Tag Archives: #Ghosts

Jenkins, David Elias: The First Spark (2016)

The First Spark, Independent (2016)
Cover by David Elias Jenkins

Finding a soul-mate is not a given in life. In Free Spark, David Elias Jenkins introduces us to John and Isabella Gaunt who embody what soul-matedness seems to be all about. At first, their soul-matedness was metaphorical. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it later became literal. Their changing relationship brought heartache and a greater purpose in life. Both knew, without a doubt, that their most important contribution to Free Reign would be to bring down Jonas Reach, Emberdark and their bosses. Getting there demands more sacrifice and heartache for both of them. Those opposing them, find a terrifying pair willing to use any and all tools to get their revenge and stop the precursor artifacts that threaten Free Reign’s way of life.

The Watch is Free Reign’s police force. At first, Free Reign’s best, Maeve fights the couple. She misunderstands what they are about. That probably has to do with the level of devastation left behind them. However, once Maeve herself becomes hunted by the same forces John and Isabella are fighting, she realizes that life is even more complicated than she thought. And Maeve is not a naïve character but knows well that certain people “weigh the law down with gold and influence until it snapped.

“The destructive power of the fire elementals had razed the Longshadow district of Free Reign to the ground two hundred years ago. There were still plaques and memorials to the dead from that disaster in the main square.

Yet the very contraption of cogs and wheels that whirs and rattles me down this mountain is powered by that same magic, harnessed and directed to useful purpose. …

“Three sets of headlights glared at her in close formation like the myriad eyes of an arachnid. They separated slightly as the road widened and Maeve could see riders straddling three Angeldarts.” (loc 3939)

Free Reign is a city where magic (thaumaturgy) and technology intertwine into a type of literature called arcanepunk. The title of the story refers to the thaumaturgy that Free Reign is built on. First Spark bleeds magic into the air, ground and water of Free Reign and has made the city a place where strange creatures feel comfortable. Like all cities, Free Reign is a place where cruelty and succor live side by side in a political system that depends on its leaders being as little corrupt as possible.  I know, I know. Impossible.

The First Spark has enough violence to go around, but it is violence with a purpose. I would find it impossible to believe a story about the dregs of society (be they low or high on the social ladder) without violence. The First Spark pretty much shows this darker side of society as it is. I like the job Jenkins has done in blending law and crime, grief and determination and helpful with destructive. The First Spark is a mystery-thriller with lots of action, some violence and pretty broken characters.

Recommended.

The author gave me a copy of The First Spark to review


The First Spark is available on Amazon

Ford, Jeffrey: The Shadow Year, 2008

The Shadow Year begins and ends with Mr. Softee, the ice-cream man. At the beginning of the story our narrator, and main character, is “listening carefully for that mournful knell, each measured ding both a promise of ice cream and a pinprick of remorse.”

Our narrator describes a family learning to cope with a new financial reality. Their father lost his old job and was now working three jobs, while their mother worked one job, to pay the bills that still kept on coming in. Even though their father is not present in much of the book, Jeffrey Ford still manages to show a man who loves his family passionately and whose family loves him back. But because of his need to work so much, we also see children who view their father as a distant figure.

Their mother is clearly depressed and self-medicates with alcohol and The Complete Sherlock Holmes. She seems to be manic depressive, and we get to watch her come down from one of her manic episodes.

In those few seconds, I saw the recent burst of energy leaking out of her. As usual, it had lasted for little more than a week or so, and she’d used it all up. Like a punctured blow-up pool toy, she seemed to slowly deflate while shadows blossomed in her gaze.

Childhood is such a passionate time. If you have ever seen a three-year old express anger, joy, sadness or love, you know what a I mean. Everything is new and everything is normal. An adult might see a child’s circumstances as horrible, but that child knows of nothing else. As they grow and learn to compare, some of their passion is sloughed off.

There are three children in our main character’s family: Jim (seventh grade), narrator (sixth grade) and Mary (fourth grade/Room X). All three seem to be pretty smart with Mary as the probable winner. Her placement in a special class is due to the inability of her teachers to get an answer from her. All three are authority adverse. There is an hilarious episode regarding Jim’s personality/IQ test. All three get this self-confidence from their mother, who allows them quite a bit of leeway when it comes to school.

I found myself loving this family. Perhaps Mary in particular (although I probably identified most with the narrator). Mary is a child who follows her own paths. Her friends, Sally O’Malley and Sandy Graham, lived in a closet in her room and sometimes they go to school with Mary in the family basement where they are taught by their teacher, Mrs. Harkmar (all three make-believe). Mary also sports an alter-ego, Mickey. Her math abilities are pretty astounding and all learned while listening to Pop working out his horse races. Those abilities are used to identify the mystery behind the disappearance of Charlie Edison.

