In Devil’s Briar by Amy Cross the reader meets Bill and Paula, a husband and wife team, as they are driving around in a deserted area looking for Devil’s Briar, a settlement that does not appear on current maps. It appeared on early ones as some sort camp but all traces of it are gone on modern maps. There is the possibility that it is an undiscovered ghost town. If Bill can find the remains of the town, his reputation with his professor colleagues will be rejuvenated; there will be funding for a project with his name on it. Paula is doubtful of the town’s existence but feels it is her duty as a wife to support him in what may be a comeback from a career that has been going nowhere. She feels that their marriage mirrors his career and she would just as soon part ways with Bill and pursue her own interests. This is their last chance.
Oklahoma Exile by Norma Jean Lutz is the story of a City Girl forced by events to adapt to the life of a Country Girl. The larger conflict is whether she will succeed in doing this while at the same time retaining the identity of Serena. The reader knows immediately that Serena City Girl has a disdain for a country lifestyle. Serena is polite about this and the larger conflict is expressed and takes place largely within Serena herself. Only a very perceptive relative or friend could detect this conflict.
Cecelia and her two daughters, Summer and Winter, moved into a “new” house in the insular community of Mistwood. They had fled from Opalton to start a new life for Dylan, Rain, and Teddy, the children of Summer and Winter. They had gotten the farm at a cheap, almost unbelievably low price. Arriving at the “new place, they could see why. The extensive fire damage made the place almost unlivable. That it needed cleaning was an understatement. Cecelia wanted them to use traditional cleaning methods to make the house livable while concealing their magic powers but a rock through their window and a message on their windshield let them know they might as well use magic. It seems the community knew the witches had arrived.
This is a short story I purchased from Amazon at the price of USD 0.99. The Amazon book preview promised I would be hooked from the very first line. The first line of the preview hooked me. It was not the first line of the story, however.
The story is told in 48 pages. The reader will suspect the “terrible secret” within the first few pages. But most readers will not predict the rather surprising, unpredictable ending.
At age sixteen, it is Amara’s turn to go through the medical screening that will allow her to qualify for confirmation, an event that will mark her transition to an adult life. No longer will she be locked up with her sisters to await a time when she can go out in public, perhaps even to dance. She would like to dance with Hunter, a guardsman she might fall in love with if she could get past the very physical restrictions on a person not yet sixteen. It was an inappropriate relationship between a princess and a guardsman but it was better than the complete lack of relationships she had experienced up to now.
As I get back into the daily blog routine after a somewhat disastrous trip to Thailand to obtain a visa for my continued stay in Indonesia, I want to take a few posts to remark on and review some work I am finding on authors’ mailing lists. My initial take is there are a lot of Independents putting work out through mailing lists and sites such as INSTAFREEBIE. I think that makes the authors automatically interesting and innovative. Yes, there might be dross, but I bet there is a lot of good stuff. And I am about to find out.
The Chans by Em Shotwell is a short story probably written to get readers interested in the author’s Blackbird Series. This short story (38 pages) sells for USD0.99 through Amazon. It has had seven favorable reviews. The first one mentions that this prequel is available for free. I missed the opportunity to get it free from Amazon but got it free anyway from the author’s mailing list.
Chemistry by C. L. Lynch is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun novel to read due to its clever twists in dialogue. I found it hilarious and highlighted many, many examples of unusual sentences that I believe won’t be found anywhere else. They wouldn’t work in another context. There are occasional uses of words some will feel uncomfortable with but this warning, given by the author is also clever. You will have to read the novel to find out why the warning, in itself, is clever.
“For my mother, who always believed that I would write a book, but never dreamed that I would put in so many swear words.” (loc 41-43)
Then there is this at the end of the book. I take it as a given, perhaps mistakenly, that authors write descriptions of themselves. This particular description so accurately mirrors and expands the character of Stella (main protagonist) that I felt it deserved a quote.
“C.L. Lynch is a thirty-something socially awkward introvert. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, two kids, various pets, and far too many unwashed dishes. She enjoys smashing tropes and hiding from adult responsibilities.” (loc 4536-4538)
Stella might be described as a socially awkward teenager. She has few friends, seems to be mentally gifted, and is physically “big built.” While that may be a politically correct term, Stella carries the words “fat” and “obese” around in her head. Admitting and even embracing reality, Stella works from a position of “Here I am, take it or leave it.” She doesn’t care about others’ opinions of her but she doesn’t enjoy receiving insults. Stella is not above using her martial arts training to answer offensive behavior directed against her. At home, she has a remarkably open relationship with her parents. They feel comfortable joking with her almost as an adult equal. She feels comfortable with sharing and revealing sometimes shocking truths. Stella’s character is well developed, the characters of the parents less so, and some readers might find this unrealistic. But this provides the opportunity for the author to write some great dialogue.
