Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cathi Stoler - The Hard Way - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Private Investigator Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her friend, Laurel Imperiole, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately.

Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust.

Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

My Review

Yes, this is first and foremost a mystery, but the multiple interwoven love stories are what kept me on the edge of my seat.

Helen and Jimmy. I thought these two had sparks flying out the wazoo but they were either too afraid or too oblivious to act on them. Helen has known Jimmy forever, ever since the third grade. She comes to the opening of his new casino in Vegas with her boyfriend in tow. Mike's a nice guy, but he doesn't seem to have the stomach to keep up with Helen's P.I. work. He's more of a security blanket to Jimmy's overprotective alpha male. Jimmy doesn't want Helen to get hurt either, and when she does, he takes care of her himself, carrying her in his arms and tucking her into his bed. There's something so deliciously swoon-worthy about that kind of man. The strong, take no prisoners type is such a turn on compared to the sturdy, dependable variety, at least in fiction.

From my perspective, I could see how much Jimmy wanted things between them to turn into more. His feelings for Helen were so apparent that his jealous personal assistant, Maddie, certainly picked up on them, no doubt wishing that Jimmy would look at her the way he looked at Helen. My heart went out to Jimmy because he can see Helen moving forward in her relationship with Mike, as she slowly starts to leave him behind and make room in her life for a man that's not him. Jimmy tries to come off as happy for her, but inside he's sad that he's probably going to end up alone.

For me, Jimmy and Helen just seemed to fit together so perfectly, and it's not by chance that they nicknamed each other, Mutt and Jeff. Helen's not used to sharing her life with someone else. She's afraid of having to be attentive to another person's wants and needs when she's so used to going it alone. When it comes to Mike, she doesn't know if she can do it. And to me, that's the red flag that she chooses to ignore. If Mike was the one, she wouldn't have to question her devotion or her ability to put him first. With Jimmy, it comes more easily, like second nature. She drops everything to defend him against a possible murder charge while she leaves Mike back home in New York, letting days go by between phone calls. Jimmy is clearly her first priority, I just wish she would realize that.

Laurel and Aaron. These two I could really relate to. They had something once, but Laurel screwed up big time and Aaron broke things off. Laurel was only helping Helen on a case, but she effectively damaged Aaron's trust in her and now she doesn't know if she can get it back, especially when Aaron almost lost his job on the NYPD because of it. He still loves her, but she just hurt him too much with her betrayal. To thicken the plot, Laurel happens to be Mike's daughter, and Helen will stop at nothing until she gets them back together.

The scene I enjoyed most in the book was the one where Aaron, against his better judgment, goes to Laurel's apartment on behalf of Helen's latest case. When he steps inside the door, Laurel can feel his presence and the way it used to fill her space. She misses him desperately, especially when he takes his usual place on her couch, just like he always did. When she agrees to accompany him to a black tie affair at the Museum of Natural History to help Helen nab her jewel thief, the chemistry between them is still there. He's speechless when he sees her in her black cocktail dress, and she can't take her eyes off him looking dashing in his dark suit. I couldn't resist cheering for them and hoping that they would give their romance another try.

Deirdre and Pieter. She's the victim of this murder mystery and he's her lover. The only evidence of their relationship are a series of photos that Laurel receives after Deirdre's employer snoops through the belongings in her apartment after her tragic demise. What's heart wrenching about the photos is that Deirdre appears head over heels in love with Pieter, but he looks at best disinterested in her. The one-sidedness of their relationship strikes all three of the women who view the images - her employer, Laurel and Helen. They feel the deceased's pain even if they never saw Deirdre and Pieter together in real life.

For me that speaks volumes about the kind of author that Stoler is. She's able to elicit sympathy for a character introduced briefly at the beginning and portrayed as haughty and posh, the typical reserve characteristic of all Brits, even if she was anything but. As Helen later uncovers, her father was a con man who taught her to always strive to act above her station in life in order to get ahead. She was scraping and clawing to get by, even if she looked elegant and poised on the outside.

Stoler spins an entertaining yarn full of suspense and thrills, but her asides into the realm of romance are what give the book its oomph factor. It's what allows the humanity to bleed through. There's no better way to connect with characters than through matters of the heart, and Stoler does that and then some.


