News & Musings From Violet Hills Productions

Shattered

Shattered - Kathryn Casey Heartbreaking

I love Ann Rule and I love true crime and I have become a huge fan of Kathryn Casey. Her books cannot be put down, and Shattered is no exception. You will be engrossed and informed through the final paragraph. May work like this help all of us appreciate those who work so hard to apprehend and bring to justice those criminals who walk so brazenly among us. Also features one of my favorite crime fighters, prosecuted Kelly Ziegler. I will read all of Me Casey's books.

Bodies of Water

Bodies of Water - T. Greenwood Don't Look For Heroines Here

While T. Greenspan's Bodies of Water is exquisitely written, the story soon becomes not only tiresome but enraging. Yes, lesbian love was forbidden love; yes, an ignorant public, church, state, and families attached deep shame to something that was as natural as love itself. Yes, many suffered and even died during these dreadful times of unenlightened ignorance. But Good Lord, why would one chose to highlight not one but two spineless non-courageous woman in a book about forbidden love? And to layer on top of that that both of these women were trapped in loveless marriages with blackboard abusive drunken fools for husbands. I grew up in those times. Television was black and white, but real lives rarely so. Where was their spunk? Where was some fire? This book rapidly becomes a melodrama that makes Peyton Place a Masterpiece. Terribly disappointing. I also have lesbian friends who grew up in that period. They were either as mopey nor dopey as these two. Worse thing about this is the example this author is sending out to young girls and women in the world. Yuck. Just yuck. Grab your life! For heaven's. sake! I don't care what era one writes about! There are always heroines who will not allow themselves to be beaten and ridiculed and abused. In this day and age, why is anyone elevating a work that does just that!

Moments in Time: A Collection of Short Stories

Moments in Time: A Collection of Short Stories - Brian    Wilson MOMENTS IN TIME by Brian Wilson, much like Mr. Wilson’s travel stories presents a slice of life narrative, indeed, quick snapshots of “moments in time,” whether they be the moment a child is leaving home, couples are traveling abroad together for the first and quite uncomfortable time, an adult child is experiencing the shocking deterioration of his aging parent, or a community is living through and moving past a devastating and shocking 6.3 earthquake that has claimed 118 lives, countless businesses, and disrupted the everyday lives of the inhabitants. But as we discover as we make our way through these thirty short stories, scattered photography and a few poems, we are in the hands of a very sturdy rudder. There will be no wild swings of drama within these pages; what you will find is a dry and subtle wit, often tongue in cheek, and an over-riding philosophy that tells you, as Mr. Wilson writes in one of his poems: “Find the sunshine in bad weather/ Remember there is always hope;” as well as the sense as stated in the story “No End in Sight: “Let’s just get on with life instead of fluffing about and erring on the side of caution…”
Mr. Wilson’s travel stories present the most beautifully written passages in their descriptions of foreign lands. Many of the pieces are so subtle they seem like simple conversations, but more often than not hold a gem of wisdom, and again the writer’s philosophy such as in his piece, “Dad,” which probably sums up the entire book as well as the horrific natural disaster that occurred at Christchurch on 2/22/2011 at 12:51 p.m. “…our lives are always in God’s hands—even when we think we are in control…” My personal favorite is probably the shortest piece: “A Moment of Truth,” in which Mr. Wilson blends the present with the future and reality with nightmare. This piece reminds me of the work of Rod Serling. I would love to see Brian Wilson develop more stories along this line.
I had read and reviewed BUMPY ROADS before I read MOMENTS IN TIME—which, I suppose might be a bit backward as BUMPY ROADS was written after MOMENTS IN TIME. Having lived through the terrifying Northridge earthquake, I wondered at first about the lack of those wild swings of emotion. However, especially now after reading more of Mr. Wilson, I realize he has got it just right. This is his voice, telling his stories, his way. And what a delightful way it is. So grab a copy of MOMENTS IN TIME, sit back, relax, and don’t forget to brew a cup of tea. In Mr. Wilson’s very strong and capable hands, you will soon know, all is right with the world, one way or another, in this or any other moment in time.




