Monday, August 25, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes


A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.

In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

Paperback, First, 400 pages
Published January 22nd 2014 by Campanile Books (first published March 20th 2012)
ISBN  0985239301 (ISBN13: 9780985239305) 

About the Author
the author talks about himself on Goodreads

Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer) from Olympia Washington.

I especially enjoy historical fiction like Philippa Gregory, Anita Diamant and Hilary Mantel, as well as supernatural historical fiction from Susanne Clarke and Tim Powers, along with the hilarious (and disturbing) works of Danny Marks. But I've also been known to read -- and teach -- literary fiction such as Annie Dillard, Jorge Borges and Michael Chabon.

My new novel is the best-selling SINFUL FOLK, a novel set in the 14th century. The book cover for SINFUL FOLK and a series of lovely internal illustrations have been created by the marvelous New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure.

SINFUL FOLK was a semi-finalist in the "2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel" contest, and I'm excited to have it appear in January 2014 from Campanile Books.

An early version of the two first chapters of my new novel SINFUL FOLK are now available here on GoodReads, as a free download.

I've also written Coeur d'Alene Waters -- a Pacific Northwest novel set in northern Idaho. More about this novel at Coeur d'Alene

Check out the author's page
Follow the author on Twitter
Like the book on Facebook
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My Thoughts
Pray for us, we sinful folk unstable…
My child is dead within these two weeks,
Soon after that, we went out of this town…
Up I rose, with many a tear trickling on my cheeks

-- Geoffrey Chaucer,
The Canterbury Tales
In a small village during the Middle Ages, a fire has killed five boys: Breton, Stephen, Matthew, Jonathon and Christian. Christian's mother Mear has been living as a mute man for the past decade, and the village has no idea all of the secrets she hides. The only proof she has of her past is a ring she finds her son was wearing around his neck when he died-- the ring of his father.

Mear has been working for the blacksmith Salvius, who has been her friend since she and her son were found injured and desperate when Christian was but a baby. Salvius is blond, tall and handsome, and he has always taken on the role of a leader. He has also been the caretaker of the orphan boy Cole, who is known for his habits of thieving and lying.

The fire occurred in the home of Benedict the weaver, whose son Stephen was also killed. Some, like Breton's father Tom, wish to point to Benedict and his Jewish wife Sophia as the ones who set the fire.

Mear's good friend Liam bravely attempted to save their boys, including his own son Jonathon. Liam is a large, red-headed "layabout" woodsman, and he is the one person who can always make Mear laugh.

Counter to that is the carpenter Geoff-- the dark, brooding father of Matthew. Mear has always found Geoff somewhat distasteful. There are rumors that Geoff was molested by his father when he was a boy, and that maybe he has his father's predilections.

After the fire, these despondent parents embark on a journey to the king, along with Hob the alderman, seeking justice for their children.

During the trip, dangers abound and secrets are uncovered. We learn that Mear used to have another friend, a woman by the name of Nell. Nell took Mear in after she was brought to the village, and offered her sanctuary. But it seems some in the village may have viewed Nell as something of a witch, and she was killed some years before (and mystery surrounds her death). After all, in villages where everyone knows everyone's business, and speculates on what they don't know, people can be bitter and backbiting.

The talk flickered back and forth from mouth to mouth. They were jackdaws fighting over a bit of flesh, ripping this grisly matter back and forth until nothing of sense was left.
I loved this story. The characters drew me in, and the author has such a talent for putting emotion into visual pictures, to give them real substance.
I am pierced to the root then, all of my veins bathed in a liquor of terror.
Hob’s absence is like a tooth missing-- everyone feels the wound, but no one knows how to fill the gap.
The past puts the bit in Tom’s mouth and rides him like a demon. His face is thick with rage.
The author pulled me into a tragic and engaging story, with all the sights, smells and emotions of the characters' world. It had a Gothic feel to it, and in my mind as I saw them on their journey, I envisioned a dark and desolate snow-covered woods, like something out of the north of Game of Thrones. I heard the creak of the wagon wheels and felt the cold. I heard the silence of no birds or insects making themselves known.

The characters bicker and argue on their dangerous trek, but they also fight for and care for one another. 

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Sunday, July 27th: You’ve GOTTA Read This!
Monday, August 4th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book
Tuesday, August 5th: Words for Worms
Wednesday, August 6th: What She Read
Thursday, August 7th: M. Denise C.
Monday, August 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, August 13th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, August 14th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, August 18th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, August 19th: nightly reading
Wednesday, August 20th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, August 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, August 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, August 27th: BoundbyWords
Thursday, August 28th: Passages to the Past
Friday, August 29th: West Metro Mommy
TBD: Kimberly’s Bookshelf

My final word: This was my kind of book. It is a clever, interesting and touching story inspired by history, and the paranoia and persecution that surrounded those of the Jewish faith (stories were rampant that the Jewish would drink the blood of Christian children, and there are accounts of local Jews being blamed for things like fires). This story is all about facing your past. Restrained and yet absorbing, this story may be dark and barren, but it isn't bereft of hope. Don't fear. Take Mear's hand, and she'll lead you down the path of your past, through the flames, and will bring you safely to the other side-- from the darkness of your past and into the brilliance of your future.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:



I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SPOTLIGHT: A Beginning, No Middle, and an End by G. Eric Francis

What was once a planet of 196 governments has been reduced to 1, governed by an expanded United Nations.  While some rights have been taken away, most people on the planet have never had more freedoms.

