October 31, 2011

Guest Author: LAUREL ANN NATTRESS

I am happy to welcome Laurel Ann Nattress, author of the newly released Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to Psychotic State Book Reviews for the first time.  Welcome aboard, Laurel Ann!


Jane Austen Goes Paranormal: (Or, making sport for our neighbors in Jane Austen Made Me Do It) 


Hi Lori, what a thrill for me to be here at Psychotic State Book Reviews on Halloween during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Since it is All Hallows Eve, (or the night before All Hallows Day), traditionally the one night of the year when the spirits of the dead return and supernatural beings wander the earth, I thought it quite appropriate to talk about Jane Austen! Jane Austen? Well yes. She can be classified as one of those classic authors like Anne Radcliffe, Daphne du Maurier, Elizabeth Gaskell and Georgette Heyer who wrote Gothic fiction. The exception to Austen is that she appropriately wrote a spoof on the genre. In her novel Northanger Abbey, her young heroine Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic novels, especially The Mysteries of Udolpho by Radcliffe, and is so impressed with the horrid tale that she begins to project malicious intent in the her new acquaintances the Tilney’s, and when she travels to their home Northanger Abbey as their guest, she hopes that it will be like the scary monasteries and castles so prominent in Gothic tales.

Her [Catherine Morland] passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney – and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill. To see and explore either the ramparts and keep of the one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour had seemed too nearly impossible for desire. Northanger Abbey, Chapter 17

Recently other authors have been inspired by Jane Austen’s gentle poke at Gothic fiction by taking her fun with the genre one step further. In 2009 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a mash-up by Seth Grahme-Smith of Austen’s classic novel and bone crunching zombie mayhem, was the break-out hit of the year. Soon after, we began to see other paranormal stories incorporating “our dear Jane” and her characters in print. Bespelling Jane Austen is an anthology by four romance novelists: Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard and Janet Mullany who were inspired by one of Austen’s novels to write a short story for the collection. But, it is Jane as a vampire that really pushes the envelope. The hilarious Jane Bites Back, by Michael Thomas Ford places the undead Austen watching as other authors make money off her while she searches for a publisher for next novel, and Janet Mullany’s Jane and the Damned imagines the “turned’ Austen struggling in the late eighteenth century to find a cure for her affliction while battling the invading French with her super powers. All, very creative derivatives of Austen and her novels, that she might raise an eyebrow at but laugh with all the same. “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?” Pride and Prejudice

Five of my authors in Jane Austen Made Me Do It embraced Austen’s witty humor and penchant for the Gothic and wrote paranormal stories for the anthology: Elizabeth Aston, Alexandra Potter, Myretta Robens, Laurie Viera Rigler and Lauren Willig. Here is a description of their stories:

“The Ghostwriter,” by Elizabeth Aston

Sara, obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, is jilted by Charles, who can’t compete with Mr. Darcy. His parting gift is a lock of Jane Austen’s hair. Sara wakes the next morning to find a strange woman sitting on the end of her bed. A figment of her imagination? No, it’s the astringent ghost of Jane Austen. On a mission to restore the reputation of forgotten Gothic author Clarissa Curstable, Jane Austen saves Sara’s career and brings Charles back before taking herself off into the ether, but there’s a price to pay, as the couple discover when they wake up to find another ghostly visitor at the end of the bed. It’s Jane’s friend, Clarissa – and she plans to stay.

“Me and Mr. Darcy, Again…,” by Alexandra Potter

Mr. Darcy is every woman’s fantasy. But what happens when he becomes one woman’s reality? In 2007 Emily traveled from New York to England to go on a Jane Austen-inspired literary tour. There she met and fell in love with Spike, an English journalist.
She also met Mr. Darcy… Or did she? She can never be sure if it really happened, or it was her over-active imagination. Now, four years later, she’s had a huge row with Spike and is back in London nursing a broken heart. And there’s only one person who can mend it. Mr. Darcy….

“The Mysterious Closet: A Tale,” by Myretta Robens

In the wake of her most recent failed relationship, Cathy Fullerton takes an extended vacation in a converted Abbey in Gloucestershire, England.  Ensconced in the Radcliffe Suite, a jet-lagged Cathy mistakes a walk-in closet for a Vaulted Chamber, a clothing rack for an Instrument of Torture and an accumulation of cobwebs for her True Love.

