Book Review: Chaotic World by Grace Hamilton

Posted in WriteLife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2022 by Cat
Chaotic World: Laurel and House Afire (photo collage from book cover)

Wolves, Bears, and a Dog. (No Cats.)

After reading the first book in this series as well as other books she’s written, I declared that Grace Hamilton is a master of creating TEOTWAWKI catastrophe thrillers. She fills her books with fully fleshed out characters, trying to survive in a dark, unforgiving world.

I loved this second volume of the EMP Aftermath series even more than the first. Laurel and Bear are unforgettable characters. They had problems that left them far away from each other when society crashed. I was on pins and needles, hoping for them to survive and find each other.

Laurel is an inspirational character and I’ve grown very fond of her. She’s a badass, and a doctor to boot, but her strength is her intelligent and direct manner that makes people trust her. I enjoy the way her steady and helpful approach to difficult and even menacing people defuses conflicts. She’s no miracle worker, but her style of handling trouble is how consequences can be mitigated when violent predators threaten the group. I’d love to have that kind of self-control!

Trent, the orphaned teen boy “adopted” by Laurel’s husband while on the road, is also an important character. I like seeing Bear opening up in Trent’s company and has become an integral part of his life. Taking responsibility for Trent, even growing to tolerate his chattiness, has begun breaking down some of the walls Bear’s built in order to cope with his war experiences and PTSD. Plus, Trent’s interactions with Bear’s dog, Jess, have provided some much-needed normalcy and humor. Survival fiction is often too grim, but Hamilton balances suspense with lighter times.

That being said, Chaotic World is an excellent read and I recommend the series highly! Thank you to Grace Hamilton and BookSprout for the free advanced reader’s copy. My honest review is also freely given without any obligation. I look forward to the next book in the series!

Book Review: The Mill by Catriona Ward

Posted in WriteLife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2022 by Cat

Fear the Dead. But Dread the Living.

Lili is not alone

The Mill is a heart-pounding work of horror with psychological thriller elements and a smidge of sweet romance. Cailyn Lloyd has a gift for creating potent scenarios and vigorous, memorable characters on either end of the good vs evil spectrum.

Lloyd, and by extension, her lead character, have done considerable research on the paranormal, spiritualism, and arcane lore in general, which I appreciate and demand from my reading matter. Lili’s abilities as a medium and innate sensitivity to psychic phenomena and ghosts add an extra dimension to her character. I respect that she’s not in it for the money, but has found a way to ethically earn a modest income.

I also envy her the ownership of an occult/new age store, well-stocked with many books and paraphernalia I’d love to get my hands on. I understand her yearning for respect. The only ones who believe in her are those she helps to contact lingering loved ones or rid their homes of hauntings. She wishes others would take her seriously.

But, she feels compelled to help ghosts find peace and help the living cope, so she continues her mission without that validation. She’s admirably heroic.

When she moves into an upscale apartment in what was once a sprawling sweatshop-era textile mill, her talents are at once in demand.  As a tool of her trade, she uses astral projection in the mill. Being able to travel between the material and ethereal planes comes in handy to locate not one, but several ghosts. While doing so, she puts herself in the awkward position of spying on her neighbors, which adds pivotal aspects to the plot.

But the real trouble comes when, while astrally investigating, she senses a malignant psychic disturbance at the mill. As the suspense builds, she and others are attacked and the real terror begins. There are fraughtful and tragic scenes which are only suitable for mature audiences. An exorcist and even the police are called in, but powerful forces threaten to deliver the living, including herself, into the intimate company of the dead.

The Mill is another top-notch thriller in Caitlyn Lloyd’s growing body of work. I thank her, Land of Oz, and Goodreads for the gift of this book. Without any obligation, I’m recommending The Mill to any reader who appreciates ghost stories, thrillers, and psychological horror fiction.  I hope there will soon be more titles featuring Lili!

Book Review: Our Frail, Disordered Lives

Posted in WriteLife with tags , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2022 by Cat
For pride and avarice and envy are the three fierce sparks that set all hearts ablaze.
– Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Our Frail Disordered Lives
By Mary M. Schmidt

Delightful And Funny, With Cats

Our Frail Disordered Lives is a sweet, nasty, and entertaining morality tale. Mary M. Schmidt has created some exceptionally vivid characters of the human, demonic, and feline varieties.

Roach isn’t very nice, even for a demon. He’s misguided and foolish, but still dangerous. His frustration still seethes because Satan long ago cut off his opportunity to be written into Dante’s Inferno. That disappointment has spurred him on to a complicated plot of vengeance.

