Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review - Ouback Blaze by Rachael Johns

Outback BlazeOutback Blaze by Rachael Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paperback
Published May 1st 2014 by Harlequin MIRA
Source: Publisher for Review

Synopsis:
'Ruby wasn't looking for love, Drew wasn't looking to stay...until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby's past and Drew's desire to move on?

Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can't imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay — he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones.

When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby's parents' business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby's past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her.

Soon these outsiders discover they have both lost their hearts — not only to the town but to each other.


My Thoughts:
Outback Blaze is the second installment in the Bunyip Bay series and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this small rural Australian town after reading Outback Dreams a little while ago.

I found the main female character, Ruby Jones, very likeable and I've come to realise that Rachael Johns develops her female leads quite well. Ruby has a very painful past and was doing her best to rebuild her life back in Bunyip Bay and live a normal life. The way her and Drew come together and develop their romance is nice and believable without seeming too forced and I prefer this type of romance to the sappy, 'fall head over heels in a heartbeat' kind.

I really enjoyed the interesting back story as to why Drew came to join this little town and I also found his character developed in a realistic way. You really wanted these two people to be together and find happiness within each other.

As for the other characters in the book, there were some interesting developments that those who have read Outback Dreams and are familiar with the history of some of the original characters will certainly appreciate. This doesn't mean you have to have read Outback Dreams to enjoy Outback Blaze at all as it could quite easily be read as a standalone story in itself.

The addition of the suspense element broke this book up nicely and I always find that reading books like these really make me long to experience living life in a small rural town one day just to see what it is really like.

I definitely look forward to reading the third installment in the series, Outback Ghost, in the near future.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spotlight & Interview - A Fistful of Evil by Rebecca Chastain




Today I am very happy to be hosting a great interview with Rebecca Chastain.



First up, here is a little bit about her latest book, A Fistful of Evil....

Synopsis:
Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing.

On the positive side, her money problems are over, she’s possibly discovered her purpose in life, and her coworker is smoking hot. On the negative side, evil creatures now actively hunt her, and deadly experiences are becoming the norm.

When she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a powerful evil sets up shop at a local hotel’s video game convention, and it’s got its eye on more than the gaming geeks: it is hungry for Madison’s soul. Madison needs to become an expert illuminant enforcer overnight to save her job, her region . . . and her life.

If Stephanie Plum fought evil with magic, it’d look a lot like this.

A Fistful of Evil is an Amazon Top 100 Fantasy Bestseller in the United States, Australia, and Canada.

Interview:
 


Where did you get the inspiration for A Fistful of Evil?
I’m a fantasy addict and wish I had my own magic, so it makes sense that my ideas always spark from the main character’s magic. The idea for Madison’s magic came when I was trying to fall asleep. To distract myself from a bad work day, I focused on my cat, who was sleeping beside my pillow. In the darkness, I pretended I could see her glowing white, which made me think about being able to see souls, and whether or not that would be a good thing. From there, the story took off…and it took me a long time to fall to sleep.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
I am Madison’s polar opposite and am much more like her best friend Bridget. I like to plan. I savor routine. I adore a quiet day in front of my computer. I wish I were more spontaneous and outgoing like Madison. Of course, if it meant attracting as much trouble as she does, no thanks!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I was eleven the first time I wrote a story, and it was an epiphany. Short of stumbling through a wardrobe (I always check!) or getting an owl-delivered message, writing is the closest I can get to wielding magic, and I’m not going to give it up!

What does your writing area look like?
A little bit messy and well lived in. More specifically, my sprawling desk takes up half the room, and an elliptical machine and two bookcases take up the rest of the space. The desk is covered with manuscripts in various stages, research books, and far too many sticky notes with scribbles only I can interpret. An enormous white board with my extensive to-do list hangs across from my desk to keep me on track. And, of course, cat beds are tucked into favored spaces to appease my “coworkers,” who otherwise prefer sprawling across my desk, knocking everything to the floor.

What are five items you never leave home without?
Lip gloss, a list of books I need to buy, a hair tie, my purse, and a pullover sweater (what is with the arctic temperatures of some restaurants?). I’m always forgetting to bring my phone.

Do you prefer ebooks or print?
I love ebooks! They let me squeeze extra reading time into every day, including while flossing and applying moisturizer and sunscreen. Also, I can load my ereader with a library of books for long trips rather than packing a heavy tote (this might be the reason my husband got me an ereader in the first place).

What are you reading right now?
For pleasure, Kat Richardson’s Greywalker; for research, Charles C. Mann’s 1941; and for marketing tips, Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book.

Do you have a favorite TV show?
S.H.I.E.L.D. is my current favorite, and next in line are Doctor Who, The Good Wife, Scandal, and Modern Family. I sorely miss Eureka and Warehouse 13. I wish more sci-fi/fantasy shows were geared toward adults and not teens!

What’s one thing that scares you?
Shower curtains, or rather, closed shower curtains. Bathtubs are large. You could fit a lot of stuff back there, including people. I always check behind shower curtains before using the restroom in someone’s house. (You’ve been warned: If you ever have me over, I’m going to look.) I’ve scared myself a few times, too, because a lot of people use spare bathroom showers as extra storage.

