17 October 2019

Review of Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark

Rain is coming in, the weather is getting cooler, and the nighttime is creeping in earlier. It's the best time of year to pick up a new book! If you are interested in something unusual, entertaining, and humorous.

Here is a bit about the book Welcome to Maravilla:

The tiny hamlet of Maravilla, New Mexico is not immune to modern-day problems. But the citizens of Maravilla have their own special problems, as well:

A developer wants to build a Christian-themed amusement park next to Maravilla’s historic church.

The county line runs right through the town, splitting it in two.

And the government is threatening to close their post office!

Into this muddle steps Jake Epstein, a young writer from the big city. Jake is seeking peace and quiet to finish his current project: a science fiction story in which adventuress Tai-Keiko must deliver the secret formula for Zeton-9—with the evil Krossarians in hot pursuit.

But then reality and science fiction converge—and Tai-Keiko finds herself in present-day Maravilla, face to face with a gobsmacked Jake.

Join Jake on this comic run along the dusty roads of Maravilla, and find out who won the fight between Father Ignatius and the heathen pig farmer. How a basketball game changed the fate of the town. And was that white flash in the sky a UFO?

What I Thought

Immediately when reading this book, I got such an incredible sense of the setting. It's rich in detail and character. In fact, the setting itself felt like a character all on its own. There's a lot going on in this book and the writer does a great job with keeping things lively with each of the characters. The side part featuring Jake's story was a bit sidetracking at first, but it became such an integral part of the story. It reminded me so much of how a writer can become attached to their characters. So, if you want an interesting, unusual book for the colder seasons, you'll want to pick this one up.

Welcome to Maravilla is now available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

About R. Douglas Clark

R. Douglas Clark was born in Vermont, grew up in Colorado, attended college in Chicago, and received a Master's degree in music from Brown University. Seeing no future for himself in academia, he spent a year in the Oregon woods, living in a primitive cabin, writing music reviews and cultural commentary for magazines and newspapers. Next stop, Eugene, Oregon where he spent 20 damp years as a bootstrap businessman, father and musician. On a vacation trip, he and his wife, Shelley, fell in love with sunny northern New Mexico and subsequently moved there. After four years running Boys and Girls Clubs in Chimayó and Abiquiú--and another four, running a U-pick raspberry farm--he retired to write fiction full time.

Find R. Douglas online: https://www.rdouglasclark.com/

I received the above book in exchange for my honest review.

12 October 2019

3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night with Author Charles Suddeth

Another Saturday night is here folks! So I'm excited to introduce to you, author Charles Suddeth, who is guest host tonight. Before we read his suggestions for Saturday night, here is a bit about the author himself:

Charles Suddeth has published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. He is active with Green River Writers and leads a monthly SCBWI Social. He lives in Louisville and teaches for the Jefferson County Schools.

You may find him online at his website, his Twitter account, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.  

Now, here is what he suggests for Saturday night! Take it away Charles...
For a Saturday night book alone...

If you are not alone, I suggest 2 copies of my book suggestion. No use fighting. The first thriller I ever read was a 1974 best-seller, Six Days of the Condor, by James Grady. It is about a US government employee on the run from spies intent on stealing government secrets. It is one of those books you begin and read to the finish, even if Saturday morphs into Sunday. It started me on a path of reading and writing thrillers.

A Saturday night movie at home with your special someone

Dunkirk, the 2017 Warner Bros. World War II movie written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan. It was nominated for 27 awards, winning 3 Academy Awards. It has land, air, and sea stories running simultaneously. It uses what I call emotional time, compressing the 3 stories into a thrill ride as Allied Armies escape from Nazis. It has little dialogue so you can snuggle with someone and talk without missing anything. I have watched Dunkirk several times.

A special Saturday night with your special someone

A lady friend and I often hike the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge over the Ohio River connecting Louisville, Kentucky and Jeffersonville, Indiana. From 1895 to the 1960s, it was a railroad bridge. It is open 24 hours and is a 1 mile walk each way. Near both ends of the bridge, local restaurants and shops are open for hikers. It is lit up at night and features lights in patterns, especially for holidays like the Fourth of July and Christmas.

Thank you Charles for your amazing suggestions! If you need another book to read in addition to his suggestion, check out his book Stone Man and the Trail of Tears.

Driven to Stone Man’s trail...

