The Murderous Macaron

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Ana T. Drew and her cozy mystery novel, The Murderous Macaron.

Author’s description

Julie has her freedom, a dream job as a pastry chef, and a corpse growing cold on her floor…

 

Welcome to Beldoc, a small town in the heart of Provence, imbued with lavender and fresh baked bread! You can idle around, or you can puzzle out a murder mystery.

 

When a man dies on her watch in her pâtisserie, newly divorced chef Julie Cavallo is dismayed. It isn’t that she’s a suspect. The local gendarmerie captain signs off the death as a natural event. A heart attack. But for a reason she won’t discuss, Julie suspects Maurice Sauve was poisoned. What’s a girl to do? She’ll ignore the risk and seek justice for Maurice on her own!

 

Well, not quite on her own. Julie’s eccentric grandmother, her snarky sister and her geeky sous chef are keen to help. The team’s amateurism is a challenge. But there’s also the pesky matter of no evidence, no clues, and soon, no body. The murder—if it was a murder—was planned and executed flawlessly.

 

Can a small-town baker solve the perfect crime?

 

“The Murderous Macaron” is a twisty whodunnit mystery perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich, Alexander McCall Smith, Jana DeLeon, and Lilian Jackson Braun.

My Review

The Murderous Macaron is a fun read, sure to please fans of cozy mysteries and lovers of well-meaning and sometimes bumbling amateur sleuths. (I do happen to be one such fan.) Julie’s bakery is the focal point of this gentle who-done-it, and there is just enough of France woven into the story to appeal to lovers of travel as well.

What I liked best: Simply put, this is an enjoyable book. I appreciate that it was an easy read, well paced and well written. The somewhat complex solutions to the case were believable yet not obvious, providing a satisfying ending.

My favorite thing was Drew’s stellar cast of secondary characters. Grandma is great. I do love feisty old women and she delivers. Sister Flo, the artist, is equally fun, and I could have done with more of the geeky sous chef as well. I’m not a huge dog fan, but I even enjoyed Lady, the sleuth dog who joins the team.

What I liked least: There is a fascinating backstory here, dribbled out in  small pieces and never fully dealt with. It is difficult to reconcile the light tone of the novel with an unexplained traumatic family death, an estranged twin with unusual powers, and Julie’s issues with both of the above. Yet, it all comes up often enough to make it hard to ignore.

The reader wants answers. I suppose the author intends to weave more explanations into future novels, but as regarded these issues, I felt cheated at the end. Plus, the only part receiving a real explanation (why Julie doesn’t like her twin) is just odd.

However, Drew’s story was charming enough for me to put that frustration aside, along with my current irritation with the gluten-free world, brought on by a husband who’s decided to go gluten free for no real reason, forcing me to abandon half of my favorite recipes.  That’s hardly Ana T. Drew’ fault, and I resolved early on not to hold Julie’s gluten-free bakery against her.

So, I’d be happy to read more books in this series and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery novel.

About the Author

Ana T. Drew is the evil mastermind behind the recent series of murders in the fictional French town of Beldoc. When she is not writing cozy mysteries or doing mom-and-wife things, she can be found watching “The Rookie” to help her get over “Castle”. She lives in Paris but her heart is in Provence.

Find the Author at

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/ana-drew
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnaDrewAuthor
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ana-t-drew
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/anadrew
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/authoranadrew

Visit the author’s website ana-drew.com for a free cookbook and a game!

 Buy The Murderous Macaron on Amazon.

 Yes, there is a giveaway

Ana T. Drew will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

I sit down across a round table from the gendarme, Capitaine Adinian, and begin my sad tale of yesterday’s macaron-making workshop that didn’t go as planned.

He listens, barely taking any notes.

When I get to the part where I asked my students to mix the ingredients I’d prepared for them, Capitaine Adinian leans forward. “Who prepared and laid out the ingredients?”

“I did.”

“When?”

“Shortly before the class began.”

“Did you leave the shop, even for a brief time, after you had everything ready for the class?” he asks.

“No.”

He scribbles something in his little notebook. “Please continue.”

“Most participants struggled to get their batter to stiffen,” I say. “Some gave up, claiming it was impossible without an electric mixer.”

“Did Maurice Sauve give up?”

“Quite the contrary. He whisked unrelentingly, switching hands but never pausing. He was the first to complete the task.”

Capitaine Adinian writes that down.

“I gave him one of these.” I show Adinian the remaining badges that Flo had made for the workshop.

“Great Baking Potential,” he reads aloud.

“Then I went around with his bowl and had everyone admire the perfect consistency of the batter.”

“Did anything stand out or seem unusual at that point?”

I gaze up at the ceiling, picturing the scene of me praising Maurice Sauve’s firm, satiny batter, students giving him their thumbs-up, and him smiling, visibly stoked. But he isn’t just smiling, he’s also… Panic squeezing my throat, I zero in on his face. He’s panting.

Oh. My. God.

I clap my hand over my mouth. “What if he’d whisked too hard? What if that exertion caused his heart attack?”

“An intense workout, especially at freezing temperatures, can trigger a heart attack,” Adinian says.

“He whisked intensely.”

“Madame Cavallo, I’ve never heard of anyone whisking themselves to an early grave.”

