True Crime – Didn’t Pay

As a reader of many true crime novels in my youth, “Escaping the Arroyo” by Joyce Nance was quick to catch my eye in an e-mail offering free Kindle books. True crime is my father’s preferred genre for reading, and when I had finished the final page in my own personal or borrowed library, I could always be certain to find one of these books in his that I had not yet read.

Although it’s been a good many years since I’ve picked up a true crime novel, I found this one to be an outstanding representative of the genre, and one that went above and beyond in many ways.

“Escaping the Arroyo” is the story of New Mexico’s Michael Guzman, who abducted two University of New Mexico students, Julie Jackson and Colene Bush. Guzman raped and stabbed Jackson to death, and attempted to kill Bush in a vicious attack which she miraculously survived.

I feel like the narrative of this true crime novel displays a sincere empathy for both the criminal and the victim. Early in the book, heart-wrenching vignettes detail the type of abuse Guzman endured throughout his childhood and offers profound insight into what might have spurred him to commit such heinous acts. Details of the victims as youths provide insight into the fighting spirit that allowed Bush to survive her attack, only to learn later in life that surviving never meant she would get her life back.

As there was a surviving victim in the Guzman case, Nance is able to offer the reader a special insight that many true crime novelists are not into the permanent trauma that leaves a life-long impact on the survivor. She describes in detail several attempts by Bush to pursue goals she had set for her life before the attack, only to be turned away time and again. I found myself wishing that there were some explanation from those involved as to why Bush was first welcomed and later denied the opportunity for these pursuits, but I’m certain that it would have been impossible for an interviewer to find someone who would speak candidly about their reasons.

Regularly priced at $4.99, this is a book I would categorize as a #kindlesteal on Twitter. But even at full-price, I’d suggest this book as a must-read for any fan of the true crime genre. Nance’s second true-crime novel, “Reel to Real: The Video Store Murders” was released in July. Other offerings on Amazon include the children’s book “Crime Doesn’t Pay – Even for Cats” and an anthology of poetry with Kathy Teller, “Sharp as Stars.” Joyce Nance’s Web site can be found here.

 

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Not Miraculous, but an OK Read

After the heart-heavy drama of “The Cloud Seeders,” I was ready for a little levity in my next book. So I selected one of my Kindle freebies that seemed to be a light-hearted romance, “Stardust Miracle,” by Edie Ramer.

I found this book to be an amusing diversion from my usual reading, but I found the fast pace left me wanting for a little more substance.

I had a hard time connecting with the main character, Becky, who seemingly goes from minister’s wife to promiscuous dating dynamo in the turn of a page. I found myself connecting more with the tragic sub-plot in the middle of the story rather than with Becky, when I was really looking for a fun and humorous read. And in the end, although it appears Becky will get the miracle she has hoped for, I felt as though I had been left a little high-and-dry in the romance department.

Ramer is a talented writer and has the ability to create life-like characters that draw the reader in. However, I felt that not all of her characters were so skillfully drawn, and, unfortunately, sometimes even the main character ended up feeling two-dimensional in a world of other delightful people that you’d love to get to know better.

Once again, this is a book that I feel that had I spent money on, I would have been sorely disappointed, but enjoyed as a free read. And, with multiple other free offerings, I’m likely to give Ramer’s books a second chance.

“Stardust Miracle” appears to be a somewhat permanent free offering, as an introduction to Ramer’s “A Miracle Interrupted” series (although it is the second book in the series). Some of Ramer’s other books, including “Hearts in Motion” (Book 1 of the “Rescued Hearts” series), “Dead People in Love” (a short story and Book 2 of the “Haunted Hearts” series) and “The Fat Cat” (a short story in the “Cattitude” series), are also available free to purchase for the Kindle. Her work is featured in multiple anthologies, including the free titles “Heart 2 Heart” (“Stardust Miracle” and “Hearts in Motion”) and “Light and Dark” (“Hearts in Motion” and Dale Mayer’s “Tuesday’s Child”).

Ramer’s book took me to a place I enjoyed visiting and wouldn’t mind going back to, even if it wasn’t someplace that I’m longing to return to soon. And, in a way, it’s nice to have a little light reading without a sense of commitment that you’re just dying to read the next in the series.

Slightly confused by my dystopian adventure

I generally don’t finish reading books that I don’t really like, and therefore, I don’t offer very many reviews on books that didn’t really take my breath away.

However, there was something about “The Cloud Seeders” by James Zerndt that kept me drawn into the story, even though I wasn’t “in love” with the book.

This science fiction/fantasy novel is the tale of two brothers who live in a dystopian America plagued by drought. “Water cops” run rampant, enforcing strict regulations on the conservation of water and energy. The story follows the two brothers’ journey to discover what has happened to their parents, accompanied by the older brother’s girlfriend.

From the beginning, I found myself feeling like the story, while compelling, was also a bit flawed in its logic. Near the beginning of the story, the reader is told that Jerusha (the girlfriend) and Thomas both know what has happened to the boys’ parents, which left me wondering for the entire remainder of the book what possible reason she had for accompanying them through these trials when Thomas said he was taking Dustin to find their parents.

There is a lot of profanity (this is noted in the description on Amazon), and there was one moment in the story that made me feel very uncomfortable and squeamish. I think that both of these situations were an attempt to portray the way Dustin had missed out on his childhood, and as such, were likely powerful literary devices to make that point, as they definitely evoked strong reactions.

Additionally, the book would benefit from some minor editing and proofreading. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall story.

Personally, if I had purchased this book for my own reading pleasure, I would likely have been disappointed and would possibly have returned it for my money back. However, as a free Kindle book, I felt like it was a powerful story and was definitely satisfied.

Although I didn’t feel like this story was “for me,” I find myself oddly interested in reading his other novel currently available through Amazon, “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

I don’t recommend this book at the $2.99 price tag, but if you enjoy dystopian science fiction/fantasy, I’d definitely suggest keeping an eye out to see if this book pops up as a free offering once again. This book, and Zerndt’s other works, is also available to read for free for Kindle Unlimited members.

Loved it to Death!

Reading time is still coming at a valuable premium in my household, but I’m thankful for being able to find some really enjoyable free reading, when I do manage to find some coveted time with my Kindle.

Sunday I managed to finish my latest read, “Graveyard Shift,” by Angela Roquet, described on the cover as a “A Lovingly Sacrilegious Journey Beyond the Grave.” As promised, it simply didn’t seem appropriate to review this novel on a Sunday afternoon.

Although it may have been a bit rough around the edges, I found this first novel in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” novels to be an enjoyable introduction to a new fantasy realm I had never imagined before. Harvey is a reaper, one of a series created from soul material to assist “Grim” himself (who actually doesn’t do the dirty work himself, anymore). A familiar cast of characters appear in a new light throughout the novel, from the archangel Gabriel to the god Horus to Holly Spirit (no, that’s not a typo, rather a correction).

After three centuries as a reaper who has gotten by flying just under the radar, Harvey learns that perhaps she was created for a purpose just a little bit more unique than her counterparts. This first story in the series sets the scene for the series as she reluctantly accepts her new role and finds herself in a bit more trouble than she could have ever imagined.

At first, I found reading just a bit slow. But I still felt like I’d hit upon something of value in my free reading. I’m much more likely to continue a series that I feel would be of interest to both myself and my husband (two readers for the price of one!) than to simply buy a book for myself.

But as I got into the real meat of the book, those thoughts were forgotten. Roquet has artfully created a new paranormal fantasy realm re-purposing familiar characters in new and delightful roles. She skillfully wove a tale full of intelligent conflicts and following through with sometimes surprising resolutions. Roquet left just enough stones unturned to leave the reader eager for another romp through Limbo City without feeling actively manipulated to buy the next book in the series.

With that said, the ending of this first novel also felt a slight bit stilted.

I do look forward to reading more in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” series; and hope that Roquet has found that storytelling voice which provided such an enjoyable read in the heart of this novel and carries it through from beginning to end in future installments in the series.

This book won’t appeal to a very religious reader, but those who enjoy science fiction and paranormal romance are likely to enjoy the series. Covers of the second and third books compare the series to the “Sookie Stackhouse” novels or the “Undead” series, but I would draw a larger comparison to Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” novels.

Now off to get the husband hooked, so I can better justify buying the next books!