Goals for future projects?
A Fistful of Evil is the first of string of novels, the number depending on reader response; I want to make fans happy! I also plan to write two or three more novellas in the world of Magic of the Gargoyles. Beyond that, I have a fantasy series set in the time of the Aztec half mapped out, a magical realism screwball romance set in LA that is currently in edits, and possibly a YA stand-alone involving time manipulation.

Anything you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my novel! I love to hear from readers, so email me at rebecca[at]rebeccachastain[dot]com, leave a comment on my blog, or chat with me on Facebook.
 

Important Links:


Amazon US:






Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5660379.Rebecca_Chastain

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tour Showcase - Death in the Dolomites by David Wagner

Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery

by David Wagner

on Tour November 1-30, 2014





Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: September 9 2014
Number of Pages: 236
ISBN: 9781464202704
Series: 2nd Rick Montoya Italian Mysteries; Stand Alone Novel
Purchase Links:


Synopsis:

Rick Montoya is looking forward to a break from his translation business in Rome—a week of skiing in the Italian Alps with old college buddy Flavio. But Rick’s success helping the Italian police with a murder in Tuscany sends the Campiglio cops his way. An American banker working in Milano is missing. The man’s sister, an attractive and spoiled divorcĂ©e, has no idea where he could be, nor do the locals who saw him on his way to the slopes. With the discovery of a body, Rick and Inspector Albani widen their list of suspects. Picturesque resort Campiglio harbors old rivalries, citizens on the make, and a cutthroat political campaign. Why would these local issues, any of them, connect to the missing banker? The investigation doesn’t keep Rick and Flavio from enjoying perfect ski conditions in the Dolomites and glorious after-ski wines and bowls of fresh pasta. As for women—Rick has to wonder if the banker’s sister is just hitting him up for information. The action heats up, testing laid-back Rick whose uncle, a Roman cop, keeps urging him to make the police his career. As in Cold Tuscan Stone, Death in the Dolomites immerses us in the sights, smells and tastes of Italy, this time in a picture-perfect Alpine town with a surprising negative side.


Read an excerpt:

