Carrie Rubin: The Bone Elixir

Are you looking to get in the mood for a really scary, macabre novel to read this Halloween season? A novel that, although it will frighten you, you won’t be able to stop reading it.

Carrie Rubin’s rational minded orthopedic surgery resident Benjamin Oris (and the protagonist of her last two novels) has just inherited an inn in Massachusetts. Trouble is that the inn is haunted and Benjamin doesn’t believe all that hocus-pocus stuff. Until he visits the inn and stays in it alone for a week as he waits for his girlfriend Laurette along with her sixth sense to join him.

In the meantime, Ben is confronted with secret passages, doors that creek open in the middle of the night, lights that turn on and off and a basement pit that raises the hair on his neck.

Benjamin is designated to become the heir of the inn by taking part in one of the spookiest ceremonies I’ve ever read. He must drive away the evil spirits inhabiting the house along with its promise of immortality and eternally free from sickness – which, by the way, is pretty enticing for a medical doctor.

Once Laurette arrives, there are Ouija boards, crystals, levitations, a manuscript describing people disappearing after visiting the inn, remnants of an insane asylum, people murdered, ghosts and lingering spirits.

This is not the genre of book that I usually read but Carrie’s usage of suspense kept me turning the pages wanting to know the next thing that Ben would be confronted with and how he would handle it.

Besides the spooky part of the novel there is lots of very interesting writing. For example. “Come morning, he (Benjamin) felt about as rested as a squirrel on crack.”

If you’re thinking of getting into the Halloween mood of haunted houses, gravestones and divinations this is certainly the book for you.

Well done, Carrie!  

Robyn Harding: The Arrangement

It was a pleasure to read Robyn Harding’s the Arrangement. I was immediately hooked into this novel.

The first half of the novel reads like a romantic novel where poor girl finds her prince charming (put aside the sugar daddy and sugar baby dynamics). What woman wouldn’t want the kind of attention and love which Gabe showered so generously on Nat? Think Pretty Woman.

Through Robyn Harding’s intensive research on sugar babies, (which she describes in her Acknowledgements), we get a good glance into this dark and tightly controlled world.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving. *

The second half of the novel is a mystery/court case/crime novel.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder. *

I was surprised that one of the categories in the product description was kidnapping thriller, which I did not find pertinent to this novel. Unless I’m missing something.

The ending was satisfactory and somewhat unexpected; it had a comfortable feel to it and the novel moved at a relatively fast pace. It was a rather long book but well worth my time.

* Italic text is from the book description on Amazon.

Ten Tips On Writing Mysteries

First off, these writing tips are not just for mystery writers. Gail Bowen is the author of the Joanne Kilbourn mysteries. She’s written 16 of them so far and if you’re a fan of Joanne Kilbourne you’ll learn a lot about her in this book. Secondly, the tips aren’t just for writers of series although quite a long section in a chapter titled Creating a Robust Series is devoted to that.

  1. When writing take breaks. Well, this is hardly new advice but the author suggests writing for twenty-five minutes and then take five-minute breaks. I’ve tried it and set my timer for twenty-five minutes which works marvelously well and am always surprised at how quickly the time goes by and how I get into my writing although my five-minute breaks tend to be much longer.
  2. Write early in the morning. She gets up at five am to write claiming that two hours of writing in the mourning is worth four hours of writing later in the day. I’m with her on that although not that early!  
  3. Select brief but telling details about weather and its effect on character in order to create a mood to draw the reader into the story.
  4. Make your characters deeply flawed so that your reader will be able to identify and connect with them.
  5. Use minor characters to lighten the mood while still keeping the plot moving.
  6. Give your first draft a rigorous edit before sending it off. Rigorous being the operative word.
  7. Try to give your book a title as early in the process as possible. This will guide you in keeping to the theme of your novel.  
  8. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third (ouch!)
  9. Your first obligation as a writer is to offer a powerful human story.
  10. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore Update – #Reviews – #CrimeThriller Carol Balawyder, #Poetry Victoria Zigler, #Family Lisette Brodey

I am so grateful to Sally for promoting my latest crime novel Just Before Sunrise and Jacqui Murray’s generous review of it. Jacqui also has a new book out: The Laws of Nature which is receiving phenomenal reviews. Besides my novel’s review here, you can read about two other wonderful books. Victoria Zigler’s provocative poetry book on writing, creativity, death, grief and covid 19 and Lizette Brodey’s touching novel on grief, hope and healing. I am so happy to have discovered these two wonderful and dedicated writers who help nourish our collective souls.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the Cafe and Bookstore update with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author with a recent review for her latest release is Carol Balawyder – a coming of age crime thriller...Just Before Sunrise

About the book

A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.

