Friday, November 20, 2015

Michael J. Bowler - Warrior Kids - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

The future looks bleak unless eighteen year-old Lance and his New Camelot Earth Warriors can save the planet from catastrophic climate change. 
Spurred by twelve year-olds Billy, Enya, Itzamna, and his ten-year-old brother, Chris, Lance creates a branch of Earth Warriors, a youth-led movement designed to save the earth from its greatest enemy – greed. His involvement leads to Earth Warrior crews springing up all across America. Millions of kids leap into action, paralyzing the country and alarming the rich and powerful. Having adopted his father’s philosophy of doing what’s right, rather than what’s easy, Lance makes serious enemies when he calls out New Camelot donors who represent fossil fuel or other polluting industries, and then barely escapes a series of "accidents” designed to kill him. When he challenges the United States Congress to step up and act immediately on the climate crisis, the attacks on him escalate. With the majority of America's kids on his side, Lance and his young Earth Warriors prepare for the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris, where they will call upon world leaders to stop talking about sustainability and start acting on it. But whoever wants him dead isn't giving up. Will Lance and his crew live long enough to even get to Paris? Warrior Kids is a standalone tale set within the Children of the Knight universe.



My Review

What if it were illegal to abuse nature?

That's the question Michael J. Bowler poses in his rollicking middle grade adventure tale, WARRIOR KIDS.

He makes a valid case that environmental damage continues to be tolerated as long as it generates a profit. Everyone from governments to international organizations are willing to turn a blind eye if they're persuaded to believe that increased pollution, overflowing landfills and the destruction of natural ecosystems can somehow benefit the bottom line.

When it comes down to it, jobs are considered more valuable than the future viability of the planet. Consume more, think less. That's the message. The endless cycle of production needs to go on, for if it stops, the consequences of wide scale unemployment will be catastrophic.

"You'll be dead by the time the damage you created falls on us."

That in a nutshell is Bowler's counter-argument. Do we really want to leave the problem for our kids and grandkids to solve? It's not something most adults want to ponder, but it's a reality the young people of today are going to have to face.

"Selfish people who had no intention of changing their lifestyle so the next generation would have a sustainable planet on which to live."

The theme of Bowler's novels centers around the message, "Strive always to do what's right, rather than what's easy." He's well aware that where things stand now, a solution is probably beyond reach. But he doesn't think sitting back and doing nothing is a justifiable alternative. He offers a multitude of ideas that readers can incorporate into their lives, everything from using the cold water setting on a washing machine to giving away useable items to those in need instead of throwing them in the trash. It can be as simple as turning off a light switch when leaving a room.

"Most people weren't willing to sacrifice their personal ambitions for the greater good."

It's an uphill climb when preservation isn't the priority of many. Yet Bowler feels strongly that the kids of today are "a generation on the rise" and that they "intend to rise to the challenge." His characters don't want to be treated like their generation doesn't matter. They want their voices to be heard.

It's only a matter of time before it becomes apparent if kids like Billy, Itz and Enya will succumb to the same pitfalls as their parents or if they will in fact rise above them and change things for the better. Putting books like WARRIOR KIDS into their hands may very well be a critical first step in a new direction.

***

Warrior Kids can be purchased at:
Amazon

Formats: ebook, paperback
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 211
Release: October 6, 2015
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990871149
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


Special message from the author:

THE eBOOK OF WARRIOR KIDS IS FREE FOR EDUCATORS. It is available in the following formats: PDF, Kindle (mobi), and ePub (Nook and iBooks). In addition, teachers can purchase the paperbacks at the per unit cost of $3.08 (plus shipping and applicable tax.) Educators can contact the author via the Warrior Kids Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1505241449796357/) or directly by email – stuntshark2.0@gmail.com. For paperback orders, the author will generate an invoice from Createspace (the physical publisher of the book) and payment can be made through PayPal. There is no profit motive and he will earn nothing off the paperbacks sold to teachers. Per unit cost and shipping rates are exactly as Createspace charges him – no markup. As an educator, he has always sought supplemental reading material that would engage his students on important issues. Having found very little, he decided to write one and make it readily available.


About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of nine novels—A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place (Bronze Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America; Spinner (Winner Hollywood Book Festival; Honorable Mention San Francisco Book Festival; Bronze Medal from Reader’s Favorite; Literary Classics Seal of Approval), and Warrior Kids.

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook. He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Tumblr
Pinterest
Instagram
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 6, 2015

Leta Serafim - When the Devil's Idle - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth. Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island’s fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him. What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder—the gardener and housekeeper, the victim’s son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family’s many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying. But which of these secrets led to murder?

Book 2 of the Greek Islands Mystery series, which began with The Devil Takes Half.



My Review

"An old enemy cannot become a friend."- Greek proverb

So begins a mystery novel where a ninety-year-old man is found murdered, a swastika carved into his forehead.

Not many people are killed in such an idyllic setting—in a garden on a Greek isle in the Aegean Sea. His death raises the question: Why would someone brutally kill a man who only had a few years left to live?

His identity turns out to be a key component. Living under an alias in Germany, he's been in Greece before. Namely, during World War II.

"Evil was indeed an entity and certain human beings embodied it, wore it like skin."

It's only when the police begin to look at the villa's housekeeper that a possible motive begins to emerge. As a child, the woman's entire village was massacred by the Nazis, and she's one of the last remaining survivors. When the police ask her if she had ever encountered the victim before, her response changes the scope of the entire investigation.

"Maybe that's how they grieve in Germany. They cry themselves out and return to their computers."

The cultural divide between the victim's family and the local community is a chasm that isn't easily breached. The man's son is a UN humanitarian worker in Africa. His daughter-in-law is a Heidi Klum knockout, who's devoted to her children. They swallow their grief without making an outward display of it. This confuses the Greeks in their midst who are more accustomed to a show of theatrics when it comes to the ritual of mourning. They expect to see wailing and gnashing of teeth, not a stiff upper lip.

Does this lack of remorse implicate the family in some way? Or are these two cultures still trying to come to terms with each other? One, mired in guilt. The other, bearing the burden of memory. Yet both seeking a way forward, beyond death, beyond grief.

***

When the Devil's Idle can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

Formats: $6.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genre: Mystery Suspense Thriller
Pages: 192
Release: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
ISBN: 9781603819985
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


Excerpt

The police cruiser arrived later that day and Giorgos Tembelos and Papa Michalis disembarked, the priest inching down the ramp like a tortoise.

