Friday, October 30, 2015

Look Both Ways by Carol J. Perry - #BookBeginnings #Friday56

"Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name."



LOOK BOTH WAYS by Carol J. Perry

"Maralee, come here.  You won't believe this!" 
I hurried from my sparsely furnished bedroom to the kitchen, where Aunt Ibby sat on an unpainted and slightly wobbly wood stool.  She pointed to the new TV, which was propped against a carton of books on the granite countertop. 
"Look," she said.  "It's exactly the same, isn't it?"


*Click the button to go to Freda's Voice, to link up your Friday 56 post!

*Grab a book, any book.

*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader

(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)

*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)

 *Post it.

LOOK BOTH WAYS by Carol J. Perry:

(from location 1948 of 3478):

Daphne followed, looking absolutely gorgeous.  She wore the mink coat and carried the stole, a large box of chocolates, and an armful of movie magazines.  She walked around the blue chair without enthusiasm and gave a pretty shrug.  "It's all right."

I am currently reading this book for a tour that starts next Friday, so you're all invited back for the review.  There will also be a Rafflecopter giveaway during the tour.  The tour is being run by Lori at Escape With Dollycas.  Hope to see you there!

So, what do you think?  Sounds like Maralee and Daphne come from different worlds, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

NIV Bible for Teen Girls: Growng in Hope.Faith.Love - #Review #Giveaway

Today's teen girl needs reassurance that no issue is too big for God.  The NIV Bible for Teen Girls, designed specifically for girls ages 13 to 18, will do just that.  This Bible is packed with daily readings, highlighted promises of God, challenging insights, smart advice, and open discussions about the realities of life.  This Bible is designed to help teen girls grow in faith, hope, and love.  It is as sincere about a teen girl's walk with God as they are, helping them discover his will for all areas of their life, including relating to their family, dealing with friends, work, sports, guys, and so much more.  

  • DAILY READINGS by popular Christian female authors including Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer), Annie DownsChristine Caine, Nicole WeiderElsa Kok ColopyCrystal KirgissBekah Hamrick MartinDenise Van Eck, and more
  • CHARACTER PROFILES of women in the Bible
  • BOOK INTRODUCTIONS for each book of the Bible
  • HIGHLIGHTED PROMISES OF GOD are verses worth remembering
  • A CONCORDANCE for help in finding verses
  • The bestselling NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV) of the Bible

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dangerously Dark by Colette London - #review #giveaway

Chocolate-whisperer Hayden Mundy Moore has just arrived in Portland, Oregon, where she's about to scarf soufflés and sip cacao-based cocktails at her friend's engagement party. Fresh from nabbing her first candy-covered killer, the last thing Hayden wants to do is mix her love of chocolate with criminal mischief again. But then the groom-to-be turns up dead before beginning his renowned Chocolate-After-Dark tour. . .

Hayden's friends insist that Declan's death was a freak accident, but she knows there's no mistaking the bitter aftertaste of homicide. In the midst of habañero hot chocolate and mocha-chunk gelato, a choco-crazed killer waits to strike again. Hayden will need to use more than her extraordinarily gifted taste buds to bring this murderer to justice, but she just might have bitten off more than she can chew in the process. . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent - #review

The long-awaited return of a writer of rare emotional wisdom.

The son of an aging fisherman becomes ensnared in a violent incident that forces him to confront his broken relationship with his father. A woman travels halfway across the country to look for her ex-husband, only to find her attention drawn in a surprising direction. A millworker gives safe harbor to his son's pregnant girlfriend, until an ambiguous gesture upsets their uneasy equilibrium. These and other stories—of yearning, loss, and tentative new connections—come together in Mendocino Fire, the first new collection in two decades from the widely admired Elizabeth Tallent.

Diverse in character and setting, rendered in an exhilarating, exacting prose, these stories confirm Tallent's enduring gift for capturing relationships in moments of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. The result is a book that reminds us how our lives are shaped by moments of fracture and fragmentation, by expectations met and thwarted, and by our never-ending quest to be genuinely seen.

Profound yet elemental, Mendocino Fire marks the welcome return of a sage and surprising voice in American fiction.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Diner Knock Out by Terri L. Austin - #review #giveaway

Rose Strickland’s life is complicated. Besides her waitressing gig, she works part-time for Andre Thomas, a PI with no faith in Rose’s ability to investigate, her love life with Sullivan has stalled, and her BFF, Roxy, has found a new bestie, leaving Rose out in the cold.

Determined to prove herself, Rose takes a case on the sly. As she searches for a missing MMA fighter, Rose discovers an illegal fight club, a group of ruthless businessmen, dead bodies, and a trail of drugs.

