Friday, January 29, 2016

My Funny Valentine: A Lizzie Hart Novella by Caroline Fardig (Lizzie Hart Mysteries) (New Release)

Lizzie Hart is back! And she and Blake are celebrating her dream engagement as only she can: with murder. God, I've missed her ;-)



All Lizzie wants for Valentine’s Day is for her fiancé
NOT to be the prime suspect in a murder investigation. 
Is that too much to ask?

Lizzie Hart is finally living the dream.  She’s engaged to the love of her life, Blake Morgan, and more importantly, she hasn’t even given a thought to dead bodies or murder investigations for an entire year.  The only hurdle in Lizzie and Blake’s way to wedded bliss is introducing their polar opposite families to each other at their engagement party.

Blake’s parents have thrown a lavish shindig, but the fun is quickly over when Blake’s brother arrives with an unexpected guest, the woman who left Blake at the altar years ago.  If that weren’t enough drama for one evening, Lizzie and Blake find the town mayor dead and the detectives on the case put Blake at the top of their suspect list.

It’s a race against the clock for Lizzie and Blake to find the real killer before the police decide to lock Blake up and throw away the key.

My Funny Valentine: A Lizzie Hart Novella can be purchased here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dream of Me by A. Star (The Djinn Order #2) (Review)





Dream of Me by A. Star (The Djinn Order #2)
Publication date: January 19th 2016
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk

Synopsis:
Glory St. Pierre never thought so many lies could hold so much truth, especially when her entire life has been one of those lies. Now that she knows who she really is, she must find a way to come to terms with it before the Djinn sorcerer Rasputin and his steel army descend down upon the human and Djinn realms, wielding magic so dark even her own Djinn lover, Irving, is wary of it.
Their only hope to save the realms are a couple of hunters and the Lords of the Djinn Order, four powerful Djinn who have remained elusive for centuries. Armed with her only granted wish, a fabulous airship, and the Djinn she loves by her side, Glory will embark on a quest to find the four lords and enlist their help. But there is a reason the lords have been in hiding, and once this tiny band of adventurers awakens them from their slumber, they will set off a chain of events that has been in the making since the beginning of time.
There is no turning back now.

My Review:

The big reveal at the end of Wish For Me shed light on Glory's connections to the Djinn. Fair to say she might have a personal stake in their fate, but once the Djinn discover what they are, they are not going to be happy. No matter; the only Djinn she really cares about is Irving, and those two continue to steam up the pages, regardless of whether they're fighting or working together.

It's not enough that they have to worry about Hunters, a vengeful Djinn sect and some of Irving's snooty relatives. Not to give anything away, but Glory proves yet again that what you don't know really can hurt you and the people you love. Maybe she should be a little less reckless, but maybe Irving should be a little more forthcoming. But that's nothing compared to this installment's big reveal: let's just say Djinn riding on horseback is going to turn out to be one of the most terrifying things Glory has ever encountered.

I am loving this compact little series so far, and my hat is off to A. Star for her economical word building; these novels aren't super long, but you can immediately picture the world of the Djinn (and the other dimensions they visit). I mention this because one of the reasons I avoid paranormal is that I dread slogging through pages and pages describing an alternate universe, but the dread factor here is zero. Dare I say it, Star makes her new worlds sound like a lot of fun.

I can't wait to see what the final installment has in store for Glory, Irving and the rest of the rest of their motley band. Recommended for fans of steampunk.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24301527-dream-of-me

Purchase:
(Book 1 - Wish For Me - will be 99¢ the week of the tour!)

Wish For Me:

Dream of Me:

AUTHOR BIO:
A. Star is a fan of dirty passion. She loves to read it, and she damn sure loves to write it. She is the author of the Mythos: Gods & Lovers series and the Djinn Order series. She is a night-owl and a coffee junkie, and the only sneaker she would be caught dead wearing are Converses.

Author links:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blog, Decluttered

A little while ago I mentioned how much I enjoyed The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Believe me when I say that I've been restraining myself by not blogging constantly about how much I enjoyed my initial burst of tidying and how my family adopted their own subtle changes after I cleared out bags and bags worth of stuff.

