Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Avalon by Anya Seton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Years ago I read two books by Anya Seton: Katherine and My Theodosia. I remember loving both of those and I'm currently working on my own novel set in tenth century Sweden and England. I decided to read Avalon partly as research and partly because I knew I would enjoy it. In my memory, the other two Seton novels were more powerful than this one, but that could be due to the span of years since I read them. In any case, this is a five star read.

The plot tells the story of Rumon, a French nobleman, and Merewyn, a young Cornish woman, whom we first meet as a teenager. Rumon, whose formal name is Romieux de Provence, is on his way to serve in the court of Edgar I, the current King of England. He encounters Merewyn, whose mother has just died. Rumon agrees to bring the young woman to her Aunt Merwinna, the current Abbess of Romsey Abbey.

As with Anya Seton's other novels, this is fiction based on historic fact. Many of the characters are historic figures. I believe Merewyn is fictional, but Rumon has some connection to a real character. The story also includes King Edgar I, King Edward (Edgar's son), Queen Alfrida, King Ethelred (Alfrida's son by Edgar – known as “the unready”), Dunstan (the Archbishop of Canterbury), Erik the Red, and Leif Erikson (Erik's son). The settings include England, Ireland, Greenland, and a brief stay in North America. The history of this era has conflicts and voids, but I felt that Anya Seton did an excellent job of resolving those. Avalon feels accurate in historic fact, portrayal of the hardships people faced at that time, and in the personalities of the characters, both fictional and real.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Defending Jacob takes place in a courtroom with a lawyer, Neal Logiudice, questioning a witness, Andy Barber, a former assistant district attorney. Barber's answers transition smoothly into the events that have led to his appearance on the stand. As a result, the plot has real time tension in both the present and the past. There were some cases where it was clear that Barber could not have revealed every detail of the story I was reading, but overall the technique worked well.

William Landay also writes excellent dialogue, filled with tension that creates a fast pace. That was another technique that helped me love this book.

Jacob Barber is the son of Andy and Laurie Barber. One of the students in Jacob's school has been found dead in a local park. When Jacob is accused of the murder, his mother and father have very different reactions. This is the strength of the book. It is less about the killing than it is about the trauma parents go through when their child is in trouble.

There are multiple plot twists in the story, which make it exciting and even a bit addicting. I was up at 2:00 AM one night, trying to reach a place where I could put the book down.

I recommend Defending Jacob to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

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

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Canoples Investigations Exposes Space Dodger release tour

Welcome to the Canoples Investigations Exposes Space Dodger release tour. This is the third novel and fourth story in this series. Strap on your restraints and be ready for an exciting ride… oh, once you have the book in hand, you will discover there’s a special added attraction—the first chapter of Secret Society: A Canoples Investigations Novella!


There’s a carnival on the station, with all kinds of “legally” cloned animals, more than a few zero-G acrobats, and miniature clowns. BD’s ever present suspicious mind latches onto one thing when the advance team for Galactic Carnival arrives to begin preparations for a weeklong visit. The ringmaster looks familiar, but the man swears that he has never been to Canoples Station before. Even worse, children five and under are disappearing. A bit of investigating on BD’s part clues him in to the fact this has happened on every station Galactic Carnival has visited so far. He’s determined to uncover the true identity of the ringmaster and solve the mystery of the missing children, but at what cost. Is BD willing to lose his lifelong friends to solve this case? Will they prove Jenna Rock, Wade’s girlfriend, isn’t involved?

About K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.


The normal sounds of the promenade seem wrong. I have a sensation of impending doom, much like the moments before the space pirates showed up. The desire to leap into action is very strong, so much so that I’m literally leaning forward with my fists clenched at my side.

Easy,” Carl murmurs. “You don’t know for sure it’s him.”

Of course, I know this man we’re watching is our quarry. How can I not know that? Not that his appearance is anywhere close to his daughter, who right now is aboard Fomalhaut for a very long stay. Erin Markus did lead Spacers Rule, a galaxy wide ring of splifters, but she wasn’t in charge.

