Monday, December 31, 2012

C. S. Lakin's Latest Is BRH Favorite--So Far!

The Crystal Scepter:
 The Gates of Heaven Series

A Fairy Tale By
C. S. Lakin

The Crystal Scepter is a darker, heavier Tale than earlier editions, or so it seemed to me. And, an old legend of the Gorgon adds a sense of horror as well. You remember the Gorgon? the Woman who had snakes around her head and was so hideous that if you saw her, you would turn to stone?
"He needed his nerve and made for a large group
of men huddled on the shore where the main ship
dock once stood. Not a piece of wood remained standing,
nor could Perth see any boats up and down the coastline,
although in the dark he could only see so far. Though,
the dozen or so torches held aloft revealed total
destruction of what had once been the seaport for
his village...
"Arnyl tore his glassy gaze from the door and found
his son. 'I ran to the harbor, looking for you, when
the first big wave swamped the village. I never saw it
coming, only heard loud crashing in the distance.
The force of the water knocked me against Rickard's
Dry Goods. I blacked out, but heaven be thanked--
Alyck chanced upon me and got me to my feet.
That's when I found I could barely walk. I think my
leg might be broke.' His pa drew in a long breath and
shuddered, as if his ribs ached from the motion. 
"Alyck and Gayla managed to get me home but I'm
afeared I won't be up and around for many a day..."
"His pa stared wistfully toward the window, where
the dark night encroached. "So many hurt, their
homes gone, swept away. What will happen to

And then we also met her spawn, who was not quite so ugly, but did have more going for him in size and weight...LOL You got it, I just had to have pictures of what I thought they looked like, even though the Gorgon was also a shape shifter, which I thought was way cool, since she had quite a number of men enchanted with her!

How did she do that? By stealing all the beauty from the King's three daughters! Who instantly became Trolls!

Ok, I'd better stop - I did try to find a picture of a troll, but nowadays they are all cute little girl trolls...So think of the older stories of trolls that lived under the bridge, etc., for your mental pictures...

These are your monsters for this event, although, once you get to know the trolls, even though they are thieves, who will steal anything nice or beautiful, you will find they are just silly princesses who were still spoiled even if no long beautiful...

Because they lived in Elysiel, a beautiful place that was under God's grace and which was kept secret because of evil enemies who wished to destroy the land and steal the magic held there.

But as always seems to occur among humans, word got out that the Kings of Elysiel possessed a Crystal Scepter that gave them extra long lives. This time, however, the King was killed, murdered, and the Scepter stolen!

It was another King, Pythius of Paladya, that had entered the secret Crystal Cave, killed the King and left, but not before he had touched one of the huge crystal stones and seen what his future might be...

He had been helped to enter Elysiel by Lady Vitrella, who was the gorgon in disguise and who then attacked Pythius when he left. Pythius had kept his sword handy and wounded her. Now he had another enemy... But Pythius was used to danger. When his father had fought to take over Paladya, he had been but a boy...

But old enough to lust after his father's power and he committed his first murder to ensure he became King!

His lust had also led to him taking a young woman who was visiting Paladya and she was now pregnant. But when he returned from Elysiel, his hand had been hurt, burned by and with the mark of the Scepter... Nothing seemed to help it get better until he started calling those with magical skills. The first seer explained: "As the son has done to the father, so shall be done to the son."

And so as another man once feared the birth of a child, Pythius determined to kill his son first! But his wife had been brave enough to send her servant to listen. When she came back and explained that the boy would be killed, they ran away. Pythius was so angry that he sent soldiers out to find them, finally ordering that all baby boys should be killed. Fear like none before spread as Pythius' anger grew--just as his body was racked with pain as the mark on his hand spread up his arm...pains shooting out through his body. What good was the scepter when he couldn't even touch it! But he would never give it up!

Years passed as readers read of the baby boy, safe, living in a small village, dreaming, waiting... until the ghost of the King of Elysiel came to him...

There is much more action and adventure in this latest book, as monsters from the waters attack villages so that the wastelands will once again take over... The author reviews some of earlier classic tales from which she gained inspiration and readers will glimpse a brief scene or two but the story of the land of crystal is like no other. Lakin is a truly masterful genius of imagination and creativity... Once I got past getting used to the strange, ancient spelling of names, I was being pulled in by various things, like the princess-turned trolls adding humor, and the story of the man who found the little boy and kept him as a son--and so much more. This just might be the best of the series! But, of course, I'll have to add until the next one comes out!

Consider this a contemporary classic--this series will undoubtedly continue on into the future! Fairy Tales do, because there is always something for us to learn, if we but allow ourselves to read the lines, and between them as well! Highly recommended for 14+ and all lovers of fantasy, especially ones which are inspirational as is this wonderful series!


C. S. Lakin grew up in the Big Orange, when there were still orange groves in the Los Angeles basin. My first novel, A Rip in the Redwood Curtain, was picked up by the first agent who read it, Ben Kamsler -- Elmore Leonard's agent at the time.

While running a bed and breakfast inn, raising two daughters, and breeding dozens of pygmy goats, I wrote another two novels. One--Innocent Little Crimes--made the top 100 in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, with Publisher's Weekly calling it "a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through." In 2006  I wrote my first fantasy book, now published with AMG/Living Ink Publishers as part of a seven-book series. I have now written twelve novels, five of which have been contracted for publication and three more scheduled to write and publish.

