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 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.