Category Archives: Books

Blackfern Girls: A Review

blackfern-girls-elizabeth-yonIt takes a special kind of storytelling to allow a reader to fall in love with a deadly, haunted place, and that it exactly what happened when I stepped inside Elizabeth Yon’s Johns Woods, the backdrop for all four stories in Blackfern Girls.

Ms. Yon has a distinct talent for lifting the veil between the world we know and what we cannot see, what is tangible and that which lurks in the corner of our eye. What her very human characters face when the veil lifts tests their mettle at every turn; the outcomes surprise.

While not directly connected, these four stories draw on one another, often revealing a thread from somewhere else in Blackfern County. Much in the way of Stephen King, whose world is vast and populous, Ms. Yon’s characters move through their lives–and deaths–leaving marks in others’ stories where they go.

Ms. Yon lures readers into the shades and shadows of the Johns Woods, and as her tales make their way into the forgotten hollows of Blackfern County, those shadows grow deeper and show their teeth. Girlhood is indeed hard in these woods, throughout and beyond time and place.

Fans of Ms. Yon’s blog, The Palace of Night, will recognize Gideon Crowe, whose cameo in “Local Honey” gives a new glimpse of his peculiar journey, and begs the question, when will Elizabeth Yon give us his story in full?

Girlhood is hard. Surviving it in the strange wilderness of Blackfern County is a challenge like no other. Elizabeth Yon’s Blackfern Girls entices with parlor tricks, whispers of abandonment, and tempts innocence to desperate measures, revealing the lethal dangers of coming of age in a place where reality shivers and changes like a theatre scrim.

In “The Undertakers,” Frankie Blanchard’s mother abandons the eight year-old girl on her sister’s remote farm. Frankie’s cousins, Ariel and Poppy, are less than happy to receive her. They have a horrifying secret of their own, and Frankie must find the courage to save another innocent.

In “The Skeptic,” Juliet Pinkney is born into a tradition of paranormal chicanery, and takes for granted that contact with spirits is a ruse perpetrated on the marks. At the same time her first love blossoms in all its sweetness, she is confronted with the dark reality of Sparrowgate House, and pays a terrible price for her disbelief.

In “Local Honey,” Sylvia Peach stands on the cusp of young womanhood, and at the precipice of a repulsive marriage. Her yearning for independence and romance lead her to an alliance with the strange Dark sisters, and the enigmatic Nathan Love. In their forest inn, she will learn that death is a long and varied journey.

In “The Queen of Ever After,” Cricket Carpenter spins worlds, and companions, from air. Abandoned by her father, and orphaned when first her mother, and then her beloved grandmother die, she embarks on a quest for the mythical land of Ever After accompanied by her imaginary father figure, Pop, and Rob, the wild young farm hand.

Blackfern Girls is available exclusively for Kindle. A print edition is expected in early January 2015.

*I was not compensated directly for my review, and I promise, my opinions are entirely my own. That said, I am part of Elizabeth’s publishing team at Bannerwing Books, and was privy to the manuscript prior to publication.

Love Is Ridiculous

Kate DiCamillo The Tale of Despereaux

To Live Forever – An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis: A Review

Explorer Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.

To Live Forever is an ambitious collision of near-historical fiction, adventure/thriller, and magical realism. Like a well-simmered gumbo, this book is rich, complex and deeply enjoyable, with just enough je ne sais quoi, that crucial pinch of filé that makes the thing just right.

I devoured the story in great gulps, always sad to have to put it down, but the characters and the Natchez Trace stayed with me, pulling me back whenever my Kindle and I had a moment alone.

In Meriwether Lewis, we find not the encyclopedia-page explorer, but a compassionate and desperate soul, caught between his desire to finish the work of his time in Nowhere and his lack of understanding of exactly what is required of him. Merry is competent, wry, and gentle, but not without the steel that brought him across a continent two centuries before. Emmaline Cagney is a captivating little girl, and while her mother and the Judge are despicable in their aims, I completely understood how Em enchanted everyone she met. She is on the knife-edge of growing up, and her time with Merry tests her mettle far beyond her years. While his “page-time” is perhaps less, the Judge is a villain in the best sense. He is vile, corrupt, and unhinged, but as the story winds the characters together, I saw that like Merry, the Judge is searching for what his believes to be his immortality.

As well as being a rollicking good story, To Live Forever is a literary examination of what it means to love, to give yourself  and your legacy over to the keeping of others, to be remembered – to truly live forever.

Full disclosure: I had been reading and following Andra Watkins for a few years on her blog.  After letting her in on the best-kept breakfast secret in Cambridge,  I coerced her into collaboraing on a project, and I consider her a friend. Additionally, any Amazon links here are affiliate links, so I might bring in a penny or two if you click through. Otherwise, I am not being compensated in any way, and I bought my own copy of the book for my Kindle. All opinions are entirely my own.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Last December I published a 12 part serial fiction titled Twelve Days ‘Til Christmas, a romance of sorts centered around a has-been power ballad queen named Moira Kennedy.

If you missed it then, you can pick it up as of today on Smashwords and Amazon for just $0.99, and bonus! There’s a preview for my upcoming novel, as well as excerpts from From the Earth to the Moon and Buck’s Landing.

12DaysCoverTwenty years after flirting with rock and roll stardom, Moira Kennedy is a tired bartender who still dreams of the sweet rush of performing. With twelve dreary days until Christmas looming, Moira’s achingly dull life spins off its axis. Who is the handsome stranger in the red scarf? Why is her ex threatening to dredge up their past? Is there still music in her soul? And will this be a happy Christmas after all?

Twelve Days ‘Til Christmas is a work of short fiction, a Christmas romance which includes salty language and adults making the occasional poor choice.