BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – TALES TO COUNT ON

TALES_final_fullTales To Count On by S.R. Mallery, a unique collection of short stories, contains a variety of genres, including historical, Gothic, and fantasy. They are organized by word count, which the author says often determines the story when written under the constraints of submission guidelines. Interesting concept that developed into a full-blown eclectic combination of historical, contemporary, and mysterious stories.

Full disclosure: I edited and formatted this book. The “work” became a labor of love as I became enamored with the characters and the delightful storytelling ability of Ms. Mallery. Reading them provided me with hours of enjoyment. I’m a fan of S.R. Mallery’s writing, which is what brought us together in the first place. Click here to read my reviews of her other books, Sewing Can Be Dangerous, another collection of short stories, and Unexpected Gifts, a delightful novel of one young woman’s discovery of her roots.

If you’ve ever read any of the O Henry short stories and enjoyed them, you’ll be in for a treat with her newest book. Each one has some type of twist at the end. That’s a tricky task for an author who has to lead the reader down one path and completely change direction by the end to surprise even the most astute detectives. S.R. Mallery is a master at the technique and proves it thoroughly in Tales To Count On.

The craft of short story writing requires a special talent. Maybe that’s why they aren’t as popular as they once were. Maybe it’s because the big name magazines are no longer at the forefront of the publishing world as they were during the heyday of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, and Parker. Those writers made their names and their leap to literary infamy through the publication of short stories in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly. It takes a talented writer to create a short piece that contains all the same elements within a full-length novel. There must be characterization, believable dialogue, conflict, rising tension, and a climax. There must be a compelling story with mood to set the tone and powerful settings and descriptions. All of these techinques must occur in 500 to 4,000 words. And that’s just what they do in S.R. Mallery’s Tales To Count On.

The range and depth of the stories caused me to sit back in awe of her genius when I first read them. Preparing to write my review, I reread some of them and my awe only increased. She explores issues, such as domestic abuse, mental illness, employer/employee relations, PTSD, and abusive parents. The stories take the readers to varied settings and time periods. Her point of view shifts as a literary technique in one story involving a traffic jam, allowing the reader the unique perspective of voyeuristically peeking into the lives of a varied group of travelers and the impact the stalled vehicles have on each character’s world.

Each of the multi-layered characters are developed with efficient precision from the snarky journalist whose karma comes back to haunt him to the young woman portrayed as a sexy young virgin during the French Revolution. Shocking endings all, so I can’t say much more than I have. What I can say is readers of all preferences will find something to love in this collection of stories that reveal much about the human condition.

Most of all, the shocking endings show the reader that nothing is as it seems on the surface.

If you’re looking for stories that are intelligent, well-designed, and edge-of-the-seat worthy, then you won’t be disappointed with Tales To Count On.

Click below to read my interviews with S.R. Mallery on Author Wednesday.

 S.R. Mallery – December 4, 2013

S.R. Mallery – April 22, 2015

Purchase Links

S.R. Mallery Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble Page

Kobo Page

 

NOTE: Because Amazon frowns upon authors leaving reviews for other authors, I no longer leave reviews on their retail site. However, I will continue to review books here on my own blog for Book Review Friday. Authors are welcome to share my reviews with their own social media networks and to publish excerpts of my reviews as editorial reviews on Amazon. My list of TBR books is long, but I’m always willing to consider new works. If I enjoy a book, I review it.

CELEBRATING A NEW COVER FOR BEHIND THE ALTAR

ba_PBOOK005Behind the Altar, my first romance and the first book in the Behind the Love series, received a face lift this past month with a new cover. The cover matches the next two books in the series, Behind the Bar (released March 2015) and Behind the Curtain, which I’m still writing.

To celebrate, Behind the Altar will be available for FREE downloads on Amazon July 21, 22, and 23.  If you haven’t done so, I hope you’ll be able to take advantage and get your copy.

Thank you for your support!