Chapter One
It had snowed most of the day, but a new and stronger system had begun blowing over the mountain from the north, diving into the valley. Snow was always welcome in a ski town, especially the clumped flakes that now cast ever-larger shadows on the ground under the streetlamps. The cement of the sidewalk and the parking lot, barely visible an hour before, was now covered. Bad news for Campiglio’s street crews but not for the skiers who had left Milan the previous afternoon to climb into the Dolomites, skis snapped to racks on the roofs of their cars.
They had been rewarded with an excellent day of skiing, and with this snow, tomorrow would be even better. If it kept up through the night, the base could last for weeks. The local merchants were likely standing outside their shops right now, letting the flakes fall on their grinning faces.
At this moment the man’s interest was not in tourists, but in the stained canvas duffel at his feet. He pulled his wool cap down over his ears and adjusted a small backpack before looking once more around the large lot. It was deserted save for a few cars of the remaining employees at the far side. His eyes moved to the bulky building and the thick cables that ran out of one side toward the mountain. On its top, the last weak rays of late afternoon sun, long gone from the valley below, outlined the station at the high end of the cable line.
It was time.
With a grunt he wrapped the strap of the duffel around his gloved hand and began to drag it toward the building. His burden slid easily through the accumulating snow and occasional patches of ice, like an injured skier on a ski-patrol sled. The last few meters would be inside on the loading platform, but the snow sticking to the bag would help it slide. This would be even easier than he’d planned. Halfway he stopped to catch his breath, pulling up his jacket sleeve to check his watch. Perfect,he thought. There would be one more run of the gondola before its cables stopped for the night, and he would be on it.
On the mountain the cleaning crew was finishing its duties. Given the number of skiers who had passed through the snack bar on their way to the piste during the day, the workload was heavy. The floor was now clean of slush and mud, and four black garbage bags, almost as tall as the women who handled them,had been loaded into the waiting gondola. It would be the same story the next night, especially with the snow now falling. One of the workers—a woman who had been doing the late afternoon shift for more years than she would admit—put down her mop, walked to the window, and peered out at the falling snow. She shook her head and returned to her job. A few moments later the crew stood in a silent clump near the door while the supervisor made a final check of the room. The woman closest to the door slid it open, letting in a light gust of wind and snow. The others, now in parkas and wool coats, instinctively pulled them around their necks in anticipation of the cold. The supervisor finally nodded and the group began to file onto the platform to the waiting gondola, snow already covering its roof and the windows on one side. When they were all inside, the supervisor closed the latch on the door and took a silent head count before picking up the black phone hanging near the door.
“Guido, siamo pronti,” she said.
Below, the man in the control room hung up his phone while keeping his eyes on the last sentences of a story in Gazzetta dello Sport. Guido knew it was not going to be a good year for his team, and again wondered why last season’s star player had been sold. To make it worse, the bastard would now play for their biggest rival. He folded the paper in disgust and pulled the long wooden lever, never glancing at the platform below. The huge dynamo came slowly to life and the cable above the long window shuddered and began to move.
The man was crouched on the floor of the gondola, well below its ski-scratched windows, when it swung slowly and lurched upward. Neither he nor the sack were visible from above, even if Guido had taken his eyes off the newspaper and looked down from his seat in the control room. As the huge metal box was dragged from the dim light of the lower station into the darkness, the man inside it heard the snow slapping softly against the glass windows above his head. He slowly got to his feet and looked down at the base station, now fading quickly as the cable picked up speed. In a few minutes its lights would be hard to distinguish from those of the other buildings at the northern edge of Campiglio.
The route was a steep shot straight to the top of the mountain, suspended over a forest of tall pines. The only breaks in the thick covering of trees were the clearings around the pylons or a few spots where the stone core of the mountain had pushed itself through the dirt. The ski trails, in contrast, returned to Campiglio over a tamer terrain. They took their time to work through the softer hills of the mountain’s other side, carrying skiers to a choice of bases along the east side of town.
He walked to the other end of the gondola cabin and looked upward. In the swirling wind and snow he could not make out his gondola’s twin, but he knew it was rushing toward him and would be passing soon. He dragged the duffel toward the door and checked to see that the latch had not slipped closed. It had not. According to his calculations the best time would be after passing the second pylon, and just at that moment the cable carrying his gondola slipped over the first one. He flexed his knees as the floor bounced slowly while continuing its climb.Suddenly the other gondola appeared out of the storm and the man dropped to his knees to get out of sight. Through the howling wind he heard a laugh from one of the workers as the two gondolas passed each other. Seconds later the only sound was once more the hum of the cable and the increasing patter of the snow. He reached over and slowly slid the door open with his right hand. As the snow swirled inside he sat back on the floor, the sack between him and the opening.
When the next pylon passed he waited until the swinging stopped and firmly pushed the sack out the door with both feet.
As he got up to slide the door closed he heard the crack of a tree branch and then the soft thump as the sack hit the snow below. The sound meant that it had sunk in, and with the new snow it would be well covered. Once the door was closed he slipped the latch into place. Safety first.
A few minutes later the other gondola bumped slowly into its berth at the edge of the town, where it would stay until it took the morning crew up on the first run of the day. The workers pushed out, waving at Guido in the control room while they pulled the plastic garbage bags behind them. Guido nodded to the group leader but kept his eyes on the young body of one of the newer members of the crew. When they had all shuffled through the door below him, he switched off the motors and gathered his belongings—the newspaper and a thermos. He was always sure to straighten up so the morning shift would have no complaints. He turned out the lights and locked the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs to the streets he wondered what his wife would be serving for dinner. She had not made lasagna in a while, perhaps this was the night. After pulling on a wide-brimmed hat, Guido buttoned his leather coat and walked into the storm.
High above, the man stepped out of the gondola and slid the door shut. On the platform the footprints of the cleaning crew were already covered, as his own would be in a matter of minutes. He turned and looked down at the valley, its lights blending together through the prisms of the falling flakes.
After a moment of reflection he adjusted his backpack and walked on the deck that ran along the outside of the building. Its tables and chairs had been stacked and pushed against the windows under the overhanging eaves, but the protection was not enough. The morning work crew would need their shovels. Two steps led from the deck down to where the wide trail began, a relatively benign incline for the skiers to start their runs, but still often littered with fallen beginners. He could barely make out the trail, but it didn’t really matter, he could get down the mountain blindfolded.
He cleared away a patch of snow at the edge of the deck with his foot and put down his backpack before stepping off and walking around to the far side of building to a small storage shed. After bending over, he used his gloved hands to scrape away the snow under the shed’s door, revealing a small opening from which he pulled a pair of dark skis and poles. Even though the falling snow would do the job for him, he carefully brushed the snow back with his foot before hoisting the equipment over his shoulder and returning to where he had left the backpack. From it he took out a pair of ski boots whose dark plastic matched the skis. After the usual grunts he had the ski boots on his feet and the snow boots secured in the pack. He also had a pair of ski goggles over his cap. It took him only a few seconds to snap into the skis and strap the poles around his wrists. It was snowing even more heavily now. The clear yellow plastic brightened the view slightly as he pulled the goggles down over his eyes and squeezed the rubber grips of the poles. He straightened up, pulling back the sleeve of his parka to check his watch again in the little light that was left in the day. Yes, the ski patrol would already be at the bottom after their final run to catch any stragglers. He pushed off slowly and began to work his way left and right through the fresh powder, his boots always touching as he flexed his knees for each turn. The flakes swirled around his bare cheeks, but he did not feel the cold. He knew that by the time he reached the valley, his racks, as well as everything else on the mountain, would be shrouded in snow.

Author Bio:

David P. Wagner is the author of Cold Tuscan Stone, the first Rick Montoya Italian Mystery. While serving in the diplomatic service he spent nine years in Italy where he learned to love things Italian, many of which appear in his writing. He and his wife live in New Mexico.

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Thank you to Death in the Dolomites and Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for generously offering this book to me for review. If you'd like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by their sites and sign up today!


 

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