Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review: Pops! by Balaji Venkataramanan

Title: Pops!

Author: Balaji Venkataramanan

Publisher: Duckbill Books and Publications Pvt Ltd




Balaji Venkataramanan’s ‘Pops!’ is the story of seven-year-old Arun, who is going to meet his father for the very first time due to a series of events which led to this unusual situation. We see the events unfolding through Arun’s eyes over a period of one year during which time he gets to know and appreciate his father in the visiting centre of a family court where parents separated from each other come to meet their children.

Arun is a recognizable, three-dimensional boy who comes from a broken yet happy family. He is precocious but likable. Very little of the actual reasons for Arun’s parents divorcing is revealed in the story. This doesn’t deter the flow of the story. If anything, this only strengthens the protagonist’s voice as children can hardly comprehend the complexities that adults around them seem to keep adding in their lives.

The second important character in the book is that of The Man – Arun’s nameless father. He is reckless and acts like a clown. He’s an entertainer, constantly performing for an audience no matter where he is. Whatever his faults, he loves Arun and goes to great lengths to get his son like him.
While there’s some unhappiness and insecurity in the lives of the adults around Arun, his world is dictated by the innocence of childhood. The emotional beats are believable with characters well-enough developed that readers can empathize.

Venkataramanan’s writing is rich in observations. His use of language is absolutely straightforward and simple. His style is accommodating. The tiny illustrations at the bottom of every page, which give a quick glimpse into what’s going on the page in the story at the moment, are quite endearing.

Though the narrative is by a mere boy of 7, this is a book that can be read by people of all age groups.
 
This sweet, emotionally perceptive book, which talks about transition of sorts, is peppered with just the right amount of slapstick humour.






Like most middle-class boys, Balaji Venkataramanan completed his engineering, joined the IT bandwagon, went onsite and started paying EMIs. Then the bubble burst and Flat Track Bullies happened. A native of Chennai, he’s mighty proud that he comes from the land of idli-sambar, Rajinikanth and the CSK.





I'd like to thank the publisher for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!




* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in, Google


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Showcase: Strong As Steel by Jon Land

Strong As Steel

by Jon Land

on Tour April 22 - May 25, 2019

Synopsis:

Strong As Steel by Jon Land
Tough-as-nails Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in this electrifying ninth installment of the series, by USA Today bestselling author Jon Land

1994: Texas Ranger Jim Strong investigates a mass murder on a dusty freight train linked to a mysterious, missing cargo for which no record exists.

The Present: His daughter, fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself on the trail of that same cargo when skeletal remains are found near an excavation site in the Texas desert. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of a massacre that claimed the lives of all the workers at a private intelligence company on her watch.

These two cases are connected by a long buried secret, one that men have killed and died to protect. Caitlin and her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters must prove themselves to be as strong as steel to overcome a bloody tide that has been rising for centuries.



Book Details:


Genre: Thriller

Published by: Forge Books

Publication Date: April 23rd 2019 

Number of Pages: 336

ISBN: 0765384671 (ISBN13: 9780765384676)

