Monday, January 27, 2014

Wednesday Review: Hitchhiker by Audra Middleton

Hitchhiker by Audra Middleton
Publisher: BURST
Release Date: November, 3rd, 2013

Former army brat, Ainsely Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it's among the freaks. This small town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel waht other people are experiencing, and now the FBI's freak squad wants to use her human bug abilties to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsely temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits, and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworkers paranoid delusions.

The blurb does a great job covering the story’s content. It’s basically an FBI procedural with oddball agents and a science fantasy twist. What makes this novel a great fun read is Middleton’s deft touch with characters, especially Ainsley herself who is a bundle of issues having a career military father and brother she feels like she’s letting her dad down being “just” a high school teacher. Having an and unreliable often absentee mother growing up didn’t help add to her mental stability although they both share the hitchhiker gene which allows for a limited time to see, feel, and hear what other people are experiencing, but not read the person’s mind. The good news is she never whines, just trucks along trying to do the best she can even though her quirky nature and verbal blurting before she thinks get her in a lot of trouble. 

Ainsley is refreshing break from the plethora of headstrong I-know-best protagonists out there. She proves you can still be strong, clever, and resourceful, without being, well, an annoying ass. Another refreshing thing in Hitchiker is that rather than being attracted to the studly cock-of the walk character, she is drawn to another squad member: Dove. Schizo, Paranoid, OCD, ADD, germaphobic and super brainy. The only problem is the way Ainsley’s powers are activated thorough coming into contact with the bodily fluids of the person she’s going to hitchhike on. How can a paranoid, OCD, germaphobe like Dove ever learn to handle that?

Even Middleton’s secondary characters, mostly members of the freak squad, are deftly layered and by that I don’t mean the “bad” person turns out to be “good” or vice versa, but rather that each character has good points and bad points like real people. That she’s able to convey all that through dialogue and actions in a novel less than two hundred pages is a testament to Middleton’s talent.

The plot is solid and interesting but too hard to explain without spoiling it. I highly recommend this novel for anyone who needs to like and root for their protagonists and enjoys oddballs.

Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Review by Carlyle Clark

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole

Compass North
Stephanie Joyce Cole
Romantic suspense
Champagne Books
ISBN: 978-1-77155-008-6
December 2013
Fleeing from a horrible marriage seemed the only possibility for Meredith Benton to be happy again. Taking a trip to Alaska is definitely a good plan until the bus she’s been travelling on with other passengers exploded right before her eyes. Formulating a plan, she moves in with an elderly lady in a small town and changes her name hoping it will be enough for her husband never to find her again. However, danger lurks just around the corner.
The plot of this book was captivating from the beginning and just kept getting better. The bomb on the bus rocks Meredith’s world and her resolve to finally find happiness for herself again. There were many twists and turns with first Meredith’s survival and then moving to a town where she knew no one and finding herself unwelcome by many of the folks in that small town. The sex scenes were mild and mostly memories of Meredith’s times with her husband when she’d held his attention. But between Meredith and the hero Nick there was certainly a strong attraction that could have been explosive if they’d come together. What I liked so much about Meredith was her determination to change her identity and find some peace in her life away from the misery her husband had put her through. While with Nick, I liked that he gave Meredith a chance, even knowing that she might be hiding a big secret from him.
Overall, this was an intriguing book of love and loss mixed with just the right elements of romance and suspense. Well done to this author.
Overall Rating: 4hearts
Sensuality Rating: Mildly Sensual
Reviewer: Bec