“Intolerable Stupidity,” by Laurie Viera Rigler

Well hidden from the ordinary world, in a little-known corner of jurisprudential hell known as the Court of Intolerable Stupidity, a legal drama of literary proportions unfolds. The plaintiff is none other than the most famous romantic hero of all time, Mr. Darcy. The defendants are the authors who dared write sequels, adaptations, and inspired-by’s of his Creator’s most beloved work, Pride and Prejudice. One of those works, whose author was tried and convicted in absentia, is so popular that its salacious swimming-in-the-lake scene has resulted in Darcy’s being forced to endure a perpetual state of shivering wetness in a transparent white shirt. For when Darcy’s adoring public isn’t throwing water on him, his umbrella breaks in the midst of a downpour. And now, between the zombies and the vampires, Darcy and his wife Elizabeth are at their wit’s end. So is defense attorney Fritz Williams, who not only fights a losing battle in a kangaroo court ruled by Darcy’s tyrannical aunt, the Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but also his secret infatuation with prosecuting attorney Tawny Wolfson. Who has her own secret: a hopeless addiction to the illegal miniseries that she is supposed to abhor.

“A Night at Northanger,” by Lauren Willig

Our heroine, Cate Cartwright, is part of the cast of “Ghost Trekkers”, currently filming at one of England’s most haunted homes, Northanger Abbey.  Naturally, Cate knows there’s no such thing as ghosts.  It’s all smoke and mirrors for the credulous who watch late night TV.  At least, that’s what she thinks… until she meets the shade of one Miss Jane Austen during one fateful night at Northanger.

I hope that readers find them as amusing to read as I did to edit.

Happy Gothic reading to all on this festive Halloween Day!

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Editor bio:

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966

Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by 11:59 p.m. November 11, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. 

For an additional entry each, follow Laurel Ann Nattress on Facebook and/or Twitter.  

Blog, Tweet or Facebook this giveaway (leaving a link) for an additional 2 entries.

Winner to be drawn at random and announced on November 12, 2011.   Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. 

Good luck to all!


COMING SOON:  My review of Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

October 30, 2011

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT READATHON EXTENDED


Due to "real life" issues that took precedence over a majority of my time in the last two weeks, I have decided to extend the Things That Go Bump In the Night Readathon for an additional week, ending on November 7, 2011.  So you still have time post your scary reviews!

These are the books that are up for grabs:  UPDATED! 

Creep by Jennifer Hillier 
Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen
The Bad Always Die Twice by Cheryl Crane
Ruined by Paula Morris
Damaged by Pamela Callow
Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder
Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell
Pacific Heights by Paul Harper
Run For Your Life by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

All books are my reader copies and are like new.  Want to win one of these thrillers?  Post a review at Mr. Linky located here and you are automatically entered!  

Good luck!




MAILBOX MONDAY: October 31, 2011




Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit for the month of October.  
Here is what I received last week: 

Nocturne by Syrie James
(received from FSB Associates for review)

SYNOPSIS:  When Nicole Whitcomb’s car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.
Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him and soon comes to realize that the feeling is mutual. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension—and Nicole can’t shake the feeling that he doesn’t want her there.
Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?
Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her.
But as the sexual tension between them builds, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns the terrifying truth—that her host is an ages-old vampire who is torn between his love for her and his desire for her blood—there’s nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and he’s the only one who can save her life.
Filled with unexpected twists and surprises, Nocturne is a page-turning, haunting, and deeply romantic story of forbidden love that will grab your heart and not let go.
Family Storms by V. C. Andrews (received from Gallery Books for review)
SYNOPSIS:  Living on the streets with her destitute mother, selling knickknacks and trinkets just to survive, Sasha Porter dreams of someday having a normal life, with a real house and family. But she never dreamed a devastating tragedy would bring her those very things: on a stormy night by a rainspattered highway, a speeding car veers out of control, striking and killing her mother and badly injuring Sasha. 
. . . is anywhere truly safe? 
In the hospital, Sasha is whisked off to a fancy private suite at the request of wealthy Mrs. Jordan March, a complete stranger who keeps watch by Sasha’s bedside and insists she come live at her family’s sprawling, luxurious mansion. Sasha soon learns Mrs. March never recovered from the loss of her daughter Alena, and with nowhere else to go, Sasha agrees to use Alena’s room, sleep in her bed, and wear her clothes. But someone will make sure that Sasha never takes Alena’s place: a jealous sister dead set on making Sasha’s life a living hell.