Poor little Charlie Edison. Lost in the battleground of Elementary (Primary) school. He is first on the list of who Bobby Harweed (bully and coward) beats up. Charlie is, sadly, also on the bully-list of some of the teachers. He does his best to stay invisible. Then one day he truly becomes invisible by disappearing for good. Our three siblings begin looking and use Botch Town as their aid.

Botch Town is Jim’s creation. It is a model of their neighborhood made from little bits and pieces Jim has picked up and glued together. Mary seems to have super-natural powers in predicting where people will be and what might happen. One of those predictions is regarding their neighborhood’s recent prowler.

Then we have the ghosts.

I loved Jeffrey Ford’s writing. Definitely recommended.


Dick van Dyke (hated by Pop, loved by the narrator): Shanty Town, I’ll Be Seeing You (comedy)

Herman’s Hermits, There’s a Kind of Hush (1967) (marks a transition)


Reviews:


Translations:


Awards:


The Shadow Year available at Amazon US

Priest, Cherie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Eden Moore 1) (2003)

Book design by Nicole de las Heras
Book design by Nicole de las Heras

“Hey,” I said, not to greet her but to get her attention. “Hey.”
Her eyes rolled to meet mine.
She opened her mouth but did not yet speak. Instead it seemed
every sound in the forest was pulled inside her gasping lungs and I was standing in the vacuum. I knew my friends were only yards away but I did not hear their small, fast feet shuffling through the undergrowth. No birds sang and no squirrels knocked winter nuts down into empty trees. Even the shadows stopped crawling across the rocks as the sky held the clouds above in place.
My breath snagged in my throat and refused to leave my chest.
Tears came to the woman’s eyes and dripped to the forest floor
unchecked. Her head swiveled slowly, looking past her left shoulder and then her right. Her choked, thin voice cried out to the others.
Willa, Luanna—she’s over here.
Two other women appeared, one on either side of her. They had
the same vaguely African features as the first, with hair bound into submission by scarves tied in loose knots. Their faces might have been round once, but their skin was drawn back and their wide cheekbones made shelves that shadowed their hollow jaws. Their teeth were exaggerated by fleshy lips robbed of their firmness, and when they spoke to one another it was a terrible sight.
There she is, his darling one.
His pretty one.
Oh, Mae, she’s returned to you. She’s returned to us.
Mae crouched low to examine me with her enormous, brimming
eyes. My baby, she said, reaching one scrawny arm to my face. Mybaby. Miabella.

Who wants to live forever? Not I. Some people do and this greed is explored in the story about Eden Moore, her convoluted family tree and ghostly followers.

In Four and Twenty Blackbirds the John Gray death-cult uses a dark combination of Songhaien Sorko lore and Seminole lore to bring their founder back to life. Somehow John Gray is tied to young Eden, who we meet for the first time when she is five.

Five years old, Eden hears her three ghostly followers speak for the first time with the words in the quote above. As a child, I had no concept of dead or alive, and I imagine my reaction would have been much as Eden’s was. She was used to these women. They were different to other women, but, you know, people! As she grew older, she realized that others considered Eden a bit of an oddity. Apparently, at least until her first time at camp, no other person she met saw what she now understood were ghosts.

Cherie Priest is not afraid to tackle serious issues. One of the most serious issues in Southern USA is racism. As a child, I was bullied a lot. So, to some extent, I can imagine what it must have been like for Eden to be bullied for something she had no control over. Some of her class-mates and her pale faced relatives were horrible and on one occasion a co-student made it really simple for Eden to break the rules.

“You guys who aren’t all white and aren’t all black. You’re not anything except the worst mix of a bad lot, and it don’t surprise my dad at all that a family like yours would have something crazy like this going on.”

Auntie Lulu, Eden’s adopted mother and aunt, keeps the truth of Eden’s ancestry from her in an attempt to shield her. Being the last to know does not make for a happy Eden.  But Eden must wait until she is old enough to search for the truth on her own.

Works well as a stand-alone, but is part of a series. Definitely recommended. I had trouble putting it down.


Reviews:


Four and Twenty Blackbirds may be found at McMillan

Ward, Matthew: Queen of Eventide (Eventide I) (2015)

Queen of Eventide by Matthew Ward

Queen of Eventide kept me up until I had finished it. It was weird, fun and tense (sometimes all at once). Now that playtime is over, it is time for my review.

Maddie twisted around, wiping blood out of her eyes. She saw only mist, glowing and swirling in the moonlight, but this did nothing to stem her rising panic.

Maddie has reason to panic. She is being chased by several parties and does not know who is for her or who is against her. Keeping knowledge from me, the reader, is a great tool for an author. Mr. Ward wields it well although I do catch on to some things before he reveals them to me.

Nottingham supposedly flourishes with ghosts. Certain signs and portents must be present for some of them to show. In Queen of Eventide, some of these ghosts come from a place called Eventide, and they are of a particularly creepy/frightening nature. All of a sudden a person might find themselves being chased by a huntsman and his wolves. Maddie finds herself being chased several times and for reasons she does not understand. Each time William seems to appear to save her. Or is he really there to save her? Allegiances are an iffy matter in Queen of Eventide.