I currently work as a freelance copy editor and writing coach, and also teach workshops on writing at conferences. I belong to numerous writing and editing groups, and often guest blog and contribute articles on websites that focus on the craft of writing. My website Live Write Thrive is dedicated to helping writers learn the craft of writing with tips on how to thrive and prosper through understanding changing publishing trends.

C. S. Lakin spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. She is the author of six contemporary novels and six in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Whether she is exploring the depths of the human psyche and pushing her characters to the edge of desperation, or embellishing an imaginary world replete with talking pigs and ancient magical curses, she is doing what she loves best – using her creativity and skills to inspire and affect her readers.

In all her books she seeks to journey to the heart of human motivation, to uncover unmet needs, and show the ath to healing and grace.
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Andrew Klavan's Latest, A Killer in the Wind, Coming in January!

"How were the prostitutes?" That's what he asked me the next
time I saw him. Sitting in his living room with the wraparound
windows. With the gray winter sky and the gray winter river.
Me on the sofa, him in a chair. "How were the prostitutes?"
As if he were joking.
"Young and cheap," I said with a laugh. As if I were joking.
"Seems like a long way to travel just for a good time," he said.
Laughing. As if he were joking.
"Depends on your definition of a good time," I said. As if.
"Well, whatever it is, I'm sure with your money, you could find
it a lot closer to home." Laughing, he opened a folder on the
glass table between us. Portfolios. Opportunities. "I, meanwhile,
have been using my time more productively on your behalf..."
"See, now he had tossed out his bait, his hook: You could find
it a lot closer to home. And I was supposed to say: Really? Are
you serious? What do you mean?
And I would say it. But
not today..."

A Killer in the Wind

By Andrew Klavan

This is a strange book. If you like unique...and strange... Get this book! A psychological thriller is not necessarily something you will enjoy... But it does fascinate, doesn't it? There is indeed something thrilling when a story takes you where you've not been before. This one did for me and probably will for you, I believe.

Dan Champion is a cop who, to me, came across somewhat like Mike Hammer in telling what he's doing. He got the hard cases that, sometimes, got into his head--like the little girl who had been beaten to death, with the killer in the wind...

Now he was undercover, trying to infiltrate a huge organization that worked to anybody with enough money to pay the price...

But it was all getting to him and his mind wouldn't stop thinking about this case--what he had to pretend to be, what he had to do to get the individuals involved to accept him...

Sure, this guy, Emory, would get him hookers, but Dan knew that he was into something much darker, something he didn't even want to think about--yet he did...

Night after night he couldn't get to sleep, yet knew he had to if he was to stay alert...

He could think of only one thing to do...and he went to a drug supplier explaining what he needed...

Sleeping was no longer a problem, but the side effects...

When he started seeing the little boy, he knew he was in trouble, but what was he going to do?

Besides, he soon disappeared...until the next time...

Caught in between reality and drug-induced visions, he nevertheless kept it together enough to keep going, until he had made his first connection. Emory had provided him...a beautiful child...

Just as the police broke in and Emory ran... Dan turned to the little girl and explained he was a policeman and no one would hurt her, quickly untying the ropes that held her...Turning her over to others...

Then he started after Emory... he didn't remember killing him... Or much of anything else that had happened...

And while the others covered for him, his boss told him he had to go. They bargained a little, Dan swearing he would get completely clean, of everything. If he did, his boss would okay him for a small-town officer position.

So now he was in a sleepy little town with three years behind him. But nothing had ever been forgotten--even the beautiful angel who'd helped him through, named Samantha, who apparently was just as unreal as the little boy who had kept appeared.

Only now, he was clean, drug-free. But when he was called to help with a body that was pulled out of the river near the little town, his nightmares were back, because that woman looked exactly like...Samantha...

And would you believe, it gets even more strange? Dan is thrown into nightmares that took him back to his childhood, living in an orphanage...and remembering his first girlfriend... Were these after effects of the drugs, still in his system? Or, was he just too far gone to know what was real and what wasn't...

Don't get me wrong, readers will follow this tale easily, but we cannot help but be fully caught into Dan Champion's life, his mind, his fears...his love. Horrible dreams, memories, or hallucinations? But was his love at least real? And who was the little boy who kept coming to haunt him?

Oh, what an ending!
Don't you dare miss this one...


Award winning author, screenwriter and media commentator Andrew Klavan is the author of such internationally bestselling novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. Andrew has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice. His books have been translated around the world. His latest novel for adults, The Identity Man, has been praised by Nelson Demille as “fast paced, intelligent and thought-provoking; a great read!” Television and radio host Glenn Beck says “Andrew Klavan never disappoints…one of the best illustrations of the power of redemption that I’ve ever read.” His last novel Empire of Lies was about media bias in the age of terror, and topped’s thriller list. Andrew has also published a series of thrillers for young adults, The Homelanders, which follows a patriotic teenager’s battle against jihadists. The books have been optioned to be made into movies by Summit Entertainment, the team behind the mega-successful Twilight film series.

Andrew is a contributing editor to City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute. His essays and op-eds on politics, religion, movies and literature have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and elsewhere. His video feature, “Klavan on the Culture,” can be found at Andrew is a frequent media guest on television and radio stations from coast to coast, where he is known for his quick wit, humor and commentary on politics and entertainment.
As a screenwriter, Andrew wrote the screenplay to 1990’s A Shock to the System, which starred Michael Caine, and to 2008’s One Missed Call, which stars Ed Burns and Shannyn Sossamon. He lives in Southern California.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Be Very Careful of "Being Christian"


Being Christian

By K. C. Boyd

I was asked to read  and review this book. I hesitated, given the book description and indicated that I would be looking at it closely. They decided to send it...

