Beneath Still Waters, by Cynthia A. Graham #review #TLCBookTours

About the book,  Beneath Still Waters Beneath Still Waters

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 31, 2015)

The swamps and bayous around Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas have always been dark and mysterious, but on this summer day two boys stumble across the remains of a baby girl, headless and badly decomposed. Hick Blackburn, a reluctant sheriff with a troubled past is called to the scene. With nothing to go on except the baby’s race and sex, the task of discovering who she is and how she died challenges all of Hick’s investigative skills. But Hick faces a deeper challenge. The vision of the infant has left him shattered, a reminder of a war crime he has tried to lock away, a crime that has begun to eat away at the edges of his life, destroying him one relationship at a time.

With the aid of his deputies, Hick will begin to piece together his investigation, an investigation that will lead him to question everything. As he is forced to examine the town he grew up in, he will come to terms with the notion that within each of us lays the propensity for both good and evil. His investigation will turn up lies and ignorance, scandal and deceit, and the lengths a mother will go in order to hide her shame.

Buy, read, and discuss Beneath Still Waters

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cynthia A. Graham Cynthia Graham

Cynthia A. Graham has a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She was the winner of several writing awards during her academic career and her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Beneath Still Waters is her first novel.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Every once in a while, you come across a book that manages to merge two seemingly disparate elements into something amazing, compelling, and a thrill to read. For me, Beneath Still Waters was that kind of book.

First there was the mystery at the heart of the novel, a dead, decomposing infant is discovered and Hick the sheriff has to muster all his investigation skills to find the baby’s family, and determine the truth behind her cause of death. His interactions with the town doctor, who goes by Doc, are both honest and interesting. These are two men who have known each other forever, and that relationship jumps off the page.

Similarly, Hick’s more personal story, that of his relationship with Maggie, also pops. This is a couple that used to be together, isn’t when we meet them, and seems destined for reconciliation.

I loved the use of dialogue and dialect to be really deft in this novel. It gave a sense of time and place without ever creeping into caricature, and I also appreciated the rhythm of Graham’s prose. These characters, this story, really sing. I felt like I was visiting their town, and walking around with them.

The plot, too, was incredibly well crafted, and I particularly like that Hick’s sensitivity was a key point in both the story’s development and his own arc. He is a man of great feeling, but that makes him stronger rather than weaker.

While the infant plot is more than a little disturbing, especially in the early scenes where the state of the corpse is discussed in detail, the novel as a whole is cohesive, interesting, and manages to be homey and kind of creepy at the same time.

Goes well with a reuben sandwich and a cold beer.


Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Thursday, February 11th: Buried Under Books

Wednesday, February 17th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, February 25th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, March 2nd: Life is Story

Friday, March 4th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 7th: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, March 8th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Wednesday, March 9th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 10th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 11th: Luxury Reading

Monday, March 14th: SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, March 15th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

The Christos Mosaic, by Vincent Czyz

About the book, The Christos Mosaic The Christos Mosaic

  • Hardcover: 531 pages
  • Publisher: Blank Slate Press (October 27, 2015)

A suspicious death in Istanbul leaves one ancient scroll and clues to finding another in the hands of Drew Korchula, a thirty-two-year-old American ex-pat, a Turkish dwarf named Kadir, and Zafer, a Special Forces washout. Drew is desperate to turn everything over to the academic community, and in the process redeem himself in the eyes of his estranged wife, but Kadir and Zafer are only interested in what they can get for the scrolls on the black market. None of them anticipated a coven of shadowy Church operatives determined to prevent the revelations embodied in the priceless manuscripts from ever going public.

An action-packed, intellectual thriller unraveling a theological cold case more than two thousand years old, The Christos Mosaic is a monumental work of biblical research wrapped in a story of love, faith, human frailty, friendship, and forgiveness. The novel takes the reader through the backstreets of Istanbul, Antakya (ancient Antioch), and Cairo, to clandestine negotiations with wealthy antiquities smugglers and ruthless soldiers of fortune, to dusty Egyptian monasteries, on a nautical skirmish off the coast of Alexandria, and  finally to the ruins of Constantine’s palace buried beneath the streets of present-day Istanbul.

