Tag Archives: #Paranormal

China, Max; The Sister; Skinnybirds Productions; 2014

My copy of The Sister, is the 2014 edition. Apparently, some of the problems in the 2012 edition have been corrected.

“You should have learned to swim.”

The perfect murders are the ones where the murderer is never discovered. As The Sister is a traditional mystery-thriller, that cannot happen. Having said that, the boiler-suit murderer seems a likely candidate for a murderer who might never have been caught in real life. That has to do with his methods.

When we are introduced to him, we find ourselves in Cornwall during the summer of 1967. The year my sister was born.

“You told Lei you were coming here?” the girl asked. “Are you sure she won’t get lonely and come down to join – us?”

“No. She won’t come here. Like I said, we argued, and now we’re not talking … besides, she is scared of this place, what with all those old stories …?”

20 August 1967 three things happen simultaneously. The Milowski family decides to go on a picnic not far from a haunted site. Something he saw through a telescope unsettles seven-year old Bruce, and he decides to investigate that feeling. He is too young to realize how dangerous following such hunches might be.

At the same time, the above-mentioned Lee follows in the foot-steps of her disappeared boy-friend.

Rescuers found his tent pitched near the mine’s entrance. It was empty, his equipment missing. Unable to find any trace of him outside, the rescue team concluded that he must have decided to sleep in the mine. …

At the same time, at Celtic Deep, Vera begins seeing things, and the first thing she sees is the death about to happen.

All three lives are irrevocably changed, while the boiler-suit serial killer gets to keep on doing what he enjoys most in the world.

In the end, The Sister is mainly about power. The lengths to which we will go to have it and the lengths to which others will go to take it from us. The Sister is also very much about the long-term effects of traumatic events. What Max China writes about different ways of dealing with trauma, reminds me of how I used to deal with my own experiences. I was also reminded of the strength it took to discover how to live with PTSD and to acknowledge the effects of that survival.

China’s serial killer is frightening because he is believable. Watching programs and reading articles about real life serial killers has shown me that the boiler-suit killer would fit right in with them. Vera’s powers are what brings The Sister into the realm of Fantasy fiction. I would not want a stone like the obsidian stone in my life, nor would I wish the slightest ability to see into the future. I liked Vera. She is a woman who chooses to bear burdens that most of us would be unable to carry.

The editing of The Sister is good. It is a relief to read a story where the author understands the words he uses, has a basic understanding of spelling and grammar, seems to have the ability to listen to what editors and beta-readers suggest and understands the music of words. In addition, the characters are believable. While I might not like all of them, they are people I can relate to on some level. Yes. Even boiler-suit man. I also prefer the third-person tool China uses in his telling. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Sister is available at Amazon US and Amazon UK

Gardner, Richard; Deadly Partnership; 2017

His best hope of escape was to reach the hedge and look for a gap to crawl through.

Deadly Partnership begins with a roundabout introduction of our main character. The story then takes us to Paul Jenkins’ retirement and the decisions that he makes regarding the years ahead. One of those includes living with his sister, Julie, in their child-hood home. Tsk, tsk. Some decisions are disastrous.

At last the medium got to her feet. Middle-aged, she was small and round with short, dark hair and smiling eyes behind her glasses. Julie could imagine her sitting in a tent behind a crystal ball at a fairground, perhaps using the name of ‘Mystic Mary’ or something very similar.

Our first meeting with ghosts comes when Julie attends a spiritualist meeting. The medium turns out to be a true one. If her warnings had been heeded things would have gone differently for quite a few people. Of course, then there would have been no Deadly Partnership. The story weaves its way through secrets, murders, relationships, and has a dash of ghostly activities.

“If I didn’t know you better I’d think you actually enjoyed murdering the poor bastard,”

The main character is fairly well-rounded. He is an example of not judging people from appearances. Paul is a bit mental but he hides it well. Maybe mental isn’t a fair description because his insanity only comes out to visit when his world view is challenged. He does excel at rationalizing his behaviour. Secondary characters are much flatter, but they are essential to the story. Julie is Paul’s sister and Gary is his son. Gary is a pretty good example of how regular people sometimes do terrible things. I expect few people set up appointments to murder someone.

