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You have made it all the way here, so you may as well sit down, take a minute to look around, and enjoy. What you will find, depends on the day and my mood. You just never can tell.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Blog Tour - Grayson by Tamara White


Welcome to another week at the blog.  I'd like to welcome Author Tamara White to my blog with her new release, Grayson.
As part of the blog tour, Tamara will give a digital copy of  her new book, Grayson, to one randomly drawn commenter. Therefore, please play along.  Drop us a hello or a comment.  You never know what you may win.



Title: Grayson
Author: Tamara White
ISBN: 978-1-62420-343-5
Genre: Contemprary Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Website URL: under construction launch in app. three weeks.
Twitter handle: @twhitebutblack (recently launched)


REVIEW:
Grayson
By Tamar White
5 Stars
Reviewed by G. Lloyd Helm

Grayson is a book about family history, secrets, and rivalries. Families can be complicated enough, but if you mix in race and egotism they become even more so. Grayson explores the connections between mothers and daughters and what daughters don't know about mothers and mothers don't know about daughters. Each character is keeping explosive secrets in this story, from who is whose father and who is actually related to whom and, more interestingly, why the characters are so at odds.

I can't say I enjoyed this book, but I was awed by the Ms. White's ability to make her characters come right off the page. She is a hell of a writer. It was well worth the read for the people in it.


TAGLINE
 Unable to shake off her past and the destruction colorism played in her childhood, Grayson returns to Lakeland in an attempt to reconcile her past.


BLURB
The Harrow family is a family that has spent generations hiding behind the illusion of perfection and lineage. Grayson thought she had escaped the dysfunction of the Harrow Family until the shock of an unplanned pregnancy forced her to return to Lakeland. Grayson must confront her color struck mother, Vivianna, about her childhood at Lakeland and the real reason why her biological father was never apart of her life. Grayson learns how twisted her mother’s version of love is, and how the truth is more complex than she could have ever imagined. Her husband David is there to support her every step of the way, and when Grayson reconnects with her sister, Gigi, she learns the price Gigi paid for being their mother’s favorite.


EXCERPT
Grayson took a moment to soak up the quietness of the afternoon before they headed inside. The country air tickled her nose. Grayson had forgotten how clean air could smell. The sweet smell of the honeysuckle lingered over the slight breeze and settled her stomach as it occupied her lungs. She enjoyed how the crisp air danced on her skin, and brushed away the city of Boston's lingering aroma. Grayson turned her eyes towards the estate she had grown up in, and saw Lakeland in a way she never had before.

The unusually harsh winters over the past few years had abused the hand-made clay shingles and caused a distinct discoloration. The landscaping was neat, but not kept to the same standard it had been when her grandfather was alive. 

Grayson knew her grandfather would have never allowed the forsythia bushes to expand and move about the grounds freely. He would have demanded the gardeners control the beautifully bright yellow shrubberies and conform them to the Harrow standard. Wild is for the wilderness, Grayson's grandfather would have said. Grayson smiled at the absence of the ancient oak tree she'd fallen out of when she was ten. The enormous oak tree with the giant knock hole had shaded her bedroom, and helped her sneak out when she was sixteen to Elizabeth Brownsworth's end of the year party. The white washed bricks demanded a thorough cleaning, and the cliché, Gone with the Wind pillars pleaded desperately for a fresh coat of cloud white paint. Lakeland looked miserable. It was as if Lakeland knew her final chapter was already written.
"Lakeland is really showing her years." Grayson stared at the midnight black, heavily ornate front door with the bulky lion head doorknocker, and equally obnoxious doorknob she swore she'd never enter again, every time she walked out. Grayson picked up her laptop bag and started her pilgrimage towards her past.

"Relax," David whispered from behind her. "Everything is going to be fine."

Her mother, Vivianna, opened the front door and stood in the archway like a Grand Duchess impatiently awaiting the arrival of her audience. "Grayson, put the bag down!" she snapped in an egotistical tone. "We don't carry our bags. We have them carried. Has city life caused you to abandon your upbringing? Ladies of means do not carry bags."

Five seconds. That's how long it took Grayson to go from a strong, accounting firm executive, to the shy, chocolate-skinned, frizzy haired, correction-shoe girl of her past.

"Mother," Grayson retorted in the stiff flat tone she reserved for addressing Vivianna. "So nice to see―"

"Never mind all that." Vivianna motioned them towards the front door. "Inside quickly. No need for some of us to get any darker than we already are, darling." Vivianna paused in the foyer to admire her creamy beige skin in the mirror before entering the sitting room. She never passed on an opportunity to admire what she perceived as her greatness. "Grayson, I don't see how you're able to endure. I don't know what I would do if my skin was permanently darkened by the sun." The physical differences in Vivianna and Grayson went beyond skin tone. Vivianna was thin in stature. She never had an issue maintaining a hundred and ten pounds on her five foot three frame. Her nose was narrow, her lips thin, and her eyes were almond shaped. People, mostly women, assumed her green eyes were fake, but they were indeed real. Vivianna was everything a color-complex struck Black man found irresistible. She was their must-have. Grayson, on the other hand, possessed curves for days, full lips, and a round face with a button nose to match her high cheekbones. She had the type of body hip-hop artists paid homage to in their lyrics, minus the chocolate-colored skin.