Whoever named this book did a great job in trying to solicit interest in "being Christian" simply by naming the main character Christian so that the writer was able to claim just about anything and still not be...liable...?

If you are a member of just about any minority or even majority related to religion, sexuality, will be negatively discussed in this novel to prove a point that some people hate you.

Didn't we already know that?

I really tried to finish this book because I felt I needed to know how much garbage could be packed into one I skimmed to the ending...Yikes!

Getting into the end chapters got to be too much for me, however. Let me be very clear, this Christian reviewer does NOT support War or anything in this book!

Using an abused boy from a low-income hateful family environment as a lead character of an individual who became an evangelist is so repugnant and discouraging...The problems that are occurring in the United States are at a crisis stage, especially with violence. Making light of it via dark humor, satire, or whatever this book is will do nothing to help reduce murder, human trafficking, child abuse, pedophilia What a waste of energy...

Except to get book sales from those who will claim this novel is revealing, timely...enlightening??? Come on!

This book slams everybody, nearly every religion, and every act of violence and hate and places it all on the shoulders of this young abused boy... Everything that has even been wrong, it seems, lays on those who are willingly following a certain type of religion. Do you really think those "individuals" could have that much power? (Only when they are "used" by those who do have power...)

Oh, if that were only true... because criminals and every other hating individual can point their fingers and use it to continue or expand what they are doing.

So that boy could represent what the author claims to have personally found through his own investigation and saw that it was leading the country in "mixing State and end-times Christianity."

IF you are a Christian, you already recognize that there have been individual failures for a number of Christian pastors in well as many other people who do not profess any religion...

IF you are a Christian, you also recognize that what goes on is not what Christ taught. When has it ever as it relates to hate, war...?

But what is worse, using every possible "sin" to place on one individual, with, I gather, the intent to have him representative of the stereotypical "Christian, right-wing, that is" can only be considered disgusting, as it would for any other "groups" that are named herein...

Or is it? I don't profess, as this author did, to conduct any type of personal research, but I am fairly well read, fairly intelligent...and old enough to have interacted with many individuals of different races, religions and sexual preferences for well over 35 years on a large university campus... And, believe me, nothing in this book has me "following blindly"...

This book COULD have been a significant work in pointing out those who embrace fanaticism, or put greed of power above all... I was hoping because many writers are using fiction these days to share their thoughts on how the world can be helped.

Instead, every bit of hate, violence, and crime has been tossed together...

Instead, every crime, situation or single examples of one man's failure has been merged into a satire of a family so extreme that it lacks any sense of being able to be read as a credible statement. I found nothing redeemable because it is not funny to me to point out prejudice, hate and malice, and illustratively show it as coming from one group of any type...

I am a Christian and I do not accept anything that is presented in this book as being representative of my beliefs.

I do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexuality, or...religion...

These are not words that will help "show the light" to liberals as some are saying. This is nothing but hate, malicious hate that in no way demonstrates God's love and guidance, whether you believe in God or not.

I do not normally read or review books that are discriminatory. But this one deserves speaking out against it, no matter how well written it may or may not be.

If you read it and disagree with me...feel free to comment and debate my review. I'd be happy to get specific! Yes, this review is based totally on personal opinion, which I always try NOT to do. It is the first book that I will say that this is purely personal opinion. I admit that. But then, this author obviously has come to certain personal opinions that...are...just...not...true...

And if they are, how did this book help, except by promulgating this type of slander? Your choice...but be very careful...


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Allen Wyler Goes Beyond Medical Thriller into Psychological Suspense in Latest!

Queen Victoria Hospital, Hong Kong
"After they both changed into green scrubs, Wong led Lucas down
the hall to the lounge of a classroom...Eleven scrub-clad surgeons
were milling around, chatting animatedly, most of them holding white
styrofoam cups of steaming tea. The drab sameness of hospitals struck
Lucas. This could be anyplace in the world--Cincinnati or Calcutta--
and he wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Well, except for the
Chinese characters on the plaques covering a trophy wall...
"Wong led Lucas to the demonstration table where a blue surgical
towel covered a cantaloupe-sized mount on a stainless steel tray.
This, Lucas assumed, was the cadaver head he'd be using...
"Standing behind the table, Lucas addressed the group. "The first
demonstration will be the anterior approach to the Clivus."
A tricky way to reach the base of the brain by cutting through
the back of the mouth...
"As with any craniotomy, it's extremely important to plan your
incision correctly." Lucas picked up a Sharpie in one hand and a
corner of the towel with the other.
"As he withdrew the towel, Lucas said, "We start the incision
here," and looked down at the head. He froze. For three long
seconds he was unable to tear his gaze from the gray, bloodless
skin. Then he spun away, spewing vomit on the wall and the
Dead Ringer

By Allen Wyler

I was surprised at the amount of information provided in the book description, so decided to work more indepth into content and characters... For a quick reference, here's what it says on Amazon:

While speaking at a Hong Kong medical conference, neurosurgeon Dr. Lucas McCrae slips the cloth off a cadaver’s head during a routine medical demonstration, and is overwhelmed with the shock by what’s staring back at him: His best friend, Andy Baer.
Stunned, McCrae races back to Seattle to discover that Andy is in fact missing and may have been murdered by a gang of body snatchers who operate a legit funeral business and make a fortune by selling recovered body parts to medical researchers.
McCrae teams up with an unlikely pair—a beautiful but hard-nosed female cop and a gang member whose family was victimized by the body parts ring—to try and expose a macabre web of corruption that involves law enforcement, politicians, funeral home curators and murdered prostitutes. Internationally renowned neurosurgeon Allen Wyler takes us deep into a nightmarish scenario, shockingly ripped from recent headlines, and delivers a horrifically plausible, page-turning thriller.