Cloudburst by V. C. Andrews
(received from Gallery Books for review)

SYNOPSIS:  The follow-up to Family Storms from New York Times bestselling author V.C. Andrews features high school senior Sasha Porter in search of her sister—but instead she learns secrets that could tear her family apart.

Sasha is a popular senior in high school, with excellent grades and no more secrets to hide. She finds herself more and more interested in one boy, Duane Banks, who stands out not because he flaunts his good looks and his achievements at the school like so many, but because he is shy and somewhat withdrawn.

When auditions for the new school play begin, she and Duane both get parts and with the rehearsals, Duane seems to be coming out of his shell, permitting himself to hope and succeed at something. Sasha and Duane become a couple, and their relationships continues to grow.

When the play opens, Sasha’s foster parents attend, but neither of Duane’s parents show up. Duane goes into a depression, and he begins to ignore not only his schoolwork, but also his appearance. She tries to warn his mother to be more concerned, but she resents Sasha’s inserting herself into their private lives and does nothing. Meanwhile, things take a bizarre turn at home for Sasha and then a sudden tragedy makes her wonder whether there’s anybody she can truly trust.

The Deception at Lyme: Or, The Peril of Persuasion (Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries #6) by Carrie Bebris
(won, along with the entire Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries set, from Austenprose)

SYNOPSIS:  In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the Cobb—Lyme’s famous seawall—proved dangerous to a careless young woman. Now it proves deadly.
Following their recent intrigue at Highbury, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy visit the seaside village of Lyme on holiday. Family business also draws them there, to receive the personal effects of Mr. Darcy’s late cousin, a naval lieutenant who died in action.
Their retreat turns tragic when they come upon a body lying at the base of the Cobb. The victim is Mrs. Clay, a woman with a scandalous past that left her with child—a child whose existence threatened the inheritance of one of her paramours and the reputation of another. Did she lose her balance and fall from the slippery breakwater, or was she pushed?
Mrs. Clay’s death is not the only one that commands the Darcys’ attention. When Mr. Darcy discovers, among his cousin’s possessions, evidence that the young lieutenant’s death might have been murder, he allies with Captain Frederick Wentworth (hero of Jane Austen'sPersuasion) to probe details of a battle that took place across the sea . . . but was influenced by a conspiracy much closer to home.
The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion) is the delightful sixth installment in the critically acclaimed and award-winning Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series by Carrie Bebris.
What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



October 28, 2011

Book Review: THE WOMAN IN BLACK: A GHOST STORY by Susan Hill

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller: one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen.



Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable The Woman In Black comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story's hero is Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black.


The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler-proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.


The Woman in Black is a good old fashioned ghost story, with slowly building tension and all out atmosphere.  Reading this book left me feeling chilled, as if I had been on the moor myself. 


Horror lovers will rejoice over The Woman in Black but don't expect a book chock full of action, gore and/or monsters.  You will find none of that here.  What you will find is an intriguing story, with the weather and the house being as much characters as the self-titled Woman in Black herself. 


This isn't a fast paced book as the story and tension builds with relatively quiet precision.  Impatient readers may have a difficult time giving The Woman in Black a chance but it is well worth the dedication.  I myself found the book to be a slow starter, so spoiled I have been by Dean Koontz/Bentley Little/John Saul, et al. whose many books start off with a bang.  The Woman in Black is more like a measured sizzle, with cracks and pops throughout, until the burn at the end.  Although I had guessed somewhat how the story would end it didn't take away from the overall excellence of the story.  


Interestingly enough, I found thinking back on the story - - the eerie sounds, the rocking chair moving on its own, the woman in black's appearance - - after I had finished it more chilling than when I was reading it.


I would recommend The Woman in Black for those readers who want a more old fashioned horror story, those who don't want vampires, werewolves, zombies and the like, and who don't care to read about serial killers.  It's a quick read and one you won't regret.


The Woman in Black is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.


FTC Disclosure: This book was borrowed from my local public library. I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review. 


October 27, 2011

Author Interview: CHERYL CRANE

Today I am thrilled and honored to welcome Cheryl Crane, author of the newly released mystery The Bad Always Die Twice, to Psychotic State Book Reviews to discuss fiction versus nonfiction, The Food Network and her famous mother!

