Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simon Guthrie’s life has changed. Once a master chef with thriving restaurants that people were beating down doors to get into, he’s living alone with only his former wife’s dog Jeremy to keep him company. Gail, the wife he dearly loved, is gone. She died as the result of a tragic car accident. Simon suffered a brain injury from the same mishap, but he’s on the mend and living in a dream home that he had built to his specifications. However, things are not as they appear, and he finds trying to achieve normalcy in the idyllic, deserted setting difficult—what with restless ghosts crying out for help in the middle of the night and all.  
This is the intriguing premise of THE GHOST MAN by Michael J. McMann. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the host of characters. It’s well-written and keeps moving at a nice pace, but I did experience some road bumps on the way to the very neat ending. I love good endings so I did appreciate this one. I’ll start with the negatives first.
While the basic grammar was fine, I did find the story littered with “telling” phrases. It really slowed things down and undid some of the drama that could have been heightened without these minor details tripping up the story. For instance (and I’m paraphrasing. This is not a direct quote), “He heard the clock strike midnight as he mounted the stairs,” should have been changed to, “The clock struck midnight as he mounted the stairs.” It’s such a ridiculously small detail, but it makes such a huge difference.
The other problem was that there were huge passages of a veering storyline that could have, and should have, been edited out. I’ll state again that I LOVE backstories and details and prose so that’s not the problem. The problem is that the chunks of information interfered with the novel’s taut atmosphere and produced a laxity that had me skipping over pages. If an author is going to do this, make those passages so compelling that I’ll want to get lost in them. However, if the story is just getting lost, cut them out—no matter how much you love them. The latter seems to be the case here so be forewarned.
The positives? The characters, characters, characters! How refreshing to have a Doris Fowler taking a lead role instead of some impossibly beautiful gamine that appear and fall all over the protagonist in helping solve the mystery. I was taken by this love interest and appreciated how the relationship progressed. Next, the story—it’s a good one! There are plenty of twists and turns, and you’re duly rewarded by the aforementioned stupendous ending. And really, who doesn’t love a good exorcism? Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Bring on the demon-fighting priests! Get out the pom-poms as you cheer them on.
There are ghosts, cemeteries, murders, axes, psychics, wolves, and a lot more packed into this novel. Oh, and there’s one scene that you just HAVE to read! I don’t do spoilers, but this one involves a very weird rainstorm. It’ll have you diving under the covers and screaming, “NOOOOOO!” as you cover your head. I should mention here, that that scene was so effective because there was no deviating from what was happening. There was just enough descriptive phrasing to make it horrifying and chilling. Mr. McCann got it right on that one.
All in all, I enjoyed THE GHOST MAN. I would recommend it and am looking forward to reading more of his work. I’m only giving it 3.7 stars because of the problems noted above. If those negatives were cleaned up, I would have no problem giving THE GHOST MAN five stars. None.  
If you’re looking for a midnight read that has some thrills, chills and very quirky characters, give THE GHOST MAN a try. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

REVIEW OF FOREVER GIRL: Rebecca Hamilton GIRL by Rebecca Hamilton is a read that’s perfect at midnight or any other time! It effortlessly straddles the line between inventive thriller, mystery, teasy-hot romance and spine-tingling adventure. It’s sort of like having the perfect beach day and a romp through the cemetery on Halloween happen at the same time!
Sophia Parsons is in the midst of a dilemma. She has a strange static in her head that she can’t seem to get rid of. Is this curse simply the result of having an analog tuner set between channels?  That’s what she needs to find out, but it’s hard when you’re unable to talk about the problem. Sophia decides to conduct her own investigation, and along the way, meets a whole host of characters —including a hot guy named Charles with the dreamiest teal eyes. *drool*
I’ve gotta say that this novel delivers on all levels. Beautifully written, there’s snappy dialog, a very imaginative storyline, and some of the best descriptive passages I’ve read in a quite a while. These sections are uber important since they allow the world Ms. Hamilton created to fully spring to life. The protagonist Sophia is likeable with a very quirky way of phrasing her thoughts and emotions. She’s feisty, but very vulnerable. It’s a tricky balancing act, but this uniqueness is key and carried throughout the cast. All the members of this ensemble are each given a uniqueness that makes them interesting and keeps them from being all lumped together in some awful fondue-like mélange. While it takes more time for an author to imbue each with their own personality and not make them stereotypical, it’s a joy for the reader and something we appreciate.
The pacing is taut with just the right amount of sticky flirty stuff to give us a refreshing respite from the mystery of where Ms. Hamilton is leading us. I loved the interplay between Sophia and her boy … well, “creature” toy. Their growing attraction added a richness to the story, but there was plenty of the paranormal to keep us on our toes and wondering who is what and what team they were really playing on. And you gotta love a book that features Elementals, a hot spot called Club Flesh and the forces of the Universe conspiring to help one little slip of a girl right the bad things going on in the world. In fact, I’d suggest the Universe enlist the aid of about a kabillion more people in that endeavor!
I very much enjoyed FOREVER GIRL. Oh, and as for the title: a big shoutout to the backstory and how this particular phrase came about. There’s a story-in-a-story tucked away in here, and gosh do I love that sort of thing! Nothing gives me more chills than when someone adds in a flashback where we’re taken through history and allowed to see what really happened through a character’s eyes. It’s bang on done right and I thoroughly savored that excursion into time.
I HIGHLY recommend this book and suggest you pick yourself up a copy. You’ll appreciate the attention to detail that Ms. Hamilton uses; she obviously did her homework. But the fact that she didn’t stop there and chose to put her own spin on things is what makes FOREVER GIRL so special and a book you’ll love.
Five stars for FOREVER GIRL!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

REVIEW OF THE CREATION: Chaos Rising by Art Gulley, Jr. STORY

Know what a Celemor is? Neither did I. It’s where THE CREATION: CHAOS RISING by Art Gulley, Jr. comes in. The book is Mr. Gulley’s take on heavenly goings on, and believe me, they are watching us … and gossiping! They seem to have their own winged version of TMZ!