After U.S. soldiers attack twelve-year-old Tsatsi’s Cherokee village, his family flees to the Smokey Mountains. Facing storms, flood, and hunger, they’re forced to go where Stone Man, a monstrous giant, is rumored to live.

His family seeks shelter in an abandoned village, but soldiers hunt them down. Tsatsi and his sister Sali escape, but Sali falls ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man. Tsatsi gives chase and confronts the giant, only to learn this monster isn’t what he seems.

Their journey is a dangerous one. Will Tsatsi find the strength to become a Cherokee warrior? And will they ever find their family?

Release date – October 8, 2019

Find Stone Man And the Trail of Tears at:

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Stone-Man-Trail-Charles-Suddeth/dp/1939844622/

ITunes - https://fnd.io/#/us/book/1455664389-stone-man-and-the-trail-of-tears-by-char

Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/stone-man-and-the-trail-of-tears

Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130849102?ean=9781939844620

Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44453832-stone-man-and-the-trail-of-tears

05 October 2019

3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night with Author Derik Cavignano

Welcome to my weekly feature where my Saturday night guests share about a book, movie, and one random suggestion of their choice. I am excited to have author Derik Cavignano with us.

A native of Boston and a writer since high school, Derik Cavignano currently lives in Florida with his wife, children, and an angry cat who won’t stop biting him. He writes character-driven thrillers in a variety of genres, including horror, sci-fi, and crime. His novels include The Righteous and the Wicked and Colony of the Lost (a 2016 Silver Falchion Award finalist for best horror). His upcoming crime thriller, The Art of Dying, is due for release in fall 2019. Connect with Derik on Twitter @DerikCavignano or visit his website at derikcavignano.com.

Before we share Derik's Saturday Night suggestions, here is a bit about his book The Art of Dying:

When the bizarre death of a mob foot soldier sparks an escalating war between Boston’s Irish and Italian mafia, Detective Ray Hanley’s relentless search for the truth uncovers evidence of a serial killer obsessed with the art of human suffering. As the body count rises, Detective Hanley must navigate a minefield of crime families, dirty politicians, and crooked cops, while matching wits with a deranged serial killer. Temptation, betrayal, and death threaten to derail the investigation… and justice doesn’t come without a price.

This fast-paced police procedural examines the darkest corners of the human mind, exposes powerful political corruption, and depicts an honorable detective striving to balance the horrors of the job with his commitment to his family.

Be sure to add this book to your Goodreads list or purchase a copy on Amazon.

Now, take it away Derik!

Saturday night reading suggestion: Despite being a horror and thriller author, my all-time favorite book is EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s a wildly imaginative novel about a young American who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Along the way, he is assisted by a hilarious Ukrainian translator who butchers the English language and a blind driver who requires the help of a seeing-eye dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior. The story switches point of view between the translator, the young man (also named Jonathan Safran Foer), and the ancestors of a Jewish settlement eradicated during the Holocaust. Foer’s writing style is ground-breaking, elegant, and eclectic, and the book, itself, is a work of genius. After reading it for the first time, I immediately returned to the first page and read it over again. If you’ve never read it, check it out… and don’t cheat by seeing the movie—it’s not the same!

Saturday Night Movie Suggestion: I’ll get back to my genre here and recommend “The Shining”, the 1980 horror classic based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title. If you’re part of the younger generation that hasn’t seen it, “The Shining” tells the story of a family holed up for winter in a haunted hotel built on an Indian burial ground. Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic who accepts a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel when it shuts down for winter, despite learning that a former caretaker once developed cabin fever there and violently murdered his family. Jack’s relationship with his wife is strained and their young son, Danny, has psychic abilities that present him with visions of the hotel’s violent past. But as the ghosts of the hotel become increasingly real, they attempt to turn Jack against his family and instruct him to “correct” his wife and son. The film’s suspense and creep factor are off the charts, thanks to Stephen King’s imagination and Stanley Kubrick’s fantastic directing skills. The acting is also great, with Jack Nicholson brilliantly portraying Jack Torrance’s descent into madness. A long-awaited sequel—Doctor Sleep—features a grown-up Danny Torrance and debuts this November (based on King’s 2013 novel), so if you haven’t seen “The Shining” yet, make sure you check it out in time for “Doctor Sleep”.

