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Books for the Cajun Soul

Review: A Masquerade of Saints by Nicole Loughan

23160642Disease, insanity, and death were the angels that attended my cradle, and since then have followed me throughout my life. – Edvard Munch
Psychopaths know the technical difference between right and wrong – which is one of the reasons their insanity pleas in criminal cases so rarely succeed; they just fail to act on that knowledge. – Jeffrey Kluger
Life is filled with goodbyes, Eve, a million goodbyes, and it hurts every time. – Mozelle Batiste Delacroix
Back in August of 2013 I picked up a copy of To Murder A Saint. Honestly, what caught my eye about it was the cover – to murder a saintthe oaks dripping Spanish Moss, and the poignant angel, who you know is weeping the loss of what can only be a child within the tiny crypt. I knew it had to be set in the South, where else? And it was, in the bayous of Louisiana, a place the author, Nicole Loughan, had been drawn to after her brother moved to New Orleans after Katrina.
Honestly, I wasn’t all that kind in my first review, pointing out how the ‘journalistic’ feel of the book was rather off-putting, though the story did have good bones.  Honestly, I am spoiled to tell the truth. The south runs through my blood, and I lean heavily toward the slow cadence of James Lee Burke, hot southern nights, and the heartrending cadence of blues guitar blowing in over the water when reading anything set in the south.
allsaintsNicole was a dear, and we talked quite a few times after my review. I read her second book, and in my second review I wrote, “Nicole, being the sweetheart she is, took my in input like a true lady.” Her second book cover shares the same eloquent vision as her first, drawing you in and giving you full notice that what you will read between its pages is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Her second entry into the field of Southern Gothic writing far outstripped her first entry into the field in terms of language and characterization, leading me to the sure knowledge that her craft would only continue to grow.
Now, with her third entry into the Saints’ series, Nicole had fulfilled her promise. Oddly, she does it with the same tight, scholarly style that she offered in the first book, as well as the second. But this third novel pulls in a Southern warmth that pulled me into the story and caressed me with the warm winds and sometimes-sour, sometimes-sweet redolence of  the bayou, keeping me turning pages at a frantic rate as I continued to follow the Fanchon’s journey through the terror which continues to stalk her.
After losing her best friend to a sadistic serial killer, then her adoptive family to madness and death, à la the best of William Faulkner, Fanchon’s life is still a nightmare. Killers stalk her, she has been accused of murder, and the man she had thought was her boyfriend, the cop from New York, Banyan, may not be a boyfriend at all – in fact, he may be something a whole lot worse. Or is someone else the author of all of her troubles?
Betrayal and heartache, terror and hope, clairvoyants and sociopaths all come together into an explosive ending that fulfilled that promise I hoped for when first reading Nicole’s works. This is the wrap-up of the series, though it does leave some tiny threads hanging which give access to another Fanchon story in the future, which I look forward to. For now, Nicole will be writing The Divine Hotel, a novel set in her home of Philadelphia. From her description:
One woman watches over the children of Philadelphia, until she gets the biggest assignment of her life, to go back in time to save the entire city. Philadeplhia’s epic landmark, the Divine Hotel, is the setting for this high-stakes mystery that brings one woman back to a time when the city was teetering on the brink of greatness and gives her a chance to tip it one way or the other.
You can learn more about Nicole and her books at her website and you can purchase her books at Amazon or your favorite retailer. I received a copy of each of Nicole’s books in return for realistic reviews. All thoughts are my own.
About The Author:
 An image posted by the author.You may know her as the syndicated humor columnist “The Starter Mom.” Nicole is a graduate of Michigan State University and an award winning Journalist, recognized by the Michigan Press Association as a top feature writer. She writes for two daily newspapers in the greater Philadelphia area. “To Murder a Saint” is the first book in the Saint Series. “All Saints’ Secret” released in August. It is recommended that the books are read in order.

Nicole loves a mystery. Her favorite female sleuths were dreamed up by Charlaine Harris and Janet Evanovich. She draws inspiration from the classics too such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe. She said she has to mention her first experiences with New Orleans came from the venerable Anne Rice.

