Monday, 20 July 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: CHEF MAURICE AND THE WRATH OF GRAPES BY J.A LANG Blog Tour


My Thoughts on this culinary cozy mystery ......

CHEF MAURICE AND THE WRATH OF GRAPES
(Chef Maurice Culinary Mysteries Book 2)
BY
J.A. LANG

Genre
Cozy Mystery (English Village, Culinary)
File Size: 489 KB
Print Length: 168 pages
Publisher: Purple Panda Press (July 13, 2015)
ASIN: B00WET7X64
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An invitation to dinner at the home of renowned wine collector Sir William Burton-Trent soon finds Chef Maurice in the middle of an all-too-real murder mystery party, when Sir William is found dead in his own wine cellar.
The guests are acting all innocent, but which one is only playing the part? The pushy Californian film director? The seductive French winemaker? 
Or could it be, against all narrative decency, the butler who did it?
With the help of food critic friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe, a large kipper sandwich, and the newly formed Cochon Rouge Wine Appreciation Society, Chef Maurice must get to the bottom of matters before events turn decidedly sour...




"If you were to describe body shapes via the medium of vegetables, Chef Maurice would be an extra large turnip"

I think it's fair to say that Chef Maurice loves his food!

This is the second in the Chef Maurice series, I haven't read the first but I think this can be read as a stand alone novel.

This was an enjoyable and quirky cozy mystery, full of possible suspects in an old English country house where the owner was found murdered in his own locked wine cellar.

I also liked the touch of romance with one of Chef Maurice's kitchen staff, and his 'sort of' girlfriend, the local PC Lucy.

I think this is the sort of fun cozy series that will be very popular with anyone who loves British mysteries that don't take themselves too seriously.

Looking forward to the next!

**********

About the Author


J.A. Lang is a British mystery writer, and author of the Chef Maurice Mysteries series.
She lives in Oxford, England, with her husband, an excessive number of cookbooks, and a sourdough starter named Bob.
Author Links
J.A. Lang on Facebook

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TOUR PARTICIPANTS
July 14 – Book Splurge – Review
July 15 – The Ninja Librarian – Review
July 16 – readalot – Review
July 17 – Shelley’s Book Case– Review
July 19 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – Spotlight
July 20 – Carole’s Book Corner – Review
July 21 – MysteriesEtc – Review
July 22 – LibriAmoriMiei – Review
July 23 – Frankie Bow – Spotlight
July 24 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – Review
July 25 – StoreyBook Reviews – Spotlight

To win your very own signed copy of Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes and a cool looking mug click on the picture below, where you'll be taken to the author's website
Open to US and UK residents over 18 only
Giveaway ends on 30 July 2015 at 11.59 PM GMT






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Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Town Dance by Nikki Skies Showcase



THE TOWN DANCE
BY
NIKKI SKIES


Lorna Simon, has plans to diminish her resume of safe journalism and be known for reporting trendsetting stories. Certain that she can persevere her impressive family lineage within her carefree lifestyle as a social butterfly, this notion is put under fire after a night of partying thrusts Lorna into being a newsmaker instead of a news writer. Lorna alleges she has become the victim of a sexual assault crime committed against her by a woman, Trista, who is a promising event planner and an associate of Lorna’s mother.
Paralyzed with the humiliation of having to publically defend her sexuality as a heterosexual, Lorna must decide to believe in her bouts of memory loss and forego the incident or rekindle her passion for journalism to protect her livelihood and uphold the integrity of her family.


About the Author



Nikki Skies is an accomplished poet, author, and playwright living in Atlanta, GA. Skies is the author of the short story book, “Mississippi Window Cracks” and the collection of poetry and prose in the book, “Pocket Honey, Wind & Hips”. Skies is also known for her fiery performances as a featured poet in venues across the country and an inspiring speaker and workshop facilitator on varied topics.
As a speaker, Skies engages on the topics of: "Missing-the Impact of Feminine Images in Arts", "The Rise and Demise of Women in Hip Hop & Poetry" and "The Feminine Influence in the Black Arts Movement." Skies' poem, "One Day White Woman", on beauty standards between black and white women, has been used as curriculum in Oakland's Women Prison System and San Diego State University for multicultural/diversity lyceum programming. “The Town Dance”, is the dramatic debut novel from Skies. More information can be found on Skies on her blog at www.nikkiskies.wordpress.com.
A firm believer in the power of education, the Grambling State University alumna, who also studied for her Masters at Howard University, uses her art as a teaching tool to encourage an interest in literacy.