Grace and Kathleen are wonderful characters. They’re the kind of ladies I’d love to grow old with. Kathleen’s children inspire the fervent hope that they’ll be saved from disaster, while Grace’s cats, Dante and Virgil, are amazing and heroic, in their own way.

There’s a surprising amount of action once Roach hits his stride. With the help of Satan’s IT guy, Scorch, his scheming manipulates the targeted characters to achieve a stunning crescendo. Both Hell and Earth are threatened, mortal lives are endangered and some are ruined, yet, the book is still funny.

Thank you to Mary M. Schmidt, Lulu Publishing Services, and BookSprout for the advanced review copy. It was a privilege to read Our Frail Disordered Lives. I’m freely offering my honest and enthusiastic endorsement of this original fantasy. It’s a wonderful read; hilarious, thought provoking, and satisfying.

Rock and Roll and Revelations

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2018 by Cat

Rock & Roll & Revelations
I got really excited about this book. The title, Perfect Prophet, is loaded with different meanings, an illustration of just how deep the story is. Suspenseful, frantic, and fraught with menace, this was an excellent read!

The central characters were likable and well-developed. Within a plot full of action and danger, their internal struggles were an important component and highly relatable. There were unexpected twists that made the novel truly original.

*** Warning: mild spoilers are forthcoming!

A cult of Satanists are out to fulfill their mad leader’s prophecy through the ritualistic killing of his own son, the guitarist and lyricist of a popular band.

Even though their lyrics referenced the Satanic and their fans thought that he and the rest of the band were Satanists, Alec believed that the existence of either God or Satan was dubious at best.

He had rejected the idea of himself as some kind of messiah completely. If anything, his music was an act of rebellion against his father, a religious zealot who had physically and mentally tortured him throughout his childhood.

His father believed he was a Prophet, that beating and abusing Alec was in service to his God. He believed he was preparing his son for his portentous destiny. After Alec rejected that and left, his father’s mental condition deteriorated until he was hospitalized.

While Alec, his fiancee, and the rest of the band are in a race for survival as terrible deeds are done in the name of Satan, they also wrestle with weighty spiritual topics. The author explores personal spirituality and religious controversies without being preachy or overly simplifying them.

This treatment was thought-provoking in a way that is so relevant for our modern lives. As the number of traditional religious followers are falling, those who feel lost and are searching for deeper meaning in their lives are multiplying. This gives important value to a book that might only have been another apocalyptic horror story.

The author seems also to have skillfully adapted real life events into the plot. In the attempts on Alec’s life, I thought of the murder of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell by a crazed fan, for example. I picture Alec as a more metal-leaning Kurt Cobain (without a heroin addiction), sensitive, incredibly talented, but broken. I see sweet and saucy Cleo as the Mary Magdalen of their group, supporting them all in her own ways. I could go on… LOL

Perfect Prophet perfectly fulfilled my desire for an exciting, rock and roll thriller and an intelligent, philosophical read as well.

I laughed, I scratched my head, then laughed some more.

Posted in Blogs, Great Writers, science fiction, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2018 by Cat

Review of Improbables: a satire about very large numbers by Steve Marshall

Improbables by Steve M

Here’s a great science fiction novel

from an excellent writer. He kept the suspense building throughout the book; made the settings and activities complex, but familiar; and made the central characters likable and funny. The technology and social structures were futuristic, but entirely believable.

I loved it. Get it and read it, at once!

Thanks to Federico Rizzarelli for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁


Warning: a bit of a spoiler ahead.

Have you ever known anyone

who always has incredibly good luck? They may be an Improbable. Of course, without doing the math, you could never know for sure. But, the fact that their toast, when dropped, always falls butter side up means that they could be a valuable tool for winning an intergalactic war.

Thanks to Jesse Echevarria for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

I Was Shocked, Scared, Angry…and Then I Cried

Posted in Autobiography, Blogs, Education, Great Writers, Horror, Journaling, Spirit Food, Uncategorized, WriteLife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2018 by Cat

There’s a great evil growing

in the small town of Belford.

Hometown by Matthew Keville

suspect that the sudden

uptick of strange

disappearances, sudden

deaths, and savage murders

are more than coincidence.

But, they’re outsiders: bullied

and looked down on by other

kids and singled out unfairly

by teachers. The authority

figures they turn to dismiss

their concerns, if they’ll even

listen. They are on their own.

Before Dawn by Tao Yuan

Before Dawn by Tao Yuan

I loved this book, and I

usually don’t care for novels

where teens are the central

characters (high school is

about 45 years in my

rearview). But, who can’t

relate to kids who try to fight

a supernatural enemy alone

while all the adults are either

hostile or going crazy?