Saturday Night Wild Card Suggestion: If you’re looking for a night of fun beyond the tired routine of dinner, bar, or movie, I’d suggest teaming up with some friends and reserving a spot at an Escape Room. If you’ve never heard of one, an Escape Room is a physical challenge where a small group of people assembles inside of a locked room and must solve a series of riddles, puzzles, or clues in order to crack the code and escape before time expires. Each Escape Room is different and the challenges generally follow the theme of the room (e.g., crime and punishment clues for a prison escape or Prohibition-era clues for a 1920s jazz club). The time limit varies but is often 45 minutes to an hour. Escape Rooms are a perfect way to experience something different and enjoy an exhilarating night out with friends.

Fantastic suggestions! Thank you Derik! In addition to buying his book, be sure to check out his website https://www.derikcavignano.com/.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. If you want to be a guest on my Saturday night weekly feature, send me an email at npyles86[at]gmail[dot]com. Fun fact: you don't need to be an author to be a guest!

04 October 2019

Blood Creek by Kimberly Collins [Book Review & Giveaway]

Have you ever gotten into a book slump? I was in one for about a month and then I came across a surprising book that brought me right out of it. The book that did it is called Blood Creek by Kimberly Collins. It is the formerly untold story of the women of Appalachia. The author dives into lesser-known mine wars of the 20th century and takes the reader on the journey of an uprising.

What makes this historical fiction book is unique is she draws from her own family history.

Blood Creek is set in 1912 West Virginia, where the coal miners are arming themselves up and getting ready to strike. Wealthy coal owners have hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to do whatever is necessary to crush the miners and protect their fortune. In the midst of all of this chaos is Ellie Cline. She arrives in Charleston on the arm of John Felts, a top aid to Tom Felts himself.  And despite all the gossip of being a kept woman to John Felts, she enjoys his attention, his lavish gifts, and the parties.

But Ellie is a spy. She is positioned between the lavish high society of Charleston and her family roots that go all the way down into the dusty coal mines. Will she escape the call of duty that pushes her to share what she knows? Or will she hide in high society, running from her past?

What I Thought

Ellie was a woman far ahead of her time. She is not settled with the status quo. She wants more to life than what society will give her. In West Virginia, she fears all she'll ever have is that cabin she lives in with her husband. Then something changes - her husband commits a crime, she gets pregnant, and her lover is dead. What will she do?

When she gets the chance to leave for Charleston, it's the chance to leave it all behind. Then the old saying comes around, "No matter where you go, there you are." Well, Ellie's past is not far behind and her call of duty draws her back to her roots. I was more than taken by surprise by the character of Ellie - who was likable, understandable, and occasionally detestable at the same time - while enjoying the world of the coal miners and the flashy life of Charleston.

This book drew me in and I couldn't put it down. The setting is so vivid. The book cover depicts a moment in the river when Ellie contemplates her situation, which is such a turning point for the character. I felt the strong family ties emit off the page.

Since it is based in historical fact, there is definite tragedy in this book. Yet, the author has a way of sweeping you along and drawing you back in, even in the midst of sadness and confusion.

I can't wait to see what comes up next for the Mingo Chronicles. If you haven't read historical fiction before, I suggest you start with this book. When I read "coal mines" I didn't realize how much I would enjoy the characters, the world, and the fight for what is right.

If you love historical fiction, you will not be disappointed by this book. I am sure you will enjoy it and will want to read more.

A small thing I really appreciated was how the author introduces which characters are inspired by real people and which characters are pure fiction. She does that in the beginning so that really sets the stage of helping me get to know who I'm about to read.

Memorable Quotes

"She turned to get her things, but an old, familiar tug in her gut told her not to go with Mary. It made her a little dizzy it was so unexpected." (pg 17).

"She sat for a long time watching the river gently flow away from her, listening to its gentle caresses against the rocks and shore. Where was it going? Could she go with it? Was there something better at its end?" (pg 64).

"She was skilled at feeding the male ego to get what she wanted. By the time they arrived in Charleston, John Havers didn't realize he had been hit with a meteor." (pg 118)

About the Author, Kimberly Collins

Kimberly Collins is the author of two novels, most recently Blood Creek, which is the first in the Mingo series. Collins grew up in Matewan, West Virginia, the home of the Hatfield & McCoy feud and the legendary Matewan Massacre. She loves the mountains, the river, the people, and the history. Collins is busy working on several projects including the Mingo series, short stories, photography, and dabbling in other creative endeavors. In 2017, she co-wrote her first screenplay for a short film, which premiered at the Knoxville Film Festival. For more information about Collins and her work, visit https://www.bluemingopress.com/


Best of all I get to giveaway a copy of Blood Creek to one lucky winner! This is US Only. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on 10/22/2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received the above-mentioned book in exchange for my honest review.

