Month: April 2020

Book Review: Body Language by Marylee MacDonald

“Body Language” by Marylee MacDonald is a collection of twelve short stories. I enjoyed all of them. With each story, the author skillfully created a unique, perfect world. In many cases, I wished I had been reading the first pages of a full-length novel instead of a short story. Ms. MacDonald is able to draw the reader in to each new set of characters and circumstances very quickly, and often I wanted to read more about them.

My favorite stories were:

“All I Have”, a seven-page vignette about one incident in a woman’s life. I was amazed at how such a complete portrait and so much insight could be packed into so few pages.

“Body Language”, a story about family relationships, both mother/daughter and brother/sister. It also addressed the very personal need for closure in a way that was simultaneously beautiful, sad, and insightful.

“The Blue Caboose”, which addressed a difficult father/daughter relationship, and provided a different perspective on closure.

I highly recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys quality writing. Regardless of who or where you are in life, you’re bound to find something in this volume that truly speaks to you.

Five out of five chunks of provolone!

Book Review: My Skull Possession by Lisa M. Miller

“My Skull Possession” by Lisa M. Miller is the perfect blend of cozy mystery and paranormal thrills! Geared to middle-grade readers, it is creepy, but never too scary.

Main character Brighton is a typical teenager, dealing with school, friends, and parental requirements. On top of this, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving a scary book and a series of deaths. Watching Brighton and her friend Kate investigate is delightful, as they come across as realistic teenagers in their thought processes and actions. I especially loved the way the girls worked around the fact that neither was old enough to drive. Both characters were realistic and likeable, and I especially enjoyed learning more about Kate’s backstory.

The plot itself was excellent, as it kept me guessing until very near the end. As I followed Brighton’s investigation, I had two working theories, one natural and one supernatural. Neither turned out to be correct, and the actual solution was both logical and made sense given the clues the girls uncovered along the way.

All in all, I recommend this story to mystery fans, especially those looking for a lower level of horror and danger. I look forward to seeing what sort of mystery the girls tackle next!

Book Review: Hill House Manor: 13 Ghost Stories by Linda Anthony Hill

“Hill House Manor: 13 Ghost Stories” by Linda Anthony Hill brings the reader exactly what you would expect from the title….a series of 13 stories based on the infamous Hill House in Texas. You may know of this real place from watching the Netflix series, or from the original book “The Haunting of Hill House”. This book shares the stories behind some of the spirits that are said to haunt the house in question.

As with any short story collection, I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but can honestly say I liked them all. Each story mixed the supernatural elements with the human drama in a seamless way that was easy to read. I especially liked the way the stories progressed chronologically, from pioneer days when the house was little more than a 2-room cabin to the present. The attentive reader can sometimes spot subtle cameos from earlier characters in later stories.

Although this is a book of ghost stories, it never becomes too scary. The overall sense is more one of eeriness, and a gradually increasing awareness of the supernatural by the human characters.

As always, Ms. Hill masters both her subject matter and the blending of the paranormal and normal perfectly. Five out of five yummy wedges of gouda!

Book Review: Call of the Raven by Wilbur Smith

“The Call of the Raven” by Wilbur Smith was written as a prequel to his popular Ballantyne series. I came to this book without having read any of the previously written ones, and from that perspective, I loved this story. I will be seeking out the rest of the series to learn what happens next.

Mungo St. John is an incredibly compelling character, and I was invested in learning more about who he was from the opening scene. My understanding is that he is widely considered to be complex and controversial, and after reading this book, I understand why. Mungo grew up in a privileged family in the American South, went off to school in England, and returned home to find that things had changed dramatically in his absence. How Mungo handles this turn of events provides remarkable insight into the man he has become by the start of book 1 of the series (“A Falcon Flies”).

Secondary characters like Camilla, Isabel, Tippoo, Fairchild, and Chester Marion have their own unique personalities and moral codes. Each brings something special to the storyline, and whether you love them or love to hate them, the book is made better by the inclusion of each.

Please don’t be lulled into thinking that “The Call of the Raven” is merely a character study; there is action aplenty! Mungo’s adventures on land and sea, in America, Africa, and England, offer everything the fan of action stories could possibly ask for.

While you can enjoy this book merely for the great characters and storyline, you can also dig deeper. There is plenty here to encourage the reader to consider his own definition of morality, and how that definition should (or shouldn’t) be fluid based on circumstances. Ask yourself what you would do in Mungo’s shoes at various points in the story, and try to be honest with your answers….you might learn something valuable!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the exquisite degree of historical detail Mr. Smith weaves into his narrative. He obviously has extensive knowledge about this period of history, and everything from the clothing and ships to the speech patterns and societal norms rings true. Nothing about this book reads like a history tome, but by the time you’ve finished devouring the story, you WILL have learned some things.

“The Call of the Raven” is definitely one of the most exciting and intriguing books I’ve read in awhile.

Five out of five slices of perfect provolone!