Oh, no, she was far from in charge of those thieves. The person with that responsibility has just entered Canoples Station and is talking with none other than our less than ethical governor, but I have no definitive way of proving that.

Back off, BD,” Terry says in a low voice. “You can’t be sure, not with that man wearing what he is.”

Interview with the Author

Please tell us about your latest book.

Canoples Investigations Exposes Space Dodger is the fourth installment in the Canoples Investigations series. It’s a fast paced action/adventure science fiction book specifically for teens. In this book, BD Bradford and the team are split up, attempting to get the goods on a sketchy space circus owner. In usual Canoples Investigations style, they tend to dive in first and think later.

What can we expect from you in the future?

There are currently eleven books planned for this series, but that may change. I’ve begun developing short stories and novellas for the shorter adventures these characters dream up. Of course, all of this is done around the myriad of other books in my to-be-completed folder, but this series seems to take precedence over anything else.

How do we find out about you and your books?

You can find me on my Facebook fan page, website, blog, and Twitter. That is, when I’m not deeply immersed in my latest novel. Those days, very few people can locate me, including my family, but they’re used to that.

Interview with BD Bradford

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement? You mean like when I hung off a girder thirty-five hundred feet above the deck? Or maybe when I was chasing down space pirates? There was the time when I had to deal with a gang of splifters, Spacers Rule. I guess I can say that I have a lot of achievements and all of them are pretty much the same. The latest one, with the circus, forced me into a place I hate going, and I finally figured out that I can do a few things I’m always shoving onto the others. So, maybe learning how to research can be considered my greatest achievement, since I really hate sitting still. But don’t tell the rest of my crew that.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Well, if you’ve had a chance to check out my adventures, you probably already know this. My idea of perfect happiness is an unending supply of Gut Buster Deluxe Pizzas. Snorts. I can see from your expression that you have no clue what a Gut Buster Deluxe is. Let me explain.

See, you have a monumental pizza, big enough to feed a whole SpaceBall team. The crust is a bit thick but it has to be. Add a layer of sauce, not too much or everything will be soggy. Then drop on every meat, vegetable, and cheese known to the galaxy on top of that. Bake that baby until it’s done. You now have what is known as a Gut Buster. The deluxe part is really yum-yum. Grins wickedly. You ladle on some terrifically magnificent chili and sprinkle on a pound or more of grated cheese. Serve that sucker steaming hot to me and my buds, and step back. We are diving into that airlock and gobbling down a delight that will keeps our stomachs filled for an hour or two.

What is your current state of mind?

I’m good. Really good. Kind of between cases right now, but we’re heading out on our next one in a few days. Just have to stock up the flitter and make sure there’s nothing pressing on the station to deal with before we leave. Oh, yeah, and we’ll need to do some research on Believers and Founders first.

Social Media Links

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read novels by both Jane Austen and P. D. James, but it has been a while for both. Still, when I saw a Goodreads recommendation for Death Comes to Pemberley, I thought it would be an interesting read. It's a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and it's a murder mystery keeping with P. D. James' genre.

Sometimes when listening to an old Lennon/McCartney song, I find myself guessing whether it was John or Paul who wrote it. I did something similar when reading this book. I know P. D. James wrote the entire novel, but I wondered which sections she wrote with Jane Austen's style in mind and which ones show her own style exclusively. I would guess that the parts where the dispute between George Wickham and Fitzwilliam Darcy was described were Austen and the trial was mostly James. Those two guesses probably come from an oversimplification, but it was fun to think about when reading the novel.

Death Comes to Pemberley had some moments when the action slowed enough to start to lose me, but it came back. Yet, the trial was great and, unlike some of the other reviewers, I didn't figure out the mystery until P. D. James let me know. I think it's fun to find out what has happened to the Bennet sisters since we left them and it's always fun to read a good P. D. James novel.

I recommend this to readers who enjoy books set in the early 19th century and like mysteries. Much of Pride and Prejudice is about which young woman will end up with which young man. Although there's a little of that revolving around Georgiana Darcy, it isn't emphasized here. But the mannerisms, the style, and the morality of the time are all in this story.