Buy, read, and discuss The Christos Mosaic

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble, Goodreads


About the author, Vincent Czyz Vincent Czyz

Vincent Czyz is the author of The Christos Mosaic, a novel, and Adrift in a Vanishing City, a collection of short fiction. He received two fellowships from the NJ Council on the Arts and the W. Faulkner-W. Wisdom Prize for Short Fiction. The 2011 Truman Capote Fellow at Rutgers University, his stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, Shenandoah, AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Tin House (online), Boston Review, Quiddity, The Tampa Review, The Georgetown Review, and Skidrow Penthouse, among other publications. He spent a total of nearly a decade in Istanbul, Turkey before settling in Jersey City. His work often deals with the existential themes found in art, myth and religion, dreams, and primal ways of perceiving the world.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I confess, it took me a bit to really get into this book. I just didn’t connect with the main character, Drew, as he was in college, and at first, I couldn’t see why the Drew-at-university chapter was even there. At some point I realized that part of my reaction was because I received this book – which is a meaty 531 pages long – later than I’d hoped, so I didn’t have the time to sit with it, and the material, which basically boils down to “Was Jesus Real?” deserves, and even requires some digestion.

In terms of the subject of his novel, the theological and historical context, the mystery of the scroll in question, etc. Vincent Czyz has shown himself to be incredibly well-read, either from intense research or lifelong knowledge (probably both). You may not agree with some of the theories this book includes, but you can’t deny that the various arguments are supported.

As a novelist, author Czyz is a bit less polished, a bit more uneven. His dialogue is good, and even engaging, but I felt that his characters, especially Drew, could have used a little more depth. The plot was interesting, but the ending was predictable. Where he excelled was with his descriptions of places. In those cases, I felt like I was in Turkey, or on a college campus, or wherever the story was taking us.

If you’re really into religious history and the ages-old argument between fact and faith, you’ll probably enjoy this novel. If not, it’s likely to be the kind of thing that will appeal if you’re in the right mood when it comes into your life.

I believe Czyz has potential to grow as a novelist, and I liked this book enough that I’d definitely read his work again, but I’d be sure to set aside more time than I had.

Goes well with honeyed lamb, couscous, and mint tea.


Vincent Czyz’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, February 8th: It’s A Mad Mad World

Thursday, February 11th: Bibliotica

Monday, February 15th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 17th: Ace and Hoser Blog

Monday, March 7th: Life is Story

Date TBD: Patricia’s Wisdom

 

The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore (@libbycudmore) #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Big Rewind The Big Rewind

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 2, 2016)

Listening to someone else’s mix tapes is a huge breach of trust. But KitKat was dead . . . and curiosity got the better of me.

When a mix tape destined for her friend KitKat accidentally arrives in Jett Bennett’s mailbox, Jett doesn’t think twice about it—even in the age of iTunes and Spotify, the hipster residents of the Barter Street district of Brooklyn are in a constant competition to see who can be the most retro.

But when Jett finds KitKat dead on her own kitchen floor, she suspects the tape might be more than just a quirky collection of lovelorn ballads. And when KitKat’s boyfriend, Bronco, is arrested for her murder, Jett and her best friend, Sid, set out on an epic urban quest through strip joints and record stores, vegan bakeries and basement nightclubs, to discover who the real killer is. However, the further Jett digs into KitKat’s past, the more she discovers about her own left-behind love life—and the mysterious man whose song she still clings to. . . .

Buy, read, and discuss The Big Rewind:

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Libby Cudmore Libby Cudmore

Libby Cudmore worked at video stores, bookstores, and temp agencies before settling down in upstate New York to write. Her short stories have appeared in PANK, The Stoneslide Corrective, The Big Click, and Big Lucks. The Big Rewind is her first novel.

