Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Seasons of Time

Author: Miriam Khan
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Publication date: 1.27.2015
Pages: 193

With her father and his new wife busy with their career, seventeen-year-old Lara Voight has no choice but to accept her trip to Spring Mills, Pennsylvania.  Her host, Gracen, is as cold and devious as her granddaughter, and Lara continues to experience a burning sensation.  The only thing to soothe the horrid pain is the phantom scent that is familiar but hard to recall.  When a local girl befriends Lara, she informs her of a girl named Penelope Le Rose who was murdered at the mansion.  It turns out it was once known as Montague house.
            Lara explores the story further.  Grace is even willing to help, going as far as to reveal a portrait of Penelope who looks just like Lara.  Searching for further clues, Lara finds Penelope's diary and becomes haunted by visions of a ghostly boy who seems angered at her growing affection for Sheba's brother, Will.
            The more Lara reads the diary, the more she begins to realize that certain people resemble those described.  One of whom could be Penelope's killer, back to finish her look-alike.

Will                                                         Elias



The woman who was lying on her bed was beautiful, with hair a reddish gold and a face as pure white and soft as ivory silk.  Although bestowed with love and cherished by those who knew her well, she lacked what most would have called "blessed with substantial wealth."  Even so, she imagined she could win the affections of an honorable prince, perhaps a count, a true royal, one who could sustain her heart and flourish within her dreams.
            She laughed at her foolishness and stroked the small painting of her beloved, decorated in twine and rose petals she had weaved throughout the night.  As she placed a finger to his lips, she marveled at the likeness, wondering if she truly was a gifted artist.
            But it was inevitable she would paint him so.  He was etched to her mind.  Even with her eyes closed, she could see every curve of his exquisite face, the deep earthly heaven of his eyes and sensuous lips.  He had betrayed her, yet she still hungered for his touch, she still longed for the press of his lean physique that made her feel light and feverish.
            Of course, the wench he craved was rich and that helped her in gaining his attention.
            But Elias was hers.  Only hers.  Not Penelope Le Roses'.
            The young woman sat up and grimaced, distorting her cumbersome features.
            With her mind set, she knew what to do.  She would cast her spell and severe the bond he's declared for the imposter once and for all.

