The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins by Aletta Thorne

The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins by Aletta Thorne
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Historical
Length: Full Length (151 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Halloween, 1982. MTV is new, poodle perms are the rage, and life just might be getting better for Alma Kobel. Her ugly divorce is final at last. Her new job as chef at Bright Day School’s gorgeous old estate is actually fun. But the place is haunted—and so is Alma’s apartment.

Bartholomew Addison Jenkins’ ghost has been invisibly watching Alma for months. When he materializes one night, Alma discovers Bart—as he likes to be called—has talents she couldn’t have imagined … and a horrifying past. Can you have a one-nighter with a ghost? And what happens if you decide one night is all you want—and end up ghosting him? Some spirits don’t like taking “no” for an answer.

First impressions definitely aren’t always accurate.

What a hilarious main character Alma was! She could find a funny spin to anything that happened to her, from surprise health inspections at work to her strange and complicated interactions with her ex-husband. Some of the things that happened to her would have seriously annoyed or even frightened a lot of people. I loved the fact that she was able to quickly shake so many of those memories off with her fabulous sense of humor.

The only criticism I have of this story has to do with how quickly the romantic relationship in it heated up. Both of the people involve in it were so cautious and meticulous in other areas of their lives that I never would have expected them to move as fast as they did. Yes, I definitely wanted to see them end up together, but it felt a little odd to me because it didn’t feel consistent with everything else I’d learned about them. With that being said, this is a minor complaint about something I enjoyed quite a lot.

The world building was really well done. I especially enjoyed figuring out what ghosts were and weren’t capable of in this universe. Since nobody was given any instructions after they died, Bartholomew had to learn what he could do and what the consequences of those actions would be on his own. Him slowly discovering his abilities and limitations as the plot moved forward made it difficult for me to stop reading. I always wanted to know more about what the afterlife was like for him.

The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins was as spooky as it was sexy. It should be read by fans of erotica and ghost stories alike.

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Genre: Recent Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

I have to admit I’m a Stephen King junkie. I am. I’m also a bit of a short story junkie, too. When I saw this book at my local library, just sitting there unassumingly on the shelf, I had to sneak a peek.I mean, why not? So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. This was a quick read and even though it’s short, when I had to put it down to deal with life, I didn’t have to do a bunch of rereading to catch back up.That’s the good thing about this short story. There isn’t a lot of rereading that needs to be done if you have to walk away.

Gwendy is an interesting character. She has an awesome power within her and within the button box. Will she use it? Will she succumb? Will she get a big head from the power? I liked that Gwendy is relatable. There are things that made her more than she was, but I liked her human-ness. Now I would’ve been more than a little freaked out if some random guy wanted me to sit with him. Even more if he’d have offered me a box. I don’t know how Gwendy did it, but she did.

I liked how she grew through the story, too. The creep factor isn’t as strong in this story, which was nice for me because I wasn’t looking for a freaky story. But might be a turn off for others. There are plenty of characters and some are hard to keep straight, by the end, I felt like I knew them all. My heart bled at the end. I won’t give away spoilers, but it’s a tad gut-wrenching.

If you want a recent historical story with more than few twists, then this might be the short story you’re looking for. Oh and try a chocolate. I hear the detailing is fantastic.

The Kaiser Account by Louise Blaydon

The Kaiser Account by Louise Blaydon
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Recent Historical (1960s)
Length: Short Story (28 pgs)
Other: M/M, Masturbation
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The life of an ad man in 1960s New York is all about risk-taking, but not until Evan Jones meets the man from Kaiser, Mark O’Brien, does he fully understand what that means…

It’s 1965. Evan Jones is an account manager for a major advertising company in New York City, engaged to the boss’s daughter in a halfhearted sort of way, gradually making his way up into the highest ranks of the company, and into the boss’s favor. The Kaiser Motors account is one they’ve been angling at for years, and Evan has absolutely no intention of letting it slip through his fingers.

But the man from Kaiser, Mark O’Brien, is not what Evan is used to dealing with and, moreover, is someone who hits him right where it hurts—in the long-repressed part of him that prefers men and is ashamed to admit it. When it comes to O’Brien, ‘going to any length’ has a whole new meaning, because O’Brien wants Evan—and worse still, Evan wants him back. O’Brien, in the space of a night, shows him something more than the staid life is possible. Can Evan take the risk and close the deal?

A closeted man and one he can’t quite figure out. Things can only get better, right?

Things certainly get better. I loved this book. I did. I liked the build-up between Evan and Mark. It was like watching a dance. The tension ratcheted up with each page. Ms Blaydon wrote well and I wanted to know what would happen next. I raced through this story.

Evan is very closeted and thinks he wants one thing, but when Mark shows up…he’s confused. I liked that things weren’t so perfectly mapped out. I had an idea the two would get together, but the how was intriguing. I’m glad I got to read the book.

My one quibble really isn’t much. I wish the book were longer. I liked the play between Mark and Evan and wanted to see where things would go. They’re great characters and I hope the author continues their story. I’ll happily read it.

