A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ghost House by Jacqueline Grey

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The main characters are a college student named Andrew, who is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and a mysterious man named Caius, whom he keeps dreaming about after spending the night in a haunted house. I think the blurb tells you everything you need to know about this book, so if it sounds intriguing, go ahead and jump right in. I really hesitate to give any spoilers. Part of the fun of the book is it walks a fine line of many genres: horror, ghost story, historical romance, fairy tale, contemporary romance, paranormal, and urban fantasy. Is Caius the charming man of Andrew’s dreams, or an entirely different kind of nightmare?
Is he hallucinating? Is he going mad? I was often unsure where this was going to go; the fun is in trying to find out. At turns this is creepy, but never too much or for very long. It’s also fun with cute banter and some fantastical moments. Of more interest to me are the times when Caius is confronted about the fairness or morality of some of his past actions. This is actually a slow burn romance where the author successfully provides sexual tension at various points. While most of the book is chaste, when they finally do come together, it is really about them.

The book is divided in half with the first half told from Andrew’s point of view. His friends Charlie, Amanda, and Marie help round out the cast a bit, but don’t seem as real as Jason, Andrew’s best friend since childhood and college roommate. The reader also gets to meet Andrew’s parents, his father being a major source of anxiety for him. Yet, most of the first half I wasn’t sure if parts of what were happening were real or not. Once the second half starts, the reader gets to see some things from Caius’s point of view. I was still left waiting for the shoe to drop–waiting to see the real Caius as his thoughts were slowly revealed. Strangely, I was waiting to see the real Andrew as well since he wasn’t being honest with anyone, while letting his father plan a life for him that he didn’t want. So wrapped up in this bizarre tale, is still a new adult coming out story that has to be resolved. I think some people will really like this, and other people will not agree with all the choices the author made to go in different directions. For myself, I like quirky and different, so I enjoyed it.

The cover is by Kanaxa. I found it compelling and apropos for the way the book unfolds.
https://www.kanaxa.com/

Sales Links:  Amazon | Smashwords

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published September 24th 2019
ASIN B07W7DFVXZ
Edition Language English

Review: Wild Onions by Sarah Black

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wild Onions coverStill healing from his many injuries,  both physical and emotional, photographer Robert Mitchell has returned to the cabin he shared with his partner Val to grieve over Val’s death and determine whether he should sell it or hold onto the place full of memories and ghosts.  Just over a year ago, Robert’s life was happy and full.  He had his work, and his long time lover.  And then it was gone. With a mountain of debt looming over him from their hospital bills, Robert is unsure of his future but he still  can’t let go of his past, seeing and hearing Val’s ghost everywhere. Then Robert meets a young Blackfoot indian fly fishing in the Salmon River just outside the cabin and everything changes.

Cody Calling Eagle, a Physical Anthropologist halfway through his dissertation  and temporary wildlife official, wanders into Robert’s life during a day of  fly fishing.  The attraction between them is immediate and magnetic.  Cody’s good natured demeanor and open heart draws the lonely, grieving Robert in, providing the emotional nourishment he is so in need of.   Cody has crushed on Robert for years, and now follows his heart into a relationship he has longed for.

But the cabin and the land it sits on contains old buried secrets just waiting to emerge.  And when an accident lets them out to spread their evil once more, it threatens not only Robert and Cody’s new relationship but even their lives.  It will take everything Robert and Cody have to give and more to save themselves and the community around them from a dark history that has come alive once more.

Wild Onions is remarkable in so many ways.  It combines a variety of tropes so smoothly and effortlessly that the story flows from present day to the tumultuous era of the last of the Indian Wars, from the contemporary to the supernatural and back to the past without so much as a disruptive ripple.  Unless of course the author puts it there.  There are contemporary relationships and love affairs, a supernatural romance, several mysteries, an element of the terrifying and of course an historical background.  All of which are folded into the narrative to give the reader a compelling story set amongst one of the most beautiful landscapes the United States has to offer, western Idaho and the banks of the Salmon River.

I have long been a fan of Sarah Black and Wild Onions is a perfect example why I find her writing so captivating and addictive.  First there is her characters.  Robert Mitchell is a portrait of a man grounded in grief and memories, unable and perhaps unwilling to move beyond his past.  His grief is soft but tangible and its met by the quiet of the cabin and its surroundings.  Sarah Black matches the man to his environment, a monotone of emptiness and solitude that anyone who has lost someone will recognize.  Then she disturbs his static existence by the arrival of Cody Calling Eagle, a Blackfoot doctoral candidate fighting his own ambivalence over his future and passions for history and his people.  Cody is a wonderful character, his warm, open nature and bright shining intelligence warms the page and provides the story with such a charismatic presence that the reader  cannot help but be drawn to him, as is Robert.  It’s a meeting unexpected and yet so natural.  It feels as right to the reader as it does to the men.  And before we know it, we feel intimately connected to Robert and Cody and their relationship.