A Hundred Lies

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Jean M. Grant and her historical fantasy romance novel, A Hundred Lies.

Author’s description

1322, Scotland

Rosalie Threston’s fortune-telling lies have caught up with her. Uprooted yet again, she’s on the run from a ruthless English noblewoman. She flees to Scotland and seeks refuge in the arms of a laird’s son who happens to be a real Seer.

 

A bloody past and inevitable future plague Domhnall Montgomerie. He avoids physical contact with others to ease the painful visions. When an accidental touch reveals only delight, he wonders if Rose is the key to silencing the Sight. Mystical awakening unravels with each kiss. But can Domhnall embrace his gift in time to save her life, even it means exposing her lies?

My Review

In A Hundred Lies, Jean M. Grant has created a likable hero in Rosalie, the fake fortune teller. She has placed her in a fascinating time and place, and done the research to make the setting come alive. Finally, she’s given her a thorny dilemma to vex her, and a threatening nemesis to chase her, so we all can hold our breath, hoping the best for her as we turn the pages. I enjoyed reading Rosalie’s adventures.

I wish I’d found the tortured nobleman who loves her to be as compelling, but I never quite did. He is an honorable man with a real talent for seeing the future, and I’m all for having feisty female leads attracted to someone interesting who isn’t a jerk. But he does spend a lot of time brooding about past mishaps and his relentless remorse gets a bit tiresome. Luckily, most of the rest of the cast, including his own mother and sister, and Rosalie’s aunt and uncle, keep things moving.

I appreciated the author’s ability to articulate this distant world, but she sometimes rambled through it a bit too slowly for my tastes. Some scenes cut in and out of past memories and included local facts in ways that reduced the punch of her narrative. That minor complaint aside, I enjoyed how well everything from knowledge of herbs to catty servant girls gave me the feel of being there.

I recommend this book to those who like their romance novels to have more to them than just a couple getting together, and I also recommend it to those who enjoy historical fantasy and wouldn’t mind a romance story as part of the package. Either way, I think readers will find a lot to like about this tale.

About the Author

Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines and websites. When she’s not writing or chasing after children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

Find the Author at:
Website https://www.jeanmgrant.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/JeanGrant05
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jeanmgrantauthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16582543.Jean_M_Grant
Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jean-m-grant
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Jean-M.-Grant/e/B0728KFXP9/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jeanmgrant/

Yes, there is a giveaway

Jean M. Grant will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

She drew his hand into her palm. Her pulse drummed in her ears. Breathe, Rose. Breathe. His fingers trembled in her hand but neither of them released the look. She tried to convey trust and understanding with her own gentle smile. When he seemed settled, she turned her gaze to his hand. After a pause, she said, “It is as I said. Air is your element.”

“What else do you see?” He leaned in, closer. Sweat, sage, hmmm…male? Was male a scent?

Feeling his eyes upon hers, she continued to scrutinize, drawing light touches over the mounds. “You’re somewhat content, though you spend hours alone to get away?”

He held a straight face. “Easy enough facts to guess. I’m a watchman. Fortune-tellers are good in their ploy.” She refrained from arguing. He was on the defense. Understandable. Most people were. He was correct after all. She stroked his fingers. Pretended to examine. His hands were ice-cold.

All right, memory. Time to shine. The marketplace fire, something from his youth. Domhnall liked animals. Seemed to not like fire or touch. She chanced the next statement. “Something in your past upsets you.” Again, stone-faced. At least his hand had stopped trembling.

She would throw out statements until one stuck. Had she been incorrect in her eavesdropping? Surely the servants had been gossiping about Domhnall.

He chewed his lip. Held her gaze.

She paused and pushed the candle closer. “To see better.”

He flinched.

Yes. Fire. It bothered him.

All the World’s Colors

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author James W. George and his history-inspired fantasy series,  All the World’s Colors.

Author’s description

Book one of a brand-new, epic fantasy series by master historical storyteller, James W. George.

Something inconceivable has happened, and all the world’s colors are about to bleed…

Kellia. Kellia the Red. Pagan, seafaring warriors of ancient renown. They have sailed west, ever west, and have discovered an awe-inspiring, unknown land. Is it their salvation, or the seed of their destruction?

Merova and the Throne of Blue. Wealthy, cultured, and the ultimate matriarchy. Kellia’s ancient nemesis, and a realm of secrets, intrigue, and treachery.

The Holy Domain of Sanctia. Piety, sacrifice, and faith. They have a spiritual duty to spread the truth across the seas, and they will sail under the sacred banner of green.

The Confederation of Orange. Cynical, profiteering financiers and lovers of pleasure. If there is a new discovery in this world, they will be poised to exploit it.

Fans of historical fiction and fantasy will delight in this epic saga of empire, conflict, and power.

My Review

In All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue James W. George has created a fascinating and complex world sure to delight those who love his style of fantasy. I appreciated his deftness with words and his ability to evoke an emotional response with his characters. Descriptions are succinct yet effective, and the plot scampers along at a good pace.

I enjoy novels with multiple points of view and commend this author for effectively interweaving at least five distinct stories while introducing two would-be heroes to the reader. There is no question James W. George is good at his craft.

Alas, he doesn’t happen to write the sort of fantasy I prefer. For all that I love reading about make-believe worlds and alternate histories, I tire of violence and I lose interest when too many characters treat too many people too horribly too often.