Deadly Partnership has a good plot line and we get excellent examples of rationalization processes. There aren’t many spelling problems. At times confusion about correct word usage arises: “conscious” instead of “conscience”. Quite a few paragraphs need tightening. Lengthy explanations lower the quality of Deadly Partnership.

I was given a copy of Deadly Partnership in exchange for a review


Reviews:


Deadly Partnership is available at Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Ripley, Ron: Berkley Street (2016)


Ron Ripley obviously understands the importance of atmosphere in his story about Shane Ryan. Like most supernatural creatures, ghosts have been tools story tellers have used for centuries. Berkley Street is full of them.

Berkley Street is the first story in the 9-book Berkley Street series. Each book has a satisfactory ending. No cliffhangers. It is about 170 pages long. The last few pages are “Bonus Chapters” that explain how one of the inhabitants of the house became a ghost. Berkley Street begins in 1982 and switches between Shane’s life until his parents disappeared and Shane’s life from the time he moved back into Berkley Street 125. The novel is told as a set of short-stories tied together by Shane’s present day search for his parents.

Shane Ryan is overcome when he sees the property his parents have bought.

“Wow,” Shane whispered. “Wow.”

Shane’s parents laughed happily, and he followed them up the front walk. His father took out the house key, unlocked the large door and opened it. Shane stepped into the biggest room he had ever seen.

A huge set of stairs stretched up into the darkness, and dim pieces of furniture filled what he realized was a hallway. Close to where Shane stood, a tall grandfather clock ticked away the time.

And behind the tick of the second hand, Shane heard whispers.

Someone whispered in the walls.

The house, itself, is strange. On the outside it was designed to look like a small castle. The inside does not know its own composition. Number and size of levels, rooms, doors and passages changes at the whim of one of the ghost mistress.

Shane Ryan is a veteran of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has been in the middle of plenty of fighting. Yet, nothing frightens him as much as his own house. No matter how scared he is of Berkley Street, Shane has fought his aunt and uncle in court for the ownership of “His monstrous familial home.” The only reason he kept on fighting to return was so he could find his parents, who had been taken by the house 22 years previously.

“What are you saying, sir? Missing? On the road somewhere?”

“From your house,” the chaplain said in a gentle voice. “They’ve vanished.”

Fear is a marvellous emotion. It keeps us out of trouble. Well, unless we let fear rule our behaviour. The permanent residents of 125 taught Shane, the child and teenager, how to use his fear to help him. Most of the ghosts cannot stop emanating fear. Except for when the ghost mistress commands them, they are OK people. We get to know German Carl, Italian Roberto, “the ragman” and “the old man” who all died as adults. Eloise, Thaddeus and Vivienne died when they were young. We also meet the dark ones. All the ghosts play a role in the hunt for the whereabouts of Shane’s parents. Not only the dead have roles in the story of Berkley Street 125 and Shane Ryan. They and his mother and father, aunt and uncle, Detective Marie Lafontaine, Veteran Gerald Beck, and ex-resident Herman Mishal all reveal 125’s character. Shane’s main opponent is the ghost mistress, the one who holds the heart of the house. Her only wish is to add Shane to her collection of ghosts. Shane and the ghost mistress are both set on being the victor of their war. Their tactics are extremely different. Where the ghost mistress uses terror to control others, Shane tries a more diplomatic approach.

Ron Ripley managed to  scare me. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Amazon, B & N, Apple, Kobo, Scribd

De Pierres, Marianne; Peacemaker 1 (2014)

The Peacemaker series begins with Peacemaker. Peacemaker also has a first installment of the webcomic edition on De Pierres website. De Pierres has called her Peacemaker stories cowpunk, meaning they are Australian Westerns (yes there is such a thing) with possible aliens/paranormal creatures, technologically enhanced humans and animals and an environmentally challenged country. Australia has gone from having its current 500 national parks to only one, Birrumen Park. There was still an outback while Virgin’s father was alive. He started a park lobby because he saw the direction real estate developers were dragging the country in. Now, Birrumen lies, as the last of its sort, in the heart of a supercity and is surrounded by a road, The Park Esplanada. Noise, people and buildings drench the outside of the park.

Peacemaker is told by Virgin. She is our main character.  She was pretty much raised in the park by her father. He taught her to not trust anyone, least of all those closest to her, and he passed on his love for the park to her. Virgin is passionate about keeping the Park out of the hands of real estate developers. As long as the tourists keep coming, the Park still has a chance.

