Month: April 2015

The Skin Stalker, by Davee Jones

Let me just cut to the chase here and say this book has so many flaws that I almost feel bad putting this review up. Yeah, that’s right, I feel guilty, when I had no qualms about putting up reviews like this or this or even this. And I’ve absolutely no clue what to begin with.

Genre: Thriller… kinda, Suspense… maybe, Paranormal… ifyousayso.

Summary: Hmm. Well, okay, here goes: Joelle Kent had an affair with a man named Colin Conroe which did not end well, as Colin (an ambitious man) moved to a different state when a good opportunity presented itself. This turns Joelle into a weepy woman, and Colin is described as a selfish, greedy douchebag. It has been three years, but Joelle has not gotten over Colin and is a little unnerved when she sees a car with a Colorado numberplate (the state where Colin moved to from Texas) while stuck in traffic. Why is she unnerved? Because a gypsy fortuneteller said she had a connection with someone two states away. Oh well. Anyway, so Colin is still ambitious and shown as this apathetic, horny guy. Which is funny cos – no, wait – I’ll get to the characters later in detail. Whoever Colin sleeps with gets (not so) mysteriously murdered and stuffed into an equipment bag. This is being done by a man/evil minion/demon named Clark Cresil/Skin Stalker who has sold his soul to the devil. After murdering the women, he punctures an area behind their ear with a blue pen. Joelle is convinced that Colin is murdering the women (though she had no clue that Colin was associated with them; she only knows they are from Colorado) because while they were dating, he played a prank on her and stabbed her with a blue pen behind her ear when she was sleeping. Then she begins to pray so that Colin’s demons are exorcised.

Characters: Before I talk about the characters individually, let me just mention here that they are all lunatics! All of them think out loud, or mutter under their breaths at all times. They simply do not keep their thoughts to themselves. Joelle even gesticulates quite a bit (then looks around to see if anyone saw). Now, where do people walk about talking to themselves out loud? An asylum. Anyway, so let’s look at them individually: Joelle Kent: She is so weepy that she makes Weepy Dwarf look like a raging warrior. The woman simply has no control over her emotions. Every time something strange (her own choice of adjective, not mine) happens, she has to call her best friend Suzette – with no respect to Suzette’s time; she could be at work, or sleeping, but Joelle would jump at her every time she came up with random theories about good and evil. Colin: Colin is described as “selfish”, “greedy”, “arrogant” and “apathetic”. In addition to this, he sleeps around with women with no intention of getting into a relationship with them because “monogamy isn’t for him” All this is contradictory to whatever he does in the book. He behaves quite like the serial monogamist. Although described as apathetic, he is full of concern when he hears a news report about the murder of an unknown woman. He also has some friends whom he genuinely cares about. Selfish asshole, yeah right! He even called up a woman he dated THREE years ago, who lives two states away, to see if she is safe. Clark Cresil: This guy as the devil’s minion is hilarious! He is introduced in what should have been the prologue, but is the chapter 1 of this book. It is not described why he sells his soul (hell, nothing in this book describes the “why” of things). He stalks Colin because – sinful douchebag. He also stalks Joelle, cos – I really don’t know why. He is not a man with a plan. He just makes them as he goes along. The only thing funnier than this character is a scene where one of the murdered women is transported to the morgue by angels.

Layout: Reading this book is almost like reading it twice. Confused? In a lot of places, this happens:
          He was really worried for her. “Oh, I am really worried for her,” he thought out loud.

Some of the chapters are way too detailed. The story is rife with inaccuracies, which I will get to in the next section. The whole plot seems way too “convenient”. As I said, Clark never has a plan, but always succeeds in murdering the women. In this one scene, he wonders if two women are lovers; they kiss all of a sudden to remove his doubts. Also, the first two murders take place in an identical way, because lucky for Clark, the women were outdoorsy, rode bikes and carried conveniently poisonable water-bottles. Also, whenever he dumps the bodies, the very public places where he dumps them are conveniently empty. Joelle is convinced because of the blue dot that Colin is the murderer, and it is just convenient because the women were related to Colin in any case (in the story). She then convinces the police department that a demon has possessed her, Colin, Clark, blah blah blah and after a lot of good cop-bad cop kinda dialogue, everyone is convinced.
There is this one scene where Clark thinks Colin is losing his “selfish” edge. So he rushes to prison cells to breathe in some negativity and strengthen himself. (I will make no further comments about that)