*****


Available to purchase on AmazonUK - Amazon.com




Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Q and A with Timothy Patten, Author of Money, Family, Murder

New Thriller Ignites Orange County with Mysterious Murder 



Glamorous Intrigue, and Family Secrets

Author Timothy Patten explodes onto the literary scene with a sleek, action-packed thriller that takes us into the dark heart of one of California’s most exclusive communities, perfect for lovers of NCIS and Criminal Minds. The mystery ignites around a beautiful corpse, a family of billionaires, and one man who must beat the clock and the system to clear his name in an enclave rife with secrets, lies, and betrayal—MONEY, FAMILY, MURDER (TMP Novels, LLC, $24.99, Hardcover, July 14, 2015).



MONEY, FAMILY, MURDER by Timothy Patten 

TMP Novels, LLC

$24.99  285  Hardcover  July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-34727-0

Fiction/Mystery  Also available as an ebook




TIMOTHY PATTEN is retired, grew up in Highland Park, Illinois and graduated from University of Miami, Florida with a BBA and MBA in marketing. He volunteers and supports a few local charities in Orange County, California.

Tim and his wife, Kathy live in Irvine, California for over twenty-seven years with their grown children and golden retrievers.




In the picture-perfect community of Newport Beach, violent crime is virtually non-existent. Until one sunny morning, when the beautiful bookkeeper of Newport’s wealthiest family is found strangled in her bed. Johnny Barnes — loyal husband, dad, philanthropist, and all-around decent guy — is arrested for the murder.

Johnny has been wrongly accused. He is released on $20 million bail, but the tide of public feeling turns rapidly against him; everyone has competing agendas, from the power-hungry DA to a perspicacious police detective to Johnny’s influential brother-in-law. With diminishing resources and dwindling hope, Barnes must conduct his own investigation. His journey takes him from Montecito to North Dakota to Key Biscayne as he uncovers a dazzling web of intrigue, self-dealing, exhortation, and murder.

The clock is ticking. Soon Johnny will be sent to prison for a crime he did not commit — unless he is able to identify the true murderer and clear his name in time.

A beautiful corpse. A family of billionaires. An innocent man…or is he?

So begins Money, Family, Murder, an action-packed thriller set in contemporary California. On the sunny shores of Newport Beach, a young woman has been murdered. Johnny Barnes — the prime suspect — is desperate to clear his name. Johnny’s luck is running out. He must take on not only a corrupt criminal justice system but his own duplicitous in-laws, proving our families truly are the ties that bind. Tim Patten takes us into the dark heart of one of America’s most exclusive communities, an enclave rife with secrets, lies, and betrayal. His debut novel will leave you on the edge of your seat, begging for mercy — and begging for more.



Q&A WITH TIMOTHY PATTEN


1. Did you have ambitions to write and publish prior to penning your debut novel? 

It developed over the last few years, but when I was in college it was different because you had a certain subject to report on depending on the class I was taking at the time. Creating a novel from scratch is a unique project to undertake in your middle years. As I got older and after watching hundreds of films and TV shows, I felt like I could accomplish something in writing. 

2. What is it about the mystery-thriller genre that you find most appealing?

The unknown of what people might do to benefit themselves at the expense of others.Whether it’s stealing money or murdering someone in your way. In this case, you really don’t know until the end who did it and why which to me makes it more suspenseful.

3. Where did your inspiration for the book come from? 

Primarily from watching TV shows and movies in the theater like NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds or books that become movies like American Sniper or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  My wife and I have seen several movies in the last year like Selma, The Birdman and The Homesman where we either walked out of the theater in the middle of the movie or turned off the Pay Per View because it was either boring or too crazy. So I guess that I am in a new phase in my life where I want to try and create a book or storyline versus just being the viewer or reader.

4. Who / what are your biggest literary influences?

I’d say it’s Tom Clancy for a while because of the novels that he wrote which became movies like The Hunt For The Red October or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which are more military subjects.  
My Dad was a Marine in the Korean War and was stationed in both New Orleans and Camp Pendleton and we watched a lot of war movies growing up because it was part of the culture at the time after WWII, Korean War and the Vietnam War eras. I missed the Vietnam draft by less than a year and my wife and I still like watching war movies.

5. What did you enjoy most about writing MONEY, FAMILY, MURDER? 

Watching the faces and hearing the comments from my family and friends after I gave them a copy and they read it because I never wrote a novel before and didn’t tell anyone about it until after our daughter was married in January. I didn’t want to spoil her special day and I knew that it could wait 

6. What is the number one thing you want people to take away from your novel?

To enjoy the mysterious, thrilling storyline. I also want for them to pick in their minds who would be the actors and actresses playing the characters if it was a movie.





Friday, 10 July 2015

DROP DEAK PUNK BY RICH ZAHRADNIK Showcase

Drop Dead Punk

by Rich Zahradnik

on Tour July 2015




Synopsis:

cover
Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.
A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha--a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop--he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.
Drop Dead Punk is book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.



Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Series: Book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.
Published by: Camel Press,
Publication Date: ~ Aug. 15, 2015
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 978-1603812092
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads



Read an excerpt:

NOTE: FROM UNCORRECTED PROOF (ARC):
The great headlines of other newspapers were always to be despised. Not today.
The three ancient copy editors were on their feet, with Copydesk Chief Milt Corman in the middle. Taylor stopped his walk through the newsroom to find out why. If someone had made a mistake, it must be a colossal one to get those fat asses out of their seats. He looked over Corman’s shoulder. The copy chief held the Daily News. It was that day’s edition, Oct. 30, 1975. The 144-point front-page headline screamed up from the page.
FORD TO CITY:
DROP DEAD

Corman rattled the paper violently. “That’s a work of art. Tells the whole story in five words. He gave the city the finger yesterday.”
Jack Miller, one of the other old farts, moved back to his seat. You could only expect him to stand for so long. He settled into his chair for another day of slashing copy. “What do you expect from our unelected president? Veepee to Nixon. Goddamned pardoned Robert E. Lee two months ago.”
“Didn’t pardon him. Gave him back his citizenship.”
“Same thing. The barbarians are running the country and now they’re at our gates. We’re the biggest, most important city on the planet, and he’s going to leave us hanging to get himself actually elected to the job.”
Corman flipped open the paper to the Ford speech story across pages four and five. “Just listen to this bullshit. ‘I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a Federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default.’ He blathers on about using the uniform bankruptcy laws. On and on and on. How do you police the streets and pick up garbage under the uniform bankruptcy laws? A Federal judge trying to run the whole damn city? Chaos.”
“Ford’s from Grand Rapids.” Miller shook his big round head. “He doesn’t know from anything about this place. He’s talking to all the flatlanders—a nation that hates us.”
“Will you listen to this at the end? ‘If we go on spending more than we have, providing more benefits and more services than we can pay for, then a day of reckoning will come to Washington and the whole country just as it has to New York City. When that day of reckoning comes, who will bail out the United States of America?’ He’ll kill this city to keep his job.” Corman looked from the paper to Taylor. “You’re the crime reporter. Why don’t you go after this? Write the story about the man who murdered New York.”
Taylor laughed. “You can’t kill New York.”
“Rome fell.”
“Rome wasn’t New York. You know this is the same political bullshit. Made up numbers and budget magic and threats from Washington. New York will still be here long after. It’s a great headline, though. You guys should try writing ’em like that.”
He left the horseshoe copy desk before they could protest that wasn’t the style of the New York Messenger-Telegram. He knew all too well the three of them would kill to be headline writers at the Daily News. That paper wasn’t perpetually on the verge of failing like the MT.
Taylor gave New York’s financial crisis about thirty seconds more thought as he wound his way around the maze of the newsroom. To him, the crisis was background noise. The city had become a dark place since the Sixties decided to end early, round about 1968. Crime lurked in the darkness, and he covered crime. He was too busy with New York’s growth industry to pay attention to the mayor’s budget problems.
Heroin everywhere.
Corruption in the police department.
Buildings in the South Bronx torched by the block.
Those were the stories he went after, not failed bond sales and blabbering politicos. Problem was the damn financial story had pushed everything else off the MT’s front page. Taylor hadn’t had a decent story out there in three weeks. He needed the quick hit of a page one byline, needed it particularly bad this morning. The cops had called him at home last night. Not about a story this time. They’d arrested his father, reeling drunk in his underwear outside his apartment building. Taylor had been up until three a.m. dealing with that mess. A good story—a good story that actually got decent play—and a few beers after to celebrate. Now that would pick him up. For a day or two at least.
Make the calls. Someone’s got to have something. Now that Ford’s had his say, there must be room on page one.
He’d almost slipped past the city desk when Worth called out his name. Taylor tried to pretend he hadn’t heard and kept going, but Worth raised his high-pitched voice and just about yelled. Taylor turned and went back to the pristine maple-topped desk of City Editor Bradford J. Worth, Jr.
“I’ve got an assignment for you.”
That was always bad news. “Haven’t made my calls yet.”
“Doesn’t matter. Need you down at City Hall.”
Taylor brightened. Crime at City Hall. A murder? That would be big.
