Tag Archives: fiction

Critical Condition Review

indexCritical Condition by Richard L. Mabry (M.D.) kept my eyes to the page. Life would tear me away from the story, but I would hurry to return to discover Shannon and Meghan Frasier’s tumultuous relationship and whether Shannon could put behind the past to marry Mark.

Dr. Shannon Frasier witnessed her boyfriend’s murder when they were both in medical school. In later chapters, she is a doctor in a relationship with Mark, but unwilling to commit to a marriage. Meghan, her sister, is a typical family drama creator. But during the first chapter, Dr. Frasier witnesses a man get shot on her front lawn. Meghan’s boyfriend is also shot. The police question, and even suspect Meghan and Shannon. Detective Steve Alston is attracted to Shannon. The plot tightens as the police wonder if Meghan isn’t connected to a gang who robbed a bank. The money from the robbery never surfaced. While the plot fascinated me, the book had some minor issues.

I thought Shannon’s grief over her boyfriend, Todd’s, death was too quickly dealt with in the prologue.  The later chapters, however, showed the damage of her trauma better with Shannon’s inability to make lifelong connections. Her dislike of guns made sense as it was a reaction to the trauma with her boyfriend. The distance between her family and her, and her sister’s on-again, off-again drug issues all bring this plot to a boil.

Critical Condition showered us with all the pieces of the puzzle. I often felt impatient to turn the page, because I did wonder about the guilt of one character. The romance Steve felt for Shannon led me to believe Shannon and Mark would break up. Mark’s attraction to another girl didn’t need to be in there as it didn’t add to the plot. The emotion between Mark and Shannon felt too stilted and distant. Steve’s background with his deceased wife sparked my interest, and he popped back into the picture near the end when he is suddenly with Meghan. The initial pages suggested he would try to break up Shannon and Mark, and was almost dishonorable about it, persisting when he knew she loved Mark. So while I enjoyed the novel, I thought these problems could have been tweaked. I gave this novel three and a half stars.

Buy here: Critical Condition

Disclosure of material connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase this item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I might use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Book given by publisher to review.

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Short Story: In Her Mother’s Shoes

Ellie imagines she is a princess when she slips her small feet into her mother’s shoes; sometimes, a dancer. Ellie loves her mother’s black heels, too, but mostly likes the red ones near the back of the closet.

A few scuff marks mar the sides of the red heels. Ellie digs the shoes out of her mother’s closet every Thursday after her mother leaves Ellie with the non-English speaking Nanny (because grandma was unavailable) and goes to work. Ellie with her long red hair fanning around her face as she twirls in the red heels imagines many things at eight years old, even when the too-big shoes causes her to trip.

Ellie imagines that they don’t live on the fourth floor of the stone-faced apartment, and Scruffy, the creepy old man, doesn’t block the door with his body because it’s warmer there in the winter. The massive noises from the street are nonexistent and she only hears the sweet music in her head. This place has walls that are worn and door jambs sporting dark smudges. The windows are single-paned and old, and in the winter the breath of snow sends chills along her skin. When she dances in the red heels nothing else matters except her imagination. She could be a queen or a lady in a great mansion with many rooms both fine and breezy.

At least, until the Nanny screams at her from the doorway in words Ellie can’t understand. Ellie slips the shoes off her feet and puts them in the back of her mother’s closet next to the hat box. Her mother keeps books piled on the hat box. All of it disappears behind a row of long dresses—the summer ones. Ellie likes it when her mother wears those dresses, but her mother has never worn the red heels.

The Nanny grasps Ellie’s right arm and pulls her out of her mother’s room, leading her down the hall to Ellie’s narrow bedroom. Ellie plops onto her bed and the Nanny shakes her head, wags her finger, says more words, then shuts the door. The Nanny makes a lot of noise in the kitchen. Ellie hears the pans clanging against each other and the spoon hitting the sides of a pan. She smells chicken. Ellie goes to the narrow window at the end of her room and rests her chin on top of her knuckles. She could be anything in her mother’s shoes, but she wishes those shoes could take her away from here where the police regularly bang on the apartment door next to theirs, and people frequently get led away wearing silver bracelets and looking like their mothers just sent them to timeout. As the light turns gray in the streets, the street lamps flicker on and night comes, Ellie sees her mother get out of a taxi looking weary.