Series: Caitlin Strong #10

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1
Dallas, Texas
“You want to tell me what I’m doing here again?” Caitlin Strong said to Captain Bub McNelly of the Texas Criminal Investigations Division.
McNelly, who favored string ties and shiny cowboy boots, turned to the quartet of figures in equally shiny windbreakers milling behind him in the makeshift staging area, who looked more like businessmen. Caitlin had heard he was a descendant of the famed Texas Ranger captain Leander McNeely, a man who’d once told the whole of the U.S. government to go to hell, but wasn’t too keen on the freedom with which Rangers still operated today.
“Special Response Teams hang their hat on being multi-jurisdictional,” McNelly told her. “Consider yourself the representative Ranger.”
“Since when does an SRT look more comfortable holding briefcases than firearms?”
“I need to tell you that computers are the real weapons these days?” McNelly asked her. “And those boys accompanying us are forensic experts who know how to fire back.”
“Just two guns, yours and mine, backing them up,” Caitlin noted.
“I don’t need a computer to do the math, Ranger,” McNelly said, while the four techs wearing windbreakers hovered behind them in front of the elevator. “You and I serve the warrant on the geek squad upstairs and let the experts do their thing with brains instead of bullets. How hard can it be?”
They were about to serve a search warrant on an information technology firm on the 42nd floor of the Chase Tower, the city’s tallest building. Caitlin had served plenty of more “traditional” search warrants in her time on the likes of biker gangs, drug dealers, and various other suspects. The kind of service that found her backed up by guns and plenty of them, instead of briefcases and backpacks.
A chime sounded ahead of the elevator door sliding open.
“In my experience,” Caitlin said, stepping in first to position herself so the door didn’t close again before the SRT computer forensics techs were inside, “it pays to have brains and bullets.”
McNelly smiled thinly. “That’s why you’re here, Ranger. You were specifically requested for the job.”
“By who?”
“I don’t know. Orders came from the top down.
The cab began its ascent. If this were a Ranger operation, as opposed to CID, Caitlin would have insisted on securing the space in question prior to bringing up the civilians. Because that was clearly what these personnel in ill-fitting windbreakers pulled from a rack were. Civilians.
“Get your warrant ready, Captain,” she told McNelly, as the cab whisked past the floors between “L” and “42.”
He flapped the tri-folded document I the air between them. “Got it right here.”
“What’s CTP stand for again?” Caitlin asked, referring to the acronym of the company on which they were about to serve the warrant.
“Communications Technology Providers. I thought I told you that.”
“Maybe you did, but you never told me what the company did to get on the Criminal Investigation Division’s radar. I’m guessing that’s because somebody ordered you to take me along for the ride. All well and good in this political world we live in, until something goes bad.”
McNelly flashed Caitlin a smirk, as a chime sounded to indicate the elevator had reached its desired floor. “I can tell you this much, Ranger. The suspects we’re after here don’t know a gun from their own assholes. Worst thing they can do is infect us with a computer virus.”
He led the way through the open cab door, without waiting for Caitlin to respond. She exited next, followed in a tight bunch by those four computer techs in their windbreakers which made it look like they’d stuck their arms through Hefty bags.
The doors along the hall were uniformly glass, sleek and modern, some frosted. According to the building layout Caitlin had studied, Communications Technology Providers occupied a pair of adjoining office suites adding up to nearly five thousand square feet in total. One was a corner office, meaning at least a portion of those suites would enjoy wraparound windows and plenty of natural light.
Caitlin had just reflexively shoved her jacket back behind the holster housing her SIG Sauer P-226 nine-millimeter pistol, when the glass double-door entrance to Communications Technology Providers ruptured behind a fusillade of gunfire.
***
Excerpt from Strong As Steel by Jon Land. Copyright © 2019 by Jon Land. Reproduced with permission from Jon Land. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Jon Land
Jon Land is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of 50 books, including ten titles in the critically acclaimed Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, the last of which, STRONG TO THE BONE, won both the 2017 American Book Fest and 2018 International Book Award for Best Mystery. The next title in the series, STRONG AS STEEL, will be published in April. MANUSCRIPT FOR marked his second effort writing as Jessica Fletcher for the MURDER, SHE WROTE series, and he has also teamed with Heather Graham for a new sci-fi series starting with THE RISING. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Showcase: And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy

And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy Banner

And Every Word Is True

by Gary McAvoy

on Tour April 1 - May 31, 2019

Synopsis:

And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy
Truman Capote’s bestselling book “In Cold Blood” has captivated worldwide audiences for over fifty years. It is a gripping story about the consequences of a trivial robbery gone terribly wrong in a remote village of western Kansas.

But what if robbery was not the motive at all, but something more sinister? And why would the Kansas Bureau of Investigation press the Attorney General to launch a ruthless four-year legal battle to prevent fresh details of the State’s most famous crime from being made public, so many years after the case had been solved?

Based on stunning new details discovered in the personal journals and archives of former KBI Director Harold Nye—and corroborated by letters written by Richard Hickock, one of the killers on Death Row—And Every Word Is True meticulously lays out a vivid and startling new view of the investigation, one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they pick up where Capote left off. Even readers new to the story will find themselves drawn into a spellbinding forensic investigation that reads like a thriller, adding new perspectives to the classic tale of an iconic American crime.

Sixty years after news of the 1959 Clutter murders took the world stage, And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of “In Cold Blood.”

Book Details:


Genre: True Crime, Memoir

Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: March 4, 2019 

Number of Pages: 310
ISBN: 978-0-9908376-0-2 (HB); 978-0-9908376-1-9 (PB) 


And Every Word Is True Book Trailer

https://garymcavoy.com/websites/vm/media/AEWIT_Trailer_Final.mp4


Read an excerpt:

Over a half century ago, Special Agent Harold R. Nye of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)—who would later become that agency’s third director—was thrust into an investigation to help solve what would eventually become an iconic tale of true crime in America: the brutal slayings of a Kansas wheat farmer, Herbert Clutter, and his wife and two children in November 1959.
A little more than 50 years later—being a dealer of rare collectible letters, photographs, manuscripts, and books—I was contacted by Harold Nye’s son, Ronald, in March 2012, revealing who his father was and what materials he had to offer for sale. As an ardent collector of historical autograph memorabilia since the 1980s, with a particular appetite for literary manuscripts and signed first editions, I felt privileged to be handling the sale of the rarest books and letters by Truman Capote—presentation copies personally given by the author to one of the principal investigators, during the time history was being made.
The books, first editions of both In Cold Blood and Capote’s earlier work Selected Writings, were each warmly inscribed by Truman to Harold Nye and his wife Joyce. That alone would generate solid interest in the sale, but this particular copy of In Cold Blood was also signed by 12 other people, including Logan Sanford, Director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; the other three principal investigators in the case, among them Special Agent Alvin Dewey (who fared remarkably well in the story); and the director, actors, and crew of the eponymous 1967 movie, which used the Clutter house and other area locations to produce on film a chillingly authentic portrayal of what appeared on the page. As of this writing, only three such books signed by all principal figures are known to exist.
But the two personal letters Truman had written to Agent Nye were the most tantalizing of the lot. Both were sent in 1962 from his villa in Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean on the Costa Brava, where he spent three springs and summers writing much of his book. In one letter, neatly composed on thin pages the color of wheat, Capote laments having to suffer yet another delay in finishing his book, the Kansas Supreme Court having issued a stay of execution for the killers. For the frustrated author, this meant he didn’t yet have an ending—one way or the other—and he was to endure another three years before realizing that goal, with the hanging of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith in April 1965. For a collector, this is the most vivid form of autograph correspondence: handwritten documents richly infused with direct historical impact and solid provenance.
The second letter, also in Capote’s cramped, childlike scrawl but this one on 3-holed, blue-lined composition paper, teasingly informs Nye how often he appears in the book and that “…my editor said: ‘Aren’t you making this Mr. Nye just a little too clever?’
Along with the two signed books, then, these letters were to form the centerpiece of the auction. The rest of the material, though interesting on its own, held little tangible value to serious collectors. But it did contribute historical relevance and an in-person, chronicled authority to the auction as a whole, so we chose to offer all materials to the winning bidder—and only one bidder, since Ron Nye felt the material should stay together for historical continuity.
Sensing the gravity of the task ahead, like an eager historian I began educating myself more deeply in the Capote legacy. As I paged through Harold Nye's investigative notebooks and copies of actual case reports he had written—not digging deep, just skimming the material—I was reminded of key passages in Capote's masterwork—but they were hazy, since my first and last reading of it was the year it was published, in 1966. So I reread the book with new vigor—though now every word seemed to have fresh perspective, since I was privy to actual handwritten notes describing Nye’s interviews, his discovery of clues and gathering of evidence, his random thoughts, and a hastily penned transcript gleaned while extracting a confession from one of the killers—all of which made the experience as visceral as being on the scene in 1959.
I watched the indelible 1967 film “In Cold Blood,” as well as the 1996 TV production of the same name, followed by 2005’s film “Capote” and 2006’s “Infamous.” I absorbed Ralph Voss's skillful examination of Capote’s book, Gerald Clarke's rich biography, George Plimpton's interviews with Capote’s “friends, enemies, acquaintances and detractors,” Charles Shields’ portrait of Harper Lee, and anything else I could find that brought objective viewpoints to the table—along with many not so objective.
As prepared as one could be, then, I began assembling the material for an online catalog exhibiting the auction—excluding, ultimately, the crime scene photos, most of which were simply too gruesome to release “into the wild,” realizing well before the auction went live that we would have no control over how they might be used in the future. Not wishing that burden on our shoulders, we removed the photos from the auction, and instead voluntarily sent them to the KBI for archival disposition.
To our surprise and dismay, a few days later we were served with a cease and desist letter from the Kansas Attorney General at the instigation of the KBI, claiming among other things that Harold Nye’s personal journals were state property and were possessed of “highly confidential information.” On the face of it this was a farcical claim at best, since they had never even seen the notebooks, not to mention that it had been well over 50 years since the case was closed and those charged with the crime had been executed, as the Court itself would ultimately point out. Our position, obviously, couldn’t have been more at odds with Kansas’s reckoning, and believing we were on the right side of the law, we took on their challenge. After a grueling legal battle lasting years, it’s clear now that Kansas thought Ron and I would just roll over and be done with it. That was their first mistake.
Over the time we prepared our defense—all the while baffled as to why Kansas was so vigorously mounting an expensive, and unusually high-level campaign of suppression and intimidation—a new thesis emerged that seemed at odds with the State’s declared rationale. And the deeper we looked, the clearer that proposition became. To our thinking—not to mention the views of independent lawyers, journalists, forensic criminologists, and others who in some way touched our case—it looked more and more as if Kansas had something to hide. At the very least there was something more to this story, and I intended to find out what it was.
And therein lies their second mistake and the irony of this cautionary tale: Had the State of Kansas simply avoided such heavy-handed tactics as pressing the lawsuit against us, and publicly tarnishing Harold Nye’s good name, we might never have discovered the sensational “new” details of the Clutter case that time and opportunity revealed as our own investigation deepened. Had they not interfered in our legitimate business—to provide for the Nye family’s medical needs by selling the books, letters, and notes that rightfully belonged to his father—the KBI would not now be suffering under the weight of the embarrassing disclosures being made here.
Throughout his life Truman Capote maintained that his book was “immaculately factual,” as he told George Plimpton in a January 1966 interview. Shortly after In Cold Blood first appeared in print—in September 1965, when the story was serialized in four consecutive issues of The New Yorker magazine—critics, pundits, and others assessing the work were already taking Capote to task for inaccuracies found in his account, or as one reviewer put it, “reaching for pathos rather than realism.” Not least among these was Harold Nye, who not only lived it, but whose prominent role in the book ultimately ensured a firsthand comparison of the known facts.
But for as much as Capote added to or reshaped the brilliant telling of his story, in analyzing Harold Nye’s notebooks I found that much had been omitted from In Cold Blood, and in many cases there were surprisingly crucial details that, at the time, would have appeared in the eyes of many to be of little value. It was only when other documents came into my possession that we were able to connect the dots, alluding to something very different than was passed on to readers of In Cold Blood.
In a striking coincidence, within a matter of weeks another new client—a grandson of Garden City Undersheriff Wendle Meier, one of the central characters in the story—consigned to me the Death Row diaries, family photos and correspondence, poetry, and a whole passel of riveting memorabilia given to Wendle Meier and his wife, Josephine, by one of the killers, Perry Edward Smith, on his way to the gallows. To be clear, I have no interest dealing in the so-called “murderabilia” market. But this was becoming more of a literary mystery the likes of which few people in my position could resist.
By this point any writer would feel grateful to have such an abundance of material to work with. But later, as a result of the media coverage our case had sparked, synchronicity struck again. I came into possession of copies of handwritten letters by the other killer, Richard Eugene Hickock, which had originally been sent to Wichita Eagle reporter Starling Mack Nations. Hickock had contracted with Nations to write his “life story” while he was on Death Row To the chagrin of both Hickock and Nations, though, no publisher showed interest in the book, High Road to Hell, at the time. But it’s clear from Hickock’s remarkable memory and his command of precise details, which both Capote and case investigators marveled over, that he did have compelling things to say.
As of this writing neither the Smith diaries nor the Hickock letters have been published, and only a handful of people have seen Hickock’s letters to Mack Nations. But at least one thing is clear from putting all this material together—it appears there was a good deal more to the foundations of Capote’s story than was originally told. And if there were any doubt as to whether Ron Nye and I would just give in to the bullying tactics of a well-funded state government—saving ourselves a lot of time and money fighting a senseless battle—the new evidence coming at us from all directions made it unambiguously clear that we were on to something. And we had to believe Kansas suspected it, too.
Presented here, then, are several new hypotheses—undoubtedly bound for controversy, while nonetheless supported by facts—including one in particular that would surely have given authorities in Kansas every reason to fight as hard as it did to keep this material from being published: that robbery may not have been the motive for the death of Herbert Clutter and his family.
Despite an abundance of leads pointing in this darker direction, it appears that the original KBI investigation overlooked this fundamental possibility, one that no responsible law enforcement agency would ever rule out, given the circumstances. Indeed, this was and remained for some time coordinating investigator Alvin Dewey’s strongest opinion, and he personally knew Herb Clutter very well.
Yet despite new information coming out years later, before the killers had even been executed, the Kansas attorney general at the time appears to have adopted a stance of letting sleeping dogs lie, without further investigation. But why? As is often the case with powerful institutions, could their keen drive for self-preservation have overshadowed a full accountability of justice?
Now, nearly six decades later, and with the passing away of nearly every involved character since 1959, it’s unlikely any final determination can be made, short of a “Deep Throat” insider emerging from the shadows of time. But much of what you find here will present compelling new arguments, and I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions.
***
Excerpt from And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy. Copyright © 2018 by Gary McAvoy. Reproduced with permission from Gary McAvoy. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.