Connect with Libby:

Blog | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I read this book the second it arrived on my kindle a few weeks ago, because I was so intrigued by the concept. Between the time lag since I actually read it, the fact that in writing this sentence I’ve been interrupted by dogs three times, and the fact that it’s a mystery and I’m loathe to spoil the plot, this review may be a bit disjointed.

So, here’s what I loved: Jett is a great narrator POV. She has a snarky inner monologue that really appealed to me – that combination of observational skills and dry wit is one I especially appreciate, and her comments, largely unspoken, inject much needed humor  – even if it’s sometimes gallows humor – to what would otherwise be a grim story.

Sid – Jett’s best friend. I love the setup of that relationship, and the way he’s both protective of her but also challenges her. We all need someone like that in our lives.

KitKat – the deceased. How can you not love a woman you only meet in flashbacks and through other people’s experiences? She seems like the slightly eccentric person we all know, and secretly want to be, maybe, a little. I love that she was the epicenter of her found community and chosen family.

Author Libby Cudmore has a fresh voice that spans the Gen-X and Millenial generations. She’s got the knack for writing the voices of modern hipsters with their love of all things retro (care to buy an album on vinyl, anyone?) but she also lends perspective that isn’t limited to one generation, one culture, even one person. Her dialogue is always believable. Early in the novel, in the wake/apartment-cleaning party where everyone is picking through KitKat’s belongings, she spotlights several different people – Natalie, Mac, Hilary – and they all have distinct voices. I felt like I was sitting in a chair in the corner, hearing all the bits of dialogue. That’s how realistic her writing is.

The mystery plot and the mix-tape that’s mentioned one the first page are both nostalgic (somewhere I have a box of Maxtel tapes. I liked the 90-minute-long translucent ones with the pink and orange highlights) but also completely contemporary. Similarly she blends the use of modern technology (the community has a group on Facebook, on the subway people display their dead friend’s picture on iphones), with the gritty reality of face-to-face communications.

What results is a mystery that is grounded in human relationships and rounded out with music, art, fashion, and all of the other things that give our lives shape and form.

Don’t dismiss this novel as something cheeky and fun. It is that, but it’s also a gripping mystery laced with wry, and sometimes biting, social commentary.

Goes well with a latte made with organic milk (soy is 35 cents extra) and fair-trade, single origin espresso, and a vegan brownie.


Libby’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, February 2nd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, February 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Thursday, February 4th: The Reader’s Hollow

Tuesday, February 9th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, February 11th: fangirl confessions

Monday, February 15th: Novel Escapes

Tuesday, February 16th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, February 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, February 18th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, February 19th: A Chick Who Reads

Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, by Stephanie Osborn (@writersteph) #review

About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse

Print Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015)
Publication Date: November 2, 2015
Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis

Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.

Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.

Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…

Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.

Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve been a fan of Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series since I reviewed the first one in the series as part of a blog tour several years ago. Her writing is always engaging and well-researched, and even when she’s playing with familiar characters, she manages to put her own spin on them, while still remaining true to the original author’s vision. When I was offered a chance to read this book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, you’d better believe I jumped at the chance.

I’m so glad I did.

In this book, which is the first in a new series from Osborn (Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis), she’s gone back to the beginning of Holmes and Watson’s friendship, and given them a classic adventure that’s much more’ best-buds in an action adventure’ than the sort of contemporary bromance we see in shows like the BBC’s Sherlock (not that I dislike Sherlock. I’m as big a fan as anyone.) It’s a story that takes them to Egypt on a fast-paced hunt for an ancient Pharoah, and includes explorations into mythology and history as well as conventional mystery.

I really liked seeing a Holmes who wasn’t quite so confident in his ability to make a go of his consulting detective business and a Watson who was still in recovery from his war injury. The glimpses at each man’s vulnerability were subtle, but effective, and only served to make them seem even more dimensional than they would have otherwise.