Whitechapel Quill by Angela Ashton

Whitechapel Quill by Angela Ashton
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (206 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
In 1888 London, an aspiring journalist will do almost anything to get a story on the front page of her father’s male dominated newspaper. Long grown tired of revamping redundant weekly missives regarding high-society fashion and gardening tips, Samantha Winston yearns for the day when she might prove it doesn’t take a pair of over-inflated bollocks to merit the coveted headline…even if it means going undercover to unearth the identity of the most sadistic killer to ever darken Whitechapel’s fog-laden alleys. Yet when Samantha intersects the path of Adam Hawkins, a meddlesome, fork-tongued, disarmingly attractive American seemingly hell-bent on ending the elusive killer’s reign of blood and terror, she finds herself no longer the huntress, but the hunted…
The killer is much closer to Samantha than she realizes.
Samantha is a very modern woman living in a place and time when women didn’t have the same rights as men. Samantha is extremely outspoken and brash at times, and she never misses an opportunity to voice her opinions on equal rights. Consequently, she is frequently at odds with her family. I completely understand Samantha’s outrage at the double standards of the day. However, I think that her arguments would be more effective if she varied her approach occasionally. Whenever the subject of women’s rights comes up, Samantha’s temper gets away from her and she ends in heated arguments. She does this so often that her family has taken to writing her tirades off as just another one of her fits. I must admit that her attitude even began to get on my nerves and I agreed with many of her ideas!
Even though Samantha’s attitude is somewhat abbrasive, I still think she is a likable character who is brave and dedicated to her writing. Since her father won’t give her the space in the paper that she deserves, Samantha feels she has no other choice than to go undercover and discover the identity of the killer stalking Whitechapel. Little does she know that the killer is practically right under her nose. I think Samantha’s plan to catch the murderer is a very foolish one. She has absolutely no experience with undercover work and even less experience in chasing murderers. As I read, I kept wondering what she would do if she actually did come across Jack the Ripper. However, I will admit that Samantha did the best she could with the resources she had, but it quickly becomes clear that Samantha is in way over her head.
Adam and Samantha have excellent chemistry from the moment they meet. Ms. Ashton paces their relationship perfectly. I enjoyed watching Samantha and Adam dance around their attraction for each other. It made the moment when they finally gave in to their feelings even sweeter. Samantha and Adam are both way to stubborn for their own good. However, I have a feeling that they’ll be an excellent couple.
I figured out who Jack the Ripper was fairly easily. In fact, as I read, I became increasingly frustrated when no one else seemed to be able to figure it out. Adam insisted on suspecting a certain character when there was absolutely no proof. There are plenty of hints concerning Jack the Ripper’s true identity, but Adam kept ignoring them until it was nearly too late. Adam is a smart man and really should have figured the mystery out much sooner. Despite my frustrations, I really like the way the story ended. Ms. Ashton found a clever and completely plausible way to explain the reason why Jack the Ripper’s identity remains a mystery.
Whitechapel Quill is a certainly a good read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark mysteries, historical romance, and a heroine with attitude to spare.

House on Hollow Hill by R. J. Hore

House on Hollow Hill by R. J. HoreThe Housetrap Chronicles, III
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (108 Pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen
What could be simpler for a PI and his gal than attending a high-fashion weekend in the country to keep a close eye on the erratic host that someone wants dead?
Sounds like a simple assignment. Randy and Bertha go undercover for a high class weekend in the country, all expenses paid. All they have to do is pretend to be somebody else while keeping a close eye on their host, Archibald Anthony, the famous Serial Painter, and mingle with the other guests, exchanging pleasantries. Their job? To keep Anthony alive until the long weekend is over and sort through the suspects when the bodies start falling.
Of course the guests include some of the top rungs of the social ladder: vampires, elves, hobgoblins, goblins, trolls, gremlins, plus the addition of the varied staff members loose on the estate. Strangely enough, almost everyone seems to have their own private agenda.
Randolf C. Aloysius and his assistant, Bertha Wildwater, are hired for what is supposed to be a simple undercover assignment. They are hired to ensure that Archibald Anthony, the famous serial painter, stays alive throughout the weekend. The letter Randy receives giving him this assignment says, “You may be wondering why we have hired you. Artists of this stature are famous for being fickle and having enemies, and Anthony is a member of the Irrationist School of Modernistic Interpretation. They are feuding with at least two other groups, the Realistic Methodists for Landscapeture and Image Depiction, and the Anarchistic Academy of Delineation and Portraiture.”
And so the fun begins. This is an exciting, fast-paced novel with a bevy of suspects among the weekend guests as well as the varied staff members. Suspects are eliminated when they become victims, and Randy and Bertha have their work cut out for them. I liked both Randy and Bertha and found them to be very believable and real characters. Bertha, a half banshee, definitely knows how to handle herself and thanks to some night classes she also knows a bit of magic. But is it enough to keep ahead of the vampires, gremlins, and other assorted characters?
The setting is shown in humorous and complete detail. Randy and Bertha begin their adventures in Muddy Hogland Town which has “the atmosphere of a Venusian swamp.” It is descriptions such as this which add to the tone of the novel which reads like a crime detective story in the noir tradition. Mysteries abound and it is difficult to tell the villains from the merely greedy and grasping.
Many of the chapters open with a favorite saying from one of Randy’s relatives, and those are both humorous and revealing. Randy may think he is the detective, but he gets a lot of help from Bertha and the two work surprisingly well together. Fans of the fantasy detective story will certainly enjoy this fun and exciting mystery, filled with many quirky and unusual characters.

