Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dianne Ascroft - Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves is a collection of half a dozen short stories with Irish connections. Tales of outsiders who discover they belong, a humorous slice of life yarn, heartwarming love stories and a tale of taming fear. The shadows are on the wall, in the heart and clouding a woman’s memories while tangible foes tramp through the physical landscape. The stories were previously printed individually in a variety of publications, including Ireland’s Own magazine, Dead Ink Books’ website, and the anthologies, Fermanagh Miscellany and Tuesdays At Charlie’s.

My Review

It always makes for an intriguing blend when an author draws inspiration from real life when crafting a story. It sets the stage for a richer reading experience. That's why I recommend perusing Dianne Ascroft's bio before diving into the pages of DANCING SHADOWS, TRAMPING HOOVES.

I was struck by the parallels between Dianne and her characters. For me, it made the book even more meaningful since I was able to pick up on the subtle nuances that she instilled in each of the six short stories. By sharing bits and pieces of herself, it allowed her characters to come alive in a way that felt authentic. I was able to connect with them on a deeper level because they were fashioned by a writer exploring her personal struggles and conflicting emotions through her work. And that's great art, taking one's individual circumstances and relating them to the human condition, allowing the reader and the writer to learn and grow together.

Certain passages provided a clear insight into Dianne's mindset, especially the ones centered around her feeling like a duck out of water when she moved from Canada to Ireland. It's interesting that in "A World Apart," the narrator is never named. Told from a first person perspective, we only know her as Connor's wife. She's lost her own identity as she tries to figure out where she belongs in a strange land. The same is true for Karen in "Going Home." She's torn, not sure what place really feels like home, her native Toronto or her current residence in Belfast. In both instances, these adrift characters receive advice from older women who steer their thinking in a new direction, giving them hope and a fresh perspective.

And that touches on a recurring theme throughout the collection, the idea that we're not alone, drifting aimlessly through life by ourselves. Others are around to help us, to look out for us, to care for us. Whenever the central characters think that no one understands them, they're shown just how mistaken they are. Other people make their presence known, letting these characters know that they're there to help shoulder the load - whether it's talking over a cup of tea, pitching in around the barn or staying up late next to a crackling fire. These characters are continually reminded that they are loved whenever they seem ready to pull away and retreat into themselves.

This anthology of short stories provides a telling introduction into the introspective style of an emerging talent in the field of women's contemporary fiction. Dianne Ascroft is a writer to keep an eye on because she's only just scratched the surface of her potential. It'll be interesting to see what subject matter she tackles next.


Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves can be purchased at:
Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K.

Price/Format: $1.16 ebook
Pages: 39
Genre: Romance, Short Story Collection
Release: June 16, 2012
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Dianne Ascroft is an urban Canadian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. She writes contemporary and historical fiction with an Irish connection. She has released the short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves and a novel, Hitler and Mars Bars. Her articles and stories have been printed in Irish and Canadian magazines and newspapers as well as in anthologies by Writers Abroad, Fermanagh Writers and Fermanagh Authors’ Association.

Links to connect with Dianne:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Rainy Day Killer up for 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel

Press Release
For Immediate Release

(Ottawa, April 11, 2014) The Rainy Day Killer by Michael J. McCann, the fourth book in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, has been selected to the longlist for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel of the year.

Established in 1984 and named after the alias of Canada's official hangman, the Arthur Ellis Awards are awarded annually by the Crime Writers of Canada for excellence in Canadian crime writing. Past winners of the best novel award include William Deverell, Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny, and Peter Robinson. The shortlist for the award will be announced on April 24, 2014, and the winner on June 5, 2014.

The Rainy Day Killer is a police procedural in which the series protagonists, Lt. Hank Donaghue and Det. Karen Stainer, pursue a terrifying serial killer who wears a business suit and carries an umbrella as he kidnaps unsuspecting victims, whenever it rains. Series favorite Karen Stainer finds her focus affected, however, by plans for her upcoming wedding and threats by the Rainy Day Killer to choose her as his next victim.

Other novels in the series include Blood Passage (2011), Marcie's Murder (2012), and The Fregoli Delusion (2012).

A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, Michael J. McCann now lives and writes in Oxford Station, Ontario. His website is www.mjmccann.com.