Chapter One

The sun shifted to the right and I could see the miles of dusty roads and fewer cars up ahead.
            Susan, my step-mom, who now even controlled Dad, had insisted I stay with her Grandmother Gracen for some of the summer.  It was why my trip to Pennsylvania was a command I had to adhere to.  It was why my teeth had been gritted throughout most of the drive from Delaware.
            She had practically packed my bags and shooed me out the door this morning.  Dad, as usual, wasn't there to argue in my defense.  Not that he would have anyway.  He was a renowned surgeon, and had probably been placing a new kidney donor as I chugged out of our driveway, my suitcases packed and my date of return unknown.
            Ever since Mom left to be with her personal trainer five years ago, Dad barely looked at me.  He just noticed the poodle haired blonde he liked to call Flick, the matchstick woman he rushed all the way home to have candlelight dinners with as I sulked in my room.
            Stopping at the nearest gas station that looked as if it hadn't been visited since the seventies, I took a short break then set off again.  It wasn't long before dotted aspens and maples no longer concealed the entryway to Gracen's large estate.  Terra-cotta stone and the edges of a lavish roof were just about visible.  I was told Gracen came from a line of successful merchants and oil diggers.  It was why she considered herself a cut above the rest of the residents of Spring Mills.  Her inherited wealth was the only thing to keep me from pulling up and hyperventilating.
            After parking my cherry red Mustang on the pebble driveway, I took in the place.  The mansion was breathtaking, complete with a cylinder roof crowned and decorated with golden leaf detail.  It reminded me of a centerpiece to a castle.
            My smile vanished though as soon as I got out of the car.  I sensed I wasn't alone.  It was as though someone was watching me, and closely.  When I spun around, there was no one around.  I rubbed the goose bumps popping up all over my arms and shivered, gasping as a fiery heat crawled from my feet to my neck.  The air turned sour next, as if the flowers in the crescent shaped garden were decomposing.  The added smell of ash and smoke stung my eyes, and the driveway darkened.  Slowly, the ground became paved, horse hooves clamored and large wheels of a carriage creaked to a halt.  A barrage of screams erupted from the nearby forest as flames licked at my waist.
            "Lara.  Lara Voight!"
            I turned and almost stumbled.  The flames disappeared as a man in a black tuxedo came ambling down the stone steps: rake thin and with a silver goatee.
            "Lara Voight?" he repeated, getting closer.
            "Y-e-s," I stuttered.
            "Where are your things?" he asked, looking at my beat up car.
            I tried to catch my breath.  It was as if the wind had been taken out of me.  My legs even shook.
            What had happened?  Was it heat stroke?  Five hours on the road could probably do that to a person.  I could sue Susan.  It was her idea I came all the way to Spring Mills while she "worked things out" with Dad.  I was so easy to manipulate.
            "In the trunk," I muttered.
            The man shook his head without a care for the way I was panting.
            "Who are you anyway?" I tried to ask.
            "Henry."  He held out his hand.  His long, boney fingers reminded me of the creature from Alien.  "You can give me the keys.  I'll take care of your luggage."
            I shakily did as asked.  It wasn't like I had anything to steal.
            "You need to go and see Mrs. Miller before she takes her afternoon nap," he said gruffly.  "You're late as it is."
            His aggravated tone wasn't appreciated, but it helped me to feel less disturbed by what had happened.
            Who was he?  Why was there a strange old man in Gracen's home?  Was he a live in lover no one knew about?
            "Who are you to Gracen?" I queried, trying to match his clipped tone.
            "Her chau-ffer," he said, as if I was too dim to know what that was.
            He carelessly dragged my luggage out of the trunk and waved me away.  He actually waved.
            What a jerk.
            I ran up the stone steps to blow off steam before I said something I would regret.  I couldn't make an enemy as soon as I arrived.
            Inside, the house welcomed me with a cool draft that helped me to breathe a lot easier.  The interior was less ambient than expected, with a dark hallway and distressed wood on the floor that was partially bordering the empty walls.  My name was called out and I flinched, spinning around.  Henry was nowhere in sight.
            "Make yourself at home," a nasally voice said from behind me, making me jump.
            An old woman in a wheelchair zoomed my way.  Salt and pepper curls bounced on broad shoulders.  My heart stopped thumping when I realized it was just Gracen.  She wasn't overly wrinkly for someone close to her eighties.
            "Stare all you like."  She harrumphed.
            "Sorry.  I was --"
            "I'm not seventeen, but I have my uses," she added soothingly, parking her wheelchair in front of me and lifting her chin.  "As you can see, I'm Gracen Miller."
            "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Miller."
            "You may as well call me Gracen for now."  She grimaced.  "Follow me, Lorna."
            "It's Lara."
            "Same thing."
            Balling my hands into fists, I watched her wheel away from me.  The woman was reminding me of Susan already.
            The rectangular room we entered had mismatched furniture cluttered like bonfire piles on either side.  Collectable items such as tribal masks, globes of the world, and ceramic Chinese figurines, confused the theme that might have been in mind when decorated.
            Unlike the foyer, the walls were lined with watercolor paintings of naked damsels and huntsmen clasping large rifles.  Beneath these were pleasant enough antique tables and cabinets.  A chessboard besides  mustard leather couch, though, clasped with the pea green walls.  It looked like someone hadn't a clue how to coordinate.
            "My husband, Charles, was a prideful hunter," Gracen said as if to explain.  "Would you care for a drink?"  She began to pour a murky orange concoction into a tall blue glass.
            I was suspicious of the act of kindness.  It wasn't like I got along with her granddaughter to be made to feel welcome.  No.  I felt extra wary.  It was totally unfair of Dad to make me stay here in some stranger's home.  I was even more wary of Gracen's choice of beverage.  But the last few hours in my non-air conditioned cocoon had dried out my throat too much to care in the end.
            I waited for her to hand me my drink.  Gracen supped it herself before pouring herself another glass.  I tapped my fingers on my pants as way to a hint that I was getting impatient.  Grace made the effort to glance at me before pouring a third drink, yet only halfway before roughly handing it to me.  Then off she wheeled again, almost riding over my toes.
            "Sit," she commanded, pointing her crooked finger at a beige leather couch.
            I sipped what was thankfully just ice tea.
            "Let's start with a few questions, shall we?"  She eyed me.
            I nodded, hoping to get on her good side; if she had one that is.
            "Susan tels me you're a spoiled brat."
            She harrumphed in that horrible, condescending way of hers.  "Do you bathe often?"
            Seriously?  "Um.  Yes."
            "Do you smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, dabble in drugs?"
            Maybe this was literally a test.  "No."
            Her bushy eyebrows rose in insinuation.  "Are you promiscuous?"
            My jaw dropped.  "Excuse me?"
            "Just answer the question."
            "No, you won't answer the question, or no you're not promiscuous?"
            "No, I'm not promiscuous."
            "Have you ever dated?"
            My cheeks burned.  "No."
            "Excuse me?  You need to speak up."