Behind the Altar:

Leah Bryant’s life satisfies all her needs. Her engagement to Jacob Davis, minister of the Sunshine Church, gives her the security she requires after living in a car during her teenage years. She runs a food kitchen out of the church for homeless vets who are living on the banks of Deer River. All is perfect until the day her future mother-in-law Geraldine tells her the church is shutting down the kitchen, and Dean—Jacob’s brother—rides his Harley into her heart. Leah’s world begins to crumble as she falls into Dean’s muscular and tattooed arms. Dean, who’s been away from his home for ten years, finds himself irresistibly drawn in by Leah’s natural beauty and genuine goodness. As they fight to stay away from one another, Leah and Dean keep finding ways to be together. The more they fight the attraction, the harder it is to stay apart. Will Leah go ahead and marry Jacob despite Dean’s haunting her every thought? Will Dean exact the revenge he came home to hand out? And will Geraldine manage to keep control over the church, Jacob, and Leah? It will all be determined in Behind the Altar, a romantic story of forbidden love.
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AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – JENNY HARPER

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Hello and happy summer! I said I’d be on hiatus until September, but then I met the lovely author Jenny Harper from Scotland, and I couldn’t resist doing an Author Wednesday post in July. Jenny recently published the novella Sand in My Shoes, the perfect summer read for the beach. Here’s the concept: A trip to France awakens the past in this heartwarming and tear-jerking short summer readHead teacher Nicola Arnott prides herself on her independence. Long widowed, she has successfully juggled motherhood and career, coping by burying her emotions somewhere deep inside herself. A cancer scare shakes her out of her careful approach to life and she finds herself thinking wistfully of her first love, a young French medical student. As her anxiety about her impending hospital tests grows, she decides to revisit the sleepy French town she remembers from her teenage years – and is astonished to meet up with Luc again. The old chemistry is still there – but so is something far more precious: a deep and enduring friendship. Can it turn into true love?Sand in My Shoes web

Welcome, Jenny. I’m glad you stopped by to let us know about your new book. It does sound like an excellent read for the beach! I like the title. How did you choose it?

Sometimes titles for books come really easily, while at other times it’s like hammering away at a geode – it’s really hard to crack it open, but somewhere inside you know there’s a gem. Sand in My Shoes is a novella – the first time I’ve written something of this length – and my main purpose was to write a really satisfying and quick summer read. I wanted the title to be evocative, and also to try to capture something important at the heart of the story. This title achieves both of these things – but to find out why, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

It does evoke memories of the beach. Now you’ve provoked my curiosity! Since it’s a novella, how long it actually take you to write it?

This piece of work has been exceptional. Mostly I write complex and multi-layered novels with a word count of around 80-90,000 words – full length novels, in other words. I had just finished writing Mistakes We Make (due for publication next summer), and I’d really had to wrestle with it. (I’m delighted with it now that it’s finished, by the way!). I was heading off to India for a couple of weeks’ sunshine, and I fancied having a go at something more straightforward – a work that would restore the spontaneity in my writing. I had the idea before we left home,  planned it on the plane, and wrote 15,000 words in a fortnight. I finished off the week after I came home. And it was a joy to write!

I’ve recently ventured into writing novellas after writing full length novels. It’s a big change but a welcome one after finishing a huge project. How did you come up with the idea for Sand in My Shoes? 

My four published novels are loosely a series called ‘The Heartlands’ series. They are all set in or near a fictional town called Hailesbank, notionally just east of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, where I live. To date, the characters haven’t overlapped (although Mistakes We Make features characters from People We Love a few months on). I really wanted to take one of the minor characters in one of the books and see what happened. It was a writing buddy who suggested Nicola Arnott, who is the head teacher in a primary school in Face the Wind and Fly. And oddly enough, although I was writing it while I was in India, it was a place in France I visited last year that was nagging away at my mind. Arcachon is a delightful small seaside resort, a little old-fashioned but very pretty and family friendly – and that’s where I sent Nicola when she discovered a lump in her breast.

What kind of research was required? 

Nicola is waiting for results at the beginning of the story, and her daughter nags her to do something different with her summer. Researching the setting wasn’t difficult, although I had a lot of fun viewing images of some of Arcachon’s beautiful old houses online. They remind me of the architecture in New Orleans – or perhaps that should be the other way round, as I presume New Orleans was influenced by French colonists? However, I did talk to a number of people about their experiences with breast cancer, and also researched tests and treatments online. I discovered that this does vary quite a lot depending on where you live.

