza was kept prisoner for two years; until the horrid events of that summer, in 1919.

Gems: Caraliza is a story possessed by stark hauntings that will grip your nerves from the first page and drag you into a grisly nightmare that will both seduce and frighten the reader.  Much like the photo of Caraliza, it is impossible to turn your eyes away from the macabre on the page and within them, a person will see both beauty and horrible abuse.  However, the ghastliness is not achieved through simple shock value, but by displaying an imaginary realness and believable richness of history.  It is also amplified by the love that creates a harmonious balance and chilling sensuality that is genuinely romantic.  The intimacy between characters will bring a tingle to your skin and a sigh to your heart. Caraliza is a great achievement in pairing the paranormal with romance.  It’s stunningly grounded and had me holding my breath at parts in the story.  The plot is not obviously predictable, although readers might think themselves clever by assuming they’ve figured out what will come.  However, the twist isn’t so extreme that it implodes.  Clues are dropped along the way like breads crumbs and with each sorrow comes a morsel of joy.  It is as if one can not be achieved without the other.  I absolutely adored the line, “I’ll not wait to die to haunt him.”  This story will haunt me for some time, but much like Shelly, I welcome the sensations and fright.  It too made me feel alive and perhaps, a bit spooky for loving it so much.  It is a rarity for me to read a book twice, but I will revisit this story again.  As far as I’m concerned, Caraliza is an absolute MUST read and one I will return to.  So no, I will not share my copy.

Flaws: The book has left me speechless in this department.  A terrible shame that I did not write it, but I applaud the author who did.

Bitsy’s Rating: 5 Stars

Shared
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This Week’s Featured Authors!

Interview Duane Simolke

Visit the West Texas town of Acorn! Enjoy the German festival, a high school football game, homemade apple pie from the Turner Street Cafe, and the cool shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree. Meet dedicated teachers, unusual artists, shrewd business owners, closeted gays, and concerned neighbors. See how lives become intertwined in moments of humor or tragedy. Just be careful, because in Acorn, the sky is always falling! From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, these award-winning tales transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences.

Interview Jeanette A. Fratto

Changing the course of one’s life doesn’t usually result in mystery and danger. Linda Davenport certainly didn’t anticipate such an outcome when she left her stable, predictable life as a teacher for new beginnings, but unexpected events dictated otherwise. Flying from Detroit to Los Angeles, she meets Carol Alder. Their acquaintance promises to blossom into a close friendship. Settling in at the home of Edith Carter, she spends a day with Carol before starting her new job in publishing. In a few days Linda’s world is turned upside down when her job fails to materialize and Carol is killed in an auto accident under mysterious circumstances. Determined to remain in California, Linda is thrown into further turmoil when Carol’s brother Gregory is convinced her death was no accident and believes someone in the probation/court system, where Carol worked, was responsible. But why? Linda’s job hunting takes her into Probation where she begins to uncover disturbing information that leads her to agree with Gregory. Linda never reveals to her co-workers that she knew Carol. As she learns more about the system, she puts together more pieces of the puzzle. Along the way she reconnects with David Wyndham, a former college love, now overseeing a local drug program, the success of which is crucial to his future. He becomes her ally in her quest to learn why Carol died, but when she uncovers what may be the truth, it threatens not only his future but possibly their future together. Conflicted by her sense of duty and her love for David, Linda nevertheless follows her conscience, with a resolution both logical and surprising.

Interview Christopher S. Tolley

A hit man who can’t remember his phony name screws up. His victim lives long enough to describe him. Ex-cop turned attorney Neville Hartley agrees to help Nicky Findlay’s father resolve a debt to a shady lender. Findlay saved Neville’s brother’s life. It’s Neville’s turn. With assistance from a popular newspaper columnist, Neville figures out the shady lender caught the father in a mortgage scam. The old man is about to lose his house. Worse, the shady lender gets wise to Neville and puts Neville’s life in danger. Then the forgetful hit man comes after Neville, too. In an attempt to redeem a shattered life, beautiful Arizona Douglas, an aging, down and out exec, and former shady lender employee, assists Neville. With her help, Neville uses his unerring (sometimes) sixth sense about people and discovers the shady lender is backed by a Wall Street darling who’s either an investor with ‘vision’, or the SEC hasn’t caught up with him yet. To help the old man, and smoke out the killer, Neville and Arizona come up with a scam shadier than the lender’s darkest imagination. Only this time, the bad guy is the mark.