Here is a small excerpt (another is at the very end).  Robert has just stepped into the river for the first time in over a year, his stance and emotions unsteady:

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle. So,” he nodded toward the fishing pole in Robert’s hand, “what’s with this? You have a no-hook fishing technique? You’re not a vegetarian, are you? One of those guys who think it’s cruel to eat the poor fish?”

Robert shook his head. “I just don’t know how to do it. Good fishermen have tried to teach me, but it didn’t stick.”

Cody was looking at him with interest now, his warm, dark eyes moving over Robert’s face in a way that was almost unfamiliar, it had been so long. And Robert found himself wondering if this guy might be a friend. The possibility of a new friend, that was a good feeling.

“I knew Val. My grandfather, he was the silversmith.” Cody’s eyes were on the heavy silver and turquoise cuff on Robert’s wrist. “He made your cuff. I remember watching him when he set the turquoise. I sure was sorry to hear about the accident.” He cleared his throat. “You don’t know how to fish, but do you know what to do with a nice piece of speckled trout in a frying pan?”

That small excerpt of the first time Robert and Cody meet eases the reader into the story with the same fluidity of splash and movement of the Salmon River, so much a part of the setting and relationships.  The river is a deep part of  Cody’s nature and its importance is as powerful as the land itself. Sarah Black has lived in Idaho and now resides there again. She is familiar with the geographical landscape of Wild Onions and her love of the area and its native peoples are the bedrock upon which this story rests.

Intertwined with scenes of the growing relationship between Robert and Cody are historical facts and flashbacks to 1882, a time when the native tribes, including the Blackfoot, lost their land, their living and often most of their people to the wars against the U.S. that just concluded.  These scenes form both the basis and the springboard for the supernatural elements that start to appear and are such a hugely emotional and terrifying component in this story.

If history sounds a bit dry, trust me it’s not.  Its inclusion here is so well done, so enthralling and yes, shameful, that you might forget its an actual part of our history as Americans.   The time the author has spent among the various tribes in the United States shows in the in depth knowledge and respect that threads through the story of Wild Onions like the yarn in a tapestry, a part of the whole, subtle and necessary.

Black does justice to the supernatural aspect of her tale as well.  I won’t give anything away but there are some hair-raising, downright scary things going on here, enough to terrorize the reader into leaving the nightlight on at bedtime.  And it has its own grounding in Native American lore too.

All these ingredients combine to present the reader with a tale of romance, love  and terror that won’t allow you to put it down until its concluded and will leave  you thinking long past the last page.  I adored this story.  I loved the men, their relationship, as well as  the community which rallied to save them.  I think you will adore Wild Onions as much as I did.  Grab it up and prepare to fall in love.

Book Details:

ebook, 96 pages approximately
Buy Link: :HERE IT IS!
Published September 23rd 2013

ASIN B00FE5G7IK,

edition language English

Book Blurb and Excerpt:

THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Excerpt:

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

Review of Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Dean Marshall and Andrei Cuza have been together 10 years, a anniversary they just finished celebrating.  These years together have not come without their own difficulties and challenges, especially with regard to Andrei’s Romany tribe who had disavowed him. Then there is the stress of Andrei’s job which to find and rescue abused and stolen children.  But they are happy and their love stronger than ever, as is the expectation they will spend the rest of their lives together.

But fate and an enraged criminal change all that.  As Andrei races to save a group of abducted children, Dean stops to help a women and her children stranded by a flat tire by the side of the road.  Unbeknownst to her, the woman’s estranged husband has followed her intent on retrieving his children.  The encounter ends with the man killing Dean and his wife and fleeing with his children.

When Dean wakes up, he is standing by a sheet covered body, watching as paramedics rush about the scene as policemen take notes.  He doesn’t understand by they won’t listen to him until a young girl appears and tells Dean that he is dead.   Her name is Ileana and she is Andrei’s dead sister come to help Dean because she didn’t want him to be sad.  While still not accepting the truth, Dean knows he has to get to Andrei because the two  missing children need his help, so Dean sets off to figure out how to accept his new status with Illeana’s help.