Hi Cheryl!  Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  I am so excited and honored to have you here today.  Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.  

CC:  Thank you for inviting me.

You have a new book out  – The Bad Always Die Twice.  Great title - - a nice play on The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Bad and The Beautiful!  What can you tell us about it?  

CC:  I’m glad that you like it and picked up on reference.  As to the book it is the first book in a series featuring  Nikki Harper, realtor-turned- amateur sleuth, and her mother, screen goddess, Victoria Bordeaux, and their adventures in Hollywood.

Did you write yourself into the character of Nikki or is she an amalgam of different people?

CC:  There are similarities between us, but there are greater differences.

What is Nikki’s greatest strength?  What is her greatest weakness?

CC:  Her stubborn belief in the people she cares for is both  her strength and weakness. 
    
What do you hope that readers will take away from The Bad Always Die Twice? 

CC:  I hope that they enjoy the tale and grow to love Nikki.

Do I understand correctly that The Bad Always Die Twice is the first book in a series?

CC:  Yes, I am working on the second book, titled Imitation of Death.

You have written two previous books - - Detour and Lana: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies - - both nonfiction.  Did you find writing fiction to be easier or more difficult than writing nonfiction?   

CC:  It is much easier, you have total control of your characters.

How did you get into writing?   

CC:  Writing has always been a part of my life, like Nikki, I am a real estate broker and write ads daily.

Did you ever consider following in your mother’s footsteps and heading into an acting career? 

CC:  No, one star in the family was enough.

Please share with us where you write.  Do you have a dedicated office space?  Are you neat and organized or do you prefer ordered (or not so ordered!) chaos?  

CC:  I write on my laptop (wherever I am) with my dogs at my feet.  I am very neat.

Do you have any eccentricities or quirks while you write that are an absolute necessity?

CC:  Yes, I have to have the Food Network on TV as white noise, there are times when what I am hearing works its way into the story. Also, my girls (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) have to be with me.

Can you tell us what a normal day in the life of Cheryl Crane is like?

CC:  There are no normal days, but they all include the following: I get up early to walk the girls, work in the garden, do my real estate, work on the book.  The days fly by….

What do you think is the best piece of advice you could give to struggling writers? 

CC:  Never give up, and the old adage, write what you know.

When you’re not writing your own books, what authors do you enjoy reading?  

CC:  Anne Rice (a dear friend of mine), Stephen King, James Ellroy, and my dear, dear friend John Waters.

Can you tell us what projects you are working on now?

CC:  The Nikki Harper series and a film.

Because I am a classic film buff and love your mother’s films . . . what is your personal favorite film of hers?

CC:  Ziegfeld Girl and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

I loved her in The Postman Always Rings Twice - - great movie and she was absolutely stunning with her blonde hair, the white two piece outfit and that red lipstick!   

CC:  Yes, I agree and I have the iconic white beret that she wears in the film.

When you watch your mother’s movies now, do you view her as “Mom” or is she “Lana Turner” when she’s on the screen?   

CC:  Since she passed away I find it very hard to watch her films.

Having been exposed to the extreme media scrutiny yourself, growing up as the child of a movie star, do you think the press is worse today than it was 50 or 60 years ago?  What type of advice would you give the kids of celebrities today?  

CC:  The press is much worse, the studios used to control everything and everyone. Today there is no limit to what is written, it doesn't matter if it is true or false.  As to the kids of celebrities, I would only say, always be  true to yourself first.

Lastly, what one word would you use to describe The Bad Always Die Twice?    

CC:  FUN!

 
Thank you so much, Cheryl, for stopping by and answering my questions.  I enjoyed chatting with you and wish you the best of luck with The Bad Always Die Twice

THE BAD ALWAYS DIE TWICE
by Cheryl Crane

Set in Hollywood, The Bad Always Die Twice is the first of a wildly entertaining series set amidst the bright lights, big egos, and Botoxed brows of Hollywood. It is partly the glitz and glamour of Jackie Collins novels and partly the LA streets of hard-boiled James Ellroy.

Who better to tell this tale than Cheryl Crane, daughter of Hollywood legend Lana Turner and actor-restaurateur Joseph Stephen Crane? Cheryl was involved in the Johnny Stompanato scandal of the same period. She allegedly killed the hoodlum because he threatened to kill her mother.
This mystery features Nicki Harper, the daughter of a screen goddess, who is raised in a completely dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies but who did not follow in her mother's footsteps. Instead, Nikki is a real estate agent who wants a quiet, comfortable life with a little love and happiness thrown in.