The Hard Way can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 280
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Release: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603819497
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Cathi Stoler’s mysteries feature PI Helen McCorkendale and magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole. The Hard Way is the third book in the series. The first, Telling Lies, took on the subject of stolen Nazi art. Book 2, Keeping Secrets, delved into the subject of hidden identity. Stoler’s short stories include: “Magda,” in the Criminal Element Anthology Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, “Out of Luck,” in the Anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, “Fatal Flaw,” a finalist for the Derringer for Best Short Story and “Money Never Sleeps” both published at Beat to A Pulp. Cathi is working on a novella, Nick of Time, which features International gambler, Nick Donahue. She is also starting a new series, Bar None, A Murder On The Rocks Mystery, with female bar owner, Jude Dillane. Cathi is a member of the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters In Crime. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America.

Links to connect with Cathi:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DJ Wilson - Ride to Redemption - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Righting another's wrong landed D in WITSEC, the witness protection program and cost him family, friends, and everything of substance in his life.

Loneliness is his constant companion until he meets Candi, the girl of his dreams. He and Candi embark on a three-week ride to redemption where they deal with mind-numbing deceit, perilous treachery, their overpowering lust for each other and their personal demons.

Nevertheless, new opportunities bring a chance to begin again. And, it doesn't hurt that he's got 200 pounds of illicit diamonds to use to ease the pain of those wronged. He will continue the redemption process by way of a well thought out plan involving a 5,000-mile adventure through the Western United States and Canada.

When D meets Candice, aka Candi, she captures his heart, mind and soul the instant she 'inadvertently' almost runs him down in the Starbucks drive-thru. Candi joins him on his three-week, two-wheeled ride to redemption, where they're forced to face their personal demons, while dealing with wanton lust, mind-numbing deceit and perilous treachery.

Spectacular scenery and a cast of unforgettable characters they meet along the way makes the journey memorable, but nothing prepares them for the sacrifices they must eventually make midway in the ride.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," sadly, does not ring true for Candice and D throughout this first of a two part series. Lust and greed are forever game-changers, even for those who desperately seek redemption.

My Review

A middle aged guy living by a lake with his dog bumps into a little hottie in Starbucks when she nearly runs him over in the parking lot. They go in, strike up a conversation—and bada boom, bada bing—fireworks. Is it simply a case of lust at first sight or are there darker forces at work here? D isn't sure, but for the time being he's not going to question Candi's sudden appearance in his life. He's going to take advantage of the opportunity like any hot-blooded male would.

Candi's young, naive, sheltered. She's just coming out of a controlling marriage and she wants the freedom of the open road that a cross country jaunt into Canada with D will give her. She's ready and willing to climb onto the back of his motorcycle and hit the highway, leaving her problems behind. She tells D that she can't resist falling for his warm, brown eyes, full of compassion and the promise of a new life. She's willing to take a chance on him, and she hopes he feels the same way about her.

D is also coming off a messy divorce after parting ways with his wife of many years, and the breakup of his marriage causes him to become estranged from his children. He's looking to make a fresh start after his home development business goes belly up. He's back at square one much later in life. Now  he's just looking for someone to build him up and get him back on track, instead of being subject to all of the forces outside his control that keep tearing him down.

He falls for Candi's promise of easy love, even while pining for something more, something deeper, a genuine connection. He's proud to have nailed a girl like her, and he's a little cocky to have her on his arm. He's a ladies man and old habits die hard. He's all about getting laid instead of keeping his eyes open for those who are eager to take him down.

It turns out D stole a mint worth of diamonds. His motorcycle trip is his way of covering his tracks as he sends them via anonymous mail drop to people in need. However, they weren't his diamonds to give away and the original owner isn't too happy about it, placing a hit on him from where he's languishing behind bars. When a beefy, menacing guy from Candi's family with a thick Italian accent unexpectedly joins their excursion, all bets are off when it comes to Candi's loyalty.

Is she using him to get to the diamonds? Or is she really into him? Wilson keeps things ominously iffy as the story roars along, leaving the reader white knuckled and clinging to D as this biker mystery heats up with plenty of romantic suspense. Be advised that the explicit sexual content is meant for a more erotic leaning audience, but if that sounds good, then get ready for scene after steamy scene as D delivers.


Ride to Redemption can be purchased at:
Amazon, Smashwords

Prices/Formats: $3.99 ebook, $10.95 paperback
Pages: 282
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release: December 2, 2013
Publisher: Fideli Publishing
ISBN: 9781604147773
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Raised in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, I graduated from Cumberland University, located in a small town you've never heard just inside Kentucky quite a few years ago. At the present, we're living beside beautiful Dale Hollow Lake.

