ghosts

Destiny

Destiny
Author:
Published: October 4, 2014
Author's Twitter: @SMSpencerAuthor
Set in Australia this YA paranormal romance is the story of Lili who, while looking for her destiny, finds herself in a world filled with vampires and ghosts. Destiny: ‘The predetermined or inevitable path a person must follow.’ When nineteen year-old Lili McIntyre decides to trade her California summer for a mid-winter visit to Australia, it’s in hope of finding inspiration and direction in the country where her father was born. But when she arrives in Melbourne, the first thing she finds is the last thing she’s looking for—a brooding man who makes her heart race every time she sees him. Against her better judgement, Lili finds herself drawn into a relationship that tests her very beliefs about life, reality and fantasy. But the real test is how to follow her destiny as she faces some of the hardest decisions of her life.

Reviewed 

4 Stars

Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.

Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.

Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.

The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.

I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.

Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.

Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet. Four stars.

A Matter of Perception

A Matter of Perception
Publisher:
Published: October 31, 2011
Author's Twitter: @TahliaNewland
This collection of imaginative and entertaining stories about ghosts, sirens, light spectrum mages, realm-hopping gods, alien monsters and ordinary people will warm your heart and make you smile, shiver, and maybe even wonder about the nature of reality itself. The theme of individual perception as a result of our assumptions, beliefs and emotional experience bind these otherwise diverse stories into a unified whole.

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

Tahlia delivers another solid book, this time by way of a mix of short stories.

I loved the little intro, A drop from the well of creativity. I loved the way the stories where characterised like children, it made me smile, especially this line:

Inspiration falls like a drop of mercurial silver into the vast depths of my open mind. It hovers in space, then collects and merges with a gaggle of ideas and images until it hangs pregnant and heavy with a pressing need to deliver.

I just adore that imagery! What a welcome intro!

Now, the content… While some of the short stories weren’t really my favourite, I can’t fault Tahlia for producing a flawlessly written book, it was. The subject matter was uplifting and inspirational in each piece, dealing with self exploration of your mind and understanding perception, dealing with death and even the dangers of making assumptions.

By far, my favourite story was ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’ I felt the most connected with the characters, even though it was probably the most far-fetched in terms of plot.

In closing, if you are after a delightfully uplifting and exploratory adventure that is easy to read, well crafted and inspirational too, all while galloping through romance, YA, drama, science fiction and fantasy genres, pick this one up!!

Sunspots

Sunspots
Publisher:
Published: December 12, 2012
A love story of loss and redemption and the ghosts that haunt our lives and our houses. Aurora Goldberg Stein is lost in grief. Her beloved husband, Jake Stein, has just died in a tragic car accident and her sorrow is overwhelming. But is this really the end? Perhaps, perhaps not. She hears his voice. She sees his ghostly presence. She travels back in time to another life with Jake. What is going on? What is the message? Jake Stein, a dashing Texan, sweeps Aurora off her feet and changes her life. A Brooklyn born actress, she moved  to NYC and does temporary work to pay her bills. On this particular assignment, she accidentally meets Jake Stein, who is her dance with destiny. Leaving everything she knows, she marries him and moves to Austin, Texas. No longer struggling to make ends meet, Aurora wiles away her time bored and lonely, and trying to recapture the excitement she once had with this man. And then suddenly, it’s all over, her life, her future is gone. Vanished are all her hopes and dreams. But destiny comes in many forms, and when Aurora moves to a new house, she discovers that the previous owner has never left. The ghostly presence of Viola Parker looms large and becomes Aurora’s guide through time revealing to her the mistakes she’s made with Jake Stein through the centuries. This time, maybe this time, Aurora can get it right.

Reviewed

Sunspots is a moving, beautifully-written mystery about the devastating consequences of obsessive love.

5 Stars

 

Bell’s elegant prose not only describes the events and scenery of this self destructive love story in riveting detail, but also skilfully evokes the atmosphere both internal and external. The structure of the story is very clever. At the beginning of the book, our empathy is aroused for grieving widow Aurora Goldberg. It appears that she had the perfect marriage to charming Jake, but as the story progresses, we and Aurora discover Jake’s secrets, so shocking to her that she is forced to re-evaluate their love. Through eyes opened by the truth—and helped along by the visions provided by a ghost—she sees that all was not as rosy as she had believed. Not only that, but the legacy he left her could be life-threatening.