            "Why not?"  She eyed me, this time a lot more thoroughly.  "You're attractive enough, I suppose."
            I sipped my drink.  It was starting to leave a bitter aftertaste, a lot like Gracen.  "I haven't...found anyone...yet."
            "I must say you remind me of someone else.  She was just as dark, tall, sinewy, but plentiful in the right places.  She had your emerald green eyes, too, even your awfully small lips, but a confidence that made up for what she lacked."
            I gritted my teeth for what must have been the fifth time.  I'd had a semester of psychology in high school.  I tried to seem unfazed by her remarks.
            "Really?  Who was she?"
            "A childhood friend of my mother's."
            The strained conversation was interrupted by a petite woman who entered from an adjoining room.  She patted her brown hair that was pulled neatly back into a ponytail.  Her cheeks were ruddy, and her apron was stained with what looked like dark chocolate.  She seemed Puerto Rican or Hawaiian.  I was never any good at guessing someone's ethnicity.
            Gracen fluttered her fingers at the woman.  "This here is Celine.  She takes care of all the household chores and serves as my cook, nurse, and maid.  The woman can do just about anything."
            Gracen's compliment sounded chiding.  Celine simply bowed like a lifelong servant.
            "Celine will show you to your room," Gracen added, wheeling across the room and out of another exit.
            So what was that?  The end of my supposed welcome?
            It was more like a snoop at my innermost thoughts before leaving me with the housemaid.  My summer was going to suck worse than I thought.
            Celine had already headed to the dull foyer, explaining the ground rules and what each room contained in her timorous voice.  There was a library, a parlor, a ballroom and dining area; a kitchen, downstairs bathroom, pavilion, tea garden, and one elevator.
            Elevator?  So that was how the old ogress got up and down the stairs.
            The house had more rooms than I could have counted, with extra doorways leading to locked compartments at every stop, rooms that restricted me from having a look around more than I should have wanted to.  The spiral staircase reached toward a diamond-drop chandelier; a pleasant addition, and the only thing, so far, that I liked about the place.
            Celine stopped at the top of the stairs and pointed at a door to the right.  "That's Henry's room.  He keeps mostly to himself."
            "I bet," I muttered.
            "Oh, he's a kind man at heart," Celine insisted with a stiff smile.
            "Really?  You don't think he's a little..."
            "So it's not just me he snaps at?"  I was grateful Celine was pleasant.
            "He can be demanding.  But he warms to you once you take the time to consider his reasons."
            "Which are?"
            "A lonely man is afraid to get too close too soon.  But please, don't mention his family."
            I was about to ask why when she turned and headed to the next room.  I took that as a sign to stop poking around in other people's business.  It wasn't like I wanted to confess that I'd been abandoned by Dad because he was besotted with a horrible witch, I mean Susan.
            Celine pointed to her room beside Henry's, then Gracen's which was on the other side, clearly separating herself from her employees.  The hall bathroom and a pantry for any supplies such as fresh blankets, sheets, pillows, and air fresheners, was next to the broom closet.  During our exploration of her cleaning supplies, I decided Celine was kind of skittish but friendly, and spoke English fluently, even if I didn't have a clue where she originated.  She was coy yet happy to offer up a smile - unlike the other two residents.
            Susan had obviously sent me here to change my ways or go live with Mom or probably even some hostel.  But Mom was living the life I could only dream about, dating guys young enough to be on a sophomore baseball team.
            I tried to block out the argument I had with Dad late last night and the way he yelled at me for the first time.  He'd apologized and explained he had a lot on his mind.  That was when he dropped the bombshell.  Susan was pregnant.  With twins.
            "It's just here."  Celine's voice broke me from my reverie.  I brushed away a tear that had escaped, glad Celine had her back to me.
            We stopped abruptly beneath a dangling piece of frayed rope that looked to be leading to an outline of a pull door in the ceiling.
            Was I expected to sleep in the attic?
            "You'll be sleeping in the attic," Celine confirmed.  I could hear the outright pity in her voice.  "Mrs. Miller ordered the spare rooms to be fumigated.  Right now they're not...habitable."
            Habitable?  Did Dad know about this?  Susan?  My guess was it was her idea to put me in the attic.  My blood boiled and my nails dug into my palms.  How could Susan be so mean?  Especially after the sacrificed I'd made to help them work things out?
            "Fumigated for what?" I asked, pretending not to care as I followed Celine up the slanted stairs.
            She was a bad liar.  She had even stuttered.  A house like this wouldn't just have its spare rooms fumigated.  Still, Celine was doing her job and obeying orders.  I couldn't take my frustration out on her.
            When we reached the top, I decided the attic wasn't a total horror.  With a lick of paint, two weeks dusting, a new window and a dumpster to haul out ninety percent of the junk, it would have been close to five-star accommodation.
            "I cleaned up a little before you arrived," Celine said, adding tedious adjustments to my makeshift dresser - a shoddy cardboard box.
            "I can tell," I lied.  Two could play this game.  "Thanks, Celine."
            I forced a smile and walked over to my wheel suitcase.  It looked like Henry had tossed it on the floor and stomped all over it.  I unzipped the top and bit back the urge to yell and stomp my own feet like a detained five-year-old.  I probably would have caved in the brittle floorboards and landed in the kitchen.
            "I'll leave you to get settled in," Celine chirped, backing away from me as if I was holding a loaded musket.  "Call me from the stairs if you need anything.  And remember, dinner will be ready at six-thirty sharp.  Mrs. Miller doesn't appreciate tardiness."
            I smiled, letting it drop the moment she left me with the contents of an undiscovered rummage sale.
            Poor timing?
            There wasn't a word or phrase for what seemed to be about to happen in the next few weeks.  I was stuck in a dusty hellhole with a grouchy old woman who had little social skills, not to mention a chauffeur who was acting kind of a jackass.  Only Celine had the potential to be different.  The other two seemed unchangeable.
            I headed to my one window to look at something uplifting.  I found a nice view, mainly of the darkening woods and a few patches of hills and cattle grazing in the distance.  A river trickled west and disappeared among a bushel of leaves and pines.  There was nothing unusual about it, just familiar from certain angles, as if I'd once followed the pathway beyond the wooden pole, the one with the lantern hanging from it.  I imagined passing through to the opening of gnarly branches.  Maybe I had been here as a child, I thought.  The closer I looked, though, the more I imagined the light of the moon glowing on the riverbed, gradually illuminating the night.  I could see myself gasping for breath, my hands grappling for long blades of grass as I became immersed in frigid water.
            Shaking off the vision, I hurried to my bed, my heart thrumming like a wild bird.  The scents from the driveway re-emerged like a forgotten memory.  This time with a hint of violet and vanilla.  My hands burned and a fermented heat crept up to my waist, bubbling in my chest before cooling down again, making me pant and wheeze.
            What was going on here?  Where were all the scents coming from?  The burning sensation?
            Why hadn't I ran away like I'd planned?