In her mother’s shoes, Ellie could understand in a small way. School made her tired, too.

A little while later, her mother enters her bedroom. She carries the red shoes in her hands. “Mrs. Gonzales says you were trying these on today.”

Ellie looks down at her feet and twists the hem of her shirt around her finger. “Yes.”

“Do you know why I don’t wear these anymore?” Ellie’s mother whispers as she sits down on the bed.

Ellie shakes her head, but peeks between the strands of her bangs to look at her mother.

“Because I wore these when your father was alive. They remind me of happier times.” Her mother massages Ellie’s neck.

“Can’t you wear them again and imagine that daddy is still here?” Ellie whispers. “Won’t you twirl with me and imagine?”

And in her mother’s shoes, Ellie twirls holding on to her mother’s calloused hands. While her mother smiles, Mrs. Gonzales watches from the doorway and sings a song in Spanish.

 ©Copyright Nikole Hahn, 2012

Short Story: Swine and Snow

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shadow on the street showing deformation along distance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clever, clever plan, thought Albert Swine. A job well done!

He carefully closed the door to the study. He was tempted to peek one last time into that dark abyss, to flick on the light and with his eyes follow the thin fishing wire to the trigger of a small .38 hidden by a pot of daisies behind the chair. The barrel had been positioned at Bernard Snow’s head. The moment Mr. Snow sat down the fishing wire would tighten through the loop in the ceiling and pull the trigger.

Albert practiced this in an open field. Old office chairs sat with holes through the backs from misfires, and largely from Albert’s own enthusiasm. Perhaps too much enthusiasm, he thought as he twisted the key and locked the study. Albert limped up the stairs and back to Mr. and Mrs. Snow’s Master Suite to replace the key in Mr. Snow’s nightstand drawer. Albert turned the key a little to the left, stood back, and repositioned it again exactly the way Mr. Snow had put it away last night.

A giggle escaped his throat. He covered his fleshy lips with his hands, looked around, then softly closed the nightstand drawer. The maid had left a silk nightgown across Mrs. Snow’s bed, pressed and without a stain. Mrs. Snow’s favorite perfume sat on the dresser. He walked over and sprayed it in the air and closed his eyes.

A door opened downstairs. Albert left the suite and pulled some towels from the linen closet. Footsteps came towards him.

“Where’s Libby?” Mr. Snow grumbled.

“Quit. This morning.” Because of you!

“Geraldine forgot to tell me.” Mr. Snow rummaged through his briefcase. His tie hung crooked down his white shirt. “Albert, could you take my briefcase to the study. Put these files on my chair.”

Albert slid the towels onto the shelf. He stared at the briefcase.

“Albert?” Mr. Snow held out the briefcase and files.

Albert grasped the handle of the case and felt the weight of the heavy files on his arms. Sweat drops formed on his brow. “Yes, sir.”

“And Albert? Fix me a cup of tea…the Earl Grey. Add a drop of Scotch to it.” Mr. Snow closed the bedroom door after handing Albert the key from the nightstand.

Albert walked down the stairs and stood in front of the study door. He dropped the briefcase, balanced the files on his arm and inserted the key. He switched on the light and walked towards the chair. With both hands, he carefully set the heavy files on the chair seat and the briefcase next to the chair on the floor. He looked at his hands and rubbed them on his pants. He closed the study and pocketed the key.

Such a clever, clever plan! He skipped into the kitchen and put a pot of water over the fire. When would it happen? Doubtless, it would happen, for Mr. Snow never spent any time with his wife. He left her languishing in the bathtub and worked on contracts until midnight in the study with the news on his small flat screen. He came home early always to chase Libby around the kitchen island, threatening to fire her if she didn’t pretend to like his attentions.

