Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac

Change of pace today.  I recently had the pleasure of reading an ARC of The Cutaway by Christina Kovac – a very well written novel set in one of my favorite cities – Washington, D.C.

Description (from Amazon)

51aosxjiyulWhen brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

My Review

Wow. I really enjoyed this book. Virginia is a journalist and her curiosity and  determination to seek the truth are natural responses when faced with the perplexing circumstances of a young woman’s death. With an eye for detail, her first-person descriptions of scenes and atmosphere are vivid. You are there with her. Virginia  is idealistic; she wants to find the truth and see the guilty brought to justice.  She gains access to all the right people but their stories don’t mesh, leaving her uncertain whom she can trust. The plot was intricate and well developed, with an abundance of twists. Every time I thought I knew who the culprit was, some new tidbit of information came along casting doubt on my suspicions. And, another big plus, the storyline and its resolution were believable.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books from this author.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Review: WHO WE ARE INSTEAD by Kyla Stone

As some people may have noticed I’ve been expanding my reading horizons lately.  Today’s book is neither mystery or romance. Who We are Instead is a coming of age novel about two sisters, difficult family relationships, and emotional scars.

Description (from Amazon)

whoinsteadTwenty-one-year-old Lena McKenna thought she escaped her past when she earned a photography scholarship to a top university. It’s been two years since she’s been home. Two years since she’s seen her troubled younger sister Lux or set foot in the house haunted by the memories of her dead mother.

Everything changes the day her father suffers a massive heart attack. Lena rushes home, only to discover that Lux has disappeared. Lena has no choice but to put her dreams on hold to find her sister and care for her dying father. Immersed in the memories of her childhood, she begins to uncover the long-buried secrets that broke her family. 

Eighteen-year-old Lux doesn’t want to remember. Nothing keeps the dark at bay, not her new drug-dealing boyfriend or her descent into reckless self-destruction. She’ll do anything to forget. Anything.

As their father’s condition worsens, Lux leaves a trail of devastation in her wake. Lena must choose: escape her past and leave her sister behind, or turn and face the demons threatening to destroy them both.

Who We Are Instead explores the volatile relationship between sisters and the way we blur the lines between loyalty and obligation, truth and deception, honor and betrayal.

My Review

This is a well-written, moving tale that provides a candid look at troubled family relationships.  The first-person narrative alternates between Lina and Lux’s point of view, providing insight into the differences in how they see things. Both Lena and Lux are struggling in their own ways as they face their father’s imminent death. They each remember different things from their childhood and have secrets they share with no0ne – not even each other. Lux uses substance abuse and ‘hook-ups’ to escape, she swears a lot, and lashes out at friends. Her stream of conscious style narrative highlights her mood swings and growing dependence on drugs. Lena wants to help her, but has no idea how to heal their relationship. As the story progresses, both characters learn about themselves and strive to heal their emotional scars.

The author takes on tough issues in this book – dysfunctional families, betrayal, drug abuse, and suicide. For this reason, although this book might be suitable for some mature YA readers, I am not sure I would recommend it for most teens.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

News FlashWho We Are Instead is on sale for $0.99 for limited time only!

Review: MURDER BY THE BOOK by Devorah Fox

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently read Murder by the Book – a mini-mystery by Devorah Fox.

Description

An ordinary work day at the western Massachusetts Sugarloaf Inn turns more chilling than the winter weather when staff member Candy Wadsen makes a gruesome discovery. Her day goes from bad to worse when Candy realizes that Detective Sergeant Dan Petrowski suspects her of committing the crime.

My Review

This was a light read. Candy seems to be a good person, and I would have liked to get know her better. Although the answer to the question – the identity of the murderer – made sense, the path to the culprit’s discovery was a bit too fast. But I tend to prefer longer, more-developed mysteries. If you enjoy short reads, you’ll easily  read this mystery in a single setting.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

About the Author

“What if?” Those two words all too easily send Devorah Fox spinning into flights of fancy. Best-selling author of an award-winning literary historical fantasy series and several thrillers, she also penned Mystery Mini Short Reads and contributed short stories to popular fantasy anthologies. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with rescued tabby cats … and a dragon named Inky. Visit the “Dee-Scoveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com

Author links:

Review: TELL ME NO LIES by Lynn Chandler Willis

I recently read  Tell Me No Lies – the first book in the Ava Logan mystery series by Lynn Chandler Willis.  As followers of this blog already know, I read a lot of mysteries and enjoy trying books by new authors (or who are at least new to me).  This was a great choice.

tellnoliesDescription (from Amazon)

Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Review

An extremely enjoyable and well-written read. The first-person, conversational tone made me feel as if Ava was a friend of mine – telling me her story.  She is easy to identify with – a caring mother with a complicated past of her own that shapes her decision making.  You can feel her attachment to Ivy growing, and know she would do whatever she can help ensure the child’s safety and future well-being.  At the same time, her feelings of guilt over something in her past keep her from truly giving her heart to either of her love interests in the story. This mystery was well crafted; its intricate plot held lots of surprises and kept me guessing right to the end. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books in this series.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy from NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Spotlight & Guest Post: FAMILY MATTERS by Laurinda Wallace

I am pleased to have Laurinda Wallace as my guest today as she tells us about her journey from avid reader to mystery writer.  She is the author of numerous novels, including the Gracie Anderson Mystery series.


What Makes This Writer Tic … er … Tick by Laurinda Wallace

Laurinda-1.jpgI’m a reader. A voracious reader. More than a one-book-at-a-time reader. It all started with Dick and Jane stories in the first grade. Once I had those under my belt, I couldn’t stop. Adventures in the pages of books seemed much more exciting than my real life, which led me to ruminate about writing my own stories. There were a lot of beginnings, but not much in the way of middles or ends of stories. I went back to reading.

Then I was old enough for a library card. Now that is power. I could make selections from any genre and take more than one book out at a time. A few more attempts at writing a novel came and went. Back to reading and writing compositions for English class. Then writing became part of my work: John Doe, being duly sworn, deposes and says. 1. He resides at 123 ABC Street, etc. etc. In those years as a paralegal, I learned to be succinct and mind the details. There was a beginning, middle, and end to every contract or affidavit.

Then when you manage to age a bit more, and your perseverance improves ever so slightly, youthful dreams can circle back. You’ve experienced some actual strange adventures like sitting on the Thousand Island Bridge in a Chevy Nova at 10pm. Your husband is under the car trying jiggling a wonky transmission, so it’ll shift properly and you can finish a road trip. Plenty of the ordinary like washing off your children in a cold stream in Nova Scotia after one gets carsick all over the backseat, including her unsuspecting sister trapped in a car seat. Then mountain-high joys over goals achieved, daughters’ weddings, grandsons born, and soggy Kleenex sorrows and disappointments—well you know about them. The circumstances that try faith and put callouses on your knees, because you certainly don’t have answers. It’s the stuff of stories and for me it was time to take all of those experiences to see if there was an entire book, including a middle and an end.

Writing mysteries seemed the natural thing to do. Good triumphs over evil. A bit of justice served up. Mysteries also engage the brain—solve the puzzle—look for clues—sort through the suspects. I can’t get enough of them as a reader and wanted to try my hand at weaving tales of small towns and a little murder. Beautiful rural Western New York where I lived most of my life was a place I wanted to share with readers. Where dairy cows outnumber people and neighbors are … well … real neighbors. A dog certainly had to play a role since Labradors have always been part of our family. So, Gracie Andersen, a widow and kennel owner was created, along with her trusty Labrador, Haley. Gracie’s insatiable curiosity and Haley’s predilection for trouble often draw them into danger with a few laughs along the way. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Gracie Andersen Mystery Series

Family Matters is the first book in  Laurinda Wallace’s  Gracy Anderson Mystery series).

Description:

familymattersThink your family’s dysfunctional? Meet Gracie Andersen’s and the peaceful farming community of Deer Creek. Gracie has her hands full–a new business and trying to get her life on track after the loss of her husband and unborn child. When an odd gift from her troubled uncle thrusts her into an investigation of a cousin’s tragic death 20 years ago, Gracie meets with opposition from family and friends. What really happened that rainy, October night when her cousin was killed by a hit-and-run driver? As pieces of the truth are wrenched from the past, her new business, Milky Way Kennels teeters on the edge of disaster. And then death strikes again. Someone is determined Gracie won’t find the truth. With Haley, her black Labrador by her side, Gracie doggedly pursues the trail of clues to unravel the mystery of her cousin Charlotte’s untimely death.