Hunting down clues that lead too close to home, Rose finds herself in the fight of her life. Can she beat the killer to the punch before she gets knocked out for good?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Alison Morton of Aurelia - #interview #giveaway

Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 20th century. Aurelia Mitela is alone - her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead - and forced to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer.

But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver - Roma Nova's lifeblood - on an industrial scale. Sent to Berlin to investigate, she encounters the mysterious and attractive Miklos who knows too much and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised and feared since childhood.

Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she discovers that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and pursues him back home to Roma Nova...



Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series

– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

PERFIDITAS, second in series

– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

SUCCESSIO, third in series

– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file

*Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
*Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors
*Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.



I am so pleased to have author Alison Morton visiting the back porch today, for a little Q&A about Aurelia, the latest installment in her "Roma Nova" series!

1. Are your Roma Nova books standalones on the same theme or does the story continue from book to book?

In a way, both! I wrote the first, INCEPTIO, as a standalone. It was an adventure thriller, but also a story of change and personal empowerment. Mousey Karen transformed herself into resilient Carina. But as I finished the last scene, my head was still full of Roma Nova; I wondered what had happened to Carina afterwards. Six years after her original adventure, I found her in PERFIDITAS established as a Praetorian soldier, but caught in the middle of betrayal and conspiracy.  Nine years later in SUCCESSIO, her children are growing up, but she is facing a vengeful enemy determined to destroy her family, and her country. So each story is a complete episode in Carina’s life, but with a common background.

The imaginary alpine country of Roma Nova, ‘somewhere in Europe’, forms the baseplate for each story. Romans were both urban and rural creatures; land and food were very important to them. Much of the action in each book takes place in towns and cities, but for Roma Novans, their family farm is a haven and a reminder of their roots.

With AURELIA, I’ve gone back to the late 1960s and started a new cycle of three books centred around Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother. This clever, tough woman in her seventies intrigued me more and more as I was writing the first three books. What part had she played as a younger woman in the Great Rebellion? When and where did she meet her lost love? Why was she still so fearful of her old enemy, long dead? Older Aurelia is a crucial influence in Carina’s life, so reading about Aurelia’s younger self and Roma Nova’s secrets is an ideal place to start reading the whole series.
3.  Are there any other alternative histories you would like to explore?

At present, no – my head is still full of Roma Nova.  I’m a historian with a lifelong fascination for Rome, so I think I need to work off that obsession first!

4.  If you could invite any author from history to supper and conversation at your home, whom would you invite and what would you discuss?

Could I cheat and have a group? Jane Austen for her intelligence and comedic wit, Pliny the Younger, the son of a strong mother and who witnessed the Pompeii eruption in AD 79. His letters to Trajan provide one of the few surviving records of the relationship between the imperial office and provincial governors. My third would be Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist writer. What an explosive mixture!

5.  What is the best thing about being a writer?
The interesting people you meet – fellow authors whether famous or beginners, publishing professionals, researchers and above all, readers!

6.  What is your writing process?  (when? where? etc.)
Chaotic! I write each day if I can; if I don’t, I feel restless as well as guilty. We’ve converted part of our basement into an office and furnished it with ergonomic desks and plenty of cupboard and shelf space, so no excuses!  

As for the books… The first set of characters had been maturing in my head for years; they were nearly fully formed when I started. Now, I sketch out a general outline of each plot and let the detail evolve as I go along. Sometimes, the characters take over the show! Then I have a little talk to them and we agree on a compromise and I nudge them back into the story.

I’ve developed a tracking grid which keeps the timeline straight and where I can jot down the main actions in each chapter – a kind of index to the book. This is especially helpful when I wield my red pen for the first (self) edit. I’m as ruthless with this as any Roman commander! Then off it goes to a structural (developmental) editor.  She looks for plot holes, character failings, extraneous or awkward scenes and inconsistent dialogue, but more than anything, for cohesiveness and whether the story grips. Without page-turning quality, the book won’t deliver a good read. After all, that’s the writer’s job!

After having the revised manuscript copy-edited, I give it a final check and send it off through the ether to the publishing house for them to turn it into a real book…

7.  What advice would you give to schoolchildren who say they are interested in writing as a career?

Don’t!  Seriously, it’s a good idea to have another career that will pay the mortgage and buy food. It will also give you invaluable life experience for when the writing bug bites so deep you can’t do anything else. And keep writing. Anything is good – plays, stories, letters to magazines, essays, reports for the school magazine/blog, then start sending short stories to competitions and submitting for anthologies. Connect with other writers, but just keep on practising.

Thank you so much, LuAnn, for letting me be a guest on your blog.
Thank you for visiting and sharing your wonderful alternative history series with us!