"By the time Lucas removed the key from the front door,
Laura was halfway down the block, not having bothered
to wave goodbye. Welcome home. He watched the Volvo
round the corner and disappear. He'd forgotten what it
was she was going to do. Meet one of her girlfriends, maybe.
Was that one of the problems? Not paying as much attention
to what she said, his mind too busy with other things?
"With a mixture of sadness and frustration, he carried his
suitcase inside the modest two-story remodel that had
originally been a one-level rambler. The upstairs master
bedroom provided a southeasterly view over multiple
layers of rooftops to the downtown Seattle skyline. The
panorama wasn't as grand as the multimillion-dollar
homes two blocks away on Magnolia Boulevard, the first
tier above the bluffs, but he loved it. Seattleites
appreciated views regardless of limitations
"He went to the phone and called all three of Andy's
numbers. No answer. Go over to his condo? If he was
there, he'd answer. So what next?..."
When a neurosurgeon turns to writing as a career choice, you probably immediately realize, as I did, that the main character would be a neurosurgeon. What better way to share your expertise as well as provide insights into what is happening in the medical fields...

At first I thought this was going to get deep into the medical aspects, which I was not sure about--you know, once you hear about selling dead bodies, you can either turn it into a horror...or...

Hone in on the characters. I'm certainly glad Wyler chose the latter.

Lucas McRae has reached the top of his field, having such expertise in his surgical skills that he is called upon not only to handle the toughest cases, but to teach others how to perform the surgeries.

But what has resulted in his personal life is that he's being consistently requested for these same type of operations over and over--dare I say to the point that he's becoming bored? He's also being requested to teach all over the world and traveling takes up much time.

So much so that his marriage is becoming rocky...

But he loved his wife and readers will learn much about his feelings, his concerns, his worries about how to revive their relationship. Unfortunately, one of the issues that has been a trouble spot since they were married is Lucas' best friend, Andy Baer. Lucas and he had been friends since grade school and Andy had been there during many times that Lucas needed a friend to keep him out of trouble.

But as sometimes happens when two friends marry, their wives become friends and when there is trouble, all four soon know about it and sometimes takes sides. That's what Lucas' wife did when Andy started going out on his wife.

The fact was that Andy knew he was a sex addict and had tried counseling, etc., but had always fallen back into finding prostitutes to be with.

That is what happened the night he disappeared...

After which, his head wound up in Hong Kong, as the specimen that Lucas was supposed to use in his training lecture... Of course, Lucas was going to find out what happened, even though he had had the head removed and couldn't be really certain it was Andy. But when he came home, he started immediately trying to find him and had even called his wife before he left to have her try to find him.

He didn't really think she would try...and when he got home and asked, he knew she was lying to him. Then, it got worse when he refused to take their vacation and instead stay to try to find Andy. As Lucas tried harder, his wife grew more remote, until...

The suspense of the police investigation is very well done, but the psychological suspense through which this neurosurgeon went was the fascinating part for me this time. Often a doctor's career leads to a dissatisfied marital relationship in stories, but adding boyhood loyalty and friendship, guilt, and his inability to recapture love are significant attractions for the readers as well. Put together, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, albeit with a couple of characters you'll hate... With a quite satisfying ending for me! Agree?!


Note: This is one of the books now on sale through January 7th...

Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity. He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute.

Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors and Dead Head, he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.

He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Owen and Herc Are Back! A Different Type of Review...

Sleight of Paw:

A Magical Cats Mystery

By Sofie Kelly

I decided not to invite Owen or Hercules to come this time, so that I could tell you a little more about Kathleen,
their Mom, who reminds me of myself, treating her cats as companions, talking to them, etc., however, Hercules came walking through my door right as I started to write and I quickly changed my mind! Then I saw Owen in my yard...

Source: via Pascale on Pinterest

Herc! Glad to have you visit! Is Owen coming in? I had opened the door but didn't see him, then turned around...

Gee, I see why Kathleen 
never gets used to having
Owen reappear...

Hi, Owen, I see you've already
made yourself comfortable...

Soooo, guys, I really enjoyed Sleight of Paw and am anxious to tell BRH Readers about the book 'cause I have to say it may be my favorite of the books by Sofie Kelly that I've read so far!

Don't look at me like that, of course, I think all of them are wonderful, but some can still be favorites...can't they?

Well, first I want to say that we are so happy to be back to visit at BRH! I hope you don't mind us dropping in, as they say, but I heard that we're getting a lot of fans visiting you whenever we talk about our books, so we didn't want to disappoint, ya' kno'? I guess I'll go ahead and start since I was the first to get involved, even though Owen was there for all the excitement! But I brought in clues galore or Mom wouldn't have had any ideas to start with!