Inaccuracies: Let’s begin with the first chapter. A lot of people think the pentagram is a symbol of the devil, when actually the pentagram is a symbol that protects one from the devil’s forces.
Another common misconception is that the word “secular” means atheist. An atheist is a person who does not believe in God. Secularity or being secular on the other hand refers to detach oneself from “religion” not necessarily God. It also refers to respect the religions of others around you.Being secular does not make you a devil worshipper.
Clark breathes in carbon dioxide that others exhale, because you know, he’s all evil and all. So basically, all plants are evil and worship Satan.
Clark can read thoughts of Joelle who is two states away, but needs to watch Sascha and Maria kiss to know they are in love.
Clark also is invisible at times (his presence demonstrated only when people feel a chill), but if he goes to a pub, he has to order a drink to not appear conspicuous.
Also, Clark poisons Hannah’s drink and no one notices him because the place is “so crowded”. But the bartender notices all his moves cos he is a “weird dude” and even remembers him later, though the place was crowded. And no one, simply no one, notices a weird dude poisoning someone’s drink.
Also, because of all the evil inside him, his soul is black and his skin keeps darkening. Racist much?

Anyway, believe in the power of prayer, cos though murders may happen, if you’re good like Hannah, angels will lift you up to the heavens, and bring the “physical vessel” of your soul to the morgue themselves. Also, do not indulge in “carnal frenzies”, cos the devil’s minions just wanna make you single every time you do that.

Those are the lessons from this preachy, not-your-edge-of-the-seat religious thriller. A lot of times, it’ll make you go “Why?”… sometimes, “But how?”… and others, “Huh???”… If you still wanna pick it up: Amazon

Rating: 1/5

Disclaimer: I downloaded a free Kindle copy of this book. A review was requested by the author. This review is honest and unbiased (clearly).

Whenever I read a book I regret reading, I read something good as a palate cleanser. After this, I am not quite sure if I should pick up a book or a bottle.

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The AL-EX Project, by C.M. Donaldson

The AL-EX Project (ALternative EXistence)

I remember seeing a meme once that said “I wish I could record my dreams and watch them later.” Can’t say that’s a thought I’ve never had, considering how vivid and interesting some of my dreams are.

The AL-EX Project is about recording dreams and finding out how much of the results we can manipulate. It is the story of a man named Alex who, orphaned at a young age, suffers from recurring nightmares. He teams up with George, nicknamed The Scientist, and together they start off a project called Alternative Existence (or AL-EX) to record and study dreams.

This is a story with a lot, and I mean, a lot of potential. Dreams are a complicated subject, and anyone who has ever been interested in the theory and interpretation will tell you how simply marvellous the study of dreams is. With that said, in The AL-EX Project, the subject has not been dealt with in a way to fulfil that potential. Before I read the book, the author told me that it is a light-hearted novel, not one to be taken too seriously. Light-heartedness is not a flaw. A lot of light-hearted books are a delight to read! The AL-EX Project has other drawbacks, such as:

-Lack of dialogue

-Detached narrative
-Long sentences
-Typographical errors
-Too many parentheses
-Excessive detail

