#BlogTour: The Shelter by G.N. Smith

For this blog tour, we’re looking at yet another Scottish isolated environment mystery where at least the MC and author acknowledge the sheer improbability. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Shelter by G.N. Smith.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype, Goodreads):

Not Again. HOW? At Least The MC And Author Acknowledge It. Third book in the series – and the third murder within a few weeks that our MC, police officer Macleish, finds herself locked in an enclosed environment with the bodies piling up and a murderer prowling about – but at least there is a quick line early where the MC (and thus, the author) acknowledge that this just doesn’t happen to people normally. Which then allows the reader to settle in and just enjoy the book. For the established formula, this one again works well – though perhaps with even more pure speculation and even less actual evidence throughout this particular tale, due to the exact nature of this particular “locked room” isolated environment. (Here, a blizzard in the Scottish Highlands, vs the first book’s flood-blocked valley and the second book’s storm-blocked island.) Solid overall character work again with the MC though, bringing in the best friend for this particular event and then having some solid progression on the overall mythos of the series in the finale. Which leads to lingering questions of if this series will continue and if it will continue with the existing formula…

Overall a solid book of its type, and one that is well worth the read. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Shelter by G.N. Smith”

#BlogTour: The Flood by G.N. Smith and The Island by G.N. Smith

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an atmospheric detective novel with BookAnon level connections to some of the most popular detective stories of the last century. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Flood by G.N. Smith. In a first for this blog, we’re also looking at a second book in the same tour – the sequel to The Flood, The Island.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites about The Flood (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Atmospheric Novel Can Get Repetitive At Times. This is one of those detective novels – not really a police procedural, since it is almost a “locked room” scenario (with the “room” in question being a sequestered area of a small town) with only a single detective available – where the setting seems as much as character as any of the actual human characters. Smith manages to put the reader right in the titular flood and the fight for survival from both the elements and the murderer that only our detective knows lurks in their midst. And yet, in repeating the detective’s personal motivation *so* often… Smith does in fact get repetitive enough to at least warrant mentioning in the review. Indeed, it becomes as tedious at times as seeming *every* Batman movie with a new actor portraying the character having to do some version of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders, or every new Spiderman movie having to do some version of Uncle Ben’s murder. With those franchises… guys, we get it. We already know these characters. With this particular book… the first mention was solid character development. Maybe a reference back here or there could have been good. But to be hit with a near word for word repetition of the motivation *so many times*… the editing could have been better here, at minimum. Beyond this though, the story itself was quite strong indeed, even within the “locked room” type space, and the overall plotting was quite solid, with the tension ratcheting up at a fairly steady pace and the reveals coming at enough of a clip to keep the pages turning. Overall a strong series starter and I’m interested to see where we’re going here. Very much recommended.

And here’s what I had to say on the review sites about The Island (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

And So It Becomes Clear This Is An Open World “Locked Room” Series. This book largely follows the format of the first one in the series, and happens just a few days later in the world timeline. In other words, while still dealing with the repercussions – good and bad – from the first book, our detective is now thrust into *another* mystery where she is in an essentially “locked room” open world environment – she has quite a bit of area to work in (as do our perpetrators), but it is an area isolated off from the “main” world. This comes to bear in good and bad ways, though at least in this entry another variant on the theme is introduced… and again, the moves and countermoves this particular variant introduce open up their own possibilities. The main problems from the first book – the repetitive repetition of the detective’s motives – are largely still in play here, though this time at least a few of the repetitions give us a bit more of the backstory for the motivations, and thus a reprieve from the near copy/paste verbatim repetitions that seemed so prevalent in Book 1. But… the things that made the first book so good, specifically how the scenery itself very nearly becomes its own actual character as it is described so vividly and is so intrinsic to the story here, are *also* still in play here. Indeed, with the clear theme now established for this series, perhaps that is one of the more intriguing aspects going forward…. how can Smith manage to keep putting this same person in these same situations and keep them different enough? Based on this book, I for one am looking forward to seeing how he pulls it off again. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Flood by G.N. Smith and The Island by G.N. Smith”

#BookReview: My Husband’s Lover by Jess Ryder

Solid Mystery/ Suspense. This is an interesting tale told mostly from the perspective of a wife whose husband had informed her (before the events of this book) that he had had an affair – and now she’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life. The other perspective we (sporadically) get is mysterious… until it outs itself in a rather shocking twist. Ryder here manages to convey the isolation of her environment well – isolation that this American didn’t realize was possible at all on that particular island across the pond. And she uses this isolation well to both increase the sense of danger and to convey the emotions swirling around her central characters. Truly a solid read within its genre, and very much recommended.