Recently, I was asked to review 10-Minute Digital Declutter by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport. While the idea of spending days- weeks, months- decluttering my digital life does not appeal to me, I was so inspired by their book that I spent the equivalent of half a day (or more) over the last three days clearing out email and purging and organizing my hard drive and cloud files. I will go so far as to say that it was fun, but I might be a special case.

What wasn't fun? Finally clearing out this blog. That took far longer than the email project because it required a lot more thought and hands on activity. When I got rid of my old Gmail account last year, I didn't realize that would also purge a number of photos from this blog. I had some on my hard drive, but I groaned whenever I thought of adding them in.

Pieter Janssens Elinga 01
A tidy space makes everything easier

As far as I'm concerned, what's really attracting people to the tidying trend is that it will free you up not only your time and space but also mental energy, all of which you can then turn to whatever it is that really drives you. Inspired by that thought, I plunged in last night and this morning, and the result is that I cleared out about 90(!) posts and that everything that remains has a photo. I sincerely apologize to any author whose posts I had to delete, but I suspect most of them won't notice; a lot of them were time-sensitive and therefore not relevant more than a week after it was posted. I will happily host guest posts for anyone whose content was deleted.

But overall, I'm happy with what's on the blog now, and getting rid of some extraneous posts allows me to highlight some content that I'm genuinely interested in. My goal for 2016 is to make this blog more fully reflect who I am as a writer, so expect more blog hops, more interviews and more thoughts on pop culture. Who knows...I might even write a tidying post after all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The #Twister edition...things that make you say WHAT?!

While I'm known for my "ambitious" blog hops, I have to give credit where credit is due: thank you, Caroline, for making the suggestion a few months ago (and knowing that I'd be crazy enough to run with it).

Kudos to Jami for defining a good twist. I'll add that it has to make you gasp (just a little bit) and exclaim "What?!". As you can see below, I spend a lot of my time doing both.

Spoiler alerts are implied (even if I don't spoil every single one of these stories).

Television

This is the genre I had the hardest time with. If a television show is done well (and I don't want to regularly watch one that isn't), we know the characters well enough that it's hard to get in a good twist without viewers seeing it coming. And if the show is predicated on twist after twist...never mind, I won't be watching that (see above about "done well").

But there was one extremely well-done show that got in a great twist in recent memory, so much so that to do this day I'm still thinking about it. I refer you to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and no, I'm not talking about the fact that the slayer was a teenager, that her vampire boyfriend became evil (in retrospect, is that really a twist?) or that the show took place in a Hellmouth named Sunnydale. I'm thinking instead about the Season 6 episode "Normal Again" in which a demon Buffy fought injected her with a venom that made her believe she was living in an alternate reality, namely, that instead of fighting demons and vampires for the last few years, she was really in a mental institution, overseen by her not-divorced parents. She was finally out of a catatonic state, and the doctors said it was essential that if she wanted to get better she had to accept that her fantasy world was just that and kill off her imaginary friends. Which meant that our Buffy subdued her loyal friends and sister to be killed so she could be rid of the fantasy. Ironically, her mother's words in the mental institution inspire her to save her friends, and she defeats the demon who was going to kill them. All was well...until the final scene, in which a catatonic Buffy sat in her cell while her mother and father wept over her.

Is this for real?
What?! What happened there, and what did this mean for the show? It was never addressed again, but I spent the rest of the series wondering what, exactly, I was watching.

Movies

Honestly, this genre was the reason I wanted to do this blog hop. Because of their relatively short duration, movies are best suited to give audiences a satisfying twist, or two or three or four.

Wild Things, on first glance, is kind of trashy. First spoiled Kelly (Denise Richards) claims to her mother, Sandra (Theresa Russell), that her former teacher (and Sandra's former lover) Sam (Matt Dillon) raped her. Then trailer trash Suzie (Neve Campbell) calls Detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and joins the complaint, only to be grilled on the stand and forced to confess that two girls made it up. Sam, having been beaten up by Sandra's thugs, gets a settlement with the help of his possibly incompetent lawyer Bowden (Bill Murray)...and then celebrates with Kelly and Suzie in a cheap motel room! Suzie looks too nervous to wait for her share of the settlement, so after the two girls have a tryst, Kelly convinces Sam to kill Suzie. Later, Duquette, while pursuing a lead about Kelly's connection to Suzie's disappearance, accidentally shoots and kills her. He's forced off the job...and then meets up with Sam. The two go for a boat ride, during which Sam tries to kill Duquette...with the not-dead Suzie! After his body goes overboard, Suzie poisons Matt Dillon and sails off into the sunset.

