Lottery: Book 1 by Kimberly Shursen ~ 2014

Caleb's left eye twitched.

Publisher: Createspace (August 7, 2014)
Publication: August 7, 2014
Pages: 355
Language: English
Jacket Design: Kimberly Shursen 

"This book was provided by Kimberly Shursen in exchange for my honest review alongside my proffered thank-you for asking."

4 Stars

Kimberly Shursen

Lottery is a fast paced psychological thriller that will make you turn pages hoping that Caleb O'Toole gets what should be coming to him. This down-on-his-luck loveable guy turned multi-rich-SOB had an air about him that made you hate him with a passion.

The novel opens up with Caleb in serious debt that all started with a ten dollar bet that made his future not look so bright. Being accosted by a person his bookie had sent to deliver a "message" the 50 grand he owed had a deadline. Bummed and as any serious drinker would, headed for the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel where he was a regular. His multimillionaire friend Jack Weber was there and wouldn't help him out. Memories of his father goading him "...never amount to a tinker's damn." filled him.

But, hey, the lottery is at 736 mil. Jack throws him a hundred dollar bill and tells him to pick up some mega-million lottery tickets on the way over to a party he was throwing that night. And if he wins he'll split the pot.

Jack wins and reneges on his deal. Caleb is beside himself and the only thing that warrants anything positive in his life is Ling Jameson. The beautiful woman he had literally ran into earlier that evening. Later after the party, Caleb wants to go back and stand up for himself and get his half of the deal Jack had promised. He arrives on Jack's yacht and the confrontation begins. Caleb finds out that Jack has not cashed in on the winnings yet because he wants to wait for a few days. As the confrontation escalates Jack tells Caleb to get the hell off his yacht and, not budging, Jack charges him. Stepping out of the way, Weber tripped and went down hard. "... get up you SOB. I said we're gonna settle this." Not gonna happen. Weber's dead.

This is not a spoiler, only the beginning of a fast paced story of a madman making sure that no other man on earth will take away from him his beautiful lady Ling Jameson. Not even McKenzie Price who was on board that fateful night and supposedly heard everything. Or her brother Ron. Not even people who seemed to Caleb to be Ron. No one will take her away from him. Not even Ling's parents. 

All the while, as the novel carries us through this macabre life of Caleb O'Toole, he hears voices and we learn that he has heard voices all his life, though, now he can put a face to them. 

Panic sets in on the yacht and Caleb wants out of there. Before he does, he searches Jack's pockets and grabs the lottery ticket. He wipes the place down trying to conceal his fingerprints and makes his get-away. 

After cashing in the lottery ticket four days later, Caleb and Ling marry and they start to open Ling's dream of an adoption agency to help orphans of China find American parents. Caleb and Ling travel to Shanghai to finalize the deal. 

Justin and Jenee Rager of Topeka, Kansas are Ling's first couple that has made it through the mountain of applicants of perspective parents. They are proud parents of Baileigh, their beautiful toddler princess. Justin is self-employed as a mechanic working in his own shop since graduating high school. Jenee becomes a dear friend of Ling and as the story moves along Jenee turns to be the petrol to keep the authorities fueled. Especially, when the hurricane-force winds approached.

They adopt a child whom looked all to familiar to the child Jenee dreams of in her sleep. Elijah is a special needs child being left after his birth with multiple fractures to his legs. While Caleb, Ling, Justin and Jenee were in China, Ling had fell in love with a little girl named Ahna, half Chinese and half American just like Ling. She wanted to bring her home and Caleb was reluctant voicing they wanted their children. Consenting, Caleb agrees and as time moves on, Caleb and Ling have a son. Son of Caleb.

With Kimberly Shursen's ability to weave a page-turner plot, this psychological thriller has many twists, suspense, and murder to captivate all thriller lovers. She has gorgeous descriptive details of Shanghai, China to the seedy parts of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, to the beautiful openness of Topeka, Kansas and back again to the affluent neighborhood of San Francisco's Pacific Heights.