12 August 2019

Review & Giveaway of Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher, by Maxine Sylvester

Alright, it's my first holiday review of the year! I kid, I kid. Well, sort of anyway. But if you are looking to find a fantastic series to buy for your child, I had the chance to read Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher and it's so charming and adorable with an incredible message for kids.

About the Book:

Prepare to laugh out loud at this fun winter tale of friendship, sledging and flying!

Ronaldo is the top cadet at Flying Academy. He is on course to win the coveted Golden Snowflake medal and break the speed record. After the first of three speed tests, he discovers his carrots have been stolen. Ronaldo and best friend, Rudi, are determined to catch the thief. However, Ronaldo doesn’t have far to look. The culprit is hiding outside his house … and it’ a creature feared by every reindeer – a wolf!

Ronaldo and Rudi are terrified, but the wolf cub, Ernie, is sad and lonely. She has lost her pack, and it’s the coldest winter in two hundred years. Ronaldo agrees to hide the wolf in his bedroom, but he and Rudi must come up with a superhero plan to return Ernie safely home before his parents find out.

Rudi suggests flying around the Forest of Doom and delivering a message to the wolf pack during the second speed test. But it’s dangerous and Ronaldo isn’t onboard with the idea. He desperately wants to break the record, and the plan means jeopardising his chance of becoming the champion.

Will Ronaldo discover the true meaning of friendship or will he succumb to ambition and become the youngest flyer ever to break the speed record?

My Review:

What a charming book! I loved the humor and personality in this book. While it's the second in the series, I didn't feel disconnected at all from the story. I also really liked the moral lesson in the story about friendship and ambition. It's such a touching one for kids - and adults who are kids at heart. The artwork in the book is black and white, but that didn't distract from the book at all. This story just made me feel like I was there and part of this world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would absolutely recommend it! 

About the Author, Maxine Sylvester

Maxine Sylvester was born in London, England. She grew up with a passion for Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear. She also loved anything Disney and enjoyed drawing the characters. Maxine's love of 'fun' art grew and she had the privilege of being mentored by cartoonist and caricaturist, Steve Chadburn. She completed further studies in children's book illustration with talented artist and illustrator, Jan Nesbitt.
Add this book to your Goodreads list, follow the author on Amazon, follow her on Twitter, and check out her website.

Best of all, I am lucky enough to giveaway a digital copy to THREE of my lucky readers. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Open internationally. Ends 9/2.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

07 August 2019

Interview with Author Steven Max Russo (& win a copy of the book "Thieves")

I am so excited to introduce my readers to the author Steven Max Russo. I'm interviewing him today as well as giving away a copy of his book Thieves. First, here's a bit about the book:

About the Book, Thieves

Esmeralda works for a housecleaning service during the day and as a restaurant hostess at night. Just out of high school, she is the sole support for her mother and two young siblings.

She has drive and ambition. What she doesn't have is money.

She knows of a home in the upscale town of Mendham, NJ, that will be empty for more than a month. The rich people who live there go away the same time every year to spend time at their vacation home. Having cleaned the house, she also knows it contains a fair amount of cash and valuables.

Sitting with Ray, one of her co-workers one night, she casually mentions a "what if" scenario; Ray tells Skooley, a white trash drifter who recently moved to New Jersey from south Florida, and a plan is hatched.

It isn't long before Esmeralda finds herself trapped by both circumstance and greed, forced to try and defend herself against one of her partners in crime, who she quickly discovers is far more dangerous than she ever thought possible.

So, I loved reading on your website how the idea for Thieves came about. Can you recount that for me?