Most of this first book alternates between the toxic masculinity of a perpetually warring race (think Klingons with sex slaves) and the alternative of a matriarchy of disdainful women who abuse their men physically and emotionally. My interest was finally piqued when he introduced the green religious zealots and the orange greedy merchants, as neither of them appeared to regularly beat up their own people. Sadly, it was too far into the novel for either to play much of a role.

I did enjoy the interesting twist he has put into the story of the blue matriarchs, but this is clearly only the first book of the series and nothing is resolved. One would have to read on to find out where his interesting idea leads.

I recommend The Queen of the Blue to all those who like their fantasy darker and more violent than I do. I’m sure that’s a sizable group, and if you fall into this camp, I encourage you to check out this well-written series.

About the Author

James W. George is a lover of history and historical fiction. He is a graduate of Boston University, a military veteran, and he is currently residing in Virginia with his wife and children.

He published his critically-acclaimed debut novel, “My Father’s Kingdom”, in January 2017. The novel depicted the prelude to King Philip’s War in 1671 New England. The Indie View said: “Five stars…This is high historical drama handled wonderfully…a tale that will fully engage you on every level.”

“My Father’s Kingdom” is a planned trilogy, and book two, “The Prophet and the Witch”, was published in September 2017. This is an epic novel that spans the entire conflict of King Philip’s War, and includes such notable historical figures as Josiah Winslow, Increase Mather, Metacomet, Benjamin Church, and Mary Rowlandson. The Literary Titan awarded it five stars and a gold medal for October 2017. “Expertly written and instantly engaging from the first few pages…I was captivated…one of the more intellectual of reads.”

In 2020, he turned his attention to history-inspired fantasy and composed book one of an epic new series, “All the World’s Colors.”

He is looking forward to future books in these two series, and will enthusiastically reply to any questions, comments, insights, or witticisms posted to his Goodreads page.

Find James W. George on his Goodreads author page. 

Buy All the World’s Colors on Amazon.

 Yes, there is a giveaway

James W. George will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Amira Medelli sighed despondently and pondered her tepid cup of tea.

She was whiling away an uneventful evening in one of, if not the finest coffee houses in Veldor.  The establishment buzzed with frenetic activity as merchants, traders and profiteers debated, denied, evaluated, confirmed, or ridiculed every tidbit of information that had fortuitously come their way on that seasonable day.  Meanwhile, Amira stared blankly at her regrettable choice, an unimaginative blend of mediocre spices pointlessly imported from the Southern Continent.  Feeling adventuresome, she had foolishly forsaken her usual Merovian Citrus Zest for this new offering, and she now pushed the cup away with a slight grimace.

Amira could certainly afford to replace her erroneous libation.  In fact, the Medelli family could probably afford to buy the coffee house.  Her uncle had at least six hundred sacks of Sanctian Bold Robust sitting in his riverside warehouse while he waited for the market to peak.  Her brother had three freighters offloading spices in Laurette at this very moment.  And Amira had…Amira had a mediocre cup of half-drunken tea.

She gave serious consideration to a lemon cake but remained non-committal.  She was alone but not bored, as she had brought one of her many ledgers to occupy the time.  The lemon cake was an uncertain proposition, since she suspected it might be time to repair to her well-appointed villa for a moonlight swim in the fire-warmed pool.  But she lingered all the same, knowing full well the reason for her dawdling.

Amira Medelli was twenty-six years of age, and undoubtedly, had much to be grateful for.  The Medellis were one of the most prosperous, most elite trading families in the Confederation of Orange.   She was still childless and unmarried, but as a Medelli, she certainly wasn’t lacking in suitors.

Cooking for Ghosts

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Patricia V. Davis and her magical realism/women’s paranormal mystery novel, Cooking for Ghosts.

Author’s description:

Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef’s mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there’s always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, Cooking for Ghosts is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.

My Review

Cooking for Ghosts is based on a great premise and is filled with a terrific cast of characters and just enough ghostly activity to keep you on the edge of your seat. It has plenty of humor, a lot of romance, and a few surprises.

My favorite aspects of this book included the many strong female characters and the wide variety of people who are written with affection and empathy. I appreciated the detailed look into the foodservice industry (where I once worked) and the wonderful descriptions of mouth-watering dishes.

I also thought the author hit exactly the right notes in this mostly-gentle ghost story. The paranormal parts were interesting and occasionally thought-provoking without being either horrifying (or disgusting) or being too cute.

I did struggle with the sheer amount of drama and trauma in every character’s life and, after a while, I found myself yearning to be introduced to someone without major issues. I  also got frustrated a few times when the backstories went on too long. I wanted to get back to the action moving this story forward.

The things I liked about this book far out-weighed those I didn’t, so I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates complex stories of women’s lives, or novels about cooking fine food, or well-done ghost stories. If you enjoy two out of three, you are going to love this book!

About the Author:

Patricia v. Davis’s debut novel series, the secret spice cafe, is comprised of three books: s Cooking for Ghosts (2016) Spells and Oregano (2017) and Demons, Well-seasoned (2019). The audiobooks will be released in 2020 by Tantor media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon.

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California.