Up until now, Nicki always thought that dead meant dead. But then, film icon Rex March turns up freshly murdered in the bed of Nicki's best friend after being reported dead six months ago. A little distrustful of law enforcement, Nicki feels compelled to solve the murder on her own. Her acquaintances range from the pinnacle of Hollywood royalty to the bottom of Tinseltown's barrel, including a not-so-grieving widow, a conniving younger lover, a best friend with secrets, a jilted mistress, a ''closeted'' confidante, a wacky neighbor, and a scheming business partner. Rex has a gaping hole where his eye used to be, and Nicki knows a lot of people with motives for the murder. The killer is getting ready for a repeat performance, so Nicki must act fast before her own screen fades to black.




Read my review of The Bad Always Die Twice here.

To purchase a copy of The Bad Always Die Twice, please visit my Amazon storeI am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.
 

October 20, 2011

Book Review: THE BAD ALWAYS DIE TWICE by Cheryl Crane

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Set in Hollywood, The Bad Always Die Twice is the first of a wildly entertaining series set amidst the bright lights, big egos, and Botoxed brows of Hollywood. It is partly the glitz and glamour of Jackie Collins novels and partly the LA streets of hard-boiled James Ellroy.

Who better to tell this tale than Cheryl Crane, daughter of Hollywood legend Lana Turner and actor-restaurateur Joseph Stephen Crane? Cheryl was involved in the Johnny Stompanato scandal of the same period. She allegedly killed the hoodlum because he threatened to kill her mother.
This mystery features Nicki Harper, the daughter of a screen goddess, who is raised in a completely dysfunctional home populated by a cast of crazies but who did not follow in her mother's footsteps. Instead, Nikki is a real estate agent who wants a quiet, comfortable life with a little love and happiness thrown in.

Up until now, Nicki always thought that dead meant dead. But then, film icon Rex March turns up freshly murdered in the bed of Nicki's best friend after being reported dead six months ago. A little distrustful of law enforcement, Nicki feels compelled to solve the murder on her own. Her acquaintances range from the pinnacle of Hollywood royalty to the bottom of Tinseltown's barrel, including a not-so-grieving widow, a conniving younger lover, a best friend with secrets, a jilted mistress, a ''closeted'' confidante, a wacky neighbor, and a scheming business partner. Rex has a gaping hole where his eye used to be, and Nicki knows a lot of people with motives for the murder. The killer is getting ready for a repeat performance, so Nicki must act fast before her own screen fades to black.





As a devout and obsessive reader, I am always delighted to discover a new author and/or a new series that I can follow.  While author Cheryl Crane is not new to me (her autobiographical account Detour is fascinating and de rigeur Hollywood reading), her new series involving realtor and intrepid detective Nikki Harper is.  And if The Bad Always Die Twice is any indication, the series will be a wonderfully pleasing diversion that any reader can eagerly revel in. 

I'm not certain which aspect of The Bad Always Die Twice I liked better - - the amateur sleuthing or the classic Hollywood connection.  The sleuthing, performed with a stealth like grace by heroine Nikki, was entertaining, breath stopping and nervewracking.  Nikki proved to be a feisty character, a tenacious lady who appears to live by the motto "all things are possible".  She simply cannot be kept down and she doesn't give up.  I immensely enjoyed her as a heroine; she was smart, quick and self sufficient and established herself quickly as a very devoted friend and daughter.

But let's talk about Nikki's mother, the regal, classy and very indomitable Victoria Bordeaux.  Victoria was a 1950s movie actress, a sexy siren who still lives her every day as the very elegent star she was once was (and still is for many fans).  I absolutely and positively loved her with the passion of a thousand suns.  Maybe it was due to author Cheryl Crane's own famous mother but throughout the book, I visualized Lana Turner as Victoria Bordeaux and just thrilled at every scene that included her.  To say that Victoria was a scene stealer would be a drastic understatement - - this lady owned every page she was on!

Between these two incredible female characters is indeed a mystery, a "whodunit?", that is clever and will keep you guessing until the end.  I was surprised by the reveal, not disappointed in the least, and gratified that Ms. Crane didn't insert characters/plots/red herrings that did not pay off in the end. 

