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Sunday, August 02, 2015

The Deal



By A. W. Lambert
Suspense/Thriller. 534 pages
Cover design by A. W. Lambert, finishing cover art by Pat Evans

Seventeen years ago teenager Nicardo Clarke grasped his brother’s hand and a sibling deal was sealed. Now Nicardo’s brother is dead, brutally murdered and Nicardo, forced to honor the deal, is drawn to another continent and a dark world where life is cheap and one man fears placing his trust in another.

Excerpt:
It was as black as pitch and Nick could see nothing. His heart was thudding like a steam hammer and his breath was coming in short cramped gasps. Pain lanced through his neck and head and one knee felt as if it had been stepped on by an elephant. But he was conscious; he could think, and slowly the situation came into focus. The car was on its roof and he was doubled in two, hanging upside down, his weight driving the still-attached seat belt deep into his stomach. It was why he was finding it difficult to breathe.

With one hand he reached down and pushed hard against the roof of the car, easing his weight from the belt. With the other hand he searched for the buckle, hoping it hadn’t been damaged and would release. It did, and with a painful thud he crumpled into the roof of the car. Screwed almost into a ball, he lay for a moment, his breathing easier now, taking stock and listening, the only sounds the hisses and creaks of a dead engine cooling in the dark night air.

Without light…probably the crash had caused the car’s battery to be ripped from its connections; he could only go by feel. He groped to where he thought Aisha should be and his hand found her head lolling awkwardly forward. She, too, was hanging, bent double in her seat belt. He ran his hand over her face and it came away sticky.

“Aisha,” he whispered. “Are you okay?”

There was no reply, but he thought he could hear the rasp of laboured breathing. He squirmed to one side and attempted to lift her body and release the belt, but the angle was too great and as strong as he was, he couldn’t manage it. Finally, turning on his back, he wriggled one shoulder beneath her hanging body and eased her weight from the seat belt, reaching round her prostrate form searching for the seat belt buckle.

Suddenly he froze.

A new sound had joined the slowly diminishing hissing and ticking of the engine. It was a gentle whoosh, a sound he instantly recognised and one that struck a cold terror in his heart.

“Jesus God,” he muttered, fumbling frantically around the front of Aisha, not caring what part of her lifeless body he clutched at. “We’re on fire, Aisha girl. We need to get out of here, so come on, move yourself.” He knew she couldn’t hear, couldn’t move anything. He was talking to himself, but somehow just talking helped, made him feel less alone. At last his right hand found the buckle buried beneath her furled up top, jammed deep into her stomach. He pulled the buckle open and Aisha collapsed on top of him. He rolled her away from him and as he did so realised he could suddenly see. He could see by the light of the flames licking around the front of the car directly in front of the shattered windscreen. The heat and fumes immediately began to permeate the car, a heavy, choking, petrol-filled fug getting thicker by the second.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Fever


By Thomas Fenske
Mainstream, 409 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans

In the late 1800s, Ben Sublett was already known for his secret gold mine in the far reaches of west Texas. When Ben died in 1892, it was thought his secret died with him. Eighty years later in a central Texas jail, a dying, homeless wino named "Slim" Longo whispered a long-held family secret to twenty year old Sam Milton. Sam had comforted Slim as the old man succumbed to injuries suffered during arrest. That secret contained one word that changed Sam's life: Gold.

In his last moments on earth, Slim had rewarded young Sam's kindness with certain clues that old Ben Sublett had given to Slim's grandfather. In eighty years, neither Slim, his father, nor his grandfather had ever found the mine. In considering the source, a filthy, broken, shell of a man, Sam instinctively knew that surely this information was more of a curse than a reward, but the clues burned a hole in his soul and he could not help but continue a search that had already stretched out for another ten years. Sam had "the fever" and he knew he would either find the elusive gold mine or die trying...

Excerpt:
Sam got up and went to the door and attracted a patrolling guard’s attention through the same paperback book-sized opening used for the attempts at inter-block communication.

“There’s a guy in here that’s hurt,” he said, pointing over to Slim by the far wall.

“Oh, him?” The guard smiled like he was enjoying a private joke. “Don’t mind him. That’s just Slim, one of our regulars. I’m sure he’s fine,” the guard said. “Just leave him alone and let him sleep it off,” he added before turning to walk away.

After the guard left his line of sight, Sam returned to Slim, first stopping at the sink to get several paper towels from a dispenser next to the paper cups. He moistened a couple and kept the others dry, then returned to his patient, who looked worse, with fresh blood at the corner of his mouth. Sam dabbed at the blood with one dry towel to wipe it away and then patted Slim’s face with one of the moistened towels. This roused the old man.

“Wha… who? Oh, yeah,” Slim managed a slight smile of recognition. “I remember now, Sam. Thanks, son. What’cha here for?” he rasped.

“Illegal weapon,” Sam said. “I had a knife they said was too long.”