My favorite character was Charles King. Partly, that has to do with the sense of humor he brings to the story. When Maddie first meets him, he introduces himself as a fortune teller. Maddie tells him she thought fortune tellers were old women and Charles answers:

“Ah, there you have me,” Charles replied. “I am not, in fact, and old woman.” Maddie shot him a long-suffering look, and he pressed hurriedly on. “I do, however, possess a knack for peeking into the future.” He leaned forward, conspiratorially. “I inherited it from my grandmother – who was, you’ll be pleased to know, an old woman.”

Hollows are the strangest and possibly most disturbing creatures of the story. They aren’t creepy because of what they do, but due to what they are. We are talking bizarre. And that is all I can say about them without serious spoilers gotting in the way.

As an Asperger, metaphors can be a challenge. Mr. Ward excels in his use of them. Thankfully most of them are familiar ones. Some of them I use myself. The ones who aren’t add to the humor and fantastical aspect of the story.

Queen of Eventide was well worth the read – as my staying up well into the night is evidence of.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Queen of Eventide is available at Smashwords.com


A copy of the story was given to me by the author


Eventide: [Middle English, from Old English ǣfentīd : ǣfen, evening + tīd, time; see dā- in Indo-European roots.] = aftentid/kveldstid in Norwegian

Marlowe, Scott: Killing the Dead (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name II) (2010)

Killing the Dead - Scott Marlowe

So, how does an assassin go about killing a ghost? Scott Marlowe has certainly thrown his assassin a seemingly impossible job. Getting rid of a necromancer, who was supposed to be dead, is a task fraught with danger for our unnamed hero.

Killing the Dead is an action story with a happy feeling to it. Yes, there is fighting and death and necromancy, but Killing the Dead stays far away from being a dark fantasy. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Killing the Dead available at Scott Marlowe’s website

Miles, T.A.: Raventide (2013)

Raventide - TA Miles

Antiques appraiser and investigator Drayden Torvannes is 33 years old. His great love in life is the study of history. To live out his love Drayden checks out heirlooms and family documents for the wealthy and gives his customers an opinion on the value of what he has been asked to investigate.

Drayden considered survival in his profession to be tantamount to walking a thin line stretched high above the winding lengths of the canals; holding one’s balance and knowing when to risk a leap onto a balcony or rooftop was essential in staying clear of the turbid, and sometimes poisonous waters.

Dealing with the powerful works the same way in the real world. In the world of Drayden Torvannes we also enjoy a bit of the super-natural in the form of angels and demons along with the strange phenomena that sometimes occur when they and humans interact.

People in Raventide embrace many well-known traditions of our regular world. Good and evil, we and them, save the world, and protect the innocent are all parts of TA Miles story about Drayden Torvannes and his adventures.

Cults are confusing yet understandable belief systems for me. I grew up in a faith that many consider a cult. Yet Mormons are innocents when compared with the cults we meet in Raventide. Our Raventide cults are more in line with IS or KKK. In other words, pretty intense people who are willing to do absolutely anything for their cause.

A great many of the citizens of the town of Raventide and the Fannael family suffer from cultism. The story of Raventide is about unveiling the truth of horrors past and present and the role of various people in these deeds. Poor Drayden is going to get his fill of betrayal by the end of the story. Betrayal is, thankfully, not his only lot in life. Unexpected friendships and loyalty comes to him as well.

I loved Raventide. For me the pace worked T.A. Miles’ writing was excellent and engaging. Meeting authors like this is always a relief. Writing isn’t an exact science. There are some qualities that especially appeal to my brain and TA Miles managed to fill those demands.


Reviews:


Raventide available on Raventidebooks.com


Lester, Robert W.: What is a cult?

Ryan, Lea: What the Dead Fear (2011)

Cover art by Lea Ryan
Cover art by Lea Ryan

What the Dead Fear is a lovely novella about acceptance and compassion.

My reasons for choosing a story varies. In the case of What the Dead Fear  it was the title that drew me. I found I had to know what the dead do fear. Well, they fear Gareth. But more than Gareth they fear

for the fates of the living, despite their witness to the hereafter. They fear retribution, but perhaps even more, they fear helplessness and insignificance.

Helplessness is an interesting sensation. Two of the characters (Juniper and Nikki) from the story suffer through acknowledging the need for different strategies. Acceptance is such a difficult choice but usually it is the only way to change. At least it is for me, and Ms. Ryan’s characters all either fight their way through it or remain stuck as they are.

I like the way the story plays out in Limbo and in the land of the living. What the Dead Fear is a ghost story riddled with strange creatures and plenty of action and humor. Definitely recommended.


Review:


What the Dead Fear on Barnes and Noble Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, It’s also available in audio HERE.