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Lark and Termite

Lark and Termite
Author Jayne Anne Phillips

Lark and Termite is set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us.  At its center, two children: Lark, on the verge of adulthood, and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but filled with radiance. Around them, their mother, Lola, a haunting but absent presence; their aunt Nonie, a matronly, vibrant woman in her fifties, who raises them; and Termite’s father, Corporal Robert Leavitt, who finds himself caught up in the chaotic early months of the Korean War.  Told with deep feeling, the novel invites us to enter into the hearts and thoughts of the leading characters, even into Termite’s intricate, shuttered consciousness. We are with Leavitt, trapped by friendly fire alongside the Korean children he tries to rescue. We see Lark’s dreams for Termite and her own future, and how, with the aid of a childhood love and a spectral social worker, she makes them happen. We learn of Lola’s love for her soldier husband and her children, and unravel the mystery of her relationship with Nonie. We discover the lasting connections between past and future on the night the town experiences an overwhelming flood, and we follow Lark and Termite as their lives are changed forever.

Comments: I had to abandoned this book. After about 60 pages, I just couldn’t keep going.  The poetic flow of the story was so abstract that I was left in a dreamy haze often wondering what exactly was going on. I don’t mind poetry style prose as long as they are grounded in something concrete to give it a real place in time. A scene here or there, sure I’ll go along with, but page after page and character after character all thinking and talking in abstract thoughts and images just worked to totally alienate me and eventually I lost interest. I want the story, not the purply prose of hard times and down on the light drudge.  I actually learned more about the story by reading the back cover (synopsis).  Maybe at a later time I will pick up the book and try again, but for now it’s back on the shelf.

Bitsy’s Rating: 1 Star

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Fear No Evil

Fear No Evil

Author Robin Caroll

*ARC Edition provided by B and H Publishing for review

With his father in a nursing home and his mother needing support, former Great Smoky Mountains park ranger Lincoln Vailes moves to the bayou town of Eternal Springs, Louisiana, to become a police officer. Recent college graduate and eager social worker Jade Laurent has also moved there to try and right the wrongs of an abusive past. But someone is running her car off the road and pointing guns in her direction. As Lincoln investigates her case, he uncovers ties to big-city gang warfare up north that appears to be making its evil way down south.

Gems: A heart felt tale about a women who overcomes tragedy in her life and relies on her faith to do it. The story is lightly inspirational, filled with hope and enduring love, as well as showing the capacity to forgive. The book stands on the ideal that good can come from bad happenings. The main character is a firm believer that things happen for a reason and if a person opens their eyes and looks, they’ll see what God’s greater purpose is, or at least accept what comes. No new thematic insight is presented through the expression,”Everything happens for a reason,” but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

Flaws: A cookie cutter plot that isn’t very suspenseful. It runs it’s course and the outcome, or ‘bad guy’ is predictable. The religious references are basic and hinge on reading more like a Sunday school lesson than an actual epiphany. The setting is completely neglected and vague. Given that the story takes place on the bayou, I was disappointed that the author didn’t utilize this mysterious place more and tie it in with the tale. Instead, the characters were simply moving about and honestly, it could have been in any city. The setting was insignificant and I felt this was a terrible waste. Even though this was suppose to be drawn from personal experiences, I felt little emotional connection and wasn’t that invested. I should have had more sympathy for the characters, but this was merely plot with stuff happening. Also, repeating scenes and recapping by the characters is unnecessary. I don’t want to read the same thing over and over. It wasn’t that astounding the first time and once was more than enough. I found myself skimming pages, which is a bad sign and something I rarely do.

Bitsy’s Rating: 2 Stars

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