“What’s the story?” He sounded enthusiastic. He shouldn’t have.
“You’re to go to the pressroom and wait for announcements. Glockman called in sick.”
“C’mon, Worth. Not babysitting. You’ve got three other City Hall reporters.” Who’ve owned the front page for weeks.
“They’re all very busy pursuing the most important story in this city’s history. Your job is to sit at our desk in the pressroom and wait for the mayor to issue a statement on Ford’s speech. Or the deputy mayor. Or a sanitation worker. Or a cleaning lady. Anybody says anything, you phone it in. Rumor is they’re working on using city pension funds.”
Worth’s phone rang, and he picked up. “Yeah, I’m sending Taylor down. No, he’ll do for now.” He set the receiver lightly on its hook. “You’ve been down in the dumps since your friend Laura left us. Was it her going or the fact she got a job at the New York Times? Because you’ll never get there, not with the way you dodge the biggest stories.”
“Hey, you and I are both still here.”
Worth frowned. Ambition rose off the man like an odor as strong as the cologne he wore. He’d made city editor at thirty without ever working as a reporter. Everyone knew he wanted more, and to him, more meant the New York Times. He’d almost been as upset as Taylor when Laura Wheeler announced she had the gig, and Worth wasn’t the one in love with Laura. He had been sure he was leaving next.
“Both here, but I’m the one doing his job. Now get to City Hall.”
“You have to be able to find someone else.” Exasperation through grit teeth. “Crime is big for this paper.”
“I decide what’s big.” He picked up the phone, dialed an inside extension, and showed Taylor his back.
Sitting at City Hall waiting for a press release was the perfect way to ruin Taylor’s day, something the city editor liked doing so much it had become a bad habit.
Taylor arrived at his own desk to find the other police reporters gone, probably making their rounds.
The desk that had been Laura’s reminded him of her—of her dark brown eyes, her black hair, her beautiful face. She’d left an aching emptiness inside him. They’d lasted a month after she’d moved to the New York Times, and then she’d broken it off. She said she realized the only thing they had in common was the MT. She hadn’t been mean about it. And she wasn’t wrong. The paper had been their life during the day and their conversation at night. He wondered if it also had to do with his age, 34, and where he was—or wasn’t—in life. He pushed his hand through his short brown hair. He’d even found himself considering his thin, angular face, something he’d never done before. Was that it? Laura was beautiful. Taylor couldn’t think of a word for what he was.
He recently heard she’d started dating a guy on the foreign staff, Derek something. He wondered how old Derek was. Late twenties and optimistic, he guessed, unbowed by life. From a good family too, probably. It was always going to end. So why did it hurt like this?
Truth was Taylor had been living with emptiness for years before he met her. Over that time, he’d gotten used to it, let the job fill his life. Only, having her and losing her made him understand how much he disliked this lonely hole inside.
Really should leave right away.
The black phone in front of him was too much temptation. Worth couldn’t see Taylor from the city desk. He picked up the receiver, pushed the clear plastic button for an outside line, and dialed the number for Sidney Greene at 1 Police Plaza. Greene was perhaps the most discontented, dyspeptic minor civil servant Taylor had ever encountered. He leaked stories not to expose injustice or right a wrong, but to screw his bosses. He simply loved watching them deal with the chaos he created by tipping off Taylor.
“Anything up?”
“Oh, a real shit show. Officer down.”
Taylor flipped open a notebook. Even in the midst of this dark age of drugs, muggings, and homicides, a police officer murdered was still a big story. A page one story. “Where and when?”
“Avenue B and East Eighth, just in from Tompkins Square Park.”
“What happened?”
“That’s all I can do for you. They’re doing the headless chicken dance down here. You’ll be ahead of the others if you get to the scene quick. Not by much, though.”
Taylor left the newsroom for the Lower Eastside. He’d check for press releases at City Hall after visiting the scene of the cop’s murder. Worthless would have his head if he missed even one minor announcement. Screw it. Taylor couldn’t ignore a big story. A real story.
He hustled from the subway across the blocks to the crime scene. The day offered near perfect New York fall weather, with the air crisp and clear, tingling with energy. He unwrapped a stick of Teaberry gum and stuck it in his mouth. The temperature had dropped from yesterday’s high of 70 and would only make it into the mid-fifties today. Jacket weather—Taylor’s favorite. Not so hot he broke into a sweat on a good walk, and cool but not cold—he wasn’t fighting the brutal winds of winter that blasted down the avenues. Easy weather put New Yorkers at ease. He could sense it as he walked. More smiles. Sidewalk trees even showed off muted reds and gold. Taylor knew it was nothing like the color upstate but it would do.