“I think the identity of the old man is the key,” Papa Michalis announced when they’d all gathered in a taverna to review the case. “I analyzed it and that is my conclusion. It simply cannot be anything else. It has elements of an Agatha Christie story, one of her locked-room mysteries like And Then There Was None. Nobody else had access; ergo, one of the people inside the estate, a family member or a servant, must be the guilty party.”

“Anyone could have gained access,” Patronas pointed out. “The Bechtels were careless. They didn’t keep the door locked and there were keys lying around everywhere.”

“No matter. It’s got to be one of them. We can interview other people forever, but it will eventually come back to them. Them and them alone.”

“I think Father is right,” Tembelos said. “The identity of the victim is the important thing here. There was nothing about him in any of the European databases I checked. I called our counterparts in Germany and asked them to run him through their system, but I doubt they’ll find anything. It’s like he never existed. We need to establish who he was. Could be he changed his name.”

“Why would he change his name?” Patronas wondered.

“I don’t know.“

The four of them were sitting outside by the water, it being too hot to venture inside. A haze hung over the sea, and the air was very still. Suddenly, a soft breeze rose up and stirred the tamarisk trees that lined the shore, setting their feathery branches in motion. Patronas liked the rustling sound the trees made, the relief the wind brought. It was almost as if he could hear the earth breathe.

I’ll go swimming tonight, he told himself, looking out at the harbor. Float on my back and look up at the stars. Frolic like a dolphin.

Maybe he’d ask Antigone Balis to join him. He pictured her dripping wet, that long hair of hers hanging down over one shoulder like Botticelli’s Venus. Adrift in his vision, he subsequently lost track of the conversation.

“Hey, boss, you with us?” Tembelos nudged him with his elbow.

Patronas made a show of straightening his back, stretching. “Sorry, it’s the heat. Always makes me sleepy.”

“You were grinning.”

“So what if I was? A man’s allowed to grin.”

“I don’t know, Yiannis,” the priest said. “I think when one is discussing a homicide, it might be better if one dispensed with grinning. At such a time, such behavior is unseemly. It makes one appear insensitive at the very least.”

“Thank you for that, Father. In the future, I will dispense with grinning.” He tapped his pencil on his notebook. “So, to sum up, we have nothing concrete in the case, no witnesses or physical evidence, nothing that will lead us to the killer.”

“Gardener’s clean,” Tembelos reported. “I ran his fingerprints and there was nothing. There was a match on the shoes, too, exactly like he told us.”

“What about the housekeeper, Maria Georgiou?”

“Same thing. The case is heating up. If we don’t catch the killer, it could get ugly. Ministry’s already clamoring for action.”

“We need to turn the housekeeper, Maria Georgiou, inside out, also the members of the family,” Patronas said. “Check their history. Something’s going on here, but as of yet, I haven’t established what it is.”

“You can’t rule out a random act of violence,” the priest said, “directed at them because of their nationality.”

“Worse would be if it were a case of mistaken identity,” Patronas said, “the killer targeting the owners—the Bauers—and killing one of their guests by mistake.”

He was thinking of Charlie Manson, who along with his disciples had wiped out six people without blinking an eye, not realizing his intended victim was a subletter. “Personally, I think someone targeted the family for reasons we don’t know. The cat, the old man. It stands to reason.”

“I’d start with the housekeeper,” Tembelos said. “What she said doesn’t add up. That bit about coming to Patmos on holiday and staying on as a maid.”

“Unlikely, Giorgos. She’s in her seventies.”

Papa Michalis continued to promote the locked room concept. Citing a case in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, he described how the killer had released a cobra through a fake vent and activated its poisonous energy by whistling. “ ‘Oh, my God, it was the band,’ the victim shouted, ‘the speckled band.’”

“Fiction, Father, fiction,” Patronas said impatiently. “Remember? We discussed it.”

“My point is if you are determined to kill someone, a lock is no deterrent. Sometimes murderers are ingenious. Using a cobra as a murder weapon is brilliant when you think about it. Absolutely brilliant. No fingerprints involved, no way to trace it back to you. The snake does all the work.”

“I repeat, Father, there is no snake involved here. A stone maybe, but no snake.”

“A stone? What makes you think that?”

And around they went again, weighing the possibilities. The victim had been hit on the head, but with what? A hammer or a rock? A shovel or pickax? Rock, scissors, paper.

Forget swimming, Patronas told himself. I might as well drown myself.



About the Author

Leta Serafim is the author of the Greek Islands Mystery series, published by the Coffeetown Press, as well as the historical novel, To Look on Death No More. She has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece.

Links to connect with Leta:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 30, 2015

Scott A. Lerner - The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Samuel Roberts, a lawyer in Champaign, Illinois, has just moved to a new home to escape the memories of his old place—the stray body parts left by evil entities as well as traces of his relationship with Susan, who left him because he couldn’t stop risking both their lives trying to save the world. That leaves Sam free to fall in love again. Sam falls hard, suspiciously hard, for Bridget Gillis, a beautiful fortune teller who also happens to be a witch and a member of a coven. The village that encompasses the coven was founded by Bridget’s great-great aunt, also named Bridget and a dead ringer for her descendant. The new relationship quickly gets complicated. It is two days before Halloween, and Bridget is about to be tried by her fellow witches for the crime of practicing dark magic involving the blood of children. The punishment is to be burned at the stake. Bridget needs an advocate, and Sam is the perfect man for the job.

Sam brings in Bob, who is suspicious of his best buddy’s sudden passion. The two of them have until the Witching Hour on Halloween to clear Bridget’s name and find out who is killing the local children. As they comb the area for clues, quiz the locals, and take a crash course in witchcraft and Wiccan customs, Sam and Bob can’t shake the question: is Bridget a good witch or a bad witch?

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest is the fourth book in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons and The Fraternity of the Soul Eater.


My Review

"Witchcraft is like the Indian idea of Karma. Bad magic will come back to harm its maker."

That's the premise behind Scott A. Lerner's latest paranormal thriller as he explores the guilt still hovering over the American consciousness when it comes to the Salem Witch Trials. In the seventeenth century, innocent women were put to death because of mass hysteria. Mob rule took over when fear, not justice, became the driving force in a community that was struggling to hold on at the edge of the wilderness. The idea that evil could take human form wasn't so hard to believe—be it a mother, a sister, an aunt, a neighbor. Evil was a very real concept to them, with the threat of Indian attack ever present and the deep, dark woods casting a formidable shadow upon their fledgling attempt at building a civilization. It's their close ties to nature that many believed gave the Salem witches their power.

