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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

September 26, 2015

Excerpt from The Order of the Four Sons, Book I

cover The Order of the Four Sons

The way was narrower here, forcing the team to proceed single-file. In some places, the walls were plaster, crumbling to expose the bare wire mesh. In other places, there was relatively modern-looking cinderblock. The team’s progress was further impeded by heaps of moldering furniture: chairs, headboards, tables, a writing desk, a piano bench, stacks of rotting timber. Occasionally there would be a window, bricked up from the other side. After they had gone about fifteen feet, they found a gaping hole in the floor, almost the entire width of the hallway.
JD shined his flashlight down into it. They couldn’t see anything. He reached into one of the pockets of his duster and produced a flare.
“They teach you that in the marines?” Murphy asked.
“Nope. Boy Scouts, Mister Murphy.” The Colonel pulled the tab. “Be prepared.” He dropped the flare into the hole where it tumbled end over end, down to a bare dirt floor. “Whaddaya reckon, forty feet?” He shook his head. “Deep enough to kill ya, at any rate. Everybody, watch your step.”
He led the way around the pit, pressing himself against the wall, gingerly testing the floorboards with his boots for loose areas.
After that, they could make out the end of the hallway, and a door.
The Colonel opened it cautiously. His flashlight revealed a corridor even narrower than the one they were in. It turned sharply to the right.
The others followed him in.
“Everybody still with me?” he called over his shoulder. “Murphy-Kate-Doc-Cecil?”
There was a chorus of affirmations.
“Just checkin’. Tighter’n a bull’s ass in fly season in here. Can’t turn around to look for ya. Everybody stay right behind me.”
The flashlights revealed wooden walls here. There were also--
“Colonel, we’ve got doors,” Murphy said.
“Well, shit.”
“After you, sir.”
“Looks clear.”
“All right, then.” The Colonel opened the first door. It led to another corridor full of doors. “Well, shit again.” He shut it.
“Colonel, if I may...?” Murphy pulled a plastic doorstop from one of his jacket pockets.
“You carry doorstops?” Kate asked, incredulous.
“Standard SWAT issue,” he dropped it onto the floor and kicked it firmly under the door.
“I mean...really?”
“Really.” He jiggled the door handle to demonstrate. It wouldn’t budge. “Simple physics. Nobody’s coming through that door. Not easily, anyway.” She looked impressed and he gave her a wry grin. “Don’t applaud, just throw money.”
They continued on.
Kate wrinkled up her nose. “Anybody else smell that? Smells like—”
“Burnt hair,” Cecil finished.
“And burning flesh,” Doug added. “You realize what that means.”
“Eretics,” JD said. “Looks like we’re in the right place.”
“What is wrong with our lifestyle, that the smell of roasted undead means we’re in the right place and-- oh look. Blood,” Murphy pointed his flashlight at the floor.
There wasn’t a lot. But enough.
Murphy knelt down and touched a droplet. “Still sticky.” He shined his flashlight along the floor. There were more splashes further ahead-- larger splashes.
No one said anything as they crept along. They tried two more doors. One led to a room barely bigger than a closet, stacked with wooden crates. The second led to yet another hallway. Murphy secured it with a doorstop.
At last, their flashlights landed on an old black telephone mounted on the wall. The whole section of wall surrounding it was awash in blood. Beneath it, more blood stained the floor.
“Movement,” Cecil said. He raised his gun, but couldn’t fire because everyone else was in front of him. Kate followed where his gun was pointed, swinging her flashlight from the phone to the end of the corridor.
The Colonel threw his hand up to shield his eyes. “Get that damn thing out of my face—”
As he spoke, the phone rang abruptly, piercingly. Kate shrieked, leaping back against the wall.
“Movement!” Cecil shouted.
“I can’t see shit!”
“There it goes—”
Colonel, down!” Murphy raised his shotgun.
The Colonel dropped to the floor and Murphy fired, but the creature at the end of the hallway was too quick. The shot tore a section of the wall where it disappeared around the corner.
“Fuck,” Murphy pumped the action. “I guess now we know what happened to Rios.”
“Could he still be alive?” Kate asked.
Murphy looked again at the blood stains. “Maybe.”
“They dragged him off!” she cried, pointing to the trail of blood leading down the hall.
“And we’re goin’ after him, Katie. Just hold your horses,” the Colonel picked himself up off the floor, blinking away the rest of the after-glare as best he could. “Nice shootin’, Murphy.”
“Thank you. We’re going after him?”
“We’re sure as shit not leavin’ him behind. Not when he could still be alive.”
Murphy hesitated. “Okay.”
They followed the blood trail. It went around the corner-- the same direction in which the eretic had gone.
More hallway. More doors. More blood.
“It’s on the ceiling,” Kate marveled.
“Major arterial damage,” Murphy said.
The trail led into a doorway on the left. The door had been torn off.
“Cecil, any movement?” the Colonel asked.
“Neg—” Cecil began. “Wait. Yes...very slight. And some heat.”
Kate looked hopefully from Cecil to the Colonel.
“Murphy,” JD said simply. Murphy nodded. The two of them went into the room and checked it.
Fernando Rios was lying on the floor on the right wall. He was on his right side, his back to the wall. His eyes were open.
Socorro,” he whispered.