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

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewing a book by Wallace Stegner is difficult, because a little research shows that he led an admirable life, dedicated to writing, history, and environmental activism. He won a Pulitzer in 1972 and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977. He also started and led an acclaimed writing program at Stanford University. But I'm not reviewing his life, I'm reviewing one specific book.

Crossing To Safety is my introduction to his writing and it left me feeling awe with some aspects and disappointment with others.

I love Stegner's writing. Here are some of my favorite metaphors/similes:

Meeting his eyes was like taking hold of a hot wire.
She's dividing herself like some inexhaustible Eucharist. She's going around to everybody she loves, saying. 'Take, eat, this is my body.'

Some of my favorite descriptions:

Her eyes were suspicious and pocketed in radiating wrinkles.
The skimpy whorl on the top of his tanned skull reminded me of something Lyle Lister had told me once, … that south of the Equator the crowns and cowlicks of the natives, like the whirlpools in bathtub drains, go counterclockwise, the opposite of the way they go up here.

Some of my favorite moments of self-examining thought:

Can I think of anyone in my whole life who I have liked without his first showing signs of liking me?
She saw objectives, not obstacles, and she did not let her uncomplicated confidence get clouded by other people's doubts, or other people's facts. Or even other people's feelings.

Despite my admiration for the writing, I found it easy to put the book down and was never excited to pick it up. Some of my reaction has to do with the plot. It is about relationships and how they weather life. It's the type of plot that has the reader thinking about what happened rather than wondering what will happen next. Another aspect that put me off a bit, was a pretentious feel in some of the dialogue. Larry Morgan and Sid Lang both taught in university liberal arts departments and were able to do some literary name dropping. Here's an example of that:

This door was yanked open, exposing the brilliantly lighted interior, and in the doorway stood – who? Theseus and Ariadne? Troilus and Criseyde? Rusian and Liudmila?

Maybe most readers would do better, but I only recognized 1 of those 3 couples, which I assume are all from classic poetry.

Crossing To Safety is about people who get less out of life than they expected, then, while looking back, become aware that they got more than they thought they had. I recommend it to people who like well written, introspective novels.

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

View all my reviews

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Maze Runner, #1 by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maze Runner is a YA sci-fi/survival book. Like so many recent YA books, it takes place in a dystopian society. Here a group of young boys have had their memories wiped and have been placed in a threatening environment by “The Creators.” Their goal is to escape, but, in the meantime, they have to survive, so they develop their own society through which they establish rules and find roles for everyone living there. Their society can be quite brutal.

The book begins with Thomas' arrival. We see this world through his point of view, so we have no idea where he is or where he came from. Thomas is what is called a “greenie,” which is a label for one of the last boys to arrive. Chuck, someone who had arrived a short time earlier, is assigned to Thomas to show him the ropes. Chuck, who is young and excitable, begins to admire Thomas' strength and bravery. It doesn't take long before the roles of leader and follower are flipped.

After Thomas begins to settle, another “greenie” arrives, but this time it's a girl. Here's where I see a weakness in the book. The only girl in the majority of the story is kept in a comma for a long time and, once she regains consciousness, adds a few memories and ideas, but is never a full partner in the search for a way to escape. I'm hoping Teresa becomes more important in the other books in the series, with feelings and goals of her own.

However, the minor boys are intriguing characters. These include Alby, the leader of the colony, Newt, Alby's second in command, and Minho, the leader of the runners. (The runners are the boys who leave the secure section in the middle of the colony to explore the dangerous mazes in the perimeter.) All these boys as well as Chuck have unique relationships with Thomas that keep the story interesting.

I listened to the audio of this book, read by Mark Deakins, and recommend that format. It would make a good listen for a family trip. The narration is done well and the YA plot is straight forward enough understand without any need to flip back and reread sections.

I have not watched the film version, but intend to.

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

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The concept behind Me Before You is simple, but brilliant. Louisa Clark is hired to take care of Will Traynor, a quadriplegic man, but she's not hired to take care of his medical needs or to help him with his bodily functions. She's hired because she's “chatty” and Will's mother, Camilla Traynor, is desperate to find someone who might touch aspects of her son's life that still have value. Although Louisa needs to know the routine of Will's meds and eventually has to learn how to give him bed baths and change his catheter, their story is primarily psychological and emotional rather than physical. It's the story of two people getting to know each other.