Sure. The germ of the idea came to me in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I live in northern New Jersey, away from the coast, and around here we’re just not used to getting hurricanes. The damage was extensive with downed trees and power lines blocking the roads. We had the power out for over a week. Anyway, some friends of ours who live a few towns away were on vacation and they asked my wife and I to look in on their house. It took us over an hour to make what was normally about a ten-minute drive. I had to stop frequently to move trees and rubbish from the road. I had never seen anything like it. It felt like a war zone. When we got to the house, which is much like the home described in the book, I was struck by the thought of just how easy it would be for someone to break into the house. One night I just sat down in front of my computer and began typing. The very first line I wrote was “As a rule, Skooley did not like beaners.” I had no idea for a story at all, but that house just kept gnawing at the back of my brain and so I worked that into the opening scene and from there the story of Esmeralda and Ray and the deranged psychopath Lamar Skooley emerged.

I love those moments where an image won't leave you - that's always when the best ideas come about. You started out writing short stories until you made the decision to write novels. What was that transition like?

This may sound silly, but I’m not sure I actually made a definitive transition. Thieves didn’t start out as a novel so much as a long short story. I have written 3 complete novels to date, but I still mostly think of them as stories, not novels. Each story, start to finish, takes place over just a few days time. Even my writing style seems to lend itself to short chapters, which I feel keeps things moving at a nice pace. Each chapter, to me, often feels like a story unto itself and it seems much easier to write a bunch of short stories than one long novel. The trick is weaving these stories into a cohesive narrative and then coming up with a good ending.

I think of stories as the same way - not short stories, not novels - but stories! Do you consider yourself a “pantser” or a “plotter”? And why?

Well, to date anyway, I’ve been a pantser. As I mentioned above, I usually get one small thing stuck in my head that just keeps nagging at me. I simply can’t get it out of my head until I get something written down and that starts the process. For Thieves, it was the house that I went to check on right after Sandy. For my next novel, The Dead Don't Sleep, it was a day I spent shooting trap with a friend and his uncle from Maine. My friend’s uncle was in the Vietnam War and was supposedly involved in intelligence in some capacity. I never asked what he did during the war, but my imagination got the better of me and Uncle Frank became an aging, resurgent warrior. For my latest novel, the inspiration came from a memory I have from my college days of a guy I once saw walk into a liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka wearing nothing but his underpants. That was what inspired the opening scene of The Debt Collector, only I added a shotgun to go along with the underpants.

To be honest, I wish I were more of a plotter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stymied while writing my stories not knowing where to go next. I envy people who can get an outline down and then write around that. At least they have a direction. On the other hand, I feel pretty good about what I’ve written so far, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it the way I have been until it doesn’t work for me anymore.

Makes sense to me! You have to do what works for you. What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

For me, writing is about persistence. Some days it’s easy, and some days not so easy. When I’m working on a novel, I try to write something every day. I read somewhere that Stephen King tries to write at least 1500 words a day and I figure if that’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me. So that’s my goal. But sometimes I write 300 words and sometimes I write 5,000. The most amazing feeling I’ve had as a writer is when I get really rolling. I’m writing a scene or several scenes that come one after the other and I suddenly stop typing and think I’ve been at it for maybe an hour or so and find that I’ve actually been sitting at my computer typing non-stop for 4 or 5 hours. The writing process is fun and exciting for me because when I write, I actually feel like I am a part of the scene. I’ve been told that I sometimes include too much detail or that scenes are sometimes too graphic. But when I’m writing, I just describe what I see in my head. What I hear and smell and taste and sense. It’s the only way I know how to write. It’s cool because just as reading a book can take you away to someplace different in your head, writing one can do the exact same thing.

What an amazing writing habit you've developed What are you working on next?

My third book titled The Debt Collector is with my new agent, Peter Rubie of FinePrint Literary. It’s the story of young woman named Abigail Barnes who makes her living collecting debts for low-end bookies and loan sharks. She’s pretty, petite – and deadly. She moves to a new town and gets a job collecting for a small-time bookmaker who winds up dead. Soon both the police and the mob are looking for her believing she committed the murder and she has to try and find the true killer before she ends up either in jail or dead herself. It was a fun book to write and I am working on a sequel.

I can't wait to see what you come out with next! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and best of luck with your next book. 

About the Author

Steven Max Russo has spent most of his professional career as an advertising copywriter and agency owner. He got interested in writing fiction after one of his short stories was accepted by an online literary journal in 2013. Then he caught the bug and began writing seriously. The publication of his first novel, Thieves, has garnered praise from renowned crime and thriller authors from around the globe. With a gritty writing style and unique voice, he is quickly winning a legion of new fans. Steve is proud to call New Jersey his home.

Visit the author at http://stevenmaxrussobooks.com.