COVER REVEAL: A Dish Best Served Cold

Italian Kitchen Mystery 3:
A Dish Best Served Cold

Author: Rosie Genova
Genre: Mystery, Cozy, Culinary
Publisher: Signet
Publication date: 8.4.2015
Pages: 336

The national bestselling author of The Wedding Soup Murder returns to the Jersey Shore where a killer is stirring up trouble during a hurricane ...

At the Casa Lido, the end of summer means a party, and hit whodunit writer Victoria "Vic" Rienzi and her family are cooking like crazy for the restaurant's seventeenth anniversary celebration.  As they chop onions and garlic, old family friend Pete Petrocelli stops by, saying he knows something that would make for a good mystery novel.  Curious, Vic asks Nonna to elaborate on Pete's claim and learns of a relative who mysteriously disappeared back in Italy...
            The night of the party brings a crowd - and a full throttle hurricane.  When the storm finally passes, everyone thinks they're in the clear - until the first casualty is found, and it's Pete.  Remembering his visit, Vic isn't certain Pete's death was an accident and decides to dig deeper into his story.  What she finds is meatier than Nonna's sauce...

RELEASE DAY BLAST: Fat Zombie Anthology

Fat Zombie:
Stories of the Unlikely Survivors
of the Apocalypse

Edited by: Paul Mannering
Genre: Horror, Short Stories, Anthology
Publisher: Permuted Press
Publication date: 1.25.2015
Pages: 190

With the theme of unlikely survivors of the apocalypse, the stories in Fat Zombie will enthrall you and have you rooting for the little guy.
            Featuring tales of the elderly, the disabled, the developmentally challenged as well as losers, geeks, and social outcasts, all trying to survive in a world where the rules have changed.
            With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award winner and bestselling zombie author, Joe McKinney, Fat Zombie includes stories by award winning authors of the weird and the horrific, such as Martin Livings and Dan Rabarts.  This is a unique collection that steps away from the usual conventions and tropes of apocalypse fiction.

