Spotlight: The Tale of the Taconic Mountains

tac Title: The Tale of the Taconic Mountains
Author: Mike Romeling
Genre: Suspense / Occult

Synopsis:
Everyone had an agenda and it just seemed like coincidence—and of little consequence—that they happened to end up in the small town of Cedar Falls nestled at the base of Bakers Mountain, deep in the ancient Taconic Mountain range. Completely involved, even obsessed, with their own pursuits, it was hardly surprising the visitors would be unaware of older agendas both within the dying town and up in the forests and ridges of the mountain looming above.

There was the discontented novelist fleeing his job and his family, hoping to regain his mojo with a young girlfriend and a new book; a mother in search of her long-estranged daughter, but finding first an unlikely romance with the proprietor who loved his failing bowling establishment like a child—at least when he wasn’t making plans to burn it down for the insurance; a soap opera queen who thought she was stopping by for a simple PR gig for the PETA folks when the town was plagued by thousands of bats in search of a new home. Instead found herself revisiting Gretchen Foley, the frightened disturbed child she had been before emerging as the famous Amber Steele.

There were the two Native American friends who came to climb the mountain in search of the fabled quartz Spirit Stones of their Mohican ancestors, the young man who wanted to retrace the steps of his grandfather who once lived along the river that flowed through town. But instead he would come to grief and need to be carried down the mountain by the mysterious and seemingly ageless Boudine sisters who had led secluded lives high on the mountain as long as anyone could remember. Few knew where these strange women had their cabin, but the dying Randle Marsh did, and it was said that he visited the sisters often; was he trying to live on endlessly as dark rumors suggested the sisters did? The rustic Wayne Funt knew where they lived too, but he would leave them strictly alone until he and his dog Duke played a major role in the mayhem that broke out during the raging Christmas snowstorm that buried the town and the mountain.

This collision of clashing agendas was presided over by a sheriff who did the best he could to navigate a safe landing for as many as he could who shared the wild ride on this memorable, often frightening year. And if the result could often be laced with humor and absurdity, it was always tempered—sometimes tragically—with what has always been true: sometimes, deep in the heart of the New England mountains, there are things going on, things both lighter than air and darker than starless night.

mikeAbout Mike
Mike is a freelance writer and singer-songwriter from upstate New York. His first novel “Tale of the Taconic Mountains” was released in 2012. He lives−and often rambles through−the very mountains where the novel is placed. But since writing it, he takes care to return home before scary darkness falls.

Connect with Mike
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Book Review: Tom Barry’s When the Siren Calls

15861701Title: When the Siren Calls
Author: Tom Barry
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 3
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

Isobel Roberts is a wealthy married woman, but her marriage is lacking passion. Her husband, Peter, is happy and satisfied when he’s on his laptop working. When the opportunity to travel to Marrakech is presented, Isobel happily accepts thinking she and Peter could use the holiday to rekindle their marriage, however; Isobel is left to wander the city alone. During one of her outings she’s saved by Jay Brooke. Isobel questions if Jay’s her savior or if she’s set herself up to another prey. The two are clearly attracted to each other, but nothing comes of it and Isobel quickly returns to her life in London. Months later Isobel and Jay come face to face during a real estate investment opportunity. This time there’s no denying the attraction and Isobel longs to be with him. Will she give in to the mutual attraction?

Barry does a great job taking the time to set up his characters. If readers have a difficult time associating with Isobel, I believe it has to do with her sexless marriage. I’m sure a lot of women will probably think an easy solution is divorce, but for some it’s not clear cut. Isobel is a woman who clearly loves her workaholic husband and she’s happy with him and the life they’ve made together. She doesn’t open up to her best friend, Maria, about her marriage. I think if she had confided in her, Isobel wouldn’t be in the situation she faces.

