Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When The Clock Strikes Thirteen from Ylva Publishing

Book: When The Clock Strikes Thirteen
Authors: L. Cloarec Hart, L.T. Smith, E. Weimann, J. Arling, D. Marina, E. Bishop, R.G. Emanuelle
Publisher: Ylva Publishing

Lucy dresses up as
a Siberian Husky
for Halloween
Graduate school went by really fast for me. I have a million memories, but little context in which to anchor them. Days transformed into nights, weekdays morphed into weekends, and holidays were dashed and dotted with research, capstone projects, and qualifying exams. 

I met Abbie Hoffman one day, but I can’t remember if it was in the spring or the fall. I wandered up the winding driveway to Al Gore’s home in Carthage, Tennessee, before being chased away by a maid wielding a Libman® broom, but I can’t tell you if I was wearing a winter coat or shorts and a t-shirt. At one point, I even finished a half marathon about four minutes behind a man carrying a table, tablecloth, and romantic place setting for two, complete with Champagne and two crystal flutes—there might have been breadsticks, too...I can’t remember.

No matter how much context I lost during that year, I’m pretty confident, that last experience happened on or about All Hallows Eve…

And strange things happen when you get near Halloween. Think back in your memory, and try to recall if you’ve had any unexplained circumstances, heard strange noises, or had conversations with people who may or may not have existed. To this very day, I swear that the deceased father of my oldest sibling’s best friend stopped by to visit one night when I was about four. He had gray hair, was wearing a suit, and sat at the foot of my bed as he talked about wishing he had more time. When I woke up my mom to tell her about the visit, she said I was just dreaming and that it was probably a bad idea to eat salmon fritters with hot sauce so close to bedtime.

I didn’t agree with her about the “just dreaming” part, because it felt mighty real. However, I still fully support her concerns about salmon fritters.

For Halloween this year, I selected the fast and frisky little book of short stories, When the Clock Strikes Thirteen published by Ylva Publishing. This juicy compilation features seven paranormal tales of ghosts, werewolves, vampires, otherworldly beings, and whispering winds on high, written by seven talented authors who understand the art and poetry of romantic fiction. This collection features a little bit of something for everyone, even those who normally have a hard time with the willing suspension of disbelief. In fact, some of the stories are so sweet and well written, that you almost forget you’re reading the paranormal.

When The Clock Strikes Thirteen features the stories and authors that follow.

Midnight Messages by Lois Cloarec Hart
Luce Sheppard’s life is in a blender, and she can’t find a way to sleep through the night. After hearing someone crying through her open window, Luce finds Keira Keller, a lost and distraught teen running from a party gone wrong.  Luce invites her to stay the night, until she can contact a relative to come get her. The young woman’s heart is broken, but she somehow manages to help Luce find a way change the way she looks at the future.  Keira is gone in the morning, but her visit heralds unexpected events and spooky revelations.

This story is equal parts heart breaking and triumphant. Keira Keller is every teenage girl, but a very old soul. Her role in this story is short, but in no way small. The story is beautifully written.

Batteries Not Included by L.T. Smith
Alex Stevens is a loner. And a workaholic. She’s worked hard to build impenetrable walls around her life and her heart. Until one October night when things start going bump and bang in the night. Enter one hot new neighbor, spooky noises, dead little old ladies, and a pile of missing batteries, and suddenly those walls start to crumble and fall.

L.T. Smith is back at it with this tongue-in-cheek tale that features an accountant with a bread knife, a super hot next-door neighbor, and a bevy of things that go “bump” well into the night. I loved the subtle nod to “fingersmith,” it brought one of many, many big smiles to my face.

Lost and Found by Emma Weimann
Laura Sullivan’s brother just hooked up with her girlfriend, and things feel pretty hopeless. Hoping that peace and quiet will help calm her churning soul, she flees to her late grandparents' cottage in the woods. But rural Ireland is rife with wood sprites, evil mists, giggling tinkerbells, and one hot otherworldly woman that drives her to other worlds, all night long—and, somehow manages to leave her with a gift that keeps on giving.

What happens when you take a nice girl from a messed up family and plop her smack dab into the middle of a rural Irish forest that shimmers from the gleam in Peter Pan’s eye? She drinks bad tea, stumbles into a menacing forest at dusk, and hooks up with a red-headed, female spirit with a great ass and magic fingers. Another well-written, sweet story with a beautiful, happy ending.