Just as every fan of Doctor Who has ‘their’ doctor, every Sherlock Holmes fan has their preferred Holmes. I grew up watching Jeremy Brett on PBS, so, for me, any Holmes that ‘sounds’ like him is one I’m guaranteed to love. Osborn’s Holmes meets this criteria, but if Brett’s Holmes isn’t your preference, never fear, the Sherlock in this novel isn’t an imitation. He is absolutely his own character.

One thing I really liked about the structure of Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse is that the author included footnotes to explain archaic word-forms as well as the lines written in foreign languages (Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish) and certain cultural points of interest. In the Kindle version, these notes show up as clickable superscript numbers, that link you to the collection of end notes at the ‘back’ of the book. As someone who is addicted to annotated copies of favorite novels (the annotated Dracula even has a recipe for Chicken Paprikash), I really appreciated this, but if you’re someone who finds such insertions annoying, never fear, the notes are not at all intrusive, and you can absolutely enjoy the story without stopping to read them, if you so choose.

Bottom line: if you love classic Sherlock Holmes adventures, you will love this book, but if your only experience with the Great Detective is only through the BBC show (or the American Elementary, which, I confess, I don’t watch) you will likely enjoy it, too.

Goes well with either candy cane tea and pfeffernusse cookies or that spinach artichoke dip baked in a skillet with a ring of frozen dinner rolls, and a glass of pinot noir. (Why yes, I did start reading this over the holidays.)

 

Spotlight: Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, by Stephanie Osborn (@writersteph)

Happy Birthday Sherlock Holmes!

In honor of the Great Detective’s birthday, I’m spotlighting the newest book to come from the pen (well, keyboard) of Stephanie Osborn. It’s no secret that I love her Displaced Detective series, but now she’s gone back in time and given us a glimpse of Holmes and Watson at the beginning of their friendship, and the start of the detective’s later-to-be illustrious career. Learn about the book here.

Buy the kindle edition for a special price – $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

Visit this page on Friday, January 8th, for my review.


About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse

Print Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015)
Publication Date: November 2, 2015
Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis

Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.

Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.

Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…

Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.

Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


 

About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Twitter

Without Light or Guide, by T. Frohock

About the book Without Light or Guide Without Light of Guide

• Print Length: 128 pages
• Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse (November 3, 2015)

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons… and a half breed caught in between. Although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don’t trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon—the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path. Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim’s suspicions—including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

Buy, read, and discuss Without Light or Guide

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, T. Frohock

T. Frohock has turned her love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She currently lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. Check out more of her works and news at www.tfrohock.com.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I didn’t read the first novel in the series about Los Nefilim, so I was a bit lost at the beginning of the book, but context and retold backstory helped me immensely. Once I figured out how Frohock’s world works, I found myself immersed in her world, which was both period (the thirties) and paranormal (angels and daimons).

I found that I really liked Diago and Miquel, and found their story to be compelling, but I was equally entranced by the richness of the world-building the author did. Within ten pages I felt like I was in her world, one populated by vampires as well as the loftier creatures already mentioned. Her descriptions of people and place are so vivid that I felt like I was walking down the same streets, and meeting – or avoiding – the same people as her characters.

I also want to call out the way the author used language. There was a candor about some of the details – Diago’s missing finger (bitten off by a vampire in book one) – was presented so matter-of-factly that what could have been an ‘ick’ moment was just a nice bit of character detail. The way the characters spoke was also well written – contemporary, but not too much so, and the angels, particularly gave the impression, through their words – of great age and power.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed this story more had I started it from the beginning, but even beginning with book two, I enjoyed the world of Los Nefilim, in general, and this haunting story specifically.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, December 1st: You Can Read Me Anything

Wednesday, December 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, December 3rd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Monday, December 7th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, December 8th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, December 9th: A Book Geek

Thursday, December 10th: A Dream Within a Dream

Monday, December 14th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, December 15th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, December 16th: Dwell in Possibility

Thursday, December 17th: Curling Up by the Fire

The Crescent Spy, by Michael Wallace #TLCBookTours #review

About the book, The Crescent Spy The Crescent Spy

Paperback: 325 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (November 10, 2015)

Writing under a man’s name, Josephine Breaux is the finest reporter at Washington’s Morning Clarion. Using her wit and charm, she never fails to get the scoop on the latest Union and Confederate activities. But when a rival paper reveals her true identity, accusations of treason fly. Despite her claims of loyalty to the Union, she is arrested as a spy and traitor.

