Book Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan—and a Giveaway!

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery
Little Beach Street Bakery Trilogy #3
Jenny Colgan
William Morrow, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-266299-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.

Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

A wintry setting on a Cornish beach where a young-ish couple live in a lighthouse seemed like the perfect reading getaway from the usual gritty stuff I read and, while it wasn’t exactly perfect, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery suited me at the time. A little romance, a bit of dysfunction and a village I’d love to visit, not to mention an absolutely adorable puffin named Neil gave me a few hours of pleasure undisturbed by thoughts of murder, paranormal beings or alien invasions. Neil, by the way, does not solve murders nor does he speak to his people.

For the most part, the four main characters—Polly, Huckle, Kerensa and Reuben—are people I’d love to have in my universe but there was a time about halfway through when I could have chucked them all out the window with great cheer. Fortunately, they eventually redeemed themselves and I certainly never lost my adoration for Neil, the puffin who loves to play ping pong football and is quite dashing when he wears a bowtie.

If you’re looking for a charming, whimsical story to give someone for a holiday gift, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery might be just the thing 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // HarperCollins

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About the Author

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Fans of Colgan’s (The Café by the Sea, 2017, etc.) Mount Polbearne stories will delight—and new fans will find an easy, charming entry into the saga—as Polly, Huckle, and Neil (the puffin) return for the Christmas season. — Kirkus Reviews

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Follow the tour:

Friday, October 27th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 10th: BookExpression

Wednesday, October 11th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 16th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, October 17th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, October 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, October 20th: Reading Reality

Saturday, October 21st: Girl Who Reads

Monday, October 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 24th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, October 25th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, October 27th: Jathan & Heather

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I’d love to send somebody my very
gently used print advance reading copy
of Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery.
Leave a comment below and I’ll draw
the winning name on Thursday evening,
October 19th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

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Mystery and Horror

G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror. Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing (a rare medical condition called “acquired savant syndrome”). G.A. has recently completed his second novel, Antitheus, a dark supernatural tale of horror that takes Good vs. Evil to a whole new level. Currently, his brain is busy at work, meticulously processing the text for another story of the macabre that will both entertain and horrify its reader.  G.A. lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus. You can read more about G.A. on his author website.

Mystery is defined as something that is a secret, something where there is no clear explanation, something difficult to understand or explain, or something unexplainable or unsolvable. Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.

Edgar Allan Poe is generally recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story.” His publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841 is considered to be the first modern detective/mystery story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” Ratiocination is defined as the process of exact thinking. Besides being a proficient poet, Poe was also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre.

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another for maximum effect.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline.

Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in their book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul.

Book Review: Desert Remains by Steven Cooper—and a Giveaway!

Desert Remains
A Gus Parker and Alex Mills Novel #1
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-63388-353-6
Trade Paperback

There’s a serial killer on the loose around Phoenix. All the victims are young women. All are tortured before death. All, inexplicably, have paintings on the rocks around where the bodies are dumped (usually in caves) depicting the manner of death. The murder sites provide no clues, otherwise. The killer is evidently up to snuff regarding crime scene detection. Detective Alex Mills is under the gun to solve these crimes quickly, but he’s also under pressure by another detective, former FBI agent Timothy Chase, who’d just love to have Mills’ job.

This is when Mills asks “intuitive medium,” that’s a psychic to most of us, Gus Parker to lend a hand. Parker’s messages from beyond the pale have helped Mills solve crimes before, but this time, even the psychic is hard-pressed to read the messages left behind.

I don’t usually read serial killer books. I guess I prefer my murders to be one-on-one for a reason other than pure evil. And I don’t usually like books written in present tense. Those things said, now forget about them. The book is tense and exciting, a real page turner. The characterization is excellent for all the main characters and most of the more minor ones. Gus, with his dog Ivy, hit a real chord with me. Situations that could’ve made this character run-of-the-mill are absent, a wonderful surprise. The dialogue is clean and carries the story forward. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Desert Remains to any mystery reader, and most especially if you like a little woo-woo in your stories. And I do.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Desert Remains by Steven Cooper,
leave
a comment below. One winning
name will
be drawn Tuesday evening,
October 17th. This drawing is o
pen
to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Polarities by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Polarities
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 2
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: October 2, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         
    

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Polarities
Pendomus Chronicles Book Two
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, October 2017
ISBN 978-0991055821
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Runa, the prophesied Daughter of Five needs to learn how to master herself, or all of Pendomus will perish. In a world where mythical creatures are either controlled, or on the brink of extinction—a prophecy reveals there’s one who can restore balance. The only problem is, she has no idea how to do it.