"Some Wiccans think of nature itself as a deity and that everything around us holds magic within it. Kind of like The Force in STAR WARS."

That's how Lerner explains the Wiccan religion to the casual reader. He's not looking to provide a history lesson instead he shares some interesting nuggets of information about why women who consider themselves witches have been feared for generations. He debunks the pointy hats and riding on broomsticks, even while giving a nod to pop culture references like the TV show CHARMED and Carlos Santana's "Black Magic Woman," but his tone doesn't trivialize what many consider to be a way of life. Instead, he shines a light on Wiccan practices and traditions, illuminating them for the reader through the context of his story.

"To open a hole in the world that separated the living from the dead, blood was always required."

Samhain, otherwise known as Halloween, is one of the most important dates on the Wiccan calendar. It's when communication with the dead becomes most likely. And Lerner delves into that concept using the idea of Blood Thorns, a plant with a Venus flytrap mentality. But instead of flies, it eats young, helpless children. Surviving on their blood, it produces a type of fruit that resembles the shape of a baby in the fetal position, a fruit that can only be harvested on Halloween.

"At this time of year, the veil between the living and the dead would be at its thinnest."

In Lerner's tale, cultivating Blood Thorns is strictly forbidden within the Wiccan community. The penalty for growing them is death. It's not until a woman "with long black hair that fell to her waist and intense blue eyes like a Siamese cat's," is accused of seeking to reap its rewards, that another trial is conducted, this time pitting witch against witch. Why would anyone take such a risk in growing Blood Thorns? What could the benefit possibly be?

Immortality.

It turns out Bridget Gillis, the witch in question, is a direct descendent of one of the village's founding members, Bridget Bishop, a name synonymous with the Salem Witch Trials as the first woman executed. While Lerner's Bishop doesn't claim any direct ties to Salem, he does have her fleeing London for America in order to establish a utopia of sorts for those seeking to practice their craft. She chooses a spot smack dab in the middle of Illinois farm country, where for over a hundred years its residents have coexisted peacefully beside their Amish neighbors—until now. The bones beneath the Blood Thorns are believed to be from missing Amish children, the young victims of an abhorrent sacrifice.

Lerner skillfully employs the misconceptions that surround the occult to aid his plot. He introduces Cotton Mather, one of the Salem elders who allowed the witch trials to get out of hand. He appears in a dream-like state, talking to the book's main character and advising him to play on the emotions of the audience–just like he did. Lerner has Mather express remorse for what happened in Salem, but refuses to pass judgement on a time and place so very different from his own.

Lerner is not an advocate of the death penalty, and he makes his position clear in the story. Being a lawyer, he's well aware of the mistakes that can occur through forced confessions and of the acquittals that have been handed down thanks to DNA testing. He writes the novel from that viewpoint and never deviates from it. Lerner also argues that cases where a child victim is involved are often impossible to defend against, since the sympathies of the jury usually end up swaying in favor of the prosecution.

Everyone wants to see the bad guys punished. Even if the bad guys are women. Even if the bad guys are innocent.

The point Lerner is trying to make is that the Salem of the 1600s is not so very far removed from the America of today. The ingredients for this particular spell are one and the same. Add a dash of prejudice to a cauldron of ignorance. Skim the surface for any remaining trace of logic or reasoning. Stir until simmering, and serve with a side of fear.

***

The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Formats/Prices: $4.99 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 230
Release: October 31, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812917
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Lerner’s first novel and the first Samuel Roberts Thriller, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards. The second book in the series is Ruler of Demons. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is book 3. Book 4, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, will be released on Halloween, 2015.

Links to connect with Scott:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 14, 2015

Scott A. Lerner - The Fraternity of the Soul Eater - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

It’s been a while since Samuel Roberts was called upon to save mankind, and he’s getting restless. His girlfriend Susan thinks he’s a danger junkie, and he’s worried he has a hero complex. He’s back to his usual small-town lawyerly duties in Champaign-Urbana, handling divorces and helping people beat DUI raps. But then a young fraternity pledge calls. During an initiation ceremony he witnessed the live sacrifice of a young woman, but he had so much alcohol in his system that no one believes him. Except Sam. Lately Egyptian lore has been creeping into his life, his dreams, and his movie preferences, and he’s pretty sure he knows why. Evil is knocking on his door again.

Is the call welcome? Why can’t Sam be satisfied with his comfortable legal practice and gorgeous redheaded girlfriend? Maybe it’s because he knows that, as inadequate as he may feel to the task, he and his friend Bob may be humanity’s only hope against ancient supernatural forces combined with modern genetic engineering. Come hell or high water. Or in this case, the underworld or subterranean pyramids.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is the third book in the Samuel Roberts Thriller series, which began with Cocaine Zombies and continued with Ruler of Demons.


My Review

Sam Roberts is suffering from a case of post traumatic stress disorder.

But he didn't fight in a war zone.

He didn't survive a natural disaster.

He battled the supernatural—and won.

But for him, the battle is far from over.

With multiple encounters under his belt, Sam truly feels that he's one of the only people on earth aware of the evil forces lurking at the periphery of everyday life. That knowledge has left him tired and severely depressed, and he doesn't know what to do about it. He doesn't want to see a doctor and just pop a pill in order to make himself feel better because he knows it won't do any good.

"I was depressed because I realized the world was filled with evil and indifference toward suffering. I was depressed because I knew that the forces of darkness would rise again. The problem is not that I fail to perceive the world as it is. The problem is that I see the world exactly as it is. So the question was not why I was depressed, but why wasn't everyone else?"

He feels alone in his struggle, and utterly conflicted. He's not sure if he has the strength to defeat these negative entities if they attack him again, and yet he finds returning to ordinary life impossible now that he knows what it's like living so close to the edge. Sitting behind a desk and working as a small time attorney just isn't going to cut it for him anymore.

Now in his late thirties, he's going through a type of midlife crisis. He feels old, even though he's still relatively young. He's falling out of love with his girlfriend, and nothing seems fresh and exciting to him anymore. Life has lost its flavor for him without the exhilaration of fighting the unknown. He's giving up on making the most of things, allowing himself to drown in a sea of self-pity and despair.

"It is a true eye-opener when you first realize you can't be whatever or whoever you want to be. The worst part of adulthood is the shocking discovery that love can be as tiring and stale as any other emotion, given enough time."