This review of My Husband’s Lover by Jess Ryder was originally written on October 13, 2022.

#BlogTour: Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour we’re looking at Sarah Morgan’s seeming annual Christmas story, this time a Hallmarkie type tale set primarily in Scotland. For this blog tour we’re looking at Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Hallmark Scottish Christmas. Let’s be real here, this book is essentially a Hallmark Christmas movie set in Scotland. How you feel about the entire tale will likely be pretty close to how you feel about the sentence prior to this one in this review. There are three different romance tales at play here, between each of three siblings – Ross being the sacrificial lamb with a made up girlfriend to distract his parents from his sisters’ issues but who becomes all too real, Alice with an all too real fiancee, and Clemmie with plans of her own… who then has her own story from there. Along the way we also get to see the conflict between Ross and his dad, both of them successful businessmen who love to talk about anything *other* than business with each other. Ultimately, Morgan weaves her magic and makes all of this work quite well – if pretty much exactly within the Hallmarkie mold. Still, this is yet another solid hit for Morgan, and exactly how good of a hit really depends on exactly what the reader themselves feel about this type of story – Morgan’s bread and butter. I happened to think it worked quite well, and it is very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Snowed In For Christmas by Sarah Morgan”

Featured New Release Of The Week: In An Office by Janey Klunder

This week, for the first time since I began this book blog, we’re looking at a book that I actually had a hand in bringing forth. This week we’re looking at In An Office by Janey Klunder.

I met Janey nearly a decade ago when I was working a project I called Autism Through Our Eyes – a project that lives on in the name I use when publishing Janey’s books, Autism Through Our Eyes Publishing. This is the fifth book we’ve published together, with Janey writing them and doing most of her own marketing, and me helping with getting them actually into Amazon (sometimes even in print form), including actually writing the official description of the book, and doing at least some marketing/ publicity myself.

And this was the first book where I actually included a Publisher’s Note at the end, pointing out just how real this book is for so very many Autistics and providing a “Recommended Reading” section of a few books I’ve reviewed on this very site regarding Autism from a more nonfiction perspective, including Neurotribes by Steven Silberman, We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia, On The Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr, and The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen.

So with all of this noted up front, here’s the review that I put on Goodreads:

Intriguing Ideas. This is a book that explores a couple of ideas unlike any I’ve ever seen before – and this was book number 256 in 2021 alone for me. Specifically, the idea of community members simply helping each other, rather than having to have some formal, government “approved”, structure for doing so.

In one case here, we see a caring member of the community help an Autistic understand the world around her and figure out her place within it. And yes, while the exact scenario here can feel limiting, and one could want this character to want more for her life… as the Publisher’s Note says at the end, this is an all too real and all too common scenario for so many Autistics, and it is refreshing to see it portrayed so well and with such care in fiction. (Possibly not hurt by the fact that the author herself is Autistic.)

In the other case here, when the owners of a Bed and Breakfast suddenly and tragically die in a fire, their son comes up with an “insane idea” to redirect the facility in a new and interesting way… that ultimately helps its community in ways that no government program ever really could. The author never knew this (until she sees this review), but other than the specific focus on LGBTQ+ people, this is actually eerily similar to an idea I myself had in my teens about how a then-friend and I could eventually help our own community. (Note: This never actually came to pass, for a variety of reasons, but I’m glad to see the idea being independently revived in fiction.)

Overall truly a powerful work for the ideas it introduces to the zeitgeist, a powerful exposition of the lives of so many Autistics, and a solid story even without these particular things. Very much recommended.

(Disclosure: While I had no part in actually writing the narrative of this book, I did assist the author in getting it into KDP and Autism Through Our Eyes Publishing, the publisher of this book, is my own project.)

And because I can, here’s an excerpt from the book – Chapter 1, to be precise. 🙂

No one within a half-mile radius would ever forget the night of the fire. It hadn’t spread to any of the surrounding buildings – as it turned out, it had only been contained to one part of the house – but still, almost everyone in the street had been woken by the fire engines. Many of the elderly residents had stood in the road in their dressing gowns in the warm August weather, fretting: Where were Miriam and Angus? Had they made it out in time? They had been running the popular B&B for decades now without any issues. There was only a small amount of smoke visible from the street; no burning heat could be felt from where they stood. And Miriam was a larger-than-life personality, loved by everyone… Nothing could take her down. Right?