Additional books in the series include:

About the Author

A lifelong bookworm, Laurinda was often in hot water for reading way past her bedtime as a child. Now, armed with a Kindle, she is never without a book and still ignores the time. She readily admits that writing the Gracie Andersen mystery series is more fun than is probably legal, but someone had to do it. Recent retirement from a long career in administration allows more writing time, and she has added two new Gracie mysteries to the series this year. She is also writing a true crime book and a 1930s suspense series is in development. In addition to writing mysteries and inspirational books, she has contributed to numerous print and online magazines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime (national), the Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime, and is a grateful recipient of multiple Poets and Writers grants.

Social Media Links:

Review & Giveaway: ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO by Elena Hartwell

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I recently had the pleasure of reading One Dead, Two to Go,  the first book in a new cozy mystery series.

Description

518jlzfmhml-_sx311_bo1204203200_Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy Bellingham hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye. This is the last anyone will see of the woman… alive. Her body is later found dumped in an abandoned building. Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too. Or is she the killer?

Eddie usually balks at matters requiring a gun, but before she knows it, she is knee-deep in dangerous company, spurred on by her card-counting adrenaline-junkie mother who has shown up on her doorstep fresh from the shenanigans that got her kicked out of Vegas. Chava is only sixteen years older than Eddie and sadly lacking in parenting skills. Her unique areas of expertise, however, prove to be helpful in ways Eddie can’t deny, making it hard to stop Chava from tagging along.

Also investigating the homicide is Detective Chance Parker, new to Bellingham’s Major Crimes unit but no stranger to Eddie. Their history as a couple back in Seattle is one more kink in a chain of complications, making Eddie’s case more frustrating and perilous with each tick of the clock.

My Review

First of all, I loved the main character’s name (and its origins) and enjoyed learning about her personal journey.  As Eddie tells her story,  she shares her feelings and thought processes with the reader in a candid way – no holds barred.  She is for the most part level-headed, although her quirky mother’s arrival on the scene does lead her into making some not-so-smart decisions. And the dynamic between the two women evolved as they spent time together and Eddie learns more about her past.  The mystery itself kept me wondering what was really going on and the plot took several turns before coming to a satisfying resolution.  An occasional touch of silliness and humor make this an enjoyable light mystery and a great start to a new series.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win one of seven print copies of One Dead, Two to Go.

About the Author

hartwellAfter twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’DTale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”

In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.

When she’s not writing or teaching, her favorite place to be is at the farm with her horses, Jasper and Radar, or at her home, on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their dog, Polar, and their trio of cats, Jackson, Coal Train, and Luna, aka, “the other cat upstairs.” Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Purchase Links:
Amazon   B&N iTunes  kobo 

Spotlight & Giveaway: FATAL ROMANCE by June Shaw

a-fatal-romance-large-banner322Today’s post turns the spotlight on a new cozy mystery by June Shaw.  The first book in a new series, A Fatal Romance features twin sisters as its main characters. Sounds like a good read.  

Description

Fixing up homes can be tricky.
Finding true love can be even trickier.
But finding a killer can be plain old deadly . . .

a-fatal-romanceTwin sister divorcees Sunny Taylor and Eve Vaughn have had their fill of both heartaches and headaches. So when they settle down in the small Louisiana town of Sugar Ledge and open a remodeling and repair company, they think they’ve finally found some peace—even though Eve is still open for romance while Sunny considers her own heart out-of-business.

Then their newest customer ends up face-down in a pond, and his widow is found dead soon after. Unfortunately, Sunny was witnessed having an unpleasant moment with the distraught woman, and suspicion falls on the twins. And when an attempt is made on Eve’s life, they find themselves pulled into a murder mystery neither knows how to navigate.

With a town of prying eyes on them, and an unknown culprit out to stop them, Sunny and Eve will have to depend on each other like never before if they’re going to clip a killer in the bud.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win an e-copy of A Fatal Romance.