Author Bio:

Gary McAvoy
Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and lifelong writer. For several years he was also a literary media escort in Seattle, during which time he worked with hundreds of authors promoting their books—most notably Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom Gary later collaborated on “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” (Hachette, 2005).
Gary is also a professional collector of rare literary manuscripts and historical letters and books, a passion that sparked the intriguing discoveries leading up to his latest book, And Every Word Is True (Literati Editions, March 2019), a revealing look at startling new disclosures about the investigation surrounding the 1959 Clutter family murders, heinous crimes chillingly portrayed in Truman Capote's “In Cold Blood.” And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to Capote’s classic tale, adding new perspectives to an iconic American crime.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Showcase: Bad Pick by Linda Lovely

Bad Pick

by Linda Lovely

on Tour April 1-May 31, 2019

Synopsis:

Bad Pick by Linda Lovely
Vegan Brie Hooker lives and works with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. Brie’s fun farm outreach attempt backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship. Believing one of the zealots might be persuaded to see reason, Brie’s free-wheeling friend Mollye convinces her they should call on the young woman. Big mistake.

Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. In her personal life, Brie’s still torn between the town’s two most eligible bachelors. While she’s edging toward a decision, she must first survive a cunning killer adept at crafting murders that look like tragic accidents. Will Brie be another “accident” victim? Pay a visit to Udderly Kidding Dairy and find out!

Praise for Bad Pick

"There's such a lot to enjoy in Linda Lovely's third Brie Hooker mystery Bad Pick. Of course, I came for the goat yoga and the religious extremists (I'm only human), but I stayed for the love triangle, the female friendships, the family members rubbing along so realistically, the sidelights on vegan cooking and the rich depiction of small-town life. And what kept me flicking the pages fast enough to cause a draft? The twisty, knotty, killer plot underneath all that charm. Bad Pick is a good un!"—Catriona McPherson, Multi-Award-Winning Author of the Last Ditch Mysteries.