Readers, enter to win a copy of the book Thieves below via Rafflecopter. Giveaway ends on 8/26. US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

27 July 2019

3 Suggestions for a Saturday Night Featuring Author Sue Moorcroft

Happy Saturday night! This is my weekly feature where authors and guests (and sometimes even me) share three suggestions for a Saturday night. This post will include a book suggestion, movie suggestion, and one wild card suggestion, where the guest can suggest whatever they want.

I am excited to have author Sue Moorcroft as my Saturday night guest. She is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award, the Katie Fforde Bursary and was twice nominated in the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. Sue’s novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have also appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire, England at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, time spent with friends, dance exercise and yoga.

And before we get into Sue's suggestions for Saturday Night, here is a bit about her book A Summer to Remember:

A Summer to Remember sees Clancy Moss escaping from her life, her (ex)fiancé and her business start-up in London to hide out in the tiny seaside village of Nelson's Bar. She's been looking after her cousin Alice's half-share of Roundhouse Row holiday cottages for six years and so she appoints herself the new caretaker there. But then there's Aaron, who owns the other half of the cottages ... last time they met they shared a heated kiss - and then a flaming row after Alice jilted Aaron's brother Lee. Awkward.

Be sure to add this to your GoodReads list or purchase it on Amazon. 

Now, here is Sue with her Saturday Night suggestions: 

Saturday Night Book Suggestion:

The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard. I listened to this as an audiobook and was absolutely gripped. It's a romantic suspense book about a drone operator in special operations who has to train to work with a team in the field in boot camps. It takes a while for her to be accepted but eventually, when she is and has snared the hot hero, she's left behind on a mission. It's for the greater good but that's no comfort when you're thousands of miles from home with the baddies after you. Awesome storytelling. My emotions were all over the place. I didn't want the story to end ... and yet I did because I wanted to know how the author was going to bring the right ending about.

I've been a fan of Linda Howard for years and think she's under-exposed on this side of the pond. She writes gripping suspense and sizzling romance, which is the kind of combination that carries me away.

Saturday Night Movie Suggestion:

I hardly watch movies but loved Solo, the spin-off from the Star Wars films. I had the brilliant idea of buying the DVD for us all at Christmas. Han Solo was my favourite character in the original trilogy and I wondered how I'd take to him in his younger form, but I loved the whole thing. The action scenes, the CGI, the touches of humour, the droids ... every ingredient of what Star Wars does best is present in this story. I think it went straight to DVD but don't know why. Maybe they thought it was just for die-hard fans of the galaxy far, far away? Alden Ehrenreich made Han Solo his own and, short of a time machine to fit Harrison Ford into the role, I don't think we could have asked for better. And there are wookiees.

Saturday Night Wild Card Suggestion:

In the 'anything I like category' I'm going to nominate Sky Sports' coverage of Formula 1. I love Formula 1. Although I don't watch much TV I do watch every practice session, every qualifying and race, even if it means watching it on my phone if I'm abroad. On a Saturday we get a practice session and qualifying. It's qualifying that I really enjoy, watching the teams strategising to try and get their driver(s) out onto the track at the optimum moment to either get a slipstream or avoid turbulent air, for the track to be rubbered in, the temperatures to be most favourable to their car's characteristics and the car and tyre set-up to be perfect. And for the driver to be top of his game. The session is divided into three parts with five cars being knocked out in Q1 and Q2, leaving the top ten to slug it out in ten minutes in Q3. Most of all, I love an upset, because then I know we're in for an interesting race the next day.

Sorry if you don't share my love of Formula 1 because I had a bit of a fan moment there.

Thank you Sue! If you want to guest host my "3 Suggestions" for next Saturday night, send me an email to npyles86[at]gmail[dot]com.

25 July 2019

Review of Audio Book, Banged Up Heart, a Memoir by Shirley Melis

 Are you looking for a new book to add to your reading list this summer? Well, you'll definitely want to add this one:

About the book

Banged-Up Heart is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again.

When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership— until a mysterious bump on John’s forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine.

The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of fifty-nine. More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss—a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.

What I Thought

It's truly been a long time since I've tried an audiobook! Mainly because with audible books, it requires me to sit, quiet myself, and listen. Never a bad thing to practice, I say. With Banged Up Heart, I enjoyed this so much. I appreciated the author's honesty. She captured me with vivid descriptions and the raw emotion that was displayed in the book. This book was such an incredible mix of emotions, both heartbreaking and touching and filled with so much love. I really liked the narrator's voice too, which I think really makes a difference with audiobooks.