 Buy The Order of the Four Sons at Amazon

About the Authors

Coyote Kishpaugh has been writing prose and poetry most of his life, and alternately entertains and terrifies his children by telling them stories late at night.  Currently, he is pursuing his degree in psychology at Rockhurst University.  He lives in Kansas City, KS.

A lifetime resident of Kansas City, MO, Lauren Scharhag is a multi-genre author and poet. In addition to The Order of the Four Sons series, her works include Under Julia, The Ice Dragon, The Winter Prince and West Side Girl & Other Poems. Her work has appeared most recently in A World of Terror anthology, The SNReview, The Rockhurst Review, Infectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. Currently, she is working on Books V-VI of The Order of the Four Sons as well as a new horror trilogy.

Author Links

Coyote Kishpaugh – Facebook / Blog

Lauren Scharhag – Facebook / Twitter / Blog / Goodreads

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September 25, 2015

Friday Freebies: Cozy Mystery Edition

Fall is upon us and it is time to curl up with a fuzzy blanket, a hot beverage and a good book. A cozy mystery can be the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

cover Aunt Bessie Believes
Aunt Bessie believes that Moirrey Teare is just about the most disagreeable woman she's ever had the misfortune to meet.

Elizabeth Cubbon, (Aunt Bessie to nearly everyone), is somewhere past sixty, and old enough to ignore the rude woman that does her best to ruin the first session of the beginning Manx language class they are both taking. Moirrey's sudden death is harder to ignore.

Aunt Bessie believes that Moirrey's death was the result of the heart condition that Moirrey always complained about.

The police investigation, however, suggests that someone switched some of the dead woman's essential medications for something far more deadly.

Aunt Bessie believes that she and her friends can find the killer.

But with Doona suspended from work and spending all of her time with the dead woman's long-lost brother, Hugh caught up in a brand new romance and Inspector Rockwell chasing after a man that might not even exist, Bessie finds herself believing that someone might just get away with murder.

Buy Aunt Bessie Believes at Amazon

cover Murder in Murloo
When a popular young woman is strangled in her home in the seaside village of Murloo, the residents are sure an itinerant surfer who disappeared after the murder is the killer. However, one year later the surfer is still missing and the killer’s identity remains a mystery.

The victim’s family call in investigative journalist Dusty Kent who has an impeccable record in solving the cold cases she writes about. Dusty’s determination to investigate unresolved crime is fuelled by a personal connection through her own family tragedy. However, this case tests Dusty to the limit and she despairs of ever catching the callous killer who seems to be lurking nearby and yet...

A gripping mystery imbued with the ambience of Australia—from the mysterious wood carving found with the body, the captivating characters of a small town, to the coastal splendour of the Southern Ocean.

Murder in Murloo is a classic who-dun-it introducing Dusty Kent written by JB Rowley and published under the pseudonym Brigid George.

Buy Murder in Murloo at Amazon

cover Love, Laughter, and Murder Ever After
When cake kills…

Kitty Sinclair lives for love. A bold and bubbly woman just shy of thirty, Kitty has opened her own wedding planning business in elegant Greenwich, Connecticut where the blooming spring flowers and lusciously rolling hills are the perfect setting to tie the knot. If only Kitty herself could find love…

Her store Happily Ever After opens with a kick when the daughter of the notorious Duke von Winkle accepts a grand proposal from an equally wealthy suitor. It seems Kitty is in the throws of planning the wedding of the century. Finally her dream has come true.