by Jay Wilburn

Awakening in a Dead City
by Timothy Johnson

In the Land of Siriad
by Vincent L. Scarsella

by Rachel Aukes

On the Road to Chattanooga
by Tony Sarrecchia

Peer in the Woods
by Zakary McGaha

Pieces of First!
by Michael W. Clark

El Caballo Muerte
by Martin Livings

by Dan Rabarts

Mr. Schmidt's Dead Pet Emporium
by Sally McLennan

and last, but certainly not least,

The New Dark Ages
by Stephen Kozeniewski

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

COVER REVEAL: The City Beneath

Night Blood 1:
The City Beneath

Author: Melody Johnson
Genre: Paranormal, Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Publication date: 4.27.2015

As a journalist, Cassidy DiRocco thought she had seen every depraved thing New York City's underbelly had to offer.  But while covering what appears to be a vicious animal attack, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed.  Her expose makes her the target of the handsome yet brutal Dominic Lysander, the Master Vampire of New York City, who has no problem silencing her to keep his coven's secrets safe.
            But Dominic offers Cassidy another option: ally.  He reveals she is a night blood, a being with powers of her own, including the ability to become a vampire.  As the body count escalates, Cassidy is caught in the middle of a vampire rebellion.  Dominic insists she can help him stop the coming war, but wary of his intentions, Cassidy enlists the help of the charming Ian Walker, a fellow night blood.  As the battle between vampires takes over the city, Cassidy will have to tap into her newfound powers and decide where to place her trust...

REVIEW: All the Butterflies in the World

All the Butterflies in the World
Rodney Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication date: 10.28.2014
Pages: 300

Recommended by: Red Adept Publishing, Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.26.2015

Summary: With her senior looming, Tess McKinnon has two goals: hanging out with her best friend, Liz, and avoiding her judgmental, alcoholic mother.  Then yummy John Bartley arrives - to tell Mrs. McKinnon that her daughter is dead.  Distinctly still alive, Tess is baffled by John's tale of 1800 time travel, rewritten lives, and love.  She knows she's never seen him before, but her feelings refuse to be denied.
            When Tess and John discover an aged newspaper clipping that indicates John's uncle was hanged for Tess's murder in 1875, John decides to return to his time to save his uncle's life.  Not really sure she even believes in this time travel stuff, Tess checks the article after John leaves.  The words have changed, and she is horrified to find that John has been hanged instead.
            Armed with determination and modern ingenuity, Tess must abandon her past and risk her future for a chance to catch her own killer and find her first love for the second time.
            Sequel to The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains.

When I finished off the first book (The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains), I was a little ticked off.  Knowing that there was a second one, that Tess and John were going to have to go through all of this again was exciting, but at the same time, frustrating.  Especially knowing that they were going to re-meet each other because, even though I enjoyed their first conversation, there was something about the beginning of the last book that I found boring.  (It got much better, so please, if you read that one, stick it out.)

This book was totally different.  Seriously.  From the very beginning, I was intrigued.  John meeting Tess for the first time was not as awkward (even though it was for her) and I was immediately pulled into the story.  This story brought out more emotions in me and I liked the characters more in this book than I did in the last.  All-in-all, definitely an interesting and different series, like no other time travel series I've read before, so if you're a time travel fan, these are two books you should add to your TBR list. :)

Sunday, January 25, 2015


The Gal in the Blue Mask: 
Hi, Cindy.  Welcome to The Gal.  It's great to have you here.  I LOVED your book!!  Just ... wow!  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Cindy Brown: 
I'm an award-winning writer, a mystery lover, and a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright).  Recently I've combined my passions to produce Macdeath, a humorous mystery set int he off-off-off Broadway theater world, where the best drama happens offstage.  When I'm not writing fiction, I work as a copywriter, scriptwriter, and ghostwriter.  And always, I try to live by the worlds of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Be silly.  Be honest.  Be kind."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Cindy Brown:
This is a tough one - I'm kind of an open book...

1. If I could, I would stay up until 4 in the morning and sleep until 11.  Unfortunately, the world doesn't really work that way.

2. No one except my stylist knows my natural hair color.  And I'm not telling.

3. I used to be a pretty good tap dancer.

4. My most prized possession is a personal letter from George Burns.

5. Bridges freak me out so much that I carry a hammer in my car, in case I end up in the river and have to break a window (and yes, I live in Portland, a.k.a. "Bridgetown").