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To Murder A Saint – Win An Audible.com Copy!!!!

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Click to Win!!!! LINK NOW UPDATED AND WORKS CORRECTLY!

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Now is your chance to WIN a copy of To Murder A Saint by Nicole Loughan!

 

Nicole just published her Audio version of her book at Audible.com. Read by Suzy Lexington the story leads from the swamps of Louisiana to New York City, and back to Louisiana again as Fanchon, one of two lovely girls from the swamps, searches for her best friend Josephine’s murderer. A tightly written story imbued with ambiance, it is a wonderful beginning to the Saints Series!

Blurb:

The ground is too wet…If you bury the dead here, they can come back.” Her father always warned her that the bayou was a mysterious and dangerous place. She never suspected that the greatest danger of her life was lurking in New York City. Before their bags are unpacked one of two Cajun girls in fresh from Louisiana is found savagely murdered in New York. All the clues point to a wild animal, a perplexing development for a third floor apartment. Lacking a suspect the police accompany the murdered girl’s French speaking roommate back to her reclusive Southern Louisiana town in search of a lead. They are met with a warning that the killer is not finished yet and learn that this is not the first mysterious death in the family.

Excerpt:

It’s probably a bad sign on a first date that my mind wandered to how best to bury somebody. Namely it wandered to burying Jason Stepwald: lumpy, chubby, balding insurance salesman, Jason Stepwald. Not handsome, full head of hair, marine ‘Semper Fi Jason’ as advertised on his My Date profile page.

I think I started picturing Jason dead when he would not stop talking about insurance rates while his mouth was stuffed with oysters. The shining grey and white matter swirling around on his tongue as he talked about tort reform set a picture in my mind of him buried in the wet soil of my parents’ front yard. I remember my father telling me when I was young, “The ground here is too wet, cher. If you bury the dead here, they can come back.”

With those words in my mind I saw Jason lowered into the ground, a respectable burial, and then his decayed corpse bubbled back to the surface, his tongue sticking out. It was the very color of the gelatinous goo currently occupying his mouth.

My attention came back to living Jason when I inhaled a pungent fish smell. Jason decided that I might try one of his half shell delicacies if it was swirled within an inch of my face.

“You want one?” he asked. “Clams are an aphrodisiac, you know.”

“Where I come from we call ‘em oysters,” I told him, pushing his hand away. I noticed that his hands were soft. My dad always said nobody dates a man with soft hands.

Jason recovered from my slight and said, “So, Fanchon. That’s an interesting name.”

“Well,” I said. “A name like Fanchon in Louisiana helps people separate poor bayou trash from just plain regular white trash.”

His eyes grew wide and some of his red wine dribbled down his chin. The red wine glistening on his neck was just too much for the dead Jason image in my head. I had to turn away from him or I was going to lose it.

“I didn’t mean to upset you or anything like that,” he said.

While looking away I suppressed a smile and turned back to face him. “It’s fine. If you really care to know it’s a Cajun name. I am from a French parish town near New Orleans. It comes from…”

He interrupted me. “You know what’s interesting about New Orleans?”

“I have no idea,” I said resting my head on my hands, giving up on getting a chance to speak.

“Well it’s interesting because the whole city sits below sea level, you know. What happened with Katrina, it was just a matter of time,” he said chewing with his mouth opened yet again. “That’s the risk of being below sea level; they don’t even offer flood insurance there. I have been to a place in even worse shape called Kiribati. It is so low they will be underwater in the next two years. Talk about an insurer’s nightmare. They are mostly savages in little huts though, so it’s not like they would even have anything to insure.”

After he steered the conversation to insurance yet again I couldn’t take it.

“I have to use the restroom,” I said, walking away before he could reply.

Once safely locked away in the bathroom I sat on a yellow chaise, facing a full-length mirror by the door. I took a deep breath and examined my reflection. I thought I looked pretty good that night, not like my usual self at all. I thought back to how excited I was getting ready with my roommate, Josephine. She sweetly brushed my unruly dark hair, taming it with all her gels and curlers. She pulled out her best red dress and stuffed me into it. It was so tight on me we had to buy stockings that sucked me in from my knees to my chest. I remember I told her, “I hate tight clothes.”