For more information contact:

The Plaid Raccoon Press

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cover reveal of Running Through a Dark Place (Children of the Knight #2) by Michael J. Bowler

King Arthur and his extraordinary young Knights used ‘might’ for ‘right’ to create a new Camelot in the City of Angels. They rallied the populace around their cause, while simultaneously putting the detached politicians in check. But now they must move forward to even greater heights, despite what appears to be an insurmountable tragedy.

Their new goal is lofty: give equality to kids fourteen and older who are presently considered adults only when they break the law. Arthur’s crusade seeks to give them real rights such as voting, driving, trading high school for work, and sitting as jurors for their peers charged with criminal behavior.

Understanding that the adults of California will likely be against them, Arthur and his Knights must determine how best to win them over.  

However, before the king can even contemplate these matters, he finds himself face to face with an ally from the past, one who proves that everything isn’t always what it seems – even life and death.

The Knight Cycle Continues…

Friday, April 11, 2014

James Moser - Chasing Prophecy - Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Mo is a shy teen who is just trying to survive high school. He has secretly fallen in love with a girl named Prophecy who lives with a group that some call a commune and others call a cult. When she disappears, Mo must find the courage to face the monster that her family has become. Chasing Prophecy is a contemporary coming of age story that is heartwarming, suspenseful, and beautifully written. This book chronicles the adolescence of one boy who must transform himself to save the girl of his dreams.


A stellar read for teens and adults, full of hilarious growing pains, tenderness and a few surprises. Moser’s debut is an unflinching young-adult novel that sees a group of friends tested by bigotry and the illegal machinations of a religious cult. The author serves up an irresistibly wisecracking narrator in Mo Kirkland. Every page ripples with a controlled cleverness. There’s also a rawness to this tale similar to that which many teens face in the real world. Moser can wax rhapsodic about young love, but he shows that he knows how to raise the tension in the second half of the novel. -Kirkus Reviews

My Review

CHASING PROPHECY is the title of James Moser's debut young adult novel. It's complex in the sense that it can be broken down into so many different meanings. It is a true representation of the myriad of themes running throughout the book. Religion. Mythology. Criminology. It's fun to explore all of the different possibilities that the author may have had in mind combining these two words.

On the one hand, Prophecy is a person, the lead female character. It's the name a religious cult bestowed upon her. The commune offered her and her mother protection from the violent tendencies of her father. They agreed to go along with what the leaders dictated simply because they had nowhere else to go. However, she prefers Kazzy because it's what people have been calling her all her life. She's reluctant to go along with the whole deal because she didn't exactly sign up willingly.

Interestingly enough, she was given the name of Prophecy because she was deemed to be a prophet, able to predict the end of the world. The ringleader of the cult thought that God would reach out and tell her when Doomsday was near. Really, what she was able to predict was the end of the commune.

Things take an illegal spin when the cult starts hauling meth and her mom is put in charge of cooking the books to launder the dirty money. Prophecy is placed in a precarious situation because she knows how to crack the code of the ledgers her mom's keeping. They're the only two people who can bring the whole operation down, and when the Feds get involved, they put their lives on the line to work with law enforcement.

But over the course of the investigation, Prophecy gets scared, and she runs. It's not hard to imagine why. Everyone's chasing her, wanting a piece of her. The cult wants her silence. The government wants her cooperation. Her mom wants her safety. It's a lot of pressure for a young girl to handle. It's only when she stops and faces her demons that she's able to find some sense of peace.

At heart, Prophecy is a seeker, a puzzle solver determined to get to the bottom of things. She, herself, chases the prophecy of the Bigfoot legend. It's the one fear she's determined to conquer. For a school assignment, she tramps through the woods in search of one of the world's most elusive inhabitants. She thinks that if she can find him, she might be able to gain some semblance of control over her life. She's not in the hunt for the glory or the accolades by proving he exists. She just wants to know that Bigfoot is real because she believes in him with all her heart.

So many prophecies in her life have turned out to be false. The ideal of community. The illusion of security. The notion of predictability. Her whole world is turned upside down, but she's still standing, trying to conquer her fears. The pain of disillusionment is only matched by her capacity to love. She doesn't give up. She doesn't give in. In the end, she gets knocked off her feet a few times, but she's still ready to take on the next fearsome creature who gets in her way, human or not.