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Cindy Brown:
I was in the hospital for a few days as a young child.  A volunteer came around with a basket of toys and books, and I chose Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book.  I still remember how it made me feel better.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Cindy Brown:
I read really widely.  For example, I just finished Rhys Bowen's sparkling mystery Naughty in Nice, and now I'm reading Sarah Waters' historical novel The Paying Guests.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Cindy Brown:
I've always written, but mostly for myself.  I began writing for others when I was teaching theater to kids and couldn't find plays I wanted to use in class.  Macdeath is my first novel.  One day I woke up with Ivy Meadows, actress and PI-in-training in my head, and knew she needed and entire book to herself.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Cindy Brown:
I do most of my work at home, but I also get to use the Sterling Room for Writers at Multnomah Central Library.  It's a gorgeous high-ceilinged, wood-paneled room, like something out of an English manor house.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Cindy Brown:
I do my best writing in the morning, before my critic has woken up.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Cindy Brown:
Everywhere from news articles to overheard conversations.  One of my friends told me he once had a car that used to catch on fire regularly.  That's now a plot point in my next book.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Cindy Brown:
I am a big Shakespeare fan, and have learned a lot about language and timing from  him.  Mystery-wise, I am inspired by Sue Grafton and her sassy Kinsey Millhone.  But Anne Lamott's funny and wise Bird by Bird is the book I return to most often.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Cindy Brown:
Since I write for a living, I often find it hard to put my own writing first.  I've learned that if I don't do it first thing, it's way less likely to happen.  Not only will everyone else's work eat up all my time, but I will be reluctant to sit back down in front of a computer screen again.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Cindy Brown:
Intriguing characters.  It's one reason I love series: I get to come back to familiar characters, see how they deal with new problems, and watch them grow.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Cindy Brown:
I'm a lot like Ivy, sunny and slightly goofy, but determined, with a strong sense of justice.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why did you pick your particular genre?

Cindy Brown:
I have always loved mysteries.  I love the psychological puzzles they present, and the fact that justice (usually) prevails.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Cindy Brown:
I haven't read many mysteries set in the theater, which is surprising, considering that the theater is rife with drama (pun intended).  And the books are funny.  As my editor says, Ivy is a hoot!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Cindy Brown:
Ivy's getting her own series!  The second book, The Sound of Murder, will be out in September 2015.  I don't want to give away much yet, but let's just say there will be spy gadgets, a snoring pug, and of course, singing nuns.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thank you for coming by today, Cindy.  It was great having you.  Before you go, could you tell us where we can find you?

Cindy Brown:
You can connect with me on my website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

REVIEW: Macdeath

Ivy Meadows Mystery 1:
Cindy Brown

Genre: Mystery, Cozy, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 1.20.2015
Pages: 275

Recommended by: Great Escapes Book Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.24.2015

Summary: Like every actor, Ivy Meadows knows that Macbeth is cursed.  But she's finally scored her big break, cast as an acrobatic witch in a circus-themed production of Macbeth in Phoenix, Arizona.  And though it may not be Broadway, nothing can dampen her enthusiasm - not her flying caldron, too-tight leotard, or carrot-wielding dictator of a director.
            But when one of the cast dies on opening night, Ivy is sure the seeming accident is "murder most foul" and that she's the perfect person to solve the crime (after all, she does work part-time in her uncle's detective agency).  Undeterred by a poisoned Big Gulp, the threat of being blackballed, and the suddenly too-real curse, Ivy pursues the truth at the risk of her hard-won career - and her life.

It's not very often that I sit down with a book and, when done, can't find a single thing wrong with it.  There always seems to be something that bugs me, at least a little bit.  Either there was a character that I didn't care for, something happened that I couldn't quite understand, there are more boring points than I would have liked, the ending falls flat or *cough cough* there's editing issues *cough cough*.  

The ones that I love are the hardest ones to review, harder than the ones that are full of issues.  Why? Because I want to immediately start running-off-at-the-mouth about every thing that I loved, which would ruin the story for the next person.  And I am the last person that would want to do that.

This is one of those books that falls into the category of perfect for me.  It's a mystery, which puts it above the rest anyways (I am addicted to mysteries and horror novels).  It's interesting, it's fun, it's creative - it blew me away.  Each page kept me reading more and it was hard for me to put down.  The characters were fantastic and I loved them all, especially Ivy and her uncle.  

This is a series that I definitely want to finish and the author has joined the handful (or two) of authors that I wait in breathless anticipation for their releases, who I will put down what I'm reading to pick up their book.  HIGHLY recommended.

Thank you, Ms. Brown.  Thank you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

REVIEW: Murder Out of Tune

Libby Sarjeant Murder Mysteries 14:
Murder Out of Tune
Lesley Cookman

Genre: Mystery, Cozy, British Detective
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication date: 9.30.2014
Pages: 270

Recommended by: Great Escapes Book Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.21.2015

Summary: The fourteenth book in the Libby Sarjeant series of British murder mysteries which featured a retired actress as the female sleuth and are based in the picturesque village of Steeple Martin.
            A member of a local ukulele group is found dead in Steeple Martin's churchyard.  Libby's first reaction is relief that the victim isn't anyone she knows.  She and the usual suspects have other things to occupy them as they are gearing up for a Christmas concert and pantomime in the Oast Theatre but when Libby's cousin gets romantically involved with a man in whom the police are taking an interest, she can't help asking a few questions - and getting into trouble...