Click the banner above to visit the tour schedule at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, where you will find more hosts of spotlights and a review!  You can also find out how to apply to become a tour host while you are there!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Forget Me Not by Allison Whitmore - #review

D:\Documents\Enchanted Book Promotions\Book Tours\Upcoming Tours\Forget Me Not\Cover Forget Me Not (1).jpg

Theodora “Teddi” Donovan and Calvin Wynne have always hated each other. They didn't have a choice after Teddi's bootlegger father killed Calvin's and left them both orphaned. The scandal has fueled gossip in quiet, quaint Brookhurst, New York, for over a decade. When a friendship develops between them as teenagers, they are ridiculed and shunned by the strict society that dictates life in their town. As they grow older, friendship turns into love, and Teddi and Calvin have to choose between their future and the specter of their past. Spanning continents and decades, Forget Me Not is a coming-of-age story about truth, self-reliance, and the freeing power of love. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon - #review #giveaway

To solve her father’s murder and save the family-owned glass shop, Savannah Webb must shatter a killer’s carefully constructed façade. . .

After Savannah’s father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs–including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father’s trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn’t suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it’s up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father’s apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture. . .



The fact that this cozy features stained glass made me smile as it reminded me that my mother took a class in creating stained glass several years ago.  It takes courage to create, and to work in a medium where painful cuts are more of a when than an if.  But the results can be stunning.

My heart ached for poor Savannah.  Not only has she just buried her father and is wading through the post-passing miasma of grief and winding up the story of his life, when a close family friend and the man to whom she hoped to sell her father's business is found dead in the studio.  There are two men who have been vying to buy the business (or at least the property on which it sits) and the lengths to which they'll go to win their suit are crass, to say the least, possibly murderous to say a lot more than that.

Add to that, Savannah's father's sense that he was in danger, so he left codes and puzzles for his daughter to solve hopefully pointing to the source of that danger.  Of course, that source would be pointing this or her own fingers madly in other directions to deflect suspicion and one of their easiest targets is a young apprentice glassworker, a man of incredible talent, but whose mind works differently than the minds of those around him.  Kudos to Savannah for defending and clearing this gentle soul.

I adored the puzzle/code aspect of Pane and Suffering.  My favorite puzzles are called logic problems so when I encounter something like this, my mind brings out boxes, files and little virtual plastic sorting trays to start playing with the clues, trying to figure things out on my own.  Ms. Hollon provided us with a wealth of suspects and enough clues to hold our interest without giving too much away too soon.

The loss of Hollon from the field of engineering to full-time writer status is a definite gain to readers in general and cozy mysteries in particular.  Definitely looking forward to the next step here.



Cheryl Hollon now writes full-time after she left an engineering career of designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida, Cheryl and her husband design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass, and painted glass artworks. Visit her online at her Website, on Facebook or on Twitter @CherylHollon.



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Click the link above to visit the tour page, where you will find links to more reviews as well as guest posts and interviews.  You an also found out how to become a tour host yourself!

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)


In Memoriam

Frankly, I had a difficult time getting this post up today.  I found out that yesterday, one of my all-time favorite authors (Joyce Lavene) and half of a prolific husband-wife writing team (along with Jim) passed from this world to what lies beyond.  But Joyce probably would have encouraged me to get over myself and fulfill my promise, so here I am.

All who knew her and know about the events of the last day are shocked and heart-broken.  While the cozy genre has lost a talented writer, her readers have also lost a great friend and a kind soul.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

After Savannah’s father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs–including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father’s trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn’t suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it’s up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father’s apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture. . .



Puffing like an espresso machine, Amanda said, "It's all right.  Two trips take too much energy.  My aura has been weak since I heard the terrible news about Mr. Webb."  She made a beeline for the classroom.



Cheryl Hollon now writes full-time after she left an engineering career of designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida, Cheryl and her husband design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass, and painted glass artworks. Visit her online at, on Facebook

So, does this teaser pique your interest?  What do you think makes a good teaser quotation?

Be sure to come back tomorrow for my full review of this title!

Connecting to this link up: 

Between Gods by Alison Pick - #review

Between Gods invites us to re-examine our beliefs and the extent to which they define us.

Growing up in a tight-knit Christian family, Alison Pick went to church regularly. But as a teenager, she discovered a remarkable family secret: her paternal grandparents fled from the Czech Republic at the start of WWII because they were Jewish. Tragically, other family members who hesitated to emigrate were sent to Auschwitz.

Haunted by the Holocaust, Alison's grandparents established themselves in their new lives as Christians. Not even Alison's father knew of his parents' past until he visited the Jewish cemetery in Prague as an adult. This atmosphere of shame and secrecy haunted Alison's journey into adulthood.

Drowning in a sense of emptiness, she eventually came to realize that her true path forward lay in reclaiming her history and identity as a Jew, and she began attending conversion classes. But the process was far from easy as old wounds were opened, and all of her relationships were tested.