“Wow! In Bad Pick, Lovely wrote an amazing novel only to see one part of the plot come to life in headlines all over the country. A fringe religious cult, a Supreme Court nominee, and goat yoga combine together in a tale that fans of mysteries won’t want to miss. –Sherry Harris, Agatha Award Nominee and Author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

“The Brie Hooker mysteries from author Linda Lovely continue to entertain, this time with extremists who really don't like the farm's new goat yoga offering. You'll find yourself muttering, "What the feta?" as you follow the action around not one but two murders from the edge of your seat. Fix yourself a chevre sandwich and sit down to enjoy a delightful - and suspense-filled - read.”—Edith Maxwell, Author of the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 9781635114744
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

ONE

“How many people did you con into trying this goat yoga?” Aunt Eva asked as she slapped two strips of cold bacon in a skillet.
“No conning needed,” I answered. “Everyone’s looking forward to the class.”
“You sure goat yoga’s a good idea?”
I laughed. “I’m sure. People love it. Admittedly, a sense of humor’s required, but it’s caught on all across the country. Why don’t you join the fun? Class starts at three. We don’t have many Sunday customers this time of year. We’ll probably have the farm to ourselves by then. You up for some downward-facing dog?”
“No.” Eva harrumphed. “Don’t go insulting our noble dogs. Bad enough you’ll expose our baby goats to human pretzels. It’s bound to confuse the poor kids. Won’t know which human end is supposed to be up. They’ll think all us two-legged beings are bonkers. So who’s coming?”
“Jayla, our yoga instructor, wanted to limit the trial class to four students so it’s just Mollye, Fara, Mimi, and me.”
I pulled out a bag of frozen blueberries I’d picked at the Happy Berry Farm last summer. While Udderly Kidding Dairy, my home for the past seven months, boasted dozens of blueberry bushes, our four-hundred goats called first dibs on the fruit.
“Oh, and Paint’s shooting video to promote the class,” I added.
Aunt Eva chuckled as she flipped her sizzling bacon strips. “Not a hardship for Paint, videoing young ladies in nothing but skivvies and tutus.”
I glanced heavenward. “We don’t wear tutus. Our workout clothes show less skin than you do on the Fourth of July.”
Eva cocked an eyebrow. “Could be you’re helping Paint select babes for the weeks he’s not your designated beau.”
I opened the cupboard and grabbed a microwave packet of steel-cut oatmeal. “Paint sees a variety of ladies when we’re not dating, and he knows everyone in this class. No behind-the-camera scouting required.”
“Maybe, but as far as I know, he hasn’t seen any of them with their ankles up around their ears.”
“And he won’t today.”
“If you say so, but I swear my old bones creak just looking at some of those yoga contortions.”
Eva cracked two eggs in the hot bacon grease, while I used our microwave—a new kitchen addition—to thaw my frozen berries and heat the oats. My usual February morning fare. At Udderly, we didn’t chow down until the morning chores were done. That meant I was starved and in dire need of a caffeine injection.
Eva glanced over. “So how’s that boyfriend-for-a-week plan working? Who’s ahead in the Brie Hooker heart throb race? Any close calls on the clothing discard clause?”
I smiled. “Paint and Andy try to outdo each other in dreaming up ways to initiate a striptease. Despite their enterprising efforts, the nude- default clause remains unchallenged.”
Last November, I’d agreed to this bizarre boyfriend pact with Andy Green, our veterinarian, and David “Paint” Paynter, an entrepreneurial moonshiner. Though strongly attracted to both thirty-four-year-old hunks, I’d sworn I’d date neither. Didn’t want to lose them as friends or come between them. They’d been best buds for thirty years, practically since they left diapers.
The boys came up with an alternative. I’d date Paint one week, Andy the next, until either I selected a fulltime beau, one of them opted out, or a ridiculous nudity clause kicked in. If I disrobed on any date, the magician who assisted in making my clothes disappear would win by default. Both men swore the arrangement would not affect their friendship.
Me? I felt like I’d been locked in a chastity belt. Foreplay’s a lot less fun when there’s no after.
“You know it can’t last, don’t you?” Aunt Eva asked, giving voice to my own misgivings.
“Yep, I do. But like today’s sunny warmth—way too early for mid- February—I’ll enjoy it while I can.”

