Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FCFP Tuesday Intros - Murder at Honeychurch Hall

This is my first time participating in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesdays, a link-up hosted at Bibliophile by the Sea.

I must begin with a bit of a story.  About a week ago, I received an email from one of the book tour blogs to which I subscribe, telling of an upcoming book tour for Murder at Honeychurch Hall.  I love me some cozy mysteries, so I responded quite quickly, and was a little saddened to find out that the tour was already full!  Well, I had already done the rounds of the authors website and GoodReads page, etc.  A short time later, I received an email from Hannah Dennison herself, thanking me for making the first comment at her new site, and offering to send me an advanced reading copy of the selfsame book!  And guess what came in my mail today?  WOOHOO!  I tried to explain my glee to my 11 year old daughter by saying it would be like her getting a preview of the newest Halo toy before the general public.

On to the book!  The scheduled publication date is May 13, 2014, but is available for pre-order now!

Description from the back cover of the book:

Murder at Honeychurch Hall former TV celebrity host Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house, on an isolated country estate, Honeychurch Hall, several hundred miles from London. When Kat arrives at the house, she discovers that Iris has yet another surprise in store. Iris has been writing in secret for years and reluctantly reveals that she’s actually Krystalle Storm, the famous bestselling author of steamy bodice-rippers. The gentry upstairs and those below stairs at Honeychurch Hall regard the newcomers with suspicion and distrust. When the nanny goes missing, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead, and Iris is accused of the murder, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all and wonders if she is—indeed—guilty. Although the six hundred year old estate has endured wars, corruption and Royal favors, it’s the scandals, secrets and lies of the last few decades that must remain buried at all costs.

So I tore open the envelope and delved into the book.  First chapter having been read, I sat down here to wax lyrical about it.  Since I had already read the first couple of paragraphs on the book tour announcement, I thought I would include a few short paragraphs from the middle of Chapter 1.

"And besides," she added.  "Alfred helped."
"And Alfred is whom? Your Spanish boyfriend?"  Nothing would surprise me at this point.
"Alfred is hardly a Spanish name, dear.  A Spanish name would be Juan or perhaps Pablo," said Mum mildly.  "Alfred is my brother."
I swear I stopped breathing.  "I didn't know you had a brother."
"Well, I do," said Mum.  "As a matter of fact I had two - though Billy's dead and gone.  Aneurism on Blackpool Pier.  He died young.  So very sad."
"So I must have cousins.  I'd love to have cousins."
"You wouldn't like them."
"I would like them."  I could feel my temper rising as I remembered envying my friends' big families, especially at Christmas.  I hated being an only child.  Did Dad know you had brothers?"
"Of course he knew.  He just didn't like them so we didn't see them," said Mum.  "Does it matter?"
"Actually, it does matter,"  I said.  "I always thought you and Dad were orphans."
"Really?  I wonder why?"
"Because that's what you told me," I shouted.
"Well, never mind all that," said Mum briskly.  "You'd better get cracking if you want to be here in time for tea."

I hope you enjoyed this preview.  Here are a picture and some links for you to check out:


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

REVIEW: Under Zenith by Shannen Crane Camp

(Disclaimer:  I received an ARC of "Under Zenith" by Shannen Crane Camp from MerpSquad Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions in this review are my own.)

Merp Squad Blog Tours

Here's the blurb:

It was the most important day of her life, and for 21-year-old Isla Edison, graduating from college with a useless degree in vocal performance was all part of her master plan. Dying in a car accident only hours later wasn’t part of that plan. Yet there she was, standing over her own lifeless body and panicking about ruining the truck her parents had bought as a graduation present. Talk about a bad way to repay them.
If coming to terms with the hereafter wasn’t enough to deal with, Isla suddenly finds herself stuck with Hayden, a gorgeous Brit with a bad attitude and a penchant for throwing her off cliffs to keep her in line. Worst of all, Hayden is her Guide, and until she completes six impossible and totally random tasks to reach her mysterious Destination, she’s stuck with him. Isla’s major problem, though, is that she doesn’t know what reaching her Destination actually entails, and soon the mystery surrounding her new afterlife seems more ominous than any purgatory she could possibly imagine. Now Isla must decide if she’ll trust her dark and brooding Guide despite his “bad boy” act, or if she’ll risk failing her tasks and facing the unknown alone.