To Josephine’s surprise, she’s whisked away to the White House, where she learns that President Lincoln himself wishes to use her cunning and skill for a secret mission in New Orleans that could hasten the end of the war. For Josephine, though, this mission threatens to open old wounds and expose dangerous secrets. In the middle of the most violent conflict the country has ever seen, can one woman overcome the treacherous secrets of her past in order to secure her nation’s future?

Buy, read, and discuss The Crescent Spy

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Michael Wallace Michael Wallace

Michael Wallace was born in California and raised in a small religious community in Utah, eventually heading east to live in Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition to working as a literary agent and innkeeper, he has been a software engineer for a Department of Defense contractor programming simulators for nuclear submarines. He is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Wall Street Journal bestselling Righteous series, set in a polygamist enclave in the desert.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

From the opening chapter where we meet Josephine Breaux pragmatically stripping off her hoop skirts and riding away in only her bloomers, to the very last page, Michael Wallace’s historical adventure, The Crescent Spy, is fascinating, thrilling, and a lot of fun. It’s also, at times, quite brutally honest in its depiction of Civil War-era America, and the treatment of wounded soldiers and women.

Josephine is a fierce, smart, motivated woman, who reminded me (in good ways) of another literary Josephine, though Wallace is , of course, nothing like Alcott. He is a contemporary author who writes historical fiction. She was writing stories that were contemporary to her. But this wasn’t meant to be a comparison of two fictional Josephines. Wallace writes his female protagonist very well. I felt like I was seeing Washington and New Orleans through her eyes.

I really appreciated the level of detail Wallace put into this novel. The dialogue was accessible but still ‘felt’ period. The descriptions were vivid, down to the sound of wooden wheels on the street, and all of the characters were incredibly dimensional.

I was so into this novel, that I completely forgot I was reading it for a review, and not just to enjoy.

Goes well with cafe au lait and beignets.


Michael Wallace’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 9th: Life is Story

Monday, November 9th: Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, November 10th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, November 11th: Time 2 Read

Thursday, November 12th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, November 12th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, November 16th: 100 Pages a Day

Monday, November 16th: FictionZeal

Tuesday, November 17th: Book Babe

Wednesday, November 18th: Reading Reality

Thursday, November 19th: Bibliotica

Friday, November 20th: Just One More Chapter

Monday, November 23rd: It’s a Mad Mad World

Tuesday, November 24th: Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, December 2nd: Mom in Love with Fiction

 

The Raven Room, by Ana Medeiros #TheRavenRoom #TLCBookTours #Review

About the book,The Raven Room The Raven Room

• Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Diversion Publishing (November 3, 2015)

A searing erotic thriller perfect for those tantalized by A.R. Torre’s Deanna Madden series…

Anything you can imagine. Everything you crave. For the members of The Raven Room, it’s every fantasy fulfilled. But for some, that desire is a matter of life and death.

Drawn by needs he cannot control, Julian ventures to The Raven Room, a secret and exclusive sex club in the underbelly of Chicago. It goes beyond sex. It goes beyond kink. The Raven Room is the only place where Julian finds release from the dangerous urges that threaten to destroy the successful life he’s worked so hard to build.

When the police link the Raven Room to the death of a young woman, it threatens to expose a number of powerful people—people who would kill to stay anonymous…

Meredith’s body can’t get enough of Julian. He has opened her sexual horizons to tempting new possibilities. But out of bed she’s an aspiring journalist, and The Raven Room is the story she’s been looking for. By writing an exposé on the club and its elite clientele, she plans to launch her career.

As Meredith embarks on a sexual journey into the forbidden world that Julian inhabits, questions emerge, and dark appetites threaten to swallow her whole.  How much can she trust the man who has laid bare her erotic nature and how much will she sacrifice in order to protect him?