If that thought doesn’t frighten you too much, you might want to dive right in and read Mr. Gulley’s take on what might be happening if everything we were taught about our world is a lie. I should add here that it’s all done rather reverentially. And the tone? The tone is similar to one found in sci-fi and not fantasy thrillers. I liked the approach, and I see from Mr. Gulley’s bio that he does indeed write that genre so I think a bit of that style rubbed off in this tale of celestial forces gone wild.

The main crux of the story has to do with Nina Delcielo, a woman who eschews involvement with organized religion, but who partakes in numerous philanthropic activities. She’s had good luck in the market (and how I’d like to know? Might be another story there), and she uses that success to help those less fortunate. In other words, she does the Lord’s work and doesn’t just talk about it. And while she doesn’t engage in organized religion, she has become “involved” with certain proponents of it. I’m talking about a certain young, buffed out priest who wasn’t a member of the clergy back in the day when they had their fling. But Nina is destined for greater things. In fact, she just might be a Harbinger that the Lord uses to instill changes in the realm where we mortals mess things up, er, I mean, live. She soon starts to have visions that eerily come true. It's these physic manifestations that signal her life is about to change. 

I’ll give the negatives first. There are a few grammatical problems so if that sort of thing bothers you, be forewarned. Since they were minor, they didn’t hamper the enjoyment, but the flow did. While the book is obviously edited, I really wish Mr. Gulley would choose an editor with a better ear for flow. It would raise the level of the story from being an enjoyable read to being a great read. Because of it, I wasn't able to really sink all the way down into this as the off-putting transitions forced me to remain on the surface and not care as deeply as I should. 

The positives?  There are many. There is a very imaginative mind at work here crafting out realms, worlds, and a fabulous storyline. The characters are also very engaging and have depth. They held together and battled up until the end to keep us interested and motivated in the outcome. I also appreciate that Mr. Gulley has an extensive background in varied doctrines and that he managed to weave those diverse opinions into his work. It makes for a very nice speculative read. 

I’m giving this story a final grade of 3.7 which rounds up to 4.0. But if the parts that are stilted in language and dialogue were smoothed out, it would easily earn a 5.0.

Nice solid story and I heartily recommend for those who like their religion on the entertaining side. 

3.7 Stars

Thursday, January 1, 2015

REVIEW OF BLOOD ORCHIDS by Toby Neal there any better feeling than discovering a new favorite author? For an avid reader, the answer is no. It’s what I experienced in reading BLOOD ORCHIDS by Toby Neal. My toes were tingling, my brain was a’buzzing and my endorphins were doing a cray-cray crazy dance and making me high while I was turning the pages! Are there things I appreciate more than someone than can turn a phrase and create their own universe? I don’t know, but a skilled author is right up there on the top of my list. Above that list, sits Ms. Neal.

BLOOD ORCHIDS is a little miracle of a book. It completely satisfied the mystery-loving hound in me, and gave me a heroine to love and cherish for many books to come. Leilani Texeria is her name and Ms. Neal does an exquisite job of revealing all the disparate sides of her personality. Professional, hard-headed, loving, tough and impulsive, she’s all of those and a bag of chips carried by the little girl Lei once was before she became broken. I love when an author can show us a character’s vulnerability, and in BLOOD ORCHIDS, it’s revealed with a master’s touch. Each time Lei disassociates when confronting a difficult situation, we want to reach out and tell her it’s alright. That’s how vested we become in this very complex character.

The story is set in the lush location of Hawaii, but this tropical paradise has nothing to do with the horrific crimes going on; it’s merely a silent witness to it all. At the outset, we’re confronted with two dead bodies floating in the water. Lei recognizes one of the girls and her intuition is set into gear—she feels connected to the case and plots a way to be a part of the investigation. Thank goodness for us that she does for she meets up with the lead detective Michael Stevens. A hottie transplanted from LA, we become enmeshed in their relationship that is in constant danger of crossing the line of professionalism. But things like dating are not so simple for this island girl. A man called Charlie Kwon took her innocence away and the rash of rape/murders stir up the ashes of a childhood molestation. Then there are the notes she’s receiving. Is it a stalker, or are the two cases really one? As the danger heats up, so does the fear that something will happen to the girl we want so much to succeed.

It’s an absolute joy reading through this story. The words flow, the action is mesmerizing and there’s not a false note struck in the book. I’d also like to say a little something about the Hawaiian Pidgin dialect peppering some of the text. To my ear, it’s a streamlined more basic way to express things. It’s an important detail. While the mind can appreciate the complex, it’s simplicity that the heart accepts. It’s yet another reason that we embrace Lei so strongly. There are no fancy words to obfuscate who and what she is—and it’s this fragility that we embrace and love. The quotes she has lining her walls at home reinforce this aspect and really make her accessible in a very personal way.

Kudos to Ms. Neal for the exquisite job done on this book. I really can’t rave enough about it. I haven’t had this good a time reading a book in quite a while. My eyes were glued to the pages and I stayed up much too late in an attempt to find out what happens to Lei. All I can say is that it was time well-spent and not wasted. This haole gives one hundred stars to BLOOD ORCHIDS … or maybe a galaxy! I highly recommend you give yourself a treat by indulging in this sensational thriller.

100 STARS!