Book Review—Mrs. Saint and the Defectives

[Mrs Saint and the Defectives Cover]Sometimes, life sends us spiraling in directions we never wanted to go. A death in the family, a natural disaster, or a devastating divorce. And more than the actual event, it’s the resulting fallout that keeps the spiral going until we either grab on to something to stop the inevitable descent into despair, or we simply let go.

The author deftly covers this theme—and much more—in Mrs. Saint and the Defectives. As the journey of the protagonist, Markie, and her son, Jesse, unfolds, we come to learn that, generally, people are broken. Some in little ways and some to the point of near self-destruction.

What’s important, of course, is what we do with the information. Recognizing our own faults and shortcomings, do we still find ways to help others or do we simply wallow in our own misery. And which is the road to happiness? In Markie’s case, maybe she still has a chance at a life worth living.

I enjoyed the interplay of the rich, quirky characters who populate the book. Markie is not the brightest bulb when it comes to self-realization. Fortunately, the author has left the work of solving her problems to the reader. Enjoy the ride.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
Critically acclaimed author Julie Lawson Timmer returns with a tale of how community can heal the brokenness in all of us.

Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not.

What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness.

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Scammers Break The Kindle Store via @DavidGaughran

[David Gaughran Photo]As a rule, I don’t repost. But I feel this is an important issue, not only for authors but readers as well. Check out David’s well-researched and thoughtful comments about a problem that seems to be plaguing Amazon. And, if you are so inclined, lend your voice.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the problem wasn’t quite as bad as I was making out, and that this stuff never hits the charts and remains largely invisible to customers.

I explained in detail how none of those contentions were true, that readers are leaving angry reviews under these books, which regularly hit the charts, and further that KDP has singularly failed to act on 18 months-worth of complaints.

Amazon asked me to compile more information for them – and I did that with a report submitted on Wednesday.

You can read the rest of this post at David’s blog.

Book Review—The Memory Box

[The Memory Box Cover]This is the story of a madwoman—an unreliable narrator par excellence who creates more twists and turns than a plate of linguine. All the while, I was laughing my ass off at the wry observations of stilted suburban life, and the hilarious inner dialogue comebacks directed at the parade of boobs and morons who actually had the temerity to get in the way.

Am I exaggerating? Possibly. But I can’t help it. Eva Lesko Natiello has given us a story that defies logic—and worse, sends you halfway to the looney bin as you try to sort through the protagonist’s anxiety-ridden bitch of a day-after-day. Halfway through, you almost wish Caroline would just pop and be done with it so you could get half a breath, for crying out loud.

All I can say is, read The Memory Box at your own peril. But first, make sure you’ve got a stiff drink close by. And a pillow to scream into. You’re probably going to need them.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestseller

A psychological thriller page-turner with twists and turns until the very last page.

WHAT IF YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF & DISCOVERED SOMETHING SHOCKING?

In this gripping psychological thriller, Caroline Thompson Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember.

A HOUSTON WRITERS GUILD MANUSCRIPT AWARD WINNER

A fast-paced suspense where a group of privileged suburban moms amuses themselves by Googling everyone in town, digging up dirt to fuel thorny gossip. Caroline Thompson, devoted mother of two, sticks to the moral high ground and attempts to avoid these women. She’s relieved to hear her name appears only three times, citing her philanthropy. Despite being grateful that she has nothing to hide, a delayed pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name–which none of the others know.

The hits cascade like a tsunami. Caroline’s terrified by what she reads. An obituary for her sister, JD? That’s absurd. With every click, the revelations grow more alarming. They can’t be right. She’d know. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia–upending her blissful family life–desperate to prove these allegations false before someone discovers they’re true.

The disturbing underpinnings of The Memory Box expose a story of deceit, misconceptions, and an obsession for control. With its twists, taut pacing, and psychological tenor, Natiello’s page turning suspense cautions:

Be careful what you search for.

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Book Review—Stillhouse Lake

[Stillhouse Lake Cover]Let me start out by saying that Rachel Caine is an excellent writer. Her prose is concise, controlled, and chillingly violent when the occasion calls for it. This is the first book of hers I’ve read, and I enjoyed it immensely. I especially liked her protagonist, Gina Royal, who is single-minded in her determination to protect her children and herself from the memory of her soulless ex-husband and the thousands of trolls now pursuing the family on social media. Quite a challenge for a former housewife whose main concerns used to be centered around seeing her children off to school and putting dinner on the table.

If you like tense thrillers, I can say with confidence that you will enjoy Stillhouse Lake—with one caveat. For me, when someone says “serial killer,” I expect a high body count. I mean, that’s kind of what they do, right? And though Gina’s ex-husband, Mel, does live up to his reputation, most of it is in backstory. In fact, Caine spends most of the first half of the book on Gina’s inner life. By the time we get to the new peril she finds herself in, we know her intimately—a good thing if you enjoy believable characters. I only wish the author had peppered the introspection with a bit more action, that’s all I’m saying.

All in all, a terrific read. Can’t wait for the next book in the series.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

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Come As You Are—Available for Preorder

[Come As You Are Cover]

Preorder Now!

For lovers of horror, mystery, and suspense, this is your chance to preorder a copy of my new collection, Come As You Are, on Amazon. The eBook and print versions will be published on September 7th. Here are the details:

ISBN: 9780999079102
Price: $4.99 (USD)
Edition: Kindle
Preorder Now!