It helps that Louisa is someone with her own set of issues, someone who is resigned to living a life defined by the needs of her family rather than pursuing her own dreams. As the title indicates, the story is more about Louisa than it is about Will, but both characters change and grow throughout the book.

I listened to the audio and have to say that all the readers were good, but I was most impressed by Susan Lyons, the voice of Louisa. The book is primarily from her point of view, so she did most of the reading and had the character's gabby compensation for a lack of self confidence down pat.

I intend to see the movie soon. I only know Emilia Clarke through Game of Thrones, but think she will be perfect as Louisa. Although the roles are very different, a sense of strength through an aura of vulnerability is important to both.

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

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Debbie De Louise

Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceBetween a Rock and a Hard Place by Debbie De Louise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Debbie De Louise's new novel Between A Rock and a Hard Place is a great example of a “cozy mystery.” This type of novel is defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” Between A Rock and a Hard Place takes place in Cobble Cove, a small community that reminds me of Stars Hollow from the TV show Gilmore Girls, except when things go wrong in Cobble Cove they go REAL wrong.

De Louise spends the first part of her book establishing the warm and fuzzy atmosphere of life in Cobble Cove. Alicia, the main character, is a happily married mother of twin babies, Carol and Johnny. (The boy is named after Alicia's husband, John.) Alicia works as a librarian at Cobble Cove's public library where she has a good relationship with all her coworkers and a wonderful director, Sheila, who is as understanding as anyone can be about work/life balance. Sheila works the circulation desk if someone has a conflict and is not above bending the rules slightly to offer an employment opportunity to one of Alicia's friends. Alicia is leading as idyllic a lifestyle as is humanly possible, until she notices some odd, slightly frightening things happening in her community.

Between A Rock and a Hard Place is the second Cobble Cove mystery. There are a number of references to actions that took place in the first book, A Stone's Throw, but this novel can stand on its own. I haven't read the first and had no trouble understanding what led to the events in the second.

The mystery in De Louise's novel is good, with a horrible crime and enough possible suspects to keep the plot interesting, but the characters and community dominate the work. I would recommend Between A Rock and a Hard Place to readers who like their crime stories in gentle environments. It reminded me of a number of TV series I've enjoyed, including Murder She Wrote and Rosemary and Thyme.

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

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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 café. 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 https://sneakylibrarycat.wordpress.com.

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 Amazon.com. 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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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's SecretThe Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Husband's Secret focuses on three women and their families. The women are connected through St. Angelus elementary: Cecilia's daughter, Polly, attends there, Rachel is the school secretary, and Tess is transferring her son, Liam, to that same catholic school. These women each have an issue in their lives that is troubling them. Tess is going through marital problems, Rachel's son has told her he's moving halfway across the world and taking her only grandchild with him, and Cecilia has discovered a letter from her husband that is to be read only after his death.

The men in the novel are on the outskirts of the lives of the three main women. Cecilia seems to have a solid marriage, although, as the book goes on, she learns she doesn't know John-Paul as well as she thought she did. Rachel has spent years mourning a daughter, Janie, who was murdered when she was in high school. Her grief has kept her at a distance from her son, his fiance, and their child. And Tess learns something about her family that takes her by surprise and rocks her marriage. She keeps her husband, Will, out of her life as much as she can. Tess meets an ex boyfriend at St. Angelus and rekindles her relationship with him. Connor, the ex, is the most well written character among the men, but still not as emotionally clear as any of the three main women.