Soon Miriam and Angus were taken away on stretchers. Sent to the hospital. They weren’t moving. But surely they’d be all right?

When a very sad-looking fireman finally came up to break the news to the group, nobody could believe it. Miriam and Angus were only in their early sixties – how could they be gone? How could something as simple as a small electrical fault have taken them away, when they were so cheerful and full of life? They had been such a close family – how would their son and niece cope without them?

Unfortunately no one had those answers. And a week and a half later, when their niece, Josie, stepped out of her shower and rubbed her still-red eyes, she still had no answers. She was tallish, dark-haired and pretty, but there was little joy in her face as she dried herself off, pulled on her dressing gown and let her damp hair down. With a sigh, she headed out of her bedroom.

The old-fashioned strip light in her kitchen was blindingly bright, and she winced as it flicked on. As she only rented her flat, swapping the light out for something a bit less harsh was sadly not an option. Josie’s tastes in interior design were very specific, to say the least, and it often pained her to prepare her meals underneath something so ugly and industrial-looking.

Alongside three identical Mason jars containing sugar, tea and the regular instant coffee she served to visitors was the much smaller jar of Beanies Creamy Caramel flavoured instant that her amazing aunt had introduced her to. Making up her own travel mug was a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks five mornings a week, but Josie still felt guilty on occasion about the amount of sugar she needed to add to her morning coffee to make it even remotely tasty. She went through a lot of granulated sugar for a woman who hardly ever did any baking.

“Never apologise for having specific tastes in anything,” Aunt Miriam had said. “Be glad that you live in a world where making those choices is an option for you. Not everyone has it so lucky.”

Josie’s heart ached, as it had most days for the past week and a half. They were really gone. Two of her favourite people of all time were never going to give her great advice or celebrate with her or even speak to her ever again. She had dealt with personal grief before, but not as an adult. It was somehow more difficult to deal with…

Deep breath, honey. Deep breath. It’s got to be tougher for Sawyer and you two have something big to tackle today…

Once her coffee was finally ready, she sank down into her favourite armchair in the living room and pulled her laptop onto her knee. As it flickered to life, she was greeted with the home screen her older cousin had set up for her a couple of months ago. An enormous countdown with bright pink words that filled the entire screen with a reminder she’d sooner have forgotten about.

297 DAYS TO GO UNTIL YOU’RE 30!

Sawyer had celebrated his thirtieth birthday four years earlier by spending two weeks in Alicante and getting drunk with a handsome señor on the beach every night, which wasn’t really Josie’s style. And on her current wage, it seemed unlikely that she could afford it anyway. Still, she could already hear Sawyer’s counterargument to her protests. Then why don’t you take a few days off work and book two nights in a spa hotel or a log cabin with a hot tub?

“Thirty, divorced and on holiday alone?” she muttered aloud, without really meaning to. “That is so lame…”

Determined not to think about the big three-oh – especially now that her aunt and uncle wouldn’t even be around to celebrate it with her – she checked her emails (nothing out of the ordinary) followed by Facebook (a few notifications, nothing to get excited about) plus a quick, naughty peek at Pinterest (Oh God, I love that wallpaper… and that dresser… and those bathroom tiles… Would that rug fit in my bedroom?)

Then, slightly less cheerfully, she opened up Tinder. She hadn’t particularly wanted to join, but Sawyer had pestered her into it – which, annoyingly, he was highly skilled at after almost a whole lifetime of practice.

“Come on, it’s been over a year since Conrad moved out,” he had said. “And even longer since you last got laid, am I right?”

Josie would rather have covered herself in jam and sat on a wasp nest than admit it to him, but he was right. Her efforts on Tinder hadn’t turned out many favourable results so far, however, and her latest match hadn’t seemed very promising.

Uh oh… Three new messages. With a weary sigh, she opened up the chat log – and it was exactly as she had expected.

So wut u up 2 this wknd?

Hello? Why u not answrin?

I thot you were better than just disappearin on a nice guy!

“Well, here we go again,” she said to the room at large, sipping her coffee and bracing herself for utter honesty. When she was ghosted before there could even be a first date, she accepted it and moved on. Why did men always have to lash out when their pride was hurt?

