Book Review—Twist of Faith

Twist of Faith Cover

Twist of Faith is a stunning story that turns on the eternal question, “Who Am I?” And it’s something that the heroes—if you think one of those exists in this novel—and the evildoers have in common as they go about their daily business. For me, the book reads like a madman’s dream where photographs can come alive, and the dead can speak. It’s a well-thought-out tale of intrigue and revenge—mostly revenge—that surprisingly leads to a high body count for a book that is not really a police procedural.

There’s a lot of anger in this tale, and I think the author was able to channel it in the lissome, paradoxical character of Ava. Though she defies reason, we want her. Bad. And maybe it’s the allure of danger that surrounds her. Or it could simply be that she was raised French and Catholic. Either way, watch out.

If you like the strange and mysterious, then grab this book. And you might want to crack open a nice Château Lafite Bourdeaux to put yourself in the mood.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
When family secrets are unearthed, a woman’s past can become a dangerous place to hide…

After the death of her adoptive mother, Ava Saunders comes upon a peculiar photograph, sealed and hidden away in a crawl space. The photo shows a shuttered, ramshackle house on top of a steep hill. On the back, a puzzling inscription: Destiny calls us.

Ava is certain that it’s a clue to her elusive past. Twenty-three years ago, she’d been found wrapped in a yellow blanket in the narthex of the Holy Saviour Catholic Church—and rescued—or so she’d been told. Her mother claimed there was no more to the story, so the questions of her abandonment were left unanswered. For Ava, now is the time to find the roots of her mother’s lies. It begins with the house itself—once the scene of a brutal double murder.

When Ava enlists the help of the two people closest to her, a police detective and her best friend, she fears that investigating her past could be a fatal mistake. Someone is following them there. And what’s been buried in Ava’s nightmares isn’t just a crime. It’s a holy conspiracy.

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Get Chainsaw Honeymoon for Free!

Chainsaw Honeymoon Cover 3DWow, it’s May already and life is beautiful! Just take a look at this lovely tweet from my friend David Latt, one of the folks responsible for ‘Sharknado’:

Pretty exciting, right? Well, here is some more good news. You can pick up your free Kindle version of Chainsaw Honeymoon now through May 18th. If you like romantic comedy on the hysterical side, then don’t wait another second.

Yes, I want to buy now!

Take a look at what IndieReader had to say about my latest novel:

“In this tale of a daughter literally trying to scare her estranged parents back together, Steven Ramirez combines the horror/slasher film and literature genres with the light comedy/romance of a Cary Grant film. Both genres present challenges on their own. What is amazing about Chainsaw Honeymoon is how Ramirez surmounts both of these demands. Added to these accomplishments is his ability to present the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old girl. In the form of Ruby, Ramirez imparts to readers all the confusion brought about by puberty; the emotional neediness camouflaged by sarcasm; the obsession and continuing frustration with boys; and the bonds female teenagers forge with one another.” — IndieReader

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Thank you again for your support. Peace and love.

Book Review—Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers Cover

Every once in a while, you come across a collection of short stories that are, well, magical. And I had the good fortune to experience a great deal of magic in Sticky Fingers by JT Lawrence. First of all, let me just say, I never knew South Africans could be so damn funny. Come to think of it, I’ve only ever met one South African, and she was sweet. And, okay, kind of funny. Moving on.

These stories range from the macabre to the flat-out hilarious. My favorite was “Off the Hinge.” I never realized it was so difficult to secure a pint of milk for your tea. Maybe that’s why I always take mine black. On the other hand, considering the narrator’s predicament, perhaps milk is the least of her worries.

If you like stories that disturb rather than horrify, then get this collection. Each one reminded me of a modern, well-made Twilight Zone episode featuring great actors. And if you’ve ever had a chance to catch the original television episodes, you’ll know I’m setting a high bar.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
Diverse, dark-humoured, and deliciously bite-sized, this compelling collection of 12 short stories by JT Lawrence include:

ESCAPE

A suicidal baby knows he was born into the wrong life. He has to get creative to correct the mistake, much to his mother’s horror.

THE ITCH

An intense, uncontrollable, unexplainable itch lands the protagonist in a mental institution.

BRIDGE GATE

In this poignant and charming short story, a daughter yearns to connect with her absent father through the letters they exchange. She’s not put off by his pedantic corrections of her writing, despite the slow reveal that he is less than perfect himself.

THE UNSUSPECTING GOLD-DIGGER

A woman gradually poisons her husband so that she doesn’t have to break his heart.

***

“Each story is masterfully constructed … Humorous, touching, creepy, but most of all entertaining, this collection is superb.” — Tracy (Amazon review)

***

If you’re a fan of Roald Dahl or Gillian Flynn you’ll love these unsettling stories with a twist in the tale.

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Book Review—The Locksmith

The Locksmith Cover

Peeling away the layers of anything is usually a mistake. Just ask someone who has had to use sharp tools to prise old wallpaper off the plaster walls of an ancient house. Sometimes, you’ll discover a kid’s crayon drawing of a scarecrow. But other times, you might find something sinister—like dead cockroaches.