What makes this book a wonderful thriller, is the way Liane Moriarty reveals facts to some of the characters without revealing them to all. Because we readers know the secrets, we turn the pages in horror as characters act in ignorance. Another technique of Moriarty's is to mix the mundane with the alarming. Between school registration, an Easter hat parade, and planning for a pirate party, Moriarty gives us murder, betrayal, and a steady stream of lies. Once this novel gets going, it's hard to put down.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Miami Morning by Mary Clark

Miami MorningMiami Morning by Mary  Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miami Morning by Mary Clark is the story of an ordinary person, a teacher, Leila Payson, who finds a purpose that defines her life. The novel is exceptional in a number of areas, one of which is the beautiful way Clark describes Miami from the context of the issues on the narrator's mind. Here's an excerpt that is a good example of what I mean:

She trotted beside lacy borders of waves washing ashore, intoxicated by the sharp scent of iodine and mineral aroma of fresh-churned sand. The rolling waves made her think of the invisible waves that traveled between human beings and while the ocean waves were strong and substantial, and still carried an insistent power as they neared the shore, they were nothing compared to the magnificent intricacies and complexity of human interaction and communication. And we are only just beginning to learn how that works, Leila reminded herself.

When Leila started her career, she had her struggles. But she took advice that she needed and she grew from experience. By the time the story starts, she is considered one of the best teachers in her school by the critics who matter most, her students. One of those students, Raoul, begins to struggle in her class and Leila's life changes. Raoul is losing his hearing due to a genetic predisposition in his family. She supports him by trying to discover ways he can lead a normal life and by fighting the people who only want him to accept his limitations. Leila discovers through Raoul and through other friends that she can bring a sense of satisfaction to her life by helping the disabled find and maintain the value of their own lives.

As Leila discovers her calling, we get to meet her friends, to watch her weave her way through complicated romantic relationships, and to listen to her dealing with the frustrations in her career. But it is her discovery of purpose that brings magic to this novel. Leila is an ordinary person who learns to do extraordinary things and in the process our own understanding of issues concerning disabled people matures and grows.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 Despite My Brilliant Friend's prologue (which isn't resolved in this volume), the novel is not a book with a plot that captivates and I believe that's why it has received some fairly harsh reader reviews. But it has also received high levels of praise for its fully detailed characters. What My Brilliant Friend offers is an elaborate coming of age story about two young women who grow up in a working class neighborhood near Naples, Italy. Elena Greco, the narrator of the book, spends the vast majority of her words telling the readers about Lina Cerullo, her best friend. Readers get to know Elena through her thoughts and Lina through Elena's opinions of her friend. Sometimes Elena's views are a little off and we're surprised when Lina's dialogue reveals the truth. One example has to do with the novel's title. I won't say how.

The girls, who are in primary school when the book begins, are both extremely bright and very competitive as well as true confidants for each other, leading to a relationship that is a mixture of admiration and jealousy.

What I found most interesting was the part their environment played in their lives. Their culture was sexist and violent, but their families responded to that culture in different ways. For this reason, Elena had more opportunities than Lina and much of the story is about Lina's reaction to this situation.

My Brilliant Friend deals with problems all young woman face, with family, ambition, and sexuality, but also with issues unique to women living in a culture that doesn't respect them. In that sense, it reminds me of books such as The Blood of Flowers and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It's a perfect novel for someone who wants a book to make them think, but not for someone looking to get lost in a plot.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

 Life After Life is a unique book that makes its readers think.

It reads differently than most other novels. It isn't a reincarnation story, which I was led to believe by friends who know I write past life mysteries. Instead it is based on Eternalism which, according to Wikipedia, is ...the view that each spacetime moment exists in and of itself. But it differs from Eternalism because Ursula, the novel's main character, begins to feel déjà vu moments and causes events to change.

It took me more time to get into this book than any other I've read this year. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, it takes a little more than a third of the book before any of the characters begin to show a sense that things have happened before. Because of this, the story felt as if Kate Atkinson was repeating herself for no reason. Secondly, due to the repeating events, which occur with differences, it's hard to keep the flow of the plot straight. My wife and I like to tell each other what's happening in the novels we're reading. With Life After Life I kept relating events that happened, then the following day I would talk about other events which occurred because the prior events had NOT happen. Also, some characters were major in one life path and were barely mentioned in all the others.

Characters have to grow for any novel to be worth reading. As Life After Life progresses, Kate Atkinson solves this dilemma by placing the entry point of each of Ursula's stories later in her life. We get to see her as a child early on and, later, as a young woman. That works well, but implies that each life kept the changes that occurred in previous go rounds, which is odd if no one remembers what changes were made.