“Damn cops. Can’t they just leave you kids alone? They gotta ruin your life for a stupid knife?” Slim coughed again, and more blood dribbled down his chin.

Sam mopped a damp towel across the older man’s forehead and said, “Just take it easy, buddy.”
Slim looked up at him with wild eyes that seemed to be looking right through him.
“Take it easy? I… I’m dying, I know it.” Slim wheezed, and struggled to get a breath, then continued in a harsh whisper, “Listen, Sam, I gotta tell ya something.” The old man coughed again, so hard that Sam half expected to see a bloody lung on the floor.

Sam put his hand on Slim’s shoulder. “Okay, okay, Slim,” he said. “Don’t work yourself up.”

“I’m serious, you asshole,” Slim said, then he realized what he had said and frowned, shaking his head. “Naw, I’m sorry, you ain’t no asshole. You’re being nicer to me than anybody’s been to old Slim in a long time. I don’t deserve it. I ain’t lived a good life what with the drinking and leaving my family…but…maybe I can make up for some of it. I gots something for you, Sam.”

Slim coughed again and turned to his side, grabbing one of the dry towels out of Sam’s hand. When Slim turned back, there was deep red blood on the towel.

Sam looked around. The card games and talking and smoking continued as before. Nobody else cared what was going on over against the wall.

Slim continued with his rasping, wheezing whisper, “You gotta remember, you hear me? You gotta remember.” He grabbed Sam’s arm in a weak but desperate way, trying to pull their faces closer.

“Okay, okay, just take it easy.” He patted the old man’s shoulder again, trying to be reassuring, but deep inside he was scared to death.

Slim coughed again, then said, “Shit. Ain’t much time. I need to tell you something, but first, I need a favor. Out south of the river near Oltorf Street, you know where that is?”

Sam nodded, lying because he really had no idea.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rainbow in the Snow


By Irene Crawford-Siano
Mainstream/Contemporary Romance, 317 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud


Lindsay Macauley is a single mom with a 13-year-old son, Lee. Rand Dyson is a divorced man with a scarred heart. They meet on a train during the worst blizzard of the decade. She's on her way to Trailwood, a run-down horse farm she has recently inherited. Rand is going home to his horse-breeding estate, Windcrest. Rand is picked up by a friend on a snowmobile and they head home. When they realize their new neighbors are stranded they return with another snowmobile and sled to rescue them.

Then Lindsay and Rand begin their ride of lifetime.

Excerpt:
Lindsay Macaulay watched the wet snow pack against the window of the slow-moving train as her father’s version of the little ditty played over and over in her mind. Strange that she could remember the ditty but she couldn’t remember Jeff Macaulay or Trailwood, the family’s ancestral home in Riverton County.

Now after twenty-six years, Lindsay was going home, her thirteen-year-old son, Lee, asleep on the seat beside her. She and Lee were fortunate this morning to get seats on the only train running north as a mid-January blizzard was bringing traffic to a dead stop all across Southern Ontario.

Lindsay wondered if the horseman’s ditty was a warning against Trailwood, the one hundred-acre horse farm that she had recently inherited from her paternal grandfather, Jeb, or would it be a delight?

She didn’t remember Trailwood, her horseman father or even the first ten years of her life. She remembered only the pain and the doctors at the Toronto General Hospital who were determined to save her badly injured leg.

Now, during the worst blizzard of the last half-century, she was going home—not because she wanted to, but because the city’s juvenile judge had warned her “get this young man away from his so-called friends or next time...”

As the train slowed for its Riverton terminal, Lindsay couldn’t help wonder if the ditty was going to prove a horseman’s delight or a horseman’s warning?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Teddy Bear Eye Club

By Suzanne M. Hurley
Young Adult, 286 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

Sometimes a person walks into your life and changes it forever.
That is exactly what happened to fourteen-year-old Mayah Lewis.
Depressed, she hides from the world, until she meets new girl, beautiful bald-headed Celeste Daniels. Her love of life, inspires Mayah to live again.
Everything begins looking up, until one day, Celeste disappears.

Excerpt:
“Oh, what’s the point?”

Fourteen-year-old Mayah Lewis threw the tube of lipstick at the mirror. It bounced off the glass, hit the wall and rolled under a stall.

She didn’t care.

She was the only one there, having sneaked out of boring Biology class when the teacher was writing their homework on the board. Mostly hating the way she looked, she didn’t like doing her makeup when anyone was around and she wanted to look good—or at least relatively okay—cuz Joey Marshall was in her next class and she had a huge crush on him. This way she had the girls’ bathroom to herself, for at least a few minutes, since no one was supposed to be in there during instruction time, unless it was a dire emergency.

She stared at her face—ugly freckles creating swirls of uneven patterns across her nose and cheeks that no amount of foundation cream seemed to cover, beady blue eyes, two zits on her chin big enough to ski down and long, wiry red hair that curled as if having a life of its own. Blue eyes were usually an asset, except hers were a dull pale blue. Not attractive in the least. Sigh.