Say hello to Patricia at her author website: www.TheSecretSpice.com.
You can also find her at
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/authorpatriciavdavis/
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/patriciaVdavis
TikTok:        @patriciavdavis
Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_V._Davis

Buy The Secret Spice Cafe trilogy on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Patricia v. Davis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.

Hers.

And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.

“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”

She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.

But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”

Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.

But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.

“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”

Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.

Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.

Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice-cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.

Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spices, she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.

“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”

The Duplex

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Lucky Stevens and his historical LGBT  novel, The Duplex. 

Author’s description

THE DUPLEX is a thrilling tale, set in 1950s L.A., of four gay friends who hatch a daring scheme to live life on their own terms, during a time of systemic governmental persecution.

Los Angeles, 1956. Shangri-La. Palm trees, swimming pools, movie stars. And if you’re gay—persecution. In a society that demands conformity and lockstep conventionality, gay people find out quickly and the hard way, how difficult, dangerous and downright terrifying it is to be different.

So, when the constant fear of arrests, evictions, job loss and ridicule become too much, four gay friends and lovers pull together to hatch an ingenious scheme designed to allow them to live freely, without harassment.

But their secret plan is not without its flaws. Internal struggles and personality conflicts conspire to make their situation harder and more life-altering than any of them could have predicted, leading to valuable and universal lessons about the high cost of blending in—or not.

My Review

In The Duplex, Lucky Stevens has written a story that both packs a punch and needs to be told.

I liked so many things about this book, including the way Stevens captures the fifties along with all its many ingrained biases. I enjoyed watching the tale evolve through the eyes of four protagonists, often seeing the same incident through different points of view. I appreciated how Stevens demonstrated the way prejudices against any group seep into the beliefs and self-images of those most adversely infected until they begin to doubt themselves. Sometimes it was painful to read, but, as I said, it’s a story worth telling.

In fact, I liked almost everything about this compelling tale. It moved quickly, and the voices rang true. I suppose one could complain that certain aspects of the two gay men, and two lesbian women, were too stereotypical, and they would have a point. I suppose others might struggle with four alternating first-person points of view, although I liked it.

Some might prefer a neater, more happily-ever-after ending for all, but I thought the ending worked fine. Without giving anything away I’ll just say things get messy but happiness is found, much like in real life.

I recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who like historical novels, are fascinated by the 1950s, or are fans of reading about Los Angeles. The novel may appeal to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but I have a special recommendation and this one comes from the heart.

I HIGHLY (caps intended) recommend this novel to those with close friends or family members who are LGBTQ. It’s an eye-opening look at the world they could be living in. I know it made me aware of the need for us all to be vigilant about preserving the basic human rights this group has had to fight so hard for. This novel is important food for thought for a caring community.

About the Author

Lucky Stevens lives, works and plays in exotic North America.  He has written three novels.  He was also a finalist in a nationwide screenplay writing contest.  He was inspired to write The Duplex because he wanted to tackle a subject that grappled with universal themes in a creative and exciting way.

He can be contacted in the following ways:
https://twitter.com/LuckyStevens1
https://www.facebook.com/luckystevens.writer/
luckystevenswriter@gmail.com
https://bublish.com/author/luckystevens

Buy The Duplex at Amazon.  The book will be $0.99 and is
Amazon’s #1 New Release in LGBT Historical Fiction!

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

Lucky Stevens will be awarding $40 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

With the tone of the evening in its proper place, we exited the apartment.

As much as I adore Cliff, I figured I better latch onto Jerry. I don’t know, he just seems a little more like the babe-in-the-woods type. Besides that, it would give me a chance to get to know him. So I stood next to him and slipped my hand around his arm. I gave his bicep a little squeeze. “Ooh, al dente. Just right.” He smiled, and I smiled back. Naturally Cliff and Dot paired up themselves, and us girls held on to each fella’s arm as the men escorted us down the stairs.

As we headed to the car, I was happy to see that my landlady—her name is Mrs. Tambler—was on her patio watering her flowers. She has always been a very nice woman, but she can also be on the nosy side of the street. Because of this fact,

I have had to be careful with Dot, whom Mrs. Tambler has now seen numerous times.

I have told her that Dot is my closest friend, but I am not sure she buys it. For one thing, Dot is quite beautiful and ten years younger than I am. A fact that is a plus for me, but I think a little suspicious looking for Mrs. Tambler. I also only have a one-bedroom apartment, so the idea of Dot spending the night or ever moving in is strictly out.

In any event, with “our men” in tow, I waved to my landlady good and hard in an effort to build up some nice heterosexual brownie points for any possible future mishaps. She looked more than pleased to see Dot and me hanging off the arms of two handsome characters of the masculine variety, shall we say.

The boys, for their part, were just swell. Opening our doors for us, helping us off with our coats, the works. And the fact is, I think we all enjoyed it. It was fun. And nice to be pampered for the night. The boys took care of everything.

It was the perfect mixture too, of chivalry and flirting and teasing which was all made possible by the incontestable fact that no one of the opposite sex was attracted to each other. This is a situation that is very freeing. When there is no chance of romance. No sexual tension. We just played.

 

Hard Luck Girl

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Topshee Johnston and his mystery/thriller novel Hard Luck Girl.

Author’s description:

Hard Luck Girl is a mystery about prostitution in a location better known for gardens than gangsters — Victoria, British Columbia.