I have always been a fan of mysteries, especially British ones.  I can't explain what it is about them, but they just draw me in and keep my interest through out the entire thing.  The characters are fun and different, I love the names of the towns/villages (and pubs), and the writing feels like a favorite blanket.  You see, I grew up on British television, especially British mysteries.  My mom was a big fan of things like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and that love was not only passed on to me, but has spread to include all kinds of things, including Midsomer Murders.  And that is what this book felt like to me.

This is the first time that I have met Libby and her friends, and after I got through the first chapter, getting used to the author's writing style and figuring out who everyone was, I really got into the book - so much so that I read it in one sitting.  (If you're not used to British writing, that first chapter - and the fact that there are a lot of conversations going on throughout the book - may seem a bit tedious, but give it a chance.)  Having not read the first thirteen books, there were a few things I didn't understand, but that had nothing to do with the story or the author, and everything to do with my lack of knowledge for things that happened before, so I wouldn't say that these are stand-alones - the mystery itself is, but there is a lot of talk about things that happened before, and Libby is very stand-off-ish when it comes to this mystery, wanting nothing to do with trying to solve it.

The characters are an interesting group of people, some very different than the others, but all friends just the same.  The village of Steeple Martin reminds me, as mentioned before, of a place I would come across in the TV series Midsomer Murders - the kind of place you would like to visit just to check out the scenery and enjoy the quiet and solitude of such a place.  The mystery - a murder - begins in the very first paragraph of the book and it was great fun (for lack of a better phrase) trying to figure out who did it.  

There were a couple of things that the author added at the beginning of the book that I really liked and felt were very useful.  The map is great and it helped to have an idea of the layout before I got started.  Also, she does a "Who's Who" where she lists out the characters and gives a bit of back information on them.  I find these very helpful, especially when you have a lot of characters, and it also makes it easier to keep track of different characters as you go through a series.

This is a series I definitely plan to catch up on - and one I recommended to my mother (she is pretty picky when it comes to books, so that says a lot).

Monday, January 19, 2015

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Valentine's Day is Murder

McKinley Mysteries 8:
Valentine's Day is Murder
Carolyn Arnold

Genre: Mystery, Cozy
Publication date: 1.15.2015
Pages: 136

Jimmy finally takes a vacation - and a chance on love - only to be abducted.  His female companion originally thinks he had cold feet about their relationship, but Sean and Sara  know there's more to it. Jimmy isn't the type to just up and disappear, let alone leave a lady stranded.
            Setting out on their private jet, Sean and Sara reach the tropical paradise of Ocho Rios, Jamaica with sightseeing as the last thing on their minds.
            With a gold coin being their initial tie to Jimmy's kidnapper, Sean and Sara even speculate about the involvement of pirates.  Yet as the hours pass, and there's no word from Jimmy's captors, Sean and Sara will need to figure out the real motive before it's too late.
            With help form their friend, Adam, back in Albany, the pieces come together and not a moment too soon.
            Strap in for an adventure that will take you to the beautiful island of Jamaica and have you wanting a pina colada.

Chapter 4
Pineapples & Alibis

"There was no answer in her room.  She may be out by the pool."  The front desk clerk lowered the phone's receiver and gestured toward a wall of windows that faced a pool and, beyond that, the sea.
            "Thank you," Sean said.
            "No worries."  The clerk smiled and flipped some papers over that she had been working on when they had approached her to call up to Meredith's room.
            Tourists, clad in bathing suits in a spectrum of colors, dotted both the poolside and the beach.  It had Sara wishing all she and Sean had to do was enjoy the scenery.
            The sun was beating down, the warmth all-encompassing, but thankfully, the humidity wasn't extreme.  Sara still wished to slip out of her dress to reveal the bikini she wore underneath.  The thought of the rays kissing her skin was almost too much to dismiss from her mind.
            She scanned the horde of vacationers and spotted Meredith lying out on a lounge chair.  She sat up as if she sensed Sara watching.
            "There she is, Sean."  Sara nudged her head toward Meredith.
            "She doesn't look too upset, does she?"
            Sara put a hand on Sean's shoulder.  "We're not going to assume she's behind this."
            He stayed put.  "She's not behind this and yet she's new to his life and he's never gone missing before."
            "We promised on the flight that we would give her the benefit of the doubt, unless something came up to convince us of her involvement."   
            "I'm starting to rethink that decision."
            "If Jimmy trusted her -"
            "Yes, then we should too."
            "That's right."  Sara pressed her lips, hoping she conveyed more conviction than she felt at times - this being one of those times.

