Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Spotlight: The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (January 28, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 038553762X
ISBN-13: 978-0385537629

Monday, January 20, 2014

First Chapter Review: The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

I purchased the third book in Karen White's Tradd Street series over a year ago with some gift cards I received. The first two books in this series captivated me, so I was eager to read this one; but I was so far behind in reviews when the book came out, I declined taking it on when the publicist offered it to me for review. This is one of the books I want to read soon, especially since the fourth book in the series, Return to Tradd Street, came recently.

BLURB:  Psychic realtor Melanie Middleton is still restoring her Charleston house and doesn't expect to have a new houseguest, a teen girl named Nola. But the girl didn't come alone, and the spirits that accompanied Nola don't seem willing to leave...

COVER: Like all of the books in this series, a house graced with Southern charm and elegance is featured on the cover. And if you know anything about this series, that charm and elegance belies the evil spirits hidden inside. This cover is a bit darker than the others, so it adds to the ominous feel.

FIRST CHAPTER: Melanie is awoken early one morning to find writer Jack Trenholm on the doorstep of her Tradd Street home--the one still being restored and costing her tons of money. He has not come alone, however. His estranged daughter, Nola, is with him. Still working through the challenges of becoming an instant father, he begs Melanie to allow Nola to stay with her over the summer.

KEEP READING: Yes, yes, yes! Why haven't I made room to read this book before now? All the things I love about this series are present from the very first words of The Strangers on Montagu Street. Immediately hooked, the mystery, conflict, and hint of the spirits that will arrive later are all here. White has the uncanny ability to draw you in immediately and not let you go. I'm sure this will be the case again if the story continues along the same vein.

If you love paranormal stories and are captivated by Southern living, you won't want to miss this one.

Series: Tradd Street (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451235266
ISBN-13: 978-0451235268

I purchased this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Spotlight: In Retrospect by Ellen Larson

Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.

The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders.

Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.

Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history.

As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity? Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane.

In Retrospect is a good old-fashioned whodunit set in a compelling post-apocalyptic future.

Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. She is editor of the Poisoned Pencil, the YA mystery imprint. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.

Visit her at http://www.inretrospectbook.com.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, January 13, 2014

First Chapter Review: The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

I received a digital copy of this book through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

BLURB:  Love Miss Marple? Adore Holmes and Watson? Professor Morley's guide to Norfolk is a story of bygone England: quaint villages, eccentric locals—and murder …

It is 1937, and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where "intelligence is essential," he eagerly applies.

Thus begins Sefton's association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley's latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county.

They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church's bell rope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the reverend really take his own life, or is there something darker afoot?

A must-read for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Charles Todd, this novel includes plenty of murder, mystery, and mayhem to confound.

COVER: The cover attracted me to the book in the first place. Then when I read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it. The color scheme of this cover, the quaint setting, and the flash of a red car all make this a winning cover in my book.

FIRST CHAPTER: The reader meets narrator, Stephen Sefton, who sets the stage for the story he is about to tell and what brought him to meet Professor Swanton Morley.

KEEP READING: While I don't mind a steady paced mystery or a slowly developing one, the  first chapter of The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom is all backstory, setting the stage so the reader gets to know Sefton better. It's not my favorite way to start a book. One can't deny Sefton is an interesting narrator; and perhaps as the story moves along and Sefton and Professor Morley are deep into the mystery, all the backstory will turn out necessary. Right now, however, I'm considering how far away I am from getting into the thick of things.

I've continued with The Norfolk Mystery out of curiosity. Right now I'm close to the end of Chapter Four. Each chapter has revealed just a tiny bit more of the prequel to the mystery: Sefton's interview with Morley, which leads to their working together, the popularity of Morley who is also known as The People's Professor, and Sefton's journey to meet up with Morley in Holt to start his new job. Just like I found in A Place to Die by Dorothy James, the author spends a good deal of time shaping his characters and allowing the readers to get to know them well. That's a plus for character-driven readers such as myself. I'm just hoping the death of the vicar comes along soon so that the mystery gets the attention for a while. I think once that happens, I'll be turning the pages quickly.

Book Details:
Genre: Mystery/Detective
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 11/12/2013
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 9780062320803

Purchase from Amazon of Barnes and Noble.