TWO

Jayla Johnson, our tall, willowy teacher waved as she walked toward me. Had to admit Paint would get an eyeful watching her stretch every which way. He was male, and Jayla was a stunner. As a shorty—I’m five four—I’d always envied long-legged ladies like Jayla. Somehow those extra inches made them look cool and sophisticated.
Luckily, Jayla wasn’t in the running to join Paint’s off-week harem. She was happily married to one of Clemson University’s football coaches and had a darling three-year-old son.
“Do we have a plan B?” Jayla glanced up at the Carolina blue sky. “It’s really warm for February, but the ground’s too muddy to put our mats down in a pasture. After five minutes, we’d look like we’d been mud wrestling.”
“Agreed. It’d be a shame to get that outfit muddy.” Jayla looked like an Oreo cookie, her ebony skin a sharp contrast to her snowy outfit. “I did warn you baby goats aren’t potty-trained, didn’t I? Accidents can happen.” “Not to worry.” Jayla smiled. “My laundry room has one whole shelf devoted to stain removers for husband-son accidents. So where are we setting up?”
“The horse barn. Plenty of room and it will be easier to keep Curly, Moe, and Larry contained.”
“Who?”
“Curly, Moe, and Larry are the baby goats—five-day-old triplets. We named the kids after The Three Stooges. Full of energetic hijinks. They’re also super cuddly.”
We turned as Mollye Camp’s psychedelic van crunched down the gravel drive. Her van’s midnight blue paint job served as a backdrop for a galaxy of glittering stars, a super-sized harvest moon, and a broom-riding witch. Moll, my best friend since childhood, was a gifted potter who sold her creations along with an eclectic hodgepodge of homeopathic remedies, herbs, and astrological doodads in her Starry Skies shop.
Moll jangled as she hopped down from her ride. She adored jewelry and had more piercings than a rapper. A vibrant purple streak adorned her white-blonde hair. She chose a new neon hue every month.
Mollye hustled over. “Who we waiting for?”
“Mimi and Fara,” I answered. “We’re keeping the group small for the test run. Paint’s shooting video.”
Mollye checked the amount of cleavage revealed by her scoop-necked purple top and inspected the seams of her orange leggings as they meandered south of her shorts. “Glad I didn’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t want folks thinking I’d participate in some racy video.”
Mimi and Fara’s arrival cut short Jayla’s and my eye rolls. Racy might not be Mollye’s middle name, but outrageous could be. I loved Mollye and her adventurous spirit though it sometimes landed me in hot water. Okay, in one case, freezing water.
With rolled mats tucked under their arms, the class newcomers looked like an odd couple. Mimi, who’d emigrated from Vietnam at age two, stood four feet nine on tiptoe, while Fara, a busty blonde with long braids, topped out at five ten. Mimi was a pharmacist; Fara grew up in her family’s funeral parlor and was now the town’s youngest funeral director.
Hard for this class to be more diverse. Paint would enjoy himself. “Hey, Fara, you boxing anyone up today?” Mollye joked.
“Maybe you after class,” the funeral director quipped. “You want the deluxe mahogany coffin or a pine box? I’m thinking you and Brie have used up eight of your nine lives. Better not exert yourselves today.”
Jayla clapped her hands. “Now children. Snarky is not the proper frame of mind for yoga. Think serenity. We want to clear our minds, be one with nature.”
I chuckled at the good-natured kidding. “Follow me to our classroom. We have the horse barn to ourselves. The smell alone will remind you we’re one with nature. I evicted Rita and Hank. They’re grazing in the pasture. Figured Lilly’s mule and Eva’s horse were more inclined to nicker than meditate.”
“Where are the goats in this goat yoga?” Fara asked.
“Eva will bring Curly, Moe, and Larry in after we start. We need to leave the barn door open for the light. Jim, our Border collie, will keep the little goat Houdinis from escaping.”
The triplets’ antics drove Jim nuts. Yesterday Moe pranced on top of a picnic table for five minutes taunting the poor herd dog. Jim ran circles around the table, barking in protest, unable to figure out how to nudge Moe back to her pen. After we placed our mats, Jayla led us through a series of simple warm-up stretches and breathing exercises. I’d been an avid runner and swimmer for years, but yoga was a new pursuit. I was pleasantly surprised to find its emphasis on breathing and mindfulness and its practiced movements helped me shed stress and fall asleep faster.
Believe me, falling asleep quickly is a prized skill for anyone required to rise before the sun. At Udderly, one of my jobs appeared to be waking the roosters.
Jayla announced the cat pose. I knelt on my mat and set my arms to provide four-point support. Then I arched my back like cats do when threatened. I lowered my head, giving my neck muscles a pleasant stretch.
“Looking good, ladies.” With my head down I heard the man’s voice before I saw him.
“Don’t mind me,” the newcomer continued. “I’m gonna wander around and take photos.”
The sexy baritone belonged to Paint. It should be outlawed.
“Have fun, kids—human and goat.” Eva laughed as she let the baby goats loose in the barn. Moe immediately darted under my arched back, executed a one-eighty, and raced back again as if she were playing a game of London Bridge.
My concentration faltered as Curly discovered she had easy access to one of my earlobes and began to nibble with her lips. It tickled.
Fara broke out laughing as Larry scrambled up her arched back and danced a little jig on his newly discovered perch.
“I’ve got a miniature geisha doing a four-footed massage.” Fara giggled. “Actually feels kind of good, though very strange.”
“No talking,” Jayla admonished. “Concentrate on your breathing, your muscles. Be one with nature.”
Paint hooted. “Nature’s winning.”
Paint obviously felt he was exempt from Jayla’s no-talking reprimand. The instructor began laughing, too. Moe had curled her body around Jayla’s legs as she attempted to hold the Big Toe pose.
We were all bent in half, butts in the air, when a loud voice brayed, “Oh dear God, save us. They are bowing to the devil, mocking the Lord Jesus by thrusting their bottoms at heaven above.”