Wheezer and the Shy Coyote (Mysteries From the Trail of Tears)

Wheezer and the Shy Coyote (Mysteries From the Trail of Tears) - Kitty Sutton Wheezer and the Shy Coyote

“Greed is a sickness it is hard to get cured of,” Lucius, one of the heroes of Kitty Sutton’s most delightful and poignant Wheezer and the Shy Coyote quotes his mother in Chapter 13 as he comments on members of the U.S. Army who are running whiskey illegally to Cherokee Indians in the Indian Territory they have been displaced to after having been marched across the country with barely any provisions with not a thought to their well-being after their land had been stolen out from underneath them in yet another in the vast string of shameful broken treaties the young nation made with this land’s native Peoples. Deftly, and with a surprisingly light touch and great amounts of wonderful humor, Miss Sutton weaves a wondrous tale of mystery and intrigue complete with a powerful young heroine, Sasa who communicates with two of literatures finest heroes, Wheezer, a Jack Russell terrier, and Yellow Eyes, the shy coyote of the title.
It is after the shameful forced march that has come to be known as the Trail of Tears, where Miss Sutton picks up the story of not only the Cherokee but some Choctaw and other Indian Peoples, too, illustrating how they are trying to adjust, trying to learn the “white man’s ways,” trying to adapt and to move forward into this new world into which they have been plunged. This is a complex story where not all the Indians are good and all the white people are bad, but where humans are humans and act out along the vast spectrum of complex human behavior, which makes this story achingly real and heart-breaking.
A murder occurs and character is revealed along the way of discovering not only who committed the murder but why and also the much greater scope of selling whiskey to the Indians – a substance that acts like poison to them. In an addendum to the novel, Miss Sutton presents a very brief but poignant essay outlining how alcoholism and substance abuse has devastated Indian nations.
Which is why her writing and this book is so magical: The story contains not a whiff of self-pity. Instead it paints a vast and gorgeous scope of Cherokee life. And we need to know this. As a nation, we need to know, we need to recognize, we need to acknowledge what we did. There are bodies buried here. There was a Holocaust committed here. A genocide, right here, in this great and beautiful nation that has stained its brave and beautiful soul.
And still, there is Wheezer—who will steal your heart, and Sasa who will amaze you and Coyote and Yellow Eyes for whom you will cheer and Anna and Jackson who will give you hope that there are good people everywhere in every color and “if we are to survive we must stop the fighting…”
Wheezer and the Coyote will immerse you in that time and place of 1839. Miss Sutton gets everything right. She simply channels it—from the voice of Cherokee elder Poison Woman to Irish National escapee Lucius to Jack Russell Wheezer, from her description of a fine western room to an army outpost that gets you wondering how did she do this, the book is a remarkable, moving adventure with a story that needs to be told that Miss Sutton tells without judgment but with great passion and deep knowledge. Embark upon this journey. I cannot wait to read her next one.

Mikawadizi Storms

Mikawadizi Storms - Dennis Vickers Dennis Vickers MIKAWADIZI STORMS has a cast of thousands…, well, 45, and is presented in short sweet character sketch vignettes—complete with Mr. Vickers enchanting portraits—that sometimes leave you longing for more depth and expansion, sometimes leave you breathless and confused especially if reading on a Kindle or similar device on which it is not so easy to flip back and forth to a character list. However, the charming character of Evie Arnold provides our continuity, and if we allow her to guide us through Mr. Vickers kaleidoscopic fable, and simply let go and run—we are in for a delight.

MIKAWADIZI STORMS is a novel of a different stripe. Some readers may find some of the philosophical sojourns a bit too “heady” and dry, perhaps taking them “out of the story” a tad too far. They are, however, deeply informative, posing challenging and thoughtful questions. They are also masterly countered by the many and wondrous plethora of additional characters that romp through this magical tale so that balance is ultimately achieved.