REVIEW: Take Action and Build the Life You Want

Action for a Better Life 1:
Take Action! And Build the Life You Want
Eddie de Jong

Genre: Self-help, Happiness
Publication date: 1.14.2015
Pages: 89

Recommended by: Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.18.2015

Summary: Discover how you can design and live the life you've always wanted.  
            Are you unhappy with your life or parts of your life?  Are you simply going from one day to the next without any aim or purpose?  Do you know what you want your life to look like, but have no idea how to make it happen?
            Take Action! and Build the Life You Want is based on tried and tested scientific principles that have helped millions of people build and live the life of their dreams.
            The theory has been considered and simplified into an easy-to-use series of steps that will show you: Why people don't live the lives they want; where your beliefs come from and how you can change them; how to get into a positive state and stay there - always; make change part of your life and welcome it, instead of being afraid; find your unique purpose in live and start living.
            Taking consistent action is key to personal development.
            Living the life that you've always dreamed of becomes easy once you know how.  Actually achieve professional and personal success by following the simple, practical steps outlined.
            Do you want your own profitable business that will bring fame and success?  Do you desire financial independence and personal freedom?  Would you love to improve your relationships and make them more fulfilling?
            You can achieve excellence in all of these if you know that your purpose in life and actively start living it.
            Take action now and change your life forever!

I have this obsession with self-help books.  (It's my dirty little secret, so shhh...)  I know that sounds silly, but I am always curious about what the next author has to say, how they will share it with the world, and if they can do it differently than the previous one.

When the author sent me an email asking me if I would be interested in checking this one out, I decided to give it a try.  

If you read a lot of self-help stuff like I do, then you'll "know" a lot of the stuff that he has included in this book, BUT he reworks it, then writes it in an organized way, cutting out a lot of the fluff, and adding in anecdotes from his time as a Life Coach.  It is obvious that he has done a lot of research on this subject and includes ideas to try to help you on your way.  I found his words motivational.  He also has a workbook that you can download for free (the website is included in the book).

89 pages.  $0.99.  Not a bad book to begin your adventure towards a happier person.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

REVIEW: The Sun, the Moon and Maybe the Trains

The Sun, the Moon & Maybe the Trains
Rodney Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication date: 9.28.2012
Pages: 252

Recommended by: Red Adept Publishing, Read 2 Review
Date read: 1.17.2015

Summary: John Bartley's days are filled with working in the mill or the garden, and he can't wait to see Zella at the next barn dance.  But when he stumbles through a hidden portal in the forest, everything he's ever known falls behind him.
            A hundred and thirty-four years behind, to be exact.
            Tess can't quite believe John's tale of time travel.  Does he really not know what a cell phone is?  A car?  Indoor plumbing?  To convince the girl he's swiftly falling for that he's not crazy, John must delve into Tess's history - his future - and solve the mystery of his hometown's demise.
            But when they learn it's fate, each faces a wrenching choice.  Save their love or save their past?

I find time travel books to be fun reads, so when Red Adept Publishing sent this my way, I was excited to give it a try.  

It is a little slow starting out, but once John finds himself in the future, things pick up and the story becomes a lot more interesting.  I love how the title of the novel is actually found in the story - I always like seeing an author bring the two together.

My favorite part of the story is when they first meet.  Even though she's not sure about him, she's very kind and understanding.  We learn a lot about the two of them (their personalities, how they treat others, etc) during this conversation and it made me really like both characters.

I did have a few issues with the book, though.  

I find first person writing to be either a hit or miss with me.  It often sounds like someone is writing in a journal or telling a rather long story to someone, sometimes feeling a bit tedious and forced, and this is how I felt while reading this novel.  The author does a good job, don't get me wrong, and maybe it's just me, but I had quite a few "eh..." moments where I got a little bored learning about things that I didn't exactly think mattered, especially at the beginning of the story.

I like Young Adult books, but this felt more like Middle School or High School.  There were times that both characters felt very young and immature, which I can understand from John, considering he knows nothing about this time period and he has a lot to learn, but she wasn't new to this.

There were questions that I wanted answered (i.e. the portal, how it came there, why it was there) that didn't get answered, which was disappointing.  (Maybe this will be answered in book two.  I'll be beginning that in a few days, so we'll see.)

I didn't like the ending.  I won't go into detail because I don't want to ruin it for potential readers, but if I didn't know about book 2, I would be really sad and disappointed.