If you want a book with heat and intrigue, but will work when you don’t have a lot of time to read, then you’ll want to pick up this book.

Funeral Hotdish by Jana Bommersbach

Funeral Hotdish by Jana Bommersbach
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Recent Historical, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (238 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Sensational crime, intrepid reporter, deaths too close to home Seeing Sammy the Bull Gravano strut through a Phoenix restaurant shocks investigative reporter Joya Bonner. The notorious Mafia hitman nineteen murders and FBI snitch testimony sent Godfather John Gotti to prison is hidden in the federal Witness Protection Program, yet he s now a successful drug lord. His products travel national highways with tragic results for Joya s Midwest hometown, where grief turns to revenge, violence, and murder. By chasing the biggest scoop of her career, Joya risks her job, her love, and her life to see if Sammy can be stopped. Can she spur her family and neighbors at home to do more than let sleeping dogs lie?”

This funeral hotdish is more like a good chili – a whole lot going on and with a dash of spice.

I love a good mystery. I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie novels when I was in junior high, so when I saw this book up for grabs, I nabbed it.

The premise of Funeral Hotdish is exciting. There’s possible murder, overdoses, family drama… oh and a mob situation to boot. With all of that in the plot, the story kept my attention. I wanted to know how everything would shake out. I mean, Sammy Gravano and John Gotti in a book? Yeah, this has to be a winner.

Well…kind of a winner. While the book was good and the plot had more twists and turns than a mountain road, I had a few issues.  Ms. Bommersbach has a definitive writing style and while she’s descriptive, the author tends to head hop a bit. I had to go back an reread to make sure I knew whose point of view I was in a few times. Some readers might not be bothered by this. Unfortunately, I was. Another thing I had a tick of trouble with were the descriptive parts. Now don’t get me wrong. I felt like I was right there with Joya sorting out this mystery. I did. But there were times the story felt more like informational dumps, rather than pulling me in with description.

Now I know it sounds like I wasn’t thrilled. Not so. There is a thread of family and heartbreak that runs through this tale and I’m glad it did. It made me more emotionally involved with the story. The teen and boyfriend who takes the ecstasy…that thread hit close to home because the time the story is set (the late 1990s) was a formative time for me. I could see my friends in the characters of Amber and Johnny. So kudos to Ms. Bommersbach for reeling me in that way.

If you want a book that’s got twists and turns to boot, has characters you won’t forget and heart, then this might be the story for you.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Recent Historical, Fiction
Length: Full Length (278 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

It’s a whole new world and it’s a scary place, but please don’t ignore it.

Confused by that statement? Go Set a Watchman is set twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird and presents the world as a bit of scary, confusing place. But don’t let the perceived fear of the unknown keep you from reading this book.

I already know I’ll take some heat because I rated this book five stars. Many people disliked the book and claimed it needed editing. Yes, the book has some editing issues. That said, the author didn’t want the book edited – that’s the claim anyway. Yes, my inner editor had some issues on those few points. Yes, I found them. But while I had to reread a few places (less than five), I couldn’t put the book down.

I loved Atticus, Scout and Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird. This was a book that shaped my teenage years and the movie is part of my growing up. Atticus was the father figure I always wanted. I was afraid I’d dislike the book because I’d heard some pre-release buzz.

This is my take. Read the book. Read the book all the way to the end. Don’t give up part way through. Got that?

I’m serious. The payoff is worth it.

Scout is, but isn’t, the same little girl from the first book. She’s the same girl, but her views and opinions have changed because she’s lived in New York for a while. There she can be the bohemian of sorts woman, not tied down in marriage and not really caring what others think. Her free-spiritedness is refreshing.

But this story is a story of the times. In the 1950’s, there were pervasive problems with racism and sexism. What needs to be kept in mind while reading is that this book is truly a product of its era, but it’s also a learning curve and growth for Scout. Haven’t we all had a person in our lives whom we looked up to, then found out the person is human after all?

No spoilers, but this is Scout’s story. A lot of loose ends are tied up and sorted out. Scout comes into her own.

Yes, there are things in this book that might make some readers upset. Atticus turns out to not be the man on the pedestal like he was in Mockingbird, but as I’ve said before, read to the end. Everything will be explained and has a reason.

If you’re a little interested in or wondering about the book, pick it up. If nothing else, it may make you think. I sure did. I recommend Go Set a Watchman

Revival by Stephen King

Revival by Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Contemporary, Horror, Recent Historical
Length: Full Length (403 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties — addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate — Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

Whatever’s behind that door…it’s holy hell.

Stephen King isn’t called the master of horror for nothing. His books are guaranteed to cause nightmares and to stick with the reader long after the last page. This book was no different.

I’ll admit. The beginning seemed slow. Really slow. I thought, there is no way this all works together. Why am I still getting these little tidbits of information? Hang in there, because it really does all go together.

Now all these little bits aren’t boring. I felt like I got to know Jamie Morton quite well. I could pretty much see the guy. I didn’t like him–not all the time, but I could see why he did what he did. The sweet little boy starts out just that. Sweet. It’s life and experiences in various bands that help to shape him and make him into a bit of a monster. He’s redeemable and that’s worth reading.

