Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

This time every year I dream of one thing - a white Christmas.

The air with a hint of bite that tickles the nose.  The leaden gray sky pregnant with a promised gift.  The wet flakes swaying in a slight breeze as they fall.  They grow heavier.  And larger, until they look like hundreds of thousands of cotton ball puffs.

The crunch of tires driving by.  The laughter of children making snow angels and snowmen.  An impromptu snowball fight.

The hush of being wrapped in a cocoon as darkness falls.  The bright sparkle of Christmas lights against an outline of unspoiled white.  The beauty of stillness.  And wonder.

This year I received my wish.  It's like that promised gift.  I am in awe to welcome a white Christmas.

So from our home to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Take a Walk on the Dark Side

There are days in life where everything falls into place and all is good.  But then some days it all seems to crumble at our feet.  It's in those moments when the &%#@ hits the fan that we find out who we really are - when we take a walk on the dark side.

Join me in that walk today as we explore Scott Lerner's Ruler of Demons.

Book Summary:
Only eleven shopping days till Christmas. And less than a week to save the world.

Three nuns—in Chicago, Paris, and Jerusalem—have been killed in a religious ritual. The choice of victims and the macabre details of their deaths indicate that someone is following a recipe provided on an ancient text—a recipe to unleash the forces of hell on earth. The final sacrifice must occur on the Winter Solstice.

Samuel Roberts, a small-town attorney in Urbana, Illinois, knows a bit about the supernatural, having triumphed at least once over the forces of evil. Thanks to a friend who is aware of Sam’s little known previous efforts on behalf of mankind, Sam is hired by a big Chicago law firm to take on a sensitive case. His mission? Nothing less than halting the impending apocalypse.

Sam and his good buddy Bob travel first to Jerusalem then Paris in a desperate race to save mankind.

My Review:
Ruler of Demons was fast-paced, full of dry humor and took me on a whirlwind tour through Chicago to Israel and then France.

Sam Roberts takes a very light view of life.  As an attorney, he's not out pounding the pavement searching for his next client.  Circumstances - I'm assuming from the previous book, which I did not read - have allowed him to relax and not worry so much about how he's going to pay the bills.  And he takes advantage of that.

Until he's offered a very unusual case by a large, well-financed firm.  The harried friend who works at said firm urges him to leave the case alone.  But Sam is intrigued - or has a death wish.  So after meeting with Alexy Smart, the last surviving founder of the firm, and official representatives of the Catholic Church and witnessing first-hand the human flesh scroll authored by the Prince of Darkness, Sam decides to accept the case.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt matters that someone left him a human tongue on his kitchen table.

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about this book.  Dry humor isn't my forte, but I found the beginning to be intriguing and it pulled me into the story.  I was curious about the deaths of the nuns and how it all tied together.  I like a book that makes me think and surprises me.

Unfortunately I discovered few surprises here.  As usual, the priests, church, and military personnel were easy targets to spot early on, as they are utilized as the "bad guys" throughout so many novels these days.  I'd actually hoped to be surprised that maybe they were going to be the red-herrings but was disappointed to find this wasn't the case.  Plus Sam internalizes over and over again throughout the story how he doesn't believe in God/religion, which presents quite the dichotomy since he's dealing with demonic and supernatural forces here.  Logic says if there is evil then there must be good.  I don't mind an agnostic or atheistic character, but the fact that it gets brought up constantly leaves nothing to guess who the baddies are going after.  All-in-all these factors made it just too darn easy to figure out and left nothing to guess.

Then there are the travel moments.  I was looking forward to Sam and Bob's visit to Jerusalem and the dig site, but it felt like they were in and out so quickly, I as the reader didn't get to experience "being there" or anything.  Same thing with their jump over to France.  Yes, it answered some questions in the overall story and fit some puzzle pieces together, but it was like "poof" they're in and then "poof" they're out.

The story also lacked any real emotional connection to the characters or events.  When faced with a demon, Sam and Bob rather brush it off like it is an everyday occurrance and no big deal.  There was no fear or concern.  This also played into lack of internal motivation for why they did anything or went anywhere.  The overall lack of emotion and internal motivation made the characters and the story feel very wooden and somewhat disjointed.

I hate to say it, but after muddling through I felt as if I'd been offered an entire loaf of melba toast with nothing to drink.  It was a struggle for me to finish Ruler of Demons.  But perhaps if you like and understand very dry humor, you might consider checking out the book for yourself.  There were a few moments that offered up a chuckle even to someone like me.

And don't forget to sign up for the giveaway below!

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Pages: 202
ISBN: 9781603819053
Publisher: Camel Press
Release: December 15, 2013

Amazon buy link:

Author Bio:

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of criminal law and family law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction, and going to the movies. His first novel, Cocaine Zombies, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards.

Check out his website http://scottlerner.camelpress.com/ and for a taste of his writing, check out the excerpt http://www.scribd.com/doc/181544210/Ruler-of-Demons-by-Scott-A-Lerner-Chapters-1-4

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Review of Piercing the Darkness

Hello again, dear readers!

Thanks ever so much to Nora over at Only God Writes Trees for her astonishing review of Piercing the Darkness, the second installment of my "Deepest Darkness" series.  Even though I still don't like the cover of the book (yes, I have plans to revise both by the time Rising comes out), she was able to look past its cheesy appearance to dig deep into the heart of the story.  Sorry to have made you cry, Nora!!! :-)

So if you'd like to see what she has to say, run over to her blog post and take a gander http://onlygodwritestrees.blogspot.com/2013/12/review-piercing-darkness-by-da-bale.html

And don't forget that Running into the Darkness is available free until the end of the year.  Be sure to pick up your copy at any eBook outlet of choice.