Popular fiction tends to romanticise love where one looses themselves in the other, or feels completed by the other, or feels they cannot live or be happy without the other; Sunspots takes this kind of notion to its extreme to show how disempowering an obsession with the object of our love actually is. Obsession not only blinds you, it makes you weak, needy and boring. Your partner is likely to turn elsewhere to get away from your clinging, especially if you end up harping on at him that he never gives you any attention anymore. It’s dangerous to let your whole life revolve around one person, for when they leave you—by death as it is in this case—you are devastated. As the book progresses we come to see how much Aurora has brought her crippling grief upon herself. She literally looses herself in this obsession.

Bell brings a metaphysical element to the story with the addition of Viola Parker, the ghost of the sister of Aurora’s last incarnation. With her help, Aurora sees that this pattern of obsessive love and betrayal by Jake—in his previous incantations—has been repeated in past lifetimes that ended with Aurora’s suicide. Viola urges her to take a different path in this life and cut the cycle of self-destruction.

Bell deals with interesting themes here, that we tend to repeat patterns until we make a conscious effort to change them,  that the past can be changed by actions in the present, and that when someone ‘saves’ us with love, in a healthy, balanced relationship we also to some extent ‘save’ them.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes psychological depth in their romance. I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies list.

 

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead
Category:
Published: May 26, 2012
Author's Twitter: @marshacornelius
Fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When his doctor tells him he is dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert chooses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot. His frozen body will be stored in liquid nitrogen for the next seventy-five years, and then he’ll wake up in the future. Maybe. If technology figures out a way to bring him back. He’s willing to take that gamble. What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state all that time. His soul is very much awake, and free to move about, just like the others who were frozen before him. He discovers that he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots, but he can’t turn the page of a magazine. He can sit in the oval office with the president, but he can’t prevent a child from dashing in front of a car. He can’t work, or eat, or sleep. These obstacles make it difficult to fall in love, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living. Over the next several decades, Robert Malone will have plenty of time to learn The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 Stars

 

This is a very inventive and truly speculative science fiction drama, which kept me interested from page one to the final word. The plot works very well, provided of course one is prepared to temporarily take on-board the very speculative premise. The idea that one may be able to exist, be a ghost, between the realm of the living and the kingdom of God or oblivion, works well enough for me. Cornelius has some unusual “explanations” for some behaviours that actually fit well to many theories about the subconscious and psychotic illness. You will be missing the enjoyment of a great story if you can’t embrace the idea that out of body experiences may be portends of the future, rather than just the dying illusions of oxygen starved minds. The revival of tissues from cryogenic suspension has already been shown to work. It may not be long before it is possible to thaw out and give back life to once dead human.
The question of how a mind, a soul, detached from the physical world, might influence and be influenced the living, is the central premise. We all face situations we wish we could intervene to change, when all we can do is watch. We find ourselves as helpless bystanders, constrained from what we wish to do. Imagine an extreme of this, actually watching from beyond the grave your partner sleeping with your best friend, and then being murdered. In this case we are watching through Robert, after his physical body has been preserved.
Cornelius’s craft is sound enough that one is easily drawn into the flow, almost forgetting that one is reading. There almost always are a few sentences that need reading twice, but I found very few. My only qualm with the book was a bit of irritation with the mention of a million locations that one or other of the dead visited without really advancing the plot. So perhaps the book was five percent longer than necessary. I am sure that plenty of people, especially ones familiar with some of the locations, would totally disagree with this view. The point was to explain how a ghost could overcome the tedium of years of existence without being a physical influence. I just didn’t need quite so much of it to get the point.
The climax was one that I really hadn’t predicted, even though it logical fitted. That is, logically enough within the constraints of this fiction. I actually felt that the author wasn’t sure until very late how things might end either, not that there is anything wrong with that. I like the feel that I am in an ongoing story rather than working through a pre-solved mathematical problem.
If I find myself dead but not gone I must be careful to avoid viewing those I love. That I suspect would be almost as hard on most of us as it was on Robert. I must do my best to leave a positive legacy, or none at all. Now then, I wonder what I should do about . . . If only I didn’t so hate the idea of being frozen . . .