Libby wouldn’t quit. She has a five-month old to tend and a mother with Alzheimers. Albert took Mr. Snow’s favorite mug—the one his office awarded him for kindness on the job. Who awarded hypocrites for kindness? He poured a shot of Scotch with the tea bag and waited for the water to heat. His fingers tapped on the counter and he strained to hear the gunshot. Any minute now!

The intercom buzzed. “Albert, is that tea ready yet?”

Albert pressed the white button. “No, sir. Almost.”

“Well, hurry, then. It’s been a long day.”

The disappointing thing about intercoms was in not knowing the caller’s location. Mr. Snow could have entered the study now. The intercom box was near his chair, connected to his phone. Any minute now, Mr. Snow will sit down and feel the hot bullet enter his skull. Albert will drink his tea and dance in his blood.

The tea kettle began to whistle low. Albert turned off the gas and poured the hot water watching the tea bag drown in it. He stirred it slowly, the string of the tea bag tangling with the handle of the spoon. He took the tea bag and squeezed the last drop into the cup.

He pressed the intercom button again. “Sir? Where might I bring you the tea?” Albert held his breath.

“The Master Suite, Albert. I decided to take a bath. My muscles ache.” Mr. Snow spoke slowly, fatigue in every word.

“Yes, sir.” Albert grimaced. How long must he wait for justice?

He walked up the stairs, trained as he was by his father and grandfather how to bring the master a cup of tea without spilling a single drop to stain the tile. Mr. Snow had the bathroom door cracked. The bath water ran. Music played from the radio.

No news today. Strange. Albert called, “Tea, sir.”

“On the dresser. I’ll call you again when I need you.”

“Yes, sir.” Albert placed it on the nightstand. “I’ll just put the key next to your tea for later.”

The bath went quiet. The whine of a violin sadly followed Albert out of the room. He went into his own room adjacent from the kitchen.

His intercom rang a moment later. “Where did you say Libby was today? Quit?”

“Yes, she quit.” Albert answered irritably.

“Why didn’t Geraldine tell me? Curious.”

“Don’t know, sir.” Albert buried his face into his pillow after answering. He paced his room from wall to wall. The waiting only aggravated him. The deed had to happen tonight. All the planning and the persuading of most of the staff to take the evening off would backfire in the morning. Mrs. Snow was on her way to her mother’s house. She thought her mother was sick.

“Is there anything else you need, sir?” Albert called Mr. Snow on the intercom again two hours later.

“No.” Mr. Snow yawned. “Why don’t you take the evening off?”

“Yes, sir. Not going to work tonight in your study?”

“I don’t know. Where did Geraldine say she was going again?”

“Her mothers.”

“Oh, that’s right. My secretary told me.”

“Are you sure there isn’t pressing work to do in the study?” Albert trembled.

“Well, there’s that file…” Mr. Snow sighed. “Albert, do you ever feel as if you are always working, always too busy?”

Albert’s palms sweated again. “No.”

“I do. I’m thinking of taking some time off and spending more time with Geraldine.”

“But there’s that file.”

“There’s always some important file.” Mr. Snow long sigh hissed over the intercom.

“It’s on your chair.” Albert’s eye lid began to twitch.

Mr. Snow said, “I suppose you’re right. I shouldn’t run away from today’s work. I will schedule some time off though. I’ve too long neglected her. Tell Libby I wish to speak with her tomorrow afternoon. And Albert?”

“Yes?”

“Thanks.”

Albert sat down on the edge of his bed. His feet twitched. He watched as the hours elapsed slowly. The heat from the lamp pressed down on him. The house creaked. The strains of a violin could be heard upstairs.

Do it all ready! Sit in the chair!

A door opened and shut upstairs. Albert straightened his spine. Then, he leaned forward and pressed his fists into the mattress. Shoes crept down the stairs towards the study and hesitated.

A whine came eerily into the silence. Albert realized it was his own cry. He bunched his fists through his white hair.

“Albert?” Mr. Snow called. “You okay?”

Albert said nothing, rocking to and fro on his bed, yanking on his hair.