Blessed to travel, blessed with health, blessed with second chances, too numerous to list here.

As a blogger, featured on many sites, including the Huffington Post, I have been humbled beyond measure, more times than not, by all that life has thrown our way.

Successful, that's me, catastrophic failure, that's me too. We've been there, done that and have the life changing scars to prove it.

Our writings reflect life through the throes of heartache and loss, as well as through the joys redemption brings.

"Life is not waiting for the Storms to Pass, It's Learning to Dance in the Rain."

Links to connect with DJ:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Ken Dalton - Brother, can you spare a dime? - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

Bear’s planned afternoon of beer and baseball is interrupted by a phone call from a man he hardly remembers from their years at Elko High. So begins the tale of a cold-blooded murder and the theft of a dime worth two million dollars!

Faced with bi-coastal murder suspects, Pinky hands Bear, and Flo the sweaty task of tracking down one of the suspects along the hot, humid North Carolina shoreline while he chooses to pursue the other on the Kona coast of Hawaii. But Pinky, after imbibing too many Mai Tai’s with a bevy of sky-goddesses, and a moved-up court date, is forced to return to Carson City, sans suspect.

Bear and Flo hit pay dirt and with the identity of the killer in hand they fly across the Pacific Ocean to the smoggy Beijing airport where they meet Joe, the uncle of Pinky’s Chinese secretary. The enigmatic Joe quotes Confucius and Shakespeare as he purposefully guides the dynamic duo to their final destination— oxygen sparse Lhasa, Tibet.

Cliff hanger contest

Brother, can you spare a dime? ends with a prize winning cliff hanger that defies all logic.

Let Ken know how you would answer the question and he will choose the two answers he likes the best. Both winners will receive a complete paperback set of his Pinky and Bear mystery series.

The Bloody Birthright
The Big Show Stopper
Death is a Cabernet
The Tartan Shroud
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Five books, each one personally inscribed!

Email your cliff hanger answer to and in a couple of months Ken will post the winners' names on his Facebook page.

My Review

Sometimes a plot is driven by dialogue. When an author is as pitch perfect as Ken Dalton is with the voice of his characters, it is a pleasure to sit back and enjoy a master at work. Now that he's several books into writing this mystery series, it's clear that he's honed the back and forth banter down to a science. I love how it reads like a screenplay or an off Broadway theater production. I can definitely envision Bear, Pinky and Flo going through their verbal acrobatics onstage, leaving the audience in stitches. What fun that would be!

"The boss came up with a plan that worked? Damn that's a first."
- Bear, talking about Pinky

"The man's IQ is slightly below that of a three-toed sloth."
- Pinky, discussing Bear

"That man is the cheapest person I've ever run across."
- Flo, on Pinky

As you can see, Bear and Flo are firmly in one camp and Pinky's square in the other. It's a classic battle between the haves and the have nots. Pinky's the big shot lawyer with multiple condos and souped up cars. He has expensive tastes, and he doesn't like to share. He likes to lord it over his underlings, but Flo doesn't beg for her and Bear's fair share—she takes it. She makes sure they're booked in business class on long international flights. She finagles her way onto the payroll. She gets Pinky to give them a substantial raise, plus paid time off and benefits by getting Pinky's ex-wife to make them a counteroffer. She's shrewd. Pinky's definitely met his match when it comes to pulling one over on someone, too bad she's already with Bear.

But Bear's a lovable oaf, even if he can be quite dangerous when he gets violent. He's a criminal mastermind in his own right, knowing the ins and outs of security protocol even if he can't operate a computer. He's the muscle you want when facing a shady customer. He has a hilarious tendency to use the wrong vocabulary in a sentence, trying to sound smart, but his loyalty to Flo is tantamount. He'd do anything for her, as she would for him.

And that's the part of the book I liked the best. Pinky might have all of the material goods and trappings of wealth, but he's miserable and alone. He's messed up so many of his marriages, putting his job first that he drowning in regret. He's successful on the outside with a perfect acquittal record, but on the inside he feels like he's made one too many mistakes. He wants one of his ex-wives back, but she won't have him, leaving him with no one to share his good fortune with.

While Bear and Flo know how lucky they are. Flo even says to Bear, "Pinky talks like a gentleman, but he's a lot further from being cultured than you are." I really liked that statement. It shows how astute she is, and I think most readers would readily agree with her. Deep down, Bear is a pretty great guy. He has simple tastes, give him a beer and his Red Sox and he's all set. He comes to her rescue whenever she takes a risk on a case and gets in trouble. But most importantly, he thinks she's the hottest thing in the universe. What woman wouldn't want that?