Taylor’s press pass got him inside the cluster of patrol cars guarding the ambulance. A couple of fire engines had also rolled to the scene, which was a dilapidated brownstone with half its windows boarded, a missing door, and a huge hole in the roof. The place was a true Lower Eastside wreck in a neighborhood where hard luck meant you were doing pretty well for yourself.
Taylor climbed the cracked front steps. A “Condemned Building” sign was nailed to the open door. The first floor had few interior walls, only piles of rubble from when the roof had come down, bringing chunks of the next three floors with it. The smell of must mingled with the stink of garbage. Two uniformed and four plainclothes police stood around a uniformed body sprawled across a pile of plaster chunks and wood slats in the middle of what was once probably a living room. Off to the right in the front corner was a second body, guarded by no one.
Seeing an opportunity, Taylor moved closer to the body in the corner. The man, young and apparently startled by death, had taken one shot to the chest and one in the leg. Blood soaked a black T-shirt printed with big white letters Taylor couldn’t read unless he adjusted the man’s leather jacket, which was also covered in blood. The man’s heart must have pumped his life’s blood out in minutes. Faster maybe. His right hand was on his stomach and clutched a green leather purse with a gold chain strap. Taylor knew better than to touch anything. Instead, he leaned in and was met by the iron and musk odor of blood. The top of the man’s hand was tattooed with a spiral pattern, an eye at its center. The fingers were inked with the bones of a skeleton, like an X-ray of what lay beneath the dead man’s skin.
The face was young—twenties, probably early twenties— bony and pale, with a tattoo of a spider web that started below the shirt line and crept up his neck to his chin and right ear. His hair was short and spiky, in the punk style—as was his whole look. Many of them had recently moved into this neighborhood to be near the punk rock club CBGB and the other bars that were the heart of the punk rock scene. Many were squatters.
“Don’t touch nothin’.” A short chunky cop with a gold badge in his belt walked over.
“I’d never do that, Detective.” Taylor rose from his crouch.
“I’m very sorry about the loss of an officer.”
“Yeah, thanks. And who the fuck are you?”
“Taylor with the Messenger-Telegram.” Taylor tapped the laminated pass.
“The Empty, huh? Read it sometimes. At least you’re not the fucking Times. I hate those pricks.”
Five years since the New York Times interviewed Serpico and broke the story of massive corruption in the NYPD, and the paper was still on every cop’s shit list. At the time, Taylor had gone crazy trying to follow the Times’ scoops. He’d admired what the Times had done and hated being behind on such a big story. He didn’t need to tell the detective that, though. It was fine with him if the man liked the Messenger-Telegram. Taylor himself liked cops, the honest kind at least. When he’d started at the paper, police reporters were almost cops themselves. Or adjuncts, at least. They helped the police, publicizing successes, ignoring failures and drinking in the same places. Not anymore. Trust had been lost, and it wasn’t going to be won back anytime soon.
What happened?”
“This jamoke holds up a woman for her purse when she comes up from the subway at Astor Place. Officer Robert Dodd and his partner give chase. The mugger runs across St. Mark’s Place, through the park and into this hole. They exchange shots. Both are killed. At least that’s what we can figure so far.”
“Dodd’s partner?”
“Couldn’t keep up. Poor Dodd was stuck with a meter maid. When little Samantha Callahan gets here, they’re both dead. What’s the point of having broads patrolling if they can’t back you up?” Lights flashed across the detective’s jowly face. He looked out the glassless window at the car pulling up. “Assistant chief. I’ve got to make sense of this for him.”
Taylor jotted down the name on the detective’s plate, R. Trunk. He dug out a business card and handed it to the detective. “Anything more comes up, call me. We take care of cops at the MT.” Laying it on thick never hurt. “Dodd’s a hero. His story should be told right.”
“Yeah, we’ll see. Your paper may not be awful. Doesn’t mean I trust you. Now get out of here. We got work to do.”
Trunk turned as another plainclothesman walked up. “Still haven’t got the kid’s gun.”
Well, find the fucking thing. Assistant chief ’s going to be on us like stink on shit.”
That was odd. If Dodd took out the mugger, the man’s gun would be right here somewhere. It couldn’t have walked away on its own. Taylor put that detail in his notebook. Anything odd always went in the notebook. He walked a wide arc toward the door to get a quick view of the dead officer. Dodd was a complete mess. He had to have been shot in the face. Taylor couldn’t make out the nose, the eyes, anything in the gore and blood. That meant he had to have shot the mugger first.