Rose’s life has never been easy. When she finds her pimp murdered it gets a whole lot harder. At first, she sees it as an opportunity but discovers the status quo has been disrupted and she’s not at the top of the food chain, not even close.

Avoiding psychopaths, police, and friends like thieves, there is no one she can turn to for help not once she discovers a pimps life is cheap, a prostitute’s even cheaper.

Stuck between the desire for a better life and holding on to hers, is a needle she’s not sure she can thread. But maybe Hard Luck is better than no luck at all?

“A gritty novel with a surprising and strong female lead. Johnston offers all the expected hard-boiled elements in this mystery—including shady characters, near misses with the police, rampant sex, drug use, and violence.” – Kirkus Review

My Review:

In Hard Luck Girl, Topshee Johnston tells the story of a young prostitute who finds her drug-dealing pimp dead on page one. More importantly, he manages to  keep the reader (or at least this reader) cheering for this unlikely hero as she deals with the body, the customers, the other girls, the rival dealers, the cops, the slimy hotel manager, the nosy cleaning lady and the real money behind the entire sordid mess. No small feat, Mr. Johnston. Well done.

I appreciated how this book contained enough description to make it seem as if I was there, riding on the ferry, or there, in the run-down lobby of the hotel, and yet it never bogged down. The initial characters were all believable and their actions made sense, giving the plot an urgency that felt like real life. Honestly, I had trouble putting it down.

The book stumbles when it nears the end, however. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll only say the major villains didn’t ring as true as the other characters, and their motivations remained murky to me even after the last page. Parts of the ending were were confusing, and threads that mattered (to me at least) were left hanging.

Yet, it was a heck of ride up to that point. So, I recommend Hard Luck Girl to to anyone who enjoys hard-boiled crime novels and to other mystery fans willing to be a bit morally flexible with their story’s hero. This book will also appeal to those who like novels about women finding inner strength they didn’t know they had, and to people who enjoy tales of the downtrodden triumphing over those with more advantages. That’s a pretty good market share, I think.

About the Author:

Topshee Johnston, author of Hard Luck Girl, writes because it’s the only way to get his characters to stop talking to him. He lets them tell their story and trusts their voice. Once a story is finished, he moves on to the next in line.

He lives in Victoria, B.C with his wife and daughter and when he’s not writing, he’s skateboarding, playing guitar, or fly-fishing.

Connect with Canadian author Topshee Johnston on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on his website.

Check out the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo/Chapters!

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Topshee Johnston will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

As I closed the door, the squeaky wheels of the cleaning lady’s cart came around the corner. A sound I’d heard many times, disregarded until now. In my rush to get here, I’d forgotten to put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the handle of my room. To run back upstairs and take care of it would look crazy. Instead, I shut the door, because to neglect Linden Aubrey for a second was a second too long. The door’s latch clicked shut, extinguishing the daylight, my chance to make it back to my room before the cleaning lady, and a clean way out.

A Personal Note:

Besides enjoying this book, I got a kick out of reading Topshee Johnston’s reason for writing. I have a similar problem, and a queue of people in my own head, insisting their stories be told.

I hope he makes his way through all of his characters before he’s done, and I wish him and the stories he’s compelled to tell the very best!

Rock House Grill

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author D. V. Stone and her romance/suspense novel, Rock House Grill.

Author’s description:

One man’s choices—One woman’s impact

Aden House, successful but driven chef and TV personality, refuses to slow down. His life implodes one night, damaging him both physically and emotionally. He’s rescued by a woman he thinks of as his angel.

Shay McDowell has rebuilt her life after her divorce. She juggles volunteer EMT duties and her job, while dreaming of becoming a chef. She finds her way to Rock House Grill and back into the life of the man she helped save.

Can love be the ingredient needed to survive the many obstacles they face?

My Review:

In Rock House Grill, D.V. Stone has written a novel sure to appeal to those who enjoy stories about good people who face challenges and ultimately enjoy happy endings.

What I liked best:

Although the suspense part of the novel plays second fiddle to the various romance stories, it is well done and engaging. There were enough creepy moments to create goosebumps and to keep me turning the pages, and the resolution of the suspense elements was satisfying.

I’ve worked in restaurants over the years, and I also enjoyed the accuracy and detail with which the food service industry was presented. They author knows her stuff. There was nice attention given to the descriptions of food and cooking techniques, as well as to the decor of various places.

What I liked least:

I’ve heard we all consider anyone who drives slower than us to be an idiot and anyone who drives faster than us to be a maniac. I wonder if there is a parallel for how we feel about behavior in novels. I’ve been known to complain about casts of murky characters in which no one has a moral compass and everyone cusses like a sailor. Explicit erotica makes me cringe and I like some happiness in my endings.

However, this is a book in which people don’t cuss at all (bat crap crazy is actually substituted for bat shit crazy) and they don’t even have implied sex, at least within the pages of this novel. Everyone except for the few designated bad people are more upstanding than the best people I know. (And I do know some really good folks.) It was interesting for me to discover I have a zone of behavior in which characters seem believable yet likable, and this book was outside my zone. I at least appreciated having them outside the zone in the less usual way.

I do recommend this book to all who enjoy sweet romances. I think such readers will appreciate the added bonuses of a well-done suspense side-plot and of fine attention to background detail.

