Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wynfield's Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary

Wynfield's KingdomWynfield's Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wynfield's Kingdom is subtitled A Tale of the London Slums, which is true for most of the book, but the novel also presents an interesting look at the upper classes in nineteenth century England. Wynfield is introduced to readers as a young orphan, who has been viciously beaten by members of a local gang. He had been a member of that gang, but had turned on them for a number of reasons, including his desire to save a little girl. This frail girl had been selected by the leader of the gang to be sold into a situation which would have killed her.

Wynfield and Diana, the girl he saved, are adopted by Tom Grant, a former surgeon turned barkeep. As they grow older, Wynfield rises to power in the Bermondsey slum while Diana takes on more and more radical ideas. Wynfield's friends call him the King of Bermondsey and he refers to Diana as his queen.

Wynfield is raised in the slums, but has an interest in literature that is not shared by most of the others around him. He is particularly fond of one French writer in particular. Here's how he explains his fascination to his adopted father.

“Dr. Grant, you wonder why I inhale Victor Hugo's writings? My life practically mirrors his plots. I could easily be one of his characters. I drink seawater like Han of Iceland, swing my axe like Cromwell, sing like Hernani and write poems like Gringoire. Hugo doesn't merely justify rebels. He glorifies them.”

Wynfield is right. The most obvious argument for his life mirroring a Hugo plot is his interest in Diana, a waif who could have easily been found in a Hugo novel. M.J. Neary's prose in Wynfield's Kingdom seems modeled after Victor Hugo. The story is long and winding with lots of coincidences, which is typical of nineteenth century writing, and the characters are all larger than life. Also, there is a supreme romanticism to the story.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War before I read her debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and had a similar reaction to both books. It took me a while to get into the stories, but once I did, I loved them. Simonson reveals her characters slowly. They not only grow throughout the book, but their true natures come out at a pace that causes the reader's perception of them to change. Either type of change is just as real.

In Major Pettigrew's Last Stand we are presented with a pompous, retired soldier, who demonstrates a shallow nature when his brother, Bertie, dies. Pettigrew focuses his concern on the acquisition of a gun he wants reunited with his own Churchill rifle. He wants to create a pair he can show off to his upper class, hunting buddies. But as his friendship with Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow, strengthens, the quality of his morality and empathy begins to show.

Although the relationship between Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali is at the core of the story, there are a number of other subplots, which all keep the pages turning. Major Pettigrew has a son, Roger, who is aggressive in his real estate career, while the Major is someone who wants things to remain the same as long as possible. There's a subplot involving the rifles and a disagreement with Bertie's widow about what should be done with this valuable inheritance. And Mrs. Ali is also at the center of a story about her relationship with her late husband's family. The result is a complex plot with plenty of important choices the characters must act on. It's a hard book to put down.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Interview with Debbie De Louise - author of BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Hi Debbie. I'm excited about BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE and looking forward to talking to you about it, but before we talk about your new book, I'd like to know why you write. Is it a job for you? Do you love the process? Or is there something else that motivates you?

I enjoy writing, although I admit it the editing and promotion aren’t easy. It is all worth it, though, when you see your “baby” book finally delivered. It’s also very motivating when you receive good reviews and comments from readers.

Do you have specific readers in mind when you write, such as friends or family? Or a specific group of people, such as women readers?

No, I can’t say that I have any particular group in mind. I assume my cozy mystery writing will appeal to women of a more mature age, but what I write is what I feel. Since I write different types of books, I’m sure they will appeal to different audiences.

When did you first start writing fiction and what got you started?

I’ve been asked this question before, and I always say that I’ve been writing since I learned how. Recently, I came across some old material from my college days back in the 80’s. I had written complete manuscripts in notebooks and typed some of them on an electronic typewriter. As I look through it, I realize that the material is amateurish because I’ve grown as a person and a writer since then, but I may put some of it on computer one day and edit it As far as how I actually got started writing, it was a creative and much enjoyable hobby since childhood. I was a great reader, and I was motivated by the authors I read. It was my dream to publish one day, and I am thrilled that I have achieved that goal.

Do you write novels only or do you also write other forms such as short fiction or poetry?

I write articles and short stories in addition to novels. I’ve been published in pet magazines in print and online and am a member of the Cat Writer’s Association. I also have several short stories in anthologies ranging from mystery to science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Is it hard to find the time and the discipline for your writing?

To a degree. I’m an early riser, and I find it more productive for me to carve out an hour or so to write or edit in the morning before I have to get ready for my full-time job. However, I also like to exercise early and then there are emails and other social media and marketing stuff to deal with, so I sometimes have to move some things to after work. Generally, I am too tired to do much work at night. My husband is understanding of the time I need to write, but I try to find time to also spend with my family. My daughter is nearly a teen, so she is more independent now and that makes it a bit easier.