… the company scientists deemed it too environmentally fragile to handle the impact of permanent residents. Tourists did enough damage.

And we had to have tourists.

The Park saved Australia’s tourism industry and tourists save the Park. My daughter just did her BA dissertation on eco-tourism. Many places depend on tourists to stay alive, but tourists bring their own set of problems that aren’t compatible with keeping a place “untouched”. Inhabitants make concessions like the Wild West theme of Birrumen. The future we see in Peacemaker is a likely one. Humans don’t have the intelligence to control our population growth or ecological foot-prints.

Benny, Virgin’s horse, and the Park both ground Virgin when the chaos of outside becomes too much. Both are filled with technology. Benny has been augmented with recording equipment, and endurance and cognitive enhancers. All of his augmentations send information back to Totes, the park tech, and then on to the company storage and processing centre. Birrumen has all sorts of measuring equipment to make sure the park is left as undisturbed as possible. An electromagnetic field above the park keeps unwanted people out and the view in.

No human is supposed to be in the park after dark. One evening Virgin forgets her phone inside and has to go back in.

Even though I’d been ranger here for a few years, I was suddenly a little nervous. The sand and rock and palms that I knew so well during the day had taken on an eerie quality.

The company didn’t like us “on board” (their expression for being in the park) after dark – something to do with insurance. I always pushed that directive to the limit because I like to see the sunset. …

As I bent to fumble with the pump, I felt my phone underfoot. Then another sound attracted my attention – muffled voices from the other side of the semicircle of palms that skirted the Interchange area.

Voices? Impossible! I was the last person out of the south-east sector every day. Park scanners and satellite imaging confirmed it, as well as my own visual sweep.

I picked up my phone and crept towards the sound, my boots silent on the sand. There were two of them, arguing, but I couldn’t get a handle on the thread. …

A strangled cry got me running toward them, hauling my pistol free from my holster. …

But the pair had fallen down onto the sand.

I flicked my phone light on and shone it at them. Only one person was there. Blood trickled from a small, deep wound on his neck.

Impossible! There were two! …

Weirdness arrives in the form of a crow. Virgin is attacked and wounded but manages to escape. On top of that, Virgin is late in picking up her new partner, Marshall Nate Sixpence. Then her imaginary friend from her childhood reappears, a large wedge-tailed eagle called Aquila. Virgin thinks she is going insane because she is the only one who sees her. Except she isn’t. Nate can also see imaginary friends. Hmmm. Maybe they aren’t as imaginary as Virgin thinks. Nathan calls them disincarnates.

Her life is turned on its head. She goes from routine to chaos, from safety to one life-threatening situation after the other. Some constants remain. What is going on? Virgin’s investigative journalist friend, Caro, helps Virgin many times. Her boss, Bull Hunt, Superintendent of Park Ecology, remains on her side even when the police go after her. He used to be friends with her father and has continued to take care of her.

In some ways Virgin is a loner. She certainly thinks of herself as one, but tends to gather friends because of the way she treats people. Blunt but tries to protect the weak. Some of those friends are interesting cases. Totes, the park tech, is one such. Even though he bugs her apartment, Virgin keeps him on because she believes he is on her side. Chef Dabrowski feeds her and is as much of a surrogate parent as she will let him. She is the kind of person who does not want to be a burden to the people loves, yet does her best to help the very same people. Her personality appeals to my Asperger.

This is my favorite De Pierres series thus far. Her writing is compelling and the story asks interesting questions, is fun, full of action, full of interesting characters and has a great female lead. Plus it’s in Australian English. So, a definite yes from me.


Reviews:


Winner Aurealis Award– Best Science Fiction Novel, 2014


Peacemaker can be found at:

Buy at Amazon.com

Buy for Amazon Kindle

Buy at Amazon.com UK

Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Barnes and Noble Canada

Buy from Barnes and Noble (UK)

Buy for Barnes and Noble Nook

Buy from The Book Depository

Buy from Fishpond

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand (2016)

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand; New York, Tor Books, 2016

Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.

It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.

Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.


The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books

Shelton, Connie: Sweet Masterpiece (Samantha Sweet I) (2010)

Samantha (Sam) Sweet‘s  dream is to open her own pastry shop. In the meantime, she has to work for the USDA cleaning out abandoned properties where the owners have defaulted their loans. Both mysteries in Sweet Masterpiece have to do with her USDA job.