Howie or Howard (but not to be confused with Howard the Bear) is the other principal around which the tale progresses. Howie is socially inept, a nerd, a geek, wears the stereotypical glasses, and is completely smitten with Stella at first sight. He is so smitten that he wanders around with a deer-in-the-headlights look that is apparent to all other students. Stella is also amazed by his blue eyes and the attention paid by Howie but she is also put off by the constant minute-by-minute attention paid. Although flattered, Stella suspects she might have a stalker. For Howie’s part, while he tells Stella she is beautiful, he emphasizes he is primarily in love with her brain. At this point, I should have heard alarms.
No alarms until Chapter Nine when Stella says “Okay, I need to hear you say that you’re not zombies.” (loc 1647). This was said to Howie and his family at their home. I was as surprised as Stella that I was in the middle of a zombie story. The fast moving dialogue was so entertaining up to this point that I knew there was something to be revealed about Howie but that wasn’t one of my guesses. I don’t read zombie tales (I thought this was horror) but there was no way I was going to put this book down; I was having too much fun. Then the story took on other elements equally entertainingly offered through clever dialogue.
Zombies exist alongside humans although neither group is aware of the other. There are very few zombies; Howie and his family of a sister, brother mom, and dad are one such zombie family. Dr, Mullens, Howie’s dad is a research doctor (and zombie) who has been recruited by the government to theoretically control the virus which turns people into zombies. But the Canadian government research project has become corrupted by the efforts of an ultra-right wing extremist fanatical Canadian zealot. This creature may be rarer than a zombie. Agent Baum believes Dr. Mullen’s research could be more positively used to create a zombie army that could be used in an upcoming war with the US, a necessary war to prevent American culture co-opting and wiping out Canadian culture. Baum also worries Howie and family might go to the US and participate in the upcoming struggle on the American side. Baum is further morally horrified by the prospect of a romantic relationship between human Stella and zombie Howie.
While I found all this fascinating, for me, the dialogue did it. So, two examples. In the first, Howie is announcing his undying (think about it) love for Stella and she answers.
Howie: “How could I not love you? The way you can wield a chainsaw, the way you karate chop your way through every problem to cross your path?”
Stella: ““It’s kung fu, not karate,” I said. “It’s a style of wu-shu, and it’s Chinese, not Japanese. And I don’t chop much. I’m more about the kicks and the hand blocks.” (loc 3505-3512)
My second example shows the open dialogue relationship between Stella and her parents. Stella is going to her bedroom to study with zombie boyfriend Howie.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” called Dad as we went upstairs.
“Would you pee sitting down, Dad?”
“Would you wear a v-neck top, Dad?”
“Would you have long chaste conversations with your boyfriend?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t have unprotected sex.”
“Thank you for the reassurance that you wouldn’t have unprotected sex. I’ll leave you and Mom to work out the mystery of my paternity and go upstairs, shall I?” (loc 3081-3086)
I highly recommend this book to the YA and above crowd despite, as the author noted, the swear words. This book was fun and I enjoyed writing the review.
I read this novel through my Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription.
Conjesero by Carl Alves is a supernatural murder mystery. In many murder mysteries, there is a victim and the reader interest is devoted to finding out the identity of the killer. In this novel, we know the killer who goes by many names that hide one identity, a mythical creature known as Conjesero. The creature is a shape shifter that exists in a world which generally doesn’t believe in such entities. Disproving this belief is the principal task of protagonist Detective Kevin Russell. If he can’t cause people to believe in Conjesero, he at least has to find a way to kill the creature before the body count climbs much higher. The body count could rise to consist of people important to Kevin, people such as his friend Paul, his cop partner Rita, his new doctor girlfriend Wendy, and his student friends Manny and brother Alex. There are lots of gruesome killings and graphic descriptions of dismemberment throughout the story. As Conjesero learns of the involvement of Detective Kevin, he decides to concentrate on victims important to Kevin.