"Come, Grayson ... sit. I want to know how things are going. Was the flight enjoyable? I hope you flew first class. I've heard people in coach can have an odor to them."

Grayson rolled her eyes behind Vivianna's back. And so it begins...





AUTHOR BIO:
Tamara White is married and lives in Illinois with her husband, children and dogs. She enjoys photography and reading.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Welcome to another week on the blog tour circuit.  I was going to do a non-blog tour last week about the coming months, but the week got away from me.  So far so good though, in the writing area.  I'm another year older, thanks to a birthday last week, and a little bit wiser thanks to life and it's fickle ways.  All in all, the coming months of warm weather look promising.  

Today, I'd like to welcome author, Jonathan Dimmig to my blog with his new release, Today's special.  Please note that Jonathan will be giving away a free digital copy to one random commenter on his blog tour, of this new release.  So, be sure to comment and say hello in order to be put into the pot.  

Have a great weekend everyone.



Title: Today's Special
Author: Jonathan Dimmig
ISBN: 978-1-62420-318-3

Genre: Inspirational Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3



REVIEW:
Today's Special
Author: Jonathan Dimmig
Reviewed by Catherine DePino
Five Stars

Today’s Special touched my heart. The plot kept me reading, and the characters were realistic and engaging. The book showed the indomitability of the human spirit and its resilience in the face of the grave difficulties life can bring, often unexpectedly. I felt that I knew each character personally and would enjoy sitting with them at the restaurant to get to know them better. The book is full of surprises and will keep you glued to the page until its satisfying conclusion.


REVIEW:
Today's Special
Author: Jonathan Dimmig
Reviewed by Jeffrey Ross
Five Stars—Eerie and very interesting!

Readers of author Dimmig’s Today’s Special may be hard-pressed to place it in a specific genre. On one level, this text is a case study of the Gilded, a struggling restaurant in Buffalo. The lives and relationships of the major characters are intertwined both in the past and present—and at work and play. But this thoughtful book is far more than a slice-of-life-study of chefs, servers, food critics, menu boards, and invoices. The tragic death of the owner’s wife inspires him—and the restaurant gradually moves forward because of his amazingly-creative homage to her. Jonathan Dimmig proves to be quite knowledgeable about recipes, community, support, and enduring love in his powerful—and pleasing—novel.


TAGLINE
We’re sometimes forced to face impossible circumstances. Tom’s story shows why true love is the answer to life’s most difficult questions.


BLURB 
What’s your version of an ordinary day?

For Thomas Danielson, it’s the constant strain of keeping the restaurant he owns from going under. His friends and family depend upon his success but the outlook is dismal. It demands his entire focus until tragedy strikes and his soul-mate is ripped from his arms.

Can Tom recover from the absolute worst event that could possibly happen?

A twist of fate crushes Tom’s world and sends him on a journey of discovery for what’s truly important in life. With guidance from friends, loved ones, and an unassuming chalkboard there just may be some hope in his struggles.

Nothing in life is guaranteed and we are sometimes forced to face the impossible. Tom’s story shows how, even in the darkest times, there is a ray of light shining though the clouds.


EXCERPT
A thunderous roar erupts from the Camaro's engine. Tom puts the pedal to the floor and races past traffic on the highway. There's no destination in sight. Speeding through obstacles is the only outlet within immediate range to channel the anger and frustration pumping through his veins. He weaves left then right. After finding a straightaway in the right lane, his rage comes to a boil as he attacks the steering wheel with a barrage of blows from his fists. Nearly clipping a semi-truck with his driver-side mirror, the escalating danger of the situation suddenly floods his mind. Confronted by this realization, he jerks the wheel and swerves onto the shoulder in an attempt to slow things down. While his vehicle comes to a skid in the dirt, a horn from the car traveling behind him blares loudly into the night as it passes by.
He shuts down the engine.
"Why can nothing work out the way it's supposed to? This was the last good thing left that was ours."
Tom's words echo in the car. The silence that answered was a reminder of just how alone he was. Defeated, he crosses his arms upon the steering wheel and lays his head between them.
Several minutes pass and the only sound that can be heard, apart from the distant highway traffic, is the rhythmic cooing of an owl. He lifts his head and peers out the windshield to find the source of the noise. In the faint moonlight, he can barely make out the shape of a bird perched upon a tree branch. He flicks on the headlight switch and the blast of light causes the owl to take flight and come to a landing on top of a sign about thirty yards to the front left of Tom's car. The sign, now illuminated by the headlights, reads "Allegany Mountains – 30 Miles".

It was immediately clear where he needed to go. With a turn of his key, Tom starts the engine and pulls back onto the highway.

~ * ~

The sound of twigs snapping, combined with the rustling of leaves, was cause enough to scatter a pair of foraging squirrels. Tom clears a path through the dense forest and emerges from the bushes to the small lake.