I received a digital version of this novel from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Interview with James Hayman, Author of Darkness First

Like his fictional hero, Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe, James Hayman is a native New Yorker. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan.  He was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA and at Brown University.  After Brown, he returned to New York and took a job as a cub copywriter for one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, Young & Rubicam.  For the next twenty-five years he wrote and produced print and television advertising for clients like the US Army, Time Magazine and Ford.  He left the agency business in 2001 and, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, moved to Portland, Maine to begin a new career as a freelance writer. For the next five years he wrote literally hundred of articles, white papers, marketing brochures and two coffee-table books for corporate clients. In 2006, noticing more than a little gray hair, he decided to scratch a lifelong itch and try his hand at writing fiction. His first McCabe/Savage thriller, The Cutting, was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in 2009.  Darkness First from Harper Collins new Witness/Impulse imprint is his third novel.  He lives in Portland with his artist wife, Jeanne O’Toole Hayman.

You can learn more about James at his website:  www.jameshaymanthrillers.com
You can also go to the James Hayman Thrillers facebook page www.facebook.com/jameshaymanthrillers
His blog, Musings of a Murderous Mind, can be found on his website and two or three times a month at www.mainecrimewriters.com

When did you begin writing?

I’ve always been a writer.  As a child I spent a lot of time in my room making up imaginary stories.  Sometimes I wrote them down, sometimes not.  I did a lot more writing in high school and college and when I graduated from Brown I looked for a job with a company that would actually pay me to write.  I found one as a copywriter with a large advertising agency. 

What is this book about?

Darkness First is a story about a young woman named Tiff Stoddard who is just a little too eager get rich quick.  She makes a deal with the devil… a sociopathic drug dealer named Conor Riordan…to help him smuggle a massive quantity of illegal prescription drugs by sea from Canada into Washington County, Maine.  When Tiff finally realizes just how dangerous Riordan is, she tries to break away from him and takes with her what she thinks is “only her fair share” of the haul.  Riordan disagrees. He tracks her down and takes sadistic pleasure in killing her as brutally and painfully as he can.  In the process, he critically injures a local doctor who just happens to be Portland PD detective Maggie Savage’s oldest and dearest friend. When Maggie hears about her friend’s injuries she heads downeast to Washington County to help the Maine State Police and her father, the 4 term Sheriff of Washington County, track down the brutal killer.

What inspired you to write it?

My first two books, The Cutting and The Chill of Night, were set in Portland and featured Maggie’s partner, Detective Sergeant Mike McCabe.  I wanted to write a story with Maggie as the key protagonist and I thought it would be fun to set it outside of the Portland area in a rural part of the state. When I read about the epidemic of illegal prescription drugs in Washington County, I had the seed of the idea.  When I interviewed a Maine Drug Enforcement agent who told me the DEA’s worst nightmare would be the smuggling of Oxycontin by boat from Canada into Maine, I just took it from there.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

I have a major crush on Maggie.  My wife isn’t even jealous as she can deal with fictional fantasies. In any case, I really enjoyed telling the tale from Maggie’s point of view.  My other favorite character in the book is eleven-year-old Tabitha Stoddard, who is the semi-fat and wholly nerdy little sister of the slain Tiffany Stoddard.  Since Tabitha is the only person who can identify Conor Riordan, when she disappears, Maggie knows she must find the child before the killer does.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Amazingly smooth.  When I finished my first thriller, The Cutting, I sent it to exactly one agent, a woman named Meg Ruley who represents some of the top mystery and thriller writers including names like Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner.  Meg loved the book and agreed to represent me.  Within weeks, we’d sold The Cutting, in a two book deal, to St. Martin’s/Minotaur.  For the third book, Darkness First, we decided to change publishers and agreed to become the lead title for Harper Collins’ new ebook first Witness/Impulse imprint. 

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

At the moment, it’s only available as an ebook for an introductory price of $2.99.  Readers can download Darkness First on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo and any other tablet or smart phone device.  Using Amazon’s Kindle app, it can also be downloaded on to PC’s and Macs.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Read a lot.  Write a lot––every day if you possibly can.  And don’t listen to that little critical voice inside your head that keeps telling you that what you’re writing is crap.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it’s not. But wait for several qualified agents or editors to tell you that.

What is up next for you?

I’m working on the 4th McCabe/Savage thriller. No title yet. But it’s set back in Portland.  Number 4 tells the story of two identical murders in the same family that take place more than one hundred years apart. Scenes that take place in the Portland of 1904 are my first stab at what might be called historical fiction.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Spotlight: Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

My name is Dr. Adeline Glen. Due to a genetic condition, I can’t feel pain. I never have. I never will.

The last thing Boston Detective D.D. Warren remembers is walking the crime scene after dark. Then, a creaking floorboard, a low voice crooning in her ear… She is later told she managed to discharge her weapon three times. All she knows is that she is seriously injured, unable to move her left arm, unable to return to work.

My sister is Shana Day, a notorious murderer who first killed at fourteen. Incarcerated for thirty years, she has now murdered more people while in prison than she did as a free woman.