Sam no longer enjoys much of anything, and he turns inward, saying:

"I understood even then that I did not play well with others." 

He lets his relationship with his girlfriend fall to wayside, and starts obsessively chasing after anything that has to do with the paranormal. His personality changes as he goes from a self-confessed introvert to a danger junkie, recklessly seeking out danger.

His risk-taking even has a suicidal bent.

"I didn't have the guts to kill myself any other way, so why not let someone else do the job?"

He indulges in some pretty self destructive behavior, contemplating cheating on his girlfriend with a much younger girl, and taking on a client who claims he witnessed a ritual sacrifice during a fraternity hazing event. In fact, Sam inadvertently starts reverting back to his college days, spending a lot of time on campus, interacting more with the students than with the adults.

He throws himself headlong into the thick of the hazing investigation, actively seeking the adrenaline rush he only feels when he's involved with the occult. It quickly becomes an obsession that starts to ruin his life. He takes on the frat case without even the guarantee of receiving a two thousand dollar retainer. His girlfriend demands that he leave his fixation behind or else he's going to lose her. And it's sad because he's actually leaning toward choosing the supernatural over her.

His best friend, Bob, even tells him when they start working the case together:

"You like it. You are addicted to this. You are happier than you have been in months."

But it's a false high that's corrupting his soul. Sam doesn't care what he has to do to stay alive, even if it means killing other people in the process. He was never a cold-blooded killer before, and now he is.

Are these dark tendencies a part of Sam's essential nature? Lying dormant under the surface, waiting to be exposed?

Regardless, Sam doesn't feel worthy of life's blessings, not anymore.

"This destiny did not include being with the woman I loved, but something darker. Perhaps happiness was too great a gift to expect. I had killed people. Perhaps happiness was more than I deserved."

As Sam continues to sink even deeper into depravity, it'll be interesting to see just how far Scott A. Lerner takes him in the next installment of the series.

***

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

Formats/Prices: $4.99 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 218
Release: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812894
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Lerner’s first novel and the first Samuel Roberts Thriller, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards. The second book in the series is Ruler of Demons. The Fraternity of the Soul Eater is book 3. Book 4, The Wiccan Witch of the Midwest, will be released on Halloween, 2015.

Links to connect with Scott:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lesley A. Diehl - A Sporting Murder - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

It's smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida's Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of 'gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David's supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake's land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports "exotics" from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder.

Blake's nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve's brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends' misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy's extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word.


My Review

Cozy mysteries aren't just fluffy whodunits anymore. There's a noticeable trend emerging in those written by women for women. They're no longer shying away from the ugliness of everyday life in order to provide an escape from reality. There may be feel good tidbits thrown in like a fashion conscious wardrobe or a simmering romance, but now they're also venturing into new territory, using what's in the news and transferring it to the page.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the current headlines concerning race and law enforcement. People of color being subjected to police brutality—as well as receiving a substandard means of protection for their families and their property—is an hot button issue that author Lesley A. Diehl explores in A SPORTING MURDER. Sure, her heroine is known as "the fashionista of the Florida swamps" who readily admits that all she seems to think about is sexy men, but Eve Appel is a sleuth out to right as many injustices as she can, especially when the longstanding prejudice and ignorance in rural Florida threatens to harm her Native American friends in the Miccosukee Indian tribe.

When a college student's car turns up on the side of the road with traces of blood inside, the cops basically do nothing about it since it turns out they're not all that interested in looking for an Indian boy. They're already aware that a great number of Guatemalan farm workers have gone missing over the last few months, and they automatically lump him in the same category as those unsolvable missing person cases. As one tribesman so tellingly reveals, "If he were white, they'd be all over the place. Get real. Anglos can't tell an illegal alien from a Mexican farm worker from a Miccosukee college kid."

But the case takes an interesting twist when the prime suspect turns out to be a blue-eyed, blonde-haired man with freckles. His innocent-looking appearance gives him "the perfect cover for a psychopath," a guy with a long history of getting into bar fights with his favorite target being the resident Indian population. On the job, he's known as El Diablo, the devil, for how he treats his workers like slaves. His prior stint in the military is no better since he was found "equally irresponsible in dealing with the Afghanis."

And the authorities get it dead wrong when the missing college student winds up meeting a terrible end, one that could've been prevented if they had acted sooner. The anger in the native community quickly bubbles over when another one of their own is later abducted. No one in charge is willing to connect the dots except for Eve and her private investigating team. Based on the amount of anger over the police department's ineptitude, Eve ponders the long history of mistrust between the two groups, "The Florida tribes have never signed a peace treaty and [they] looked as if they [were] about to take up the battle once more."

When Eve uncovers that one of the higher ups in the police department is involved in the kidnappings, she doesn't know where to turn for help. So she takes it upon herself to make things right, only to end up in the very same predicament—hunted down and taken against her will. By the end of the book, she's left fighting for her life against an enemy who places no value on a human life whatsoever whether it's "a blonde bitch" like her or "just some brown Indians," "no smartass" is going to outwit him.

But he never anticipated coming across someone like Eve Appel.

Because in the face of all his threats, she has one thing to say.

"I'm a diversity magnet."

And proud of it.

***

A Sporting Murder can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Formats/Prices: $4.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Genres: Cozy Murder Mystery
Pages: 250
Release: July 15, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603819398
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.

She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories. A Sporting Murder follows the first two books in the Eve Appel mystery series, A Secondhand Murder and Dead in the Water.

Links to connect with Lesley:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 17, 2015

Michael J. McCann - Sorrow Lake - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Detective Inspector Ellie March of the Ontario Provincial Police is called in to investigate when a man from the village of Sparrow Lake is found shot to death, execution style, in a farmer's field in rural eastern Ontario.

Leading an inexperienced team of detectives, she probes beneath the wintry surface of the township to discover the victim had a dark secret--one that may endanger others in the community as well.

For young and enthusiastic Detective Constable Kevin Walker, the chance to work with Ellie March is an honour, until the situation turns ugly and unexpected betrayal threatens to destroy his promising career.


My Review

People aren't always how they appear to be.

It's a message worth remembering when reading a shrewdly written mystery like SORROW LAKE. With an observant eye for detail, author Michael J. McCann introduces Vivian, the wife of murder victim, Bill Hansen. He allows a first impression to form of her that is none to flattering. Her neighbors add in their two cents. The detectives start making assumptions based on the state of her home. Local gossip quickly filters into the picture.

