Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street

TheWitchofLimeSt

RATING: 3.5 STARS

In the 1920’s, the public wanted mystics, spiritualists and mediums. Harry Houdini, the world’s best magician fed his fans with his unbelievable feats. and his repertoire of his tricks including his “mentalist” ability, causing people to believe he could converse with the dead. Actually, he didn’t do either one. Like all magicians, he performed his magic and tricked audiences by using misdirection and trickery.

Several of Houdini’s fans included famous people – including Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle, the master of British crime fiction, was desperate to believe he could communicate with his dead son. Houdini  and Conan Doyle had their own opinions on the subject and each had their own following of fans.

Houdini was very close to his mother. After his mother passed away, he hoped to communicate with her one last time, even though he knew his performances were strictly a show. He was determined to stop people from using their logical emotions and place them under his “spell”, so he could continue to enjoy his success.

The 1920’s were an age when spiritualism became not only a pseudo-religion but was also considered a science. Prominent institutions such as Harvard University set up a Parapsychology Department. Scientific American,  a well-respected scientific publication even offered a reward for anyone proving they were truly a medium.

The Witch of Lime Street,  Margery, claimed she could communicate with the dead, and bring back the spirit of her deceased brother, Howard. Through endless séances , Howard continued to “materialize” and perform the “tricks” the researchers had contrived to prove he was real. One the tricks involved Mary exuding  ectoplasm – a supernatural viscous substance which appears to exude from Mary’s body during a spiritualistic trance, demonstrating the manifestation of spirits.coming out of her vagina.

Mr. Jaher’s book is well researched and gives the reader an in-depth look into the spiritualism craze that swept the world during the early 20th century. In the end, he discusses Margery’s final séances but doesn’t offer any final conclusions, allowing the reader to make his own decision.

The book was interesting,  yet lengthy and repetitive at times. Margery’s “performances” and the research around them went on for years, often several times a week. Mr. Jaher recounted as many of them as he could. I enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book, but the middle part could have been trimmed significantly if Mr. Jaher only included those séances where something new happened.  I recommend this book for Houdini fans and those interested in 1920’s mysticism.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Kiss Me When I’m Dead

KissMeDead

 

RATING: 5 STARS

If you’re a fan of pulp noir fiction, you’ll love this thriller. Set in modern London, Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a detective novel narrated by the main protagonist, Daniel Beckett. He’s a womanizing, witty private detective with an air of mystery and street savvy that hints to a darker, immoral past. The narration is written in a stream of consciousness style, similar to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective fiction. In between searching for clues, he hooks up with many dangerous women. The continuous action captivated me to read “just one more chapter”…. yet I read it beyond the next chapter, until the end. There are some (non-gratuitous) sex scenes throughout the book, but it was presented in a tasteful manner

This tightly written, suspenseful novel with sharp dialogue and an unexpected ending is highly recommended for lovers of pulp fiction detective stories.

 

Book Review: Fighting For Devlin

FightingForDevlin

RATING: 4 STARS

Fighting for Devlin is Jessica Lemon’s first appearance into the world of New Adult fiction. Thankfully, it’s far from the standard college campus NA love story, it’s much more of a real life scenario. Rena, a waitress who is a good girl with a wild side, falls for her boss, Devlin, a wealthy restaurant owner, who inherited the restaurant from his family, along with inheriting his father’s involvement with illegal activities.

Although there is plenty of physical chemistry, I wanted to see a deeper emotional relationship and more fleshed out character development. Yet, it’s a fun quick read I couldn’t put down. I’d recommend it for those who like the “good girl goes for bad boy” trope. I’m looking forward to her next book. Hopefully, Lemmon will add a bit more depth to her characters, which is why I deducted one star. Overall, Fighting For Devlin is a fun, romantic novel which will entice you to read more. Best of all, Lemmon gives the reader a complete ending but leaves it opened up enough for her next book.

Review: French Illusions – 4 stars

FrenchIlusions

RATING: 4 STARS

Linda Kovic-Skow’s dream is to become an international stewardess. Yet, one of the requirements of this job is that she must be bi-lingual – fluent English and at least one another language – preferably Spanish, French or German. Linda is determined to learn French and concocts a plan to make it happen. She applies for a job as an Au-Pair in France and learn French along the way. She lies on her application by stating she speaks French. She is hired and doesn’t reveal she isn’t fluent in French until she meets her future employers in person. Her future employers are a wealthy French family who live in a castle in the Loire Valley and aren’t amused to discover she isn’t fluent in French. Since no other Au-Pairs are available, they decide to let her stay, only if she attends French language courses in nearby Tours.

The story was interesting up until the end, when it ended abruptly,leaving many questions about her love interests. In order to find out what happens next,  you need to buy her next book. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in book publishing lately. The author should resolve the end of story, but leave some parts unresolved for a future book, not end the book in the middle of the ending.  I deducted one star for this reason. Overall, French Illusions: My Story as an Au-Pair in the Loire Valley is an entertaining book.

