All Things Bright and Strange

All Things Bright and Strange

In the wake of World War I in the small, Southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, the town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms.The people of Bellhaven have always looked to Ellsworth Newberry for guidance, but after losing his wife and his future...

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Title:All Things Bright and Strange
Author:James Markert
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All Things Bright and Strange Reviews

  • Paul Falk

    James Markert serenaded me with the vernacular of country folk of the Deep South. Post World War 1. Enter the days of prohibition and bootlegging. Words danced off their lips with a Southern Charm that filled me with a longing for the times. The prose flowed across the pages like a gentle stream. It held me mesmerized. I was alive and kickin' in the quiet town of Bellhaven, South Carolina. Kindly pass the bowl of hoppin' John. Mighty glad to be there. From the outset, the characters were exquisi

    James Markert serenaded me with the vernacular of country folk of the Deep South. Post World War 1. Enter the days of prohibition and bootlegging. Words danced off their lips with a Southern Charm that filled me with a longing for the times. The prose flowed across the pages like a gentle stream. It held me mesmerized. I was alive and kickin' in the quiet town of Bellhaven, South Carolina. Kindly pass the bowl of hoppin' John. Mighty glad to be there. From the outset, the characters were exquisitely drawn in striking detail. What an uplifting pleasure.

    World War 1 veteran Ellsworth Newberry returned to his hometown. Bellhaven. Anyway, most of him did. His left leg remained in France complements of a German mortar round. As if things weren't bad enough, his wife Eliza had perished in a fire just before his departure for the war. At the time, it seemed like the patriotic thing to do. Now, not so much. Bitter and broken, Ellsworth struggles through life from day to day. All his reasons to live - gone. Kept a pistol close at hand. Only needed one bullet.

    Word got around about a hidden Chapel in the woods. Within walking distance nestled just outside of town. Everyone was inescapably drawn to it. Moths to the light. Townsfolk claimed it held some kind of mystical, spiritual power. Everyone who entered came under its entrancing spell one way or another. Some could get in touch with loved ones long deceased. Others would find a healing inner peace. A different experience for everyone. Many visited the site everyday. Might this have been too much of a good thing? Change was in the air. Not the kind anyone could possibly prepare for.

    My thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson--FICTION for this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

  • ☆Dani☆ ☆Touch My Spine Book Reviews☆

    I highly enjoyed this read! Not only is it based it South Carolina and I am a South Carolinian, it was very mysterious and sinister! I loved the way the characters interacted with each other and the overall characterisation. The only thing I wish was a tad different was it was slow in the beginning. I loved the mixed elements of this story as well. The mystery was highly enjoyable, making this book a suspenseful ride I am glad I didn’t miss out on!

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  • Caroline

    I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley

    The town of Bellhaven is damaged.

    Ellsworth, mentally and physically ruined by his experiences fighting on the frontline, is going to take his own life.

    Along with his ragtag couple of friends, Alvin and Omar, who were also injured during the war, Ellsworth lives a sad existence. Cooped up in his house he used to share with his very beloved wife, Eliza, who died in a fire a few years ago, Elsworth is drinking himself into a stupo

    I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley

    The town of Bellhaven is damaged.

    Ellsworth, mentally and physically ruined by his experiences fighting on the frontline, is going to take his own life.

    Along with his ragtag couple of friends, Alvin and Omar, who were also injured during the war, Ellsworth lives a sad existence. Cooped up in his house he used to share with his very beloved wife, Eliza, who died in a fire a few years ago, Elsworth is drinking himself into a stupor in the hope he will forget. Ellsworth is haunted by both Eliza’s death and the horrors he saw on the frontline which he cannot erase from his memory and constantly haunt him in his everyday life. After the initial prologue, the book picks up with Ellsworth about to commit suicide. Rudely he gets interrupted by a cardinal bird, a bird the town associated with lost loved ones. We follow Ellsworth as strange happenings in the town coax him out of his house and back into town life.

    The woods on the border of the town have long been avoided by the townsfolk as stories of witches and evil spirits have circulated for generations. But when Rafael, a curious black lad who Eliza rescued, goes into the woods having not spoken for two years and emerges happy and talking, the town soon rediscover a chapel hidden in there where the voices of dead loved ones can be heard. The townsfolk become addicted to going into the woods to hear their loved ones but their visits feed a power that is growing stronger by the day. Divides amongst the varied religious community appear and the town inhabitants start to act without morals. Ellsworth must use his leadership skills to unite to town, put differences aside, and ultimately conquer the evil that is lurking in the woods.