Yes, I believe France informed New Orleans. What’s the best thing someone could say about this novella?

My editor called me when she had read it, and she was still a bit incoherent ­– apparently I had made her cry twice as she’d been reading it! Now, far be it from me to want to make people cry, but as a writer there is a great sense of achievement when you can involve people so deeply in your storytelling. Which leads me to share something I’m quite proud of – bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith has just offered me a quote for the paperback of People We Love. He says, “An engaging and delightful read. Jenny Harper is a most gifted storyteller.” I’m so proud ­– all I really want to be is a great storyteller!

Both of those statements are things for which you can be very proud. Congratulations! Are you traditionally or self-published? 

I’ve been writing for some time. I eventually decided to self publish a couple of my novels (Face the Wind and Fly and Loving Susie), then I was picked up by Accent Press, who have since published Maximum Exposure and People We Love, and the novella, Sand in My Shoes. They have also offered me a contract for another novel (not in the Heartlands series) called Between Friends, due for publication next spring), and the fifth in the Heartlands Series, Mistakes We Make, due for publication next summer. I’ve started on my next book, which I’m loving writing, but I’m not going to give anything away about it right now!

Congratulations all the way around. I look forward to reading your books. I’m so very happy to have met you through the group eNovel Authors at Work. Please visit again when you have your next release. eNovel Authors at Work

Jenny CC 5 web croppedAbout Jenny: Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland. Now Jenny is writing  contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues.

 

 

Click links below to purchase Jenny’s books:

Sand in My Shoes

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Face the Wind and Fly

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Loving Susie

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Maximum Exposure

Amazon UK

Amazon US

People We Love

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Contact Jenny by clicking links below

Jenny Harper website and blog

Twitter

Facebook

 

CHRISTMAS IN JULY!

ChristmasPetsandKisses3D_425by200That’s right. I’m talking about Christmas, but that’s because I’m very excited to be a part of this new box set, Christmas Pets and Kisses, available for pre-order right now for only $0.99.

On Tuesday, July 14 we’re celebrating with a Christmas in July Facebook party where all sixteen authors will be hanging out giving away lots of prizes. Click here to join the fun.

Overview of Christmas Pets and Kisses

SIXTEEN ALL-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED SWEET (PG-rated) CHRISTMAS ROMANCES

Ring in the Christmas cheer with sixteen all-new sweet and heart-warming romances from New York Times, USA Today bestselling, and award-winning authors. Don’t miss out on this romantic collection of Christmas tails…uh, tales as adorable pets with fins, paws, feathers, and hooves bring holiday magic with the gift of true love

Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor

Two wounded hearts are brought together at Christmas by two golden dogs: a lab and a retriever.

Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk

Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis

A handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard mooch food and kisses from a merry widow.

His Christmas Promise – Alicia Street

A stray dog brings an ex-Army helicopter pilot and a single mom together.

We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett

Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?

Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala

Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?

Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke

The Vet & The Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell

Tails, Time, and St. Nick – Mary Leo

Kris Timemaker uses a magic clock to bring his daughter’s missing Westie and estranged wife back to him.

Graced – Jade Kerrion

Noelle brings Christmas cheer to a widower and his children, along with several goldfish and a kitten.

Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau

Far from home, a lonely young woman strikes up a friendship with a lost cat and his secretive owner.

Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick

One kitten, a broken-hearted girl, and long lost loves are brought together for a special mountain Christmas.

The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver

Will a fall from a horse bring Hayley’s parents back together in time for Christmas?

Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne

Seventy years ago, a collie mix brings two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?

Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady

Anne takes a rescue kitten to the vet, only to discover he’s the man who broke her heart.

The Impossible Rescue – Annamaria Bazzi

A handsome stranger gifts a cute Pomeranian puppy to a woman in need of rescue.

Here’s my offering to this group of creative and talented authors:

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Pre-Order Now by clicking on the sites below:

Amazon

B&N

Kobo

Apple

BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – NO MORE MULBERRIES

No More Mulberries - web readyNo More Mulberries by Mary Smith captured my attention because I love to read stories set in cultures different from my own, but with the commonality of the human condition to draw me into the plot. The author managed to pull me into the story within the first page.