But when the bride's father suddenly drops dead in her store, Kitty's true talents emerge. A lemon custard cake, a bottle of poison, and questions that seem to never end, Kitty follows the trail of clues, determined to solve the mystery before the bride and groom can say I do.

If she succeeds her store will thrive. If she falls short her business will be in peril. The choice is easy and her determination is strong, but one man stands in her way…

Detective Sterling Slaughter has a funny way with women. Resist though she does, his charm can be distracting…

Buy Love, Laughter, and Murder Ever After at Amazon

cover Dying for Danish
When Lexy Baker lands a high paying catering job that allows her to buy some much needed kitchen equipment, she’s excited that things are going so well … until she stumbles over the body of the bride-to-be.

Suddenly Lexy finds herself in a race against time to find the killer. Aided by four iPad toting amateur detective grandma’s, her best friend and her little dog Sprinkles, Lexy finds the suspect list growing at every turn.

To make matters worse, the investigation is headed up by her hunky neighbor Detective Jack Perillo who she had been hot and heavy with – until he mysteriously stopped calling her several weeks earlier.

Add a handsome, rich bachelor who is also a suspect and seems to have designs on Lexy to the mix, and Lexy soon finds that things are not what they seem.

Will Lexy be able to catch the killer in time, or will she end up Dying for Danish?

Buy Dying for Danish at Amazon

cover Murder to Go
Maeve Kinkaid expects a few speed bumps when she inherits a food truck from her aunt; instead, she gets a detour through some deadly hairpin turns in this fast-paced thriller.

Despite the sudden loss of her aunt, Maeve Kinkaid is thrilled when she inherits the popular food truck Dogs on the Roll. She has no idea how cutthroat the food industry can be.

She meets a Basque chef whose interest in her is overshadowed by his desire to possess the food truck, which he insists Maeve’s aunt promised to leave to him.

And when the owner of a rival food truck is decapitated and served up like a gruesome new dish, Maeve becomes embroiled in a mystery that may cost her the food truck, the chef, and her life.

Buy Murder To Go at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

September 24, 2015

Anatomy of a Review

by Donna Huber

A lot readers say they can't write reviews. Most of the time it isn't really "can't" but more of a "I don't know how". Let's look closer at what goes into a well-written review that will help you establish yourself as a credible book reviewer.

Details about the book

A good review will provide pertinent details or facts about the book to let readers know what kind of book it is.

You should always mention the genre (and subgenres if applicable). Typically the main genre is quite evident though the lines between some genres are blurry. You can check the book listing at Amazon for genres that the book falls into. I also like the Genre Map at Book Country. If you click on the main genres you will get a listing and description of subgenres.

Another important detail to include in your review is the target audience if the book is for children, middle grades, young adult, or new adult. You do not have to point out that an adult book is for adults as many adult books are read by high school students. However, you will want to point out any questionable content that may be inappropriate for younger audiences.

Other details include title, author (yes, I have seen reviews that never mention the author or title of the book except in the title of the post), publisher, publish date (particularly if it is a pre-release review), and available formats.

What's the book about

I know some reviewers just post the book's description with the review and that's fine. But if you do not, then I think it is important to provide a short "what's the book about". Two or three sentences should really suffice as you don't want to ruin anything for the reader.

How you feel about the book

This is really the meat of a review - your thoughts and feelings. This is the section that people who read reviews before purchasing are the most interested in and should be the biggest section of your review.

It is also the most difficult section to write.

I suggest breaking it down to make it easier to organize your thoughts about the book.

Overall feeling

How did you feel when you turned the last page? Did you read it in one sitting or did you have to trudge through it to get to the end?

To capture my overall view, I write it down immediately upon finishing the book. I find Goodreads to be a good place to do that, but you can write it on a scrap of paper or in a notebook.

Along with your overall feelings about the book, you will also want to discuss the aspects that make the book belong to its genres as well as any that are a departure from the genre.

The characters

Did you connect with one of the characters? Was the cast of characters more of an ensemble or was there clearly a leading lady/man?

It is okay to point out flaws in character development as well as the good things.

Don't just say you connected with the main character, but explain why. If it is the characters witty comments, then give an example with a quote from the character. If you find yourself saying I loved this character, then discuss what made you fall in love with that character.

The plot

Was the plot predictable? Was it plot heavy, full of action, a slow build up, etc.? Were there plot holes or distracting subplots. Did the story wrap up neatly with all the plot threads tied up or did it end with a cliff hanger?