He heard the study door unlock. Albert jumped to his feet and pressed his ear against his bedroom door. His hand gripped the knob. The study door closed.

Then, opened again. Steps retreated up the stairs.

Impossible! He swung open his door and walked through the kitchen and into the foyer. The study door leaned open. The dark abyss called to him. He stepped inside.

Maybe the fishing line wasn’t tight enough? Maybe the gun jammed? Albert’s bloodshot eyes wildly took in everything and he groped in the darkness of the study towards the chair. His feet knocked violently against the briefcase, which slugged against the chair.

The gun went off.

Clever, clever, Albert muttered. Time paused, if that was possible. He fell to the floor.

“What did he say?” Someone asked, the voice fading in.

“I don’t know. Something about being clever.”

Albert’s face contorted and his life flowed away from his head, staining the floor.

“Wasn’t clever enough,” Mr. Snow sounded upset.

And why not, thought Albert. I am clever. I am clever…I am clever…clever…clever…clever.

 ©Nikole Hahn, 2012 (no reprints without permission)

Some News and Anonymous Blogger

Our Anonymous Blogger called and said to call McConnell, Reid, Flake, and McCain to defund Obamacare. I whole heartedly agree. Flood their offices with phone calls and faxes!

Yesterday, a collection of short stories and other things became available called, Nomadic Sojourns. A couple of my short stories are in it. It will hit the McNally-Jackson store shelf (New York) in a few days, including an Indie store in Iowa. This is the first printing. You can buy it here.

EBM-Fowler_nomadic2I would like to note for my Christian friends that this isn’t a Christian publication. I enjoy writing both secular and Christian short stories as I enjoy the challenges in both. So I hope you enjoy it.

Nikki Hahn

Book Review: A Matter of Trust

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A Matter of Trust by Lisa Wiehl continues the Mia Quinn saga, like the Nancy Drew mysteries or that Hallmark mystery series, Mystery Woman; the main story thread is Mia Quinn’s life. The suspense and mystery take a backseat to Mia’s troubles.

This novel began with a startling murder. Mia is on the phone with her good friend, Colleen, when a shot is heard. This thunderous beginning left me breathless and flipping pages as I couldn’t read fast enough until I got to about the middle when the suspense ran out of steam. It became interesting in a Joe Friday kind of way with a touch of Hallmark. There are two possible men appearing in Mia’s life, but Mia just lost her husband months ago to a car accident. She’s not ready for an emotional relationship. She can barely keep her life together.

Mia gets back into the work force after years of being a stay-at-home mom and her old contacts welcome her into the legal fold. But having a frustrated teenage son and a young daughter to care for while taking on a high-profile case seems like lighting the fuse on a piece of dynamite. Something is going to explode and leave the pieces irreconcilably scattered if Mia isn’t careful to strike that balance. As Mia, and Charlie, the detective, investigate, drawing nearer to the real killer, Mia’s life becomes crazy. It’s a novel with subtleties and lots of messages. It’s highly political, balancing both the liberal and conservative side; neither side stronger than the other.

When A Matter of Trust focuses our eyes on Colleen’s ex-husband as a suspect in Colleen’s murder, I leaned forward with interest. The eye of the writer focuses on the ex-husband’s cufflinks. When Mia visited the ex-husband’s wife at their fancy condominium, I wondered why the writer’s “camera” had focused on these things. I asked, “Where did they get the money? Is the reason for this focus in another book in the series?”

Lisa Wiehl wrote an excellent book, even if it went from wow to merely interesting. She showed Mia’s distress through Mia’s weakness for all things salty, like chips. This is something every woman can relate to, and most mother’s will understand Mia’s struggle as a new widow with children to raise. Overall, I gave A Matter of Trust four stars.

*book given by publisher to review.

I review for BookSneeze®

Book Review: The last Israelis

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The Last Israelis by Noah Beck was reviewed via audio book through Audible. This is my first review of an audio book and I found it difficult to follow with all the different characters. I don’t think this is an issue with the author, but with me as the reviewer.