Set in rural Afghanistan, Miriam and Iqbal exist in a marriage of convenience for both, although the restrictions for Miriam are anything but convenient. She married Iqbal believing he was a certain way only to find out after moving back to his homeland that he wasn’t at all what she imagined. The book shows a marriage in turmoil, lacking in communication between the two partners. It wouldn’t matter where this story was set–the marriage resonates with brutal honesty about the nature of relationships when two people are motivated by prior histories and experiences. It’s also a universal truth that only heartbreak and dissatisfaction come from couples who keep things hidden and who hope somehow the other partner will know how they feel through osmosis.

Of course, the complications from living in a society where women are supposed to remain hidden, away from the men, and Miriam’s presence as a foreigner from Scotland, without the proper training to be the docile wife of the local doctor, adds to the conflicts the marriage endures. The landscape of Afghanistan described by Ms. Smith is complicated–harsh, yet beautiful in its own haunting way. The setting in Edinburgh provides a strong contrast as she describes it in more formal, colder terms. The opposing forces create an even more compelling picture of Miriam’s huge adjustment in leaving her homeland to settle in an environment diametrically opposed to where she spent her youth.

The point of view shifts between husband and wife, which is a good thing because it would be hard to have sympathy for the cold and stubborn Iqbal otherwise. His background is slowly revealed to give a more complete picture of the man and his motivations. Miriam’s story is doled out to the reader throughout the book. It’s an intriguing choice for the author to do it this way. As the reader, I yearned to find out why she made the choices she did. Why did she marry Iqbal? Why did she go with him to Afghanistan when she had a perfectly fine career in Edinburgh as a midwife?

Then there’s her first husband, Jawad. The story of their love affair, marriage, and subsequent tragedy sets a parallel course with the story of Miriam’s and Iqbal’s marriage. Miriam realizes that Iqbal isn’t to blame for all of the trouble in their marriage. She’s done her own form of mental damage without intention or consciousness. It’s through the telling of both their stories that the story swells to its conclusion.

As the story unfolded, I felt drawn into the life of all of the characters created by Ms. Smith. I understood their wounds and pleasures. But I also found myself trying to imagine what it would be like to live under such primitive conditions. Her descriptions of health practices and beliefs seemed so archaic based on how and where I’ve lived that I had to keep going back and checking the dates given at the beginning of the chapters. The story is set mostly in 1995 with flashbacks ten years in the past. The political backdrop in 1995 gives a haunting quality to reading the story in a post-9/11 world. Hatred of Russia and the United States fuel the rise of the Taliban as shown in this novel. A tension existed in Afghanistan that the reader knows will only strengthen in the next six years after the story ends.

All in all, No More Mulberries is a superb read with many rich layers of tension-building plot, life-like characterization, believable dialogue, and riveting settings. Did I mention that this novel is the first one for Mary Smith? Amazing.

Mary Smith - web readyClick here for my interview with Mary Smith on Author Wednesday.

#NEW RELEASE – THIRD BASE

I’m happy to announce the release of my romantic baseball story, Third Base. The writing of the love story between Adriana Moretti and Tomas Vegas is my tribute to love on many levels. First, I wrote about a team that has captured my heart in the past five years. The Pittsburgh Pirates were in a major two-decade long slump when I moved to the Steel City. I’ve watched them grow, improve, and win, so I put them as the winning team at the forefront of Third Base. Also, the couple’s instant attraction, despite the road blocks in their way, rises above it all.

It’s my favorite kind of love story, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. Thank you for your support for all my writing efforts.

Purchase Links:

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

Apple

 

 

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A FAVORITE INTERVIEW

Featured Image -- 9178Fellow author EFFROSYNI MOSCHOUDI interviewed me this week. Her questions gave me the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite things. Take a look by clicking here!

In other news, we’ve moved into our cabin in North Carolina, but the rains are keeping us from doing much of anything outdoors. So I putter inside and get to know my new digs. Sorry, no photos yet. The Internet was just installed yesterday, and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Today, I write. I need to finish my Christmas Pet story, Minty’s Kiss.Minty's Kiss draft 1_edited-1

Happy Fourth of July to all my friends in the USA. May you be safe and enjoy your long weekend wherever your travels may lead you.