One of the most successful men in this new world is JaFrancis Brownell.   A video game and book publisher, he is rich, intelligent, and gay.  At the verge of publishing his 200th title, a friend brings to his attention something from the past that he didn't know existed, forcing him to come face to face with someone he hasn't seen in years...his father, Franklin.  A writer who never made it, he is a bitter and bigoted man nearing the end of his life's journey.  

Angry at his son for not only ignoring his own natural gift for writing, but for his alternative lifestyle as well, the two strong-willed men butt heads.  But an unexpected threat due to JaFrancis' fame brings danger from those who want what he has.  Now both father and son not only face years of hurt feelings, but a clock that will definitely strike midnight for one of them...but not in a way either one expected.

Paperback, 122 pages
Published August 7th 2014 by Createspace
ISBN 1500586242 (ISBN13: 9781500586249)

A Beginning, No Middle, and an End by G. Eric Francis is available now through Amazon

Monday, August 18, 2014

REVIEW: Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith


What if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Atria Books
ISBN 1476730539 (ISBN13: 9781476730530)

About the Author

Working professional screenwriter represented by Resolution and Circle of Confusion. I have sold or optioned six spec screenplays and I have been hired by studios for numerous rewrites. Currently I have two movies in post-production, STUCK and THE CLOSET. Both are due to be released in 2014.

My first novel, a thriller titled FORTY ACRES, is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster July 1st, 2014.

Check out the author's website

My Thoughts

Martin is a black lawyer whose career is taking off, when he is approached by Damon Darrell, another black lawyer who is well known and well respected in town. Damon reaches out to Martin as a friend, and their friendship quickly grows into a bond like that found between brothers. Damon introduces Martin to his other group of friends-- all of which are successful black men. One day Martin is invited on a getaway with this group of impressive and powerful friends, and it leads him to some startling revelations and the discovery that his friends are involved in white slavery, and followers of an old black man by the name of Dr. Kasim.

At times this story seemed awkward and somewhat childish in its simplified assessments.
There was also the all-white staff to consider. How awkward must it be for them to just stand there, listening to a story of how their ancestors committed genocide against people who looked a lot like their current employers.
And I always get frustrated with storylines like this that have some mentor spewing crap that everyone views as genius. It seems preposterous to me when the sensible protagonist Martin almost immediately seems to seriously consider the madness as a truth (even if he eventually decides it isn't). Why even pollute and convolute a perfectly fascinating storyline with such ridiculousness? Why not just have simple revenge as the motivating factor? Rather than ridiculous theory and propaganda that fuel this group of mad lunatics, make them simply a group of angry and cruel black men? That would have been more believable, but perhaps the author didn't want to risk playing into the "angry black man" stereotype? I just always have a hard time falling for the group that seem to be under mass hypnosis, perhaps because I am such a strong-minded individual.

My final word: I had such high hopes for this story, but in the end I wound up having a really hard time with the main character Martin, and all of his justifications for his own actions. I thought it was a fascinating idea, but it wound up preposterous. It would have been much better if it had been built on simple revenge, but instead it was convoluted with Dr. Kasim and his propaganda. I don't know. I had high hopes, but in the end I would up pretty disappointed and not liking it all that much.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Mailbox Monday (8/17/14 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences

Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.

Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.

When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.

Friday, August 15, 2014

ON MY RADAR (8-15-14 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

The Forgotten Girl by David Bell

The past has arrived uninvited at Jason Danvers’s door…

…and it’s his younger sister, Hayden, a former addict who severed all contact with her family as her life spiraled out of control. Now she’s clean and sober but in need of a desperate favor—she asks Jason and his wife to take care of her teenage daughter for forty-eight hours while she handles some business in town.

But Hayden never returns.

And her disappearance brings up more unresolved problems from Jason’s past, including the abrupt departure of his best friend on their high school graduation night twenty-seven years earlier. When a body is discovered in the woods, the mysteries of his sister’s life—and possible death—deepen. And one by one these events will shatter every expectation Jason has ever had about families, about the awful truths that bind them and the secrets that should be taken to the grave.

The 6th Extinction by James Rollins

A remote military research station sends out a frantic distress call, ending with a chilling final command: Kill us all! Personnel from the neighboring base rush in to discover everyone already dead-and not just the scientists, but every living thing for fifty square miles is annihilated: every animal, plant, and insect, even bacteria.

The land is entirely sterile-and the blight is spreading.

To halt the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must unravel a threat that rises out of the distant past, to a time when Antarctica was green and all life on Earth balanced upon the blade of a knife. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will discover the truth about an ancient continent, about a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge to date: stopping the coming extinction of mankind.

But is it already too late?

Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

In Don't Look Back, Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she’s long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Disturbed by the sight, Eve moves quickly and quietly back to her group, taking care to avoid being seen. As she creeps along, she finds a broken digital camera, marked with the name Teresa Hamilton. Later that night, in a rarely used tourist cabin, she finds a discarded prescription bottle—also with the name Teresa Hamilton. From the camera’s memory card, Eve discovers Teresa Hamilton took a photo of that same menacing looking man in the woods. Teresa Hamilton has since disappeared.

Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered.  A major storm wipes out the roads and all communication with the outside world. Now the tour group is trapped in the jungle with a dangerous predator with a secret to protect. With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she's to make it back home alive.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.