Separated from the only people who’ve had her back—as well as the love of her life, Traeton—Runa must go on a quest alone to uncover what it means to be human, as well as the Daughter of Five. Dropped in an unknown location, presumably still on the planet, she only has a monolithic book—the Caudex—as her guide, but it’s not giving up its answers easily. Will she be able to uncover the mysteries? The fate of the entire word rests on her shoulders and her ability to push through all of the challenges set her way.

Will she learn what she needs to step into her role as savior? Or will everything be derailed by her desire to get back to her friends?

When I read Pendomus, the first book in this series, I was taken with the characters as well as the plot and I looked forward to seeing the next book. Little did I think it would be four long years before that next book would come out but, in some ways, I think the delay has paid off. In particular, the author has really developed her craftsmanship and the story is stronger for that.

This time around, we’re treated to a more cohesive worldbuilding and, for me, the attachment to the characters was more intense. I also found the relationship between Runa and Traeton made more sense because it wasn’t so brand new even though there really hasn’t been any passage of time. Runa is still enjoying her experiences with the pleasures of life that are denied to the citizens but she’s isolated from her comfort zone, set on a quest of sorts that only she can complete. This might have been easier before she learned to love and be loved, back when Helix “protected” everyone from the vagaries of natural life.

In the course of Polarities, Runa truly comes into her own and becomes the strong young woman she always had the potential to be with the help of some fantastical creatures and a wondrous book. Meanwhile, Traeton and their friends have been left behind, not knowing whether Runa is alive or dead and trying to find their own way forward. Everyone’s journey will lead to answers…and even more questions.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) will be released at the end of 2017.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

         10/10 – Book Lover’s Life (Article – My Journey So Far)

         10/11 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review

         10/12 – Cabin Goddess – Review

         10/12 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review

         10/13 – Buried Under Books – Review

         10/14 – Contagious Reads – Review

         10/15 – Carissa’s Blog (Article)

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Giveaway

Win a signed print copy of Polarities,
as well as a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter here.

Spotlight on Hounded by Kevin Hearne—and a Giveaway!

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Title: Hounded
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles Book 1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Action Adventure

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Purchase Links:

              

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Synopsis

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona,
running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt
with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this
handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when
in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He
draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an
even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded
Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down,
and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess
of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed
by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to
kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Don’t miss any of Kevin Hearne’s phenomenal Iron Druid Chronicles novels:
HOUNDED | HEXED | HAMMERED | TRICKED 
TRAPPED | HUNTED | SHATTERED | STAKED
and coming in April 2018
SCOURGED

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About the Author

Kevin Hearne is a native of Arizona and really appreciates whoever invented air-conditioning. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and now teaches high school English. When he’s not grading essays or writing novels, he tends to his basil plants and paints landscapes with his daughter. He has been known to obsess over fonts, frolic unreservedly with dogs, and stop whatever he’s doing in the rare event of rain to commune with the precipitation. He enjoys hiking, the guilty pleasure of comic books, and living with his wife and daughter in a wee, snug cottage.

Author Links:

              

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Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of
awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban
fantasy debut. Staying alive for 2,000 years takes a great deal of cunning,
and sexy super-druid Atticus O’Sullivan, currently holed up in the
Arizona desert, has vexed a few VIPs along the way. High up on that list is
Aenghus Óg, the Celtic god of love. It’s not just that Aenghus wants
his sword back—though it is a very nice magical sword—but that Atticus
didn’t exactly ask permission to take it. Atticus and his trusty sidekick,
Irish wolfhound Oberon, make an eminently readable daring duo as
they dodge Aenghus’s minions and thwart his schemes with plenty of
quips and zap-pow-bang fighting. –Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

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GIVEAWAY

The Iron Druid Chronicles have been a favorite
series of mine since this first book came out. With
thanks to Kevin Hearne’s publisher, Del Rey, I have
two copies of the mass market edition to give away.
Just leave a comment below—even if you don’t
usually read dark/urban fantasy because this series
appeals across genres—to enter the drawing. The
winning names will be drawn Sunday evening,
October 15th. Open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Howard Owen

The Devil’s Triangle
Willie Black Series #6
Howard Owen
The Permanent Press, June 2017
ISBN: 978-1-57962-499-6
Hardcover

The eponymous area of Richmond, Virginia had had an unsavory reputation, although not so much in recent years. The opening lines of the book are quite attention-getting:  “In the flaming hell that used to be one of my watering holes, last call came about eight hours early.  You don’t really expect a twin-engine Beechcraft to crash through the plate-glass window during happy hour.”