Life After Life is set during World War II and in the years leading up to that horrible period of world history. It has a subplot touching on some of the personal connections members of the English upper class had with Germany. This decision brings tension and tragedy into the work and keeps the pages turning. Yet in the end it is the philosophy and the thought stimulated by the philosophy which makes it a good read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

The Summer Before the WarThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Summer Before the War is the first Helen Simonson novel I've read, which puts me at odds with many of the other reviewers who came to this book after reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I liked Summer enough to read Pettigrew and I intend to do so soon. It took a while for me to get into the characters, but once I did, I loved them, especially Beatrice Nash.

The novel is about people trying to live their lives as best they can, finding the right mixture of selflessness and self interest. The Edwardian period in England was a time of change. It was still a society limited by a class system, but the working class was becoming more powerful and the suffragette movement was growing. Because of the setting it is natural that bigotry is a theme. The plight of an intelligent woman trying to live an independent life is important and so is the situation of people born into lower classes, in this case gypsies.

Beatrice, the daughter of a moderately successful writer, is a teacher with aspirations of following in her father's footsteps. However, there are plenty of narrow minded people who don't believe a woman should have any career, especially one requiring the expression of ideas. Meanwhile, her best student is Snout, a gypsy boy with a great gift for many subjects including Latin, which she teaches. He faces the same type of impediment, but for class rather than gender. The book also touches other serious issues I don't want to reveal in a review.

While dealing with the problems of the era in which she lives, Beatrice also deals with relationship issues. She starts out the book thinking she wants a life as a career oriented spinster. But that can't last because she's all too human. This is a wonderful book written about an interesting era and the problems of people who have to live in those interesting times. It's called The Summer Before the War, but the title is a bit deceptive. There are war scenes.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) is a novel I enjoyed. It's an interesting read and I can recommend it, but not to people looking for a good, traditional detective story.

The conclusion is convoluted with very few clues leading up to it. It feels as if Galbraith fabricated an elaborate ending because it was time to end the book rather than having the story unfold naturally. Also, the reason Cormoran Strike believes his client is innocent has no support within the narrative. I've read other crime stories where people act on gut feelings alone, but I don't think it's a good technique.

What makes up for these problems are the complex relationships among the characters. Robin and Matthew (her fiancé) have an interesting relationship because Robin's ambition is to become good at detective work, a dangerous occupation. She wants to help Strike in ways beyond answering his phone and recording his appointments. This presents a problem for Matthew who wants her out of harm's way. It's a great dilemma, because it's easy to see both sides and because it causes friction between Matthew and Strike.

Then there's the relationship between Leonora and Orlando, her special needs child. Leonora doesn't have much of a personality, but she comes alive when she deals with her daughter and it's beautiful to see.

Finally, there is the relationship between Strike and Alexander, his half brother. Al is the legitimate child, a fact which bothers Strike, but Al does everything he can to make their relationship work. And Strike's occupation leads to some tricky requests for favors.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Funny GirlFunny Girl by Nick Hornby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny Girl is a light, fun read about the production of a BBC comedy in the sixties. The focus is on the lives of the writers, producer, and actors of this fictional show: Barbara (and Jim). Very few scenes from the show are described, reminding me of the structure of the popular TV show 30 Rock.

The main character in the novel is an actress named Barbara whose agent convinces her to change her name to Sophie and is then cast to play a character named Barbara. This name shift seems to tie in with the way the TV actors begin to confuse the lives of their characters with their own, off camera lives. When I first saw the name of this novel and discovered it is about an actress named Barbara, I thought it would be about Barbara Streisand. It's not, unless there are some additional parallels I didn't catch.

Although Funny Girl is a light read, it touches on some serious subjects. Here's a quote from the wife of one of the writers, a bisexual man who is having some issues with his decision to lead a heterosexual life:

“It's funny, sex,” she said. “It's a little thing, like a glass of water is a little thing, or something that falls off a car and only costs a couple of bob to replace. It's only a little thing, but nothing works without it.”