Chrysalis by Joan Arling
Tara O’Hara is every bit the “Little Whirlwind” her nickname implies. However, her friends are not typical little girls. They talk about the feeling of rising high, and how the taste of the sea differs from that of a lake. They dance a whirling dervish, and try to outrun the sun. And then, in the still of the night, they come for her.

Almost every little girl has invisible friends, but Tara’s friends are special. They’re her sisters, and she is drawn to them. This is a gorgeous little story that stands out in the collection of paranormal stories because of its uniqueness, warmth, and utter poetry.

Sisters of the Moon by Diane Marina
Nicole is a dedicated nurse who has sacrificed her love life for long hours. Her best friend Danni finally talks her into having a little fun, and the girls embark on a pre-Halloween pub-crawl and ghost tour of Annapolis, Maryland. The girls hit a few bars and get their fill of ghoulishly grisly details of all the haunted buildings in the old city before Nicole meets a beautiful stranger in one of the pubs. Intrigued by the alluring woman, Nicole returns to the pub only to learn that she wasn’t the first. The question is, will she be the last?

This story spins a tale of ghosts, grisly murders, and one woman’s quest to find the love of her life. Danni is a horndog for the ages, and Nicole just needs to find a good woman…preferably one that doesn’t kiss and disappear. Of all the stories in the collection, this is the one that could most easily be adapted into a long-form story.

Wolf Moon by Erzabet Bishop
Lindsay Portis loves a good Halloween party, but she’s ready to bean her best friend Jenna for talking her into attending a combination monster/comic convention at the Convention Center. Even worse, they arrived separately, and she’s been wandering around the freaks and geeks forever looking for her. Things go haywire from there when gunfire disrupts the festive event, and Lindsay goes in search of her missing friend. Enter detective and werewolf, Taggert, who is trying to get a bead on the nasty bank robbers who are threatening to blow up their hostages. When the two women find themselves hiding out in the same small room, the air begins to crackle from the heat of their attraction. Can Lindsay give in to this fierce and unexpected attraction? Can Taggert get her pants back on in time to save the hostages?

What’s an all lesbian, all paranormal book of short stories without at least one lust-filled sex romp between a butch werewolf cop with handcuffs and a redhead in a painted on t-shirt that accentuates her soft globe breasts? Yep, nothin’ else to say.

Love Bites by R.G. Emanuelle
What happens when a woman suffering from too many recent bitch slaps suddenly finds herself drawn to New Orleans, sex with a woman, and daiquiris? She gets a little too drunk, follows a smokin’ hot woman home, and ends up with a craving for a different kind of drink.

R.G. Emmanuelle flat out knows how to write a short story. Love Bites is the first-person account of a woman who figures out she needs a change in her life long before she actually gets it. This story is tightly written, smart, and sexy, and puts a sharp exclamation point on the entire collection.

Most story collections published around Halloween feature ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and other creepy crawlies. Almost all of those intentionally position themselves to scare you, and make you feel just a little bit out of control, a little bit breathless. 

However, Ylva Publishing and When The Clock Strikes Thirteen take a different path, and show the sweeter and sexier side of the unexplained. Much to my surprise, I fell a little bit in love with this quirky little collection of short stories. And, I have no doubt that romantics across the board will love it, as well…even if you don’t read paranormal, think vampires and werewolves are ridiculous, or just get flat-out annoyed by short stories.

My only compaint is that I was really holding out for one of those zombie love stories…

Friday, October 4, 2013

All That Lies Within by Lynn Ames

The Rainbow Reader Welcomes Special Guest Reviewer
Fellow Lesfic Aficionado and Sparkly Humor Laureate

This week, Michelle wrangles trust issues in
All That Lies Within by Lynn Ames

Book:  All That Lies Within
Author:  Lynn Ames
Publisher:  Phoenix Rising Press

Click Here to see who joined
Edward Hopper's Nighthawks
Paul and I walked to the corner diner for coffee…

It was a warm day in the spring of 1988, and I sat transfixed as Glenn Parker delivered a memorable charge to my graduating class. The walls of the Princeton University Chapel resonated with his warm, rich voice and I smiled as I recalled our first meeting years earlier.