Initially, Vivian Hansen is seen through the distorted lens of assumption and secondhand information. In most cases, the spouse usually has some kind of involvement, and that's where most of these investigations start, and sometimes end. So it's no surprise that that's where this novel begins with McCann purposefully guiding the story in that direction.

But then it becomes a head-scratcher. Is Vivian Hansen guilty or just a little odd? Is it a crime to keep to oneself? Many in his tiny Canadian community tend to think so. They have Vivian tried and convicted before she's even charged with anything. Residents describe her husband as a talker and a schmoozer, while they think she's stuck up just because she was born and raised in Nova Scotia. In this small rural village, the prejudice of the unknown runs deep.

And the black marks against Vivian continue to grow. She doesn't have any children. The only place she's regularly seen is at church. Her late husband owned a used car dealership, yet she doesn't even have a driver's license. She falls under immediate suspicion because she stays in her house and rarely interacts with anyone.

When investigators turn up at her door to inform her of her husband's brutal demise, she doesn't even act surprised. For the most part, family members of victims tend to continue to speak of the deceased in the present tense, but Vivian is already referring to Bill like he's long gone. This raises the antenna of the both detectives.

As they search her house for clues, they're struck by how clean and orderly it is. Everything is in its place, yet it feels cold and impersonal. The couple's bedroom even has matching twin beds. The female investigator floats the theory that Bill could've been an abusive husband, demanding strict adherence to a sense of order so he could maintain control over his wife. If this is true, it's not a stretch to imagine that Vivian may have hired someone to kill her husband to get out from under his thumb.

If only she didn't come off so child-like.

Sadly, she can't even fully explain what her husband does for a living, just that it has something to do with cars. He handles all of the family finances, and she has no clue if they are currently in debt or not. There are two rooms in the house, in particular, that seem to tell the story of their marriage. One is filled with Vivian's doll collection, and the other is an attic office where Bill would unwind with a cigar and a glass of booze.

But was their marriage really how it seems on the surface? Unhappy. Lonely. Two people living under the same roof yet leading two very separate, and distinct, lives.

When witnesses are able to place a man arriving at the house in the hour or so after Bill was killed, questions begin to mount. Did Vivian hire someone to kill her husband? If so, why didn't she flee? Or did the murderer come to the house to threaten her as well?

No one really knows what goes on behind the closed doors of a marriage—except the two people who are in it. And the way McCann reveals the true nature of their relationship makes for a fascinating psychological study of a couple who shared, what can only be described as, anything but a boring life.

***

Video Trailer:



Sorrow Lake can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $5.99 ebook, $19.99 paperback
Pages: 316
ISBN: 9781927884027
Publisher: Plaid Raccoon Press
Release: April 30, 2015
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Michael J. McCann was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. He earned a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) with a major in English Literature from Trent University in Peterborough, and a Master of Arts in English from Queen's University in Kingston, ON.

He served as Production Editor of Criminal Reports (Third Series) at Carswell Legal Publications (Western), where he was also Co-ordinator of Law Reports, before joining Canada Customs, now the Canada Border Services Agency. While at CBSA he was a training specialist, project officer, and national program manager before leaving public service to write novels full time.

Mike now lives and writes in Oxford Station, Ontario. He is married to supernatural novelist Lynn L. Clark. They have one son.

Mike is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Horror Writers Association.

He is an author of crime fiction and supernatural thrillers. His Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series includes Blood Passage, Marcie's Murder, The Fregoli Delusion, and The Rainy Day Killer. He is also the author of the supernatural thriller The Ghost Man. His most recent novel, Sorrow Lake, is the first book of his new March and Walker Crime Novel series set in eastern Ontario, Canada.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog (mystery)
Blog (paranormal)
Pinterest
YouTube
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kathleen M. Rodgers - Johnnie Come Lately - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Would life have been different for Johnnie if she'd been named after a woman rather than her dead uncle? Or if her mama hadn't been quite so beautiful or flighty? The grandparents who raised her were loving, but they didn't understand the turmoil roiling within her. And they had so many, many secrets.

Why did her mama leave? Would she ever return? How did her Uncle Johnny really die? Who was her father? Now Johnnie Kitchen is a 43-year-old woman with three beautiful children, two of them grown. She has a handsome, hardworking husband who adores her, and they live in the historic North Texas town of Portion in a charming bungalow. But she never finished college and her only creative outlet is a journal of letters addressed to both the living and the dead. Although she has conquered the bulimia that almost killed her, Johnnie can never let down her guard, lest the old demons return. Or perhaps they never went away to begin with. For Johnnie has secrets of her own, and her worst fear is that the life she's always wanted--the one where she gets to pursue her own dreams--will never begin.

Not until her ghosts reveal themselves.


My Review

A woman's mind never stops.

It keeps going, going, and going, thinking about things morning, noon and night. The worries of today get lumped together with the mistakes and heartaches of the past along with the hopes and fears for the future.

In JOHNNIE COME LATELY, author Kathleen M. Rodgers gives an intimate, no-holds-barred account of what it's like to be inside the average woman's head.

Johnnie Kitchen is a forty-three-year-old housewife with a teenage daughter, a son in college, and another on the verge of graduating high school and enlisting in the army. She has a loving, hard-working husband who just found out she cheated on him when they first got married, and a mother who abandoned her as a child who suddenly decides to make a reappearance in her life. Johnnie finds herself always "having to balance loved ones on the worry scale. Who was more worthy, who was less?"

Needless to say, Johnnie's mind is a crazy, hectic place.

It's a humming, buzzing cauldron of differing levels of anxiety, yet the book is written in such a way that the reader can feel all the conflicting emotions she's going through at any given moment. And Johnnie's not just pondering things that advance the plot, her state of consciousness goes much deeper than that, examining what really makes a woman in suburban America tick in the twenty-first century. How does she fulfill all of the roles that are assigned to her? Mother, wife, daughter, lover, friend, neighbor…even devoted dog owner.

For Johnnie, "she could be anywhere, doing anything, and boom, she'd be zapped back to the past. It was as if she were living in two different dimensions: then and now."

Take for example, a reconciliation date she's on with her husband when she enters a restaurant that formerly housed the town bank. She immediately pictures herself opening her first savings account with her grandfather while taking a seat across the dinner table from her husband. But now she's not trying to save her pennies, she's hoping to save her marriage, the marriage she gave up everything for. It turns out she started that savings account in order to put money away for college—money she later used to support her new family after she dropped out of school and married the man sitting in front of her.