So, first, let me tell you what happened! Mom was eating with Maggie, waiting for Ruby, when Ruby rushed in all upset..."Somebody help me!" Mom, of course, hurried over and then volunteered to go back outside into the alley. Agatha Shepherd was there...dead...

Of course, the police were immediately called and Marcus and others showed up, but, well, you know that Mom gets very involved with things that happen in her life... Ruby was her friend, Agatha was Ruby's friend; therefore, she had to help Ruby!

Especially when Ruby was arrested for her murder...

Now, there were a couple of things Mom had seen, but, as usual, Marcus told her to stay out of his investigation so she kept them to herself and started asking questions. You see, she had seen several people arguing with Agatha earlier that day. Each time, she'd had an envelope in her hand and the various people seem to grabbing for it or trying to persuade her to do something about it. So, of course, those individuals were immediately contacted--but they said that what was in the envelope had nothing to do with her murder.

Now, you know, that just made Mom even more curious--and sure that that envelope was indeed important!

Mom always talks to us about everything and, especially, when she gets involved with an investigation. She says it helps her to talk out loud and put the pieces together, but we know that she's really expecting Owen and me to help. Right Owen?
"Hercules lifted a paw and smacked me on the arm.
"Ow!" I said. It didn't actually hurt, but I was trying to
make a point. Why did he suddenly have to develop
standards about me poking around in one of Marcus's
"Look, all I want to do is look is that bad," I said. "If
Ruby wasn't in jail you know she'd let me."
Hercules actually seemed to consider that thought.
"I'd wait if I had the time"--I leaned in even closer--
"but I don't."
"I set him on the floor, brushed off my lap and headed
for the stairs. He was in front of me before I'd taken
more than a couple of steps.
"It's for a good cause," I said. "And I'm not asking
you to help me." I closed my eyes and pressed the
heel of my hand to my forehead. I'd lost my mind.
I really had this time. I was trying to justify to a cat
what I was going to do.
"I opened my eyes and looked into deep green cat
eyes in a cute, furry black-and-white face. He
looked like any other house cat, ready to rub
against my leg or chase dust balls under the bed.
But he wasn't someone's cute, cuddly house pet.
"Marcus isn't going to look for another killer,"
I said to the cat. "At best, all he's going to do is
look for more evidence against Ruby." I shrugged.
"She's my friend...We're just going to have to
agree to disagree."
...I went to the living room doorway. Hercules was
coming across the floor, backward, from the closet,
dragging my messenger bag, the strap in his teeth.
His way, I realized, of telling me he'd help...
"I walked over and crouched down to his level.
He let go of the woven strap and looked at me.
I suddenly had a giant lump in my throat. I
kissed the top of his head. "Thank you," I
said hoarsely.

Source: via Yvonne on Pinterest

Hey! What the...?
Who put this ball on my head?!

Oh... OK...


Ok, let me get back to the story now that we've had our little bit of "tom-foolery" LOL...Get it?!!! Tom-Cat? Tom-Foolery? Oh well, this is a hard crowd...

Anyway, Agatha had been run over and there were several clues about the vehicle that had been used, including a piece of glass that Mom had found when she was checking to see if Agatha was still alive. She did turn that over to Marcus, but was feeling bad because she had therefore helped to provide evidence against Ruby! 

Well, you know that just made her try harder! And by the time she was putting all the clues Herc had found together with what she'd learned through talking with people, she figured out who she thought had done it... That's when it got crazy, 'cause she wanted to go check it out and get proof! Without telling anybody else!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Since You're Reading This, 12-21-2012 Wasn't the End of World, But...

Beautiful Sacrifice

By Elizabeth Lowell

If you were curious, or just thankful that another date for the ending of the world has come and gone, you just may want to learn more about the background! One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Lowell, has an excellent novel to not only give you a historical perspective...but just may be one of the sexiest romantic suspense/ thrillers you'll read this year (or next since we're all still here!).

Probably by now you've realized that I enjoy ancient artifact treasure hunts, but this story has a much darker tale to weave, so be prepared. Because these artifacts celebrate the Mayan "god of death, KAWA'IL"


If the covenant be kept on the night of December 21,2012,
then the Great Wheel shall grind the old world to dust,
Kukulcan shall blow it behind the Bacabs, and the
followers of Kawa'il will rule in the Age of Kings.


Paperback Out December 26, 2012

The dancing figures carry what seem to be tri-bladed obsidian knives
"If the artifacts came from the same area as the stolen truck
...then the glyph might possibly be related to Kawa'il, a Mayan
deity worshipped after the destruction of the Maya rule by the
"Kawa'il wasn't a common deity. His worship was confined to
small areas of the Quintana Roo and, perhaps, Belize. Many
Maya scholars don't even believe Kawa'il existed."
"But you do."
"Yes. Some glyphs related to Kawa'il have been found on..."
Her voice died.
"Reyes Balam land."
It wasn't a question.
"If you already know so much, why mousetrap me into helping
you?" she asked sharply.
"The presence or absence of Kawa'il was central to the scandal
that got your father thrown out of academia..."
"If my father knows of these artifacts," she said quietly, I'm
useless to you. Philip doesn't confide in anyone, including me."...
"I don't believe it. The bunch of fabric," she said, tapping her
finger on the photo of the cloth, "could be rubbish or it could
be a god bundle. Again, without tests, I can't be more precise."
"If it's a god bundle?"
"It would be highly, highly rare. Pretty much unique, as far as
I know. Such bundles are represented in glyphs and verbal
legends, but none have survived to modern times..."
"A god bundle was the most sacred of artifacts," Lina said.
"It was believed to contain talismans created by the god
himself. The talismans were said to literally hold the strength
of that god given in promise to the village or city-state that
worshiped and was guarded by the god. The bundle was carried
in a carved box at the forefront of soldiers going into battle.
Capturing a god bundle meant the end of a diety and the people
who followed it..."