Even now, I am having trouble following the story so forgive me if my details are off. I have no page numbers or anything to refer to in my review; nothing to bookmark. I spent all day Saturday and some of Sunday sitting and listening to the novel. From my point of view, it’s a military novel about the Iran-Israel clash. The characters are the prime minister in Israel who has fallen mysteriously sick making Israel nearly leaderless during a critical time in their history. The cache of other characters take place on a submarine called the Dolphin. The cast is diverse from a gay person wanting to come out of the closet to a conservative. It seems message-orientated as each explains their point of view. Most of the story takes place on the submarine.

Objectionable content is at a place where the point of view gets confused when we switch heads and the swear words startle you. The swear words are not overdone or without purpose. The pros of this audio book is the later half of the novel when the action begins. The pros of this book is also the reader, too. The person reading the novel is very engaging. He does great voice impersonations and it’s not hard to listen to this novel, just hard to understand what is going on because of so many characters. When I listen to an audio book of the Bible, I understand what’s going on, but with so many characters in this novel, it’s very hard to follow. The story that comes clear from the story is the Prime Minister of Israel’s coma and awakening. Perhaps if I were to read the actual novel, I could follow it better.

The end of the novel disappointed me. The epilogue was the diplomatic cable that probably could have been left out as the only purpose it served was to be a message, instead of a story. I would have also liked to be left with some hope at the end of this novel.

Overall, it seems like social hour on the submarine discussing their points of view and politics, a lot of technical information, and some military action. I gave this novel three stars as an audio book.

*Book given by author to review.

Book Review: Sweet Sanctuary

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Sweet Sanctuary by Kim Vogel Sawyer is unusual in that the bad guy isn’t the cookie-cutter version you so often read in romantic novels.

Dr. Micah Hatcher is called to Boston by an angry father, demanding Dr. Hatcher take responsibility for a child he supposedly fathered with nurse, Lydia Elredge. Micah surprises Lydia at the door, but what appears to be a lie concocted by Lydia becomes simply a caring father’s wrong-headed justification to try to save Lydia’s child, Nicky.

But Nicky isn’t Lydia’s blood child. Eleanor, a friend of Lydia’s, died giving birth to Nicky. She was on the run from her drug-addicted husband, Nic Pankin. Dr. Micah Hatcher is reluctantly drawn into their precarious situation, and in a trial to test their faiths, Lydia and her father decide to follow the letter of the law and gain custody of Nicky. But it’s too late. Nic finds them and takes the child and there is nothing Lydia or Micah can do to stop it. Law enforcement can’t take the child away until Nic does something illegal. Nic is the bad guy in the story, but he becomes a good guy towards the end. This is the main story.

On the back cover of the novel it talks about Dr. Micah’s “secret mission.” The secret mission takes very little paper as most of the focus is on Micah, Lydia, and Nicky. The secret mission has very little to do with the rest of the novel, except in a very small way. It is not the secret mission that keeps Micah away from coming to Lydia’s rescue, but stubbornness and miscommunication that, in the end, is resolved.

Sweet Sanctuary is a page-turner. I wish the back cover copy focused on the main plot, more than the secret mission. Secret mission suggested danger towards Micah and that always draws readers into a story. This is less a suspense story and more a story of the heart. I gave this novel four stars.

*Book given by the publisher to review.

Update: My Crossover Novel

A sunspot viewed close-up in ultraviolet light...
A sunspot viewed close-up in ultraviolet light, taken by the TRACE spacecraft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Anomaly is at 30,540 words. My Word Weavers critique group and a friend are both critiquing the novel.

Working Elevator Pitch: More is falling a part than this man and woman’s marriage as massive sun spots cause displacement in the atmosphere.

It’s looking to be about 70,000 words with a firm deadline of December. It’s a crossover speculative fiction which means, that while the two main characters are not believers, there are believers here and there. The Christian believers are not there to spread the message, but to create a real world scenario of mixed families filled with believers and agnostic or atheists which can naturally create tension. In the meantime, my two characters struggle to not only figure out what is left to rebuild their marriage on, but why people are disappearing. Between flickering cell phone signals, rolling blackouts, and people disappearing, my two characters will be forced to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives.