Yet the means by which Johnnie's mentality is most clearly portrayed is through her writing.

She's a character who writes, expressing herself through letters to deceased friends and relatives or piecing her jumbled thoughts together in compositions for a college writing course. It's how she tries to articulate answers to the questions that are endlessly plaguing her mind. Her eighty-four-year-old grandmother clams up whenever she tries to confront her about the past. Her phantom husband shields himself in "an earth-shattering silence," refusing to talk to her about her affair. And she only knows that her estranged mother is still alive after she reaches out to her out of the blue, since "ghosts don't call from a payphone."

It's no wonder she turns to the those who have passed away in order to sort things out—her father, her uncle, her grandfather, her first boyfriend, her ex-lover—because for Johnnie "sometimes the dead feel more alive than the people right in front of you." Especially when those people keep shutting her out, leaving her purposely in the dark. She uses writing to work through her issues because, "as far back as she could remember she always tried to place herself in somebody else's story." It's the only way she can make sense of things that don't make sense anymore.

One of the best lines of the book comes from Johnnie's son, Cade, when he asks, "Mama, why is our family so screwed up?" after seeing a photo of Johnnie's parents for the first time.

Johnnie doesn't have the answer, but the pain of being abandoned speaks volumes. The secrets, the lies, the betrayals hang heavy in her psyche and in her family. She wants to move forward, and the only way she can get there is by writing her own ending to the story, and not depending on anyone else to do it for her.

Does she get there?

Her final response to her mother is extremely telling and a perfect summation of the abandonment theme of the book: "All those years I thought I needed you, what I really needed was to find myself."

Yes, Johnnie finally does come full circle, finding her center in a clearer head and a much calmer spirit.

***

Johnnie Come Lately can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
BAM

Special $2.99 ebook sale!
now through July 31, 2015

Formats/Prices: $4.95 ebook, $9.75 paperback
Genres: Military Family, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 292
Release: February 1, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812153
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Award-winning author Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former frequent contributor to Family Circle magazine and Military Times. Her work has also appeared in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. She is the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. Deer Hawk Publications reissued the novel in e-book and paperback September of 2014.

Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, released from Camel Press February 1, 2015. Barnes and Noble in Southlake, TX hosted the official launch on February 7, and Kathleen signed copies of both novels for three hours straight. In 2014, she was named a Distinguished Alumna from Tarrant County College/NE Campus.

She is the mother of two grown sons, Thomas, a graduate of University of North Texas and a working artist in Denton, TX, and J.P., a graduate of Texas Tech University and a former Army officer who earned a Bronze Star in 2014 in Afghanistan. Kathleen’s husband, Tom, is a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and they reside in Colleyville, TX with their rescue dog, Denton. Kathleen is working on a new novel titled Seven Wings to Glory and is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Links to connect with Kathleen:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 19, 2015

Michael J. Bowler - Spinner - Review and Giveaway



About the Book

Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight. In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end. They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity. The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humankind. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed. The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty. If he survives…


My Review

Freak. Idiot. Loser.

These are just some of the hurtful names that are hurled at Alex and his Special Ed classmates. They're the misfits of Mark Twain High, the ones no one wants to be seen with. But Alex has it especially hard because he's also in a wheelchair, and the popular cheerleaders have no problem adding another insult to the list.

Cripple.

Author Michael J. Bowler admits in the foreword to SPINNER that he has a special place in his heart for those with disabilities because he, too, suffers with a hearing impairment and for years he was in charge of students just like Alex and his friends as a teacher in the public school system. He knows what makes these kids tick based on his own personal experiences, and from observing what other kids go through. He pens a full and comprehensive outlook from both sides of the issue, a feat that really brings his characters to life.

He portrays Special Ed teenagers not as victims but as heroes. They don't need anyone to fight their battles for them. They stand up for themselves. The deck is certainly stacked against them, but they prevail by working together and believing in each other. And they have a lot of issues they need to combat—limited language processing skills, attention deficit disorder, the inability to stop talking. They can't read well enough to find a name on a tombstone or look up someone's address in the phone book. They can't understand multi-syllabic words that authority figures from cops to priests use with ease. But they have the know-how to drive a truck through a high speed chase and the brute strength to climb up an apartment balcony. They learn to play to their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.

And that's a good thing because in SPINNER they're embroiled in a centuries-old mystery, that nobody really understands. All they know is that Alex has been granted some kind of mystical power that allows him to heal people, and drive away negative emotions. In the book's afterword, Bowler admits that Alex is the character who's most like him because of their shared empath abilities. Alex feels what others feel, and he hates seeing people suffer. But he's able to fix everyone except himself. He gets really down about being in a wheelchair, and that's when his reckless side emerges, leading to all sorts of trouble.

Relating so easily to people isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just becomes overwhelming when Alex is unsure how to channel it. Some people want him dead. Others want to use him for what they can get out of him. Alex doesn't know where to turn, but he trusts his fellow classmates. Society dubs them as intellectually challenged, but to him they're the bravest guys he knows. They may be afraid to follow him into danger, but when they're put to the test, they come through time and time again.

Alex is proud to call them his friends, or as Bowler lovingly puts it, "losers touched by God."

***

Spinner can be pre-purchased at:
Amazon

Format/Price: $6.99 ebook
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Pages: 463
Release: August 5, 2015
Publisher: YoungDudes Publishing
ISBN: 9780994667519
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels—A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place (Bronze Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, and Spinner.

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook. He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He is currently outlining a sequel to Spinner.

His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Tumblr
Pinterest
Instagram
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jerome Charyn - Bitter Bronx - Review and Giveaway



About the Book

Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.

In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin' Joe.

Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn's lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue's restaurant row, amid a "land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders."

In "Lorelei," a lonely hearts grifter returns home and finds his childhood sweetheart still living in the same apartment house on the Concourse; in "Archy and Mehitabel" a high school romance blossoms around a newspaper comic strip; in "Major Leaguer" a former New York Yankee confronts both a gang of drug dealers and the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought in his old neighborhood; and in three interconnected stories—"Silk & Silk," "Little Sister," and "Marla"—Marla Silk, a successful Manhattan attorney, discovers her father's past in the Bronx and a mysterious younger sister who was hidden from her, kept in a fancy rest home near the Botanical Garden. In these stories and others, the past and present tumble together in Charyn's singular and distinctly "New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches" (John Leonard, New York Times).