He pauses and scans the area, remembering the many times he's visited this place. It was as if the unrelenting force of time was rendered powerless in this one speck of earth. Throughout his entire life, not one shade of detail had changed in any discernible way. The placement of the rocks, the slope of the water bank, the positioning of the trees; all remained unyielding to time's grasp. Digesting the thought left a pit in his stomach.

How can it be that God has the power to leave this spot unchanged but does nothing to keep the good things in my life untouched?

The stars were shimmering brightly upon the lake. Tom approaches the water's edge and squats down to look into its glassy surface. The stars surround his reflection and he's soon enveloped in a blanket of sky. He slowly becomes lost in the space. His eyes close and the melding of space and time becomes a cozy bed that he wishes he could remain in forever.

Michelle leans down beside him to gaze into the abyss. She's so close that he can feel her next to him. The hint of familiar perfume and warmth radiating from her body is overwhelmingly comforting. He instinctively reaches to caress her face but she disappears into ripples of water.





AUTHOR BIO:
Jonathan Dimmig was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He earned a BA and MBA from the University of Rochester. After graduating, he worked in the field of Corporate Finance for nearly a decade before quitting his job and moving to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player. In 2014, he won a World Series of Poker event that had almost 8,000 players. Around that same time, he had an unusually vivid dream that inspired him to write "Today’s Special". He hopes the story in this book will impact others as much as it has impacted himself. Jonathan currently resides in Las Vegas, NV. He is often found at the poker tables, playing ice hockey, or working on creative inspirations that can positively impact the world. He can be reached at zpuckman@gmail.com.







Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Damn the Torn Speedos, Get Thee to the Punnery: 101 Shaggy Dogs, by Elliott Capon - Blog Tour

Welcome to a new week.  We are one of the blog tour stops for author, Elliott Capon, and his new release:  Dame the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead, Get Thee to a Punnery:  101 Shaggy Dogs.  A fun and entertaining read. As usual, be sure to comment, as Elliott will be awarding a digital copy of the book: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, to one randomly chosen commenter along the his blog tour.  



Title: Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead
         Get Thee to a Punnery: 101 Shaggy Dogs
ISBN: 978-1-62420-317-6
Author: Elliott Capon

Email:
Twitter
Website: elliottcapon.weebly.com  
Blog:

Genre: suspense
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level:


REVIEW:
Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead
Get Thee to a Punnery: 101 Shaggy Dogs
Author: Elliott Capon
Reviewed by Jeffrey Ross
Five Stars—Funny and Clever!

This is a fun book for everyone—especially if you love word play and the nuances of the English language!

Included in the 101 Shaggy Dogs are topics from dictators to dentures to small towns to colonialism and humanitarianism. Each of the 101 stand-alone 1000 word stories (all finely crafted, I might add) end with a word play phrase. I hesitate to give much away, but here is a fine example…

A man named Myron had been born without teeth. His loving wife had chewed his food for him all the years they had been married. Myron won the lottery—and bought himself some dentures. He waited for the right moment to surprise his wife. While she was in the restroom, he inserted his new dentures and sat quietly at the dinner table. She returned and cut a piece of peach cobbler – and prepared to chew it for him. He stopped her hand, crying out,

"Oh, Susannah! Don't chew pies for me!"

Priceless—and there are 100 more stories to read!


TAGLINE
A “shaggy dog” is a story of less than 1000 words that ends on a groan-inducing pun. Here we have 101 of the groaniest.  


BLURB
What happens when a guy accused of stealing a type of onion defends himself by saying, “I was only taking a leek”? Or at the insect Olympics, where certain bugs hold the stopwatches, because “flies time”? That’s when you’re in the world of the “shaggy dog,” a type of story that ends on a funny, if horrible, pun that leaves the reader moaning and groaning...but laughing and eager to be abused by the next distortion of the English language. We have 101 such crimes against the mother tongue in this amusing collection.

  
EXCERPT
Sy Donovan was the biggest man at American International Relief Services ("AIRS" to English speakers; just "RELIEF" to the rest of the world). It wasn't that Sy was a top executive: he was the biggest man in the organization because he was six-five and weighed two hundred and ninety pounds.

RELIEF was a group much like CARE or the Red Cross, which responded to disasters all over the world: floods, famines, fires, plagues, the aftermath of war. RELIEF workers would, pushing aside bureaucrats and the obstructive complaints of tinhorn dictators, literally invade an area in need and set to work. RELIEF had doctors, nurses, engineers, epidemiologists, nutritionists, psychologists, and caring professionals in dozens of other professions, all of whom would, at a moment's notice, drop their regular practices and lives in order to fly halfway or all the way around the world to come to the aid of people who needed help.

Sy Donovan was RELIEF's most active field administrator. He had a working knowledge of medicine, logistics, and most of the other skills possessed by the RELIEF volunteers, but his job was to see that things got done. He was usually on the first plane or helicopter to reach the disaster area, he decided where the medical tents would go up, where the portable latrines would be placed (don't laugh), who would look after the children. With his imposing size and full head of bushy gray hair and Linolnesque beard to match—and blessed with the personality of the offspring of Alexander the Great and a lioness—Sy Donovan backed down from no one. People who "didn't want to" or "couldn't do" something to help, when confronted by the formidable giant, found themselves suddenly very willing and able. Sy Donovan had saved more lives than penicillin.