Despite being a realtor herself in her "other" life, Ms. Crane is a very adept and able writer.  The dialogue is fresh, not forced or stilted, and the characters are a fun panorama of L.A. area residents.  Purveyors of home and garden goods will love the references to property amenities while fashion junkies will excite to the designer handbags and shoes.  The pages will fly by as you read The Bad Always Die Twice and, if you are like me, you will be left anxious to return to the glamorous Victoria Bordeaux and her Movie Nights with daughter Nikki and her two beloved dogs.  The Bad Always Die Twice is the kind of book that you simply won't be able to put down, nor will you want to.  Highly recommended and I would beg of Ms. Crane to please include generous doses of Victoria Bordeaux in future books!

The Bad Always Die Twice is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including AmazonI am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

COMING SOON!  Interview with author Cheryl Crane!

Review copy of this book provided by BookTrib and Kensington Publishing Corp. in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.



October 19, 2011

Book Review: THE ASSOCIATION by Bentley Little


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Barry and Maureen Welch are thrilled to exchange their chaotic California lifestyle for the idyllic confines of Bonita Vista, a ritzy gated community in the unincorporated fictional town of Corban, Utah. But as Bonita Vista residents, they're required to become members of the neighborhood's Homeowners' Association, a meddling group that uses its authority to spy on neighbors, eradicate pets and dismember anyone who fails to pay association dues and fines. Maureen, an accountant, and Barry, a horror writer who is banned by the association from writing at home, soon find themselves trapped in the kind of deranged world that Barry once believed existed only within the safety of his imagination. 


I am a big fan of Bentley Little.  His books taken a very simple premise and turn that premise on its ear and with very chilling results.  I expected no less from The Association . . . and was disappointed.

The premise for The Association is fantastic, especially if you have ever had to deal with a homeowners' association, nosy neighbors and the strange peccadilloes you may find in certain neighborhoods.  What if the homeowners' association didn't just meddle with regards to your landscaping but your life in general, complete with hidden cameras, spies and brutal punishments for not paying your dues?  And what if this neighborhood is guard gated to the point of no one entering or leaving without permission?  Scary, right?  The very thought of it chilled me.  But something was lost in the eventual translation.

I liked Barry and Maureen Welch, who wanted to leave the frenzied Los Angeles lifestyle for the relative serenity of Utah.  They believed they found their Utopia via an incredible real estate steal in Bonita Vista.  Both are smart people, who easily miss the red flags in the beginning and then simply don't want to believe the unbelievable explanation.  I could relate with them and feel for them . . . at least for the first half or so of the book.

That's when Bentley Little lost me.  Not due to his writing, which is always top notch horror.  And not due to the shocks and gasps he throws the reader's way.   What got me was the relative unreality.  And I say relative because, let's face it, when you read horror you have to suspend belief to a certain degree.  I will readily do that but when your main characters have figured out exactly what's going on and what they are up against and decide, against all logic and reason, that they are going to dig in their heels and stay, I am left scratching my head and wondering why?  

In this case, the Welches weren't in such financial dire straits and with nowhere else to go to obligate them to stay.  Perhaps if Mr. Little had written them to be scraping the bottom of the financial barrel, their reluctance to just pick up and leave would have made more sense.  As it was, it seemed that Barry and Maureen were simply being stubborn and refusing to let persons push them around - - despite said persons proving that they were willing to do anything (and I mean anything) to run their homeowners' association exactly as they wished.  

As with other Bentley Little books I have read, Mr. Little includes a dash of supernatural to his horror tale which will intrigue and please readers fond of the supernatural genre.  

While this book didn't live up to my standards, I still enjoyed it and it definitely let me with chills and grateful that I don't live in a neighborhood with a homeowners' association.  

The Association is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.   I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Bentley Little, please visit his fansite.

FTC Disclosure: This book was borrowed from my local public library. I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review. 




October 14, 2011

Author Interview: JAMES HAGERTY

Today it is my pleasure to welcome James Hagerty, author of the short story collection Voices from the Tomb and the soon to be released Tainted Glass, to Psychotic State Book Reviews to discuss isolation, inspiration, artistic endeavors and M&Ms!


Hi James! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews! I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and my readers.


JH:  Hello Lori and thanks for your interest. I am pleased to talk about my newest mega-novel (411 pages).