Glenn Parker wasn’t the only diction coach on staff at Westminster Choir College, but he was highly sought after by every voice major on campus for a very good reason. Glenn Parker could have corrected Eliza Doolittle’s diction issues in less than two hours, and he could have made the ladies from the cast of Jersey Shore sound like debutantes from Greenwich, Connecticut.

When Glenn first heard me speak, he quickly scribbled a sentence onto a piece of paper, handed it to me and stated, “Read this out loud.” I obliged and said, “Pawl and I wawked to da cawnah die-nah faw cawfee.” 

Glenn managed to utter, “You’re in,” before doubling over in a fit of laughter.

I was reasonably sure that he wasn’t getting enough air into his lungs, and was beginning to get worried that he might pass out before I find out why my diction caused such a response.

When Glenn was finally able to regain his composure, he said, “Two things. First, you were clearly born and raised on Long Island. Second, if you ever want to be an opera singer, you will never speak like that in my class again.”

While it is true that Glenn taught all of his students a great deal about diction, his greatest gift was what he taught us about life. He challenged us to embrace the intangible, to look beyond what we could see or touch, and he taught us how to listen to angels.

The concluding sentence of Glenn’s charge to my graduating class turned out to be the last words I would ever hear him speak. Glenn died a few short years later, but to this day, I feel his spirit, and hear his final words time and again…

“May your path be guided by angels, unaware of their perfect timing and gracious gifts.”

Lynn Ames' book, All That Lies Within, tells the tale of two women, who at first glance, seem to have very little in common. Dara Thomas is a famous Hollywood actress, adored by her fans and sought after as much for her beauty as for her talent. A Yale graduate, Dara desperately wants to be appreciated for her intellect, and struggles to be viewed as more than just a beautiful woman. She has painstakingly created a life where she can maintain control of her acting career, but keep secret her identity as Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Constance Darrow.

Rebecca Minton is a well-respected professor of American Literature at Middlebury College. She is regarded as an expert on the works of Constance Darrow, and centers much of her coursework on the reclusive author’s books. When Rebecca writes a letter to Constance, she is surprised when the author responds. The two continue to correspond, and what began as a series of professional exchanges becomes friendlier in nature. Curious to learn more about Constance, Rebecca turns to the Internet, where her curiosity is piqued when she is unable to discover any photos of Constance, or any personal information about the author.

A twist of fate leads Rebecca to discover that Dara is really the reclusive Constance Darrow. The actress chastises herself for letting her guard down, and is convinced that Rebecca will sell her story to the tabloids. Rebecca begins to doubt that she will ever hear from the author again. Both women mourn what could very well be the end of their special relationship. At a crossroads, Dara and Rebecca must each decide which force is greater: their considerable trust issues, or the connection and attraction that had been building between them.

While the plot of All That Lies Within primarily focuses on the plight of the protagonists, Dara (a.k.a. Constance) and Rebecca, Ms. Ames’ careful inclusion of Dara’s best friend and business manager, Carolyn, as a supporting character is a wise and well-considered choice. By allowing the reader to gain insight into Dara’s personality from the perspective of her best friend, Ms. Ames softens and strengthens what could otherwise be described as a cold and detached character. A number of other carefully developed characters, some appearing for only a scene or two, round out the cast of the book, and add depth, breadth, and interest to both the story and main characters.

Author Lynn Ames
The pacing of the book is even throughout, and the storyline is both interesting and well developed. As a reader, I feel compelled to acknowledge the careful and precise editing. This is the first book I can recall reading that was free from grammatical, formatting, or typesetting errors.  Additionally, it is quite evident that the author went to great lengths to ensure that the locations in the book were accurately and appropriately portrayed.

It also reminded me that it has been far too long since I have been to the Carnegie Deli in NYC for a Reuben... 

And, lastly, All That Lies Within is a fitting title for this book—it alludes to both Dara Thomas seeking to be valued for more than her external beauty, and to both Dara’s and Rebecca’s soul-searching journey toward self-awareness. While I am more accustomed to reading books which include a number of descriptive passages about the physical attributes of the characters, I believe the author was wise in limiting references to their appearances so that the reader focuses more acutely on the internal struggles that Dara and Rebecca experience throughout the story.

All That Lies Within is a story that brings to mind a quote by Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” As for my reference to angels in the introduction of this review? Well, I guess you’ll just have to read the book to see how they factor into this story.

Lynn Ames’ All That Lies Within is a solid read that will thrill romance buffs looking for a story that tugs at all the right strings.