But the scene that hooked me on these two was the one in their Tibetan hotel room when Bear develops a severe case of altitude sickness. It shows just how much Flo cares about him, and how much he means to her. It was a painful thing for Bear to have to endure, but it's a beautiful chapter that strengthens the bonds of their relationship. I know it made me root for them all the more, and I can't wait to see where Ken Dalton takes them next.


Brother, can you spare a dime? can be purchased at:
Amazon, (personalized inscription and free shipping)

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 310
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Release: April 9, 2014
Publisher: Different Drummer Press
ISBN: 9780578140391
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Ken was born in 1938 at Hollywood Hospital. He grew up in Los Angeles with his parents, his older sister and younger brother.

In a turn of bad luck, the dreaded Polio virus attacked Ken at the age of five. By the age of sixteen, after eleven years of operations, therapy, and braces to mitigate the effects of Polio, Ken’s luck changed when he met the girl of his dreams. A few years later they married, produced three wonderful children, and settled into a happy life in Southern California.

In 1966, Ken and his family moved to the green hills of Sonoma County where they bought a home surrounded with apple trees.

Some time later, Ken, designed, built, and operated a small winery that produced award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Then, in a moment of madness, Ken began writing. His first article was published in Golf Illustrated. Many more golf articles followed in national and regional magazines including Golf Magazine and Fairways and Greens. Eventually Ken felt the urge to write his first novel.

Now, after the publication of The Bloody Birthright, The Big Show Stopper, Death is a Cabernet, and The Tartan Shroud, Ken has published his latest Pinky and Bear mystery, Brother, can you spare a dime?

Links to connect with Ken:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Diane Daniels Manning - Almost Perfect - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

Up to 100% of the author’s profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children.

Video Trailer

My Review

It's refreshing to see a pet themed book delve into more serious issues. Yes, there are adorable survival stories like a frozen pup revived after being born in a blizzard, as well as the requisite cute moments like a lost dog being found, but at the heart of the narrative lies an autistic boy and a champion breeder who believes her best days are behind her.

The old and the young come together to save each other from the same underlying problem, a lack of self-confidence. Bess thinks she's nothing without her dogs. She's bred poodles all her life, and not just any old poodles, but superstars of the breed. Her single-minded devotion has come at a cost, she can't relate to people, not even her own son. Her neighbor Benny is that lazy preteen who would rather watch TV than interact with the rest of the world. Whenever there's an easy way out, Benny takes it, until he falls in love with Bess's dogs. That's when he finally commits to something bigger than himself,  opening Bess's eyes to the plight of those around her.

However, Benny's a troubled youth. He goes to a special school for children with behavioral disabilities. His only friend is a girl who may or may not have Aspergers who switches identities like everyday is Halloween. The students are encouraged by head mistress Dr. Kate to make their own decisions and are encouraged to take responsibility for their choices. Sometimes Benny complies, sometimes he doesn't. He's a frustrating case, but Dr. Kate fears that Bess doesn't understand just how much he stands to lose if she ends up disappointing him.

You see Bess agrees to let Benny be one of the handlers of her dogs at some of the smaller dog shows in the New England area. When the pup he's training, Breaker, starts to separate himself from the pack, Bess gets scared. She's never won at Westminster at Madison Square Garden - sort of like the doggie World Series and the Oscars rolled into one. Nothing terrifies her like failure, and she'd rather not risk it. Her pride is too valuable to her.

But as she grows fond of Benny, she doesn't want to let him down either. Gradually, he pushes her toward the one thing that she swore she'd never do. His confidence increases as he builds up hers. It's a beautiful metaphor for how the young can benefit the old and vice versa, showing that it's never too late to go after one's dreams, while at the same time driving home the point that a person can discover what they're good at quite early in life too.

Either way, Bess and Benny form a winning combination. As a reader, you can't help rooting for them, and that's what Daniels Manning's book is all about, falling in love with "almost perfect" characters who in the end learn things about themselves that their furry friends knew all along - nothing buoys the spirit like living for another person.


Almost Perfect can be purchased at:

Prices/Formats: $3.99 ebook, $8.99 paperback
Pages: 330
Genre: Pet Fiction
Release: January 29, 2014
Publisher: Beltor
ISBN: 9780578136394
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

Links to connect with Diane:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

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