What could possibly go wrong with this bunch?
Wait, what? It turns out the whole operation was Suzie's idea. She might have been poor, but she also happened to have a genius IQ. After Duquette murdered a young friend of hers over a prostitute Duquette was sleeping with, he arrested Suzie on a fake drug charge in order to hide his crime. Suzie called Sam, who didn't bail her out. She found evidence that he was sleeping with Kelly and blackmailed him into carrying out her scheme, which included befriending Duquette and selling the idea to Kelly as if it were his. The final scene is when Bowden delivers the money to Suzie on a beach. "Remind me not to piss you off!"

Indeed.

If what motivated Wild Things was money and revenge, what moved the plot of the classic Laura was obsession. It's got all of the trappings of a good old-fashioned twist, starting with the unreliable narrator and the revelation that the police not only don't have the murderer, they have the wrong victim! Just as Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is starting to fall for the deceased Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), she walks into her apartment without any clue as to what's going on. As McPherson digs deeper, he realizes that Laura's fiance is even worse than he'd thought (and the casting of Victor Price as the down-on-his-luck little rich boy might qualify as a twist in and of itself) and that her best friend Waldo (Clifton Webb) isn't as gentle and sensitive as he might seem. It's a suspenseful classic, and all I'll tell you is that this time the sinister Judith Anderson *isn't* the villain.

Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt gets to choose between a high strung columnist, a shiftless playboy...

Or the detective who fell in love with her picture when he thought she was dead. Er...
And now for something completely different, the South Korean movie, Oldboy. The motivation here is pure vengeance, but nothing about this story is simple. Dae Su (Choi Min Sik) is drunk and on his way to give his young daughter a birthday present when he's taken into police custody for what we assume is his rowdy behavior. Right after he's released, he's kidnapped and held in what looks like a cheap hotel room for fifteen years. All he can do is write and watch television, from which he learns that his wife has been murdered and he's the prime suspect. He practices martial arts and vows revenge, and when he's mysteriously freed he finds his way into the restaurant where young Mi Do (Kang Hye-Jeong) is working. With her help, he tracks down several leads, including the restaurant that may have served him dumplings, and figures out where he was held. There's a fight scene (hammers), torture (teeth) and Dae Su comes face-to-face with his unapologetic captor Woo Jin (Yu Ji-Tae), who admits that he took him but tells him that he has to figure out why. He and Mi Do have sex and then go on the hunt, and with an old friend's help he realizes that he and his captor were in school together. Both were unremarkable, but Woo Jin's sister Soo Ah is another story; after rumors that she was sleeping around got out, she committed suicide. Dae Su now remembers that he was the one who inadvertently started the rumors...after he saw Woo Jin and Soo Ah having sex.

"Why fifteen years?"
Dae Su confronts Woo Jin while one of Woo Jin's agents holds Mi Do. "Why fifteen years?" Woo Jin taunts Dae Su. To answer the question, he gives Dae Su a photo album...of his daughter. As he flips through, a horrified Dae Su realizes that Mi Do is his daughter! He begs Woo Jin not to tell Mi Do, and to prove his desperation he cuts out his own tongue. Woo Jin agrees to stay silent, then kills himself as he remembers his sister's last moments. Dae Su, miserable, begs Woo Jin's hypnotist (don't ask) to help him, and she agrees. The movie ends with Dae Su and Mi Do happily hugging in the snow, oblivious to the truth.

Confession: you're going to be too busy shuddering under a pillow and covering your eyes to be gasping over this one.