Do you outline your books first or do you let your plots come to you along the way?

I start with an idea for the plot and characters, but they grow and change as I write. I keep very minimum outlines, usually just brief character sketches. Most of it is in my mind and, as I explained, I let the writing flow without major editing until I’m done. It’s a somewhat subconscious method but very creative, and I often surprise myself with the results.

Do you revise much?

Absolutely. I could edit forever, but I do keep the basic characters and plot. I just clean up and tighten things, add research, fact check, etc.

Do your characters ever change your stories in ways you hadn't expected?

All the time. I ended up murdering the person I had chosen to be the killer in one book, but it worked out as a nice plot twist. I write character-driven plots, so my characters definitely lead my stories.

Are your characters drawn from people you know?

Yes and No. I feel a bit of me is in each character, and some have similarities to people I have known, but most of them are unique.

What are your favorite novels/authors and how have they influenced your writing?

I used to read a lot of cozy mysteries and other series especially those featuring cats. I loved Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie books and Shirley Murphy Rouseeau’s Joe Grey mysteries. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I went through a gothic romance stage where I read Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and other authors who were popular at that time. Now I read a variety of different books by debut as well as popular authors. My favorite current authors are Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Mary Higgins Clark. I look for books that are suspenseful, include a nice romance and also a good twist, and basically those are the types of books I like to write.

If you could put a famous literary character in one of your novels, who would it be? And why?

Maybe Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I loved that movie and book and read all the Oz books as a child. Dorothy is a real explorer. All characters in my book take journeys, whether they are physical or emotional ones and they usually find the answers within themselves, as Dorothy did. I don’t know if her appearing in an adult novel would work, but I like her spunk and determination which matches Alicia’s.

Your books are “cozy” mysteries. What drew you to that genre?

Not all my books are cozies. My self-published book is a paranormal romance, and I just finished writing a psychological thriller. However, I enjoy writing cozies because I like including pets, especially cats in my books. I also don’t feel comfortable writing extremely violent or explicit sex scenes.

Tell us a little about your newest book. First, what's the title.

My second Cobble Cove mystery is called BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE.

Tell us something about the plot, without spoilers, of course.

The book picks up two years after the first one but can be read as a standalone. It takes place in December, and I include some holiday scenes. I also include three crimes; burglary, kidnapping, and murder. It’s the reader’s job to solve them and enjoy some of the cozy scenes such as a library cat story time and a visit to a cat cafĂ©. Some of the story takes place in New York City near the holidays, but most of it takes place in quaint Cobble Cove. The main characters from the first book, A STONE’S THROW, are included, but I have added some additional ones such as two college students, several younger children, and baby twins.

Who is your favorite character in BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE and why do you like him or her?

I like all my characters, but there are a few, besides Alicia and John, who I think really stand out. I find Pamela is intriguing because she’s not your typical wealthy woman. She’s very generous, and she has a wide variety of interests. I also especially like Mac. He’s wise but old-fashioned, and I love his sayings. Gilly is outspoken and a lot of fun. She’s a perfect friend for Alicia. Although Sneaky, the cat, and Fido, the dog, play minor roles in both Cobble Cove mysteries and are depicted as pets without human characteristics or voices, Sneaky has recently created his own blog that can be viewed at

On the flip side, who is your least favorite character in BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE and why don't you like him or her?

That would definitely be the killer/kidnapper for obvious reasons, but I don’t want to give that person away.

Is BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE part of a series? If so, can we expect more to follow?

Yes, it’s the second book of my Cobble Cove mysteries, although each book can be read as a standalone. I am hoping to write at least two more of them, but it depends on how they are received and if I get caught up on other projects.

Thank you so much for visiting with us on my blog. BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE sounds like a wonderful book. Before you go, please tell us where it can be purchased?

The eBook can be purchased free on Kindle Unlimited or for $4.99 on The print copies can be purchased on Amazon as well as other online sellers. (click here for the Kindle version and here for the print version.)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In Search of the Golden City by Mia Lutsch

In Search of the Golden CityIn Search of the Golden City by Mia Lutsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Search of the Golden City is an interesting novel written in the style of mythic fiction. The form is established in the fist six sentences: “He was born in a cave. The owl watched intently as it heard the mother crying out in pain. From inside flowed multitudes of color as the new being came into life. The owl knew that the new one would be a listener and a seer. He would have the power to change people's minds. Knowing this, the owl called its brother the eagle who took upon itself the task of protecting the newcomer.”

The story is the tale of Akim , a peasant who leaves home to learn the trade of furniture manufacturing. Akim apprentices with a hermit named Asteodor, whose teaching goes way beyond carpentry. Among other lessons he imparts, he tells Akim that “...everything is alive. Nature always talks to you, but you have to learn how to communicate with her if you want her to assist you. The second thing that you must always remember is that life gives you back what you put into it.”