She has a cast of more than a dozen characters, each having their own voice so you can vividly see them and all of their emotions. Their patois is set to distinguish where they were born and raised and their customs and beliefs were acknowledged.

Kimberly kept the mood and tone of her novel set in the utmost place for a thrill ride through the pages - dark, eerie, unexpected to say just a few. I loved it.

To speak of her theme for this beginning of her Lottery series is a realization in your mind that there are actual real people out there with a twitch in their left eye.


Here's where you can get your fingers on Lottery:
  •  Amazon ~ Kindle $4.99 ~ Paperback $16.99 USD

About the author ~

Kimberly Shursen
Thriller/mystery writer, Kimberly Shursen, began making up stories in grade school. Growing up in a small town in Iowa with a population of 2,000, imagination not only became her entertainment, but a passion.

After graduating from a private college with a BA in education, Shursen began writing a musical. Five years later she presented the music, book, and lyrics to private investors. The play premiered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and later opened in Sweden.

Eden, Shursen's second full-blown musical was also produced by investors, catching rave reviews.

Knowing her passion had always been to be an author, Ms. Shursen left her position as a marketing director to pursue a full-time career in writing. She has yet to regret the decision.

Shursen's debut novel, political thriller ITSY BITSY SPIDER, was voted one of the top two thrillers of 2013. Legal thriller HUSH was published in January of 2014 and a top pick for Underground Book Reviews.

Kimberly Shursen's psychological thriller series follows the lives of a family caught in the web of a malevolent mental illness that spans over four decades and two generations. LOTTERY, SON OF CALEB, CALEB'S LOT, are available  ~  Amazon


Visit Kimberly Shursen

"The absolutely best part of being a writer is meeting interesting people I would never have met if they had not taken a chance on a new writer and picked up my book. I will always and forever be grateful."  ~  Kimberly Shursen

Reviews  for

~    Kimberly Shursen   ~
Itsy Bitsy Spider



Caleb's Lot


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South of Broad by Pat Conroy ~ 2009

The life of Leopold Bloom King

Author: Pat Conroy
Publisher: Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc.
Published: August 11th 2009
Pages: 460
Edition language: English
Jacket illustrations and design: Wendell  Minor

4 Stars

Pat Conroy
The novel follows the life of Leopold Bloom King in Charleston, South Carolina. It ranges from his troubled childhood to his adult life with his close group of friends. An excellent read, though, some of the twists should have had a better crescendo to the event.

The narrator is Leopold Bloom King (known as Leo named after Leopold Bloom from James Joyce’s classic Ulysses.) and he introduces us to his family and his friends who meet on Bloomsday back in 1969.  He had a troubled childhood and an unexpected trauma with the suicide death of his older brother Steve. Leo has a loving father and strict mother and after Leo's father passes away, Leo's mother forms a lifelong companionship with a Catholic priest named Monsignor Max. 

In high school, Leo forms a bond with twins Sheba and Trevor Poe, an African American boy Ike Jefferson, Niles and Starla Whitehead who are a couple of runaway orphans (and Betty), Chad and his girlfriend Molly Huger, and Fraser Rutledge. A couple of kids who had got kicked out of their private schools. 

As the story moves along, Leo deals with his past and his friends have their own troubles. But it is this bond of friendship that keeps them together through all of the events of their lives. They go through events that I could see happening in any neighborhood across the South, or for that matter, anywhere in the United States. They tend to go to the high school football games, Leo's friends Sheba and Trevor have a psychotic Dad, and there's trouble in marriages. They do go through a series of troubles and successes and stay close as good friends do. 

The story covers twenty years of their lives and flips back and forth from the 1960's to the late 1980's through the Aids epidemic scare. Trevor is openly gay and possibly suffering from Aids and has gone missing. The friends make a trip to San Francisco for the search. After returning to South Carolina, there are more events in the characters lives that might want you to make sure a box of Kleenex is in arms reach. From lies, more suicide and murder, there is a strike of luck for Leo. Even a bit of "What goes around, comes around."