When discussing the plot you may find it difficult to not reveal more about the story. Be on guard for possible spoilers.

Instead of discussing what happened, focus on how the plot unfolded. Carefully use examples and quotes to back up your points.

The writing style

Your thoughts on the author's writing style may be part of your overall feelings or may be touched on in your thoughts on plot and characters, but it is important that it is discussed.

Is the story character or plot driven? Was so descriptive that all your senses were engaged and you felt like you were in the story? Remember to provide examples with quotes from the book whenever possible.

Be balanced

There is rarely a perfect book, so it is okay to mention major flaws in the work. That does not mean to nit pick or personally attack the author.

If something stood out to you that negatively impacted your reading (i.e. drew out of the story), then it is worth mentioning in your review.

Perhaps it is a personal preference. For more, the level of detail in a sex scene can be quite off putting. I always preface any such comments to indicate that it is my opinion and preferences. What I don't like about the book may be exactly what someone else is looking for in a book.

It is also okay to review a book you didn't particularly like. It is important then to find some redeeming quality or try to see the book through the eyes of who would enjoy it.

Provide examples

The best reviews in my opinion provide examples to back up their points, but it is also the most often neglected aspect of a review.

I know this is a weak point of my reviews and something I'm hoping to remedy. I recently bought a small spiral notebook and I'm going to try to make notes while reading. I found it helpful when I was doing the read along of The Gateway Chronicles.

Don't overthink it

When writing your review imagine you are talking to your best friend about the book. Don't concern yourself that you don't sound "literary enough". I would guess that most people writing a reviews these days do not have a degree in literature.

People reading reviews just want to know what a fellow book lover thought of the book and you can do that.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

September 23, 2015

Cornwall and Coal, Mining for Romance in the 18th Century

by Kathleen Barker

English: Wheal Prosper near Rinsey. Prosper wa...

Wallowing in 'tween-season of "Downton Abbey" and the aptly dubbed "Droughtlander", I stumbled across the PBS Masterpiece Theater gem,"Poldark".  Unlike the decadent binge-watching that usually follows my discovery of a long-overlooked television series, I was limited to a single season, since that's all that has been produced to date.

My compulsive tendencies, aided and abetted by Google, revealed that the series is based upon a treasure trove of novels by Winston Graham, first published in 1945.

Cover image from
The main character, Ross Poldark, was born in the 1700's.  His youth was rather unremarkable before he joined the British Army and spent several years fighting in colonial America.  Poldark finally returns home to Nampara in Cornwall, anxious to claim the beautiful young Lady Elizabeth Chynoweth.  Although not formally engaged before he left for his stint at soldiering, they had a youthful understanding that they would be so, upon his return.  Rumors of Ross's death as well as the actual death of his father, Charles, have preceded his return, and Poldark arrives to find his beloved engaged to his cousin.  His home at Nampara has been sorely neglected, overrun with the remaining livestock as well as two drunken servants.  With little money and even less hope, he sets out to repair and rebuild both his life and the remnants of his country property.

cover DemelzaWhile visiting the country market to purchase meager supplies, he comes across a lamentably dirty child being punched and kicked by a group of rowdy boys.  When no one intervenes, Ross steps forward and rescues her.  He takes her back to his home with the intention of returning her to her family in the morning, but she begs him to let her stay on as a kitchen maid.  The bruises and strap marks across her back bear testimony to her father's abuse, so Ross agrees with reluctance.  Gossip and rumors fly about as young Demelza stays on, gaining the novelty of enough to eat and new clothing sans beatings.  As she blossoms into a young woman, her gratitude develops into a desperate desire for Ross's affection, despite their difference in class.

Torn between his lingering desire for the gentile Elizabeth and the fiery Demelza, Ross finds himself at a crossroad as he works to revitalize his family's old, closed copper mine.  Should he follow the manners and conventions of polite society of the 18th century or seek the happiness that may ostracize him from everyone he knows?

Top image: English: Wheal Prosper near Rinsey. Prosper was a common name for Cornish Mines. This one worked only in the 1860s. It gained rather more fame in the 20th century when it was used as a set for the television programme "Poldark". (Photo credit: Wikipedia). 
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September 22, 2015

Review: 12:07 The Sleeping by L. Sydney Abel

by Claire Rees

Recipient's eyes were clamped open. Electric filament burnt 12:07. The number had been given. Many have the number. But only one is for this Messenger.

