All Things Bright and Strange: A Novel by James Markert

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“This town is different. You’ll be welcomed here.”

Black and white alike, side by side, dancing together- can it be? Can Bellhaven truly be real? Ellsworth is prepared to die, ravaged by the war, broken by the loss of his wife, why shouldn’t he end things with his Smith & Wesson? Anne Belle Roper won’t let him, it seems, bringing him breakfast and the care he needs. Ellsworth is too young to feel and look so old. He will never be a professional baseball player, never be a father, never again know Eliza’s love. He puts the blame on the strange boy with no last name. There is something special about a little boy named Raphael, aside from his gifted piano playing skills. The beautiful soul has kept Anna Belle sane while the men were away at war. Cardinals are hanging around, strange things are happening, but Ellsworth can only remember the misery of his stillborn son Erik and his wife Eliza. The town is changing and if he can stop himself from committing suicide, he just might have to get to the bottom of things.

Why is everything blooming? What does the once hidden chapel have to do with everything that is happening? Is the healing floor good or evil? This magical place, can it be trusted? Just who or what do you pray to there, beautiful or not, is it safe? “Beautiful don’t always mean safe, is all.”  Ellsworth remembers his mother’s words. How are they talking to the dead, is it possible?

The people of Bellhaven are turning to the chapel far more than they should. Ellsworth has woken from his depressed state, but can he save the people as they turn against each other? What are the secrets of the chapel? Who is more consumed by evil thoughts than Ellsworth, wanting nothing more than to kill himself after all his dreams turned to ash? What is going on with the preachers?

This is a strange supernatural tale dusted with the wounds war leaves behind, it is about faith and evil. Will Ellsworth be able to save them all with the help of his dear friend and Raphael? Should he trust in Raphael? Eerie and maybe not so beautiful a place, or is it?

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Thomas Nelson Fiction

 

 

 

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The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens

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These dead refused to stay in their tombs and insisted on climbing out and stalking back to their towns and villages, night after night, to attack the living. But what was the background to these stories?

Death comes to us all, and it would seem ghostly beings do as well, regardless of what country you live in or what time period. Ghosts certainly seem to be a tie that binds, be it harbingers of pending doom, terrorizing haunts, revenants bent on revenge- why is it that there are so many encounters and stories about something that ‘doesn’t exist’ and that science denies. This book is a fascinating look at the history of ghosts. Was it true that the English Reformation and religious reform did away with all our ‘haints’? Spirits kept appearing, they continued to walk the nights despite the cleanliness of religion. Maybe ghosts were simply optical illusions? How did witchcraft and ingrained habits and beliefs come into sightings and stories of ghosts? Maybe it’s madness of one’s mind? What does purgatory have to do with any of this?

Are ghosts simply ‘refugees from the after-life’? I like that, refugees from the afterlife! It wasn’t just uneducated peasants that told tales, were visited by apparitions and passed around ghostly tales. The middle class and upper crust were just as enthralled by the subject. If literature is any proof, certainly much was written and in fact, still lines our shelves today. How many ghostly themed reality shows can you count? Let’s not forget our fascination with shows about mediums talking to ‘ghosts’ that aren’t supposed to exist. Remember all that table tapping, the seances fine ladies took part in during the Victorian age?

Ghosts, it seems, even entered the political arena, art, church… is there anywhere they don’t ‘haunt’ us? Susan Owens has written a well researched work, be you a believer or skeptic, there is meat for anyone to chew on. Ghosts have evolved with our changing world, look at us now using meters and special instruments to capture that other realm. Are they real, simply a product of our own minds (some guilty)? Will we ever truly know? The walk through our cultural history of ghosts is fascinating and strange. Just in time for Halloween.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Abrams

Tate Publishing

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Irma My Last Update

I promised reviews but with clean up, working ourselves into dehydration and the 7 day power outage it became a huge obstacle. My husband ended up admitted to the hospital and when I went to get him the next day I got sick and ended up in urgent care with an iv. We decided upon his release to escape to a hotel and got much needed air conditioning, naturally next to the theme parks they had power but unbelievably the next morning on a whim I opened the curtains to…. a tour bus on fire underneath the power lines (I have photos). No one was on it, we called 911, but I kept praying ‘please don’t explode and please… please do not take out the power.’ Stranger things do happen folks. Back home, all is well and I promise reviews tomorrow! Sigh…. I have to admit I spoke too soon last week about everything being good.

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Hurricane Irma Update

Irma went through and really hit Brevard County hard, we don’t have power yet, but have been running the generator. Today we have cable and internet so happy day I can review again, of course- the heat is insane until power is fully restored. It’s been rough. Trees down, so there will be a long clean up. Just thankful. Watch this space, reviews over the next few days

I’m The One Who Got Away: A Memoir by Andrea Jarrell

 

 

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“The first time I saw him on television, I was seven. My mother and I were living in a little apartment near UCLA. During a commercial on Marcus Welby, M.D., she whispered, “It’s Nick.”

A woman is murdered, someone on the periphery of Andrea Jarrell’s life, a woman she kept at a distance because maybe she reminded her too much of her own upbringing with a single mother. A woman ‘other than‘ the mothers she prefers to surround herself with, the ones who know the right way to raise children, who have marriages intact and a natural ease in their mothering. The safe, stable, good solid families not those who are unkempt or harried. With this tragedy and the shocking reality of the abuses she must have suffered, Jarrell’s mind returns to her childhood, raised by a single mother with a dangerously abusive father always lurking in the background of her memory.