At times, it’s difficult to feel any empathy towards Jay especially when you’re confronted with his shady business dealings; all you want to do is run towards his potential investors and stop them from having anything to do with him. Then we have Lucy, a beautiful flight attendant who is looking to move up in the world. She’s convinced Jay’s her ticket to the lifestyle she covets, but is Jay willing to leave his family for her? Barry doesn’t go into extensive detail regarding Jay’s marriage with Rusty. As readers, we can’t decide if we like Rusty since she’s just mentioned in the background. The one scene where we do have the opportunity to show us what the Brooke marriage is like, we don’t get any in-depth characterization of Rusty. Is Jay telling Lucy the truth about his marriage being one of convenience? Or is just a common lie married men who cheat say? I’m hoping book 2, Saving Jay, will go into further detail about his marriage. Going back to Lucy, she’s easy to sympathize with. She gets, in my opinion, some terrible advice from a friend and sometimes men like Jay don’t like to be pushed. I wish she realized she was worth more and she shouldn’t settle being someone’s mistress.

There might be some confusion among readers as to why Barry sets up the different narratives and we go from one character’s life to another, but he does it for a reason. We need to know Isobel’s background and what she’s dealing with on a day to day basis. Although we get an insight to Jay’s life and his business deals, When the Siren Calls really is Isobel’s story. We need to understand Jay’s motives when it comes to his business and the best way to do that is for Barry to take us on a journey of his life while showing us what Isobel is going through. By doing this, we get a bigger picture at the implication of Isobel’s choices and what they mean in the end.

Tom Barry’s debut novel is an intriguing read. He leaves us with a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read Saving Jay and find out what made Jay the man he is today.

Book Review: G. Brailey’s Deathloop

15719024Title: Deathloop
Author: G. Brailey
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Series: No
Rating: 5 out 5
My Copy: Purchased

G. Brailey’s debut novel can be described in one word: brilliant. Deathloop captivates and through a series of twists and turns, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. Zack Fortune is successful, charismatic, and gorgeous. He’s also a bastard of the first order and makes no apologies for it. In fact, he’s the first to agree that he’s one. Sam, his best friend, once said he was a romantic bastard. You know the type, will wine and dine you and in many ways romance you the old fashioned way, then out of nowhere dump you. One night Zack reluctantly agrees to participate in a past life regression and is given clear instructions “no matter what you see do not come out.” His regression is terrifying and nothing goes as planned. Afterwards people begin to die and he has to shake off a persistent series of legal woes. What ensues is beautiful journey of self discovery and about life and death.

There are a lot of complex relationships in Deathloop. Zack’s friendship with Sam is thoroughly explored and the way Sam depends on Zack is heartbreaking. Although Brailey depicts the friendship as one sided, it’s Zack that gives meaning to Sam’s life; it’s clear that Zack needs Sam just as much. Sam is married to Clarissa and even she realizes early on that there’s no coming between Sam and Zack. Some people even suspect there’s more to Sam and Zack’s friendship, which would no doubt make Zack laugh in their faces if he knew what was said. Others believe there’s something between Zack and Clarissa. Then we have Susan, Zack’s ex-girlfriend who doesn’t understand their relationship is over. At times you feel for Susan because she’s the victim of Zack’s callous use and yet you wish someone would sit down with her and give her a good shaking. Brailey also introduces Zack’s new girlfriend, Veronica, and it’s interesting to see how different he is with her versus Susan. Finally we have to make sense of Jason and how he’s connected to Zack. Every person in Deathloop is broken in some way, but isn’t that true of our regular lives? Each and every one of us has a past that makes us who we are and affects our relationships in varying degrees. How often do we ignore the warnings others give us? When we do, do we it do it because it was suppose to be that way?

While we have a lot of characters and subplots, at times I felt didn’t need to know what each secondary character was thinking. In hindsight, I realize they are strategically placed. All characters play a central role and at the end, it all becomes clear. One of the criticisms of Deathloop is “a lot of things happen,” and indeed they do, however; everything Brailey sets up is for a reason. Our journey is to help Zack figure out how he got to this moment in time. It’s difficult to feel any empathy for Zack, and yet you can’t help feel sorry for him now and then. Here is a man use to being in command and when his life begins to spiral out of control, he struggles. Zack attempts on numerous occasions to decipher what is real and what’s imagined. Everyone he speaks to cannot offer any explanation as to why complete strangers are dying exclusively in front of him and most just assume his past drug use has caught up to him. When he does have the opportunity to meet with people who can provide the answers, they don’t. Here is where the plot picks up steam. Do these people fail to give him a way out because they don’t know how to help or are afraid to get involved and mess with what’s preordained?