Six weeks later, a second woman is discovered murdered in her own bed, her room containing the same calling cards from the first: a bottle of champagne and a single red rose. The only person who may have seen the killer: Detective D.D. Warren, who still can’t lift her child, load her gun, or recall a single detail from the night that may have cost her everything.

Our father was Harry Day, an infamous serial killer who buried young women beneath the floor of our home. He has been dead for forty years. Except the Rose Killer knows things about my father he shouldn’t. My sister claims she can help catch him. I think just because I can’t feel pain, doesn’t mean my family can’t hurt me.

D.D. may not be back on the job, but she is back on the hunt. Because the Rose Killer isn’t just targeting lone women; he is targeting D.D. And D.D. knows there is only one way to take him down:

Fear nothing.

Series: Detective D. D. Warren
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0525953086
ISBN-13: 978-0525953081

Monday, January 6, 2014

Interview with Kurt D. Stradtman, Author of Transcendence: A Novel

Kurt D. Stradtman, author of "Am I The Person My Mother Warned Me About?" and "Transcendence" is a certified Law of Attraction Advanced Practitioner and becoming a board certified Holistic Life Coach. Stradtman's considered a psychic medium by some, which is not far from the truth. Embracing his ability to deliver messages from departed loved ones and deliver detailed psychic readings for clients, might make Stradtman a legit Psychic Medium. However you want to label it, Stradtman's number one mission in life is to help others find and maintain their inner peace and unblock their spiritual and emotional pathways.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing several years ago in college. A blog that I kept while in college documenting haphazard events in my life became a well received blog, and followers encouraged me to compile them into a manuscript. I decided to self-publish the work under the name of "Am I The Person My Mother Warned Me About?" which was a satirical memoir. Shortly after "Am I?" was released, I began blogging more and then began writing my current novel, Transcendence, which took about two years.

What is this book about?

The book, metaphysical and mysterious, surrounds five main characters in their mid-thirties. Leo and his twin sister Jade were abandoned by their mother weeks after they were born, so they never had a relationship with her. They were raised by their geology professor father, Dr. Gus, who always took Leo and Jade on his excursions because he had this crazy thought that certain geologic formations were wormholes to other planes of existence, however, nobody received his claims with any academic merit. Leo's longtime partner, Eric, broke up with him while the both were living in Atlanta, GA. Depressed, Leo decided to visit his twin sister and brother-in-law in Jacksonville, Fl. Little does Leo know that his decision to visit his twin would change his life forever. While in Jacksonville, Leo meets a strange woman name Mystere (A play off of Mystery), who brings together Leo and five others who are destined to make up a secret coven protecting a sacred text forged in the heavens, called The Book of Transcendence. The coven learns that they must jeopardize their own life in order to protect the book from falling into the hands of "The Dark Ones." A decision that they don't know if they are ready to take on. The coven will have to realize that battling and dealing with their own internal demons is the first step before they can even consider protecting the book.

What inspired you to write it?

The book's main idea originally came to me in a dream, believe it or not, a couple of years ago. With my own research of metaphysics, the plot was coming together more and more. A friend of mine in New Mexico provided some personal channellings that allowed more metaphysical facts and research to be added in and give the novel a more "historical" approach.

What will readers enjoy about this book?

Transcendence contains everything from romance to mystery to historical fact. It doesn't single out that one culture is wrong, or another is right. There are some scenes that are edge of your seats, with several plot twists embedded throughout. It surrounds the idea that there is a constant real-world battle against good and evil, but because it is so "real-world" that's what makes it even more frightening. It's a much needed break from traditional YA novels, but yet could be read and appreciated by anyone between 21 and 60.

What makes your book different from others on the market?

I think that readers will enjoy the fact that the novel surrounds witches and covens, which is the next anticipated market (i.e. Vampires, Werewolves, etc.) Also, the main characters are in their mid-thirties, which creates a nice break compared to the traditional Young Adult fantasy novels. I think the main difference that sets the book apart is even though there is the beloved "blossoming romance" that we all look for, especially in witch or vampire novels, the romance is between two guys, which isn't seen that often. Fortunately, with the progression of human rights, this will become a more common element in novels.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The book is available for purchase at your favorite eBook outlet (Starting December 2013), and could be purchased on Amazon.com or my website at www.kurtstradtman.com (OR your other favorite online bookseller).

What’s up next for you?