Akim continues to learn from Asteodor and to use his own special abilities to help others, until his reputation grows to the point when he is called on to help the king of the land. When he falls in love with someone above his station, the two young people must search for “The Golden City” to find a place where their love can thrive. They travel in three ways, physically, through dreams, and in trances, yet all their journeys hold equal weight – and danger.

The short biography in the “About the Author” section at the end of her book, expresses well why this book is fascinating. “Experiences early in Mia's life have led her to search for true healing. In the process she discovered the shamanic way: a relationship with the essence of all things. In the worlds that opened up to her through shamanism, she found the stories of the unconscious that often take expression in myths. Through her writing she hopes to give the reader access to these otherworldly realms.”

Although the plot is important, in this type of book the real substance is found by considering the lessons the characters learn on their journey and by looking at their experiences as metaphors. Mia Lutsch hints at this when she says, “All the central parts of his being – his heart, his mind, his body, and most importantly, his will – felt cloudy and blocked as he fought the metaphorical demons.”

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Connections by Steve Bederman FREE October 1st - 5th

Even when he’s hidden away trouble inevitably finds Mitch Jacobs. In his life he has known incredible highs and demoralizing lows; those from his personal failings so evident in his life and while building his company. In spite of this, starting with a simple idea, he has grown Symbiotic Technologies to a position as a world leader.
He believes that what he has gained versus what, and who, has been lost has been a poor trade.
Mitch has become reclusive, living deep in the Colorado mountain backwoods with his wife who was the former President of Colombia. Since he handed over the company to his employees there has finally been relative peace and safety.
In this, CONNECTIONS, the fourth book of the series, the reader travels from Colorado, to Quebec, Colombia, and to Washington DC; The White House. His beautiful wife, Pilar Reyes Cruz, finally goes home to the land where she once was elected as the first female president of this machismo country. She is still recognized throughout the world for the salvation of her troubled people and, as many believe, the future of all of Latin America.
There is no running from lust, and love, and business, and negotiation. Terrorism can show its ugly face at any moment and in many forms. Seemingly disparate events are all connected. Whether Pilar regains her purpose and Mitch refocuses on running one of the most passionate and inventive technology corporations in the world, are but two of the many questions left to answer. The US President, the King of England, the President of Colombia, and the world’s back alley power brokers all converge into Mitch Jacob’s continuum of CONNECTIONS.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Brothers' Keepers by Matthew Peters

The Brothers' KeepersThe Brothers' Keepers by Matthew Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Brothers' Keepers is a fast-paced thriller about a race to find someone named Jezebel, who has great significance to the Christian faith. Matthew Peters' novel pits an American president, two factions of the Catholic Church's hierarchy, and the remnants of a Christian movement from the thirteenth century known as the Cathars, against each other, all in pursuit of Jezebel.

Nicholas Branson, the main character in the novel, is in training to become a priest. He's also an expert on Christian history, which has made him an important person to all the forces in search of the critical document. Branson teams up with Jessica Jones, a woman he meets in the reading room of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. They set out together to find Jezebel.

Although the pace of the writing alone makes this book a worthwhile read, the two aspects I found the most fascinating were :

1. The Cathars and their beliefs. I had never heard of this movement. They believed in both God and Satan and attributed the creation of the material world to Satan. They believed the path to God was found in the renunciation of all material things.
2. The book presents a view of the apostles much different than anything I've ever thought about. To avoid spoilers, I won't say more than that, but I will say the book made me think and I love that in any novel.

The Brothers' Keepers starts with multiple murders and never slows down. There are gun fights, car chases, and dangerous journeys to treacherous places around the world. It's an exciting and fun read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, and Hopatcong Vision Quest

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Friday, September 2, 2016

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh emphasizes the idea in the novel that is catchy enough to draw readers. I didn't know meanings were assigned to flowers in nineteenth century England and America before I read this book and I appreciated what I learned about this interesting part of our past. While reading the story, I went out to a few websites to see if this fact was real or fiction, and it is real.

The main story in the novel is about a person, rather than a secret language. It's about Victoria, a naive, uniformed girl who is totally unprepared to make her way in the world. The narrative bounces back and forth between her life as a foster child at age 10 and her life after she's aged out of the system at 18. Much of what happens to Victoria after she's a young woman is predetermined by what happened to her as a child. So telling the story in this non-linear way reveals her background slowly and keeps the suspense well.

Victoria has a hard life, but some things work out for her. She is placed in the home of a woman who owns a vineyard. This woman, Elizabeth, has also had a hard life and understands Victoria's behavior in ways others can't. It is Elizabeth who teaches Victoria about the language of flowers. Later, at age 18, Victoria takes a job working for a florist, Renata, who also turns out to be a caring person.

The theme of The Language of Flowers can best be summed up by this quote from the book: Perhaps the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved, could grow to give love as lushly as anyone else.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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