 My Review:

Ohmigosh, I loved this book!  Imagine this scene.  You have just graduated college and gone out to celebrate with your family and best friend.  After the meal, you parents present you with a new truck!  What a great day, right?  You drive off, and on your way to where you are going next, you swerve to avoid hitting a dog in the road.  Next thing you know, you're feeling really sluggish, and not at all like yourself.  Then you find out there is a reason for that.

And Isla thought college was tough.  She hasn't seen nuthin' yet.  I have not read many books written in the first person and found Isla's voice very refreshing.  As she transitions to her new state of being, Isla holds on to some of her live human female concerns about her looks, her family, her life.  Enter Hayden, tall, dark, and British.  And perfect foil for Isla, as Hayden is her 'guide' though this antechamber to the afterlife.

I especially liked the thought that the setting came out of Isla's mind and memories.  How often in our lives are situations in which we find ourselves (good or bad) of our own making?

I had to force myself to go to sleep the night I started reading this book, because I did not want to stop reading.  To top everything off, I just checked on Amazon (not that I'm stumping for them), the Kindle price is only $2.99 (for now).  If you have three dollars and are looking for a great read, you need look no further.


About the Author:

Shannen Crane Camp

Shannen Crane Camp was born and raised in Southern California, where she developed a love of reading, writing, and anything having to do with film. After high school, she moved to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, where she received a degree in Media Arts and found herself a husband in fellow California native Josh Camp. The two now live in either California or Utah... they still can't decide.

Monday, February 17, 2014

REVIEW: Where the Wildflowers Grow

(Disclaimer:  I received an e-copy of "Where the Wildflowers Grow" as part of a Virtual Author Book Tour.  My opinions are my own.)

From GoodReads:

Sexual confusion and dysfunction cause the unraveling of the perfect American family in small town Georgia in 1960.

Rose Cassidy's fantasy life is a haunting reminder that she's living a lie. So when she has the opportunity to act on those fantasies, she dives in without any thought to consequences.

Rose's husband, Ryan, has fantasies of his own, and his actions cause unimaginable hurt [pain] to the very children he tries so hard to protect.

When the happiness each member of the Cassidy family seeks so desperately to find is shattered by shame, guilt, and ultimately murder, they must each face the truth that lies deep within their souls.

My Review:

'Wildflowers' had me from page one.  Vera Jane Cook's use of language raises her writing above the ordinary sea of books lining shelves of stores and libraries.  This is not meant to disrespect books in general, rather to praise Cook's writing in particular.  From the first scene of Chapter One, all five of my senses were engaged and wanting to know what was going to happen next.

If I had to express any dissatisfaction with "Wildflowers" it would be with all the preoccupation (?-my word) with sex.  I know sex is one of Maslow's basic needs, right up there with food and water.  Also, I wouldn't be here if my parents hadn't had at least a nominal interest in procreation.  I just don't care for public displays of what (for me) is an intimate act.  I know Michaelangelo's David is great art, but I'm probably not going to see it anytime soon with my parents or children, if that makes sense.  Please tell me that doesn't make me a conservative.

Having said that, if you like your fiction steamy, you will like "Where the Wildflowers Grow".

The characters are well-drawn and, if not always likable, I had empathy for them.  When they were heading for a proverbial cliff, I wanted to shout to warn them, or to shake them by the shoulders and ask, "What are you thinking?"

Overall, 'Wildflowers' is a great read.  It will definitely challenge you out of one or more comfort zones .. but remember, that can be a good thing too.

Linking up:


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Author Interview: Karen Snow

I had the pleasure of speaking with Karen Snow, author of "Seven Gifts from Seven Dogs" recently and share with you both that interview, and the fact that the books are now out!

Me:  Is this your first book?