After a drought of several years, the tiny African nation of Tomalaland was hit by weeks of ferocious rains. The ground had dried to the consistency of concrete and therefore could not absorb the water; flooding was of almost Biblical proportions. Entire towns had been buried under a combination of water, mud, and uprooted trees; two million people found themselves homeless, foodless, clothesless, medicineless, hopeless. The day after the rains stopped, RELIEF got to work. A huge plane was quickly loaded with all the supplies to sustain at least a few thousand people for a few days. Other planes, trucks, and ships were to following within the next few days, but one plane had to get there first. Sy Donovan was, of course, aboard this plane.

In what had once been the capital of Guaziville, and which was now a sea of muck and debris, five thousand weary people made their way to the remains of the airport to await this lifebringing plane. The airport's single working radio was in contact with the plane, and the soldiers nursing the radio had found enough dry wire and undamaged equipment left over to hook the radio up to loudspeakers so that everyone present could share the joyful anticipation of the arrival of their saviors.

Unfortunately, the storms were not quite finished; when the plane was still an hour out of Guaziville, the pilot radioed—and five thousand people heard—that the plane had been struck by lightning. Two of their four engines were dead; a third was laboring. He was losing altitude, struggling to get to the airport.

Five thousand people prayed: to the gods of Islam and Christianity and to smaller, lesser-known, older tribal deities. The pilot reported that he was skimming the treetops, hoping to get as close to the airport as possible before the plane with its food, medicine, clean water and warm blankets finally hit the ground. The five thousand people at the airport were praying aloud now, crying out to the various parts of Heaven for assistance, for a miracle.

Then, in the distance—a speck! It was a plane—the RELIEF plane! Smoke poured from three of the four propellers. The sound that reached ten thousand ears was of a sputtering and choking. The plane dipped and bounced and rose and fell as if it were riding over invisible speed bumps. The people at the airport prayed like they had never prayed before.

Incredibly, the plane kept coming closer. A few people dared hope it would make it all the way to the runway. Then…closer…closer…closer… Hope was reborn! A few more feet…a few more seconds…! Come on…come on…yes…yes, yes….??

YES! The plane touched down on the holed, muddy runway just as the fourth engine exploded with a tired-sounding whuff! and the propeller stopped turning.

Five thousand people breathed out all at once, each silently thanking their God or gods. The miracle had happened. The plane had landed safely.

A few seconds later, a door on the side crashed open, and from the plane itself emerged a big Sy of RELIEF.


AUTHOR BIO:
Elliott Capon has three novels in print: the thoughtful horror story The Prince of Horror, and two funny whodunits that take place in the world of Poverty-Row Hollywood of the 1930s, The Corps Vanishes and Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, the latter two published by Rogue Phoenix Press. He has had stories (and reprints!) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Frostfire Worlds, Disturbed Digest, and the original-story anthologies Zippered Flesh and Uncommon Assassins. He lives with his current wife and as-yet undisowned son.  


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Half-Built Houses, by Eric Keller - Blog Tour Stop

I am happy to announce that Spring is official in the air around here.  The weekend was full of sunshine and the flowers are out in droves.  Yes, this makes me extremely happy.  Thank you as always for stopping over at my blog this week.  

Again, this week, I am one of the blog tour stops for Eric Keller and his new release, Half-Built Houses.  He will be giving out an e-book to one randomly selected commenter along his blog tour, so be sure to comment or simply say hello. 





Title: Half-Built Houses
ISBN: 978-1-62420-315-2
Author: Eric Keller

Facebook: NA
Twitter: NA
Website: NA
Blog: NA

Genre: mystery
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE
All the taught intrigue and compelling personalities of a classic, courtroom thriller combined with the twists and turns of an engrossing murder mystery in a Canadian setting.

BLURB
Charley Ewanuschuk has been mistreated all his life and now survives by moving through society as unnoticed as possible. However, when a murder occurs behind the half-built house he is squatting in society takes notice of the introverted homeless man as he becomes the prime murder suspect. Brian Cox managed to charm his way into a good job in a national law firm but, when the recession hit, he learned that charm is a disposable commodity. Fired by the firm and forced to take on Legal Aid files to pay the bills, Charley's murder trial becomes Brian's first major case. However, this will be no straightforward case. As the trial progresses it becomes apparent forces are working behind the scenes to ensure the homeless man takes the fall for a crime. Told from the points of view of the accused, the lawyer, the detective and the manipulator, Half-Built Houses provides all the thrilling intrigue, clever ingenuity and interesting individuals readers have come to expect form classic courtroom dramas.

REVIEW:
Half-Built Houses
Eric Keller
5 stars
Published by Rogue Phoenix Press
Reviewed by Nancy A. Dafoe

In the vein of the pulsing arterial found in John Grisham’s crime/legal thrillers, Eric Keller’s Half-Built Houses is fast paced, meticulously developed, filled with plot twists, and the kind of complicated characters that keep you thinking about them long after you close the pages. Sex, drugs, and alcohol may lead to the predictable crime, but little else about Keller’s novel is predictable.