Stay tuned!  Someday I'll have the opportunity to finish the final installment.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reviewing the "Ruby Heart"

It may be a cold day outside, but inside I'm warm and toasty.  Winter is here.  Christmas is coming.  My heart is full.

Heart did I say?  Well yes, because today we're gonna talk about hearts.  Not warm hearts.  Not cold hearts.  But ruby hearts.  Cristelle Comby has released the latest in the Neve & Egan series - Ruby Heart - and it approaches one of my most favorite history topics, World War II.

Ruby Heart Book Summary:
When elderly client Doris Hargrave informs private investigator Alexandra Neve that her beloved antique ruby heart necklace has gone missing for the second time in a period of over sixty years, Alexandra knows this is no ordinary jewellery theft. The ruby heart is a family heirloom and the only thing that connects an ailing Mrs Hargrave to her parents, who were murdered during the Holocaust.

To solve the case, Alexandra and her business partner, blind history professor Ashford Egan, must sift through obscure Holocaust documents to find out the truth. It’s that way that they learn of a secret World War II-era love affair which could hold the key to all the answers they are looking for. Meanwhile, Egan is under immense pressure from the university to quit his private investigating business, and Alexandra is afraid that a man she trusts will leave her. Again.

When Alexandra begins to receive anonymous threats and her flat is vandalised, this all becomes personal. Knowing that there is someone out there to hurt her, Alexandra vows to find that elusive ruby heart if it’s the last thing she ever does.

My Review:
First off, I'm finding the Neve & Egan series to be quite charming.  The first book, Russian Dolls, was offered to reviewers to obtain the introduction to this unlikely sleuthing pair.  However, I think Ruby Heart gives enough backstory to be able to follow it without having first read Russian Dolls, though I would still recommend reading the series as a whole just because it is good.

After the events of the first book, including the loss of her best friend, and the subsequent media frenzy, Alexandra - or Lexa to her friends - decides to leave the university life behind for the life of a PI.  Part-time university history professor and her blind business partner, Ashford Egan, is a prickly character to both students and faculty alike.  But Lexa is able to see beyond the candy-coated shell to the soft chocolate center.  Thus the friendship and business relationship begins.

At first I was worried this would devolve into a middle-aged professor meets much younger student - you get the picture.  But I've been very pleased to see the relationship grow more like a father/daughter scenario (Lexa's father died years before) and it's very sweet to "see" played out in the pages.  Ash gets onto Lexa when she lets her frustration and mouth get the better of a situation (I can sooo relate to her that way), and Lexa helps Ash to express emotion and better relate to others.  Plus in their business relationship, Lexa can explore where Ash can't, and Ash's other senses are heightened due to his blindness and can detect intentions and what isn't being said by the people they interview.

So getting back to Ruby Heart.  Lexa is visited by Doris Hargrave, an ailing, old woman with an urgent plea.  Mrs. Hargrave emigrated to England in the nineteen-thirties as a young child from a wealthy German family of jewelers - and they were Jewish.  During the events of the Holocaust, she lost her entire family and a precious family heirloom, a pendant made from the finest rubies and diamonds and fashioned into the shape of a heart.  The pendant turned up recently when a home in Italy was demolished, returned to it's rightful owner, and subsequently stolen from Mrs. Hargrave once again.  Now she's desperate to recover it to pass on the hope of a happy marriage to her beloved granddaughter.

If a half-century old mystery isn't enough pressure for Lexa, Ashford is being forced to decide between being a blind detective or remaining with the university (and guaranteed income).  Lexa knows what Ash should do and is torn by what she wants him to choose.

To discover the reason for the current theft, Lexa and Ash have to follow a cold trail that forces them to explore the horrors of the Holocaust through the pages left over from the path through Germany to Italy - and possible ties to the Mafioso. 

At times, just when they have no further leads to go on, something pops up to turn them in the right direction.  A time or two this almost felt too easy and contrived, but since I was already invested in the characters and the story, I didn't let it bother me too much. 

I liked the bit of play between Lexa and Stensen, a young officer she's worked with on her cases, and I suspect a bit of foreshadowing of a possible relationship building for later in the series (wink-wink).  Then there's the fact that those with whom Lexa is close seem to be getting hurt - namely in this one, her mother.  But one thing I find interesting is that even though it is Lexa and Ash doing the investigating, Lexa's home is the only one that seems to get invaded.  The bad guys never seem to know where Ash lives so that feels a bit odd to me.  I've just chalked it up to the fact that Lexa seems to be the one doing the majority of the footwork.

Through the series, I really enjoyed the variety of characters Ms. Comby has created in this series.  Ashford's "friend", Dimitri, provides a little more backstory on how he came to be indebted to Ash - very interesting.  And I'm especially liking this mysterious underworld character who we never see but who is lurking in the shadows behind the series.  Oh, and this character is the one REALLY responsible for Lexa's best friend's death in book one.  His only name?  The Sorter.

Ooooo!  So if you're looking for a mystery series that isn't too deep (but has the promise to be), has some action, and threatens to teach you a bit about history, pick up Ruby Heart.  Better yet, just start with book one of the Neve & Egan series.  You'll be glad you did.

Author Bio:

Cristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, in Greater Geneva, where she still resides.

Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent.

She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

Ruby Heart is her second new-adult novel, and she’s hard at work on the next titles in the Neve & Egan series.  Check out her website http://cristelle-comby.com/

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