Monday, January 13, 2014



Picking up from the New Year’s Eve party, Tattle sighs. 

“What’s up, post party blues?”  Wrye uses a rack to gather up the streamers.

Uses a brush and trashbin to clear away dishes and glasses “Just thinking about how fast the years go by.”

“Ahhh, the I’m-getting-old-and-life-is-slipping-away doldrums?”

“Naw, it’s the I-want-to-read-every-single-book the Champagne Book Groups puts outs pity-party.”

“Well, that is a very ambitious goal, m’literary bud, and I, too, long for the same thing.  So, let’s make it a goal and start with a Love of Literature Leap.”

Blues suddenly vanish as Tattle jumps up.  “Lets go!”

They appear in the first chapter Elizabeth Fountain’s spring 2013 release, YOU, JANE.

“Do you see that?” whispers Tattle.

“The comfy sofa?  I wouldn’t mind taking a nap.”  Wrye spreads out his invisible self on the couch.  “Ahhh!”

“No, silly-snoozer.  Jane Margaret Blake’s old papers.  The old box she just found in her closet.  A box she hid away many, many, many years ago.”

All of them have once upon a time written on them.”

Wrye finds a pillow and stuffs it behind his head, then holds up three fingers.  “That’s a lot of manys.”

“And a lot of years.  She always adored writing stories and each one started with those words.”

“Well, it is a great way to start a fairy tale.”  Wrye grabbed a blanket and tossed it over himself.

“She called them fables, and she wrote them as she were in a trance, sometimes they were long and sometimes short but they all had something in common.”

Wrye snapped his fingers and a steaming cup of hot chocolate appeared in his hand.  “And that is?”

Pacing, Tattle’s brow furrowed.  “They came true.”

One of Wrye’s bushy brows arched.  “What?”

Tattle paused, settled tensely on the arm of the couch.  “Not only that, the story’s reality caused her all sorts of problems in her life.”  Tattle pointed to the opposite end of the couch where Jane curled up with her box and her stories, sorting through a variety of cards and college news clippings and those stories on brittle, fading papers.  “She is getting lost in her past.”

Wrye settles into the cozy cushions, but suddenly comes alert.  “But what harm can that do?  All of us enjoy a little nostalgia.”

“Only, her nostalgia can come back to haunt her.”

Wrye pops up.  “Ut oh!”

“You said it, one very big ut oh!”

“Sooo, let’s stick around and see what happens.”  With a yawn, he cuddles back into the sofa.

“Oh no you don’t, we’re off another leap!”

“Now, to visit a back shelf book, DANGEROUS DESIRE by Romona Hilliger.  Tattle and Wrye quickly find themselves intruding on a spat between the lovely married Amy Anderson and her seven years younger art teacher who has a girlfriend.

"I smell trrrrouble!" announces Tattle as she scans the book's pages. "Her marriage is over except for in name, but her conscience is certainly pushing her away from this naughty attraction to a younger man.