Keller’s familiarity with the law and court cases is apparent and the plot moves seamlessly through to an unexpected conclusion. More than a riveting, criminal procedural taking place in Calgary, however, Half-Built Houses offers subtle but significant social commentary on the issues of homelessness, the long-lasting damages of bullying, and the inequalities in class and social structures.

Charley Ewanuschuk, a homeless character accused of the murder of a young woman, stands at the center of the story, but Half-Built Houses is as much the story of Brian Cox, the charming but struggling young lawyer trying his first major criminal case. We know the crime in the opening pages as victim, Natalie Peterson, lies dying in the white snow, but Keller allows the reader to see into the characters’ heads and actions, shifting perspectives from the murdered woman to the suspected killer, to the defense lawyer to the Crown Prosecutor Clay Matthews, and the hardened detective Randall Jenkins on the trail of something that stinks. Lurking in the shadows, Charley is not as alone as he believes. Hugh Young and his son Jason may have wealth and power, but they, too, operate in the shadows. We come to know these characters’ backstories and circumstances leading up to their devastating encounter.

Highly visual, readers will feel as if they are watching this drama play out. With no false notes, Keller’s novel feels right even when everything is going wrong, down to the lurking ambiguity.

EXCERPT
 After the car had been towed away, Charley had gone back to the basement, but he heard sirens and had to flee before he could collect his belongings. Knowing he would stand out as an oddity wandering about in a rich residential area as people started leaving their homes for work, he headed back across the river to the downtown core where the homeless merely blended into the cement. There he numbly walked the icy streets before settling into an ATM kiosk to warm up and rest.

Sitting on the wet floor, he did a quick inventory. He still had his good coat, two cheeseburgers, four dollars, and shoes, but no socks, gloves, or hat. It was thirty below and he had nowhere to go, and he could already feel the dirty slush on the floor soaking through his jeans. Over all the years he had been in Calgary, Charley had been in some extremely difficult spots, but this was one of the worst situations he had faced.

As he pulled one of the slightly squashed cheeseburgers out of his pocket, the key to the cheap padlock he had put on the basement door fell onto the floor. He picked it up. Despite being twenty-five years old, this was the only key he had ever owned. He remembered the joy he felt when he closed the lock for the first time. It was more than simply having a place of his own; it was a sense of survivor's pride because he could look past making it through each day and ponder a future for himself. Now he realized he could not be found carrying the key, so he slipped it into the slot in the bank machine, the slot where people threw away their receipts showing how much money they had in their account.

He was only able to stay in the kiosk for an hour before a security guard found him. The guard clearly did not want to send the pathetic man out into the exceptionally harsh cold, but he sheepishly said that the bank employees would be showing up soon, and they would give him grief if they found someone sleeping next to the bank machine. Charley left without a word.

Having nowhere else to go, he instinctively walked to the day labourer corner. Because the weather was so bad and he was there so early, he got picked up right away to shovel snow. Charley had worked for the boss before, and the man took pity on him, giving him a good pair of gloves and a toque.

~ * ~

Jenkins was checking missing person reports when Wilson strutted into the office and dropped an enlarged printout of a library card on his desk. The picture on the card was of a thin, unsmiling young man with thick glasses and messy hair. It matched the description the neighbour at the crime scene had given them. Wilson sat down and said, "Our basement squatter has a name. Charley Ewanuschuk. The address and phone number he gave are fakes though."

"Did anyone at the library know him?"

"Sort of. One of the librarians said the guy's been coming in about once a week for years, but she doesn't think he's ever said a word to anybody. She did say he was cleaner than the other homeless people and never had a late book, so he has that going for him."

"A name and a picture. We've found people with less." Jenkins, now feeling hopeful this would be a quicker case than he had anticipated, stood up and grabbed his coat. "Let's go check the usual spots."

~ * ~

Even though he had been extremely tired and his feet had screamed with cold, Charley had been content to push a shovel all day as the mundane, physical work was relaxing and allowed him to ponder his situation. By the end of the day, he had forced himself to conclude it was not hopeless. He could not go back to the house he had been using, but that did not mean he could not find another abandoned construction site to use. It would take some time, but he had time; he had little else, but he had time. When the work was done, he was driven back to the corner, given sixty dollars, and told to keep the gloves and the hat. It was enough money to get a room at the hostel for the night. Life would continue to be hard, but it would not be impossible.

As he started walking away, a truck pulled up, unloading another crew of day labourers, and one of the workers called out to him, "Hey, you. Guy who never talks."

He recognized the man as a regular at the corner whom he had worked with a few times. He pointed at himself questioningly.

"Yeah, you. Just thought you should know that the cops were out here this morning showing your picture around. You may want to lay low for a few days."