You have a new book coming out soon - - Tainted Glass. What can you share with us about this story?

JH:  It’s a love story of two gay leather men who get together 40 years later, catalyzed by the murder of a bishop in a casino. It so happens the bishop was once a motorcycle-riding top man--before an epiphany and a physical tragedy turned him into a priest--they’d both interacted with. It’s also a ménage a trois involving the main character’s former wife, a Native American named Dove of Dawn. Her psychic talents help solve the mysterious, deeply Freudian, murder.

What was the most difficult part of writing Tainted Glass?

JH:  Balancing grit reality and psychic phenomena from the Beyond. And a celestial, passed-over (to the other side) drag queen. Making that credible. Also presenting the leather lifestyle in such a way as to whet the curiosity, even enlist the sympathy, of a wider straight audience. Making it relevant and credible to them. I want Tainted Glass to strike a universal chord.

The overriding theme in your works - - Tainted Glass, Nut Grass, Voices from the Tomb - - seems to be existentialism. How do you deal with writing about isolation, loneliness and the darker side of human nature?

JH:  Or alienation. Those are projections of important components of myself. Therefore, themes I’m especially qualified to write about. Abnormal psychology appeals to me I suppose in the way it did to Jean Genet, Faulkner and Steinbeck, if I may place myself in such exalted company. I want my writing to be a metaphor of the human condition—even though from a darker side.

Which of your works is your favorite?

JH:  Nut Grass, Voices from the Tomb and Cathedral Crimes (a prequel to Glass) were training grounds for achieving the more mature and fully realized opus magnus. Therefore I have to say Tainted Glass.

What inspires you in your writing?

JH:  A desire to create visual edifices out of words. Similar to painting a picture or building a sculpture from ground up. Most importantly, it’s a desire to connect with the human race, albeit from the back door. I think it’s what the Cosmos wants me to do.

How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JH:  A long time, off and on for more than 30 years. Joining the Army, its regimented tedium and lack of creative outlets, helped me learn what I really wanted to do. I thank God for steering me away from teaching school, which I wasn’t cut out temperamentally to do. The poor students were spared.

Do you have any particular quirks or necessities while writing that you’d like to share?

JH:  Delving into the subconscious and the Beyond. I have a need to intermesh religion and sexuality, particularly deviant sexuality. They share a related aesthetic. The black of priestly robes and the outfit of a leather man. Risky territory I admit yet which I seem driven to explore. I’m compelled to find out how our lives here impact and mean over there. That makes me a sort of theologian.

How about your work area - - do you have a dedicated space or do you write whenever and wherever the mood hits you?

JH:  A combination computer and bedroom with a fabulous view of desert mountains. I prefer getting up at 4 a.m. to be rewarded by a resplendent dawn. That may have something to do with my character, Dove of Dawn. An extraordinary woman.

When you aren’t writing, what authors do you enjoy reading?

JH:  Currently, murder mysteries to see how the authors do it. That helps with plotting. I also like reading about comparative religion and philosophy. Anything to do with metaphysics or ontology, the nature of reality. Or the study of aesthetics. Even, believe it or not, spirituality.

You are also a talented sculptor. When did you begin sculpting?

JH:  I needed a site for scattering three cardboard boxes of family ashes. So I created rust-iron totems or “anthropomorphisms” to properly honor my forebears.

What led you to make art from auto parts and farm implements?

JH:  Tractor parts, plows, disks, gears, etc., lying about on the family arm. They interested me more than farming. I saw their aesthetic rather than their functional qualities.

Writing - - and sculpting - - can be a lonely pursuit. How do you handle the solitude?

JH:  I’m geared that way. True, I often write about loneliness. More specifically, alienation. I’ve experienced a lot of it. I try to see its positive and formative aspects. At the same time, I aspire to connect with like-minded and I should say, aware, even spiritually inclined readers. I’d have made a great guru in some Himalayan cave.

For some random questions . . . plain or peanut M&Ms?

JH:  Peanut. I love peanuts and peanut butter.

Scary books or scary movies?

JH:  Not particularly. I generate enough of that on my own.

Halloween or Christmas?

JH:  Hard to say. They are opposite faces of the same card. Just like I equate priests and leather men.

Hemingway or Steinbeck?

JH:  Again a hard choice. If you asked about Hemingway or Faulkner, I’d say Faulkner. More introspective.