Robin,

Despite the fact that I do look young for my age (thanks for noticing), I’m approaching 30, not 13. Hate to break it to you but not many self-respecting women in my age bracket will put up with some of the behaviours you’ve displayed during our ten-day “courtship”. Just a few examples being:

* Commenting that my profile pic makes me look like a hippie
* Telling me it sounds like I eat too much chocolate
* Saying that interior design isn’t a real hobby when you think that Rick’s nihilism in Rick & Morty is something to be admired
* Dissing my favourite colour
* Saying you find cats annoying
* Describing your ex as a “psycho”
* Using the phrase “Piers Morgan had a point”
* Saying you’d message me on Tuesday evening and then not bothering until Thursday morning
* Claiming that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt

You can pretend I inserted the phrase “no offence” here if you like, but all that makes you sound like an asshole, and I’m on here looking for something genuine.
Josie

P.S. I would also advise you against expressing pride that you share a first name with the guy who sang ‘Blurred Lines’.

And send.

“Another one bites the dust.” Josie rubbed her eyes and sighed again. “Don’t know why I bother…”

Her gaze fell upon the well-thumbed copy of He’s Just Not That Into You that sat on her shelf. She had tried her best to follow Greg Behrendt’s sage advice since she was around seventeen, although the lack of decent, local, available men had really been getting her down recently.

A loud ping drew her attention back to Facebook. She had received a multi-recipient message, and as soon as she saw who it was from, she blushed bright pink.
Sorry for those of you who this affects, but the Wednesday morning class is cancelled! Got to take my old mum up to the hospital, my apologies!

This change in scheduling by the owner of the gym she attended didn’t affect Josie herself – she worked full-time and could only make the evening classes – but any communication from her very handsome instructor set her face flaming.

I am such a cliché…

The ring of her phone, thankfully, distracted her from that depressing thought. She picked it up and groaned; the number on the screen was all too familiar. I should have seen this coming. And under any other circumstances, she would have ignored it – she normally only had to endure these calls at Christmas time – but instead, her thumb moved of its own accord and pressed ‘Answer’.

“Hello?” Completely casual.

“Hi, Josie… It’s me.”

“Hi,” she said blankly.

“How… how are you holding up? We… uh… we heard about the accident. It’s been such a horrible shock.”

Despite her initial annoyance, Josie found herself thawing a little; there was real choked-up emotion in the woman’s voice. Even if you hadn’t seen someone in years, it could still be quite jarring to be told they were gone and you’d never have a chance at seeing them again.

“Um… I’ve not been too bad, I guess. Still just working and that. I’m meeting up with Sawyer this morning to talk about the funeral.”

“Yes… well, that’s why we’re calling. Ahem.” Embarrassed pause. “When is the date?”

“Erm… I can’t remember, actually.” Lies. “But we’re currently in the middle of arranging it all… You should get an official notice in the mail within the next week or so.”

“Right. Uh… thank you.” Another embarrassed pause. “How is Conrad?”

Internal scream. “He’s… doing fine, last time I heard. He lives pretty far away now; we only really catch up now and again.”

“Anyone… new in your life, then, honey?”

Josie managed not to snort, but it was a close one. Yeah, like she really cares. “No. Not at the moment.”

“Oh, right.” Pause. “Well, um… we don’t know for certain if we’ll be able to make the journey, but we’ll certainly let you know. Once we’ve decided.”

“Of course.” Josie’s voice was flat. There wasn’t much point in asking them what they’d been up to; they never did anything exciting.

“You… take it easy, then, hun.”

“You too. Bye!” She hung up faster than was perhaps polite, but every call from them was exactly the same.

Here’s hoping Sawyer’s prepared to let me rant a bit.

Josie dressed relatively quickly and sat down at her tiny vanity table. She swirled an Avon cream blush stick across both cheeks, then rolled her eyes at her reflection. As if it mattered to Sawyer whether she wore makeup or not.

Although maybe he might be pleased that I’m making the effort, just on the off chance that there are any cute single straight men in the cafe…

Several minutes later she grabbed her bag, stepped out of her front door – and was promptly accosted by her favourite tiny terror.

“Oh, hi, Scraps!” she beamed, her entire face lighting up at once as she bent down to pet the gorgeous little brown dachshund that skipped excitedly around her ankles.

“Morning, Josie,” said her elderly neighbour, who was only halfway up the stairs with a bright red leash in one hand. “He always runs ahead when he hears your door open!”

Josie loved little dogs and had dog-sat for Patricia on a few occasions. “How’s he getting on?”

“More fighting fit than me, that’s for sure,” Patricia chuckled as she reached them. She bent down with a small wince and scooped the excitable dog up into her arms. “Come on, sweetheart, we’ve got some special treats for you! Have a nice day, Josie.”

They disappeared inside, and for the first time in a while, Josie was able to smile a little.

Guess family isn’t always just people…