The man knew Charley well enough not to expect a response, so he turned to jog after his friends, leaving Charley alone on the frozen sidewalk. Renewed panic struck at him, easily pushing away the optimism he had gained throughout the day. He had not even considered the police would look for him. He had always seen himself as a mere visitor moving about beneath the notice of the real inhabitants of the city, so the thought that someone would look for him never occurred to him. Charley had never been to jail, but he had overheard much about the place from day labourers, and being locked up was one of his greatest fears among an impressive list of fears. It was not actually being deprived of his freedom so much as being constantly surrounded by people with no privacy or reprieve that he knew would be an unimaginable hell for him. He could not go to jail.

REVIEW:
Half-Built Houses
By Eric Keller
41/2 Stars
Reviewed by Tamara White

The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada in the backdrop for Eric Keller’s intense and gripping legal thriller the Half Built Houses.

Charley Ewanuschuk is a homeless man who found comfort in being mostly invisible to the world around him. But the events on a stormy winter night in Calgary plunge him head first into a murder where the almost mute Charley becomes the main suspect instead of the hero. Charley’s quiet distinctiveness doesn’t just draw the reader into his narrative but makes him a target for the other less desirable characters. Charley’s lawyer, Brain Cox, who has his own set backs, is determined to free his client from the murder charge. Brian has a strong character and determination that balances out Charley’s introverted personality.  

Eric Keller exposes the reader to not only the grittiness of the legal system but also the vicious realities of prison life. Half Built Houses is filled to the brim with raw emotions and conflicts. Every time the reader thinks they have it figured out Keller throws in another twist that sends the reader in a new direction. One of the unique aspects of the book is the perspective of the book shifts between several of the characters. This gives the reader a full understanding of the vested interested each character has in the murder. Keller’s novel exposes how life is never black or white and happy endings are better saved for fairy tales.

REVIEW:
Half-Built Houses
By Eric Keller
4 1/2 Stars
Reviewed by G. Lloyd Helm

Half-Built Houses is a crime novel with elements of the classic procedural story. The crime, the cover up, the police investigation. The difference with this one is that it is set in the great white north of Calgary, Canada. It evokes the place and the people very well.

Eric Keller has written a truly great book here. It is filled with interesting characters, all of whom are believable. There are certain of them who are so crushingly sad I could hardly read them without crying.

Charley, a lead character, is homeless and tortured and I felt ever icy shiver of his life on the streets of Calgary. His luck has gone from bad to worse when he witnesses a murder, and is arrested for that same murder. Brian, the legal aide public defender who gets to be Charley's lawyer is believable. He is scrambling to pay his bills and maintain his life style and could probably have just gone through the motions of defending Charley, but he feels for the homeless man and so works his tail off for his client.
This book is well worth the read. I only gave it four and a half stars because the book did seem to slide over into TV cop story a little bit, but Half-Built Houses is still a great story.

REVIEW:
Half-Built Houses
By Eric Keller
5 Stars
Reviewed by James Charles

Half-Built Houses is a crime novel with elements of the classic procedural story. The crime, the cover up, the police investigation. The difference with this one is that it is set in the great white north of Calgary, Canada. It evokes the place and the people very well.

Eric Keller has written a truly great book here. It is filled with interesting characters, all of whom are believable. There are certain of them who are so crushingly sad I could hardly read them without crying.

Charley, a lead character, is homeless and tortured and I felt ever icy shiver of his life on the streets of Calgary. His luck has gone from bad to worse when he witnesses a murder, and is arrested for that same murder. Brian, the legal aide public defender who gets to be Charley's lawyer is believable. He is scrambling to pay his bills and maintain his life style and could probably have just gone through the motions of defending Charley, but he feels for the homeless man and so works his tail off for his client.
This book is well worth the read. I only gave it four and a half stars because the book did seem to slide over into TV cop story a little bit, but Half-Built Houses is still a great story.

AUTHOR BIO:
Eric Keller is a lawyer living in Calgary, Alberta.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

June, by Alicia Stone - Blog Tour Stop

This week I am happy to announce I am one of the blog tour stops for the new book, June, by author, Alicia Stone.  Please welcome her but saying hello or leaving a comment about the book.  She will also be giving away one free ebook to a random commenter, so be sure to let us know if you have stopped by.




Title: June
Author: Alicia Stone
ISBN: 978-1-62420-316-9

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3



REVIEW
June
By Alicia Stone

A review by Jeffrey Ross 
5 Stars

This is a world-class piece of literature—a finely crafted book that combines several genres successfully. On one level, June functions as an academic or campus novel—much of the text revolves around the detailed, complicated, scholarly world of Professor Perry’s anthropological research and love affair machinations. It also has robust elements of a detective story when super-sleuth David outs a cheating husband. But June most significantly and boldly illuminates a woman’s “sensual” coming of age (somewhat like Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening) as heroine Cassie begins to unshackle herself from a life of emotional servitude and learns to love again. As a writer, I was humbled by the workmanship and power of this novel. Read June—you will never forget the story.



TAGLINE
Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband.



BLURB 
Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband. She sets in motion a tragic chain of events that leads her across Europe from the medieval city of Tallinn to the showboating glamour of Nice. Cast aside and the victim of cruel revenge, Cassandra fights for her future and discovers she is not alone. Her new-found strength is tested to its limits, for where love is concerned there is often a reckoning.



