Tag Archives: Ingrid Hall

Review of Incantations by Eric Straker

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

 

Reviewed by Carlton Rolle

 

Erik Straker was born in South Carolina in 1977. Ever since he was young, a rich southern history of ghosts and haunts served as inspiration. Erik went to film school for a number of years and applies what he learned about film to his writing, using a predominantly visual style. Coming from a background of film and art, Erik has other projects in the works besides just his future novels. Graphic novels, short films, music albums, and other artistic endeavors are completely up for grabs. Writing is his full-time love, and he works to perfect his craft every day. He writes mostly in the horror and dark fantasy genres. When not writing, he enjoys comic books, movies, music, and family time.

 

The house at 129 Walsh Street in Summerhaven, New Hampshire, has a long and gruesome past. Many people have died in the house under strange situations. So much so, people living in the town believe the house and its inhabitants are haunted. Many townsfolk will keep distance from with the inhabitants.

 

The story primarily follows the life of Angela Tremblay. She has lived in the house with her family ever since she was a kid. The Tremblay family have had their fair share of unusual deaths at the house. Angela’s mother died when she was young. Her drunk and abusive father was left to look after her and her sister Lillian. Angela witnessed her father get murdered. She had a mental shock and forgot all but fragments of her memory. After the events, Angela and Lillian moved away but returned to live there as adults.

Upon getting pregnant and moving back into the house, Angela finds herself in the grips of something evil. One night after returning home from work, Angela found Lillian hanging in the basement. Of course this stresses Angela and the unborn baby. Angela starts seeing things in the house frequently and eventually she sees her recently deceased sister. She believes that her sister’s spirit needs help. This pushes Angela to look for a way to be able to communicate with the spirits. On cue, a mysterious old psychic named Viviannaapproaches Angela with information that may be able to help her. The psychic gives Angela some tools and rules for communication with spirits. Angela tries later that night with no immediate response. The following day, activity within the house multiples, and Angela realizes that she is in a deeper situation then she planned. The spirit of her father manifests and Angela is left scrambling to save herself.

 

Vivianna comes to the house to rescue Angela. After she does, she helps Angela to remember her memories of childhood. Flooding her mind, emotions and revelations come to Angela. Angela discovers that she is a descendant of the Witch of Summerhaven, Esme Delapaz. This is the strongest body of evil present in the house. This is the one who is causing inhabitants to become cursed. Angela finds that Esme has manipulated her ever since she was born.

 

Armed with more information, Angela decides to return to the house to put an end to the madness. She and Vivianna say a spell that summons Esme and makes her physical. Upon confrontation, Angela stabs Esme with a magical knife which drains her of more power. Angela then found Esme’s severed tongue and eats it. This gives more power than she ever dreamed of. With the newfound power, Angela burns Esme and the rest of the house to the ground.

Readers are left thinking all of the descendants of Esme the Witch of Summerhavenare dead. But before the end, we find that Angela transferred her unborn baby to Vivianna through magic. We find that the one actually telling the story is this last descendant and a witch herself.

 

I enjoyed reading this book. It was engrossing and well written. There were times when I wasn’t sure want to expect. It captured me. I also like the way that the story is told. Stories of previous residents of the house jump back and forth in time. There’s constantly more information that you learn about the situation. I also loved the way the family lineage was explained and eventually connected. The biggest complaint that I would have for the book would be that it wasn’t long enough!

 

Eric Straker has crafted a book that spooks and thrills. Incantations has enough effects in all of its areas without overdoing it. The book left me enchanted by the chilling power. I’m sure others will be so as well. Learn more about Eric at his website: http://www.erikstraker.com

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Review of You Must Only Love Them by Ann Marie Mershon

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If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

A retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a woodland lake with her husband Jerry and their two dogs. She grew up in a wooded suburb of Minneapolis, and in her mid-twenties she and her husband moved north to the wilderness they’d always loved. After 30 years of teaching English in Minnesota, she moved overseas to complete her teaching career in Istanbul, writing weekly e-mail missives and posting blogs about her experiences there.  