Some stories are narrated from a first person POV and some from a third person POV. Technically speaking, this one would fall into the latter category. However, while reading the book, you feel there is a “fourth person”, totally unrelated to the characters, narrating the story. There is very little dialogue and more of reported speech. “He was quick to stop her and he told her she would do no such thing, more forcefully than he intended…” This is just one instance where what could have been a dialogue has been written as a narrative.
There are some tragic events in this story, but the “fourth-person” narrative just does not let the reader “feel” what the characters are going through. For example, there is a line, “To say she was beside herself was an understatement.” This is after a particularly tragic event, but when I read this line, I could just imagine someone shrugging their shoulders nonchalantly and saying “She was really sad.” I just don’t feel the sorrow.
Some sentences should have been cut short. These sentences seemed to go on forever, with a lot of commas and conjunctions. Speaking of conjunctions, a lot of sentences began with the word “And”. These were not sentences that described finality of any sort (in which case, beginning the sentence with “And” would have been acceptable). They were in the middle of paragraphs or in the middle of events.
Some typos: quotation marks have been closed, even if the dialogue has not ended, “its” has been written as “it’s”, “ambition” has been written as “ambitious” and so on.
Brackets make appearances every now and then in the narrative. Combine these with long sentences, and they really take a reader’s focus off.
This could have been a lot more compact than it is, with a lot more focus on the project itself. Some of the chapters contain a lot of detail. There is a lot of stuff about how Alex and Kayj met etc, and at times you feel including this isn’t really helping the whole “dream recording” idea. Also, it is evident that quite some research has gone into this work; but the presentation of this research sounds dry, like a Wikipedia page. There is a chapter about sedatives that felt like information overload, and while it may have been interesting, the “dryness” of it made me skim through it a little bit.

Had the author retained its light-heartedness, but added a bit more dialogue, and a little more of expressiveness in tragic scenes, this would have been a better book. The idea is still great, but as a reader, I feel there is something missing.

Rating: 2/5
Available at Amazon: The AL-EX Project (ALternative EXistence)

Note: A review for this book was requested by the author. I was notified when a Kindle copy was available for free download.

It’s Time To Wake Up, by Marie Yvette

It’s Time To Wake Up, by Marie Yvette is a collection of “Poems and Messages that inspire the black experience”  as the caption says below the title.

Often, we hear of abuse against members of a particular race or religion. Most of us go through life believing we are immune to these evils. How sheltered, cocooned and protected that must feel! I am no stranger to racism myself, being a south Indian who grew up in the north. Frankly, there was no pointed hate at me, or even my family. But that is not to say that it does not exist. A few humiliating remarks are enough to break someone’s spirits.

Can we imagine this hatred on a much wider scale, way more abusive than a few snide comments? To be treated like a criminal just because of your skin color, and your hair, and the way you speak? Constitutionally, people who have the same rights as anyone else from the country they belong to, and yet ostracized by those who feel threatened by their presence. Fear probably is the root cause of racism, and in turn, you spread hate, convince others that members of a certain race aren’t to be trusted.

It’s Time to Wake Up is a short collection; a book of only 22 pages. While reading, I could only imagine the amount of pain and anger the writer must have felt to put all those feelings into words. In some of the poems, she talks about why anyone should feel they are better, if they have lighter skin. In others, she asks members of her own race to embrace who they are – their skin, their hair, their bodies – and not blindly imitate others because that is someone else’s idea of beauty. These poems have been written with a lot of passion, reaching out to a brainwashed group to look beyond the dust in their eyes. Some poems were painful to read (like the one titled Identity), because they talk about the treatment meted out to the writer’s race by others.
The poems are written using simple words and are not littered with heavy metaphor or excessive “floweryness.” The poems are inspirational, angry and sad. However, this is a very short collection and almost all the poems are of a similar kind. I do not mean they all conform to the theme, just that they do not sound very different from each other. As I mentioned, none of these poems are overly complicated in terms of language or in terms of poetic forms, but some of the verse is overly simple, almost non-poetic (A Dream’s Ingredients, for instance). But at the end of the day, poetry is about expressing oneself and this collection does so quite nicely.

Rating: 3/5
Available at: Amazon

Note: I was sent a PDF copy of the book for review. Thank you, Marie.

Everything Voluptuous, by Judy Schavrien

This is the first poetry book that I am reviewing on my blog. I mean, sure, there was The Big Book Of Cards And Toasts For All Occasions, which was promoted as a poetry book, but that was actually a “jingle” book. Classifying jingles as poetry just isn’t fair.
Coming back to Everything Voluptuous, it is a collection of 35 poems and seven drawings and paintings. I have not (formally) been a student of poetry, and I must admit I do not know much about the various forms. Hence, this review will not contain a lot of jargon, just my simple understanding of the poems in it.
The poems have been divided into sections based on the time period they were written in. In the Foreword, Judy Schavrien has mentioned that this is a work of fiction. All these poems have been dedicated to various women (a section each). These poems were originally written for women’s movements – women’s lib as well as lesbian rights. As you can probably guess, that is what piqued my interest in this book, as I am trying to support women’s rights through my blogs. Here is a wonderful line from the writer’s intro: We lovers were setting women free, one orgasm at a time.