Throughout it all looms the "master builder" Robert Moses, a man who believed he could "save" the Bronx by building a highway through it, dynamiting whole neighborhoods in the process. Bitter Bronx stands as both a fictional eulogy for the people and places paved over by Moses' expressway and an affirmation of Charyn's "brilliant imagination" (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune).


My Review

The simplicity of Jerome Charyn's sentence structure carries with it so much power. You can tell he chooses the words he wants in a painstaking fashion in order to convey the emotion he's after.

How does he conjure the horror of a homeless shelter?

"It was like living in an ocean of unwashed feet."

Not many writers are capable of doing that. It's something only the greats are known for. The first name that comes to mind is Hemingway and his no frills style. That type of writer makes writing a craft. It's just not done anymore, or done right. It's nice to see someone like Charyn take up the banner and herald it into the future.

BITTER BRONX is a compilation of short stories with a multitude of crisscrossing themes, published separately at one time or another from 2006 through 2013 in various literary periodicals. The unifying thread is the tension between men and women with the shadow of mental illness hovering over "the brick wasteland" of New York's northernmost borough.

For Charyn, love fails because the mind can't handle the full implications of it. Women are institutionalized. Men slog through life, coping with depression. Yet men and women can't seem to live without each other, despite the inevitable heartache and pain any potential union is bound to cause. Charyn gets specific when it comes to what the human heart desires. He labels the upside of love as "perfect passion" with jealousy and violence as its inevitable downside. Attraction is coupled with confusion until the dividing line between the two is no longer distinguishable.

Take for example, "the bluest eyes in all of Manhattan." They come with the warning, "Never touch the boss's daughter."

There's a push and pull throughout that makes for an bittersweet blend of longing and despair. Charyn shows how the two are linked by having fun with a kooky assortment of fiercely independent ladies and the downtrodden men who try to win them over.

At the heart of it, no one wants to be in the Bronx. It's the last outpost for many. Some never left. Others arrive because they have nowhere else to go. It's not the ideal setting for love to thrive. It's harsh, brutal, draining. Past success is quickly forgotten. Future ambitions are easily thwarted. The present is a no man's land of get what you can get, while you can get it. There are no long term commitments when surviving into the next day comes with no guarantee.

Charyn captures this sense of anxious inertia brilliantly. The Bronx wants to move ahead. It wants to rediscover itself. But it can't. And for now, the best Charyn can do is make it happen in the pages of his book.

***

Bitter Bronx can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $9.99-$12.49 ebook, $24.95 hardcover
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780871404893
Publisher: Liveright
Release: June 1, 2015
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.

Links to connect with Jerome:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ellen March - Love on the Menu - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Jago Tanner is a loner. He works up a good hunger at his outdoors pursuits centre in Wales and looks upon each female conquest as just another meal. When he’s sated, he doesn’t go back for dessert. Until Riley shows up. A Londoner hired through an agency to assist him with activities, she isn’t at all what he asked for. For starters, with the name Riley, he expected a man. But Riley is all woman—the sexiest woman Jago has ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately she dresses like a trollop and curses like a sailor. Though ignorant about most outdoors pursuits, she’s a skilled horsewoman, able to calm even his nerviest stallion. And her lively and generous nature enchants his housekeeper Emily and his ancient friend, Tom.

In short, Jago’s new employee is a bundle of contradictions. Which is why, when Jago falls for her, he doesn’t trust his feelings. Riley seems unusually accident prone, and when her brother’s shady friends menace her, she plays the innocent. But how can anyone so self-sufficient and mouthy also be so trusting and naïve? And can a man with Jago’s volatile nature endure the jealousy a woman like Riley provokes just by strolling down the street?


My Review

Cowboys in Wales?

It certainly makes for an intriguing concept.

Alas, there aren't any Stetsons or pickup trucks in this novel, but there are plenty of boots and saddles to go around. Wide open spaces give way to the bleakness of a rough and rugged mountain range, while the wind-swept moors stand in for the prairie heartland. Yet that fierce independent spirit of the Old West remains the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cowboys make good romantic heroes, whether they have a British accent or not.

Tyrian is the rustic domain of Jago Tanner. It's the name of the country estate he inherited from his uncle and turned into an outdoor pursuits centre. It's the type of place where corporate types go to bond outside the office with Jago as their naturalist guide. However, it turns out Jago's not a steer-wrestling, bronco-bucking rodeo star. In fact, he's more like a stock broker in tight fitting jeans than some cattle rustler. Jago has a shrewd hand in managing his finances, knowing how to build upon his family's wealth. While his large fortune allows him to indulge in his passion of being in the great outdoors full time, it doesn't necessarily make him happy.

And the small neighboring village is well aware of the moodiness of their most affluent resident. Jago is known for getting into fights, even though he always walks away the winner. That's because he's a big, strapping guy that no one ever gets the best of. He's brash and arrogant. The kind of man who's used to getting his way.

That's why the patrons of the local pub cheer when they see a girl like Riley Smith put him in his place. They've been waiting a long time to see Jago taken down a few pegs, and she's just the girl to do it. The old toothless sheep farmers, with bailing cord holding up their trousers and muddy wellies on their feet, enjoy watching Riley get Jago all flustered. He's usually the one leaving women speechless, including the eighty-three-year-old barkeep, until Riley takes him on.

Jago's not safe anywhere now that she's arrived. He's getting it at home, as well as in the village. His longtime cook, Emily, places herself firmly in Riley's camp. She was taken with the young lass as soon as she walked through the door, hoping her cantankerous employer finally met his match. Emily delights along with the rest of the villagers in introducing the young Londoner to some of the area's signature dishes from a made from scratch potato pie pastry to cawl, a piping hot vegetable lamb stew. Riley is someone who's used to eating frozen dinners or grabbing takeaway whenever she has spare change. So she wastes no time in scarfing down these home-cooked meals, letting them dribble down her chin, much to Jago's chagrin.

Jago always expected the woman he'd fall in love with to be dignified and ladylike. He never dreamed that he'd fall for a foul-mouthed bartender with nothing but a broken-down Volkswagen Beetle to her name. Riley only has a few quid in her pocket, yet she's willing to spend it on him, buying him a thank you gift for letting her keep her job at Tyrian as his assistant. She had no experience when he hired her, but he kept his word, giving her the chance to prove herself.

Little does Riley know that she might actually become the lady of the manor in the very near future, if Jago has any say in the ending to this rags to riches tale.