EXCERPT 
Women's toilets, a curious place for confidences. Strangers become acquainted in the queue for the loo. Teenage girls discuss conquests as they hog mirrors, applying make-up. Cassandra had once seen a laughing group of Japanese women roll their trousers to their knees, fastidious in their preparation for a Western bathroom experience. She would have given much to understand their chatter. Quite extraordinary what she overheard about people's lives in toilets, but this was gossip, and the gossip was about her. She knew these voices, Malory Jacque and Miranda Pym.

"Of course Cassandra's very nice. Oh, Lord. No paper. For heaven's sake. A hotel of this repute. I shall speak to the manager. Andrew knows him from cricket."

"Hang on. I'll pass some under the door. Lord, this reminds me of school."
Cassandra heard scuffles and giggles.

"She's pleasant…easy-going in that reserved sort of way. Good for dinner parties."

"Thanks. Oh yes. Marvellous. Pop her next to anyone. She's sort of…you know…"

"Neutral? A foil?"

"That's it. Rather beige."

Cassandra froze in her cubicle. The toilets flushed and the voices moved over to the wash-hand basins.
"Oh, no. Would you look at that? They've changed the hand cream. I always liked the wild heather. This won't do."
A blast from the hand driers drowned any further eavesdropping. The door swung open; there was a clack of heels…
"But when you consider the husband…"

The door closed.

Cassandra waited for a moment before waving her hand at the automatic flush and coming out. Standing before the mirror, she remembered what Perry had said at breakfast.

"Sweetheart. Do you think that shade of blue suits you? Book club today isn't it? You've never worn the cashmere I brought you from Cairo. I found it in your closet the other day."

She had poured his coffee, put another round of toast in the retro Italian toaster, and slipped into their bedroom. The unopened duty-free bag stood upright in the bottom of the 'hers' wardrobe. Shrugging off the blouse chosen earlier, she removed the ribbon tag from her gift and pulled the soft jumper over her head, making for the kitchen.

"Pussy-cat, lovely. Want to stroke you." He didn't. Instead, Perry was out of his seat even as she offered more toast.
"Carbs, Cassandra, carbs. Got to look after the waistline." He held his stomach in and blew her a routine kiss, but she was already moving towards the sink.

Would the puff of air reach the cupboard housing the seldom-used twelve-place dinner service, or would the vapour simply dissipate mid kitchen, she wondered.

"Late tonight, some of the faculty…a little do. Back on the Nine o'clock. Have fun with the ladies."

Cassandra had dropped the toast into the bin and stared out of the window. Next-door's cat had emerged from a clump of daisies and shuddered, the tail bolt upright. Cassandra loathed cats, especially when they treated her garden as their personal litter tray. He, for the cat was a Tom, was the same shade of grey as her jumper.

Now she was staring at the reflection in the mirror. Her face lost, framed by the heavy ornate coving and flock-wallpaper of the Victorian hotel. She had often pondered what people would say about her. They might use affable or good-natured if a little shy. What they didn't see was that she was bored; Cassandra was bored to her very core. Not languid though, never that. There was so much that people did not see. Cassandra composed herself, took a breath, and fixed her smile as she hurried to re-join the discussion about a book she had no wish to discuss.

~ * ~

A creature of routine, she went shopping after Book Club. Every trip to the supermarket was at best an exhausting in-your-face reality experience, at worst a sensory assault. From the seductive smell of the in-store baked bread and the sweet blowsy lilies in pretty buy-me cellophane wrappers to the whole gamut of riotous colour, compelling fonts and unashamed branding the weekly shop was a marketing horror to be endured. Enthusiastic staff spoke of must-buys or operational matters over the public address system interrupting the bland music and the periodic wails of infants distressed or seeking attention. Employees wearing uniform fleece offered tiny plastic pots as if shoppers were at some impromptu cocktail party or were institutionalised, standing in line to take their medication before bedtime.

"Can I tempt you to try a French cheese on offer today? Our own-brand mayonnaise has been voted Britain's favourite. Would you like to see if you can taste the difference?"

There were endless choices, from the selection of three types of trolley at the entrance to the alternative methods of checkout at the exit. Early on in their relationship during a trip to the supermarket, Perry asked that Cassandra take on the responsibility.

"Sweetheart, shopping is ghastly. You are so much better at all this pointless busyness than I. Look about you," he glowered. "Eighty percent of the people here are women. You are among your own kind; you know what to do; you have the time. Lucky, lucky girl, whereas poor old me, cash rich; time poor."

Money wasn't a problem. Perry urged her to spend what she liked. They could afford to live well on his salary and his grandfather's trust fund. Bunty and Reg, his parents, bought the couple's house as a wedding gift. Early on in their relationship, Bunty had trumpeted aloud at Cassandra's modest choice of food retailer and her student habit of shopping around for bargains.

"My dear, a housewife is judged by her table. Top end for groceries, always. It's what Perry's used to."