About the Author

From the bayou country of South Louisiana, June Shaw previously sold a series of humorous mysteries to Five Star, Harlequin, and Untreed Reads. Publishers Weekly praised her debut, Relative Danger, which became a finalist for the David Award for Best Mystery of the Year. A hybrid author who has published other works, she has represented her state on the board of Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter for many years and continued to serve as the Published Author Liaison for Romance Writers of America’s Southern Louisiana chapter. She gains inspiration for her work from her faith, family, and friends, including the many readers who urge her on. For more info, please visit juneshaw.com.

A Fatal Romance is available on Amazon.

Review: THE BLUE HOUSE IN BISHOP by Sunanda J. Chatterjee

I was looking for something “different” to read and The Blue House in Bishop by Sunanda  J. Chatterjee caught my eye.  It promised elements of mystery and romantic suspense,  a unique storyline and a taste of a different culture.  And it delivered.

Description (from Amazon)

bluehousecoverA broken soldier with a past, a doctor with a secret, an ex-cop with a mission, and a mysterious woman must fight a drug lord and the FBI to find justice.

After an accident, ex-Special Forces Capt. Duke Wilcox is forced to recover in the house of his old college roommate, Dr. Sunil Samant. Haunted by his failed mission and failed marriage, Duke has lost his trust in women and yearns for a chance to redeem himself.

Indian Police Inspector Alisha Raj has a passion for bringing criminals to justice. After leaving the police force with a broken heart, she agrees to an “arranged marriage” with Sunil. But it is an unusual proposal; Sunil asks Alisha to pretend to be his fiancée to please his dying mother.

Alisha comes to Bishop to leave her past behind, only to fall hopelessly in love with Duke. But she is engaged to Sunil, whose mother is expected to visit any day. The attraction seems mutual, but Duke’s troubled past prevents him from opening his heart.

Everything changes when a mysterious woman shows up with a baby, seeking Sunil’s help. But is this woman who she claims to be? Why is the FBI after her? And how is she involved with a Colombian Drug lord?

A story of loyalty, camaraderie, and love, The Blue House in Bishop brings four strangers together in a fight for survival.

My Review

I enjoyed this book.  Its intricate plot crosses over between genres –  the result is romantic suspense with the undertones of an intriguing crime thriller.  Somehow the author managed to weave together the stories of four very different characters, each carrying their own emotional burdens and/or memories from the past. Both Sunil and Alisha are strong and likeable characters – they live in the modern world, yet retain respect for their cultural heritage and traditions.  Strangers when they first arrive at the Blue House, the relationships between Sunil, Duke, Alisha and the mystery woman are complicated and sort themselves out as the secrets are divulged and the mystery is resolved.  This fast-paced story held my attention from start to finish.

Note:  If you are easily offended by strong language or graphic sex, this book might not be your cup of tea.

Review: COLOR ME DEAD by Teresa Trent

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours, today I’m happy to tell you about Color Me Dead (Henry Park Book 1), a new cozy mystery by Teresa Trent.

colormedeadcoverDescription

Artist Gabby Wolfe has the ability to see not only the beauty of the living, but the despair of the dead. When she returns to her childhood home in Henry Park, Colorado, she is forced to bring along her younger brother Mitch. He is on a “break” from college where he was majoring in wine, women and song. If that isn’t enough they also have Mitch’s rambunctious beagle Luigi along who prefers to spend his days wallowing in junk food. When Gabby draws the death of a young woman before it happens, she knows she must tell someone and risk a new job and her professional credibility. Will she reveal her secret in time to save the woman in the water or will it be too late?

Note: For the duration of this blog tour (Jan. 23-27), Color Me Dead is free on Amazon !

My Review

Like most cozy mysteries, this was a light read. Actually, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Not usually a fan of paranormal tales, the author had this reader almost suspending disbelief and accepting Gabby and her psychic powers at face value. The mystery surrounding her vision is intricate, and the motivation and identity of the killer were far from obvious. It is easy to relate to Gabby as she rediscovers Henry Park, establishes new friendships, and embarks on a new stage in her career.  A fast-paced read, I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.