Author Bio:

authorRich Zahradnik is the author of the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series from Camel Press. Last Words is the first novel in the series and was published Oct. 1, 2014. Drop Dead Punk will come out Aug. 15. He was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter, often writing news stories and analysis about the journalism business, broadcasting, film production, publishing and the online industry. In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New Yorks Center for Fiction. He has been a media entrepreneur throughout his career. He was the founding executive producer of CNNfn.com, a leading financial news website and a Webby winner; managing editor of Netscape.com, and a partner in the soccer-news website company Goal Networks. Zahradnik also co-founded the weekly newspaper The Peekskill Herald at the age of 25, leading it to seven state press association awards in its first three years. Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches elementary school kids how to publish the online and print newspaper the Colonial Times.

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Book Review: THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA BY ANTONIA HODGSON


My Thoughts on this 18th century murder mystery .......

THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA
BY
ANTONIA HODGSON


Published:  28 Aug 2014 (Paperback)
Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton


London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is in trouble.  The wayward son of a country parson, his taste for wine, women and cards has led him in irons to the notorious Marsahalsea debtors' prison.

The Marshalsea is a dark and dangerous place at the best of times.  But when an inmate is brutally murdered, the prison is soon gripped by fear and suspicion.  Worst of all, Tom is sharing a cell with the prime suspect ......

Now he must risk everything to uncover the truth - or be the next to die.


* Winner of the CWA Historical Dagger Award 2014 *


We headed towards the yard doors, sunlight glinting up ahead.  Deep grooves ran down towards the yard where the carriages had rattled through, bringing in food and drink.  And taking out the bodies.  The ancient stone floor had been worn smooth by centuries of debtors trudging wearily through the gate.  And now here I was to join them - just one in an endless line of wretched souls stretching on and on for ever, to the end of days.



Here are my likes and dislikes about this novel

What I disliked

I read quite a long way into the book before I started to get really immersed in the story.  I didn't rush to pick it up and carry on reading. It took me at least a week to start enjoying it.  

There were so many characters introduced, especially when Tom arrived at the Marshalsea, that I struggled to remember them all or what they were doing there.




What I liked

The descriptions of the prison were very detailed, I could imagine the awful conditions of the Common Side a raggle-taggle of ancient timber houses slumped, exhausted, against the far south wall ..... 300 souls crammed 30, 40, 50 to a cell all night, stifled and starving, forced to breathe in each other's filth.
The author has obviously does plenty of research into this terrible place.

I loved the curious assortment of prisoners such as Mrs Bradshaw at the coffeehouse who comes and goes as she pleases as long as she's back for lock-up, Trim the barber, and the evil Samuel Fleet who everyone is terrified of. 

What I really liked

The storyteller, Tom Hawkins.  A bright and likeable young man, enjoys a gamble and a drink or two, overall a good person who can't stand back and let thing happen, he has to act, no matter the consequences to himself. 

The story was compelling, once I'd got more involved, there were shocks and twists aplenty.  Very clever. Very enjoyable. A very impressive debut novel and one that I would highly recommend if you're looking for a dark, atmospheric historical mystery with just a touch of romance.

Lots of potential for future adventures for Thomas Hawkins, in fact I am thrilled to have the second book to read - The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins


************

About the Author

Website:  AntoniaHodgson.com
Twitter:  @AntoniaHodgson

*************

Available to buy from AmazonUK - AmazonUS - BookDepository




Saturday, 20 June 2015

Book Review: UNRAVELLING OLIVER BY LIZ NUGENT


My Thoughts on this intelligent and unsettling thriller ....


UNRAVELLING OLIVER
BY
LIZ NUGENT


Published:  9 April 2015  (Paperback)
Publisher:  Penguin
Pages:  231  (Paperback)


Alice and Oliver Ryan seem blessed, both in their happy marriage and in their successful working partnership.  Their shared life is one of enviable privilege and ease.  Enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma.

Afterwards, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story.  So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades.

It turns out that there is more to Oliver than Alice ever saw.  But only he knows what he has done to get the life to which he felt entitled.  And even he is in for a shock when his past catches up with him.


Award-winning writer of radio and television drama Liz Nugent's debut novel is a clever and page-turning story of why someone would suddenly change their behaviour in one terrible moment.

After Oliver's violent attack on his wife Alice, his life is seen from a different person's perspective, all people who have met Oliver from his early years to today, all stunned by his savage act.  We learn that he's selfish, controlling, a womaniser, unfaithful, but also a handsome and charismatic charmer.

But it's Oliver's story that makes for the most chilling reading.

We slowly build up a picture of Oliver, from his lonely school days in Ireland and his bitter and strained relationship with his father, an eventful summer on a French vineyard, to his successful career as a children's writer....all of which lead to the ultimate long-kept secrets.

This was a book that I couldn't put down, the writing was assured and compelling, never a sentence wasted, a very clever and dark look at how people can deceive and manipulate, all skilfully told.  I loved it!

Thanks to Catherine Ryan Howard at Penguin for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Available to buy from Amazon UK  -  Amazon US  -  Book Depository


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About the Author

Liz Nugent has spent the last 20 years working in Irish film, theatre and television.  For the last decade, she has been an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written short stories for children and adults.