    I generally have mixed feelings about this book. The core story was very interesting and engaging. I was gripped and excited to find out what was going to happen, but as the book progressed it seemed to regress into quite a silly shootout scene then when the spirits do emerge from the chapel, I found the demonic presences that were made up of birds to be wholly un-scary.

    However, as an English person I loved getting a sense of the 1920s in the South. I was also struck with how well the book empathises with the post-traumatic stress of the war veterans. Alvin who shoots his gun as a jerk reaction thinking it is the Germans coming to get him. Ellsworth who so vividly still sees the horrors he saw on the battlefield and feels the guilt that some of his friends who followed him to war never returned to Bellhaven. I also thoroughly liked the bit about the four angels uniting to defeat the evil.

    I’d definitely recommend the book, but I think it had a lot more potential to explore the supernatural aspect of the woods than it eventually did. The build-up was good but the climax was disappointing.

  • Tracey

    I'm not going to try to knock out a synopsis of this book. There's a lot, and it's both complicated and very simple; there are holes in the plot, and predictability, but also genuine creepy horror elements and interesting characterization.

    Note: If you're a Yankee like myself, it may help you in reading this book to know that Hoppin’ John is a dish made with black-eyed peas, smoked ham, and rice. Sounds good. Now that you know the details, you might end up very very hungry by the end of the stor

    I'm not going to try to knock out a synopsis of this book. There's a lot, and it's both complicated and very simple; there are holes in the plot, and predictability, but also genuine creepy horror elements and interesting characterization.

    Note: If you're a Yankee like myself, it may help you in reading this book to know that Hoppin’ John is a dish made with black-eyed peas, smoked ham, and rice. Sounds good. Now that you know the details, you might end up very very hungry by the end of the story, because one character is famous for her Hoppin' John, and makes it a lot.

    There's also a lot of alcohol flowing through this book, Prohibition or no Prohibition. The characters have all had to live through WWI, after all, either on the home front or the actual front, and none of the soldiers came back unscathed. It's realistic, and well-told, the alcoholism and the fight against it, or the surrender to it.

    My complaint about this aspect of the book is the language used about it. "You’ve been dipping the bill in too much giggle juice"… Over and over, in deadly serious contexts, with no levity whatever, characters referred to booze as "giggle juice". I have no idea how dialectically accurate it was – but I found it irritating, especially in light of all the other little regional euphemisms that kept cropping up – "jingle-brained" was one that was perhaps over-used. When a woman's "getaway sticks" were referred to, it took me a couple of pages to figure out that that meant "legs". And the desire to go up to someone and "drygulch him in the noodle", while not as puzzling, still made me go "huh?". Even the more common language felt out of place; I don't know if the author was working to avoid curse words, but in at least one place a character was speaking angrily about something he had every reason to be angry about, but still said "darn".

    So, basically, the language drove me a bit crazy (and that's not even including the one character who adopted a pseudo- manner of speaking which looked like nothing I've ever seen before). But I have to say what was said was memorable. There are images from this book that will stay with me for a while – beautiful and wondrous things, like a flock of cardinals in the form of a man, and a town with all of the trees and flowers blooming at once … and terrible, unsettling things, like a deer ramming its head into a tree, over and over, and like people – and animals – walking backwards … that made the hair stand up on my arms just typing that out.

    But, as mentioned, there was a sort of tedious predictability to it all. I kept hoping the plot would take a turn and do something amazing – but while the climax of the story was overall satisfying, it could have been so much more. Everything felt like it was building up to something huge and heart-rending … and I was just left a bit flat. I felt like there were major missed opportunities.

    But I finally found out why live oaks are called that: "That’s ’cause they hold on to their leaves nearly all year like an evergreen." Hey, thanks.

    The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

  • Lily S.

    It was honestly very difficult to give this book a 2.5star rating (rounded up to 3) because it started from a solid 5 yet somehow things went wrong along the way.

    The premise is very intriguing; a mysterious chapel in the woods lures people in from the nearby town with making them able to hear the voices of their dead loved ones. Yet as people go more and more they start to change for the worse so we can suspect the working of some kind of evil.

    There are a diverse set of characters in the novel,

    It was honestly very difficult to give this book a 2.5star rating (rounded up to 3) because it started from a solid 5 yet somehow things went wrong along the way.

    The premise is very intriguing; a mysterious chapel in the woods lures people in from the nearby town with making them able to hear the voices of their dead loved ones. Yet as people go more and more they start to change for the worse so we can suspect the working of some kind of evil.

    There are a diverse set of characters in the novel, the most outstanding being a WW I. veteran named Ellsworth who always takes matters in his hand and the town folk look at him as a leader. We get to know his friends, the widow of his best friend, a strange black boy, a mysterious man who arrives to take over the mansion on the hill and a whole bunch of other characters. This is one of the problems of the book, with its 300 something pages it is too short to carry so much characters. We barely get to know them.