Ann Marie discovered her passion to write in the late 1990’s. She penned a weekly newspaper column for five years, wrote numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, and published two books. Ann Marie writes every day but always finds time for hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, or snowshoeing with her friends in the wilderness she calls home. 

This is book follows the life experiences of Ann Marie Mershon. As an experienced teacher in Minnesota, Ann Marie decides she is ready for a change in her life. She packs her things and moves to Turkey to teach to children. The book follows some of the intricacies of her life such as travels, teaching, and relationships (including romantic, family, and friends). 

Ann Marie brings readers along on her experiences. Ann pushes to constantly search for a way to connect with people to make new friends. She is often lost or struggling, but through “Turkish hospitality” she arrives to the place she was headed.  

An aspect I find really interesting is the language barrier. Ann Marie didn’t know how to speak Turkish, and what she did know was very limited. It takes a lot of courage to able to explore in the manner she did without knowing the language. I feel it would have made some occasions and generally the experience as a whole, even more gratifying if she had attempted to learn more Turkish earlier. 

Ann Marie gave the most description about where she was visiting and what she ate. In many ways the book serves as a rough tour through the country. It was wonderfully descriptive and at some points, I felt like I was even there. This point hit even further when she mentions external places to be able to visually see what she was talking about. I thought that was a really great way to enhance the experience for readers.  

While I thought the book was well written, it didn’t quite reach the depth as I would’ve liked. I wanted to have a greater understanding of the differences in culture between America and Turkey. Ann Marie approaches the culture from an affluent outsider perspective, mostly remarking on their “Turkish hospitality”. While it’s an important factor with the culture, I wonder how those acts of kindness would’ve been if locals didn’t know Ann Marie’s status.

Something else that I found interesting was the amount of time Ann Marie spent in the country. She covered the first 2-3 years extensively. It seemed that that is what was planned for. It wasn’t until the end that she mentions it was a total of seven years in Turkey! That gives greater insight to her experience.  

I would like to know what messages Ann Marie got out of her experience in Turkey. What stuck with her the most? How did the country change her? Was there anything she regretted or would do over? I’d also like to know what advice she has for people who are interested in either visiting or moving to Turkey.  

I would definitely tip my hat to her. Ann Marie did something that few people are able to do. She left a comfort zone and placed herself in a completely different environment. While she struggled at first, she gained a footing and thrived. This is an inspiration for those who dream of overseas!  

More about Anne Marie Mershon can be found here

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Review of Meet me at the Gates by Kelly Wyre

 
 If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.
Reviewed by Carlton Rolle 

Kelly Wyre enjoys reading and writing in all manner of fiction, ranging from horror to romance. She used to work in advertising but is now happily chained to her writing desk and laptop.

Kelly relishes the soft and cuddly and the sharp and bloody with equal amounts of enthusiasm. She’s a coffee addict, a workaholic, a chronic night owl, and loves a good thunderstorm. Currently  Kelly resides in southeastern United States.

Meet me at the gate is a story about the power of love. It follows the main character Hyacinth and her two friends Lynne and Adir. For most of her life, Hydee has had dreams about past her past lives. In each one, she meets her soul mate and figures how to live with or without him. In the present life, Hydee owns a store in her small community called the Silver Fox. Her soul mate is a successful movie star named Theodore Monk.

Hydee tried several times to get close enough to Theo to introduce herself and meet him, but wasn’t successful. As time kept going, Hydee began to lose faith in herself and the dreams. She thought that she wouldn’t be able to reconnect with Theo and it was becoming too much of a strain on her. In a huge cosmic coincidence, Theo runs away from his celebrity life in California and walks into Hydee’s store. Hydee shifts gears to help Theo with his life issues and guide them to love.

The two quickly fall into a comfortable habit. They notice how at ease they make each other and how the situation could change. Lynne and Adir keep Hydee grounded as she works things out with Theo. As with nearly everything in life, the good times come to an end. Theo’s girlfriend and assistants find him and throw the entire process off track.