But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…

Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way…

View original post 1,354 more words

Jacqui Murray: Laws Of Nature

Although Jacqui Murray’s Laws of Nature (Book 2 of The Dawn of Humanity Trilogy) is a work of fiction it is based on intense research on pre-historic times. In her non-fiction introduction Jacqui Murray sites how scientists decoded the clues which were “encased in the rocks, soil, and the few surviving artifacts of her kind.”

Relying on multidisciplined scientists: paleobotanists studied plant seed, paleoanthropologists examined the condition of teeth and calcification of skeletons, Paleontologists examined the tools created during that period 2 million years ago and other paleo scientists studied the rocks, soil, the climate. All offering to Jacqui Murray a foundation for her fiction.

Of the many different scientists Jacqui Murray mentions two: Dr. Lev Vygotsky whose research was based on the means of communication – body language, hand gestures, facial expressions. Dr. Levi Leonard and Conant’s research based on the concept of counting.

In this book of the trilogy, we again meet Lucy – her call name which came to her in a dream. Dreams occur more than once in the book which made me wonder about the evolution of dreams and whether our dreams today are not much different than those of Lucy’s in that they are themselves clues.

I know that I would not have survived in Lucy’s environment where she and her tribe constantly searched for a home base, never really resting because of predators. Added to that are the frigid weather conditions.

Lucy has an acute sense of observation like a detective of our day might have observing footprints. “She stepped into the print. Her toes fell short of the top and the spread of her foot overlapped the sides.” And, “…she spent as much time as she could watching hunters, memorizing how they held the stick, the way they raised it over their shoulders, flung it with one foot and one arm forward.”

Then there is Lucy the healer searching for herbs to cure and heal wounds.

I, for one, have much to be grateful for Lucy and her tribe’s courage and persistence to survive. Had it not been for her and her tribe our current race would likely not be here today.

Praise for Jacqui Murray’s book which teaches us to honor our ancestors and their fights to survive as she does so through a captivating story.

Jill Weatherholt: A Dream of Family

Are you looking to spend some time with some really nice people? People who have values and can touch your heart? An uplifting and inspiring novel?

Then pick up A Dream of Family and hang out with the characters in Jill Weatherholt’s latest novel.

There’s Molly who’s bookstore dream is in danger of being taken over by a big box bookstore. Not only does her dream of adopting Grace – whose foster care abuse is heartbreaking and erringly similar to Molly’s – depend on her financial success with her bookstore, but she also hopes to have enough success so that she could spend time writing her short stories and novel.

There’s Derek who’s still hurting from his father’s secret and must learn forgiveness in order to be able to trust in love and family once again.

Then there’s adorable six-year-old Grace who wishes for a forever family. Derek’s dog Duke, wins over little Grace’s heart offering the reader some precious scenes that are bound to melt your own heart.

I loved the mixture of business, writing and romance. Besides being a sweet story, the novel also offers some practical and realistic advice on how to run a successful business from branding to making use of technology. Derek’s optimism running his coffee shops spills over in his personality filled with infectious enthusiasm.

There are many tender moments in Jill Weatherholts’ signature feel good novel. One of my favorites was this one:

“I get tired of moving. I want my own room with bookshelves filled with books and a dog like Duke.”

“I want it for you too, sweetie.” She (Molly) took in a deep breath. “I’d like to give you all of that and more, Grace.”

I loved every page in this book from Molly’s rocky start to a very satisfying surprise ending.  

Pamela S. Wight: Flashes of Life

Flashes of Life is Pamela S. Wight’s love story to her family: her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her son-in law. It is a treasure for her family to behold. What a wonderful gift!

Having said this, it also goes beyond the personal and into our collective consciousness. Her flash fiction stories are relatable in their universal truths about “extraordinary ordinary” life situations. Think of a middle-aged woman dancing in front of a mirror on a Wednesday afternoon. Or, Remember those first days of school, when the teacher asked you to write about your summer vacation? What did you focus on? How about Watching the sleep of babies in so total, full abandon? And an old favorite, Life is short, give up what is unnecessary.

Pamela S. Wight (don’t ask what the S stands for…she herself doesn’t know) bears her soul abundant with consideration, kind-heartedness and benevolence. This is most evident in her flash fiction about the shrimp meal which her son in law made. You have to love her!

We toasted to each other, to shrimp, and to ordinary family get-togethers that are extraordinary in their ability to make us happy.

As someone who writes crime fiction and reads a lot of crime fiction this was such a welcome contrast of pure love and the reassurance that life can and is beautiful.

Flashes of Life is entertaining, sharp and always very perceptive. In short, it is a treat. Much like ice-cream on a hot summer afternoon.