The Locksmith reminded me of this nasty renovation business because the protagonist, Jude, is naturally curious and insists on getting to the bottom of things, especially in relationships and usually at her peril. Unfortunately, her children and new life partner must be pulled along to suffer the consequences. But it’s for their own good, you understand.

The writing is accomplished and the characters vivid, but I was disappointed by the ending. The author does such a beautiful job of building toward a natural—inevitable—denouement, then snatches it away in a sharp turn to the right. No spoilers here, but I think she would have done well to adhere to Chekhov’s gun principle. That said, the book is most certainly worth reading for fans of dark mysteries and slow-boil suspense.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
Jude doesn’t like secrets, they breed poison, but she knows her husband is hiding something from her. To uncover the truth she flees with her three young children to stay with her mysterious mother-in-law, Audra. Through Audra, Jude believes she can uncover the truth that will heal them all. Only Audra has secrets of her own and will stop at nothing to keep them.

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Book Review—Pocketful of Bones

Pocketful of Bones Cover

Pocketful of Bones is a quiet story in the way Psycho and The Lottery are quiet. At least, that’s what I was thinking as I made my way through this marvelous and absorbing tale of villains, victims, and valentines. Maybe unsettling is a better description. One minute, someone is having a conversation, and the next, they are dead. And it’s hard to know where you stand with well-drawn characters like Tibba and Finny because, at times, someone can at a moment’s notice turn from victim to villain. And someone who you thought might be conniving turns out to be sweet and loyal.

For me, the best thing about the novel was, I really didn’t know what to expect. For the record, I’ve had my fill of serial killers. So, as the bodies piled up in Pocketful of Bones, I was surprised at the logic and—dare I suggest it?—the correctness of it. The story unfolds as though Fate itself were guiding mother and son to their inescapable destinies. And along the way, they planted the annuals. In short, they were born for this.

If you’re looking for a satisfying read that both perplexes and horrifies in a Canadian sort of way, I suggest you read this book. And remember: anyone is capable of murder; some see it as just another tool in the toolbox.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
Finnegan MacGillivray, red-haired, freckle-faced social pariah, finds solace in his mother’s garden while she entertains “dates” in his home. When an accident takes the life of a friend, Finnegan buries the evidence amid the purple dead nettle and bougainvillea, and unearths a treasure trove of human remains. Did his house rest atop an ancient burial ground? Or was there a killer tucking him into bed at night?

His fascination with bones grows as fast as his obsession with his mother. She rejects his advances, and he escapes to the other side of the country. Years later, he returns to his childhood home, to the secrets and the guilt and the bones — and to fulfill his destiny.

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CHAINSAW HONEYMOON—Putting the Pieces Together

Chainsaw Honeymoon Cover 3DI feel honored to be featured today on Sue Coletta’s Murder Blog. In case you didn’t know, Sue is the author of the chilling Mayhem Series. I was worried my post didn’t contain enough gore, but thankfully, she let me slide. Take a look…

Maybe it’s the fact that I live in a houseful of women. Or that throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by women who have had a strong influence on me. Whatever the reason, a few years ago I set out to write a screenplay about a crazy-smart girl named Ruby who is determined to get her parents back together by any means necessary. Back then, I had the characters pretty much fleshed out. I had smart dialogue and lots of manic scenes I hoped would explode off the screen. But for some reason, I just couldn’t make it work. After a dozen drafts, I finally set it aside to the sound of that WAH-WAH-WAH trombone burping in the background.

I’d been writing screenplays for years—one of which actually sold. And Chainsaw Honeymoon was pretty much my last shot before deciding my time was better spent writing novels. Since then, I managed to publish three novels and a novella, as well as short stories and a children’s book. As I was about to begin working on a new paranormal story, I got the uncontrollable urge to go back and revisit my young adult story and see if, just maybe, I could turn it into a novel.

Well, it worked.

To read the rest of this post, please visit the Murder Blog.

Hooray! Chainsaw Honeymoon Is Published!

Chainsaw Honeymoon Cover 3D

I am so excited—what a journey! The Kindle edition of Chainsaw Honeymoon is available now exclusively at Amazon, and for a limited time, I am offering it for $1.99 US. Click here to order your copy. The print edition will be available in a few days.

Yes, I want to buy now!

Take a look at what IndieReader had to say about my latest novel:

“In this tale of a daughter literally trying to scare her estranged parents back together, Steven Ramirez combines the horror/slasher film and literature genres with the light comedy/romance of a Cary Grant film. Both genres present challenges on their own. What is amazing about Chainsaw Honeymoon is how Ramirez surmounts both of these demands. Added to these accomplishments is his ability to present the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old girl. In the form of Ruby, Ramirez imparts to readers all the confusion brought about by puberty; the emotional neediness camouflaged by sarcasm; the obsession and continuing frustration with boys; and the bonds female teenagers forge with one another.” — IndieReader

Stop talking so I can click the link!