Coming to the poems themselves, while you might say Judy has written poems about women with women, I could tell you these would resonate with others as well. These poems use simple language, not overly flowery, and yet if you read them, they will touch a chord within you. Let me illustrate with these simple stanza:

the rainforests are dying there’s no clean water
the folks in L.A. would riot if they could
breathe
and
they set the trend for the country

on the other hand my lover can’t decide
if it’s men or women now
that’s
what
really bothers me.

True, isn’t it, that love is such an all-consuming emotion that the world might be getting destroyed outside, but all that would bother us is the indecisive behaviour of our lovers!

I especially liked the poems How The Memories Open Out, Everything Volutptuous, and everything in the last section, Judy – What the Chessire Knows. The imagery in these poems is rich and vivid. Also noteworthy is the poem Letter. It is filled with pain and a sort of resigned anger. Not explosive, but a sigh-can’t-help-it sort of anger.

As a last note, I would like to mention  that though these poems were written during the women’s movements, they are mainly love poems, not essentially of a feminist nature as I earlier assumed them to be (while accepting the book for review). Nevertheless, it did not disappoint. If you like poetry, you can give this one a chance.

About the Author: Dr. Judy Schavrien is a Psychotherapist, poet, painter. If you wish to read more about her or her work, you can refer to her website www.jesart.net

You can find the Kindle copy here: Amazon

Rating: 3/5

Note: A PDF copy of this book was sent to me by the author.

Murder at Cirey, by Cheryl Sawyer

And they told me time travel was not possible!

Guess who’s having the last laugh, because I just traveled to 18th century France, witnessed not one, but two murders, and what’s more? Voltaire was there! The same Voltaire about whom I had only read in my History text book.

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery

Voltaire discovers a body in the woods just outside of the Cirey estate on the day that his lover Madame du Chatelet was due to arrive at the Chateau, after he had renovated the place. A member of the Marechaussee, Cavalier Victor Constant is cursing the fact that he has been transferred to Champagne, where he believes crimes would never take place. However, it is he who investigates the murder and strongly believes Voltaire is involved. Whomever he questions refuses to give him satisfactory answers; moreover, people simply do not seem to care about the deceased Damien Moiron. Eventually, he learns at least two women seemed to be in love with him, and one of them hints to him that he must look for “Hatred, jealousy, revenge.” While he is convinced more than ever than Voltaire is involved in the murder, he is informed that a man has been arrested as the murderer of Moiron. Investigations and interrogations lead the cavalier to believe the accused is innocent. He is attacked by a magistrate’s helper (Niort) and an accomplice, but Niort is soon found murdered too. The cavalier cannot reveal the details of his attack, as that would implicate him in the crime.

That’s about as much as I can tell you without giving out any spoilers.

Characters: After you get over the initial excitement of seeing Voltaire in a work of fiction, you learn it is entirely Victor Constant who carries it on his shoulders. He is like the good old detective who rarely makes an appearance in books today. Voltaire is described as aloof, at times arrogant, at times kind, and towards Emilie, a perfect partner. The description of Louis Aubert, the wrongly accused murderer is rather pitiable. My heart went out to the poor, poor man.

Pace: In my opinion, it could have been a tad more fast-paced. The current pace does not harm it in anyway, but that’s just what I felt.

Writing style: If I gave you this book without its cover and without any information about who wrote it and when it was written, you would believe it was really written in the eighteenth century. If I told you otherwise, you would refuse to believe me. So perfect is the depiction of France, the sights and sounds come alive in the book. As I said at the beginning of this review – this book is a time machine!

Fans of Agatha Christie and historical mysteries would not want to miss this one. It is the first of the Victor Constant Mysteries. Let’s hope for a revival of the crime investigator in fiction!

Kindle copy/Paperback are available here.

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: An ebook copy was sent to me by the author for review. Thank you, Cheryl.