It has been my experience that family secrets kept hidden in our lives eventually work their way back to the surface, whether we welcome them or not.  What was for Alison a search for the truth of her heritage became a search for her own sense of self.

Given the political climate in Europe at the time, especially the areas under Nazi control, who amongst us can positively state that they would not have made the same choice as Alison's paternal grandparents.  And they hid the secret of their true faith well - even their own son did not know until he became an adult.

In a way I an understand the party line of the Jewish establishment encountered by Alison during her search.  All families have challenges to and opportunities for closeness, but multi-faith families encounter some special issues that can help or hurt.  This is not to say that two people belonging to different faiths cannot work, but the differences have to be mutually and forever respected.

On the other hand, it is hard for me to imagine a religion not welcoming a new adherent, even if that person's other family members do not toe the same line.  My own denomination advises against being 'unequally yoked', but at the same time talks about the benefits of being a good example.  For example, my husband calls the NFL season 'church season', tongue in cheek, and I suppose you could say he adheres to the Church of the Dallas Cowboys.  I guess I have more work to do on being an better example, eh?

I found Alison's memoir, titled Between Gods, to be an incredibly touching tale.  Even though I am not Jewish, I respect this ancient faith, and my heart broke with her trials and soared with her successes on her journey.

If you have ever struggled to find or determine your identity (and which of us hasn't really), if you can rejoice in the success of others, if you value the strength it takes to share your story (and not just the pretty bits), put this book on your shelf.  Then take it off your shelf...and read it.



Alison Pick was the Bronwen Wallace Award winner for the most promising writer under thirty-five in Canada. Her first novel is The Sweet Edge, and her second novel, the bestseller Far to Go, was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and was named a "Top 10 of 2010" book by the Toronto StarBetween Gods, named a "Best Book" by both the Globe and Mail and CBC, has been nominated for the prestigious BC National Award for Nonfiction.

Find out more about Alison at her website and connect with her on Facebook.


I am pleased and honored to be kicking off the tour today.  The rest of the schedule can be accessed by clicking on the logo just above.  You can also find out how to apply to become a tour host yourself!

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Uncharted Territory by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson - #review

Suburban housewife Angela Panther didn’t want to communicate with the dead, but the universe had other plans…

When an unidentified fourteen-year-old boy takes a dive off an interstate overpass, to solve the case, Atlanta area detective Aaron Banner calls on some unlikely help–from psychic medium Angela Panther. Banner knows she’s legit, and knows she’ll get to the truth about his junior John Doe–was the boy’s death suicide, or murder? The problem is, the spirit can’t remember who he was or the night he died, and to make matters worse, he doesn’t care.

Instead, he convinces Angela to focus on another spirit, one different from Angela’s usual, garden-variety ghost.

To complicate matters, Angela’s best friend Mel, newly single and on the prowl, has her sights set on the sexy Detective Banner, and Angela’s mother drives her even more crazy dead than alive.

To solve the dead duo’s dilemmas, armed with little more than their double lattés and a tiny pink bottle of wannabe pepper spray, Angela and her sex-starved sidekick Mel must venture into the dark underbelly of Atlanta and come face-to-face with a gang of saggy-pantsed hoodlums ready to take them out. Will they make it out alive, or end up pushing up daisies alongside the spirits they’re trying to help?

Death on the Prairie by Kathleen Ernst - #review #giveaway

Chloe Ellefson and her sister, Kari, have long dreamed of visiting each historic site dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder. When Chloe takes custody of a quilt once owned by the beloved author, the sisters set out on the trip of a lifetime, hoping to prove that Wilder stitched it herself.

But death strikes as the journey begins, and trouble stalks their fellow travelers. Among the “Little House” devotees are academic critics, greedy collectors, and obsessive fans. Kari is distracted by family problems, and unexpected news from Chloe’s boyfriend jeopardizes her own future. As the sisters travel deeper into Wilder territory, Chloe races to discover the truth about a precious artifact—and her own heart—before a killer can strike again.

The Color of Clouds by J.C. Whyte - #review #interview #giveaway

Pedro’s on a mission. But not your everyday, run-of-the-mill type mission. Because Pedro is dead.

That’s right. Dead.

Spirit guide Pedro normally busies himself with conveying messages from departed loved ones through a psychic named Gwen. But when he encounters a recently deceased teenager, the boy’s anguish just about breaks Pedro’s heart. So the spirit guide decides to try and help this boy. Yet meddling in the affairs of the living is a troublesome business, as Pedro soon discovers.