In the end, All you need is love.

J.E. Spina: In A Second

In A Second has many layers. First there is the abusive husband and cruel father whom Spina takes to its ultimate limits.

Then there is the relationship between the three generations of women: mother (Carla), grandmother (Grace) and daughter (Athena) who, for those of you old enough to remember, brought to my mind The Golden Girls. Along with these three wonderful characters is their abilities to see into the future and erase memories.

Third, there is romance. Lots of heartwarming romance but not until there has been heartbreak, danger and surprises.

 Mix all of these levels and what you get is a suspenseful novel full of twists, intrigues, sitting on the edge of your seat and reading far into the night.

A month after being in a coma due to an accident, Athena finds her memory distorted and is obsessed with a man she believed she was to marry and whom she also believes was in the car with her at the time of the accident. Nobody in her family has ever heard of him. Is she living a memory or seeing into the future?

Add to this J.E. Spina’s reasons as to why Carla remains with an abusive husband and Athena’s telepathic connection with her grandmother Grace.

There’s lots to digest in this novel where clairvoyance plays a strong role.

This is the second novel I read by J.E. Spina. The first was Hunting Mariah, a fast-paced thriller.

She has also written a new book, Lubelia Alycea – a historical romance.

Darlene Foster: Amanda in Arabia

I have been following Darlene Foster’s blog for sometime now and had often told myself that I would want to read one of her books.

Lately, I’d been emersed in a lot of adult literary fiction and so this past weekend, I was looking for something to read which wouldn’t be too demanding on my exhausted brain cells. A book that a middle school child could handle.

So far, Darlene has eight Amanda adventure books, each one set in different countries: Spain, Holland, England, Arabia and Malta or in different states or provinces: Alberta, New Mexico or The Danube.

I had debated whether I wanted to read one of the adventures set in a place I had already visited but finally settled on the exotic, the foreign, somewhere I will likely never visit: The United Arab Emirates or as the locals refer to it as either the UAE or simply the Emirates.

Amanda, a twelve-year-old girl from Alberta, Canada, is visiting her aunt and uncle in the Emirates where she befriends an English girl living in the same apartment building. The two girls explore powder-soft white sandy beaches – spotless with its clear blue water, a deserted Bedouin village, impressive and dangerous desert dunes and sandstorms.

Then, there is the magical “Lawrence of Arabia” fairy-tale (After all there is a perfume flask which reminded me of Aladdin’s lamp, reference to flying carpets and a princess who needs saving). There is also the chaos of camel races and a kidnapping.

My favorite part was Amanda riding a camel in the desert – I never thought I’d be so interested in camels before reading this book.

There is also a scene where a boy is sand boarding in the desert dunes which brought back tender memories of my visit to Mui Ne Sand Dunes near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where, there too, boys sand boarded.

Reading Amanda in Arabia was like taking a mini vacation to a colorful and fascinating country learning a bit about their culture. It was encouraging how Amanda found everything about her visit amazing, whether it was the women covering their faces, the soothing sounding call to prayer five times a day, the friendliness of the people and the little goats climbing trees.

When I was ten or so I would order a bunch of Scholastic novels for my summer reading and would be so excited when they arrived. It is easy for me to imagine that I would have been just as excited to have received Darlene Foster’s Amanda series had they existed then.

Jennifer Kelland Perry: Calmer Secrets

34608015. sy475

The Cross family (Darlene, Samantha, Veronica, baby Henry and Cash, Darlene’s boyfriend) are a normal family with its own problems ranging from sibling conflict over a boy, a mother’s drinking problem and abuse.

Calmer Secrets is a novel about good people making bad choices. It is a book about an affectionate family sticking together through thick and thin.

But it is also about romantic relationships. There’s Darlene with Cash, her live-in boyfriend who get along splendidly. Then Veronica’s dating “like you’re going through a box of Kleenex,” Samantha tells her and finally there’s Samantha’s conflict between two guys.

For anyone who has gone through dating in their early twenties, you will recognize the angst, vulnerability and fragility of that period of beginning to date.

Although Calmer Secrets is classed as a Young Adult book there isn’t an age to stop enjoying a book genre. I’ve always loved YA books, often taking me back to my own young adulthood and providing me with a few new vocabulary words:

Girl, you are bangin, says one of Samantha’s boyfriend’s when he sees her appear. To which she answers You’re pretty dope yourself. By the context I took these words to mean cool.

Calmer Secrets takes place in St John’s, Newfoundland, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. It was a pleasure reading about the vibrant painted row-houses, the pubs and the mall and a major blizzard which the author cleverly uses to advance her plot.

It’s a heartwarming book. Filled with love and tenderness and suspense.