If I could touch upon one small item to note: there are a lot of Britishisms and if you aren’t familiar with British culture or slang you might feel overwhelmed. Please don’t let this stop you from reading the book or giving up. Go and research the phrase that stumps you. Even if you think you are well versed, you might be caught by surprise.

I’m not going to touch upon the ending for fear of spoiling it, but it left me emotionally drained. It made me question my own beliefs regarding life, death, and even the idea of reincarnation. I also wondered about one’s predestined role (if you believe in that). If Clarissa had not dabbled in past life regression, what would Zack’s destiny be? Was Zack meant to see a past life in order to fulfill his purpose in the present? It’s clear that everyone has a role to play in Deathloop, even the Angel of Death cannot escape what’s predestined. It’s said the only thing we can be guaranteed in life is death and taxes. No matter how rich, famous, or beautiful a person is, we all the share the same ending: death.

Book Review: Chelsea Cain’s Kill You Twice

12996425Title: Kill You Twice
Author: Chelsea Cain
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Series: Yes / Book 5 of 5 (as of review posting)
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

Chelsea Cain once again delivers! Kill You Twice is the fifth installment in the Sheridan/Lowell serial killer series and honestly I do believe this is the best of the series. If you haven’t read the books start with Heartsick as this really isn’t a stand alone. For that you’d have to read The Night Season (book 4).

Archie Sheridan, detective for the Portland, Oregon police department, is back and this time he has another murder to solve. When a body is found gagged, skinned and tied to a tree he knows this isn’t an ordinary killer he’s looking for. So when Gretchen Lowell, the “Beauty Killer,” calls him with information regarding the latest murder, Archie has to begin to distinguish what the truth is and it leaves us all a little bit shocked. Cain isn’t for the faint of heart and if readers thought book 3, Evil at Heart, was gruesome, Kill You Twice will have you wincing and wishing you hadn’t eaten that burrito before you began to read. Book 5 is perhaps the goriest of the series, however; it’s part of the plot as well as that of the psychopaths Archie has to deal with.

Cain isn’t one of those authors who feeds you character information right off the back. She makes you dig for it and in many ways we become the detectives. Just like Archie we readers aren’t sure what to make of Gretchen and her past. Should we believe what comes out her mouth? Most importantly does Archie believe it?

I won’t go into many details regarding the book for fear of spoilers, but you can read the book blurb here. Kill You Twice is well plotted with fully developed characters. The original gang is back including our favorite snoop / journalist Susan Ward and her hippie mother, Bliss. Cain does introduce a new character where Henry (Archie’s partner) states, “Susan’s going to hate her,” and it begs the question of who is this mysterious neighbor of Archie’s? Is she one of Gretchen’s pawns and if so where does that leave us with Archie?

One of the complaints I keep hearing about with regards to Gretchen is that this can’t be the only serial killer Archie has to deal with. Again I refer readers to Gretchen’s use of apprentices and remember she’s been attributed to many more murders than she took credit for (part of her cat chases mouse routine). It will be interesting to see how Cain develops her series outside Gretchen Lowell, however; I truly believe you can’t have Archie without Gretchen. One of the most important scenes in Kill You Twice is between Susan and Archie and he admits “he’s still not over her.” Readers of the series will know what he is referring to (book 3: Evil at Heart and his grand confession) and in many ways we begin to understand his torture. This is man who was cut open and left with horrible scars on his chest and for the rest of his life he’ll never be free of Gretchen.

Cain leaves us always wanting more, but also asking the question: How much more torture (emotionally and physically) can Archie handle?