THREE

What the feta?
I snapped around to see who was calling us devil worshippers. Was this a joke?
Flipping out of downward dog, I body slammed the mat. A second after hitting the plastic, a furry comedian bounced against my side. Curly shook her head as she attempted an impressive four-legged hop. She’d taken my tumble to the ground as an invitation to play. The little goat butted my side again.
“Lord Jesus, help us keep these devil worshippers from claiming more souls!” the stranger bellowed.
I was flabbergasted. No other word for it. Then my shock morphed into anger. Who did this woman think she was, calling us devil worshippers? Who invited her to our private workout? How did she even find out about it?
The plump leader held a super-sized wooden cross before her as if she were fending off a clutch of vampires. I figured her for mid-fifties. Gray streaks wound through her mousy brown hair. Light glinting off oversized spectacles lent her the look of an alien with round yellow bug eyes.
Two cross-carrying acolytes hovered about a foot behind her.
Were these people serious? I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. My heartbeat raced. Angry? You betcha.
I almost yelled one of my old-time favorite curses. Years back, I cleaned up my salty language for dear old Mom. As a vegan, processed- meat-and-cheese exclamations had become my exclamatory substitutes. But Cruddy corndogs! didn’t quite express my outrage.
Mollye, closest to the barn door, marched toward the scowling leader. “Susan, what in blazes do you think you’re doing?” she growled. “I got a restraining order to keep you and your looney-tune zealots off my property. Now you’re following me?”
“I didn’t know you’d be here,” the intruder raged, “though I’m not surprised. Goat yoga! What blasphemy. At church this morning, one of our faithful told me you were planning this abomination. I prayed on it, and decided we had to stop the spread of this evil in Ardon County.”
She waved her cross at us. “In the name of the Father and the Son we demand—”
“You need to leave,” Paint spoke through gritted teeth. “The only evil here is you.”
Susan closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her heels. “You are Satan’s handmaidens duping people into believing Baphomet goat worship is fun.”
Susan’s diatribe was accompanied by a murmur of “Amen, Sister, Amen” from her backups. The sidekicks still wore church-go-to-meeting dresses, nylons, and heels. They kept sneaking peeks at the ground. Worried their high heels might sink in goat doo-doo during their barnyard sortie?
One of the acolytes looked to be Susan’s age; the other much younger, about my age.
“Knights Templar worshipped Baphomet as a deity.” Susan’s tone changed. Her words flowed in a singsong chant. “These monsters with their snake eyes are his descendants.”
“Are you nuts?” Jayla broke in. “How can you think these adorable babies are evil?”
Susan’s rant hadn’t cowed my friends.
The harpy wasn’t deterred. “Open your eyes. The Satanic goat is a source of evil.” Her yellow bug eyes flashed at each of us in turn. “You worship the Devil. We won’t allow your sickness to infect the pious people of Ardon County.”
Aunt Eva appeared in the barn door carrying two pails of goat milk. “You’re trespassing and you’re scaring the baby goats.”
My aunt’s face flamed red.
“We’ll leave,” Susan said. “But this isn’t over. We will fight to the death for the soul of Ardon County. Goat yoga will not corrupt our world.”
Curly made a break for it. The tiny kid ran pell-mell toward the barn door, which happened to be a few feet beyond where the intruding trio stood. Susan screeched. Did she really believe the Devil inhabited the itty- bitty creature?
The woman raised her leg to kick Curly.
Eva flung both buckets of goat milk, drenching Susan. The white liquid plastered her beehive hairdo to her scalp and her puffy blouse to her chest.
Oh my, was she really wearing a flaming red teddy under her prim white cotton?
A laugh bubbled up. I laughed so hard I doubled over.
Susan shrieked like a storm-warning siren and ran. Though only a few drops of goat’s milk spattered her companions, they caterwauled like they’d been doused with acid as they scurried after their leader.
The entire Udderly Kidding Dairy crew exploded in laughter.
Eva halted her hee-haws long enough to imitate a cackling witch. “You’ve been baptized with the milk of Baaa-Phooey. Your souls belong to us!”
Susan spun when she reached a shiny Chevy van. “You’ll pay for this!” she yelled. “Laugh all you want. You’ll see Hell sooner than you thought.”
I quit laughing as abruptly as I’d started. It was Susan’s tone not her words that gave me the heebie-jeebies. We’d embarrassed the woman. Humiliated her. Perhaps she’d started this protest as some form of ecclesiastical theater, art for show, a way to rally the troops.
Now it was personal. Susan had been scorned.
***
Excerpt from Bad Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Linda Lovely
Hundreds of mystery writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. Bad Pick is her eighth published mystery novel. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Book Review: The Prince by Samhita Arni

Title: The Prince
Author: Samhita Arni
Publisher: Juggernaut






A historical fiction, ‘The Prince’ is author and illustrator Samhita Arni’s fourth book. It is based on the Tamil epic Silappadikaram.

‘The Prince’ is a fast-paced and absorbing book with a strong story-line centering on Uthiyan, a ‘prince-ascetic’ who renounces his claim to the throne after an astrologer predicts that he will be greater than his older brother. Arni’s Uthiyan borrows from Adigal’s life.

The book is replete with highly entertaining accounts of betrayal, terror, assassination plots, contrition, and revenge. It would be wrong to call this book a retelling for the author adds a twist to the narrative by including the eventful life story of Illango Adigal, the man credited for writing Silappadikaram.

Arni does a superb job of bringing alive a distant and dramatic past. Her characters, beautifully rendered, are intriguing and delightful at the same time. The book is set in the Tamil country of the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas with their history well researched by the author. There’s no denying the fact that Arni has an eye for details and a knack to bring to life incidents and characters with her evocative writing.