Buy Rock House Grill on Amazon.

About the Author:

Born in Brooklyn, D.V. Stone has moved around a bit and even lived for a time on a dairy farm in Minnesota before moving back east. Despite her wandering, she always considered herself a Jersey Girl. She met the love of her life and moved, this time to Sussex County. Her husband, Pete, is a lifelong Sussex County man. They share their home with Hali a mixed breed from a local shelter and Baby a small gray cat who bosses everyone around.

She’s had varied career path from working with the disabled led to becoming a volunteer EMT, which in turn led to working in hospital emergency rooms and then in a woman’s state prison. After a few years, she took a break from medical tasks and became the owner of Heavenly Brew, a specialty coffee shop in Sparta NJ, and small restaurant in Lafayette. Life handed some setbacks, and she ended up back to medical field, but this time in a veterinary emergency hospital.

During the poor economy, she was laid–off from a long-time position she cared about. Devastated, D.V. wondered what to do with her life. Finding comfort in her love of reading, she realized it was now time to follow her dream of writing. It’s been a long road but worth every minute of it. Now a published author she also works in a people medical office again.

V. D. Stone says “Thank you for taking the time to read about me. Each time you open the pages to one of my books I hope you’ll be swept away by the story and to, never in the real world give up on hope.”

Find the Author on Facebook, Pinterest, or on Twitter. 

Visit the Author on her website.

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

D. V. Stone will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour..

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

“Easy, you’re going to be okay.” A soft voice eased through the chaos around him. The owner of the voice grabbed his arms and held them in a firm but gentle grip. “I’m right here with you. You are not alone.” “Can hardly m-move.” His voice slurred. “C-can’t see anything.” “You’ve been in an accident. I’m an EMT with the ambulance squad,” the velvety voice calmly explained. “You can’t see well because we’re under a tarp. Hold still, okay?” “‘K.” A small light flickered at the edge of his vision. It shone into a bag next to him. Penlight. “You’re restrained to a board. It’s to keep your head from moving and causing more injury.” She continued to talk to him. The voice reached down somewhere inside him, calming and peaceful, so he focused on it. A glow from spotlights on the outside lit whatever covered them. The shadow gave the woman the appearance of a halo—like an angel.

The Kronicles of Korthlundia

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Jamie Marchant and her Epic Fantasy The Kronicles of Korthlundia.

Author’s description:

“Magic, love, hate, torture, heroes, and a story that will never stop blowing your mind!”  Cheree~For Love of Books

The three volumes of The Kronicles of Korthlundia plus The Ghost in Exile: A Korthlundian Kronicle brought together for one low price. In addition to the novels, the collection features several bonus short stories, previously available only to members of my readers’ club.

The Goddess’s Choice–In a world where the corrupt church hides the truth about magic, the fate of the joined kingdom falls on the shoulders of two young people from opposite ends of the social hierarchy.

Crown Princess Samantha’s life begins to fall apart when she starts seeing strange colors around her potential suitors. She fears that she’s going insane–or worse that she’s defying the Goddess’s will. Robrek is a lowly farm boy with incredible magical powers. He has been biding his time waiting to get revenge on those who call him a demon.

Thrown together by chance, they must overcome their differences to fight their common enemy Duke Argblutal, who, with dark magic, is slowly poisoning the king’s mind and turning him against his own daughter. Time is running out for those chosen by the Goddess to prevent the power mad duke from usurping the throne and plunging the joined kingdoms into civil war.

The Soul Stone– A match made by the goddess is threatened by an Ancient Evil.

As Samantha and Robrek prepare for their marriage and coronation, they are met with opposition on all sides. Not all believe that the peasant sorcerer is worthy to be king, and the young couple must perform delicate political maneuvers to prevent the joined kingdoms from breaking apart.

As the church splits over opposition to their union, an unseen force is poised to release an ancient evil that was last defeated a thousand years ago. When the Soul Stone is broken free of its bonds, all life in its path succumbs to its power. How much will the new royal couple have to sacrifice to free the joined kingdoms of its evil?

The Ghost in Exile—A special Kronicle outside of the series that tells the story of Darhour. The novel takes place at the same time as The Soul Stone. The Ghost is going to hell. Not even the goddess can forgive his sins: assassin, oath-breaker, traitor (an affair with the queen earned him that title). No one can ever learn the princess is his daughter. To keep this secret, he flees to the land that turned him from a simple stable groom into an infamous killer.

His mission now? To find evildoers and take them to hell with him. But when an impulsive act of heroism saddles him with a damsel who refuses to be distressed, her resilience forces him to question why he really ran from his daughter.

The Shattered Throne– Queen Samantha’s spirit brightens as the festival of renewal approaches. The Ancient Evil that drained life from the land has been destroyed, and life is returning to the joined kingdoms. The birth of her heir gives her even more reason to celebrate. But a coup orchestrated by the unlikely alliance between a freedom-loving count and a fanatical church shatters both her plans and the ancient throne itself.

With her infant daughter missing and death and destruction spreading, Samantha finds herself faced with an impossible choice: save her daughter or her people. Already torn between a mother’s love and her duties as a queen, Samantha learns that an even greater danger threatens: the goddess herself is fading. What sacrifices will Samantha have to make to stop an evil god from taking Sulis’s place?