One of the subplots of this novel is about the definition of success, specifically the difference between fame and serious art. I enjoyed Hornby's opinion on this subject and I agree with him, mostly.

However, it is the characters that I enjoyed the most. Barbara/Sophie thinks in a simple way that makes a great deal of sense. I loved that about her and I loved her relationships with her family and with her coworkers.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Rachael Tamayo, author of the new novel Chase Me due out soon from Solstice Publishing

I'm taking a break from my book reviews this week to write about a new friend, author Rachael Tamayo. Her novel Chase Me is coming out soon with Solstice Publishing. I'm looking forward to reading it along with the other books she's working on.

Rachael Tamayo

1. Tell Us a little about yourself.

My name is Rachael Tamayo. I’ve been married for 12 years and have a 3 year old son. I’ve lived in Texas all my life (dang it’s hot here!) and I’ve been writing off and on since childhood. I’ve always wanted to be an author. My mom loved to write too, but was too scared to go anywhere with it. I think it’s in my blood!

2. Is Writing your full time profession, or do you have a "day job?"

My dream is to be able to write full time, but as of right now, I am a police dispatcher and 911 operator. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and have won a few awards including Telecommunicator of the Year for my local department. I was nominated for the APCO/NENA Telecommunicator of the Year a few years back, and was honored even though I didn’t win. I write in my spare time. So when I’m not chasing a 3 year old, being a wife, working, doing Mom stuff and chores, I’m probably writing.

3. What is your book about?

 Glad you asked! Chase Me, book one in the romantic series, Friend-Zone. Adrienne Lawrence loves her friends. It seems, however, that she doesn’t get along with her family as well. One hot Texas summer, Adrienne manages to fall headfirst over her own big mouth when she lies to her Mom about a long term boyfriend in efforts to squelch her Mom’s nasty comments about having a date for a family wedding. Clint Montgomery, one of her best friends, kindly steps in agreeing to play the part of the devoted boyfriend during a week-long venue wedding across the country. After a week of pretend kisses and smoldering looks, the lines between what is fake and what is real seem to become fuzzy. The only problem is, Adrienne doesn’t want to become one of the women that Clint leaves in his wake, but fighting what she’s feeling is becoming almost impossible. Chase me is in the editing process and will be released later this year.

4. What is your current project?

I’ve been editing books two and three In the Friend-Zone series. I’m currently drafting a new book, called Crazy Love. It’s a stand alone romantic suspense. Emily Bronte is a young Pharmacist that has an over enthusiastic customer, Noah Burrell. He comes to see her every day at work and gives her the creeps every time she see’s him. Then there is Isaiah Penrose. He’s a detective for a local police department and the duo (Isaiah and Emily) had an unforgettable one night stand months before that neither of them forget. When they cross paths again, things heat up rapidly. Unfortunately, things with Noah start to get freaky weird and it becomes a scary game of life and death.

5. What is your process?

Does your mood/location have to be specific or can you write anywhere and anytime? I can write anyplace, anytime. I can write in my phone, in downtime at work, at home, anywhere. I do get inspired by music a lot. If I hear the right song, it sends my imagination into overdrive and feeds my creativity.

6. What do you read?

I read a few different Things. I’ve been known to read Young Adult, Crime novels, mysteries, Romance, Thrillers, and a Paranormal here and there.

7. Whats the last book you read?

The last book I read was Hearts in Darkness, by Laura Kaye. It’s a Romance, Novellette, and it’s a sweet and sexy story of a guy and a girl that get trapped in an elevator in the dark together for hours. I just started to read The Girl in the Ice, by Robert Bryndza, a Serial Killer thriller.

8. How can readers find you?
My website and blog:




Google + :

9. Where can people buy your books?

Stay tuned for details. My short story, The Stones is coming out June 21 in the Solstice Publishing’s Summer Anthology. Check my pages above for details on release and for links.

10. Anything you'd like to add?

For aspiring authors, don’t give up. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep getting that feedback from your critique groups and beta readers, even if it hurts. It makes you better. Everything you write makes you better. Don’t give up.