Buy, read and discuss The Raven Room

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Ana Medeiros Ana Medeiros

Born in the Azores islands, Portugal, Ana Medeiros has a background in Photography, Sociology and Psychology. For the last seven years she has worked in the magazine industry. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, with her boyfriend and two cats. The Raven Room, book one of a trilogy, is Ana’s first novel and is published by Diversion Books.

Connect with Ana

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Good erotica – and, let’s be clear – The Raven Room is absolutely erotica – can be hard to find. Too often the material is misogynistic and revolting. Alternatively, the sex in many attempts at erotica is either too clinical or comically bad (incidentally, this is also why I avoid porn. I’m not a prude; I just can’t abide bad writing/acting.).

Ana Medeiros’s novel, however, is neither of those things, and the women we meet – the actual characters, as opposed to the woman already dead at the start of the story – are strong women who are empowered in general, and completely own their sexuality as well.

Meredith, the character we spend the most time with, is an aspiring journalist who is using her relationship with Julian in an attempt to discover the truth behind the storied, exclusive sex club, the eponymous Raven Room, and the author has balanced her vertical and horizontal lives well. On the job, we see that she’s smart, savvy, and just reckless enough to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.

In bed, she’s daring, open, and completely comfortable with her own needs and wants.

Julian is painted as the possible killer – but it quickly becomes clear that he’s as fragile and broken as any damsel in distress, in his own way.  He’s in command in the bedroom, but only because the women in his life Meredith, and later Alana, allow him to be.

As for Alana – we learn as her story unfolds that she is not the person she presents as her public self.

Author Medeiros has done an excellent job of depicting hardcore sex without losing the sensuality of the act. Her characters make no apologies for their needs and desires, and take complete responsibility for their sexual choices. It’s refreshing, actually, to see erotic behavior without a side of guilt. Yes, each character carries his or her own secrets, but those only add to the escalating sense of danger and the depth of each individual.

While the erotic aspects of this novel are prevalent, there is still a mystery – a suspense story – woven through the book, and it is here where my impression of this novel falters. The plot is fine. The story is fine. But this book is being marketed as part one of a trilogy, and instead of giving us a solution to the central mystery, the book ends abruptly on a cliff-hanger, leaving the reader to decide if they’re curious enough to buy the next two novels in the series, just to find out whodunnit.

If you’re reading this book for the sex, this may not matter. After all, the sex scenes are all incredibly well crafted. (At no time did I find myself questioning the physics behind any act.)

However, if you focus on plot, you may be disappointed at the lack of completion.

Goes well with pancakes and coffee, eaten in the wee hours at an all-night diner.


Ana’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 9th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 10th: Why Girls Are Weird

Thursday, November 12th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, November 16th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, November 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, November 18th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Thursday, November 19th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Friday, November 20th: Art Books Coffee

Monday, November 23rd: Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, November 24th: M. Denise Costello

Wednesday, November 25th: Books and Bindings

Monday, November 30th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, November 30th: Seraphim Book Reviews

Tuesday, December 1st: It’s a Mad Mad World

TBD: Queen of All She Reads

TBD: boundbywords

 

The Hypnotist, by Gordon Snider #review #TLCBookTours

About  the book, The Hypnotist The Hypnotist

• Paperback: 324 pages
• Publisher: Helm Publishing (August 3, 2009)

In 1906, San Francisco has reached the peak of its golden age. Fortunes have created a society that attracts European opera singers and cordon bleu chefs. It is a world defined by elegant balls, oysters, and champagne. But there are darker sides to the city as well. The Mission district south of Market Street houses tenements where shanties huddle together and rats plague the streets. And nearby sits Chinatown, an endless warren of dark alleys that offers gambling, prostitution, and opium, all controlled by vicious gangs, called tongs.