Follow her on twitter:  @lizzienugent
Website:  liznugent.ie

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway of BYE, BYE LOVE BY KJ LARSEN

Bye, Bye Love

by KJ Larsen

on Tour June 2015




Synopsis:

cover
Chicago’s Pants On Fire Detective Agency targets liars and cheats. But PI Cat DeLuca is once again up to her smokin’ skinny jeans in murder.
Cat is out running in a neighborhood park when she crashes over the faceless body of Bernie Love. Bernie was the finance guy to the scary Provenza family, with whom he grew up. And friend to Cat’s shady, Ferrari-wheeling-cop Uncle Joey. As she hauls out her phone, Cat is assaulted by someone with a Rolex, stun gun, and wheelbarrow. When the cops show up, the killer is gone. And so is the body.
Captain Bob, a stickler for habeas corpus, blows off Cat’s story. Stung by a chorus of snickers from the Ninth Precinct, home base for DeLuca men, Cat vows to make her case and goes after Rolex man. The murderer, desperate to silence the only person who can place him at the park, comes after Cat. She’s quickly on a collision course with the deadliest adversary she’s ever encountered—but she has the help of her beagle partner, her gun-happy assistant, an ex-spy (or two), and her outrageous, interfering Italian family. Meanwhile, her hot, FBI-boyfriend seems sidelined in Vegas.
In Bye, Bye, Love, K.J. Larsen delivers another nail-biting tale rife with unexpected plot twists, zany characters, fabulous food, and laugh-out-loud humor.


Book Details:


Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: Aprl 7, 2015
Number of Pages: 28
ISBN: 9781464203831
Series: Cat DeLuca Mystery #4 (Each is a Stand-Alone Novel)
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads



Read an excerpt:

Chapter One
I was staking out the LeGrande Hotel on Asher and sucking the creamy filling out of a cannoli. My fingers absently drummed out a beat on the steering wheel while I kept an eye on a brunette in the hotel parking lot. Her name is Cookie Allen. Cookie’s married to Jerry, a wiry man with a birdlike face and a wild nest of yellow hair. Jerry’s an inquisitive kind of guy. He wants to know why his wife reeks of Brut Cologne.
It’s not exactly rocket science. Cookie Allen has a lover. She left telltale signs and a big trail of cookie crumbs. A dumbass could figure it out. But not Jerry. He’s hired me to spell it out for him.
I’m a great speller.
My name is Cat DeLuca and I’m a Private Dick—though I prefer Jane. I don’t investigate for insurance companies or work for ambulance-chasers. I won’t find your high school sweetheart. But if you’re in Chicagoland and you suspect your partner is stepping out, call me. I kick ass at catching cheaters.
Last week Jerry showed up at my office, his brain in deep freeze. His wife’s betrayal was slapping him in the face, but he was swimming in denial. It happens in this business. You know your relationship is in the toilet but you’re not ready to go there. So your mind creates an alternative scenario as a coping mechanism. It’s a temporary state of insanity.
That’s where I come in.
“What do you think is happening with your wife, Jerry?”
His small, birdlike chin quivered. “What do you mean?”
“I dunno. The late nights, unexplained absences. A sudden disinterest in sex and all things you.”
“I think it’s the change. I hear it affects women that way.”
“Your wife is twenty-six years old.”
“So?”
“It’s not the change.”
Jerry scrunched his face, searching for an explanation other than the obvious. I stopped him before he could decide his wife had a part-time job moonlighting for Brut.
“The Brut Factory is in Texas,” I said.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Just sayin’.”
Jerry sighed and gnawed on beakish lips. “I don’t wanna make no trouble.”
“God, no.”
“So what will you do?”
“I’m gonna shadow her.”
His eyes flashed alarm. “If Cookie thinks I don’t trust her…”
“She won’t know I was there. It’s what I do”.
He dragged out a roll of antacids, popped a handful in his mouth, and chewed furiously.
“Here’s the plan. I’ll be in the hospital parking lot when your wife’s shift ends on Sunday. I’ll tail her—”
His eyes widened.
“Not to worry. I’m the queen of discretion. I’ll keep a diary of her movements. Make a note of anyone she has contact with.”
He nodded staring through me, his brain still on ice.
I wanted to shake him, but I put a hand on his arm and flashed an encouraging smile.
“I got this, Jerry. You’re going to be OK. I’m armed with spy-eye binoculars and my super, high-powered camera. I’ll snag some steamy 8 by 10 glossies and when I deliver them to you your brain will thaw.”
He nodded and then his head did a double take. “Huh?”
“Exactly.”
***
A horn blared from the street in front of the hotel. Cookie was too busy fidgeting with her hair to notice. She was primping for Brut Boy. I popped the newest Pink album into the CD player, stretched my legs, and waited.
Cookie Allen works as an X-ray tech at Mercy Hospital and I was waiting when her shift ended at 2:30. At 2:31 she bolted out the door and barreled to her car. She gave her face a five-minute touch up and perked up the girls before pulling the red Mazda Miata out of her parking spot. I was on her like sauce on spaghetti. She headed down Twenty-sixth and hit the Dan Ryan toward the west end, hell and gone from her house in Bridgeport. Her first stop was a dry cleaner’s on South Ashland. Cookie dropped off a small bag of clothes, then took a quick spin by Lovers Package. Next stop was Walgreen’s for a Snickers bar, some mints, and a copy of Soap Opera Digest. And like a cherry on top, a can of whipping cream. I didn’t have to be a top-notch detective to know one thing. Some Mama’s son was gonna get lucky tonight.
The G in the neon LeGrande Hotel sign sputtered, making it quiver almost hypnotically. I mentally slapped myself and opened my surveillance cooler. It was stocked with Tino’s pizza, sausages, and Mama’s Mediterranean chicken. As well as her unrivaled cannoli. It will drop you to your knees.
I tossed a sausage to the beagle in the backseat. Inga is my partner at the Pants on Fire Detective Agency. She has soulful brown eyes and an ever-joyful tail. She’s fiercely loyal and better company than most people I know.
I poured a cup of coffee and let the steam warm my face. I get what Jerry’s going through. My brief marriage to Johnnie Rizzo was a crash course in infidelity. It was like a knife to the gut. Johnnie was a serial cheater, scoring like an Olympic athlete.
But then, love can be brutal.
Sometimes you gotta get up, brush yourself off, and take your life back. You go out with your friends and exorcise your lying ex with shameless quantities of tequila and chocolate. You listen to the voice inside you that says you’ll create a better life than you ever imagined. Even if it’s the tequila talking.
A cool late autumn breeze blew off the lake. I hunched down in my silver Honda Accord and tugged my coat tighter around me. I didn’t want to fire up my engine and draw attention to myself. I figured this gig wouldn’t last long. The LeGrande is known for renting rooms by the hour. I doubt the sheets change as often as the guests.
Inga kissed my cheek and jumped into the passenger seat to negotiate for more sausages. A beat up blue construction van pulled into the hotel parking lot. Cookie lept from the car, feet dancing, before Brut Boy killed the engine. Her husband, Jerry, may look like a bird. But her lover was a big burly bear of a guy with dark curly hair exploding from his neckline. Cookie seemed to be exploring a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom.
They ran into each other’s arms and held tight for a long time. When they pulled back, they gazed deep in each other’s eyes and laughed.
I’ve been in this business a long time. And I’ve found people are driven to cheat for a variety of reasons: for the thrill, revenge, self-undoing, conquest, boredom, emptiness, or a sense of loss. Sometimes, it’s just for a lack of good sense. Some people cheat because they think they won’t get caught. Others just wanna get busted.
I’d probably never know how the affair between Cookie and her bear of a lover began. But I believed she was here today because they were in love. I aimed my camera, knowing I’d hate passing the pics on to Jerry. Cookie’s lover wore a wedding ring. I knew Cookie and Jerry didn’t have kids. It would be too much to hope her lover’s marriage would dissolve so cleanly.
She put an arm around his waist and they drifted my way. I buried my face in the latest O! Magazine. The lovers ambled past me and into the hotel, his hand resting on her bum.
I tossed another sausage into the backseat. “Back in a flash, Inga. This won’t take long.”
I grabbed my flower print handbag with the hidden camcorder and strode to the heavy oak and glass doors. I was locked, loaded, and ready for love.
Or at least ready to expose it on 8 by 10 color glossies. I paused a moment beneath the quivering neon G and taking a deep, heady breath of Brut, tromped into the hotel behind them.



Author Bio:

authorOne day three sisters, linked by a voracious love of mysteries, set off to write their own. Hunched over a mojito and bucket of steamer clams, the Pants On Fire Detective Agency was born. Julianne, Kristen and Kari Larsen, (horse trainer, minister and irreverent baker) deliver a sizzling read and easy smile. Liar Liar is the first book in the Cat DeLuca mysteries. The sisters live in the Pacific Northwest and Chicago area and are currently at work on Cat’s next, most fabulous adventure.

Catch Up:
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Tour Participants:






Don't Miss this Snazzy Giveaway:

Open to US only

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for KJ Larsen & Poisoned Pen Press. There will be one winner of 1 Box of Poisoned Pen Press books including Bye, Bye Love by KJ Larsen. The giveaway begins on June 1st, 2015 and runs through June 3rd, 2015
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