Book Description
Life, love, and a few dead bodies. Just another day in LA.

One year ago, Alan and Stacey Navarro underwent a painful separation, leaving their daughter, Ruby, to live with her mom and an over-caffeinated Shih Tzu named Ed Wood. People split up all the time, and most kids might get over it, providing they can still Snapchat. Not Ruby. A bright, funny fourteen-year-old who loves shoes and horror movies, she is on an insane mission to get her parents back together. But she can’t do it alone. She needs her two best friends, her dog, an arrogant filmmaker, a bizarre collection of actors, and a chainsaw-wielding movie killer. What could possibly go wrong?

Chainsaw Honeymoon is “hysterical fiction” and like nothing you’ve ever read. There’s romance, drama, and a creepy talking doll called Mr. Shivers. Cutting a breakneck, jagged swath across present-day Los Angeles, this book hurls flaming balls of movies, music, horror, and comedy—like some kind of possessed pitching machine. Is this real life? Better ask Ruby.

For fans of John Green, Robyn Schneider, and Ferris Bueller.

Book Review—Go

Go Cover

I’ve enjoyed Japanese food for decades. I adore Kurosawa and Miyazaki and consider Ringu to be one of my all-time favorite horror movies. That said, I know nothing about Japan. To me, it’s a distant, wondrous place filled with smart, hard-working people who like eating raw fish, smoking, and frequenting public baths.

Reading Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro was a revelation to me, cutting through the myth of an orderly society to reveal deep-seated racism not unlike what we find in this country. Specifically, it’s bigotry against people who are Zainichi, people of Korean descent who are living in Japan but treated differently than other Japanese citizens. As told through the eyes of a boy named Sugihara, this world is brutal and unforgiving. Every day is a fight for survival. And then, he meets the girl—Sakurai.

Some academic is probably going to roast me for saying this, but here goes. For me, Sugihara is Holden Caufield—only much more interesting. He’s violent and tortured, but only because he’s been bullied all his life. When he meets Sakurai, he discovers in himself a capacity for love. And she learns that creating a tolerant society can begin with one person. Go is a beautiful coming-of-age story that readers of great literary fiction shouldn’t miss.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.

As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.

One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.

Torn between a chance at self-discovery that he’s ready to seize and the prejudices of others that he can’t control, Sugihara must decide who he wants to be and where he wants to go next. Will Sakurai be able to confront her own bias and accompany him on his journey?

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Chainsaw Honeymoon Is Available for Preorder at Amazon

Chainsaw Honeymoon Cover 3DExciting news! Chainsaw Honeymoon is now available now for preorder at Amazon for ninety-nine cents. Order your copy now now. Because when it’s published on March 1st, the price goes up to $3.99.

Yes, I want to buy now!

Take a look at what IndieReader had to say about my latest novel:

“In this tale of a daughter literally trying to scare her estranged parents back together, Steven Ramirez combines the horror/slasher film and literature genres with the light comedy/romance of a Cary Grant film. Both genres present challenges on their own. What is amazing about Chainsaw Honeymoon is how Ramirez surmounts both of these demands. Added to these accomplishments is his ability to present the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old girl. In the form of Ruby, Ramirez imparts to readers all the confusion brought about by puberty; the emotional neediness camouflaged by sarcasm; the obsession and continuing frustration with boys; and the bonds female teenagers forge with one another.” — IndieReader

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Thank you again for your support. Peace and love.

Book Review-Only the Rain

Only the Rain Cover

Some of my favorite stories revolve around people making wrong choices, then seeing the resulting mayhem play out. Perhaps one of the best examples is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men—both the novel and the movie. Another is the iconic movie Fargo. And often, it’s greed that’s driving the hapless protagonist. That and a sense of entitlement.

Only the Rain is a thriller that falls into the category of sort-of-good-guy gets involved with the wrong people because he’s broke. And though the results aren’t as disastrous as McCarthy’s bloody novel, they certainly serve to teach a valuable lesson: When you see a drugged-out girl dancing in the rain, keep going.

I particularly loved the structure the author used to unravel this nail-biting tale—a series of emails from Russell to his former comrade-in-arms. I also appreciated the tender relationship between the protagonist and his aging father. All in all, this is a great read by an accomplished writer. If you like thrillers with a heart, you’ll love this book.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
When family man and war veteran Russell loses his job as a quarry worker, his life suddenly seems more like a waking nightmare than a chance to finally live the American dream. Facing bills, a new baby, and a bone-dry bank account, he’s got nothing left to lose. Russell comes to the rescue of a naked stranger dancing in the rain, and what was supposed to be a straightforward good deed turns into a spiral of danger. When Russell finds an enticing stash of money in the woman’s house, he knows the cash could be his only hope. Taking just a handful will save his family’s future.

His “victimless crime” seems to be anything but risky—until the criminals he robbed come looking for their dirty money. Russell’s ready to surrender it, but then his daughter gets sick…and he must choose between saving her or giving the devils their due. Someone’s going to pay. The question is, how much?

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