A simple robbery and a request to help a friend sent Hunter Johnston (check him out above! Hot, right?!--Hey, I may be old, but I can still appreciate...LOL) to Lina Taylor for help. He knew her as an instructor of classes that he would sit in on whenever he could. But, from the first time he had seen her, he went for a much more pleasurable reason.

Lina Taylor, although an American citizen, worked as an archaeologist and head of Houston's Museum of the Maya. She was, in reality, a descendant from a royal line back to Tah Itza in modern Quintana Roo, and had lived during the time that the Spanish had killed and taken over so much of the land. But her family had made peace with Spain and had been granted a large piece of land that was now still in their hands and was being routinely searched by her father for artifacts and also sold by her mother. Her parents were separated both personally and professionally. There had been a scandal that had affected all of them, including Lina; now she kept her professional life within a rigid set of standards...and, to some extent, also her personal life.

Until she first saw Hunter... Shall we just say that their feelings were mutual and you can enjoy reading about alllll that...

Hunter's best friend was still with Immigration and Customs, where Hunter had once worked. He sought help from Hunter when, via a drug bust, a set of Mayan artifacts had landed in police custody, and then were stolen from the property inventory. His friend had been blamed by his boss who had threatened to fire him if they weren't returned. Hunter immediately turned to Lina for help. She was hesitant, until she saw the pictures of what had been found...

She knew immediately that they were the same artifacts about which her Mother had called her, asking if she had heard any rumors about them.

But this was not just a theft for money or to bid out to the highest fanatic collector...

Because the police were finding that the narcotics gangs had been joined by Mayans who were bringing back the old blood sacrifices--human sacrifices!

There is a reason why Elizabeth Lowell is always on the NYTimes list! I am so happy that she has moved into more depth in her books, bringing in this one, an excellent historical novel in itself! If you haven't read her, start with Beautiful Sacrifice. Soon she will be one of your favorite authors as well as mine!


In 1982, Ann began publishing romances as Elizabeth Lowell. Under that name she has received numerous professional awards in the romance field, including a Lifetime Achievement award from the Romance Writers of America (1994). Since July of 1992, she has had more than thirty novels on the New York Times list, as well as other national and international best seller lists. Her most recent romantic suspense is BEAUTIFUL SACRIFICE.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brilliant - Just Not For Me...

Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventures of She...
Sherlock Holmes in
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"We set up the checkpoint at that S on Route 94.
You can't see it coming for more than about a
quarter mile in either direction..."
"How are you?" "Have you been drinking?"...
Kai knew the drill.
"Yeah. Stuff like that. It's not rocket science.
If we have any doubt, we have troopers waiting on
the sides with Breathalyzers."
"So if it's not rocket science, how'd our guy get
"That's what I'm saying..."
The Warwick Files
Episode One: Checkpoint

J. M. Hoffman

There is no way that I could deny that this is a well-written tale of crime. Perhaps if I were a cop or true-crime aficionado sitting at a bar, sharing stories, I would have enjoyed it more. Apparently, each "file" will come out as an episode. For me, there was not enough story to the crime. Does that make sense? I hope so, because if you want to quickly get into solving a crime and enjoy the nitty-gritty details of how the mind of Sherlock Holmes or Columbo or other top cops automatically think to quickly figure out a whodunit--and hand it to you, then this is surely something you would enjoy.

I found, though, that for me, it really is the characters, the background, the setting, that fully surrounds the solving of the crime, that allows me to enter into and be part of the action rather than "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts..." So, decide who you are and choose, because this truly is a fascinating tale of murder and the crime's solution spun in just 36 pages.

Warrick is the town where Kai Goodman is Police Chief...and he is definitely one of those men who thereafter think they own the town...LOL

He also has some experience behind him, but don't be sure you know what that is by the time he solves this case...

Sooooo, after a drunk driver got through a checkpoint, the driver was then killed before he reached the town???

Chief Goodman declares that he will solve the crime, but he calls and gets Special Agent Brooks to come to town. Brook's not too please about this and immediately is wary of Goodman and who he really is to have such connections...

After interviews and brilliant thinking by Goodman, of course, the crime is solved...

And then Goodman goes through the steps by which he solved the case and explains everything to Brooks, as well as a couple of Russian women who were along for the ride...

Seriously, there is no way to share any more about the story and so there are really no twists or turns to keep you guessing.

I admit I was a bit bored...

Even while acknowledging the brilliance of  Goodman's crime-solving skills and hoping that, if I ever really need a police chief to help me, I'll have somebody like Kai Goodman...


Acclaimed as a "master raconteur" who writes with a "flair" (Times Literary Supplement of London), Hoffman authored two non-fiction books and contributed to over a dozen others before writing The Warwick Files.
In addition to writing and traveling the world speaking about his books, Hoffman has also directed a dance troupe, taught darkroom technique, and explored Patagonia on horseback. He lives just north of New York City.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Steps to Heaven by Wendy Cartmell Military Police Thriller!