She replied with her usual pseudo French cadence. “Men here drawn to tight clothes and red like flies to honey, cher. Deese men won’t be impressed dat you know how to gut a fish,” she said as she pushed a stray hair out of my face. “You my beautiful friend, cher. It time you act like it.”

And don’t miss Nicole’s second volume in the Saints Series! All Saint’s Secrets is out NOW!!

Blurb:

allsaints“After her death the kids used to say her ghost haunted the plantation.”

The bayou holds many secrets. One of them is what really happened to Lisette, a beautiful Creole teenager who died on the last day of school. Everybody in Fanchon’s reclusive bayou parish knows Lisette died in a boating accident, but when the police take a closer look, they unearth the dead girl and find a surprise in her grave.

All Saints’ Secrets is the sequel to To Murder a Saint. It is highly recommended that the Saint books be listened to in order.

 

About The Author:

new-orleans-maskYou may know her as the syndicated humor columnist “The Starter Mom.” Nicole is a graduate of Michigan State University and an award winning Journalist, recognized by the Michigan Press Association as a top feature writer. She writes for two daily newspapers in the greater Philadelphia area. To Murder a Saint is the first book in the Saint Series. All Saints’ Secrets released in August. It is recommended that the books are read in order.

Nicole loves a mystery. Her favorite female sleuths were dreamed up by Charlaine Harris and Janet Evanovich. She draws inspiration from the classics too such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe. She said she has to mention her first experiences with New Orleans came from the venerable Anne Rice.

About the Narrator:

Nicole and LizThe daughter of an American diplomat father and a model mother, Suzy Lexington has been traveling the globe since she was born.

Currently, Suzy is working as a journalist and living in NYC.

Click the Audible logo to see Suzy’s other works. audible

 

Shadows of Bourbon Street is Here! New Deanna Chase

shadoes
Click to Order!

Shadows of Bourbon Street is here!!

Got the following from Deanna Chase a few minutes ago! Her Jade Calhoun Series is wonderful, and I have been waiting rather impatiently for the next in the series. Never fear, read on for more information and the links to purchase!
Hello,
I’m extremely excited to announce my newest release, SHADOWS OF BOURBON STREET, the fifth book in the Jade Calhoun series! (Book six is coming this winter!)
As a special treat there is a companion novel, MARKED BY TEMPTATION, a spin off Bourbon Street novel, that happens at the same time as Shadows of Bourbon Street available now in the Alphas After Dark anthology.
Buy links Shadows of Bourbon Street:
Kobo Coming soon!
iBooks Coming soon!
 
Buy links Marked by Temptation (In Alphas After Dark 9 book bundle)
Only 99 cents for a limited time!
iBooks coming soon!

Cute cover!

Starting a new job is tough…especially when your boss thinks nothing of interrupting your wedding.

After a year of battling ghosts and demons, white witch Jade Calhoun is finally marrying the man of her dreams. Or is she? Minutes before Jade and Kane say I do, the High Angel arrives with a job for the newly appointed shadow walkers. Another witch’s life is on the line and it’s up to Jade and Kane to save her.

With a black magic user intent on destroying one of Jade’s friends, more demons on the loose, and a hard to find incubus, can the almost newlyweds save the witch and get their own happy ending?

USA Today bestselling author Deanna Chase brings you MARKED BY TEMPTATION, a novella set in the Jade Calhoun Bourbon Street world. Mati Ballintine is a sex witch looking for a hot one-night stand to bolster her power, and sexy Vaughn Paxton is cocky enough to make her work for it. But when their one night turns into more than they bargained for, one life is changed, another threatened, and suddenly there’s a whole lot more than lust at stake. (Coven Pointe #1)
Thanks for reading,
Deanna!

 

Review: All Saints’ Secrets by Nicole Loughan

to murder a saintBack in August of last year I wrote a review of To Murder A Saint by Nicole Loughan. At the time I really enjoyed the book, set in both the swamps of Louisiana and the City of New York. There were some issues with it, without a doubt. Nicole is a journalist first and foremost, and her first foray into a non-fiction work of mystery was rough, but showed exceptional promise.