Mr. Vickers has created a truly magic realism world where bears and stuffed cats and trees speak—far more wisely than any human, and a human, so torn by his European and Native heritage that born as one, he renders himself into two—or does he? In this fabulous world, perfect punishment is meted out: hands grow and skin covers with redness and rash for misdeeds done with those hands and the misdeed-doer—even if he is a former dunder-headed human can and does reach blessed enlightenment. In the end (not really a spoiler) Mother Nature triumphs, Native spirits dance at the edge of doom, red and white mothers nurse their babies in tandem, and we are left with a great feeling of hope in our present age of far too much despair and rampant hopelessness.

So, dare to take a walk on this wild side. You will not be sorry you ventured into these beautiful and awesome woods.

Bumpy Roads

Bumpy Roads - Brian Wilson Brian Wilson’s Bumpy Roads is a cozy, laid-back, easy read of afternoon delights, indeed an antidote to life’s “bumpy roads,” which perhaps may provide the ultimate meaning behind the metaphor. Within this eclectic collection we find part travelogue, which provides some of Wilson’s most beautiful prose, part history, part family and friend situations, sprinkled with Mr. Wilson’s light charming poetry and some photographic essays, and five or so additional witty and clever pieces by Rachel Coop that add up to, well, Bumpy Roads.
This book continues the theme began in Moments in Time that explored the effects of the shattering earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand on February 22, 2010, though it travels further afield. One of my favorites is “The Journey,” wherein a nurse traveling on a bus and observing a man who is obviously dead responds to the other passengers who are shocked when she nonchalantly pulls the chord to simply disembark without offering any assistance to the man: “Dead is dead, and I want to get home. Death marks the end of a journey. This is where I get off.” Within those very simple lines is a universe of understatement. Another—and perhaps my most favorite is “Death in the Family,” in which an elderly man who has admitted that he is experiencing increasing moments of confusion such as placing the milk in the oven, is trying to remember just whose funeral he is attending. He does not see his wife Mary in attendance. Could it be she? You will have to read the book to find the answer. Rachel Coop’s work is ironic and often very funny, well set-up and fits very nicely in this collection.
I found myself wondering if Mr. Wilson had any plans to re-visit any of these characters to develop them more fully; for example, Shane in “Home Alone.” I often found myself almost shocked by abrupt endings; I wanted more!
Bumpy Roads is a highly enjoyable quick read that will take you to Paris and China, to Italy and Down Under, and along your own Bumpy Roads.

Kronos Duet

Kronos Duet - A.H. Richards Kronos can reference both the father of Zeus and a time-sharing computer operating system – both apt metaphors for A.H. Richards novel Kronos Duet-- an at times so splendidly written polemic on God, the universe, the mind, eternity, and space—both inner and outer-- it will leave you breathless. The story focuses on Gareth Pugh, time-traveler of the mind, and his daughter Adrianna, who traverse the universe in search of nothing less than the meaning of everything…well, that is his search. We don’t really know what she is searching for and neither does she until the very end where the tale comes together in an explosive and extraordinary finale—reminding one of the fiery nature of the cosmos itself. If there is a challenge here—it is in the long wait for this denouement.
The premise Mr. Richards uses of time-travel within one’s own mind is brilliant and engaging. The use of the alien plant species Anis to assist is a wonderful addition – I would have loved to have even more development of the Anis as a character. Gareth is painted as brilliant but something of a stumblebum—which lands him in all kinds of trouble as he zings across the universe in search of the ultimate answer. It is in these searches where we tend to get a little lost: sometimes the places Gareth lands sounding too much alike as does the characters’ dialogue.
This is a book that demands your attention—there is a lot of information about what the Anis does and how one travels in time and what becomes of one—how the ephemeral body slowly devolves back to solid. It is well worth your time and attention. And then there are those gorgeous narratives.
I look greatly forward to more from A.H Richards. Full disclosure: I became acquainted with Mr. Richards via an Internet author’s group. My acquaintance and agreement to read and review his book has not colored my opinions or this review.