Nevertheless, he convinces Gwen to take an ocean voyage, and that’s when the trouble begins. Within days of leaving port, two passengers on the cruise ship fall into a mysterious coma. Gwen seeks Pedro’s help to restore these passengers, but natural as well as unnatural obstacles keep getting in the way. And by the time the ship docks in Honolulu, the still-living are flat out scrambling for their lives!

A playful blend of science fiction and the paranormal, The Color of Clouds offers a glimpse into the unseen world while taking the reader on an extraordinary ride. The adventure includes danger, mystery, humor, sweet romance and even a dash of thriller.

But the clouds are not what you think.

Guaranteed to Bleed by Julie Mulhern - #review #giveaway

With his dying breath, Bobby Lowell begs Ellison Russell, “Tell her I love her.”

Unable to refuse, Ellison struggles to find the girl the murdered boy loved. Too bad an epically bad blind date, a vindictive graffiti artist, and multiple trips to the emergency room keep getting in the way.

Worse, a killer has Ellison in his sights, her newly-rebellious daughter is missing, and there’s yet another body in her hostas. Mother won’t be pleased.

Now Ellison must track down not one but two runaway teenagers, keep her promise to Bobby and elude the killer—all before her next charity gala committee meeting.



The 1970s.  What a decade.  I started the 70s at the end of grade school and graduated high school in 1979.  I even kind of remember them ... which is good for me, because sometimes last week is a little fuzzy.

Let me state right off that I liked this book.  I wanted to say that up front because some of what follows may seem otherwise.  But like in Guaranteed to Bleed, things you think you know ... will turn out to be neither simple nor direct.

Ms. Mulhern works considerable magic for me to have empathy for Ellison.  Let me explain.  I normally would have little good will toward someone who wants to 'wrap up an investigation' before her next charity committee meeting.  It seems to Hyacinth Bucket.  And it reminds me of that story in the news recently about a woman who was suing her 12 year old nephew $127,000 for 'hugging her too hard' at his 8th birthday party and making it difficult for her to hold her hors d'oeuvres plate at cocktail parties.

So, maybe my prejudices caused me to start reading Guaranteed to Bleed with a chip on my shoulder.  It would be awful to find a young person stabbed to death under the bleachers at a football game, even if the only reason you went down there had been to retrieve an expensive French lipstick.  But appearances can be deceiving and I give Ellison big props for taking off her shirt to try and stem the flow of blood from the victim, despite what the other parents at the game might think.

The good and the evil things uncovered in this story have existed in every age, but I've never seen such an accurate 70s stamp on a book.  Having lived through the decade, it was a stroll down memory lane.  It was like looking at the years as a visitor and looking for clues to solve a puzzle.

Guaranteed to Bleed was both entertaining and educational for me.  The story kept me engaged and I got a reminder that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)  I look forward to reading other books in this series and by this author.



Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is—she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.



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Click the banner above to go to the tour page, where you will find a lot more reviews, as well as an interview and several guest posts.  You can also find out how to apply to become a tour host for GEVBT!

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Short & Tall Tales in Goose Pimple Junction by Amy Metz - #review

This is not your average Southern town. With a hint of mystery, a lot of laughs, and unique charm, you’ll catch a glimpse of everyday life in Goose Pimple Junction in this short story compilation. Short & Tall Tales occurs chronologically between Murder & Mayhem, book 1, and Heroes & Hooligans, book 2, in the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. Book 1.5 is a fun escape that will answer questions readers may have about the residents of this quirky small town.

How did Johnny Butterfield become police chief?
How did Tess and Jack get engaged?
How did Ima Jean come to live with Louetta?
How do you celebrate an Apple Day?

These questions and more are answered in Short & Tall Tales in Goose Pimple Junction. Five short stories, one novella, and three recipes will give you more of life in Goose Pimple Junction, make you laugh, and have your mouth watering. If you want a feel-good read, you’ve come to the right place. Grab some sweet tea and escape to Goose Pimple Junction.



I felt right at home in Goose Pimple Junction, TN, from the get go, probably because I live in the same small town in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.  I smiled and nodded my head all through the book because I know these people (or, their counterparts 'round these parts.)  I even have a Southern certitude to match the quotation at the beginning of Short and Tall Tales, because my husband's Mamaw used to say it about our younger son, "He don't care which way the wind blows."

Ms. Metz expertly treads the high wire between portraying the traditions, language, names, mannerisms and warmth of the small-town South while avoiding turning the characters into charicatures.  That is very important to me - treating the characters (and real people) with respect.  

What a treat to get more stories about this town that take place between books one and two of the series!  It's like getting to see out-takes at the end of a movie or finding all the 'Easter eggs' in a video game.  But for me, since these come in a book, it's even better.

Anyone who has pride in their 'home' (as opposed to their house, or simply the area where they live) will enjoy this bonus visit to Goose Pimple Junction.  I know I did.  And as Tennessee is not far from my home, I know I will be visiting Metz's colorful town again!