Cake-baking weaves in and out of sleuthing. Sam is no exception from the rule of amateur sleuths. Amateur sleuths always solve the mystery. Either they announce their success or they lead the police by the hand until the police cannot but figure out the answer. Sweet Masterpiece is of the second category. Shelton has added in a little romance. Her beau is Deputy Beau Cardwell, the detective in charge of both sites.

Violence, swearing and sexual content are practically non-existent. You would have to work hard to be offended by any of it.

In Taos, New Mexico, Bertha Martinez dies after Sam has broken into her home. But not until Bertha manages to convince Sam to keep a worn wooden box safe, claiming that Sam is its new secret-keeper. Turns out, this box has strange powers to share. Powers that at first freak Sam out. Witchy stuff is suspected.

House number two does not have anything paranormal about it. A man’s body is discovered buried on the property. Turns out the body belongs to an artist who had disappeared from the art-world some years ago. Mystery number two is, of course, the one that Sam helps the police solve. Along the way, she is lectured by her deputy that forcing your evidence to fit your theory is a bad idea.

Sweet Masterpiece is a mystery of the light-hearted kind. I had fun reading it.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Sweet Masterpiece is available free of charge on Smashwords

Estep, Jennifer: Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin I) (2010)

Jennifer Estep‘s Ashland, Tennessee, is like many corrupt cities/towns/countries. “Ashland might have a working police force and government, but the city was really run by one woman. Mab Monroe.” Monroe is your typical mobster. She has a respectable front powered by charity, fund-raising and activities appearing to give back to the community. Behind that façade, bribes and intimidation are favorite tools but she does not hesitate to stoop to kidnappings and murder if necessary. If you happen to be a law-abiding police officer, district attorney or judge, you are doomed one way or another.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Prince Hamlet says to his mother Queen Gertrude:

“Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty—”

Into such a bed of corruption, Estep places Spider (Gin Snow), assassin, main character and story-teller. Gin is known as Gin Blanco, part-time cook and waitress at the Pork Pit. She regularly takes classes at Ashland Community College – the eternal student. Pork Pit is owned by Fletcher (foster-father, ex-assassin and handler/go-between). Gin loves and trusts both Fletcher and Finnegan/Finn (foster-brother and bankier). As Spider’s Bite unfolds, we discover how Gin came to be in Fletcher’s household.

We first meet Spider in Ashland Asylum. She is there to kill one of the therapists. As an introduction, this assignment serves to introduce us to Gin, her profession, the types of inhabitants in Ashland and what kinds of magic exist. Ashland is a place of magic, vampires, giants, dwarves and humans. Gin is human and a stone- and ice-elemental. The other two main forms of magic are fire- and air-magic. Most elementals have the use of one magic. If they have two, one of them is normally a minor one. Ashland’s magic is not without its dangers, addiction being one of them. Insanity another. Fletcher and Finn are humans and without magic. Early on in the story, Gin takes on an assignment that has devastating effects on her relationship with Fletcher and Finn and has the potential of bringing her within reach of Mab.

Her assignment certainly brings her within reach of Detective Donovan Caine. Caine is one of the few honest public service-people in Ashland. Of course, he and Gin are bound to clash and end in the inevitable should/should not have sex situation. Fortunately, Estep chooses to portray Gin as the instigator and Caine as the doubting, shameful one. It would be strange if they had the usual roles in paranormal literature due to Caine being the upright police officer that he is. Happily, this romance bit did not take up too much of the story. Most of their interaction was through their investigation.

Finn, Gin’s foster-brother, is something worse than an assassin (as Gin puts it). He is a bankier and Gin’s go-to person in Spider’s Bite. It would be a safe bet to say that Finn and Gin are best friends. Their friendship is vital to the success of the investigation. When Caine becomes involved he and Finn go through the usual (is it like this all over the world?) who’s-the-manlier-man procedure. Thankfully, again, Estep does not force us to endure yet another threesome (god, I hate those). No mushy stuff and no threesome. What is the world coming to?

I had fun reading Spider’s Bite. There was plenty of action. Some violence and sex. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Translations:


Spider’s Bite is available at Amazon