And finally, what one word would best describe Tainted Glass?

JH:  Tantalizing.

Thank you so much, James, for stopping by and answering my questions. I enjoyed chatting with you and wish you the best of luck with Tainted Glass!


JH:  My pleasure entirely. I hope you’ll enjoy Voices from the Tomb as an overture to the major work it foreshadows.

For more information on James Hagerty's sculpture, please visit his website

Readers, stay tuned for my review of Voices from the Tomb to be posted here next week!

October 13, 2011

Guest Author: MARY LYDON SIMONSEN

Psychotic State Book Reviews is happy to welcome back Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of the newly released Mr. Darcy's Bite.  Welcome, Mary!


Hi Lori. It’s good to be back at Psychotic State. You asked that I write about bringing the supernatural to Regency England.

First, let me tell you how I ended up writing a werewolf story. I had actually published my first novel with Sourcebooks, Searching for Pemberley, before I learned that there is a huge Jane Austen fan fiction community out there. Once I did, I started to post stories on A Happy Assembly. It was getting near to Halloween, and I thought I would write a short story, Mr. Darcy on the Eve of All Saints’ Day, pretty much as a goof because I knew nothing about werewolves (even though my daughter is a big werewolf/vampire fan). The story was so popular that readers asked me to expand it. It ended up being a full-length novel with a few new original characters introduced, including a lady and she wolf who very much wants Mr. Darcy for her own.

I did do some research on werewolves, but when I read that they dined on recently buried corpses, I decided to wing it because Mr. Darcy would never do something like that. Besides, he likes his meat fresh and from the wild. (Red deer is a particular favorite.) By the Regency Era, there wasn’t a wolf left anywhere in England. They had been completely eradicated by the time of Alfred the Great (about 900 A.D.). So, basically, I reintroduced the wolf to England and was happy to do so. I love wolves.

Although Mr. Darcy is a werewolf, Mr. Darcy’s Bite is really a love story. After months of calling on Elizabeth Bennet at Longbourn, Darcy decides to reveal his dark secret to Lizzy when she comes to Pemberley with Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh. Although furry, fanged, and four-footed, Mr. Darcy is true to Jane Austen’s character, and being a gentleman, he must inform Lizzy of what it will be like to be married to a man who howls at the moon, stalks deer, and grows a tail. At first she doesn’t believe him, but when she actually sees him as a wolf, she wants nothing to do with him. How can she love a man who is part beast?

While Darcy is romping around the woods of Pemberley, Anne and Georgiana are working on Elizabeth—trying to convince her that underneath that furry coat beats the heart of a man, and one who is very much in love with her. But even if Lizzy accepts him, there is the danger of discovery, and she must decide if she is strong enough to protect him because, if people learn of his dual nature, they will try to kill him.

What does Elizabeth Bennet decide to do? I hope you will want to read my novel and find out. Please tell me what you think about a furry Mr. Darcy.

P.S. I will be publishing a time travel novel in December, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy


Thank you, Mary!  I am always happy to see you here.  


For more information on Mary Lydon Simonsen, please visit her blog.

A time travel novel with Elizabeth Bennet Darcy?  I. CAN'T. WAIT.  Doesn't a time travel novel with our beloved heroine sound enticing?  


Please stop by next week for my review of Mr. Darcy's Bite

What do you think, readers?   Can you buy Mr. Darcy as a werewolf?  And what other Austen characters, if any, would you like to see in the supernatural realm?  


October 12, 2011

FRIGHTFUL FALL READATHON: Wrap Up

I missed posting for several days due to being under the weather but I still managed to get a little reading in.

This was my final tally:

Books read:  3
The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
The Association by Bentley Little
The Bad Always Die Twice by Cheryl Crane

All reviews will be coming soon, as well as an interview with author (and celebrity child!) Cheryl Crane.  You won't want to miss that!  

Overall, I'm pleased with the books read although I always wish I could rack up more.  

How did you do?  

Many thanks to the lovely Michelle at Castle Macabre and The True Book Addict for hosting THE FRIGHTFUL FALL READATHON, as well as the authors and fellow bloggers who donated books and time.  And thank you to all the readers who participated!   

Don't forget that my THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT READATHON is still running and will be continuing through the month of October.  Post the links to your reviews here and automatically be entered into drawings for books at the end of the month.  I will be posting a list of what books are up for grabs by the last week in October.