Amy Metz is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series. She is a former first grade teacher and the mother of two sons. When not actively engaged in writing, enjoying her family, or surfing Facebook or Pinterest, Amy can usually be found with a mixing spoon, camera, or book in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other. Amy lives in Louisville, Kentucky.


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(Disclsoure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

Freedom's Island by Sabra Waldfogel - #review

When Ambrose Byrd, retired Buffalo soldier, arrives in the all-black town of Willow Bend, Mississippi, he’s looking for peace, but he walks into trouble.

The town’s mayor, Jim Truehart, bought the land from his former master Hiram Little and transformed the Delta swamp into the best cotton land in the county. Now Little wants the land back, and he hires a man for the job that everyone in Willow Bend knows too well—former Klansman Benjamin Loveless, who carried out a massacre in the neighboring county ten years before.

Byrd thought he was done with being a soldier. But his friendship with Truehart—and his love for Truehart’s eighteen-year-old daughter Bernie—pull him into Willow Bend’s fight. As danger comes ever closer, Byrd decides to join with Willow Bend for battle.

Will it be a fight for freedom…or a massacre?


First off, I loved Freedom's Island.  Having said that, this was not an easy read. The indignities committed by one person or group on another person or group simply because she/he/they are different somehow should anger all of us with a soul or an ounce of goodness in our veins.  And for such petty reasons:  a nationality, a religion, a physical disease or mental illness, a gender, a race.

Ambrose Byrd has been a soldier, first for the Union forces, and then for the US Army for about 20 years.  At first, even in the North, black men were not allowed in combat as soldiers, I suppose until things got bad enough that some generals sat around and said, "Hey, we have all these able-bodied men working with us...." and the rest was history.

Before that, he was a slave.  The first time he ran away he got 10 lashes.  The second time, he got 25 lashes and an "R" branded into his cheek for 'runaway'.

He's seen too much and done a few things of which he is not proud.  Adjusting to civilian life after a career in the army can be rough on anyone.  Ambrose travels with a comrade to that man's home in Mississippi and is surprised to find an all-black town, with a black mayor, no less.

But old prejudices die hard.  The white former slave owner who sold the mayor (Jim Trueheart) swamp land wants it back now that he's learned Jim has turned it into profitable cotton fields.  He feels it is his due.  When black farmers bring in their cotton for him to gin, he cheats them on the price and weight of the product, because hey, they're 'only' black folks.

But there are more than racially motivated prejudices in Freedom's Island.  When it becomes apparent that the town will have to fight to maintain, not only their land, but their lives, one of the better shots is forbidden to fight ... because she is a woman, and 18 at that.  As a woman, that is hard for me to understand.  If someone told me I could not do something because I am a woman, well, I'd have some choice words for them which I would probably have to repent of later.

But as a parent, part of me understands Jim and Ambrose forbidding Bernie (Jim's daughter) to fight.  About the worst thing you can do to a parent is to put their child in harm's way.  If you want to see the true meaning of 'going medieval on someone' (a la Pulp Fiction), mess with one of my kids.

While Freedom's Island is a work of fiction, some of the events in the book actually took place in the American South after the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as some folks around here still call it).  The story is amazing - and it will make you think.

When you reach the last page of Freedom's Island, and finally close the cover, you will sigh - partly in sadness because you still wonder what happens to Ambrose and Jerusha, Jim and Bernie and the other citizens of Willow Bend.  But you also experience the deep satisfaction of having read a tale of incredible substance.


Historical novelist Sabra Waldfogel, author of Slave and Sister and Freedom’s Island, grew up far from the South in Minneapolis. She studied history at Harvard University and received her Ph.D. in American History from the University of Minnesota, and since then, has been fascinated by the drama of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. In her free time, not tired of history, she collects antiques and helps her husband sell them.


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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Story Starters - "It Felt Like All Hope Was Lost"

STORY STARTERS is a weekly meme at A Daily Rhythm, where you’re given a writing prompt to play with. You can do a paragraph, a short story, whatever!


It felt like all hope was lost.

You see, I had just found out at the week before that I was pregnant for the 3rd time at 40 years of age.  The day before I had had my first ob-gyn appointment where the pregnancy was confirmed.

Two nights later, on my overnight shift transcribing officers' reports at the local police department, I went to the restroom.  There was blood.  I had spotted the first time a little bit, but nothing like this.

Luckily, my senior tech was cool and when I explained what was happening, she handed me the form that needed to be filled out for my leaving work to be 'approved' and said, "Just sign it.  I'll fill out the rest."

