Featuring the brilliant new releases, Butterfly Bones and Dream Journal on the blog today. More than that, I've reviewed each one, too. For those of you familiar with my blog, you know that's not common for me. I try to avoid posting book reviews for a multitude of reasons, but when I read a book so fantastic that I am blown away, then I am compelled to do something about it. Enjoy the features--book reviews are below each one. These are definitely worth your time!
They come in threes; death, tragedy, premonitions.
Life is good for Amanda, normal, just the way she wants it; until she’s awakened on the back lawn by a ghost from her childhood and her dog.
Nightmares and premonition dreams have returned with a sickening dread of change.
Events push her. Dreams pull her.
Her past and future are only a nightmare away.
When the unthinkable happens – reality slams into her with jarring force – she realizes everything can change in less than a day.
The thin walls between reality and imagination begin to blur with the psychological twist of her dreams.
She’s on a dangerous path that threatens everything.
The life she’s worked so hard to create begins to crumble.
Her mind dangles by a damaged thread.
Is there another life she’s supposed to be living?
If there is, will she live to see it?
“What a fucking mess you’ve made,” shouts a scruffy girl about eight, with spiky blonde hair, standing in the center of a gravel parking lot. A heavy fog swirls around her, and, for a moment, she disappears into the mist. I look down and see my lap covered in broken windshield glass and leaves. I look back toward her, she waves her arms and jumps around wildly as if she’s trying to get my attention.
I’m dizzy. I try to focus. I can see her mouth move but — “Sorry, I can't hear you.”
She shouts, “No shit!” She gestures with her whole body like a kid having a temper tantrum, her mouth moves again as if she’s shouting, but there is no sound. Then she laughs and I realize she has been mouthing the words like a muted television. She laughs again, brushing hard at the hem of a faded green dress that hangs on her small frame two-sizes too large. “You haven't listened in so long – the fucking sound’s been turned off!”
The fog thins and there’s something about her that’s disturbing. “Do I know you?”
She exhales, looks up at the sky, shakes her head and sighs dramatically.
She’s standing several yards away from me in a sunny parking lot surrounded by old oaks, yet I can hear her sigh? It doesn’t seem right – the distance.
“If you don't — I'm one-hundred-percent fucked.”
“You have a potty mouth.”
“Who are you?”
“Child of a rock star. Or blues singer.” She chuckles. “Or demented, drugged-out-dreamer. Sort of depends on the year.” She does a pirouette in her tattered tennis shoes, sending up a cloud of dust around her feet. “No, wait. I’m a wizard!” Twirling on both feet around and around with her arms out. She stops, staggers, gains control of the wobble and whispers, “Did you like the yellow butterfly? Beautiful against the chrome, wasn't it?” She scuffs the gravel with her toe. “Shame to kill it. But the grill would seem too nightmarish without it. No one wants a plain-old chrome Freightliner grill, a gnat’s fuzzy ass from their nose, etched into their memory, for-ev-ver.”
Liz was in the car with me, laughing, pointing to the water spraying up from the tires of a semi, and then the butterfly battered by the wind and rain on the grill of the truck. “What do you mean, you killed it?”
“Had to, but just this once. Butterflies were our thing – don’t you remember? There wasn’t one we couldn’t name in our rope-scarred neck of the woods.”
“We never killed them.”
“I’m desperate here. Okay?” She sighs loudly and bats at the hem of her dress. “Anyway. Back to who I am. I’m your Fairy Godmother – here to rescue your sorry ass, Cinderella. Oh, no, no. I know! I'm your sensitive inner-child.” She laughs insanely bold. “I really love that, inner-child, how’s that even possible when I’m older? You notice how no-one ever says poltergeist, juvenile delinquent or inner demon.” She shouts holding her arms up to the sky, “Hallelujah! Praise Jeez-Sus!” Then places her hands on her hips and stares at me a long unblinking moment. “No? Nothing? You don’t remember? Seriously? If I was the monster-under-the-bed, or spit green-pea soup at you, would you get it? No, fuck, guess not.” She steps in close with an exaggerated Mother-may-I step.
I realize with a start that she’s me. I was ten, waiting in the parking lot outside the church. Talking, bitching, to an imaginary friend, one I had created on Zita’s instructions to be older and wiser version of myself, we were playing Mother, may I, but the imaginary older me was acting stupid and it was pissing me off.
How is this possible? Seeing my younger self, talking to an older me that I’d invented. And now I am the older – talking to the younger from the other direction.
“This is unreal.”
“NAAAAH! Wrong again! This is as real as it gets, princess. I'm trying to save your charmed ass. Actually, my ass. I’m selfish like that.” Raising her arms, she turns in a circle, shouting to the bright blue sky like a circus Ringmaster. “Ladies and Gentlemen, can we have your attention, please! We need some fucking help here!” Then she turns to me and whispers, “Am I blurry?”
“Shit. I don't know if that's good or bad. I think I should be a little blurry or misty. A tiny bit wavy or something. I’m not? You sure?”
“You're not. You’re loud. You're giving me a headache.”
“No, I'm not touching you. It's the tree. The oak tree is giving you a headache, probably angry with you for hitting it with your damn car. Or maybe the bent steering wheel’s complaining. Don't go blaming me. Blaming me is not good. Especially if I'm the last thing you see.”
Butterfly Bones is one of the most creative, evolved stories I've read in a long time. The story brought up a lot of emotions for me personally, actually, as I, too, feel as if I'm standing on a crossroads in life where I'm questioning my choices and goals---just like Amanda. In the story, she grapples with loyalties, love, longing, and loss. The writer weaves an eloquent story that both enchants and challenges us to look at our own lives. What would our younger self think of us now if we could meet?