***

Love on the Menu can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble 
Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Pages: 244
Genre: Steamy Cowboy Romance
Release: February 14, 2015
Publisher: Fanny Press
ISBN: 9781603815680
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Ellen March and her husband live on top of a mountain in Wales, which is ideal in the summer but not so much in the winter months or when it rains. She has three grown children, one suicidal cat--it really does have nine lives--and three Alaskan Malamutes. One of her hobbies is showing and working them. Ellen's first love, however, is reading and writing. Since childhood, she has devoured every romance and fantasy she can get her hands on and enjoys acting out her own fantasies in print. Her body of work includes erotic romance, psychological thrillers, and supernatural fantasies. Fanny Press has published three of her erotic romances--Promises, His Girl Friday, and A Ghost of an Affair--and will be publishing more in 2015 and beyond.

Links to connect with Ellen:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sharon St. George - Due for Discard - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there's a little matter of murder: on Aimee's first day on the job, a body is found in a nearby Dumpster and soon identified as her supervisor's wife, Bonnie Beardsley.

Aimee's heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list.

Aimee's snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents' llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can't be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help.

Book 1 in a new mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Aimee Machado.


My Review

Race is a complex issue. Yet in fiction when it's dealt with subtly, it can make such a strong impact. A competent writer can take readers inside the skin of a character and have them feel what it's like to go through life as a person of color, or an ethnicity different from their own. Understated prejudices run just as deep as any verbal slur or uttered epithet. Oftentimes, daily interactions are tinged with an undercurrent of mistrust backed by false assumptions. The individual isn't seen, only the stereotype.

In the opening of DUE FOR DISCARD, Aimee Machado is confronted with the question, "You're not from around here are you?" Even though she's the new research librarian at Timbergate Medical Center. Even though she just received her master's degree from Southern Connecticut State University. She's no dummy, yet the security guard views her with suspicion because she's half Portuguese, half Chinese. She doesn't look like everyone else so for him it automatically throws up a red flag. She's targeted solely for her skin color, and this ignorant authority figure makes her feel the sting.

It's not the first time that Aimee's stood out in her hometown, a rural section of Northern California that's predominantly white. In fact, it's the reason why growing up she learned how to defend herself by studying martial arts at the local dojo. One particular childhood incident really left its mark on her. She still harbors painful memories of the day she laid into a bully on the school bus, breaking his finger in the process. It was the only time she ever resorted to violence, yet to this day she continues to carry with her a reluctance to hurt anyone. Afraid of her own strength, so to speak.

However, when her brother, Harry, is viewed as a suspect in the murder of Bonnie Beardsley, the wife of a prominent plastic surgeon, Aimee's fears are quick to resurface. Harry is a fit, good-looking guy who's known around town as the successful architect who just landed the new mall project. However, he was seen coming out of his abode with the beautiful, blonde Mrs. Beardsley hours before her disappearance. It doesn't take long for the police to point the finger at Harry, especially when the evidence indicates there may have been a sexual component to the crime, as well.

But the suggestion is preposterous since Harry recently saved Aimee from being raped by the brother of a police officer. When Aimee pulled over to check out a flat tire, she was jumped from behind and nearly assaulted before Harry showed up. Harry was charged with using excessive physical force to protect his sister, and the assailant was sent to prison. Yet the pall cast on his brother's law enforcement career continued to fester, accounting for the eagerness of the police department to pin Mrs. Beardsley's murder on Harry. But the corruption doesn't stop there, because it turns out this particular officer is also bedding the female DA.

It's no wonder that Aimee says that her twin blisters are jealousy and insecurity. The Machados have worked hard to maintain their exceptional reputation in the community, and now it looks like it'll all be for nothing. After their father retired, the family business was left to Harry, and he thought he was on the right track until his fiancée left him because her parents didn't want their grandchildren to look foreign. That's when Harry started shacking up with random women. In the book, he never admits to sleeping with Bonnie Beardsley at any time before her death, but he does claim that she tried to get him in a lip lock when he walked her to her car, insisting that he thwarted her advances and pushed her away.

Yet it seems like the Machado siblings don't have much luck when it comes to love. One of Aimee's hard-and-fast rules is to never date a cheater, and when she thinks she catches her boyfriend, Nick, with another woman, she cuts off all ties with him. Her heart aches because it was the first time she ever considered herself to be truly in love, yet she stubbornly guards her heart, refusing to believe that he might actually be telling the truth when he said nothing happened between him and his ex-girlfriend.

Nick knows how rare a woman like Aimee is. Nothing about her smacks of manipulation or pretense and he claims that he'd never do anything to jeopardize losing her. However, Nick doesn't give up on Aimee. He's determined to help her prove Harry's innocence, no matter how much she keeps pushing him away.

And Aimee needs that kind of loyalty when Bonnie Beardsley's husband makes a play for her. The philandering doctor doesn't waste any time pursuing Aimee after his wife's tragic death. Aimee knows that he has a penchant for exotic-looking women and every time he looks at her she feels like he's envisioning her in a kimono. He's enthralled by her chameleon-like tendency to transform from Mulan to Pocahontas, but his interest in her just plays into all of the insecurities she has about herself. She feels that when a man like him looks at her eyes and cheekbones, all he thinks is concubine and the only time he thinks wife is when he comes across a blue-eyed blonde like Bonnie.

The author, Sharon St. George, nails the tone of what she's trying to express through the character of Aimee with the clever title, DUE FOR DISCARD. It's a librarian's term for the stamp placed on outdated books and periodicals. Aimee knows that that stamp was already placed on Bonnie Beardsley when her body was found in a Dumpster outside the hospital, and she has no intention of the same thing happening to her, or her brother. No amount of racial profiling is going to pin the buxom blonde's murder on them, not if Aimee has anything to say about it.

***

Due for Discard can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $15.95 paperback
Pages: 340
Genre: Detective Murder Mystery
Release: March 1, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812238
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Sharon St. George had the good fortune to spend an idyllic childhood in a small northern California town, riding horseback and camping with her family in the nearby mountains. One of her favorite pastimes was reading fiction, and a trip to the library was always an occasion of great joy. She’s traded horses for llamas, but she still treks to the high mountain lakes near her home—always with a mystery novel in her backpack. Sharon’s writing credits include three plays, several years writing advertising copy, a book on NASA’s space food project, and feature stories too numerous to count. She holds dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts, and occasionally acts in, or directs, one of her local community theater productions. Sharon is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and she serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in northern California.

Links to connect with Sharon:
Web Site
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway