Book Reviews: Notown by Tess Collins and The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

NotownNotown
Book One: The Midnight Valley Quartet
Tess Collins
BearCat Press, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-937356-31-6
Hardcover

The Notown of the story is a nowhere kind of place, a coal mining town set in Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains. The heroine of the story is a no-good kind of girl, a product of her times in the 1960’s, at least in this particular place. Randi Joe Gaylor’s daddy is a coal miner who, although not always successful, works hard to feed his many children. Her mother is something else, a woman of secrets. But Randi Jo slowly discovers the whole family has secrets, some more gruesome than others, some because once again, these people live in this time and in this place. Murder and betrayal are a part of their history, as well as the history of the people they know. And if you’re born a Notowner, as Randi Jo finds out, you are always a Notowner. There doesn’t seem to be any way out.

Notown is a crime story, although it’s not a mystery. The people, even Randi Jo, as we follow her life from the time she’s a little girl, to young love, marriage and motherhood, to her final degradation and redemption, seems to personify a class of people. Who says America doesn’t have a class system? In Notown it throve, sad and joyless.

Once into the story, the writing is riveting, faithfully reflecting Randi Jo’s voice. Hard reading, at times, because the emotion can only be taken in smaller doses. I think it might be overwhelming in one fell swoop, needing time to be assimilated. Notown is excellent and is sure to make you think about the world and the people in it.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Widows of Braxton CountyThe Widows of Braxton County
Jess McConkey
William Morrow, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-218826-7
Trade Paperback

Kate Krause was a very happy bride as she traveled with her husband, Joe, to her new home in Braxton County, Iowa.  Kate and Joe met online but Kate felt that they were just right for each other.  Kate’s widowed mother had passed away and her grandparents raised Kate. Her grandmother complained endlessly and Kate’s life was not a happy one.

When the new couple arrived at Joe’s farm, a woman that Kate first mistook for a housekeeper met Joe and Kate at the door.  The woman was Trudy Krause, Joe’s mother.   Joe explained that he didn’t tell Kate about Trudy because Trudy was to have moved to a retirement home prior to the couple’s homecoming but there was some problems at the home and her room would not be ready for weeks.

Kate soon found that life was not going to be as she pictured it.  The farm was in bad financial shape and Kate’s savings were used to pay some of the debts but it wasn’t enough.   Joe would not agree to let Kate help him with the management of the farm even though Kate had proven to be an excellent money manager.  Plans for Trudy’s move to a retirement home did not materialize.

As Kate became acquainted with the neighborhood, she finds that the Krause family harbors a long kept secret about a mysterious death.   This secret haunts Kate as dangerous, unexplainable events begin.

A Krause family member, but not one that Joe associates with, owns the local hardware store.   Joe warns Kate not to shop at that store.  Kate ignores his wishes, makes friends with the owner of the store, and finds out a little more about the mysterious past and haunting secret of the Krause family.

The book goes back and forth between present day and the past where the Krause mystery began.  I found this book to be very interesting and I could not wait to get to the end but when I did, I wished the book were longer.

Jess McConkey a/k/a Shirley Damsgaard is an award-winning writer.  Love Lies Bleeding was the first book I read by the author Jess McConkey and it was a good read.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2013.

Book Blitz: Lost Eden by G.P. Ching

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Title: Lost Eden
Author: G.P. Ching
Series: The Soulkeepers #5
Publication date: November 18th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

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Synopsis:

Rules. Balance. Consequences. War.

When Fate gave Dane the water from Eden to drink, she
did more than save his life. She changed his destiny.

Since the beginning, a compact between God and Lucifer has
maintained a tenuous peace, balancing Soulkeepers and Watchers
and the natural order of things. Dane upset that balance the day
he became a Soulkeeper. Fate broke the rules.

Now, Lucifer is demanding a consequence, requiring Fate to pay the
ultimate price for her involvement. God intervenes on the immortal’s behalf
but in order to save her soul must dissolve the compact and with it the
rules, order, and balance that have kept the peace. A challenge is issued. A
contest for human souls begins. And the stakes? Earth. Winner take all.

The Soulkeepers are at the center of a war between Heaven and Hell,
and this time, nobody, anywhere, is safe from Lucifer’s reach.

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An Excerpt from Lost Eden

Lost Eden“Hello, Abigail.” The velvet smooth voice lassoed her shoulders, stopping her short.

She turned to face her enemy. At first the man’s attire, a double-breasted suit with Italian loafers, threw her. Very human. But then she noticed his eyes matched the deep navy blue, almost purple color of his tie. A Watcher, for sure. Human beings didn’t have eyes that color or noses that straight. He twisted the gold, lion’s head ring on his manicured finger.

Lucifer was the Lord of Illusions, and his followers boasted similar talents, but under it all, Abigail knew the Watcher’s skin and blood were black as tar. “How is your illusion so strong during the day?” she spat, nervously. Distraction was her only hope.

“Well fed.”

“Who are you? I deserve to know who Lucifer sent for me.”

“You don’t remember me, Abigail? That hurts. We were once very close.”

A deadly smile crossed his full lips, and he smoothed a hand over his meticulously styled black hair. Abigail tried to place his voice, but in her human form all she could sense was the illusion. Worse, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls had filled the maple grove. His sorcery drew her in, luring her, a fly to the spider’s web. The smell triggered a memory of a long ago day, before Lucifer had become jealous of God and led the Watchers to fall from grace.

This Watcher had chosen an illusion not far from his appearance as an Angel. Abigail shook her head. Lucifer must be serious about her capture to send his right hand man. “Cord.”

He took a step closer. “Good girl. I see your senses haven’t completely dulled with your humanity. Now come, Lucifer is waiting.”

Abigail took a step back, dropping into the fighting stance Lillian had taught her.  She wasn’t completely defenseless. She’d learned the martial arts basics Lillian insisted all of them learn. Cord took another step toward her, and she whipped her knife from her boot. “I think it’s you who have lost your senses, Cord, if you think for a second I’m coming with you willingly.”

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About the Author

G.P. ChingG.P. Ching is the author of The Soulkeepers Series, Grounded, and a variety of short fiction. She specializes in cross-genre paranormal stories, loves old cemeteries, and enjoys a good ghost tour. She lives in central Illinois with her husband, two children, and one very demanding Brittany Spaniel. Visit her at www.gpching.com and www.thesoulkeepersseries.com.

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