Murder Across The Ocean

Murder Across The Ocean - Charlene Wexler Charlene Wexler's Murder Across the Ocean will keep you guessing as Ms. Wexler leads you through layers of intriguing shrouded family history on the way to solving who murdered Lori Brill’s long ago teenage crush Josh Wheeler. Winging her way to London to visit granddaughter Cate, astonishingly, Lori runs into Josh on the overseas flight, and the never quite dead embers are reignited ending with a risqué assignation in the Palace Hotel upon arrival in London and a bloody and brutally murdered Josh in the hotel bed as Lori showers the next morning. Jet-lagged and grieving, Lori is thrust into the middle of an ever-widening investigation involving not only Scotland Yard but the American FBI, and as the last person who saw Josh alive, finding herself not only as a witness but as the prime suspect.
Ms. Wexler’s mystery is filled with colorful characters and a terrific storyline that will keep you engaged, including a love triangle involving granddaughter Cate and also a promise of love for the long-suffering Lori. However, about three-quarters through, the love stories take over the mystery, which does cause the book to wander and slow down a tad. Nevertheless, the book is a good solid satisfying read and Lori a plucky intrepid heroine and one audiences will love to rally behind and cheer on.

A Dead Husband (Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery #1)

A Dead Husband (Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery #1) - Anna Celeste Burke For lovers of the cozy mystery genre, you have found a new star with Anna Celeste Burke and her latest “Dead ”series starring rich girl turned over-achiever lawyer turned sudden divorcee turned amateur and still bumbling sleuth Jessica (emphasis on the ca—don’t call her Jess!) Huntington-Harper. Friendly and endearing—even while waxing poetic about shopping designer that can go on for pages, or California cuisine—Jessica will eventual wend her way into your heart because this is no ordinary spoiled 1per center. While married to Jim Harper, Jessica’s practice centered on housing issues, and while investigating the murder of Roger, best friend Laura’s husband, when she ends up in the thick of it—as she often does—Jessica can give as good as she gets—whether with a well-aimed Jimmy Choo shoe or her fist.
Burke’s Palm Spring and environs setting is exquisite matched only by the lushness of her descriptions of this stunning desert area, the sunsets and golden afternoons and the magnificent Mission Hills House from which Jessica operates.
The characters are many and varied and fun from Saint Bernadette, Jessica’s petite housekeeper and surrogate parent, to her “cat pack” of loyal friends, the hapless Laura included whose husband was unfortunately murdered the one night she forsook her wedding vows, to the stand-in faithful lil bro Tommy, and pool-boy wannabe body guard Brien, and the impossibly handsome PI who assists Jessica, but fails to alert her gaydar.
This is breezy, swift, good fun with plenty of actions and twists that will keep you guessing—and reading.
If this genre is your cup of reading pleasure, you cannot go wrong here.

Beneath the Mask of Sanity

Beneath the Mask of Sanity - Mark              Phillips Gory. Graphic. Fierce. Explicit. Beneath the Mask of Sanity by Mark Phillps is not a read for the faint of heart or for anyone not ready for a jagged splintered journey into the heart and mind of a serial killer and the wake of his destruction.
Phillips has created serial killer Bentley Grimes and set him upon a swath of monumental carnage. Traipsing behind is detective Frank Miles, determined to catch his prey while fighting his own demons, and at the center of Grimes’ butchery is the Braddock family: Dad, George who just happens to stop to give the hitch-hiking killer a ride, wife and mother Sheila, and daughters Katie and Karen. These six people are set upon the road to Hell.
Phillips uses much imagery of Heaven and Hell as well as an interesting interlude on Jesus as Savior in the novel to haunting effect. Grimes is indeed a soul lost in Hell, and he takes us along with him in his ever spiraling deeper descent.
About half-way through this journey, the twists start coming—some of them sharp and steep and totally unexpected.
If graphic psychological thriller is your game, this effort by Mark Phillips will not disappoint.