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – CATE BEAUMAN

03 Answers For Julie - 3D CoverAward-winning romantic suspense author Cate Beauman is back with the ninth full length novel in the Bodyguards of L.A. County series, Answers For Julie.

Blurb:  Julie Keller relishes the simple things: hot chocolate on winter nights, good friends she calls her family, and her laid-back career as a massage therapist and yoga instructor. Julie is content with her life until Chase Rider returns to Bakersfield.

Bodyguard Chase Rider isn’t thrilled to be back in the town where he spent his childhood summers. His beloved grandmother passed away, leaving him a house in need of major repairs. With a three-week timetable and a lot to do, he doesn’t have time for distractions. Then he bumps into Julie, the one woman he hoped never to see again. Chase tries to pretend Julie doesn’t exist, but ten years hasn’t diminished his attraction to the hazel-eyed stunner.

When a stranger grabs Julie’s arm at the grocery store—a woman who insists Julie’s life isn’t what it seems, Chase can’t help but get involved. Julie and Chase dig into a twenty-five-year-old mystery, unearthing more questions than answers. But the past is closer than they realize, and the consequences of the truth have the potential to be deadly.

Here’s what Cate has to say about her inspiration for writing Answers For JulieI often get my story ideas from watching crime documentaries, but the plot for Answers For Julie came together after I read some sobering FBI statistics in a magazine about the odds of a missing child coming home. Unfortunately, many children are lost forever. The wheels began spinning quickly after that, and a few weeks later, the story was well on its way. I hope you enjoy Julie and Chase as much as I enjoyed writing them! ~ Cate

Here’s an excerpt from Answers For Julie:

She frowned, glancing in her rearview mirror when someone honked. Gasping, she cringed, bracing herself for a nasty impact as a car approached fast from behind. When the vehicle barely missed hers, she accelerated, making space for the bully to go around, but the navy blue BMW moved closer to her bumper.

She punched the gas, moving over to the final right-hand lane. The car sped up directly to her left, until the dark tint of the passenger’s window was even with her driver’s side. Julie pressed on her brake, slowing on the damp roads, hoping the car would move on, but it decreased its speed as she did. “What are you doing?”

Unsure of what to do, she jerked her rental toward the upcoming off ramp. The car followed, closing the distance between them, and rammed her back door, forcing her closer to the guardrail. She screamed, veering hard to the left, barely avoiding a collision with metal and a plummet to the busy road several hundred feet below.

The vehicle sped off as she slammed on her brakes and sat where she was, closing her eyes and gasping in several breaths. She flinched and screamed again, her eyes flying open as a red Camero honked as it swerved to miss hitting her.

Trembling, she accelerated to the bottom of the off-ramp, knowing that if she didn’t move she would cause an accident. She braked at the stoplight, her teeth chattering and her eyes darting around, on the lookout for the BMW. There was no way that was some random act of road rage. She could no longer claim that the instances in Massachusetts were a string of bad luck. Chase was right. Someone was trying to hurt her, and she still needed his help.

If you enjoyed the excerpt, visit Cate’s website to read the rest of the first chapter:  www.catebeauman.com.

 04 Cate profile pic copy 2About Cate Beauman:  Cate currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, their two boys, and St. Bernard’s, Bear and Jack. She is the author of the international bestselling and award winning romantic suspense series, Bodyguards of L.A. County.  Before her career as an author, Cate worked in special education for twelve years. “I’m a pretty lucky girl; one day I woke up and my entire life changed. I saw the light, so to speak, and decided I was going to be a writer. Now, five years later, I’m working on my tenth novel! I’m remain so very grateful for the support and success that I have had.  Thank you!”  – Cate

SIGN UP FOR CATE’S NEWSLETTER TO BE NOTIFIED OF MONTHLY GIVEAWAY OFFERS by clicking here.

Click below to purchase Answers for Julie

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Click below to contact Cate

Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @CateBeauman

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Please note that Author Wednesday is going on summer hiatus for the rest of July and August. I’ll be back in September with new authors and new releases. Please fill out a contact form if you’re interested in doing an interview or guest blog in the fall. I’ll still be checking email and my website! Happy summer. It’s time to catch up on all the fantastic books we’ve all downloaded to our eReaders!