My Review:

In The Ghost in Exile, Jamie Marchant has written a book that is both character driven and action filled. It’s sure to delight fans of her The Kronicles of Korthlundia, and equally sure to please those who enjoy her genre.

This book is really two related stories told simultaneously. In one story, a kind and naive young man is taken advantage of and finally abused in so many ways that he is gradually lured into becoming one of the world’s great assassins.

In the second story, this same assassin is an older man who has said good-bye a daughter he only met recently. His heart is filled with sorrow, and he unexpectedly helps a foreign woman forced into prostitution. He decides to teach her to fight before he takes her back to her homeland.

What I liked best:

I much preferred the second story, although both are equally well told. In the second story, we meet Brigitta, the intelligent mother of two who is forced into prostitution and trained by the Ghost to fight. Yes, I have a great fondness for stories of women who rise far above the expectations of their society, and she joins the ranks of characters I truly enjoyed.

I also liked the back and forth approach between two related tales. In both stories, Marchant keeps her plot moving, and she keeps the interesting characters coming. I also appreciated that the hero known as the Ghost is, in his heart, a genuinely good guy, in spite of spending his adult life as a killer.

What I liked less:

I chose to review The Ghost in Exile, thinking it would be better to review a stand alone story  than one volume of a three book series. It wasn’t a great choice on my part, because I think this book would be best appreciated by those already introduced to The Kronicles. It’s a complicated world, here, and juggling two stories with strange places and names was daunting.

The tale of a kind boy turned into a killer by dire misfortune is a well-established and much beloved troupe, but it isn’t one of my favorites, because if the protagonist is truly good, then the events forcing him to behave in such a way have to be truly bad. Marchant delivers. The things that happen to this young man are every bit as horrific as they need to be, and while others may have an easier time reading such atrocities, I found myself tiring of the awfulness.

Also, this book felt more like background to a larger story. It lacks a grand sense of purpose (an giant evil to be stopped, a vexing problem to be solved) and seems like more of a biography on one hand, and a tale of a journey on the other.

That being said, they are both well done tales.

I do recommend this book to all fans of The Kronicles of Korthlundia, and to those who would appreciate following the adventures of an ambiguous hero trying to survive in a horrible world.

About the Author:

Jamie began writing stories about the man from Mars when she was six, and she never remembers wanting to be anything other than a writer. Everyone told her she needed a back up plan, so she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. One day in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized she’d put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. The literary article went into the trash, and she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. Her other novels include The Soul Stone, The Ghost in Exile, The Shattered Throne, and The Bull Riding Witch. In addition, she has published a novella, Demons in the Big Easy, and a collection of short stories, Blood Cursed and Other Tales of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has also appeared in the anthologies Urban Fantasy, Of Dragons & Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds, and Waiting for a Kiss. She claims she writes about the fantastic . . . and the tortured soul. Her poor characters have hard lives. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and five cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady.  She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. She is the mother of a grown son.

Find her on Facebook, Goodreads, or on Twitter. 

Visit her on her website, or email her at jamie-marchant@jamie-marchant.com

Buy her books on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Jamie Marchant will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time, Bitches

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Branden LaNette and her self-help book Once Upon a Time, Bitches. Author’s description of the book:

That’s Branden on the cover. Yes, she has a boy’s name, a Mom bod, and her tattoos are not photo shopped. She doesn’t look like your typical author and she sure doesn’t look like the next self-help Instagram sweetheart.

However, besides being a wife, mom to six kids (plus others with fur), coach and business owner, Branden is the author of the new book, Once Upon a Time, Bitches. It’s a fast paced, in your face, expletive laced, nothing held back message to women everywhere: There is no magic fairy tale, but if YOU work at it enough you can come pretty close to creating your version with a happily ever after.

But first, no more whining and no more damsel locked in a tower, bullshit. Is it possible to design a fairy tale life? Control your destiny? Be the hero in your story? Branden thinks there is and she wants to help you.

A personal note from me:

I don’t generally read self-help books and I’ve never reviewed one. But given this a blog about empowering women, this particular book seemed a fine fit. I’m so glad I took the chance.

My Review:

In Once Upon a Time, Bitches, Branden LaNette has written a fast-paced, funny book so good you will hardly realize you’re being given advice to improve your life.

My own advice to you is to (1) read this book, (2) laugh while you do it and (3) wake up the next day with your life a little better on track. Then (4) buy a copy for someone you love.

Best things about this book:

1. It is solid advice told in funny and entertaining way.

2. There is just enough about the author to make you like and believe her and not so much that it becomes all about her, not you.

3. This should only be a 100 page book and guess what? It is.

4. Her humble I’m-no-better-than-you-are-at-this-shit approach is endearing and convincing.

The worst things I can say about this book:

1. The foul language is a shock. It reminded me of the musical “The Jersey Boys.” I spent the first minutes thinking wow, I didn’t know people could use the word fuck that many times in a sentence. Then I got used to it and loved the show. In a similar fashion, by about 10 pages into this book, I loved it, too. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had to acclimate first.  

2. There is no giant revelation here, but that’s not the author’s fault. There really isn’t one to reveal. We know the secrets to a good life are the easy-to-say and hard-to-do things like take responsibility, forgive others, and love yourself. I, at least, struggle to do these things on a good day, so I certainly benefited from hearing them again, and appreciated them being stated so bluntly.