English: All Saints Royal Garrison Church Alde...
English: All Saints Royal Garrison Church Aldershot England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"Padre Francis Symonds is Crane's first choice. As the Senior Chaplain of the Royal Garrison Church, he is assisted by two other chaplains and between them they cover the large garrison and surrounding barracks. Crane finds him in the officer's mess, just finishing lunch and they meet in an empty conference room. Patre Symonds has the type of soft-rounded features that
means it is hard to accurately guess his age. Crane puts him in his mid-30s. He is dressed casually, wearing
uniform trousers and a black clerical shirt with a dog collar. Simply furnished, the room has a circular
meeting table and six chairs and Crane and the Padre take seats opposite each other. Crane explains that there has been a murder/suicide on the garrison, perpetrated by Lance Corporal Crooks and that Crane is in charge of the investigation. At first the Chaplain is reluctant to comment on the matter, citing no knowledge of Lance Corporal Crooks as he can remember, no one of Crooks' name or description has ever approached him for help
or advice. However, Crane presses the mild-mannered,
courteous Chaplain, wanting to know about local
churches in the Aldershot area...
"I found these pamphlets in Lance Corporal Crooks'
bedroom," he explains and then leans back in his
chair. "I wondered what you knew about this church
and their methods."
"Ahhh..." says the Chaplain after looking at the papers
for a few moments and then adopting a reflective position
with his chin resting on clasped hands. "Ahhh, sir?"
"Yes, Well, this is a little delicate."
"Let me spell this out for you Padre. There is nothing
delicate about a murder and suicide by one of our lads.
Not the crime and not the investigation that follows.
I need answers and I need them now. So let's forget
sensibilities and diplomacy and tell me about this
"Really, Sergeant Major, there's no need for that kind
of attitude," rebukes the Padre, standing and folding
his arms.
"Really, Patre, there is." Crane refuses to be bullied,
even by a superior officer. "I've been tasked by Colonel
Pearson to find out what happened to one of his boys and
I intend to follow orders. I'm sure he doesn't want to
hear that you were unwilling to assist in that
"After a moment's reflection, the Padre sits down again
and begins to talk. "If I may be frank." 
"Resisting a more sarcastic reply, Crane inclines his
head and says, "Please do, Padre."
"The Church of Jesus is King in Aldershot has concerned me a little I must admit. Their methods are,
well, a trifle over enthusiastic, when it comes to
persuading people to join their church...Ensnare you
with invisible threads as it were..."

Steps to Heaven:
A Sgt Major Crane

By Wendy Cartmell

I'm not quite sure why, but Steps to Heaven reminded me of a Columbo cop tale--maybe because of the main character, who is brash, persistent, hard-punching and hard-hitting in terms of personality. The kind of guy that makes a great cop, but not necessarily a nice human being. Fortunately, he has some friends who will point out this latter fault from time to time. Since the author has personally been a wife and occupant of Army facilities and living, the novel allows readers to learn especially about the difficulties as a service wife.

From my perspective, since I grab a police procedure to see if I can solve the crime along with the officer, his personality is somewhat secondary to his cop characteristics. I liked him and felt comfortable seeing him take command and shoot out orders fast and steadily...

In fact, I'd say I've had a couple of bosses like him. A couple I didn't personally like, but that's ok if you can respect them, right? The ones you can't respect aren't worth talking about...LOL

The setting for the novel is the Aldershot Garrison where Sgt Major Crane is an officer in special investigations. So he was immediately called when an apparent murder/suicide happened.

A soldier who had just come back from Afghanistan had killed his wife, and then, while holding his son close in his arms, he had slit the boy's throat and then his own.

From a procedural standpoint, it soon became clear that the soldier had done it... Sgt Crane's boss wanted to close the case. But Crane asked him whether he didn't want to know why... Crane, obviously, could not rest
until he did!

And so he was authorized to continue the investigation exploring what might have occurred on his last stay in
Afghanistan, as well as his personal and family life.

And then another murder/suicide occurred... And another...

And Crane found himself working with the Aldershot police as well as the police from two other towns. All would have thought the cases could be routinely closed until Crane forced them to see that something had to be "causing" these men to choose to do what they had.

Slowly, as a result of Crane's having found some religious pamphlets in Crooks' home that had not been noticed, he began to put together the idea that what was happening to these men had started after they were back home, and, possibly, within a church or some type of religious cult leader's influence...

Fortunately, Sgt Major Crane had no clue of who was behind this--so I didn't feel bad in not figuring it out. LOL But the author certainly had me fully involved in the "why" of these incidents and "how" it was happening. The surprise ending totally caught me off guard! I especially enjoyed the character of Padre Symonds. Once he realized what was happening, he began to research and working with Crane as closely as possible, actually getting caught up too far with the investigation? Still, I think he realized that his position required that he help in any way possible...and he did!

This debut novel is first in a series with the latest, third book just out! If you're into police procedural, I highly recommend you check out when the police have to work with the army investigators! Enjoyed it!


About the Author   Wendy Cartmell is a former teacher, PR manager and editor of a large corporate newspaper, who has always written either for her work or stories for her children. Her books for children include the Professor Letters series and Wilhelmina the Witch. She turned her hand to crime writing recently, resulting in a new crime series featuring Sgt Major Crane of the Special Investigations Branch, drawing on her husband's 22 years service in the British Army.