Cassandra did the shopping, coasting in neutral following a set path. Her face assumed a forced smile. She manoeuvred the trolley around slow mannerly pensioners, avoiding the child, skidding to a halt in the detergent aisle. She read labels comparing saturated fat and salt levels, catering for Perry's current preferences and tastes. He was most particular. Cassandra willed herself not to judge the large woman with the trolley stacked high with snack and convenience food or to think too uncharitably of the salad afterthought perched on top of the high-fat, sugar-laden mountain. She rejected the self-checkout points, aware of her need for human interaction, chatting at the till, agreeing that the weather was shocking and that the three-for-two offer on the Imperial Leather soap was excellent value.

"My husband won't try any other. His mother uses the same brand…you know, a family thing." Cassandra despised the words and herself for the weakness that was her norm.

The cashier listened with her head to one side. Was there a fleeting edge of solidarity or sympathy in the amber eyes? Perhaps it was the magnifying effect of the tortoiseshell glasses. Cassandra felt odd and lightheaded but conscious of a moment of female kinship and understanding with a woman she'd never met before.

"Are you alright dear?" The amber was almost orange, owlish, and wild.

Cassandra considered the question as she used her credit card. The first attempt failed as she tapped in the wrong number. Concentrating, she began the process again until she met with success. She stopped in the act of lifting the bag of shopping into her trolley.

"I think…I am."

The cashier reappraised her as she handed over the receipt.

"Changes take time to work their way through, don't you find? The trick is to make the right choices. Take care now."
There was no one behind her in the queue. The adjacent cashier was busy. No one else had overheard. What a curious exchange; not at all the usual bland pleasantries between staff and customers. Cassandra wheeled her trolley away, leaning against the metal frame. Glancing back at the checkout, the grey-haired woman was changing her till roll and did not look up.

Driving home through the rain, Cassandra thought about the book club. Perry had suggested she join. One evening at dinner, he announced that everything was arranged. The wife of Perry's occasional golf partner would introduce her to the club and pick Cassandra up, taking her to the first meeting.

Debbie, in a red sports car with a mane of tawny hair, tanned, wearing a lime green trouser suit, pulled up outside sounding three long beeps. Cassandra rushed out of the house, flustered with a wave of greeting. This went unobserved as Debbie shot into her driveway, executing a three-point-turn, which halted two inches from the next-door's spotless and regimented recycling bins.

"Hop in. Running late. A cul-de-sac in Westmead," she surveyed the immaculate new-builds, "bad luck. My book choice this month so they can't start without me. Got the top down…nice day…about time. Awful summer, you'd never think we lived in the south of England for pity's sake."

Cassandra held out her hand to no avail as the car sped forward.

"Belt up."

The recollection of that first meeting made Cassandra grimace and smile. She couldn't recall the name of the first book, the plot, or the characters, only that awful new girl paralysis, all the other women staring, appraising, and judging. Fighting an overwhelming instinct to run away, she defaulted to a learned behaviour; she smiled, crossed and uncrossed her legs, agreed and disagreed, nodded and listened, wholly intent on blending in. That was three years ago. Members came and went, but the core remained the same. Perry liked to ask her about the group, wives of cronies in his wider circle, so she stayed. Debbie stayed the course too, catching Cassandra's eye at the more outrageous comments, winking with mirth at the absurd.

Perry wanted to know who was bright. Who led the group? Who did most of the talking? That was in the early days. Of late, he had not asked much about the reading group, but Debbie had become a friend. An unlikely pairing perhaps, but, as the first meeting finished and they walked towards the waiting Mercedes, Deborah Gore-Hamilton said,
"I've got your number, Cassy Bishop. If you need an ally, I've got your back."

That was how their friendship started. Cassandra was no longer alone.



REVIEW:
Title: June (Many a Moon Series, Book 2)
Author: Alicia Stone
Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Gillespie Lamb

Cassandra Bishop is an upper-class English woman in her mid-30s who has voluntarily subordinated herself to a controlling husband (and his mother). Why would she volunteer? “I was young,” she sighs. Her pushy best bud brusquely dismisses that as a whiny excuse and lovingly prods her to reassert herself. In reluctant response, an emotionally deconstructed “Cassy” begins to reassemble her natural lively spirit.

Her quicksilver transformation into a strong, independent woman loosens the constraints in her marriage relationship, with liberating and tragic consequences.  

Author Alicia Stone’s forte is creating a believable slice of upper-crust British society within which her characters grow into people we care about. Her illuminating descriptions of the knick-knackery of the gentry lifestyle are fascinating in themselves. Cassandra comes across as an introspective, sensible, and nervy woman. It turns out her husband is multi-dimensional, too.

Testimonial: I am male. This is a woman’s book, PG-rated, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.



AUTHOR BIO:
Alicia has recently returned to the UK. She is enjoying the south coast and exploring rural villages using back roads and public footpaths. The great thing about English villages is that they have amazing old churches full of history and stories often with a pub next door. Find out more about Alicia, or contact her on her blog: aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk

Website URL: N/A

Blog URL: aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk

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Twitter handle: @Alicia_author