I have intention of Transcendence to become a trilogy. Right now, having just gotten certified as a life coach, I will continue focusing my time and energy on my blog and life coaching.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

First Chapter Review: Dead Man's Time by Peter James

Though books of this nature tend to be favorites of mine, I simply couldn't work this one into my review schedule; so I agreed to a first chapter review of Dead Man's Time, which is the latest book in the series. I received the first two chapters from the author's publicist because they are each only one page.

BLURB:  In Dead Man's Time, the latest from international bestselling author Peter James, Roy Grace finds himself up against that most dangerous of all adversaries—a man with fury in his heart who has nothing to lose.

New York, 1922. Five-year-old Gavin Daly and his seven-year-old sister, Aileen, are boarding the SS Mauretania to Dublin—and safety. Their mother has been shot and their Irish mobster father abducted. Suddenly, a messenger hands Gavin a piece of paper on which are written four names and eleven numbers, a cryptic message that will haunt him all his life, and his father's pocket watch. As the ship sails, Gavin watches Manhattan fade into the dusk and makes a promise, that one day he will return and find his father.

Brighton, 2012. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace investigates a savage burglary in Brighton, in which an old lady is murdered and £10m of antiques have been taken, including a rare vintage watch. To Grace’s surprise, the antiques are unimportant to her family—it is the watch they want back. As his investigation probes deeper, he realizes he has kicked over a hornets nest of new and ancient hatreds. At its heart is one man, Gavin Daly, the dead woman’s ninety-five-year-old brother. He has a score to settle and a promise to keep—both of which lead to a murderous trail linking the antiques world of Brighton, the crime fraternity of Spain’s Marbella, and New York.

Roy Grace, in a race against the clock to stop another killing, has met his most dangerous adversary yet.

COVER: I've posted both. The first one is from the paperback version. The other is from the hardcover and Kindle versions. While the first one seems to capture the British coast, the other appears to focus on the watch and the race against time. While I like both covers, I much prefer the color scheme and overall look of the latter.

FIRST CHAPTER: Our story opens in Brooklyn in 1922. A young boy awaits his father's arrival at bedtime. They share the same routine they do every night, not knowing how things are about to change.

SECOND CHAPTER: Four drunk men with murder on their minds make their way down the cobblestone street.

KEEP READING: Yes, especially because I want to see how quickly the modern-day story is introduced. The first two chapters unfold the story taking place in New York in 1922, so I haven't met the main character yet. That can be risky when trying to connect a reader to the MC, but it's not unusual in mystery and crime fiction for the crime to come first and then the detective makes his way on the scene later.

I liked the tenderness of the first chapter's interaction between the boy and his father. It helps you to feel sorry for what you know is coming based upon the blurb. The only thing I didn't care for is the people aren't given names. The third person narrator calls them "the boy" and "the boy's father." Other than the pet names of "little guy" and "big guy" that they have for each other, they aren't identified. That's off-putting to me. Perhaps it's intentional, to make it seem like this could be a tender moment between any boy and his father; but I didn't care for it.

This looks like it will be a nail-biter.

Series: Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Book 9)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (October 15, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250030188
ISBN-13: 978-1250030184

I received the first two chapters of this novel from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Chapter Review: The Seacrest by Aaron Paul Lazar

When I heard Aaron Paul Lazar was releasing a romantic suspense novel, I signed up for his book tour right away. I've enjoyed his mysteries, so I knew I wanted to keep up to date on the new books this author has available.

BLURB:  They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him, just before being sent to boarding school. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family at the same time it takes the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

COVER: Horses and Cape Cod. Does it get any better? The golden colors on this cover make it eye-catching, as does the darker golden color of the script font. All covers should be this nice.

FIRST CHAPTER: The story opens in present day when Finn McGraw receives news that throws his life into chaos.

KEEP READING: Oh, my gosh, yes. From the minute Finn steps on the scene, which is the first sentence, I knew I would keep going. Lazar paints that awful moment when Finn watches the police cruiser drive up The Seacrest's driveway until it stops ten feet in front of him. And then the delivery of the horrible news comes, followed by Finn's dazed reaction to it all. I was there, holding my breath, as I felt and lived it all with Finn; knowing I need to learn the rest of his story.

File Size: 439 KB
Print Length: 286 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming releases THE SEACREST (2013), SANCTUARY (2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).

·         Website    http://www.lazarbooks.com
·         Blog1       http://www.aaronlazar.blogspot.com
·         Blog2     http://www.murderby4.blogspot.com
·         Facebook1     https://www.facebook.com/AaronPaulLazarTwitter  (personal page)
·         Facebook2   https://www.facebook.com/aplazar2  (author page)
·         Goodreads    http://bit.ly/17dYYY8

·         Amazon http://amzn.to/16pjh4i
·         Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/369357

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.