Book Description

Some things are better left alone.

Ivan Stein isn’t sure he can survive seventh grade, let alone middle school. Living in a town known for its poverty and violence, he is regularly bullied along with his best friend, Ollie. But fortunes can change. One day, Ivan finds an old notebook in an abandoned locker at school. Despite a stark warning, he takes the book and unleashes powerful magic he can use to punish his enemies. But demonic forces control the book’s pages—a terrifying evil that will inflict suffering on the good as well as the bad and take his soul as payment.

Come As You Are is supernatural horror reimagined as Young Adult fiction. But don’t be fooled. Its violence will disturb you and its depiction of people living in a gloomy, desolate town without hope will make you cry. Pray that Ivan and his family can survive this dark, perilous journey.

Also in this collection:

“Nailed It”
“Brown the Recluse”
“I’ve Been Better”
“A Bone in the Throat”
“Regino Sings”
“A Proper Revenge Takes Time”
“Something to Hold”
“The Widow and Her Magician”
“Walker”

[Awarded 4 Stars At SPR]

Book Review—In a Dark Place

I read the previous books in this series, and for me, In a Dark Place is the most disturbing by far. By all accounts, the Snedeker family did nothing purposeful to invite the evil that came into their lives and almost destroyed them. It was there lurking in that funeral home long before they showed up, waiting for a chance to assault the living.

In past books, Ed Warren talked about the three stages of demonic activity: infestation, oppression, and possession. Or did that come from ‘The Conjuring’? Now, we find that there are actually five stages: encroachment, or permission, infestation, oppression, possession, and death. Happy endings are never guaranteed, I guess—even after an exorcism.

Although the book makes it clear that no one in that family was trying to invite anything in by way of Ouija boards or Tarot cards, Stephen, the teenage son, was very susceptible to suggestion due to his illness and eventually agreed to let the demon “show him things.” So, in essence, he granted permission. From there, everything proceeded as expected, except that what the demon did to individual family members is both chilling and repugnant—especially for the women. And what made things worse was the fact that both parents continued to deny what was happening.

Several months ago, I saw the film ‘The Haunting in Connecticut,’ which is loosely based on the book. In that story, the boy—now named Kyle—is a hero who frees tortured souls. No such gloppy Hollywood ending happened to the Snedekers. I recommend reading In a Dark Place to anyone interested in better understanding the demonic. Then watch the movie as pure entertainment.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description

[In a Dark Place Cover]

The story of the most terrifying case of demonic possession in the United States. It became the basis for the hit film The Haunting in Connecticut starring Virginia Madsen.

Shortly after moving into their new home, the Snedeker family is assaulted by a sinister presence that preys one-by-one on their family. Exhausting all other resources, they call up the world-renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren—who have never encountered a case as frightening as this…

No one had warned the Snedekers their new house used to be an old funeral home. Their battle with an inexplicable and savage phenomena had only just begun. What started as a simple “poltergeist” escalated into a full-scale war, an average American family battling the deepest, darkest forces of evil—a war this family could not afford to lose.

Books by Ed & Lorraine Warren also include Graveyard, Ghost Hunters, The Haunted, Werewolf, and Satan’s Harvest.

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Book Review—Night of the Living Dead

I believe there were two events in the twentieth century that established the era of the post-apocalyptic zombie. The first was the publication of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in 1954; the second was the release of the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Now, purists might argue that Matheson’s creatures were actually vampires, not zombies. Correct. But what he envisioned was a monster born of some global catastrophe not unlike the events depicted in World War Z. In previous decades, zombies were mainly slaves of the Haitian voodoo variety. And there weren’t a lot of them. There is nothing more nightmarish than having the entire planet swarming with the infected.

I have only ever seen Night of the Living Dead on television, and still, it made a lasting impression. The line “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” is forever burned into my brain—a brain that those pesky ghouls probably want to munch on. I hadn’t realized that John Russo, one of the screenwriters, had turned this iconic film into a novel. Having read the book, I can certainly see why.

Where the movie shows us the horror of being devoured by flesh-hungry ghouls, the book delves into the inner life of a few characters trying to survive something they simply don’t understand. I’m pretty sure that if something like this happened today, we would be more prepared than those innocent folks, having been brought up on The Walking Dead and Z Nation. But in the book, these people are clueless. And they cannot fathom the idea that the dead are shuffling around, not to mention the fact that they are pretty damned hungry.

Try not to be jaded when you read this book. Remember, times were very different. The AIDS crisis hadn’t happened yet, or swine flu, or any of the other horrible outbreaks we’ve experienced in recent decades. The people in Night of the Living Dead were living small, ordinary lives. Then hell arrived.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description

[Night of the Living Dead Cover]

Newsweek calls NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD a, “True Horror Classic.”

Why does NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD hit with such chilling impact? Is it because everyday people in a commonplace house are suddenly the victims of a monstrous invasion? Or is it because the ghouls who surround the house with grasping claws were once ordinary people, too?

Decide for yourself as you read, and the horror grips you. All the cannibalism, suspense and frenzy of the smash-hit are here in the novel.

This is the ORIGINAL novel by John A. Russo based on the screenplay by John A. Russo and George A. Romero. 

Through scenes of political upheaval and protests in South Korea, spirited conversations in cramped dumpling houses, and the quiet moments that happen when two people fall in love, A Small Revolution is a moving narrative brimming with longing, love, fear, and—ultimately—hope.

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