As the story nears its end Leo finds devastating news. He confronts the news and as a newspaper columnist, writes a detailed account before entering into a mental hospital. He has a series of dreams of his family's loss and of his friends encouraging him to keep living. He awakens and befriends a nurse, leaving the hospital with a look toward the future.

Some of the friends do marry one another and of course have their own issues to deal with, but this story is full of bonding and lifelong friendship and - that's what they do.

This novel has many themes and plot lines and Pat Conroy pictures friendship, marriage, success & failure, heartbreak, devastation of loss, and life's challenges in a very convincing read.

Here's where you can get your fingers on South of Broad:

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Cruel Devices by George Wright Padgett ~ 2014

What makes good horror?
Maybe some words should remain un-typed

Publisher: Grey Gecko Press
Published: November 30th 2014
Pages: 178
ISBN:  978-1-9388216-6-6
Language: English
Text: © 2014 George Wright Padgett
Illustrations: © 2014 George Wright Padgett
Design: Grey Gecko Press

"This book was provided by Grey Gecko Press in exchange for my honest review alongside my proffered thank-you for asking."

5 Stars

George Wright Padgett
Looking for a great read for the weekend? Cruel Devices is a mesmeric page-turner read for all psychological thrill seekers.
George Padgett took me onto a fast paced journey with world renowned horror writer Gavin Curtis and as the story moved along, I was hoping Gavin would end up getting the short end. This self-centered, arrogant, son-of-a ... gun had an air about him that had me looking for specials on air-freshener. Gavin carried himself with the attitude of since he was famous and rich, he was 'above' other folks throughout the story.

The story opens up with Gavin on a book signing tour at the book store Buy-the-Book and he's in a sour mood about having to go on these tours. As he signs his autograph onto his latest novel Blood Clot of his vampire detective Damien Marksman series to his dedicated fans his publicist, ex-wife Josephine Garner, is on the phone with him explaining to him that he needs to get a birthday present. A birthday present for retired 75 year-old editor and dear friend Billy Cavanaugh. Through gritting teeth, fake smiles and seeing a long line ahead of him he was relieved when all of a sudden the over head sprinkler system erupted. No fire no smoke, but, while book store owner Mr. Hastings busied himself trying to cover as many books as possible to save his inventory, the crowd had dispersed into the parking lot. Gavin calmly walked out with his sports jacket over his head and stood aloof from the crowd.

He's tired of these book signing tours and burned out from his Damien Marksman series and needs something fresh to spark him again. He wants a cigarette, even though he had quit.

On the curb next to him was a young muscular, black man wearing a Buy-the-Book apron. After explaining to Gavin that his regular store is store #719 and he was there to only help out with the extra business because of the book signing, he notices the crowd had started to come closer to Gavin. Gavin wanted a break from the crowd and the clerk had suggested to hide back behind the store in the alley and would come to get him after the crowd dissipates. Gavin agreed to the idea. He bums a cigarette and heads off toward the alley.

Waiting for the clerk to arrive, which never happened, Gavin had exited the alley onto a street looking for a light for the cigarette he got from the store clerk. This part here threw me - he walked 9 miles before ending up in front of an antique shop. Why didn't he jump into his rental car to get away from the crowd? and assuredly the car would have had a cigarette lighter.

After some events that kept me turning the pages, he had acquired a typewriter from the antique shop that actually was not for sale according to the proprietor Madame Kovacs.

Once back in his suite in room #719 at the Droverton Convention Center Resort and after a hot shower he marveled at this typewriter. He found the birthday present; Billy Cavanaugh is gonna love this old thing. Inspired, Gavin reached for his cell phone and dialed Billy’s number.  "...Okay let's test this baby out."He dictated as he typed, on every letter, the device’s tiny hammer against the paper made a hard cracking sound,  “’The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’” Leaning forward to view his work, he got - TYE QUI3K BUOWN FGX JUMMS OVEU TYE LA1Y DOG. He tried again -  “’The five boxing wizards jump quickly.’” He viewed the faulty result: DHE FEVE BOXISG WEZARTS JUMM QUECKLY.  After Billy gets on the phone the two of them have some fun with pangrams. All have faulty results from the typewriter. Although Gavin does not mention that the typewriter is Billy's birthday present he does hear in the background noise in which Gavin explains it's construction going on. Billy adds: "Try, "Question: Just what unexpected horrors befall a very crazy Mr. Gavin Curtis?" After Gavin types it is error free.

