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.

Murder at Eagle’s Nest

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Pat Duggan and her cozy mystery novel, Murder at Eagle’s Nest.

Author’s description:

Murder at Eagle’s Nest is a gentle mystery novel set in a peaceful vacation resort in Apalachicola on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. The area is still reeling after Hurricane Michael made landfall only thirty-five miles to the west, on Mexico Beach. It uncovers fraud, driven by greed and arrogance. However, everything changes when a body is discovered. The police detective brought in from Tallahassee, quickly enlists the help of two women staying at the resort, who have unusual insight. They ultimately uncover critical evidence, which unmasks the perpetrator.

 

Pat Duggan Tells Us a Little about Herself:

Originally from Manchester, England but moved to the U.S. over 30 years ago.  I have an accounting background in both countries.  Several years ago, I discovered an interest in writing.  My two previous books, Finding God in an RV and The Power Within, document my spiritual journey.  However, as a longtime lover of murder mysteries, with a passion to follow plots and figure out the perpetrator, it was time for a new direction.  I decided to ‘try my hand’ at weaving my own story, and true to my character, I had to tie up all the loose ends.  Murder at Eagles Nest is my first mystery novel, and I am already working on the next mystery for my amateur detectives, Hazel and Anna to solve.

Find Pat Duggan on Facebook.

Buy Murder at Eagle’s Nest on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Pat Duggan will be awarding a $10 Amazon 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:

Hazel remembered seeing the Comfort Suites Inn as they drove through the outskirts of Panama City.  The Airforce Base was located on the main highway and although it had clearly suffered damage during the hurricane, it appeared to be operational.  They pulled into the hotel parking lot and made their way to the front desk.

They decided to continue with the story of trying to find a lost friend and approached the front desk manager.  Hazel began, “Good Morning.  We are sorry to trouble you, but we are hoping you can help us.  We are looking for a friend of ours who seems to have gone missing.  His name is Randy Jacket and this is his picture.”  Hazel held up the photo, then continued, “A young man out at Dugger Field seemed to think he may have stayed here for a couple of nights last week.  Do you remember him?”

The manager looked at the photograph and answered, “You say he is missing?  Because we don’t normally give out information about our guests.”

Hazel said, “That’s right. And it sounds like he did stay here.  Is there anything you can tell us about his visit?  We are just trying to gather information.”

The manager, realizing he had been caught by his own words, said, “Well, yes, he was here.  Interesting gentleman.  He was telling us that his company is going to rebuild Mexico Beach.  They are going to build a super new, high class condominium complex, it is going to be the flagship property for his company, he said.  He was clearly excited by the whole thing.  They have bought all the land and he was going to check it out on the Thursday.  Must have been a big property to inspect, because he left after breakfast and didn’t get back until about three o’clock in the morning.  I just happened to be working the nightshift and saw him come in.  He looked exhausted.  I don’t think he even saw me as he walked past the desk.  He looked a mess too.  His clothes were all dirty.  But I guess if you have spent your day on a building site, it is to be expected. “

The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places

After writing a book that takes place in India, and making online friends there, I follow the news from this amazing South Asian country. Much of it is positive and even uplifting.

Countless stories of personal courage and altruism fill the Times of India section called Good News Stories, and everyday headlines tell tales like how the tech savvy country was barely affected by the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware that froze computers in over 100 countries worldwide.

And yet, India has once again made the headlines in the United States with a horrific rape. This time, a jilted lover and his friends abducted and ultimately murdered a young woman on May 9. The details are horrible.

Along with the many tragic aspects of this incident is the side effect of how it serves to further separate the people of this world. No society exists on this planet that does not have its crimes; larger countries have more. Crowding, poverty, stresses from modernization and the integration of different cultures adds to volatility everywhere. But when the awful event occurs in the back yard of somebody else who lives far away from you, it is easy to think  “Oh, that’s the way they are.”

That is unfortunate at any time, but especially now. Thanks to recent events, my own country is seeing a surge of hate crimes with intolerance on the rise. Our world is facing a growing epidemic of nationalism, the frequent outgrowth of which is more hostility, a lack of international cooperation and even wars. Right now, we need all the cross-cultural empathy that we can get.

It’s a delicate matter to feel a sense of commonness when learning of a bad situation that we don’t think would occur in our own culture. (Of course, we could be wrong about that.) But surely it is no stretch to identify with the anger and loss of the victim’s family, with the sense of fear and outrage in the community, and with the confusion and shame of the perpetrator’s family. These all extend well beyond the specifics of the crime, and are woven into the stories of mayhem and destruction of any sort, in any place.

Far away places. They can be scary. They can be easy to demonize and hard to identify with. That is, until we look at the deeper emotions behind the events and see the common threads. Then we can weep for others and wish healing for them, because in our hearts we, too, know what it is like to face sorrow and find the strength to move on.

Enjoy this relaxing duet of two icons of Americana, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow, as they sing about “Far Away Places.”

(For more thoughts on Far Away Places see Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away Place, As Far Away Places Edge Closer, Caring About Far Away Places and Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door.)

Review of “Defriended” by Ruth Baron

This is not an easy needle to thread, and when I heard that I knew someone who knew someone who had written a fairly successful young adult horror novel, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.
DefrieindedRuth Baron has written a thoroughly enjoyable book. Given that I am neither a big fan of horror stories nor of tales of unhappy misfits, this is high praise. It helped that the protagonist, Jason, has a better sense of humor and more common sense than most. Not only is he likable, but his world is filled with both teens and adults who are basically decent people who sometimes behave poorly. It’s not a story that makes you cringe or a world you can’t wait to leave.
The horror aspects center around the creepiness of a dead friend on Facebook and while there are scenes you might not want to read while alone on a dark stormy night, Baron shows class as she avoids inserting anything truly disgusting just for shock value.
If I had one quarrel with the book it was that the friendship between social klutz Jason and popular Rakesh was hard to believe. Many a charismatic kid has ditched his or her best grade school friend when they turned out to be a social liability in junior high. Okay, I like to think that kids like Rakesh exist, and Baron really tried hard to convince me that they do, but I’m not sure I believe her.
What surprised me most is that the book is also very much a crime novel, and a well done one at that. There are only so many options to explain a Facebook relationship with the dead, after all, and most if not all of them involve some kind of a crime. Baron crafts a clever solution to the situation and adds a twist or two to keep the reader guessing. It’s a fun read for mystery lovers of any age.
Check out the novel on Amazon or on Goodreads.