The book is a total package right from the beautiful cover to the story-line, language, and narration. If you like compelling characters, rich storytelling, and have a taste for history, you’ll surely love this novel.

A captivating and artfully wrought tale rich in imagery and revealing details—a wonderful piece of work.






When she was eight, Samhita Arni started writing and illustrating her first book. The Mahabharata - A Child's View went on to sell 50,000 copies worldwide. Her second book, Sita's Ramayana, a graphic novel, was on the New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels for two weeks. She is also the author of the novel The Missing Queen.





I'd like to thank the publisher for letting me review the book. I do hope you end up liking the book when you read it. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!



* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in, Google



Book Blitz: Room 11 by Mari.Reiza

~ Book Blitz ~
Room 11 by Mari.Reiza
 Women's Psychological Fiction

About the Book:


After an accident leaves his wife in a coma, he sits on a hospital chair day-in day-out singing to her. Nobody can pull him away from her as she threads through the rage that could save her. Meanwhile, a desperate nurse grows her admiration for him into obsessive desire.

Book Links:


The Setting
A hospital room in a private clinic in London. The floors are squeaky clean. Patients smell lovely. Visitors sport well-polished shoes and smell too of expensive cologne; they’re not the kind you may suspect of stealing the antiseptic soap at the entrance, but instead talk in educated ways, despite concern for their loved ones sending them mad. In Room 11, a young comatose woman lies on a freshly made-up bed, her wealthy husband alongside a matronly foreign nurse diligently tending to them both.

Meet the Nurse
She has asked for Room 11 specifically, and for the best shifts to spend with its patient and her husband. On quiet night shifts, as she indulges on a hot-dog dinner with Maltesers before sitting in the dim quiet of the adjacent sleep-room reading secondhand romances, she listens to the husband sing. Her and him are on speaking terms, have shown each other their amulets, shared talk of their years spent in different Africas, even if she hides from him tales of her soulless apartment, her city’s horrific traffic and her lover scattered in pieces on a tree. How on earth can they keep going? Like her he deserves better. And now Dr. Patel has become a common denominator to both their destinies.

Meet the Husband
He arrived on his big feet one day, with his impotent rage and his books he has built into a confident pillar on the side of his hospital chair: every title about comas. On top, he rests his iPhone with her music. He puts his headphones on and sings. Sometimes he puts them in his wife’s ears and sings. He’ll know more about his wife’s condition than her nurse if he has read all his books, but only what he wants. He washes her hair daily in a shallow yellow bucket, rubs her legs caressing them; but her eyes remain shut. How can he see happiness in her outer beauty whilst inside she’s dead? He only leaves his guard to go home a few night hours, returning refreshed with a espresso in one hand and a cup of yogurt with honey in the other, and later to buy two sandwiches for lunch and dinner, both small enough to fit in his trouser pocket. He has left strict instructions, that he’s the only one allowed to visit, pretends the room should be as tightly guarded as a fisheries exclusion zone. He acts guilty. Does he have a secret?

Meet the Wife
She was labelled ‘Traffic accident abroad’ when she was first brought in from a foreign country where her family had stopped visiting, although her mother has since rang twice and her brother once, for a short call during which he only wept. In her sleep, she plunges into the abyss in search of why she’s here. She had been at a family wedding, with her husband. He knows she’s terrified of the lack of empathy between her and her mother dragging her down to the bottom of the ocean. And her own father won't travel to meet her either; is he fine to stop seeing each other? Even when she had been sick nobody asked of her diagnosis, not even her brother who increasingly feels like her negative about to tear his chains to her. Does she have a son? Is he the reason why she ended here? Is he behind her urge to return?


About the Author:



Mari.Reiza was born in Madrid in 1973. She studied at Oxford University and worked as an investment research writer and management consultant for twenty years in London, before becoming an indie fiction writer. Also by her, Inconceivable Tales, Death in Pisa, Sour Pricks, A Pack of Wolves, STUP, Mum, Watch Me Have Fun!, Marmotte’s Journey, West bEgg, Room 11, Triple Bagger, Caro M, Opera, the Retreat, sells sea shells and aberri (homeland), all available on Amazon.



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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Blog Tour: Pink Persuasion by Ethan Radcliff




Release Boost

~ Pink Persuasion ~
By: Ethan Radcliff
Release date: March 9, 2019



~ BLURB ~

My name is Dirk Matthews
I own a gym.
I’m a Personal trainer.
And I’m a single Dad.
The first two were planned, not the third.
I had it all including my forever woman, Ella Carson. 
Our affair was a hot and heavy one, 
which resulted in a pregnancy. Ella had a dream. 
That dream was realized when she received
 a call from Hollywood. 
How could I stand in the way of Ella’s dream? 
Left to take care of my baby on my own, I was determined to be the best father possible. I set out to find a suitable caregiver and that’s when my dilemma began.


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~ Ethan's Bio ~

Ethan Radcliff grew up in New York. 
Writing has always been a pastime of his, along with sports. 
He enjoys writing all genres, including erotic poetry. 

Have you seen him on Face Book, Instagram and Twitter? 


~ Stalker Links ~