After the conversation with Billy, Gavin eventually ended up at the lounge in the resort and then retired for the evening. Had a nightmare, woke and found the typewriter had wrote a coherent novel. The writing was sublime. He thought - Gavin Curtis is back.

Searching the T.V. for the final score of the game he was watching before passing out for the evening a news segment came on - "Local resident, Misa Kawaguchi, abducted near Pier 719, bound to support column until drowned." It was the same story Gavin had just finished reading.

The typewriter is a conduit for an evil that is coming through to the present from the other side. This is not a spoiler. Throughout the story Gavin and this typewriter become bound in a way that seems there is no way to be detached from each other. The events that take place with Gavin and this typewriter are paranormal at its finest. The descriptive scenes of inside his suite are picture perfect.
After learning the history of the resort he is in and it's past murders he wonders if Josephine had purposely reserved this tour stop in order to break his writers-block-rut he is fighting with. Especially being booked into room #719.

George Padgett has a novel that is quickly paced but not rushed. His characters were developed with their own personality and voice. It is a read that makes you turn the pages and wanting, no, needing to know what comes next.

The ending is a crescendo into a sadness ... maybe. You gotta read this if you seek psychological thrills and chills. An excellent read.

Most recommended folks ~ it was absolutely delicious

Cruel Devices

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Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke ~ 2011

There are no monsters under the bed.

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: February 11th 2014 (first published 2011) 
Pages: 357
ISBN13: 9781250016805
Language: English Translation copyright © 2014 Steven T. Murray
Jacket Design: Rob Grom
Jacket Photography:
The Damned Souls in Hell by Signorelli Luca, 1499-1504,
15th century fresco © Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images;
bridge and river © Giorgio Magini/;
man in tunnel © Vova Pomortzeff/Alamy

5 Stars

Jørgen Brekke

The prologue opened up with my thoughts running with anticipation for a delicious page-turner ahead. 
Where Monsters Dwell being the most awaited English language crime fiction debut in years, it did keep me turning pages. The novel is divided in 4 parts each having an aphorism from different famous people over the years depicting God being omnipresent. Saying in a sense that history repeats itself.

The novel opens up in the year of 1528 with a mendicant monk on a mission of retrieving "...better knives cannot be found in all of Christendom." from a certain beard-cutter. He assaults the beard-cutter and takes his knives.Then it flashes to the present in the year 2010.

Where in Richmond, Virginia at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum a murder has been committed. The museum curator is found flayed by the cleaning woman during her cigarette break in the Enchanted Garden on the Poe monument and later as she raced for a phone his head was found staring up at her with bulging eyes from the wastebasket as she called 911.

Not long afterwards, in Trondheim, Norway an archivist at the Gunnerus Library is found inside a locked vault used to store delicate and rare books murdered in the same way. Flayed and beheaded.
Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker find that they are working on similar murder cases, but half a world away. Both murders are somehow connected to a sixteenth century palimpsest; A manuscript called The Book of John - a journal that appears to be from a Norwegian serial murderer bound in human skin and is linked to a set of knives.

I appreciate how Jorgen incorporated some of the characters having characteristics of this story. Some having mystery books, readers of mystery, rare book collecting, some having 'personal problems' that related to the story and how some characters were intertwined with their personal life that related to the story. A grin appeared on me when Jorgen had introduced "The Rule of Thirds" and I said to myself, "Aha!, a clue" and as the story moved along that's exactly what he did with his story. It was clear to me that he had done some homework and it paid off for a very good mystery. He also went from past to present in the scenes at points that were ingeniously done. Each end of the chapters and parts were beautifully timed.

His characters Odd Singsaker and Felicia Stone are bound to be uncovered and painted more colorful with their own history as Jorgen Brekke writes further novels into this series. If Felicia is not around in a lot of his forth-coming novels, Odd has a colorful characteristic people will love to read more of.
The ending of Where Monsters Dwell there is a twisted, pleasing, delightful surprise. 