I highly recommend! 

About the Author

Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.

A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in

Galisteo, New Mexico.

Purchase your copy on Amazon.com and add to your Goodreads reading list. Purchase the audible version of the book now.

I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

22 July 2019

Justice Makes A Killing by Ed Rucker, Book Spotlight & Giveaway

Today I have an exciting book spotlight and giveaway to share with you! It's Justice Makes a Killing by Ed Rucker.

For decades, Ed Rucker was one of the United States' most prominent criminal defense lawyers. His legal thrillers have been praised for their authenticity, as well as gripping suspense. During his career, he represented numerous high profile clients, including John Orr, the greatest serial arsonist in American history, a trial memorialized in Fire Lover, by Joseph Wambaugh; Laurianne Sconce, the matriarch of the Lamb Funeral Home, whose trial that was the subject of the book Ashes, by James Joseph, and Eddie Nash, a prominent nightclub owner, who was portrayed in the film, Boogie Nights. Ed Rucker's second book, Justice Makes a Killing, is available for purchase where books are sold.

A heart-stopping thriller, Justice Makes a Killing finds Rucker’s fictional defense lawyer Bobby Earl facing his most daunting murder case yet, one that involves a beautiful lawyer accused of a passion killing, as well as a conspiracy that might implicate the multi-billion-dollar private prison industry.

Kirkus Reviews calls Justice Makes a Killing, “A thoroughly enjoyable page-turner..... The classic courtroom drama at the heart of this story is perfectly orchestrated, and the seemingly impossible odds make Earl’s masterful handling of evidence, witnesses, opposing counsel, the jury, and the judge wonderfully satisfying to read.”

Purchase a copy from Amazon or buy from your local bookstore. Find more of Ed Rucker's books here.

I am excited to announce that I have two book copies to giveaway to two lucky readers. US only please. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends 8/9.

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08 July 2019

Interview with Deborah L. King, Author of "Glory Bishop" (And Giveaway!)

I am so excited for everyone to read my interview with the incredible author Deborah L. King. First, before the interview, here is a bit about her book Glory Bishop:

Glory Bishop lives her life in pieces. At work and with her friends, she reads novels, speaks her mind, and enjoys slow dances and stolen kisses with her boyfriend, JT. But at home, Glory follows strict rules and second-guesses every step. Though she dreams of going to college and living like a normal teenage girl, her abusive mother has other ideas.

When JT leaves to join the navy, Glory is left alone and heartsick. The preacher’s son, Malcolm Porter, begins to shower her with lavish gifts, and her mother pushes Glory to accept his advances. Glory is torn between waiting for true love with JT or giving in to the overzealous Malcolm.

When a stranger attacks Glory on the street, Malcolm steps in to rescue her, and her interest in him deepens. But the closer she gets to him, the more controlling he becomes. Glory must eventually decide whether to rely on others or to be her own savior.

Read an excerpt here. Or purchase your own copy on Amazon.

What inspired your book Glory Bishop?

Years ago, in a writing class, I wrote a piece about a young woman wrapped in a winter coat on a hot summer day. She was carrying a pair of red high heeled shoes and could be heard mumbling to herself. What she was hearing was her mother's voice in her head berating her for looking like a Jezebel and being seen in a bar. The last line of that piece " ...and that's where the sunrise found her...stripped down to her soul and dancing on the bar..." made me want to know more about the young lady, and how she came to her circumstances.

What an incredible scene that sparked this book! How did this book transform from its first draft to the final draft?

Haha! Glory lost a lot of weight! Originally, the book was 135k words, which is way more than almost any women's fiction manuscript. After editing and tweaks, she's now 100k words. Also, I have a character who sings everything, so I had to take out a whole lotta of song lyrics because of copyright rules. Now she just mentions song titles and hums a lot.

Oh that must have been tough to cut it down so much! The cover is GORGEOUS! Did you have any say in the design?

I wish I could take even a little credit for the cover, but really, my publisher works with incredible designers.

I loved reading about all the careers you desired as a young child and how they manifested in your adulthood! How did each of those experiences shape your writing?