So I drove myself to the nearest hospital that accepted my insurance.  (Luckily, there was no shortage of hospitals in this major Texas city.)  I parked in the garage and made my way into the building, trying to hold back the tears.  I had no idea where the ER was from there, but luckily a nurse wearing scrubs noticed my near-hysteria and pointed me in the right direction.

I got there, finally, and waited and waited.  It seemed like an awfully long time to wait to someone worried about possibly being in the middle of a miscarriage.

When I finally got to see the doctor, he said it looked like I was on my period.  I told him I had taken a home test and that the pregnancy had been confirmed by my ob-gyn less than 48 hours before.  He stated since they were urine and not blood tests, they were 'probably not right' anyway.  He ordered an ultrasound and a blood test before he would make a decision from his exalted position.

During one of the many times I was alone in the exam room, trying to cover up as best I could in that awkward position, tears started streaming from my eyes.  It almost felt like I was 'talking to God', instead of 'praying'.

"What am I supposed to hope for here?

That I'm not really pregnant when I had wanted for so long to have one last chance at a little girl?

Or maybe that I was pregnant, but might having a miscarriage?

Or that I was pregnant, but there might be something 'wrong' with the baby?  Sometimes I felt like I had trouble taking care of myself and the two children Chris and I had already, let alone taking on a baby with medical or developmental challenges."

I turned to the one piece of scripture I had memorized years before (specifically for the dentist's chair), Psalm 23.  Over and over again, I silently choked the words out through my tears.  Then the answers started:

"I would be really disappointed if I wasn't pregnant after all.  How can those tests and an ob-gyn be wrong like that?  If that is the case, I will get through it somehow.

I would likewise be heartbroken if I was in the middle of a miscarriage.  But I knew I could lean on God for support.

And although I doubted my own abilities, I had little doubt (being honest here) that somehow I would be the best steward of the precious life entrusted to me, no matter how that life was expressed."

And I surrendered to God's will for myself and my family.

Immediately, the sweetest peace I have ever known flowed through my body, warming me as it went.  The feeling was almost indescribable (but that won't stop me from trying to use words to do just that).

I had some 'splaining to do when I got home early Sunday afternoon.  You see, we didn't have a phone at the apartment at that time, and cell phones were still in the 'too-soon-to-be-cheap-enough-for-us' stage of technology.  Normally, I would have been home by 8:00 am, and I got back sometime between noon and 1:00 pm.

Long story short, about 7 months later (at approximately 32 weeks), this happened:

Since I had no idea I would be writing about this this morning, I don't have a picture of my daughter as an infant to hand.  She was born at 32 weeks gestation, and weighed 3 lbs .4 oz, and was 13.5" long at birth.  She was in NICU for 22 days.

Although this picture is a little old, my little bunny is closing in on the teenage years now at an alarming rate:

She is one of my four favorite miracles in the entire world.

The Great Christmas Knit-off by Alexandra Brown - #giveaway #review #excerpt

The perfect seasonal tale of how laughter, friends and wacky Christmas sweaters can mend a broken heart.

Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cozies, beanies, and sweaters. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the screw-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale.

There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas sweaters are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen…