    Markert delivers a unique writing style and eerie mood till the end of the first half of the book building up a truly interesting history the second part falls short of delivering clever answers. I was disappointed to find a heap of cliche in the end and felt like a good opportunity has been wasted.

    Overall it's a nicely written book that fails to live up to expectations after a promise of a good story. I kept feeling like it wasn't worth the hassle to drag me through so much buildup and so many characters to find a cringe worthy ending.

    Additionally I never got to find out the intention behind the title.

    * I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review *

  • Karen

    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review.

    Ellsworth Newberry is the unofficial leader of a small, southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina. But having returned from war disabled, he just wants to hide in his house and forget the world. Then they find a mysterious chapel in the woods and evil 'comes in all forms'.

    The story was all over the place, choppy and difficult to follow. I couldn't get a grasp on any of the characters.

    2.5 ☆

  • Pamela

    I'm not sure what to say about

    that wouldn't sound uber critical. Sometimes it's best to simply say "It's not my cup of tea," and leave it be.

    Then again . . .

    STRANGE, in the vein of quirky or fantastical or eccentrically bizarre can be quite entertaining and fun. I enjoy a fanciful romp into the weird zone, from time to time. But the STRANGENESS of this novel is more in line with what I call an octopus story: An overreaching story that lacks cohesive focus, with to

    I'm not sure what to say about

    that wouldn't sound uber critical. Sometimes it's best to simply say "It's not my cup of tea," and leave it be.

    Then again . . .

    STRANGE, in the vein of quirky or fantastical or eccentrically bizarre can be quite entertaining and fun. I enjoy a fanciful romp into the weird zone, from time to time. But the STRANGENESS of this novel is more in line with what I call an octopus story: An overreaching story that lacks cohesive focus, with too many tentacles spiraling into too many directions.

    The beginning was good. Southernly quirky. There were some great laugh aloud moments and eccentric characters. The main character, a young widower and WWI veteran, was a hoot. However, rather than coming across as being a young man, he put me in mind of a grumpy old coot. As did his gun toting "mustard gas" friend. But that could just be my interpretation amiss.

    I was enjoying the story, the building of characters, the insertions of back stories, the Southern/Appalachian nuances. Then just shy of mid book it all started going haywire; the tentacles came out: New characters were being added right and left; beginning story-threads were dropped; too many 'magical' elements were introduced to be realistically believable; the book's tone took on a different timber; the original plot morphed into something STRANGELY different.....

    Yes . . . Not my cup of tea.

    TWO ** Too Much STRANGE, Not Enough Bright ** STARS

  • Scarlett

    Um, definitely not what I was expecting from this book at all.

    feels like it has a thousand characters and about the same number of elaborated back-stories. That is why I feel this book was struggling to reach cohesion and well-rounded message. Is it a mystery? A thriller? A religious, mythical satire? I don't know and I really didn't care in the end. I didn't feel like there was any point to the story and don't get me started on the ending.

    People of a little town,

    Um, definitely not what I was expecting from this book at all.

    feels like it has a thousand characters and about the same number of elaborated back-stories. That is why I feel this book was struggling to reach cohesion and well-rounded message. Is it a mystery? A thriller? A religious, mythical satire? I don't know and I really didn't care in the end. I didn't feel like there was any point to the story and don't get me started on the ending.

    People of a little town, conveniently called Bellhaven, discover a chapel in the woods. This “little piece of heaven” is healing and bringing peace to everyone who goes there, but at a price. They are losing control over themselves and they become addicted to this serene feeling of happiness and connection to their lost ones. I went into this book expecting a meaningful tale about the power and deception of religion, how dangerous it can be and so on. I got an action-packed disconnected plot.

    Our main character Ellsworth Newberry, was depicted as a dominant and guiding figure, unofficial sheriff of Bellhaven, and he was the one who discovered the bad ways of church-goers. He lost a leg in the war, his wife passed away, so it's no wonder he is grumpy and negative. But there is a difference between a likeable grumpy old man (like Ove from now popular

    ) and just plane Mr. Know-it-all who is rude and unkind. I didn't really buy his savior figure.

    Looking back over the time I spent reading this book, I get an intense feeling of dissatisfaction. Unimportant plot points; many long, slow parts where nothing happens, and even the more action-filled parts were not particularly interesting. Also, there was a confusing, probably symbolic-like number of birds that were mentioned, but I didn't feel like thinking about it.

    I got my e-book through NetGalley and I am very thankful for this reading opportunity.

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