Karen:  Yes.  I've done journalism over the years but this is my first book.

Me:  What was your inspiration for this book now?

Karen:  Once in everyone's lifetime, people go through a couple of rough years.  I was struggling, and (then) my dog Gretl died last February.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I started writing about her and our relationship.  It was a healing process for me.  Dogs have been a huge part of my life.  I wanted to inspire people with my story (to let them know) you can get up again and move forward.  

Me:  How did you come up with the title?

Karen:  Dogs are incredible teachers.  Their lessons were their gifts to me.

Me:  Name one entity outside your family that you feel supported you.

Karen:  This is a solo act, not to sound selfish.  Besides my family it was very much an inside job.  My sister read the book today.  I asked her which was her favorite and she said she couldn't choose.

At first the book was my mission.  It's grown so big it is now part of the mission.

Me:  I noticed on your website your connection to an animal charity, Dogs Deserve Better.  Can you tell us a little about that?

Karen:  I have been connected to them for years.  The way some people treat their dogs is terrible - like leaving them chained up all day.  People need to know more about treating their dogs better.  My son, my dog Jack and I are leaving soon on a cross-country tour, speaking at churches, shelters, senior centers. Our first stop is at the Dogs Deserve Better shelter in Virginia Beach.  

There is a spiritual side to this, a teaching and an educational side.  We're compiling a list of places to go.  Whoever wants to talk to me, as long as I can promote this and make the words serve their purpose.

Me:  What are your current projects?

Karen:  I will be blogging the whole tour so people can follow us.  We are going on an adventure and making new friends.  I want to help people and dogs.  It's that strong for me to do this.  It should be set up by Monday, for those who would like to follow.  More information will be available on my Facebook page and my website.

Me:  Is there anything you found particularly challenging in your writing?

Karen:  The words flowed.  This book needed to be published.  I wasn't going to wait around and have someone tell me it wasn't good enough.  It was a labor of love.

Travelling the self-publishing road was more or a challenge.  I had an idea in my head of how I wanted the book to look and feel.  I wanted to find the right graphic designer.  I had to find the right publisher.  Print on demand was $10 per book and I didn't want that.  I wanted more control over my book.

Me:  Do you see writing as a career?  Will there be another book?

Karen:  Writing is my way of expressing myself.  For a really long time, I've loved dogs.  I can't stand to see them sick or hurt.  It's going to be my life's purpose.  Writing this book helped me find my purpose.  Dogs are beautiful companions.  They have something that they are here to give us - that is sacred.  I'm taking a course at college on animal-assisted therapy - dogs helping with hospital patients' recovery and the like.

Absolutely there will be another book!

Me:  Do you have any advice for other writers?

Karen:  Yeah, don't give up.  There are so many (publishing) companies out there.  Let the company feel right for you.  Let the editor feel right for you.  Get started.  You may not know where you are going, but just get moving.

Me:  Do you have anything specifically you want to say to your readers?

Karen:  When this all started, I was in a dark place.  One day I said, "I'm tired of this.  I'm choosing to be happy."  I went to Home Depot and bought some flowers.  I chose to be happy in a very dark time.  We can choose that.

Me:  If you had it to do over again, would you change anything about the book or your process?

Karen:  No.  Nothing at all.


I would like to express my appreciation to Karen Snow for granting the interview and wish her the best of success with both the book , the work she is doing and the journey she is about to undertake.  Please be sure to check out her site and subscribe to her blog when it goes live.  Do it for the furry companions in your life, past, present and future and for the many gifts they have given you.

And, I'm thrilled to share with you that I have taken Karen up on her challenge to choose the lesson of one of the dogs, live it for 30 days and report back at SevenGiftsSevenDogs.com.  I even made a 'challenge button' for myself. and I will have a post each day in February (and I guess two days in March) for what I am learning.  I'd love to have you join me in this challenge!

To let you know, I have chosen Gretl's lesson and challenge:  PURPOSE.


I'm also sharing this post with these wonderful link-ups:

(the list will probably grow, too)