I can't say all of my childhood dreams shaped my writing, but my daughter pointing out that I'd actually accomplished almost everything I ever wanted to do made me realize that I could possibly be an author one day. But...I guess I do draw on those experiences for character interests.

I think that's amazing you do that. Did you do any research for the book? What were you surprised to learn?

I did a fair amount of research since my story is set in the mid-80s. I had to find a lot of music (which I couldn't use because lawyers), and my study of Chicago neighbors and bus routes was quite informative. I was surprised to learn a lot of history about Chicago's west side, and the handling of the AIDS epidemic in its early days. I also got a lot of help from my high school classmates on Facebook.

That is awesome you did that in-depth research. I saw in an interview it took you 25 years to write this book. Why did you stop and why did you go back?

I stopped writing because life happened. Work, marriage, children, caregiving, etc. Then one day, a friend told me about the Writer's Institute, a conference in Madison, WI held by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the time I was working on a memoir, but at the conference, characters from Glory Bishop started coming to me. With my friend's and my Aunt's encouragement, I picked up the story again and started seriously listening and telling Glory's story.

What advice do you have for writers who desire to return to a book they haven't finished?

I know it's cliche, but just do it. If what you're writing is not flowing, write a different part of the story. If you're not feeling the characters, write character descriptions. You'd be surprised what you can learn about your characters or world when you try to describe them.

I love that advice! How did your approach in writing this book change when you went back to it?

When I went back to it, I had a plan. I had characters that had dreams and goals and I took my time and wrote out timelines and maps and recipes. I approached it like I thought a professional writer would. I took my writing seriously for real for the first time.

What was your process in finding a publisher?
Hoo boy! First, I listened to my instructors and followed their advice. I finished the book and had it professionally edited and proofread. I sent query letters to agents, with the hope of just getting them to read the first couple of pages. I used a site called Query Tracker to keep up with my queries and responses. All told, I got 99 rejections. I'd say 90% of my queries were tossed without reading any of the pages just because of my story's word count, so I didn't take any of the rejection personally. I was running out a patience a little when I started querying publishers directly. Red Adept Publishing was one of them. My word count wasn't a problem for them, and the acquisition editor loved my story. When I got the call that my story was accepted, I was useless for a couple of days.

I'll bet! My heart broke when I read you lost many of your handwritten stories and essays! As a hand-writer myself, I can relate to how hard it is to keep track of all of those. What is your writing method now? Do you still hand write? How do you keep track of everything?

I no longer hand write. I use Google Docs, and store everything on Google Drive, which is synced to folders on my computer. That way, I can truly access my work anywhere without fear of losing my place or file corruption.

I do the same thing! So, I read that you loved to cook! So if you could recommend any recipe that readers should make that goes well with your book, what would you recommend?

In the book, Glory makes a pot roast, and I describe her recipe...it's pretty easy and uses a crock pot.

"She watched her mother savoring the pot roast and brightened a little. Glory had learned to cook it from her dad when she was nine—cut meat up in big hunks, add onion-soup mix and mushroom-soup mix, and chop the vegetables kind of big. The time they’d had a snow day last year and she let JT in after her mother left for work, he’d liked it, too." Glory also likes to make 1-2-3 butter cookies. 1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, and 3 parts flour. Mix together 'til dough forms. Roll into balls and press down with 3 fingers, then bake til the edges are brown."

Now I want to try that myself! Thank you so much for this interview and best of luck to you with your book!

I'm also happy to announce that I get to giveaway a copy of the book to one lucky reader! It will be a e-book copy of Deborah L. King's book Glory Bishop. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Open internationally. Giveaway ends July 31st.

Book trigger warnings for language, sex, scenes of physical and emotional abuse... Can't wait for the giveaway to be over to read this book? Make sure you purchase a copy on Amazon.com and make sure you add this book to Goodreads. Be sure to visit the author's webpage to also follow along her journey.

About the Author, Deborah L. King

Growing up, Deborah King wanted to be a cook, a teacher, a model, an artist, a photographer, and an author. To date, she has cooked for or catered several receptions; taught Sunday School, led Girl Scout troops, and been a corporate trainer for a retail chain. As a young adult, she modeled in boutique fashion shows. She now works as a freelance graphic artist and photographer; and with the publication of her debut novel Glory Bishop, Deborah King is officially an author.

Deborah lives in Illinois with her husband and two youngest children; and according to her daughter, she has “literally aced her life!”

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