This is more than a five star read. The characters are vivid and three dimensional. The writing style is brilliant. The story is a mix of emotionally complex women's fiction with quirky paranormal twists that pushes this to another level of story-telling that is truly extraordinary. I highly recommend it!
From the back cover...
PREMONITION DREAMS COME IN THREES
As a child Amanda dreamed of her funeral. She was there, a spirit hiding behind the honey suckle watching the mourners, listened to their comments, ‘too young... only thirty-two...’
She turned thirty-two on Christmas.
She hasn’t sleepwalked or been woken up by her ghost and his cat in years but this one dream haunts her. She tries to brush it off as a childish fear, but she knows the difference between a nightmare and a premonition dream. This was no nightmare.
Against the odds, she’s created a normal life; an investment adviser, living with her husband in a comfy bungalow with a yard large enough to plays Frisbee with her dog. Life is good.
Until one hot August night.
In the predawn hours, she’s awakened under the old oak tree of her back yard by her childhood ghost, from a dream with the sticky webs of a premonition.
They’ve returned. The thin wall between reality and imagination begins to blur.
She starts this dream journal to help untwist the dangerous symbolism buried deep in the dreams. Will they come true? Will she live to see thirty-three?
This is a collection of dreams by Amanda J. Wilde, a character in the novel BUTTERFLY BONES. This is Amanda’s journal, her thoughts and fears, because as adults, there are very few people we can discuss ‘premonition dreams’ with (and expect to keep our job) and even fewer still that will help untwist their meaning. She keeps this journal to herself (mostly) even as the life she’s created starts to crumble around her.
A spin-off short story, from the novel Butterfly Bones – Visions are the voice of the soul
Holding onto clumps of grass, slipping at the rain-slick muddy edge of the cliff, I’m on the verge of hysterics as I slide further, slowing losing my grip.
The heavy, blowing rains have carved a cave into the earth under the slick grassy edge. The cliff face has sheared off, crumbled away and fallen into a deep river gorge.
Each time I grab a handful of grass to pull myself up, it pulls out in a muddy clump.
I slip further and scream, “Help!”
I can see over my shoulder to a rocky riverbed a hundred or so feet below with a muddy thread of a river frothing and tumbling between boulders.
My right leg dangles free in the air, I struggle to touch anything with it and only find more air.
It seems I’ve been struggling, hanging on by my fingernails for hours.
I scream help again and hear laughter.
I look up to see my friend Kerry with Brad, looking over the cliff’s edge, laughing at me.
They must not realize how much danger I’m in.
“Help! I need a hand please! It’s too muddy. I can't get a grip to pull myself up.”
Kerry laughs and slaps her thighs. Laughs too hard to speak.
Can’t she see the drop below me?
Brad says, “I told you to lose weight, get in shape. How many times have I told you to workout harder, you've lost all your muscle tone, you let yourself go to flab. This is your fault fat-ass.” He turns and walks away.
Kerry smirks at him, stops laughing and says, “Don't worry, Sweetie. I'll help you out of this mess. Always have, haven’t I?” She turns and walks away.
She’s gone for so long that I start to worry she’s left.
I’m at the very edge now with both feet kicking at the wind, my hands are slick with mud, and fingernails are broken off at the quick from digging so hard into the grass’s muddy roots, trying to find a grip. I’m panicked. Tears of fear, anger and frustration blur my vision. I can’t pull myself up and the more I try, the more I slip. My muscles burn, my fingers cramp in pain and sting.
I’m an inch now from the muddy edge and the concaved slick earth carved out under me. The line where the grass and mud have given away is curved down to eye level. There’s nothing to grab should I slip an inch. My pulse hammers in my ears as fear rises.
I’m going to die here.
“Hey!” Kerry extends a thick stick out over the edge of the cliff. My breath catches as I dangerously slip, reaching for the stick with one hand.
I grasp and tear, struggling to find a handhold in the slick grass, crawling with my arms and elbows, as she pulls, digging her heels in the muddy ground. She’s chuckling, shaking her head.
The humor escapes me.
She’s pulling me up inch-by-inch.
My breath is ragged and my heart pounds as I inch my way up to my ribs on the cliff's muddy edge, holding onto the stick now with both hands. I’m so grateful my chest aches and my eyes blur with tears of relief. My panic begins to subside as my hips near the grassy slope where I’ll finally be able to pull myself up onto the muddy ground.
Kerry says, “You’re as gullible as ever,” and lets go of the stick.
I gasp and fall back into open-air.
I'm so shocked — I can’t scream.
I fall, watching a half smile on her face, her eyes looking directly into mine, until all I can see is a tiny silhouette of her at the top of the cliff, backed by bright blue sky.
I couldn't get enough of these short stories. A few of them actually made me cry. The emotional impact is like a sledgehammer to the gut--I loved them all! The talent of this author truly surpasses most. Literary in style, almost lyrical at times, yet approachable. They are weird in a quirky paranormal way, but if you love opening your mind to the idea of premonition dreams and fantasy, then you will love this collection as much as I did. I guarantee it. Any great lover of literature will find these stories compelling and heart-wrenching. Wait until you read the one where she's in Belize swimming with dolphins...I cried like a baby. Or the one with the doll on the beach or the monks in the mountains...seriously, I cannot find a flaw. They are all profound in their own way. This is a five star read, but I'd give it ten if I could.