About the Author

teresatrentTeresa Trent lives in Houston, Texas and is an award-winning mystery writer.  She writes the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series, is a regular contributor to the Happy Homicides Anthologies. Teresa is happy to add her Henry Park Mystery Series to her publishing credits with Color Me Dead, the first book in the series. Teresa has also won awards for her work in short stories where she loves to dabble in tales that are closer to the Twilight Zone than small town cozies. When Teresa isn’t writing, she is a full-time caregiver for her son and teaches preschoolers music part-time. Her favorite things include spending time with family and friends, waiting for brownies to come out of the oven, and of course, a good mystery.

Author Links:

Purchase Link  – Amazon 

Tips for Indie Authors – Section Breaks and Page Numbering

Those of you who work in Microsoft Word may have hit a few bumps in the road when preparing your masterpiece for CreateSpace or another print-on-demand service.  In this post,  I’d like to offer some basic tips for working with section breaks and page numbering in Word.

What is a section break and why do we use them?

A section break splits your document into sections, which in turn allows you to:

  • Set up different headers/footers for different parts of a document
  • Use of different page numbering styles in different sections (and restart/continue numbering from a previous section)
  • Use different page layouts within a document (orientation, columns, margins, and so on)

For fiction writers, page numbering is the most common reason for using section breaks.

sectionbreak1How do I add a section break?

The Break options are located on the Page Layout tab of ribbon.  If it is important that your new (next) section starts on an odd page, select Odd Page. If not, select Next Page.

If your document already has section breaks and you want to see where they are located, click the Show/Hide paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols button paramarkon the Home tab of the ribbon. breakshowing
Note: If you are on an odd page and you select Odd Page, a blank page will be inserted.

That was easy enough. So what’s the big deal?

For most people, the troubles begin when they start to modify the headers or footers in their new section.

By default, the headers and footers of your new section are connected to the previous section.  This means that if you set the numbering in your new section to use numerals (1,2,3) instead of roman numerals (i, ii, iii), then it makes the changes to the other sections as well.  So you fix one section only to discover that you have messed up the settings for another section. You fix it there, only to discover that your new section is now messed up.  A vicious cycle takes root, making you want to scream or cry in frustration. (Been there, done that.)

A few simple precautions can help avoid this problem.  When you double-click on your header/footer to open it, the header/footer information includes the section number and if it is linked to the previous section, Same as Previous appears.     header1

In addition, the Link to Previous option is enabled on the Header & Footer Tools ribbon.lintoprev
Before attempting to make changes to the layout of your new section, you need to disable the Link to Previous option for the header or footer that you want to edit. Doing this does not remove the existing content – but it does allow you to make changes in a section without affect the previous one.

Important: If the section you need to edit is located between two other sections, disable the link option in the section that follows as well. If you do not do so, the changes in section 2 will be applied to section 3, and so on, until there is a section where Link to Previous has not been set.

pnumbersPage numbering

The page number options are located on the Header and Footer Tools ribbon.

To change the number format, select Format Page Numbers.  In the dialog box that is displayed, you can set the type of numbering (1,2,3; a,b,c; i, ii, iii; and so on).  You can also define the numbering to start from a specific number or to continue the numbering from the previous section. numb2

A common use case for non-fiction documents is to use roman numerals for the front matter (TOC and such), and then start the “meaty” content from page 1.  To do this, the numbering in Section 1 of the document would be set to roman numerals, and set to start at i.  After disconnecting the linking between Section 2 and Section 1, the numbering can be set to start from 1.

Tip: If your book/work is contained in multiple files, use the Start at option to set the numbering accordingly. For example, if your first file ended on page 92, the next one might need to start on page 93.

Cover page 

So you don’t want a page number to appear on your cover page, how can you make it go away without messing up the numbering on the next page?  pagesetup

  1. With your cursor on the cover page, on the Page Layout ribbon, select Page Setup.
  2. Click the Layout tab.
  3. Select the Different first page checkbox.
  4. Verify that This section is selected from the Apply to dropdown list.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Now you can delete the number from the bottom of the cover page without affecting the layout of other pages/sections.

Changing Page Orientation

Section breaks also enable us to insert pages with different layouts – for example, landscape vs. portrait orientation.  A word to the wise – if you need to insert a section with different layouts, always insert two section breaks (one before and one after the content) and disconnect Link to Previous in the new section and the section that follows before making any changes to layout!

Have any tips of your own? Feel free to comment and share your ideas.