The first book in the series Steps to Heaven and the second 40 Days 40 Nights are both out now. The third, as yet untitled is, as they say, work in progress. “She is on a par with the literary giants of this genre.” Zen Cherry “This woman can write!" David Anderson, Author.

Visit her Author Page on Amazon: http:// Wendy-Cartmell/ e/ B005V1YISI/ http:// Wendy-Cartmell/ e/ B005V1YISI/   If you enjoyed Steps to Heaven why not try the sequel 40 Days 40 Nights? Available at Amazon: http:// Nights-Major-Crane-Novels-ebook/ dp/ B006O5Q77A/ http:// Nights-Major-Crane-Novels-ebook/ dp/ B006O5Q77A/

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tony Viardo, the CEO, Astor + Blue Editions Shares Grinch Article - News on Sales!

Balboa Park - The Grinch
 The Grinch (Photo credit: Chrispy Photography)

Digital Publishing: 

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

So how many articles have we read about E-books and Digital Publishing this year? For anyone who generally follows the book world (rabid booklover, book-blogger, industry pro or casual reader), we’re literally inundated with the amazing numbers—“E-book sales up 125% (again) over the 175% they were up from last year’s 225% increase!”—and equally amazing technological announcements—“Next Fall, the new ZimWittyZoomDitty tablet not only updates your Facebook and Goodreads friends whenever you snort in disgust… it cooks dinner for you at the same time!”

This leads many to take at least casual stock of what’s going on/going to happen to the “Publishing World”as we know it.  And if your friends are like my friends (hardcore print book consumers), that stock is usually pretty morbid (sharp Greenwich Village angst not included):“Print books are doomed, so are brick-and-mortar stores.  Goodbye literary quality.Oh and some pajama-wearing techie living in a basement with a laptop is going to be the new Sulzburger; we’ll all have to bow down!”

If you (or that good friend of yours) fall into the mortified category, my take (for what it’s worth) may come as positive news:  E-books are not, and will not be, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas; in this case, the “Print World’s” bacon. Now, as the owner of a “Digital First” publishing house (Astor + Blue Editions, my opinions may easily be written off as self-serving and invalid.  But bear with me for a minute… these are fact-based observations and I might just make sense (Someone tell my mom and dad).

As someone who earns a living from publishing, I have to follow numbers and industry trends as closely as possible.  And while some see doom and gloom for Print, I see exciting developments for both Print and E-book formats.  What do the numbers show?  Digital book revenue is skyrocketing, print revenue is declining.  Natural conclusion? E-books are killing print books. But not so fast.  Historically, Print revenue has always seemed to be declining (even before E-books were invented), but that doesn’t mean the book market is dying or shrinking.

We have to remember that in fact the book market is growing. Readership always grows because population always grows.  Every year, new readers enter the vast pool of the club that is“adult readership,” (despite Dancing with the Stars). And every year more readers are being born and theoretically being inspired by Ms. Crabtree’s elementary reading class.**So why the decline?  Readership grows gradually, but the sheer number of books and book vendors grow exponentially, showing an investment loss almost every year. (Basic statistics: the widening universe makes it look like a shrinking pie when it isn’t).

So what does this mean?  If you look at the numbers (historically), revenue for print books may have declined, yes, but not more than “normal,” and not significantly more than it did when there were no E-books around. (This is arguable of course, but the long term numbers do not show a precipitous drop-off).The yearly revenue decline, if there is one, can just as easily be written off to economic conditions as to E-book competition.  Bottom line:  Any drop in print revenue that may be caused by E-books are not significantly sharp enough to declare that E-books are destroying print book sales.(Hence no Grinch).

What may be happening, and what I believe is happening is that a whole new market for E-books is developing, while the print book market growth, like Publishing as a whole, is still growing at a historically gradual pace. (Boringly flat).  Come up with your pet anecdote here, but I believe that more new readers are entering the market (who otherwise wouldn’t have) because of E-readers; existing readers are consuming more books (both print and e-book) than they did before; and while it would seem that a certain print title is losing a sale whenever readers buy it in E-book format, this is offset, at least somewhat, by the fact that more print titles are being bought (that otherwise wouldn’t) because of the extra marketing buzz and added awareness produced by the E-book’s cyber presence.  All of it evens out in the end, and I believe, ultimately fosters growth industry-wide.

So take heart Print fans, E-books are not the dark villain you think they are.And here, I should correct my earlier analogy—that E-books are not the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  They may actually be the Grinch…in as much as, at the end of the story, the pear-shaped green guy ended up not only giving all the presents back to the singing Who-villers, he created a flash mob and started a big party as well.

Previously published in Publishers Weekly and Digital BookWorld

Season’s Greetings!  To celebrate the holidays,  Astor + Blue Editions is having a its first ever Holiday E-book Promotion Sale—From now until January 7th, all of our titles (our first list as a publisher) are priced between $0.99 and $1.99!  So please browse our growing list of great thrillers, sexy and fun romances, thought provoking non-fiction, and powerful literary fiction. At these prices, you can find your next great read and upload new books onto that special gift tablet you’re giving away.  (Each title in ourcatalog is available at every retailer–, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, Overdrive, more–for any reading device.  And each retailer has a system for gifting wirelessly)
To all our readers, bloggers,  fans, authors, friends and family: we wish you a safe, warm ,  joyful and “well-read” Holiday Season.
We look forward to bringing your more outstanding fiction and non-fiction in the New Year.
Robert and Tony

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