Hettie Honey picked up a lovely lavender lace weight that a customer had abandoned by the till after pondering for what seemed like an eternity that, actually, it wasn’t the right shade of lavender after all. She then walked across the shop floor of her House of Haberdashery to repatriate the ball into its rightful place—a wooden, floor-to-ceiling cabinet comprising twenty-four cubbyholes inset over three shelves crammed with every color, ply and type of yarn imaginable. Hettie smiled wryly, remembering the program she had listened to on the radio not so long ago. Knitting! It was all the rage nowadays and she hoped it would finally catch on in Tindledale, her beloved picture-postcard village and Hettie’s home for the eighty-three years of her life to date. She ran the timber-framed, double-fronted shop adjacent to the wisteria-clad roundel of the oast house her father had built before she was even born. 
Hettie lifted the tray on which sat the last remnants of her afternoon tea; a cheese sandwich minus the crusts because her teeth weren’t as strong as they used to be plus a pot of tea and a pink iced finger that had only cost ten pence on account of being past its best. Kitty, in the tearoom up on the High Street, had tried to give her the bun for free, but Hettie hated taking charity, especially when she felt there were other people in far more need. Hettie moved to the back of the shop, swept the curtain aside and went through to the little kitchenette area. Years ago this had been her mother’s sewing room, and the wooden Singer machine with its rickety foot pedal still lived there, with a multitude of multicolored bobbins all piled up high on the shelf behind it.
After placing the tray on the draining board next to the age-veined Belfast sink and carefully wrapping the crusts in plastic to dunk into her warming homemade soup the following afternoon, Hettie picked up the picture frame on the mantelpiece above the fire and ran a finger over the faded black-and-white autographed photo. She allowed herself an enormous sigh. She wasn’t usually one for self-pity or hand-wringing, but another one of the letters had come this morning, with FINAL DEMAND stamped across the top in ugly red type. Business had been so slow these past couple of years, and now, with her dwindling savings and pittance of a pension, she had come to realize that it was going to take a darn miracle this Christmas for Hettie’s House of Haberdashery to remain afloat come the new year.
 There had been talk of retirement; of closing down the House of Haberdashery; of putting her feet up and going “into a home.” Hettie’s nephew, her brother Harold’s son and last of the Honey family line, was all for it. On one of his rare visits, on the pretext of seeing how she was, he’d told Hettie he was concerned about her living on her own, that she needed the rest and that “it’s not like you’ve got that many customers these days, is it?” He said he’d make sure she had her own bedroom or at the very least, a twin sharer. “And besides, it might be nice for her to have the company of people her own age.” He’d put forward a strong case and had already contacted the council to inquire about a suitable place. But Hettie wasn’t losing her marbles and she knew that what he was really after was to bulldoze her beloved home—the oast house surrounded by a meadow of pretty wild flowers, and the place where she grew up. There’s her cozy bedroom suite, set upstairs in the roundel with its magnificent view of the valley, the lovely farmhouse kitchen with the walk-in pantry, the sunroom, the snug—it’s got the lot, and that’s on top of all her memories wrapped within its circular walls. Not to mention her beloved little shop, right next door, crammed full of all her favorite knitting and needlecraft goodies.
Then he’d be able to get his hands on the land for one of his building projects. He’d told her all about the one with ample parking and plastic windows that his company had created in the town where he lived, over fifty miles away. Seventeen months it had taken, he’d said, to fight all the objections from the local residents’ association, and he had puffed on about it for the entire hour of that tedious visit. But Hettie isn’t ready to be written off; to be carted away to an old people’s home like a nag to a glue factory, not when there is plenty of life still left in her sprightly body. Besides, “going into a home” would mean leaving Tindledale behind, and Hettie knows more than anything that this is where her heart belongs. It always has, even when she’d had the chance of a different life, far, far away.

The Prologue of The Great Christmas Knit-off made me feel very protective of Hettie and Chapter 1 found me feeling the same way about Sybil.  You see, Hettie is getting on in years and her nephew is trying to get her to go into a home, so he can take the land her knitting shop is on and build the kind of thing that makes some people money and ruins the tone of the village.  Sybil was left at the altar by her Star Wars-obsessed intended, Luke, who runs off with her twin sister, Sasha.

And, as if being thoroughly abused by her twin sister and her ex, her parents look disappointed and embarrassed because Sybil has let them down in front of their friends?  What planet are these relatives from?  You do a bride wrong around my part of Kentucky and the woman's relatives run the runaway groom out of town, all the while shouting things after him that will not be quoted on the society pages, if you get my drift.

With the handy dandy map of Tindledale at the front of the book, I was able to 'see' the action taking place around the town.  I am a very visual reader, so this really increased my enjoyment of the book.  Extra points for that.

I also heard the opening song from 'Vicar of Dibley' playing as I visualized coming into Tindledale, so I was tickled pink when the author mentions, through Sybil, that Sybil's mother reminds her of Hyacinth "that's boo-kay" Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances.  My feet may actually have done a little happy dance under my desk, as I am a near-rabid fan of Brit-coms going back to "Are You Being Served?" and "To the Manor Born", to name but a couple.

Do you think people will call me old-fashioned when I reveal that reading the English term for the mess Sybil left behind at her city job brought up the pink in my cheeks?  (I'm laughing at myself, here.)

Before I started reading Knit-off, I was tempted to peg the book as a cozy mystery.  It had the crafting, the catchy title and the young heroine going to a small town.  But no matter what Sybil might have liked to do to Luke, there was no dead body.  The tour site (Tasty Book Tours) listed the genre as Contemporary Women's Fiction.  There's also a holiday angle to the work.  I don't care what genre you call it, this book is heart-warming!

The Great Christmas Knit-off takes the best elements of all these genres and gives us a very cozy purl (get it?) of a read!



Alexandra Brown began her writing career as the City Girl columnist for The London Paper - a satirical diary account of her time working in the corporate world of London. Alex wrote the weekly column for two years before giving it up to concentrate on writing novels and is now the author of the Carrington’s books. Set in a department store in the pretty seaside town of Mulberry-On-Sea, the series follows the life, loves and laughs of sales assistant, Georgie Hart. The Great Christmas Knit Off is Alex’s fourth book and is the first in a new series set in the fictional village of Tindledale, following the lives of all the characters there.
Alex lives in a real village near the south coast of England, with her husband, daughter and a very shiny black Labrador.



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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Tasty Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review)