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


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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.

***

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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
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Blog Tour Site


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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


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