By the end of the book and their lifetime, Theo comes to understand the power of love and decision.  He states, “[Hydee] Saved my life by showing me that the path to happiness is through my own choices.” I love this statement. In many ways, I feel it was the dominating theme of the story. One thing that I would’ve like to see more of though is character development. Theo was the only person who was flawed and constantly making changes. Hydee seemed to be the one who was relatively perfect. When people in the story learn from their experiences, I grow more attached to them. While the lack of learning didn’t hinder the storyline, it would have made it more compelling for other characters.

All-in-all I think this was a great book. The concept of soul mates and reoccurring love was interesting. I connected with both Hydee and Theo on different accounts. While the situation was playing out, I felt a sense of depth and willingness to sacrifice. It’s as powerful idea that few people understand and even fewer experience. Maybe my time will come but until then, Meet Me At The Gate will have to suffice as the love that I strive to achieve.

More information about Kelly Wyre at: http://www.kellywyre.com

Review of The Ivory Caribou by Caroline McCullagh

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

Reviewed by Carlton Rolle

 

Caroline McCullagh earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. Her diverse writing projects include five novels, a cookbook, a memoir, a student opera (under the auspices of San Diego Opera), fourteen years of monthly book reviews for the San Diego Horticultural Society, and one year as Book Editor for The American Mensa Bulletin. For the past three years, Caroline has written a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune with Richard Lederer. As a professional editor, she teaches creative writing two days a week.

 

The Ivory Caribou is a heart fetching story following character Anne O’Malley. After her husband Robby died, Anne decides to continue on the genealogical research they were pursuing. Anne findsmore clues to information on Robby’s father, Brendan. She follows a lead from her home in California to Canada. When there, Anne has another lead and travels to an isolated town in the North called Ungaveq. Here Anne discovers Brendan adopted a completely different way of life. So much so, he started an Inuit family. The family is still alive and thriving.

 

One major aspect of the story was a tale of love. Anne was recovering from her husband’s death. Without Robby, Anne was filled with emptiness and loneliness. She found comfort and love in people. Most of that came from her best-friend Carola. Two men particularly helped her move on. I enjoyed the internal turmoil mentioned when Anne was with Jack or Rene. Many times you find her being enveloped by the present time and her feelings being snapped back when Robby entered her thoughts.  As she continued to see both men, her emotions gained a greater influence over her actions.

 

Another aspect that I thought was interesting was the anthropological insight in the story. Readers are able to have a general sense about the life and times of Inuit people. With Anne being new to the process, I felt I was learning right along with her and the class. (Without the snow of course!) Readers see how important it is to adapt to the way of life. I felt a lot of the actions Inuit people did made sense. It seemed like it was done to keep everyone as comfortable and sustainable as possible. Especially given the close loving quarters that they had to be in at times.

 

Finding out about Brendan’s life through the research that Anne found was really cool. It gave such an amazing insight into his thoughts about Inuit culture, his efforts in the war, and himself. When Anne discovered more information about him, I felt like it was a personal win for the family.

 

I really enjoyed the way that this book was written. Caroline put a lot of effort into the topics. The Ivory Caribou speaks to love, turmoil, and adventure. I would recommend this to anyone looking to take an Artic dip in their reading and have their heart beating from adventure and love!

 

More from Caroline McCullagh at: http://www.carolinemccullagh.com

 

Review of Blood Toy by B.K. Raine

 

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

 

B.K. Raine lives in North Carolina with her husband, teenage daughter, two dogs, and a cat she insists isn’t actually hers because every  at she’s ever owned has died a sudden and gruesome death. Raine works as an advertising executive in the media and publishing industry, but had been an author since she was 16, penning her first book on wide-eyed paper with a No. 2 pencil. Her first editor told her she couldn’t write but had some great ideas, and if she was willing to leave her pride at the door, he’d teach her the rest.

 

Blood Toy is the debut novel in Raine’s dark urban fantasy series. Its follows the protagonist, Diane. She has been a vampire hunter for 3 years at the point of the book. In the novel, she is being lead by a voice in her head that tells her how to kill vampires. This happened to her ever since vampires murdered her family.

 

The typical vampire sucks their victim’s blood and disappears into the night. The vampires o this story don’t quite do that. While specifics of vampirism isn’t exactly told, readers gets parts from some characters. For instance, each vampire has a different ability. Some can shift into animals while others can create mental illusions. It also seems they can be out during the daylight. Killing them is also different with injecting salt in their veins. While I like when authors use anold topic and spin it a bit, it can be a bit confusing. For readers to understand the villains and situation, it makes the story more enjoyable.

The novel’s tone is abrasive and aggressive at times. Readers are given a way to see the behind the scenes of fighting vampires. Diane is lonely and bitter with life in many ways. She wants a “normal” life, but continues to walk her path until she meets resolve for the death of her family.

 

The plot follows several other characters as well. Of Diane’s makeshift crew, there is Roger, Mace, and Bree. Roger and Mace are brothers. Mace inherited werewolf genetics and Roger is able to communicate with animals. Bree is telekinetic and uses this power to fight and for protection. This team is fighting against a group of vampires and a demon. The major villain of the group is Desollador. He is a powerful vampire that wants to make Diane into an emotional and sexual human toy. The story focuses on the abusive relationship that Desollador has with Diane. At some points they are just the hero and villain fighting each other. While in other parts, Diane is discovering that she has some feelings for Desollador.

 

Because of the plot following other characters as well, the story jumps around a bit. If there was greater detail and transition, it wouldn’t feel quite as jumbled. There were quite a few entities involved in the story and all of them had a lot of back story that wasn’t really mentioned. Leading from that as well, certain portions could’ve used more information as well to have a greater connection with the scenario. There were times that I felt lost and had to backtrack to make sure I knew what was happening or to understand a connection that was made.

 

Overall though, I believe Blood Toy is a relatively short read that can give your reading a change of pace. Raine introduces characters and stories that readers can acknowledge from situation after situation. While exploring the darker side of life and fantasy, Raine has created a storyline with plenty of energy.

Review of Bittersweet by Laurencia Hoffman

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

 

Reviewed by Carlton Rolle

Laurencia was born and raised (with the exception of a few years in Canada) in Michigan. She’s had a notebook in her hand since she was old enough to write. Becoming a published author has always been a dream of hers.

This is a story about two lovers that were forbidden to be together. The main protagonist, Rowan is from the Redgrave family. This is a family of witches who are relatively powerful and cold-hearted. The other main character in the book is Cade Blackwell. The Blackwell family is made of mostly none practicing witches. The two characters meet innocently in the woods when Rowan stumbled upon Cade practicing magic. They quickly became friends and Rowan discovered that Cade was viciously attacked by her father Damon.

There was a strong feud between Redgraves and Blackwells. It was apparently centuries old. Damon didn’t like the family and made it known to others. After Rowan and Cade met secretly several times in the woods, they had feelings for one another. Rowan’s brother Avery, finds the two in the woods naked one day. He tells his father. Damon voiced his opinions to Rowan about Cade and the rest of the Blackwells, but she didn’t listen. Damon decides to take matters in his own hands by directly confronting the Blackwells.  The two families ensue in a magical battle. Spells fly back and forth across the room looking to hit a target. Cade charges a spells and shoots Avery with it, killing him. The death throws Damon into a rage and forces the Blackwells to magically flee for their lives. Damon states that Rowan and Cade can never be together again.

Upset over the situation, Rowan gets involved with another guy shortly after named Adam. She gets pregnant and together they build a family with their daughter Iris. Times goes on and Rowan is left with despair and loneliness. Not being able to find her true love and being attacked multiple times by her father hindered her greatly. After one of the attacks, she wasn’t able to cast spells any more.

Twenty-five years after their initial break up, Rowan and Cade run into each other. They begin to rekindle from their lost time. Adam, who became Rowan’s husband, finds out about the two seeing each other. Upset over the issue and wishing to have his family back, he contacts Damon. The two of them team up to ensure that Rowan and Cade stay apart. Damon goes to extreme ends to prove his point. He attacks Iris and murders several of Cade’s family members.

Luckily for those involved, two members from the witch council were aware of the situation. They devised a plan to help Rowan and Cade as much as possible. With the assistance of magic, the members were able to set things right and have a case against Damon and Adam for all of the problems they caused.

This story was okay. My favorite aspect of the book was the idea of being triumphant after a huge ordeal. At many points, the characters were conflicted and had to fight or flight. I also like the “bad guy” in the story that is ruthless like Damon. On the other end though, sections of the novel need more description and transition from scenes. It was difficult at some points to conceptualize what was occurring because it wasn’t really explained. I would’ve also like to experience more character growth. Though the story itself covered several decades, it felt like the characters hardly changed with the time.

In many ways, Bittersweet is like Romeo and Juliet with a magical element. If you’re interested in some quick romance or magical influence in your reading, give this book a read.

Visit her online at: http://authorlaurenciahoffman.tumblr.com

 

 

Review of The Shadow of the High King by Frank Dorrian

If interested in discovering a new book to read? Check out my review and more at Ingrid Hall.

 

Reviewed by Carlton Rolle

Frank Dorrian was born in 1987 in Liverpool – his hometown, a post-industrial cityscape, served as poignant inspiration for his creative efforts. He would commence writing in earnest during his teenage years, composing stories to sate desires of both expression and introspection.

Today, Frank is a qualified mental health nurse. He works in the field with people suffering severe psychiatric and psychological disorders, and additionally offers private mind coaching sessions for those needing a refreshing take on life’s trials. When not writing, Frank spends his spare time reading, playing computer games, and attending a martial arts gym. He has previously competed as a fighter domestically in the UK and abroad in Thailand.

 

The Shadow of the High King is Dorrian’s first book. It follows events within the kingdom of Caermark. Ruled by King Aenwald for the last 20 years, Caermark is held together with an iron fist and weaponry to back it up. In the dark of the night, a town was destroyed and put to flame. This set into motion events to lead to Caermark’s old and young coming into the fight one way or another.

 

The story follows multiple characters to give readers an overview of events. Several characters are prominent throughout the novel. King Aenwald, of course, is loved and hated by many. Many respect and follow him through the fear he has placed. Arnulf is a mercenary and leader of the Black Shield. This is a group of sellswords that fight on behalf of others for money. Harlin is a strong warrior and mercenary in the Black Shield. Taken from his clan’s homeland and made into a fighting slave, Harlin holds onto anger and justice to live. Ceatha is a clansman with Harlin. Confused and ravaged like her clan, Ceatha guides Harlin towards dreams of power.

 

The Shadow of the High King is in the same genre and style as Game of Thrones.       I was repulsed by some characters and cheering on whole families. At other times, I felt I was in a large arena filled with blood, screaming along with the rest of them. I began to connect with characters like Harlin and Ceatha on their travel. I pained for them and their back story. Watching your people be killed or shackled into slavery takes an incredible weight. Both of them dealt with it, but in different manners. I found myself hoping for the same brand of bloody justice many characters were searching for.

 

My favorite thing about this story is not the story itself but an aspect of it. I love the idea of ancient knowledge or people resurfacing. This is influenced within the story by a couple characters directly. I think it adds a set of variables when introduced to a situation. It could bring more power or an untimely demise. For readers, it adds an element of surprise. I think enough was in this book without confusing readers too much. In the second book, should there be one, I would imagine that more this aspect will occur.

 

It feels like Dorrian took his time thinking about the characters and the plot. Betrayal and justice riddle the land of Caermark along with bodies. Characters are forced to fight or die. The Shadow of the High King is a great book if you’re looking for a legendary story to read! It’s sure to leave a deep impression on you, as if sliced by a sword. As one king falls, another rises. I’m interested to see what other surprises and acts will be apart of the next book!