The author doesn’t really lose that initial grab of the reader’s attention through the remainder of the book, with tight plotting and wonderful writing, complete with sympathetic main characters, especially the protagonist, one Willie Black, a newspaperman of mixed race in a dying profession, one of many in a “dystopian march to obsolescence marked by layoffs, furloughs, and shortened hours.”    We are told that more “staples of twenty-first century print journalism are on the way.”  We meet Mal “Wheelie” Wheelwright, the editor, and the “print journalists” of which Willie is one.  Willie says they “have to be like sharks. Keep moving or die. Either take a promotion or move to a bigger paper. . . At fifty-six, you want to be the SOB, not the person who works for SOBs. You aren’t likely to fire yourself.”  Especially so for those in the “Fatal Fifties – – too young to retire, too old to outwork or underbid the damn millennials and their younger siblings.”

There is initially the suspicion that the “tragic air disaster in Richmond” was the work of foreign terrorists.  The reporters on The Triangle go to the scene of the crime, where Willie finds Larry Doby Jones, the chief of police, standing “half a block from the carnage.”  Of course, TV reporters were there en masse, as were print journalists from every paper from the Washington Post on down.  We soon meet Willie’s family:  His mother Peggy, 74, whose significant other is referred to simply as “Awesome Dude;” his daughter Andi, and grandson, William, typically, it would seem, a young boy born out of wedlock, as is Willie himself.  Willie is renting a place from his third ex-wife, Kate, and lives there with his current romantic attachment, Cindy.

From the publisher:  The obvious answers, though, just don’t pan out.  All the shoot-from-the-hip purveyors of vigilante justice have to stand down when it becomes clear that the pilot of the suicide plane was a disaffected former Richmonder, David Biggio, with no known links to any terrorist organizations, foreign or domestic.  For Willie Black, the daily newspaper’s hard-charging, hard-drinking night cops reporter, the question still remains:  Why?

The story soon seems apparent:  “Crazy guy gets crazier when his wife leaves him and takes his only child.  He steals a plane and makes some kind of cataclysmic statement a few blocks from where his former family lives.”  The number of dead reaches 25.  The tale follows Willie’s investigation and its culmination, where every loose end is neatly tied up.   This is the author’s fifteenth novel, and the sixth in the Willie Black series.  It is really a page-turner, and I can’t wait for the next in the series. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2017.

Book Review: No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky

No Good Deed
Goldy Moldavsky
Point, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-545-86751-1
Hardcover

Imagine Carl Hiaasen collaborating with Alan Sherman and you’d be on your way to understanding this book. Gregor Maravilla met his idol, Robert Drill, at a book signing when he was fourteen. The tech guru and philanthropist’s words inspired him to come up with a way to save the world. He settled on feeding all the hungry kids. He’s also read Drill’s autobiography nine times. Sandwiched between a nerdy and really rude older brother who plays Minecraft constantly and is raking in bucks from ads accompanying videos of him doing so online and a younger sister who’s a perfect speller, Gregor’s desperate to find his own niche

When he learned that Robert Drill is sponsoring a summer camp for humanitarian teen activists, he applies, expecting to be turned down because the competition is intense. Surprise! He’s selected and even the humiliation heaped upon him by his brother, sister, parents and grandfather on the ride to camp in upstate New York can’t completely dampen his enthusiasm.

His growing awareness that all is not as it seems, begins when he starts meeting the other campers and starts him not only down a road of introspection, but one of gradual cynicism about his plans for saving the world. Everyone there has a cause, including teen movie star Ashley Woodstone (imagine Luna Lovegood channeling some of the ditzier heroines in 1980s Rom-Coms), whose thing is convincing everyone to eat dirt. Add in a men’s rights activist, a boycott camp activist, a teen artist who can’t speak a word of English, an anti Styrofoam activist and dozens more who are equally oddball and you have the recipe for a perfect storm of sniping, backstabbing and cutthroat competition.

While the party line is that everyone’s there to promote a better world, the realization that there are various types of competitions to earn points toward an internship to be awarded to the camper with the highest total, turns any hope of cooperation into a free for all. Gregor’s constant insecurity and self-doubt put him in the fish out of water category, so much so that every time he opens his mouth, he’s nibbling his own toes.

Despite his attempts to avoid Ashley, they seem to be thrown together at every turn and as the summer insanity progresses, their conversations become the sanest part of his day. It takes a virtual war between the guys and gals at the final competition, a frightening experience involving Ashley and some hard looking in the mirror for Gregor to realize what’s truly important, not only in terms of saving the world, but in terms of how he sees others.

This is a funny and wacky story, but make no mistake, under all the goofiness beats a very strong heart.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, July 2017.