Books

I think it goes without saying that mysteries have a fair bit of twisting in them. We expect them, to a certain extent, so the twist has to be extraordinary to get our attention (and if you go into a book knowing that they're going to be there, it can be even harder to enjoy the surprise). It's a mature genre, so the bar is pretty high. I think I've gone on enough about Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but OH MY GOD. This sneaks up on you, and when it hits you you're kind of astounded. That's all I'm going to say, because it's a great twist.

The story which proves that it's all about perspective
Having said that, there have been a handful of mysteries that I've enjoyed in the last couple of years, and one of them genuinely "got" me. The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill is the follow up to The Summer of Dead Toys. Barcelona Detective Hector Salgado takes on two different, but equally disturbing mysteries in the books, but the thread that connects them is Salgado's growing obsession with his estranged wife, Ruth. She disappears without a trace at the end of The Summer of Dead Toys, and his pregnant associate Leire Castro is keeping boredom at bay in The Good Suicides by investigating Ruth's disappearance while on maternity leave, all while hiding the investigation from their otherwise indulgent and protective boss. Ruth, she discovers, was adopted, and there's every reason to believe that she was stolen from her birth mother. And while she left Hector later in life for another woman, Leire discovers that she had a relationship with a woman before that- and that woman committed suicide. But the biggest discovery of all is from the last sentence of the last page: Hector's boss was the very last person to see Ruth- and he hasn't said anything for more than six months. What? (And why is it taking Antonio Hill so long to come out with the sequel?!)

"Good suicides" lets survivors feel better...
These are the pinnacle of my twisted world. What are some of your favorites?

Thanks so much to all of the bloggers who joined me on this journey! Don't worry- we'll be back for more...

Monday, November 23, 2015

The #TwisterBlogHop Schedule

Totally excited to see what my fellow author-bloggers have in store for Twister Blog Hop! Here's who you can expect, when and where (don't worry, I'll remind you):


Kerrie Olzak: 11/30
Jami Deise: 12/1
Me: 12/2

Knowing this crowd, it's going probably going to be nuts, but...this nuts?
Old Boy (2003) Even if you see *the* twist coming, the rest of it will still make your head spin

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Death Before Decaf: A Java Jive Mystery by Caroline Fardig (New Release)



Oh my god- Caroline Fardig's latest is finally out! (Can you tell I've been waiting very impatiently?) Read the description below, then go snap this baby up!)

After her music career crashes and burns spectacularly, Juliet Langley is forced to turn to the only other business she knows: food service. Unfortunately, bad luck strikes yet again when her two-timing fiancé robs her blind and runs off with her best waitress. Flushing what’s left of her beloved café down the toilet with her failed engagement, Juliet packs up and moves back to her college stomping grounds in Nashville to manage an old friend’s coffeehouse. At first glance, it seems as though nothing’s changed at Java Jive. What could possibly go wrong? Only that the place is hemorrhaging money, the staff is in open revolt, and Juliet finds one unlucky employee dead in the dumpster out back before her first day is even over.
 
The corpse just so happens to belong to the cook who’d locked horns with Juliet over the finer points of the health code. Unimpressed with her management style, the other disgruntled employees are only too eager to spill the beans about her fiery temper to the detective on the case. Add to the mix a hunky stranger who’s asking way too many questions, and suddenly Juliet finds herself in some very hot water. If she can’t simmer down and sleuth her way to the real killer, she’s going to get burned.

Buy the book...


Connect with Caroline




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The #Twister Blog Hop is coming for you!

I feel like 2013 and 2014 were good years for my crazy, goofy blog hops...and I feel like I've neglected everyone in the last few months. 

This ends now.

At the end of November, a couple of other author-bloggers are going to help me suss out the works of art (books, television, movies, you name it) that featured the best, twistiest storylines. Will we feature an Agatha Christie classic? Will we touch on one of the trashiest movies made in the 90s? Will I tell you about a superbly twisted Spanish mystery trilogy you need to be reading? You'll just have to tune in to find out.

Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in "Laura", one of the cleverest, twistiest movies ever (and no, I'm not referring to Price's turn as a romantic lead)
If you're a blogger and want to play along, send me an email at deb AT deborahnamkrane DOT com and we'll get you squared away.