I was given a PDF edition of The Uncommitted by Margaret Goss for review. The cover art is eye-catching; so are a few inconsistencies. Perhaps I notice them more than others because of my years in publishing. I do have to admit they did little to distract from the story itself…only the overall presentation of the book.
The book opens with Josephine Reilly taking a plane ride to care for her mother who is dying from cancer. I went through this very experience in 2015 and want to mention how well the author portrays the difficulties and emotional turmoil. It was very well done.
Josie Reilly has paranormal experiences since childhood, though they change throughout her life cycle and are inherited through her mother’s bloodline. After mother’s death, her abilities are heightened. Despite the disapproval of her stuffy husband, she decides to explore her abilities to channel the deceased.
She gets much more than she bargained for. What follows is an emotional rollercoaster of spiritual bombardment, unpleasant entities threatening her children and questioning of herself as a mother and a wife. Josie seeks help and finds none in what she believed would be traditional routes. She, as well as others around her, fear she’s lost her sanity and moral fortitude. Her marriage is also threatened.
Josie faces her fears, renews her faith, resists mortal temptations with supernatural origins and discovers the truth of her past lives and that of a mysterious man with healing powers. She finds strength in the living and the dead.
I did not realize this book is Christian Fiction until I finished reading it. I am a Christian but not Catholic so a few references to Catholic elements of faith were lost on me without having to stop and look them up. Enough was familiar to me to make the story plot and timeline intriguing and interesting. I won’t spoil it for you but the ending certainly took a different turn than I expected. I honestly don’ t know if this story would appeal to someone who is not religious or spiritual. I certainly enjoyed it. I’m interested to see where Ms. Goss takes Josie in future books. I’d love to see what the future holds for a woman with these paranormal gifts.
Reach and Other Short Stories
By Brandon Drake
Reach and Other Short Stories is a single author collection, not an anthology as suggested in the Preface.
It contains an opening scene of four college-aged men and women in a closed library. You may think, as I did, how this is reminiscent of other stories or movies which start out the same way. One of them reads something aloud they shouldn’t, releasing some horror into the world. I love that these characters made the same reference and took things a different direction. What follows are four short stories they find in a recently published book in the library with their light banter in between each tale.
Now, let me address the four stories without spoiling them. The first is titled, Rain. Mary encounters a kitten during a walk in an odd rain storm. While trying to rescue the cat, she discovers the true nature of the rain, to her dismay.
The second story is titled, Reject. Hal’s boring job is to open envelopes and check the contents. Any with missing elements or information are rejected. One particular envelope brings out Hal’s compassion with dire consequences.
The third story is Reach. Rob is overly sleepy; something continually wakes him. Unable to find the source, he unravels. This story reminded me of the original Twilight Zone television series.
The final story is Resuscitate. After a car wreck, Jacob wakes in the hospital. He learns how texting and driving can lead to death…and beyond.
The entire collection is short and a light read. I’d recommend it as something for a long trip or beach. I would suggest to the author to work on tightening up the writing. He has a particular love for words such as ‘that’, ‘had’, and ‘was’…to the point of distraction to the reader. Every author has their favorite overused words so learning what yours are and consciously avoiding them is part of being a writer. Mister Drake did ask for honest feedback in his Preface so hopefully he’ll find this part of the review worthwhile.
When I was first given The Blood on My Hands to review, the story sounded interesting. It is the autobiography of a child with a serial killer for her father. I suppose the premise is to survive that kind of horrific childhood. To that end, the author did so with great strength but certainly not unscathed. I began reading with high hopes.
Unfortunately this is a difficult story to get into so I was quickly disappointed. I’ll be up-front and admit my dislike for first person narratives and passive sentence structures. I hoped this book would be an exception because it is an autobiography. Instead, it reinforced my reasons for disliking those writing styles. I strongly believe this story, which is indeed powerful, could’ve knocked me out of my chair had I been allowed to see and feel the child’s experiences along with her instead of simply being told about them. Where are all five senses within its description? I saw many missed opportunities for the author to grab me by the throat and drag me in.
Among elements which brought me out of the story were an unnecessary prologue; time jumping both forward and backwards; unnecessary minutiae about parents’ and grandparents’ pasts; and concepts beyond the scope or vocabulary of a young child. While it is certainly possible for a child to contemplate suicide, the idea of a four year old considering taking her own life brought out my skepticism in the middle of the prologue.
I do applaud Ms. O’Leary (a pseudonym) for coming forward with her story. I know it took some raw courage to do so. As a book, this one didn’t do much for me. It might make an interesting movie though, where the visual aspects could fill in the details. Hey, read it for yourself and decide what you think.
The Blood on My Hands
By Shannon O’Leary