Then there’s Charles Jacobs. He’s a minister and seems to be quite good. But what he seems and who he is aren’t the same things. This guy…he brought a whole slew of emotions in me. I liked him, felt sorry for him, wanted to throttle him, then pitied him. He’s an interesting character. He’s full of surprises and ratchets up the fear factor by being someone you could know in real life.

There were times while reading this book that I wasn’t sure what would happen next. The term revival isn’t just for the title. Revival pertains to not only the religious situations, but also to life. Just when it seems like something can’t turn for the better, it does. It also turns for the worse. That’s what was so…scary good about this book. I never know what would happen and sure as heck didn’t see the ending coming. Wow.

If you want a book that will stay with you long after the last page with haunting characters and a plot that’s complex but interesting, then this is the book for you.  Recommended.

Fool’s Paradise by David Russell

Fool’s Paradise by David Russell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Genre: Recent Historical
Length: Short Story (39 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

In the heyday of the Hippie Counterculture, Jim, a disaffected postgraduate, goes on a rural retreat in quest of his identity. He finds a cool alternative abode, which initiates in a bizarre relationship with the housemother, Celia, who turns out to be an undercover police officer, but also with dubious connections. Things develop, including a delicious one—off with Celia, and Jim is drawn towards the edges of nefarious activity. He ends up waiting for his Barrister, convinced he will clear him.

Jim Herrington has found himself wandering and hitchhiking across America, trying to find his place in the world after some difficulties in his Academic workplace. Staying at a cross between a commune and youth hostel, he struggles to fit into the alternative, volatile situation he finds himself in. Ceila, the “house mother” is a strange, mysterious woman prone to sudden changes of heart, yet Jim finds himself unaccountably attracted to her.

This is a slightly strange book, unlike most anything else I’ve read. Told in the first person in some ways it’s difficult to understand what’s going on, as we can only see things from Jim’s perspective and experience. Also, while much is alluded to throughout the story, I didn’t feel as if some things were very clearly explained, things like why – exactly – Jim found himself at this hostel, what he was running from and whether he was complicit in much of the drug trafficking and such. In some ways this felt to me like one of those “confessions of” stories, and while I did enjoy it, I spent most of the time mystified as to where the story was going, what was fully happening with the plot, and what the thrust of the plot really was. Despite this I wanted to understand, the author’s writing was quick, precise and interesting and so I continued to read in the hopes of illumination. While even upon completion I still didn’t get most of it, I didn’t feel as if I had wasted my time either, reading something completely alternative and refreshingly different.

There’s no traditional romance or erotica in this short story, the sex is held pretty much behind closed doors (there’s no graphic content to it, merely a build up to it and then declaration of the act having been performed) and while it’s clear the main relationship is between Jim and Celia, I didn’t personally find any romance between them. For an erotic short story this surprised me, but seemed to resonate with the first person, slightly disjointed, mysterious tone and presentation of the whole tale. I feel that readers who are looking for something completely outside the box and different might truly enjoy this, but readers wanting just a quick, sexy read mightn’t find what they’re looking for here.

A really different read, but still enjoyable.

White Lines by Jennifer Banash

White Lines by Jennifer Banash
Publisher: The Penguin Group
Genre: Recent Historical (1980’s), YA
Length: Full Length (288)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Seventeen-year-old Cat is living every teenager’s dream: she has her own apartment on the Lower East Side and at night she’s club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy—the pulsing beat of the music, the radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain—is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream. Having spent years suffering her mother’s emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father, Cat is terrified and alone—unable to connect to anyone or anything. But when someone comes along who makes her want to truly live, she’ll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control.

Cat’s story was riveting. It was filled with such suspense, it had me on the edge of my seat. I do not know which was worse, Cat’s social life or her family life. It was clear from the beginning she was willing to fill the holes left by her parents with anything available including a risky environment and drug usage.

Cat is a character I wanted to hug at times to tell her life can be different and at others shake her until she realized the error of her ways. She was unfortunately dealt a bad hand in life when it came to her parents. It is clear that this is a major force in what has made her act and think the way she does. Unfortunately, it also created a teen who looked for attention and release from the wrong places. Her story brought out a multitude of feelings from me because it was so accurate to how life was during this age for some, as well as reminded me of some people I know that fell victim to this type of outcome or behavior. It definitely left me raw with emotion on multiple occasions, which is a testament of the author’s ability to create mental images with the words.

I found parts of this story tough to read, because of the subject matter. There is vast amounts of reckless behavior including various types of drug usage, underage drinking, underground clubs, and sketchy situations that could have deadly results. While this type of behavior is accurate of the underground club seen in the 80’s, it just felt a little too real at times.

This is a story that will stick with me for a while. I cannot help but wonder who Cat really was, and what happens to her in life. I would not be surprised if this character was based on a real person, because it was clear in the author’s writing that Cat’s story touched her and in turn touched me as well. I would love to read a sequel about Cat’s life and whether or not she was able to truly escape the lifestyle she so naively entered, or if she found a way to lift herself above and become a productive citizen in the world.