Girl in The Glass

Girl in The Glass - Zoe Brooks The Girl in the Glass is a sweeping romance of a coming of age story that follows the trials and tribulations of heroine Anya (Judith) as she struggles to overcome great obstacles in a journey that is physical, emotional, and spiritual. Anya is orphaned at a young age—merely eleven and left to live as a servant in her Aunt’s house with her Shadow, Eva. Here, though she does not understand why, she is despised by her aunt whom she desperately wants only to please and from whom she desires the one thing she knows she will never receive – love. Under the tutelage of the taciturn housekeeper Marta, Anya learns to survive the unrelenting punishments that come her way every day for reasons large and small. It is through these very punishments, through her stalwart endurance that Anya first begins to grow. Like a young wild weed that will take nourishment from whence it can, Anya reaches towards anything that will help her grow.
Desperate for kindness, she mistakes lust for love and is eventually banished from her aunt’s home. But even this banishment offers hope, for it is key to her escape from the oppressive household. Led by her shadow, Eva who has been surreptitiously developing a plan, the two young woman escape across the blowing desert sands to the bustling town to the North. They change names, and Anya, now Rosa, finds a brief respite—but more growth through hardship awaits.
Author Zoe Brooks, in an interview that immediately follows the book, explains that she has worked with abused women and her expertise and passion shows in this book as we follow Anya/Rosa/Judith’s journey and triumph. This book is but the first in a trilogy, which I look forward to exploring further.

The Salt Factory

The Salt Factory - Evie Woolmore ""At first I tried to memorise every face, like milestones on the way that could draw me home again...but by the time I set sail from New York, I wished only to shut them out...trying to protect myself from what is still to come."" So writes Thelonia Jones, Evie Woolmore's perfectly realized Victorian heroine in her latest historical fiction offering with her signature magic realism tilt. Written in the pulsing rhythms of the sea that so infuse the story-- both the sea of the coastal village village of Lymington, England, and the hidden, musterious, underground sea that is the source of the salt of her brother's factory in the mountains of Colorado, The Salt Factory follows the journey of Thelonia as she valiantly tries to re-pay the debt her brother has incurred. Or is this the journey she is really on? That question strikes at the very heart of Woolmore's novel, keeping both Thelonia and the reader continually off-base as we ride the many sharp twists and steep turns. Thelonia is a fully formed Victorian heroine, perfect in her Englishness, but embodied with a fine American twist-- as well she should be as she is the first female US Deputy Marshall. Ms. Woolmore peoples her creation with vivid characters true to her genre: Mangus Blackstock, the cruel stepfather; Syrus Capshaw the sly villian who holds Thelonia's fate in his hands; and Cadell, the misunderstood half-brother. But pushing beyond these, it is the ethereal characters: Marial the Mermaid of Capshaw's Spectacular Freakshow whose skin has turned silver due to a childhood illness, and of course, the little girl, that give the novel its luminescence and sheen. Evocative, gorgeously written, this haunting tale of discovery will have you madly page turning until the wee hours.

Dark Eros

Dark Eros - H. Raven Rose H, Raven Rose's DARK EROS is a study in contrasts: Two relatively naive young women-- one overweight, one thin, one sexually experimental, one monogamous-- containing brutal passages of graphic descriptions of murder interwoven with brilliant spiritual passages of light and hope. The novel also contains intimate explorations of the two young woman's relationship exposing their natural humor as it also explores the almost sadist-masochistic relationship of the lead character'r relationship with her live-in boyfriend Kevin. And just as you begin to question why would Leila profess her love of such a man, the author skillfully answers the question. And contained within that answer is the motive that propels the novel forward and toward its devastating conclusion for one of the characters (no spolier here!) and redemption for another.
This book is a fast,entertaining, enjoyable read containing good solid characters you can root and feel for. Some readers may feel the pace is a bit slow in the beginning with perhaps a stray scene or two, but hang with it, this author is building something for which you will be rewarded.

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