Andrei is shattered when he gets the call about Dean’s murder.  Everyone in his life either rejected him or left him until Dean and now he is dead.  Andrei believes his life is over until Dean and his little sister appear before him.  Andrei has been haunted by ghosts all of his life and one of his biggest regrets is that he feels responsible for his sister being caught in limbo unable to move on.  Their sibling love was so strong that when her illness killed her, she didn’t want to leave her brother alone and she didn’t understand the ramifications of staying in limbo.  For those spirits who  linger controlled by the strong emotions they held in life are hunted by Jackal Wraiths who consume the souls of the spirits they hunt.  A spirit only has so many chances to move on before they are stuck in perpetual limbo something the little girl never understood.

Now between his grief, rage,  and his guilt, Andrei’s love for Dean and Illeana must prove to be the emotion to rule his actions.  Dean is insistant that he not move on before the children are found, Illeana won’t leave Dean or Andrei and the strong emotions swirling around are sure to bring the Wraiths if the trio is not careful.  Andrei must figure out not only how to catch the murderer  and bring the children to safety but how to say goodbye to the only man he has ever loved before the time runs out for all of them.

This is listed as a Bittersweet Dreams title, a genre I usually stay far away from.  Lucky for me and you, that would be the last place I would list this book.  In fact bittersweet is a word that would not ever come to mind when I think of this amazing story of love, its all encompassing and enduring nature.  Timeless love is perhaps more accurate, because it doesn’t matter whether it is the love you hold for your partner or the love of a sibling, not even death changes the power and depth of your feelings for them.  Above all else, this story is about  love.

Marguerite Labbe pulls you into Dean and Andrei’s relationship right from the start.  Dean and Andrei are waking up and move right into a sensual scene of morning sex, that is hot and loving and feels so true for two men in an established relationship.  We get descriptions of their little mannerisms and small details that heighten their commitment to each other as well let us know that sex plays an important part of their lives.  I fell in love with both characters immediately without having the background knowledge that will come later in the story.  I felt how deeply they loved each other which made what follows all the more shattering.

Labbe does a remarkable and heartrending job of letting us “watch” as Andrei enters a building filled with pedophiles and the children they have abducted.  The police are coming but the danger and the anxiety starts ramping up as he reaches the children he comes to rescue.  Our hearts are in our throats for Andrei as the danger increases by the moment and the children are so very vulnerable and hurt.  Then we turn back to Dean on his way back from a successful business meeting and sees a woman in distress at the side of the road.  Back and forth we swing between the men and their disparate scenes, and our stomach starts to get queasy  and our eyes to tear because we know whats coming.  And come it does.  In the splashes of blood, and tears and cries of pain and loss so unbearable that you shatter along with Andrei.

But there is always the presence of Dean and young Illeana to shore us up. So real, so genuine are all the characters including the children, that their situation seems as real as Andrei’s.  They pull us back from grief and involve us in the plight of the two missing children as well as their own as times starts to run out before Dean too is stuck in limbo.  The author gives us so many outstanding elements, each as complex and expertly executed as the next,  in this story.  We have the otherworldly strand that involves Dean, Illeana, and the Jackal Wraiths which is very scary as well as vividly described, truly the stuff of nightmares.  Along side of this, Margueritie Labbe hauls us into the hunt for the murderer and the missing children.  My god, this was so well done.  As the police give up on finding the children, Andrei, and Dean know better.  And the race is on with just themselves and a friendly detective to continue the hunt which turns into a real knuckle biter itself.  Oh and did I tell you a hurricane is coming?

And throughout all this both Dean and Andrei must find a way to say goodbye.  Yes, I sobbed buckets of tears with this story,from beginning to the end.  But by then the tears of pain and loss had turned into tears of joy and happiness.  Yes, you read that right.  Joy and happiness about a story of murder and lovers separated by a criminal act.  The ending is perfection and one you will treasure, turning back to it over and over again.

Really, this is an exceptional book.  I raced through to the end, gobbling up each and every word, heart pounding, pulse racing, and yes, throw in some head throbbing to go along with the red eyes and runny nose.  And then I did it all again because I was afraid I had missed something the first time.  Yes, you can count on there being another reading in the future.  Because this book will haunt you, mesmerize you and leave you thinking once you have finished.  Don’t take my word for it.  Go buy this book, do it now.  Get some tissures and prepare to be enveloped in a love that knows no boundaries, even death.

Cover.  This cover by Reese Dante is one of the top ten for 2012.  Lush, haunting, just perfect in every way.