So, who would I recommend this book to?

Anyone who happens to be a human. Others need not bother.

About the Author:

Branden LaNette doesn’t look like a typical author but she has long ignored what she “should” do, say and look like. On her own at a very young age, Branden eventually found herself with the wrong guy, the wrong job, and a bleak future. The fairytale she was promised as a child never materialized.

Finally, Branden decided that she wanted something different for her life, and realized no one was going to do it for her. Prince charming wasn’t coming to save her—she’d have to save herself.

Step by step, decision by decision, through major trials and tribulations that would stop most people in their tracks, Branden learned how to turn heartbreak into happiness and self-judgement into inner joy.

Today, Branden LaNette is an entrepreneur, coach, speaker, wife, and stay-at-home Mom to six C-section babies (ages 1-16) and way too many f-ing pets. Somehow, however, she manages to juggle all of this effortlessly (a blatant lie) while pushing her way through the kinds of fear and self-doubts that whisper within all of us (totally true) to achieve her goals. Her most recent dream come true is this book, one that is destined to have a major impact on millions of women across the globe (or at least nine people in Michigan.)

Through it all, she has found her happiness, her joy, and more importantly, her voice.

Find her on Facebook  or on Twitter, visit her on her blog, and buy One Upon a Time Bitches on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Branden LaNette will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via raffle copter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops.

Enjoy this excerpt :

Ever since I was 8 years old, I dreamed of an easy life. The problem with my dream? I expected that fairy tale life to be handed to me. And when it wasn’t, I decided that fairy tales were bullshit. Not that you can’t have a fairy tale life—you can. What I understand now, however, is that to get a fairy tale life, you’d better be willing to work your Cinderella-ass off for it.

Still, I held on to the fantasy of having an easy life handed to me. I wanted to be saved. To be specific, I thought I needed a guy to be my hero. So I went about trying to find one.

I dated a lot of guys. Lots of guys.

But as they came and went, I always ended up disappointed. Not a single one of them ever made my life easier. Things weren’t going the way I’d planned. WTF? Hadn’t anyone read the fucking script? It was right there on page 43:

“Tall handsome guy with tight ass, great pecs and a 124-foot yacht named “Shitload of Cash” enters stage-left and sweeps Branden off her feet, and they sail off to Barbados.”

Even in my adult years, I would find myself just wishing—not just for prince charming to appear (which he eventually did in the form of my husband, minus the yacht and gobs of cash) but wishing for things in every area of my life. Even today, in my writing/coaching career, I find myself drifting into wish-mode: Why isn’t this easier? Why can’t things just take off and grow overnight? Is it always going to be this hard?

And when it comes to parenting, it’s the same thing. Why can’t parenting just be easy? And in my marriage, too: Why do I have to keep asking for things? Can’t my husband just read my fucking mind?

One day I—still 8 years old—had the most terror-filled realization in a simple yet profound truth:

No one is coming to save you.

Fuck. No one is coming to rescue me. Ever?

My heart broke. More like shattered. Yet, after taking some time to mentally digest this fact, I found this realization liberating somehow. Why was this liberating? Because it meant I could stop waiting for something outside myself for my salvation.

It put me in control. Newsflash, bitches: No one is coming to save you, either. Get it? No. One. Is. Coming. You’re going to have to save yourself.

Reviews: Giving Them

As an author, I spend a lot of time thinking about getting reviews. But today, I want to look at the other side of the coin.

I’ve been giving more book reviews lately. Why? Well, it’s a fun way to get out of my own head for a while, see what others are doing, and hopefully help other writers as well. We all want reviews.

Do I have guidelines for myself? You bet I do.

I  try to be both gentle and positive. Writing a book is hard work, and putting together an interesting and cohesive novel is a real accomplishment. I find it amazing how many people manage to do this every day. Who says our society is becoming illiterate? Some days I wonder if more people are writing books than are reading them.

So, kudos to all authors. This is not an easy thing you have done!

I don’t have much respect for reviewers who make rude remarks (or include insulting memes) to get a laugh from readers.  I have even less respect for them if they don’t write books themselves. I’m inclined to encourage all sincere attempts at creativity — be it musicians, fine artists, or writers.

Writers have a particular handicap, though. It takes far longer to read a book than to listen to a song or study a sketch. Our readers will be investing some serious time, even if they give up on the book. So, it is reasonable for a potential reader to want to know if this story is really worth the hours they will likely spend with it.

That means it is important for a review to be honest. I never like everything about a book and I’m sure you don’t either. Yet Amazon is full of reviews that make most books sold on the site sound perfect. Come on. We all know that isn’t true. Who writes these things?

The function of a review is to help another reader decide if they should read this particular novel. The most helpful thing a reviewer can do is point out what they enjoyed about the book and what gave them heartburn. There’s no reason not to do it with kindness, but it still needs to be done. A review entirely lacking in criticism isn’t a review, it’s an advertisement.

Disagree with any of the above? Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to discuss it with you.

(A version of the above post was published on my general 46. Ascending blog as a preamble to re-posting all of my most recent reviews there. If you’d like to learn more about the seven books I’ve reviewed recently, all shown above, please check it out.)