Since that time, I have had pleasant on-line conversations with Nicole, and learned a bit about her, as well as passing along some Cajun tidbits that I thought were appropriate. Nicole, being the sweetheart she is, took my input like a true lady.

This new book set amongst the same families as her previous is far more comfortable for me. In a way, not trying as hard to handle the patois of Southern Louisiana has refreshed her book, making it more realistic and easier to read than a somewhat stiff attempt at the language of the South. One still gets some of the flavor of the Southern language and the world view, and it is more relaxed for it.

allsaints
The newest edition in Nicole Loughan’s series.
Well worth the read.

In All Saints’ Secrets Fanchon is recovering in New York from the brutal attack that she suffered at the end of the previous book. You get more insight into Fanchon in this book, learning a bit more about her and what drives her as a person. As with the other, this isn’t really a long book, and the descriptions of the bayou country still aren’t on the level of someone like James Lee Burke, but Nicole is making great strides. The language of the characters is not as stiff, and she does more description of the landscapes and the surroundings than she did before. This is a great improvement when it comes to my personal tastes. I know not everyone agrees with me, but descriptions of surroundings and people are very important to my manner of reading. I want to be able to close my eyes and see my surroundings when I am reading. Without that, a book simply doesn’t hold my attention.

This is a rather Gothic look at the Southern Mystery genre, filled with poverty, isolation, and a deep sense of family history. It is easy for me to see what is there, as that is home to me. In the last book, others, who hadn’t traveled to the area, would not have been able to see the landscape as well, should they have closed their eyes and tried. This time around, seeing Fanchon’s surroundings would be easier. There is still a bit of “stiffness” to the writing, but not anything that makes the book unreadable. Instead, I was pulled in immediately and glad to have another look at Fanchon and her story. The storyline is both clever and creative, leaving you knowing at the end that there is a follow up, but this is by no mean a cliffhanger. You could also read this book as a standalone, but I went back and read the first book again before I read this one (as I am habitualized to do) and enjoyed Secrets all the more for it.

Overall, this is a pleasant way to wile away an evening of the Gothic South, mystery, a hint of terror, and a soupcon’ of romantic thought. I look forward to the next and recommend the book to anyone who would enjoy the style.

I bought this book for myself, and didn’t receive the first one, or this one, from the author. All comments are my own thoughts.

Look What M. K. Clinton Won!!!!!!

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Congratulations M. K. Clinton!!!!!!

I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!

The Returns. 4.7 stars on 146 reviews. $2.99. Action. Adventure. Humor.

WAY TO GO BENTLEY AND THE REST OF THE RETURNS!!!

thereturns
If you haven’t read it yet, you should! If you love happy, humourous, wonderful books, this one is great! It is being read to everyone from retirement home residents, children, even prison residents – making everyone smile!!!!!

 

The Returns Take A Tour of Dumaine Street!

thekidsinjeep
M. K. Clinton’s Stars Cruising Dumaine Street on Thanksgiving!

M. K. Clinton’s wonderful hubby, Skipper, took this shot of the stars of The Returns and Showstoppers cruising Dumaine Street today! The breeze, of course, has Bentleys ears blowing in the wind. 

How Cute are they???

SHOWSTOPPERS IS OUT IN PAPERBACK! WOO HOO!

The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers is out in paperback on Amazon!
The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers is out in paperback on Amazon!

The holidays are nearly here, and what better gift than beautiful copies of SHOWSTOPPERS for all your friends and family? Heartwarming, funny, and all around lovable, these canine companions, along with their Angel Guardian, her Angel Mentor, and their favorite FBI Agent are on another adventure!

Travel with them, from New Orleans to New York as they track down the evil people who are kidnapping famous show dogs!

The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers is out in paperback on Amazon! Click the link above and you can purchase copies for everyone on your list!

 

Woof! Woof! The Returns, Showstoppers is Coming!

bentley
The real, honest-to-goodness Bentley!
See the Badge Number 7 on his hip?
How cool is that?!