Photo by Rob Potter

Photo by Rob Potter

Michael Keville has great

insight into the issues that

young people ordinarily deal

with in high school,

especially if they have

differences that set them

apart. I haven’t cared so

much about an ensemble cast

of characters since Stephen

King’s The Stand. It

astonished me to learn that

it’s the author’s first novel.

Photo by Stefano Pollio

Photo by Stefano Pollio

There’s violence, sexual

violence, swearing, and stuff

out of nightmares. There’s

also frank discussion of

disturbing real-life themes.

This horror fan recommends
Hometown for mature teens

and adults of all ages.

“When we talk about evil, we tend to turn our attention to Hitler.”

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2018 by Cat

This catchy first sentence begins Dr. Julia Shaw’s excellent, up-to-date analysis: Evil: the Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side.

Evil: the Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side

Expected publication date February 27, 2019 Abrams Press, New York.

She points out that, on the internet, it seems as if “…every comment thread will eventually lead to a Hitler comparison.”

But, as ‘Hitler’ has become a synonym for ‘evil,’ the sheer volume of people and actions compared to the WWII dictator results in the weakening of the epithet as a description. Even though there are points on which most would agree, there’s no standard measure of ‘evil.’ The judgment of humans and institutions is filtered through the perspective of what is normal for each particular culture.

Some of the dark humor topics found in internet memes. (Picture origin is unknown, not from the book.)

The book discusses this weighty subject in a way that would be useful in an educational or professional setting. However, without dumbing down her language, she’s made the book easily understood and fascinating for ordinary readers.

Though it isn’t a religious book, religion is discussed, as well as other controversial but pertinent topics.

I thoroughly enjoyed it — as a parent, a concerned citizen, a writer, a crime fiction fan, and an imperfect human being. I still feel guilty, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not evil.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights, the modern title given to a tryptich painted by Hieronymus Bosch circa 1490-1510. The Garden of Earthly Delights at Wikipedia

Sick, Scary Fun!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2018 by Cat

Review of The House by the Cemetery

By John Everson

Flame Tree Press, 2018

This is not a book for the squeamish. But, if you’re a real horror fan, this is the perfect read, especially for the weeks leading up to Halloween. You’ll never feel safe in a Haunted House attraction again.

I loved all the references to the more obscure horror movies. I now know what films to look for to fill in the gaps in my horror movie education! The movie references also seemed to play a part in how easily I could visualize the action.

The author vividly brought the different characters to life. None of them were very deep people, but I felt empathy enough to care about them and each played a pivotal role in moving the story to its conclusion.

The House by the Cemetery could easily make a creepy, gory, bloody addition to the world’s repertoire of horror films. In the meantime those of us with active imaginations have the book!

Some People Are Scarier Than Witches and Ghosts

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2018 by Cat

Review of Ezrah’s Plateau: Legend of the Cemetery Witch by Jacqueline Mahan
AuthorHouse, Bloomington IN, 2011

Although the plot of Ezrah’s Plateau is centered on a spooky cemetery where a witch is buried, it’s really about the secrets, corruption, and injustice of men. It’s sure to appeal to readers who admire heroic women.

Angela Horne has displayed inquisitiveness and inspiring strength of will since a young age. After high school, she left town and went to college. This ordinary rite of passage was viewed as an act of defiance against the town’s peculiar church doctrine, The Path, and transformed her into a pariah, shunned by all but a few.

A confrontation is coming when she returns at her grandmother’s request for the annual town festival which honors her ancestor for ridding the town of evil by hanging a witch. That act solidified the power held by the church in Ezrah’s Plateau; power that is maintained at all costs.

There’s paranormal activity coupled with conspiracy and crime, and a touch of romance. The book’s scares are more from human violence and crime than from the spectral witch, so I wouldn’t call it a horror story. That was a little disappointing to an avid horror fan like myself, but it’s still a good mystery and a satisfying escape.

Not Your Average Haunted House

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2018 by Cat

The Mansion is a complex story that has melded the old-fashioned haunting with 21st century smart-house technology. It’s got supernatural elements, but there’s also some very creepy artificial intelligence. I’ve never read a book that combines things in this way and the result was excellent. I was plenty scared.

The author’s handling of both the computer tech and parapsychological scenarios is accurate and believable. The story simmers with dread from the start. It progresses from a college-aged friendship broken by a love triangle, building into a sustained crescendo of all kinds of horror, terror, and murder, with twists the reader won’t expect. It’s a great read!

5 Stars

The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone

Emily Bestler Books/Atria

Expected publication date: December 4, 2018

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Mansion

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