"Jamie, the heart-tugger in question, doesn't think it's so naughty. He seems star-struck, and he is quite hurt by her rejection."

"Amy hurts just as much." Tattle flips through several pages. "She believes what she is doing is wrong, but she also can't resist. Mmmm, such delicious pull-n-tug. Her hesitating, then giving into coffee dates...him pursuing...her refusing...him chasing...her remembering her dissolving marriage and that love often equates to pain...he being so different...her falling..."

Wrye puts up a halting hand. "I get it. I get it. She feels she should have learned her lesson about love, but as we can see...," he points to several paragraphs, "she's having a tough time keeping barriers in place."

"As is Jamie. He lost his family and his first love. He feels affection for another, but nothing resembling passion." Tattle places a finger on her heart and makes a sizzling sound. "Amy, though, done-gone and brought the heat back to his heart. He wants to push her away but can't seem to find the will."

They watch Amy and Jamie struggle, each tossing out hurtful words as their spirits dissolve in despair. Tattle says softly, "Will they ever be able to find a path to each other?"

"Perhaps not," Wrye returns, "but love always has its possibilities. So, read and be part of the character's passionate journey."

Hope you enjoyed.  Have a great New Year and continue to read!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq. and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat

Created and written by
Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Angelica Hart and Zi

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Sells Books, by Allison Knight

Some define the art of writing as an art. It is that, but selling that writing is a business. It is as much a part of the author's responsibility as building a career. I consider my association with my publishers as a partnership, two (or more) working to bring my work to the forefront. If an author wants to turn the whole process over to an agent, so be it. I want more control.

Since I've had little energy and lots of time to sit in front of a computer and play around (writing takes work so that was limited for me as I grew used scheduling my time better), I did some research and lots of reading. I dissected my researched info into three categories: what sells, why it sells, and how to sell it. I didn't go into a lot of promotional ideas.

What I found were some interesting discoveries. First, what sells in romance. Well, chick lit is down, fantasy seems to be up, humor is making a come back, and it's a draw on the paranormal stuff. But the general trend is shorter work. I used to write epic tombs... 145K words. No way, Jose! What seems to sell well now is 45 - 60 K words. So maybe I'm writing too long.

Novellas are in and so are short stories, but the longer novels - not so much. It looks like there might be a resurgence in historicals, especially in the US and UK, although I see some really early stuff showing up. Ancient Roman, for example.

Discovering why it sells required reading lots of reviews. Those were fun, and do shed a bit of light on the why. Everyone likes a well written story. Therefore good editors are a must. A bad book gets panned. People seem to like tongue in cheek humor, not the slap-stick kind, and certain themes appear to be getting worn out. For example, the heroine's hidden pregnancy.

Reviews count a little but word of mouth seems to be the best example of why a book sells well - more than anything else - so people discussing the book on Facebook, etc. helps. (That is, talking about someone else's book, not your own.)

The how to sell it was a surprise. This one I had to turn to my DH and a couple of other readers for their answers and again a trip through those review. First, for some, that first book free from Amazon does work if - and this is a big, big if - that book is great! Several people bought a whole series because the first book was so good. My DH is one of those. He read a new author on his Kindle, liked what he read, searched for more and bought three more of the author's books. He's done this now a couple of times. Several people I mentioned this to agreed they had done the same. So, that free book had better be a real winner or you'll sell no more books, period.

Again the word of mouth came into play. Talking a book up on the social media (not your own, but someone else's book - and again it had better be good, or you'll look like a fool) is a great way to get those sales. Which gives room for a thought. Have you mentioned a book you've recently read that you really liked? Okay, I'm guilty too, but the more I think about it the more important that seems to be. So, from now on, when I read a really good book, I'm going to mention it. Maybe the author will return the favor.

Allison Knight is the author of several books, including Lynbrook's Lady, Windsong (a medieval romance) and, recently, Betrayed Bride (contemporary romance).
You can find out more about Allison at her website,