Agent Seven and The Returns are back in action!

I just got my copy for Beta Read of the second adventure of that awesome team, The Returns. I am only on page 30, and having an absolute blast.

If you will remember, I gave rave reviews to the first book of the series, “The Returns” and the second book is just as enjoyable so far. Bentley and his friends, Tucker the Golden Retriever, Pierre the West Highland White Terrier, and the totally awesome Bones, the toughest little Chihuahua around, have to find out who is stealing world-champion show dogs and help return them to their owners. This promises to be just as fast, fun and action filled as the first book, and well worth the read for anyone from a small child to anyone enjoying a fun read.

Aiden, the FBI agent who was Bentley’s partner before Bentley’s unfortunate early demise is back in action with the gang, as well as Faith, the boys Guardian Angel, and Miss Gitty, the gray tabby cat who is Faith’s mentor as a first-year Guardian Angel.

Keep an eye out for the publication date here on my site, or follow M. K. Clinton on Twitter.

Now, back to reading!

The Heaven’s Rise: Due out October 15

heavensrise
The Heaven’s Rise is out October 15.
If you love horror, suspense, Louisiana, you will LOVE this book.

It isn’t the big things that frighten me the most. Oh, they are frightening: the storms, the fires and floods and hurricanes like Katrina. Their devastation is horrific, tremendous, outside the realm of reality in their own way.

But those things can be shared, in all their pain and anger. What frightens me are the small things, the unseen things. The man who touches his three-year-old daughter, behind walls and in secret. The woman down the street, whose empty eyes have long given up hope for rescue from her abusive husband. The eyes of a starved and beaten animal, long past any understanding of why their loving nature has been so abused.

The Heaven’s Rise pushes those buttons, edges those boundaries, between madness and despair. Where evil is a scent or a sound, a chill running up the back of the neck. The sense of a shadow, just out of the reach of mind and eye. A memory, dropped deep within the well of the psyche, rising, groaning, into the subconscious at three in the morning.

In The Heaven’s Rise, all the evils, small and large, play a prominent role. The uncaring heartlessness of the political machine of New Orleans, the greed that played a role in the losses caused by Katrina and the tragedies that occurred before, during and after the storm. Greedy oil companies and exploding gas pipelines. The cruelty and hatred, the corruption of a body politic out of control.

But those are the large, the expected things. What shivers over my skin while reading this book are the small terrors, the 3AM night-sweats, the shadows in the corners of the room, moving and flowing, rising up. Superstition and hatred and death, and the spooky world of the Louisiana bayou jacked-up on the aftereffects of terror.

Sometimes, the nightmares that the rich can cause are worse than any dark creature, risen from the swamps. Especially given the powers of those shadows, those denizens of the darkest nights, and the fog shadowed edges of reality. It is the psychopath in his plain little house, living his plain little life, sharpening his blades in his plain little kitchen, before he walks out the door. The sociopath, passing through the crowd, innocuous and calm, quietly planning the collapse of the markets, or the deaths of thousands upon his whim.  Pol Pot. Ted Bundy. The quiet, unobtrusive fellow next door. The one you would never suspect.

The same. The same. They are all the same. The blankness in their eyes, the lack of a soul. Or a soul so blackened, so twisted, that the very act of having a soul is a torment, an automaton of evil, with lifeless, unblinking eyes. The primitive eyes of alligators, of lizards. Of blasted humans, drinking in the misery of others like a fine wine.

There is mystery and death and long hidden, deeply primitive secrets to this story, set both before and after the depredations of Katrina. Secrets and lies, and blasted human souls draw you into the book and keep you there, holding your breath while you skim the pages, drawn into the depths of greed, hatred, and pathology which would make Stephen King and M Night Shyamalan green with envy. For the horrors here are horrors of minds lost to the shadows, puppets with cut strings, dancing across the stage, deranged events in the midst of chaos. Monsters live in our minds. Our psyches. Only, sometimes? They get out.

And yet, at times, a small flame burns in the distance. The faint, small light of hope.

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