She dumped the rest of her make-up in her backpack, flipped her mirror image the bird, shouting out, “Forget it. It’s hopeless.”

“No, it’s not.”

What the…?

She turned to watch beautiful, blond Kitty Richards come swinging around the corner, her golden curls flying behind her.

Mayah was stunned.

She’d looked when she came in and hadn’t seen anyone, but she’d forgotten about the wheelchair accessible stall way at the back, basically because no one ever went there. Or at least that was what she’d thought, since no one was in a wheelchair in the whole school. Obviously, that was where Kitty was, which was kinda weird. She was not handicapped in the least—or at least not physically. Now, personality-wise, maybe a bit, or at least she always came across stuck-up as anything.

Crap.

Mayah had no luck whatsoever.

And why, oh why, had she picked up Isobel’s habit of talking out loud when alone? It was bad enough to agonize about her face, but to have a witness was horrifying. And especially Kitty, the most gorgeous girl in grade nine, if not the whole school. Yep, she was stereotypically tall and thin with one of those perfect complexions. No way would pimples ever take up residence there—she was a masterpiece. And to think she was smiling, looking real friendly-like.

Yeah, right.

Kitty’d never spoken to her before. She only associated with the ‘cool’ crowd, not paying any attention to the rest of the so-called losers. Today must be just a pity call, like mock the ugly girl by building her up, then ripping her down later—probably in front of a crowd of students all laughing at her.

Embarrassed, wanting to die, Mayah ignored her and tore out of the room, down the hall to a door at the back of the auditorium. She pulled out her key, inserted it, tugged it open and ran up the stairs to the projection room. This was her hideaway, for no one ever came here during the day and it was only used when there were assemblies or plays.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

Wilding



By Mike Polis
Fantasy/Thriller, 415 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
In defiance of a centuries-old curse, the Heritage share a gift. The best of both worlds, they live among men, but away from prying eyes can shift to lupine form. Incredibly powerful, nearly impervious to injury, and with heightened senses, this community carefully, and often brutally, guards its secret, even if it means sacrificing friends and family.
Jack and Burt enforce the laws of Heritage Vermont, keeping the town safe from itself, and the world safe from the Heritage. The Heritage gift is a dual existence which, if abused, could potentially destroy everything in its path. When a few radicals decide the dark side of the gift should be embraced, Jack and Burt act to contain the uprising. While they do their best to put down the increasing numbers of transgressors, it is the few and least likely of people who may find a way to thwart the growing pandemic.
Excerpt:
My Name
Joey Carter was feeling like a very lucky guy. Another Friday night at Dante’s, shooting pool with Buster and Del, just enough money for a few pitchers, and maybe a shot or two of bourbon.
A dive bar in a dive town, and the place was filling up with regulars who could easily be extras in Shaun of the Dead. When he had two wins and four mugs under his belt, in walked a beauty, with short blond hair, a tight little butt and gravity-defying knockers.
After ordering a beer, and bringing all the zombies to life (even the women were watching her in a predatory fashion), she made her way over to the boys’ corner and placed quarters on the rail above the coin slot. All three of them started in with gibberish, rattled by this unbelievable stroke of luck, but she wouldn’t tell them her name. She said she’d only give it to the one she left with. She said that would be whoever could beat her at eight-ball.
Buster went up first and broke. The six-ball dropped into the side, but he was so unnerved that he missed a duck, and she won easily her first time at bat. The girl had some skills.
Del went up next, but the girl ran the table.
Joey racked and chalked up as she broke. She miscued, but did break them, and Joey missed his first shot. She stepped up and took careful aim at her target. It was a tough rail shot, but the cue ball found the eight ball and sank it cleanly. “Oh, damn,” she whispered and winked at Joey.
Joey didn’t have a car, but she had her own VW bug, and let him drive. She wanted privacy.
“Anywhere up in the hills,” she told him, “where people can’t hear us fucking.”
Joey couldn’t believe it. She was all over him, and as they climbed the mountain roads, she was undressing. By the time they found a spot, she was naked and placing his hands on her. She got out of the car and stood in the headlights. He’d never seen anything so beautiful. He got out and moved toward her.
“My name is Grace.” She opened her arms, inviting him in, when the darkness came.
A Sweet Young Girl
Joey came back to the world slowly. His head pounded. The slightest movement sent waves of pain through his right arm. He thought it might be broken. His eyes wouldn’t open. He rubbed them with the fingers of his left hand. Whatever was holding his eyelids shut was sticky and gritty at the same time. They opened, but his vision was doubled and out of focus. When he moved his head, the pounding increased, and he felt that substance clinging to his neck as well. Another moment and his confusion cleared somewhat. It was dried blood. Only vague shapes and shadows could be made out there in the darkness of cloud-covered moonlight, and against his back, he felt what must be the rough bark of a tree. He tried to understand what had happened, and pieces of it came slowly back to him as he sat shivering and terrified in the Vermont October night.