Andrea was too young to know how her mother escaped her cruel abusive father, left to rely solely on her mother’s stories from that time. Certainly he is a beautiful man, an actor of some success, friends to celebrities like Frank Sinatra. Her mother couldn’t raise her daughter in a home where the father saw threats to his masculinity, accusing her mother of desiring other men. Abusive, controlling and yet drowning with a seductive magnetism her mother, and most everyone in his path, find irresistible. The years collect, and it’s just the two of them. There are rough times, yet good ones too as Andrea’s mother always planned trips to distant places, like Europe. Each are growing experiences, with men somehow always a threatening presence that no one senses more than women on their own.

Her mother dates, but never seems to keep a long term relationship nor allow her dating to get in the way as sometimes happens with single parents. Andrea’s mother was a hard working woman that wasn’t going to fall apart, nor wait for a man to save them. Just as Andrea is coming into her teen years her father finds his way back to them, luring Andrea into a relationship. She struggles with the confusion of longing for his affection and resenting him. Against her better judgement, knowing he truly doesn’t deserve to be the proud father, she tries to form a bond. Her memories are both her own and versions of her mothers, there are things she begins to love about her father and others she cannot stomach. Falling for her dad is much like a new ‘romance’, the highs and lows, hungry for the fatherly affection she was long denied.

Perplexed by the sudden appearance of her father, and the freedom her mother allows her in finally letting the ‘big bad man’ back into their lives, after doing everything in her power to flee him, it isn’t long before she realizes her mother has an ulterior motive, they both do. Just how much will the story have to change to allow Nick, her father, back into their lives? Can her mother really erase the past, could her father have changed?

While a murder sets off memories of her childhood and the tempest that is her mother and father’s love story, it really isn’t center stage to this memoir. This is a story about a girl who spent the formative years with a single mother, free of the abuses of a controlling husband/father only to have him upend their lives once again. It’s the confusion of how it bled into every decision she made in life, of why she kept certain people at a distance and as an adult does her best to blend in with the ‘normal’ families. It’s returning to the beast you know, against your better judgement, it’s resenting the decisions your parents make, and dreading making the same mistakes as your mother.

There is confusion in how someone who ran so far can just seem to give up and change the past to accommodate returning to your first mistake. I just keep thinking ‘better the devil you know’ maybe that should be the name of a condition. Andrea will finally come to know the real abuser her mother fled, and question whether father truly does know best!

Available today September 5, 2017

She Writes Press

 

White Bodies: A Novel by Jane Robins

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“I feel that I’ve been eliminated from her world and that makes me scared.”

This is a psychological game but just who are the players? Callie has always been in the shadow of her starlet sister Tilda’s brilliance and charm, but being the retreating type, she has accepted it as her fate. People have always been seduced by Tilda’s beauty, even Callie herself, feasting on pieces of her sister, wanting to consume her much in the same way the rest of the world does. That she does, but let’s not go into that here. It’d

Tilda has met a financier named Felix, and naturally together they are absolutely beautiful. But Callie sees cracks in the perfect relationship, as her sister begins to give up her acting jobs and retreat into herself Callie sees there are bruises on her body. Felix must be jealous of Tilda’s success! Trying to make sense of what is happening, finding ways to intervene Callie joins a website and support group, everything she reads seems spot on, all these things equate to abuse. If Felix isn’t an abusive man, why then is her sister changing before her eyes, reminding her of the time Tilda went over the edge over another guy?  She must protect Tilda at all costs, she is vulnerable, has been wounded before, she must come to her rescue even if it means insinuating herself in their relationship, snooping through their perfect home. Felix’s OCD seems more than just that, Tilda is ripping at the seams and Callie refuses to watch the life fade from her sister’s eyes. What sort of happiness could Tilda feel being dominated by Felix, who is even taking over her home, no longer are her sister’s things scattered about. The home feels too sterile.

Tilda swears she doesn’t want nor need her sister’s help yet there is a push and pull, slips of confidences that assures Callie deep down Tilda is crying out for help. Though to the reader’s eyes, Tilda just wants Callie to stay out of her life and Callie seems crazy. Felix won’t win her over with his good looks and perfection! He may be able to seduce the world, but not her. The support group becomes too real when Callie meets with one of the members, when something horrific happens she decides, with another online friend that they will be victims no more. It’s time to concoct a plan, similar to a Hitchcock film.

Through the novel we’re on unsteady ground, is Callie just damaged, deranged, creating drama that isn’t there? Is she simply addicted to her twin? Tilda has a cruel edge too, playing with her sister’s fierce loyalty and love for her. Is Callie just the fledgling that fell from the nest and never quite took off? Tilda, the exasperated sister, feeling the dead weight of her twin that just can’t get herself together, who clings to her, hoping some of her beauty and success will rub off on her? Is Callie just an oddball with the bad luck of being twinned to someone she will forever pale in comparison too?

What a strange story. If only swallowing someone’s teeth and hair could turn you special too, but it can’t. This is a story of manipulation, who is the sociopath? Is this really a case of one sister letting her imagination run wild, because she has no life of her own? Will Callie even throw away her chance at love, to save her sister who may or may not be in danger? Will the story end with blood on her hands? Is Callie spiraling into madness or is the abuse real? This is a strange mix of unhealthy sisterly love, loneliness, stunted lives, and strange obsession. The twin sisters experience vastly different childhoods, it’s heartbreaking peering into the past and present through Callie. She has no shine of her own, and often is made to feel like a dead horse her sister Tilda is stuck dragging around. But is Tilda as flawless as she seems and just why does she have trouble with men?

The ending though, I just thought- really? That’s what happens? That is where we are left! But.. but… what? Curses! It’s a strange thriller, and I had to finish it. I could already see it as a film… I’m casting roles in my head. I have to mention the cover, because I love it, something about black and white always draws my eyes. I have to admit, Callie did things that made my skin crawl, I went from feeling really sorry for her to being appalled by her odd actions. Oh which twin to trust?

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Touchstone