Into these disparate worlds steps Marta Baldwin, a young woman who has shunned her own social background to help the poor. She is confronted by a hypnotist, a man who hypnotizes young women from the tenements and delivers them to the tongs in Chinatown to work in their brothels. Marta escapes his hypnotic trance, but when her assistant, Missy, disappears, Marta realizes she has been taken by the evil man who confronted her. She seeks the help of Byron Wagner, one of San Francisco’s most prominent citizens. Marta finds herself drawn to Byron but knows his high social standing prevents any possibility of a relationship between them. This is confirmed when Marta discovers Byron having an intimate conversation with Lillie Collins, the daughter of one of the city’s most elite families. Marta is flushed with jealousy. However, Lillie defies social customs, and her rebellious nature fits naturally with Marta’s. Despite her envy, the two women become close friends. Marta is caught up in a whirlwind of opulent balls, opium dens and brothels, and police raids in Chinatown. She cannot deny her feelings for Byron, but she must save Missy and protect her new friends from harm. For lurking in the background is the hypnotist. He has become obsessed with Marta and will use all his guile to ensnare her. When he threatens those she loves, Marta is determined to stop him, even at her own peril. Will her boldness entrap her? If so, how can she hope to escape the man’s hypnotic embrace? Then the earth trembles, and Marta’s world will never be the same.

Buy, read, and discuss, The Hypnotist

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Helm Publishing | Goodreads


About the author, Gordon Snider Gordon Snider

Gordon Snider has written three non-fiction books, including his latest, I’m Travelling as Fast as I Can, which takes a humorous journey to far-away-places around the world. When he moved to California’s Central Coast in 1999, he began writing fiction. The Origamist is his fifth novel and a sequel to his third, The Hypnotist, a very popular historical thriller that is set in San Francisco in 1906. The other novels include: Sigourney’s Quest, an adventure story about a woman’s harrowing journey across Tibet; The Separatist, a mystery/suspense novel set in modern San Francisco; and Venice Lost, an adventure/fantasy about a man who becomes lost in time in Venice, Italy.

Gordon has lived in California nearly his entire life. Home has ranged from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with stops in Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach. Currently, he and his wife, Fe, enjoy walking the beaches and observing the migrating whales from their home in Pismo Beach. It is, he says, the perfect setting for creative writing.

Find out more about Gordon and his books on his website.


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Having spent a lot of time in a more contemporary version of San Francisco’s Chinatown as a college student and bay area resident (though I don’t live there any longer), and one of the things I really appreciated about The Hypnotist was the way author Gordon Snider completely captured the fog and bustle, the overlapping conversations, and the architecture – the whole sense of the region really.

The other thing that really stood out for me was his protagonist Marta. Other reviewers (the nice thing about being at the end of a tour is that you get to see what other people thought) have pointed out that she is ahead of her time -a feminist, a woman with a strong sense of self and a strong sense of agency – and in other hands she would have felt like a contemporary character pulled out of time, but Snider has crafted his setting so well, that he keeps her progressive but still true to the period.

I also enjoyed the character of her friend Lillie (and have wondered if she was at all influenced by figures like Lillie Langtry and Molly Brown, because there were parts of her that reminded me a bit of both, especially the former), who was a breath of fresh air whenever we saw her.

The men – Byron, the Hypnotist – were less appealing to me. I found that I enjoyed the plot and the setting far more than most of  the male characters. They weren’t badly written, or unsympathetic, really, I just didn’t connect with them.

On the other hand, I’d read a whole series about the adventures of Marta and Lillie solving mysteries (human trafficking or not) in period San Francisco.

Still, this was an enjoyable read, and provoked a lot of thought as I was reading it, and not a few dinner-table conversations about the setting, the plot, etc.

Gordon Snider, in The Hypnotist, has given us a novel that is much more complex and compelling than its description implies.

Goes well with steaming mugs of Lapsang Souchong and those crumbly almond cookies that sound better than they taste.