A Story For Halloween: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe

Turn off all your lights, and read this famous horror story by candlelight to get yourself into the Halloween mood.  Happy Halloween everyone!

” True! Nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded; with what caution, with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh, so gently! And then when I had made an opening sufficient for my head I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea, and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, “Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no! it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vain. All in vain, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little— a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily—until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.

And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to thefloor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.

I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not evenhis—could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no bloodspot whatever. I had been too wary for that.

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct;—it continued and became more distinct. I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling, but it continued and gained definitiveness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; but I talked more fluently and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Whywould they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. O God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!—and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder!louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Source: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe – Berfrois

Review: Yes, My Accent Is Real

YesMyAccent

RATING: 4 STARS

Right from the outset, Kunal Nayyar aka “Raj” from the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, lets us know Yes, My Accent Is Real, isn’t exactly a memoir. It’s more of an entertaining collection of the mishaps, adventures and friendships of his life. Told with a sense of self-deprecating humor, fond memories are shared from his Indian childhood and his Oregon college years,  before his success as an actor. He writes about his extravagant seven-day Indian wedding to the former Miss India. His personal essays of his youth gives us insight to his feelings of awkwardness.  

“The truth is I wasn’t great at understanding sarcasm, which seemed to be the root of all their jokes, so I just ended up laughing constantly at things I had no idea about… . because I was not standing directly in front of them or in the circle of people surrounding them, I now realize I just looked like the guy who enjoyed laughing at walls.”

Nearly everyone can relate to his awkward teenage moments, which makes this book so down to earth. This is an sincere collection of stories, where Kunal isn’t afraid to show his own flaws. The book is a quick, enjoyable read.

I received a ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL OP’s Guide to Surviving Dangerous and Not So Dangerous Situations

100DeadlySkills

RATING: 4 STARS

Release date: October 16, 2015

100 DEADLY SKILLS by Clint Emerson, Ret. Navy SEAL contains many techniques used by The SEALS which can be applied for civilian use. The techniques are presented in a simple manner, making it easy to understand.  One page describes a brief explanation of a particular skill, followed by a page of step-by-step graphic presentation. The intent of his book is to teach survival skills, so you have the power of knowledge to effectively counter the methods of sinister people. Emerson refers to the use of these skills typical of the “Violent Nomad.”

The most useful information are the skills needed to solve most common inconvenient scenarios. Some of these skills include what to do if you’re locked out of your house or hotel, how to hide items in your hotel room or how to defeat a padlock. Most everything in the non-life threatening section is based on common-sense and a bit of MacGyver ingenuity.

MacGyver, source: www.5au.com
MacGyver, source: http://www.5au.com

I deducted two stars because because the book goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first half of the book, Emerson describes basic emergency survival skills, such as how to create an everyday kit, how to conceal escape tools, how to pick locks and how to construct a rectal concealment. I think the how-to on rectal concealment would be more appropriate in the life-threatening scenarios section. In the second half of the book, he describes life threatening scenarios, such as how to evade a kidnapper, how to steal a plane or rappel down the side of a building. I think the book should have focused on either basic or worse case survival skills, not both. It was overall a useful informational book, good for survivalists and wanna-be spies.

I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Walk Through Fire – Motorcycle Gang Romance

WalkThruFire

RATING: 4  STARS            

Publisher: Forever – Grand Central  

For ages 18 y.o +

Release Date: October 27, 2015

Walk Through Fire is the fourth book in The Chaos Series by Kristen Ashley. Motorcycle gang romance novels are not my genre of choice, but I gave this book a chance. Chaos is the Motorcycle Club where the main character, Millie, returns to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend, High. At first, High is a complete jerk when he first sees her. She walked out on High when he was in love with her twenty years ago, without explanation. Now,  Millie is ready to explain herself.

The first half of the book is intense with plenty of tension. Raw, painful feelings are exposed. Millie and High’s desire is palpable when they lash out at each other. Both of them have a lot of hot angry sex, before we understand why Millie left. What is her secret and why did she leave High years ago?

The pace of the first half of the book finds Millie and High sorting out their pain and dealing with a love that never died. The second half focuses on their rebuilding a life together. Kristen Ashley captured the biker dialogue pretty well. Throughout the entire book, I  envisioned Sam Elliot as High,  with his deep, booming voice.

Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film
Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film “Mask.” Source: wlbpa.org

I’d highly recommend this entertaining, emotional book. Walk Through Fire is easy to read as  a stand alone book, even though this is the fourth one in the Chaos Series. Now, I need to read the entire series from the beginning, since I enjoyed it so much.

ARC courtesy of publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.