Chasing Prophecy can be purchased at:
Amazon, Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook
Pages: 237
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Paranormal
Publisher: Skookum Trail
Release: December 31, 2013
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

James Moser has always loved stories in all forms. He is in his fourteenth year of working with high school students. The author’s goal was to write a book that would inspire even his most reluctant readers. Young adults have always inspired him. As such, he wanted to show teenagers transforming themselves to overcome obstacles, which is what he watches them do, every day.

Moser has a B.A. in English and a Master’s degree in Secondary English Education. He lives in Seattle with his beautiful wife and eight year old son. When he’s not reading and writing, or thinking about reading and writing, he’s watching way too much television while snacking on frozen treats from Trader Joe’s. Man, those things are good.

Links to connect with James:
Blog Tour Site

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Michael F. Stewart - The Terminals - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

- Sometimes the dead don’t want to talk.
You need Terminals to make them. -

Terminals solve crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.

Lt. Col. Christine Kurzow, fresh from a failed suicide attempt after she cost 11 of her soldiers their lives, is recruited into the covert unit of Terminals as a handler. It's an easy sell. If she's really determined to die, it’s a chance to give her death meaning.

But her first case—convincing a monk to chase Hillar the Killer into the afterlife to find the location of a missing bus and the children it carried—has her wondering how to make a dead psychopath talk.

Christine must follow the clues sent back by the shotgun-toting monk, who tracks Hillar through the seven deeps of hell, so she can find eleven kids before it’s too late.

Maybe this time killing a man will give Christine a reason to live.

**The Television and Film production rights have been sold to Jim Donovan (Best Director 2013, Canadian Screen Awards) and on to his partners of Sudden Storm Entertainment.

My Review

Not many books are able to change your views on the afterlife. This one does.

Michael F. Stewart tackles some pretty weighty subject matter in THE TERMINALS. Euthanasia. Suicide. Torture. Despite the presence of such heavy topics, my attention was diverted elsewhere. Because when I look back years from now and think about this book, what I'm going to remember is its portrayal of hell.

It's disturbing. It's scarring. It's something you won't soon forget. I have to admit it was hard to read at times. No one likes to contemplate what hell might actually be like, but Stewart is brave enough to go there and wholeheartedly wrap his brain around the concept. He fathoms the most grotesque punishments imaginable and some I don't think I'll ever be able to fully comprehend, they're so gruesome.

Our guide is Brother Charlie, the Gnostic monk we follow into the depths. Why would a member of the clergy be going to hell? Because he witnessed the murder of his friend and did nothing to stop it. At the time, he was confused, afraid, but now he's on a quest to right that wrong as he tracks the killer through the seven levels of hell. What he doesn't know is if the killer learned all seven passwords for the Archons who guard the gates. If the killer passes all seven tests, he'll be able to undergo reincarnation and resume his cycle of terror back on Earth.

But Charlie must undergo each test as well, and they are excruciatingly painful. The talons of a giant eagle cook the flesh off his bones before snapping his spine and ripping out his entrails. Bats engorge themselves on his skeletal frame, sucking the marrow from his bones. He's left to swim in an ocean of barbed hooks filled with venom that almost disintegrate what remains of his corporeal body, only to survive and be ripped apart by wolves at another level. But the true torture is psychological as the recriminating voice of his mother beckons to his downtrodden spirit from the darkness that he's unworthy of forgiveness.

It's a heady trip. It's unsettling to think about what might actually happen to us when we die. Will our flesh be stripped from our bodies until we're nothing more than a spark like Stewart hypothesizes? It's thoughts like these that we usually shove to the background. They're too traumatic to ponder for more than a second or two. But here, Stewart does the heavy lifting for us, cultivating a take on the eternal that's too frightening to ignore.

If nothing else, THE TERMINALS will scare you into being a better person. Trust me, it's so frightening you'll fall to your knees and pray that not even your worst enemy ends up in hell.


The Terminals can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Formats: ebook, paperback
Pages: 310
Genre: Paranormal, Thriller, Mystery
Release: April 15, 2014
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael F. Stewart is the author of the Assured Destruction series, which sprawls across 3 books, 2 websites, 1 blog, 7 Twitter accounts, tumblr, Facebook, and 6 graphic origin stories. He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. He has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s award winning Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights published by Rubicon Publishing as well as early readers with Pearson are all forthcoming in 2014 and 2015.

For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS—a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next. This series has already been optioned for film and television.

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he runs free writing workshops for teens and adults.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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