Gordon’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 20th: The Reading Cove Book Club

Tuesday, July 21st: A Wondrous Bookshelf

Thursday, July 23rd: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, July 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Thursday, July 30th: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, August 3rd: The Bibliophile Chronicles

Tuesday, August 4th: A Fantastical Librarian

Wednesday, August 5th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, August 6th: Books That Hook

Thursday, August 13th: Book Nerd

Thursday, August 13th: Mom in Love With Fiction

Friday, August 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, August 17th: A Reader’s Oasis

Friday, August 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

TBD: Lauren Hearts Books

Killing Secrets, by Dianne Emley (@DianneEmley) #review #TLCBookTours

About Killing Secrets: A Nan Vining MysteryKilling Secrets

  • File Size: 1450 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Alibi (July 21, 2015)
  • Publication Date: July 21, 2015

For fans of Patricia Cornwell, Tana French, and Lisa Gardner comes a razor-sharp novel of suspense featuring Detective Nan Vining—a single mother whose worlds collide when her teenage daughter stumbles upon a grisly double homicide.

When she gets the call, Nan Vining responds as a mother first and a detective second. Her daughter, Emily, has made a gruesome discovery in a secluded section of a Pasadena park: a pretty, popular young teacher from Emily’s high school and a bright yet troubled transfer student—both dead and bloody in a copse of trees. But the crime scene isn’t the only thing that seems off to Detective Vining. There’s also the cocky classmate who was with Emily in the park—the boyfriend she never knew about. What else doesn’t she know about her daughter?

As she attempts to channel both her maternal and investigative instincts into one single point of focus, Vining’s superiors at the Pasadena Police Department are moving at lightning speed. Before the evidence has even been processed, the case is closed as a clear-cut murder/suicide: a disturbed teenager murders his teacher, then takes his own life. Vining doesn’t buy it. Now she’s chasing dangerous, powerful people with secrets they would kill for—and taking them down means risking her own flesh and blood.

Buy, read, and discuss Killing Secrets

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Dianne Emley Dianne Emley

Dianne Emley is the bestselling author of The Night Visitor and the Nan Vining series: The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills. A Los Angeles native, she lives in the Central California wine country with her husband, Charlie.

Connect with Dianne

Website | Facebook | Twitter


 My Thoughts MissMeliss

Killing Secrets was my first introduction to both author Dianne Emley and character Nan Vining, although this is hardly the first book in the Nan Vining series. While I’m certain reading of Vining’s previous adventures would have enriched my experience, I had no problem jumping into her world, or following all the elements of the story: solving a murder/suicide, dealing with the internal politics at play in the police department, or parenting a teenager. (This latter element, by the way, made me glad that I only ever have to deal with adolescent dogs.)

I felt that Nan’s internal conflict – her paid job as a police detective vs. her role as a single parent – really permeated the story, because motherhood never stops being part of your psyche, and I liked that author Dianne Emley reflected that struggle so realistically.

I also enjoyed the plot of the novel. I tend toward more cozy mysteries than not, and this book struck me as riding the edge of contemporary cozy. Certainly, it had dark moments, and a fast-paced action-filled plot, but it also had the lighter, more human moments that really “sell” stories for me, and I thought everything was really well balanced.

Nan, herself, is an easy character to like: flawed, fierce, dimensional, real. I’m pretty sure I’ve met her – or versions of her – during my lifetime.

These books are Kindle only, but at roughly $3/pop they take the ‘guilty’ our of ‘guilty pleasure,’ and leave just ‘pleasure’ behind. And Killing Secrets was absolutely a pleasure to read: well crafted with believable situations and characters, and a version of reality that closely matches our own.

Goes well with Chinese take-out and jasmine tea.


Dianne Emley’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, July 20th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Wednesday, July 22nd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, July 23rd: A Book Geek

Thursday, July 23rd: Open Book Society

Monday, July 27th: Book Babe

Tuesday, July 28th: Kay’s Reading Life

Wednesday, July 29th: FictionZeal

Monday, August 3rd: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, August 4th: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, August 6th: The Novel Life

Monday, August 10th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, August 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 13th: Bibliotica

TBD: Bell, Book & Candle