Here's where you can get your fingers on Where Monsters Dwell:
  • Amazon ~ Hardcover from $0.01 and up ~ Kindle $9.99 ~ Paperback from $0.01 and up

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Help For The Haunted by John Searles ~ 2013

Ghosts don't scare me. But no ghosts - that terrifies me.

Author: John Searles
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: September 17th 2013
Pages: 368
ISBN10: 0060779632
ISBN13: 9780060779634
Language: English
Cover Design: Mumtaz Mustafa (Designer) Jennifer Short (Photographer)/Trevillion Images

4 Stars

John Searles

"Whenever the phone rang late at night, I lay in my narrow bed and listened."
So begins John Searles novel Help For The Haunted.  It is beautifully narrated by 14 year old Sylvie who is the younger daughter of Sylvester and Rose Mason.  A couple who seek to help "haunted souls" find peace in this world.  After receiving a phone call one winter's night from Rose, their estranged eldest daughter, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in Dundalk, a town just outside of Baltimore, Maryland in an act of gun fire. Sylvie remained in the car while the parents went to have a talk inside the church.

This is the middle of the story. As the story continues, John Searles alternates chapters to bring you the back story of this dysfunctional family to an ending in which Sylvie needs to find closure on her parents murder.

The story is a mystery on who killed the parents? Albert Lynch is charged with the murder since he was the person Sylvie had seen at the church. Or was he the one? Albert had found the Mason's on one of their lectures they had became nationally known for in Ocala, FLA seeking help for his troubled daughter Abigail. Which later in the novel, had met Mrs. Mason and Sylvie at the end of their road and asked for the Mason's to look after her "...for a few days." Later he turned against them. Although he claims he did not kill the Mason's he sits in jail awaiting trial.

After the death of the parents the girls are sought by their uncle Howie from Tampa, FLA as their guardian but the courts won't allow a 2-bit drunk the right. Rose and Sylvie live together at their home and were looked upon from Cora Daley, a case worker whom needs her own help. The story moves along with Rose having her fathers rebellious attitude (although Sylvester did have a good heart, he was adamant in his beliefs) and Sylvie having her mothers calm more relaxed attitude they do have their sibling bickering here and there, but, they remain close.

The story had its lighter spots too - Dot, the unsuspecting nanny (that was hilarious I thought [Thanks Rose]), Dereck (a.k.a. Seven) with his Scooby Doo antics, Arnold Boshoff who needs a cook book, and the mysterious lady who leaves delicious looking/smelling food covered in tin foil on their front porch - which Rose throws away. "Don't know if it's poison, Sylvie." Especially after being bullied from kids at school (Brian Waldrop who keeps calling Sylvie, Wednesday Addams), their mailbox repeatedly being knocked down, the rag dolls strewn over the yard, and the general stares from people. All because their parents practice demonology to get Help For The Haunted.

The story had a few places where I appreciated the anticipation I felt. The well had me thinking, "What's going on there?", the yellow light from the basement, the sounds heard from Sylvie with her good ear pressed against the living room floor. Yes, the story had my imagination going. Love a mystery.

I had thought the Mason's might have brought on their own demise: being steadfast in their beliefs and eventually being asked to leave the church they attended, fueling a reporter with aggravation who wanted to write a book "Help For The Haunted: The Unusual Work Of Sylvester and Rose Mason" by Samuel Heekin. Sylvester had a stern outlook on how and what to write and maybe, just maybe, the reporter had fell in love with Mrs. Mason after showing her the birds. That's a few examples I can think of at the moment.

One thing for sure, Sylvie, throughout the book had shown moxie. Above everyone else, even Detective Rummel, she wanted to find what actually happened so her parents could rest in peace.
The novel is packed with more than a dozen characters, each colored with their own personality, that are very believable. In fact, the whole story is quite believable in present time. I enjoyed the mystery and worth the time for thriller lover's. ~ Caution: Is your basement light on?

Help For The Haunted

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