I am outlining a new novel to begin in January that is more horrific, but in the speculative Christian fiction genre. In this one, I will be having a message of redemption in it that is typical of Christian writing, but not preachy. I hate preachy writing. You’d know this if you read some of my book reviews. Let me clarify.

When I say message of redemption, I mean where there are shortcomings, repentance happens. Where there is hurt, forgiveness occurs. It is horror, but it will have a romantic note. The characters are saved and some are not saved. I’m going to be writing it like a ticking time bomb. Firm deadline for this new novel will be December, 2014. By January, 2014, I will have two complete novels to shop: The Rose Door and The Anomaly.

Book Review: Broken Wings

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Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore is Book Two in the Angel Eyes Trilogy. It continues Jake and Brielle’s story and is the only novel series I love that leaves us hanging at the end, forcing us to buy the next book in the series to find out what happened.

Brielle still wears the Halo Jake gave her in Book One. Marco is with them. Canaan is still Jake’s Shield. But now Brielle’s father is in trouble. He’s met a young woman named Olivia. In the beginning chapters, Brielle can’t identity if what she is feeling is directly related to having to share her father with someone else or if the warning in the Halo should be heeded and what it means. Brielle is also having nightmares. The nightmares get stronger with each chapter.

Her father is drinking again. Olivia has encouraged it. Brielle grows more helpless as her father becomes more alcoholic than father. The demon, Damian, has also returned. The Prince of Darkness has plans to war over Stratus, Oregon and wants Brielle and Jake. Damian isn’t an active character until the later half of the novel as Jake discovers things about his past which connect him to Brielle’s father and deceased mother. Meanwhile, heaven and hell prepare for a celestial war over Stratus and Jake and Brielle are in the middle.

Dittemore successfully writes another novel, chronicling Brielle and Jake’s love story with her beautiful, earthy, and intense story telling of show more than tell. Broken Wings ends on a question mark which will force you to buy her next novel in the series, Dark Halo (August, 2013) to find the end of the story. The story in Broken Wings stops at the edge of the action. It’s the only novel where I don’t mind this technique. Normally, I hate it when novels have a beginning and middle, but the end is not in the book you are reading. Thankfully, Dittemore puts out these novels in quick succession so you don’t have to wait too long before continuing the saga. I gave this novel five stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.

Book Review: The Widow of Saunders Creek

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The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman is a mixed bag of romance and ghost story; a story of loss and love; of demons and witches.

Corrie married dynamic Jarrod Saunders. He joined the military and went off to Iraq. Corrie and Jarrod were childless. After Jarrod died saving at least fifty lives, Corrie submerged into her grief as a war widow until Saunders Creek called her home. Her mother and her never got along–both have different agendas. Her mother is always trying to force her agenda on her daughter. Eli, Jarrod’s cousin and the contractor for the family home in which Corrie will be living, encounters Corrie drunk on the front porch having drunk an entire bottle of liquor. Thus, begins a long and complicated friendship.

Corrie’s life gets spooky. The house seems to have a life of its own and to Corrie’s mind, it feels like Jarrod’s ghost lingers in the house. Eli and his mother try to explain that ghosts don’t exist. It’s a demon that has been haunting the house since even his grandparent’s time. Eli’s Aunt Trudy, a woman involved in covens and Wicca, sees Corrie as a chance to draft another witch. Corrie is attracted to Aunt Trudy’s mystery and wants to believe that Jarrod is in the house, not a demon as Eli and his mother try to explain.

The story is well-written and mesmerizing. It was a page-turner. What a difficult situation for Eli to experience–falling in love with his cousin’s widow just six months after Jarrod died. His mother warns Eli to go easy as Corrie is still grieving. The blossoming romance and the heightening suspense made this novel five stars. It’s a classic ghost story and before I even read the author’s note, I knew Kristine McGuire’s research was in the novel as I had reviewed her book on the occult here.

*Book given by the publisher to review.