The Review

In 12:07 The Sleeping by L. Sydney Abel, Lance has a perfectly normal life. Both he and his wife have good jobs and despite the fact that they had lost a baby years earlier, they were still relatively happy. Lance goes to work each day, eyes up his beautiful secretary but does not touch and returns home each night to his wife Katherine.

The only thing that causes him problems are the nightmares he had been having since he was a child.
In enters Mr Green, the man without a soul. He tells Lance that Lance was one of the ‘Unwanted’ and that these nightmares are real. They are ‘the sleeping’ and they are coming for Lance's soul.

There is a fight and as Katherine is not willing to give up her husband's soul so easily she readily becomes his ‘protector’ willing to go to extremes to save him.

I read 12:07 The Sleeping in one sitting and is by far one of the best paranormal books I have read so far this year. The writing is very creative and descriptive. The characters and story line have been well thought out and imaginatively done.

I recommend this book highly to those who love paranormal creepiness mixed with heaven, hell, darkness and light.

Buy 12:07 The Sleeping at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (258 pages)
published: July 2015 by Speaking Volumes
ISBN13: 978-1628152678
genres: horror, suspense
source: author
read: September 2015

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

September 21, 2015

What's Hot in Romance #MondayBlogs

cover Heat Exchange
Lydia Kincaid's shipping back to Boston, but she's not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother's a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother's handsome friend Aidan.

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He's had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it's her. Aside from being his mentor's daughter, she's his best friend's sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can't uncross.

As Aidan and Lydia's flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter's wife was the hardest thing she's ever done, and she doesn't know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can't imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he'll have to decide who's first in his heart.

Buy Heat Exchange at Amazon

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a gripping story of family ties and forbidden attraction.

A Texas Ranger, relegated to deskwork due to past recklessness, petitions to regain custody of his five-year-old daughter, and his case is assigned to a family court judge who is as attractive as she is ambitious. When a masked gunman barges in during the custody hearing with his sights on the judge, the Ranger reacts instinctually and goes after him. But authorities apprehend the wrong man, and the real gunman remains unknown, at large, and a threat. Will this take-charge lawman jeopardize his chances of custody by going after the would-be assassin? And will this unlikely pair be able to deny the forbidden attraction building between them?

Buy Friction at Amazon

cover Fury's Kiss
Hawthorne, Massachusetts has always been a nice place, a safe place - a boring place. At least to waitress Tara Walker, who dreams of more excitement than slinging plates of seafood for Cape Cod tourists. But as Tara learns when she is attacked and forced to fight for her life, fate sometimes has a funny way of giving you exactly what you wish for. Faced with strange new powers and embroiled in a murder investigation, Tara must now race to uncover the secrets of the ancient Fury that has woken inside of her - and of the evil that stalks her.

As if Tara’s life hasn’t gotten complicated enough, she is forced to ally herself with Jackson Byrne, witness to her assault and uncle to a pint-sized oracle whose fate is intertwined with hers. Skeptical, stubborn, and oh-so-sexy, Jackson wrestles with demons of his own. He is determined to ignore the attraction rising between them even faster than the body count, but like it or not, he and Tara need each other if they are to unravel the mysteries that surround them.

Buy Fury's Kiss at Amazon

cover Finding a Loyal Love
Having watched her two best friends find the love of their lives, Lay-Lay is ready for her turn. It’s been a jagged and tiring road with her longtime boyfriend Smoke. In the beginning she thought maybe he had been the one for her, but now she’s not so sure. From dealing with baby mama drama to random females on the side, Lay-Lay has had enough. Not only has she grown tired of Smoke’s cheating ways, but she’s finally ready to move on. In the back of her mind she knows she deserves better, but letting go is entirely too hard.

Although Smoke’s reckless behavior plays a major role in Lay-Lay’s decision to move on, that isn’t the only reason why she’s ready to call it quits. Kyle Taylor, is and has been the most constant male figure in her life for as long as she can remember. When thinking of her fairytale ending her is who she would see as her knight in shining amour. The only problem with this is, he has a girlfriend. Fed up with the constant fussing and fighting, Lay-Lay isn’t sure whether or not Kyle is worth leaving behind the love and history she has with Smoke. Torn between the man she loves and the man she deserves, Lay-Lay is forced to make a decision.

Buy Finding a Loyal Love at Amazon

cover Sustained
A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I'm going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal's office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that — that, I know how to do.

Buy Sustained at Amazon

Cover images and descriptions are from Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.