Review: Fatality in F Hits All the Right Notes

51grbi2buqjlFatality in F is the fourth book in Alexia Gordon’s Gethsemane Brown. The world-class musician and amateur sleuth teaches music at an all boys school in a small village in Ireland, with the closest urban center being Cork. She has a knack for being in the right place at the wrong time-or is that the wrong place at the right time?-and finding herself in the middle of murder and mayhem.

Now, straight off, I’m not someone who reads a lot of amateur sleuth books. They (no pun intended!) have to strike the right chord with me. However, I’ve been very focused on expanding my reading and try to approach every book with an open mind.

I suppose it’s also worth noting that I used to live in Ballincollig, which is on the outskirts of Cork, not far from Blarney Castle, so I have a limited scope of reference for Ireland, along with an Irish Catholic grandmother and a grandfather who was an Orangeman. Ireland has a special place in my heart, and this setting gave me a double dose of fear starting this book. Would it deliver?

Yes. And then, when Gethsemane’s ghost roommate, Eamon, shows up, my response to the question was Hell yes.

Gethsemane has a keen mind, as well as an open mind. One of the things that makes her an ideal amateur sleuth is that she doesn’t outright dismiss possibilities, even when she sounds like she’s skeptical. I absolutely loved the banter between her and Eamon and the comic touch that brings. Since I read an arc I’m technically not supposed to quote from it, but Eamon had a laugh-out-loud-funny line in there that was so good I had to share it with my husband, who (even out of context without reading the book) could appreciate the sentiment.

Gordon’s strengths come through in developing strong, likable characters that you want to spend time with. She’s also built some great relationship dynamics among her group of teachers and garda.

New readers shouldn’t be deterred; Gordon gives you enough to ground yourself in past events and relationship dynamics to be able to dig right in and keep you from feeling lost. I’m not one who really worries about these things, so it might have been a bit more than I needed, but I’m an anomaly as a reader that way so that should not be taken as a criticism at all. I know how important it is to readers to not feel like they’re missing something because of prior books they haven’t read.

There’s a whole lot to love in this book. The narrative flows steadily, with plenty of revelations along the way that shape the investigation and keep you guessing. Believable characters fill the pages, and these are people you want to spend time with. They aren’t all perfect and polished and simple, but their quirks are part of what make them so endearing.

I thought I knew who the murderer was at 68%, and I was wrong.

If you like amateur sleuth stories with some woo woo, you will love this book and shouldn’t hesitate to dive right in. Or better, still, pick up Murder in G Minor, Death in D Minor and Killing in C Sharp along with Fatality in F and indulge yourself with a new favorite author who I expect will be delighting readers for years to come.

And even if amateur sleuth stories aren’t usually your thing, there’s a lot of heart here. This was a fun read that I did not want to put down and I was eager to get back to the story and the new friends Gordon breathed life into so effectively. And some serious kudos to Gordon for the research she must have done into illnesses, pharmaceuticals, botany … The details she weaves in infuse the story with authenticity while establishing motive.

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Review: Imogen’s Journey Ups the Action and the Stakes

515lgq7ukal(Review first appeared at Goodreads)

 

Imogen’s Journey picks up pretty much right where Imogen’s Secret left off. Imogen is still committed to her mission – to return to the planet her parents are from and rescue her dad and Leo (Tarik). Araz is with her and is committed to helping her and protecting her, although he is still loyal to his own government and not aligned with the ‘traitors’ Imogen is descended from.

She’s soon transported through space to a strange new-to-her world and learns she may already be too late to save her father. Leo’s life still hangs in the balance and she is determined to do whatever she can to keep him from being convicted and executed.

There are a lot of moving parts in this story. The reader gets more insight from different leaders on Holis and the story splits to follow different characters who are separated but key to the story.

Tanastra Thut maintains a narrative (the way he did in Book 1) through the historic accounts related to Holis. This ensures the reader has a full awareness of the background, and the way the history of the Holankind is being reshaped. The malicious intentions may not be readily clear to the various members of the resistance or others, like Imoge, Araz and Leo, who are involved, but a close reader will start to have a pretty good idea where the story is going from the clues.

I tore through this book at lightning speed and started it as soon as I’d finished the first book in the trilogy. There are a couple of minor niggle points. There’s a consistency issue (in one place it says it took 500 years to get Holis habitable, and in another place it says it took 300 years). There are a couple of typos, a couple of extra words. I said with book 1 that in a lesser read, a couple of technical details might have mattered more, and I did receive a review copy through The Book Club reviewer’s group, so these issues may have been resolved in the published version.

Even so, there’s nothing here to keep anyone from fully immersing themselves in this compelling, action-packed story. The author has a chance to show off her world-building skills by taking most of the action off of Earth and creating a vibrant planet of people, some of whom you easily fall in love with, while underscoring the potential threat the manipulative Holans who are in control pose to the universe.

The only complaint I have upon finishing is that I want the third book now. I’m desperate to see how my favorite Holans are doing, and with a ticking clock hanging over Araz’s head and an impossible choice he has to make, the future for all of Earth and Holis hangs in the balance. I can’t wait to see how the author is going to tie things up in book 3.

Check out my interview with the author and review of book 1.

Review: Imogen’s Secret Hits it out of the Solar System

51jg7gt99tl(Review first appeared at Goodreads)

 

Imogen Reiner has a difficult life. Her mom has been in a coma for ten years and her dad is gone. She’s been guided by her grandfather for years to exercise caution and conceal some of her unusual traits from her friends at school and suspects there are a lot of things she doesn’t know.

When her granddad sends someone to live with her and train her and a mysterious stranger arrives at her college and seems to see things about her that most humans can’t, Imogen is caught between conflicting emotions and fear. She has to struggle to figure out who to trust while coming to terms with truths about herself that have been kept from her all her life, such as her ability to read chroma (colors that betray a person’s feelings and level of honesty) and where she’s really from.

I received a review copy through The Book Club’s reviewer group and am so glad that I did. There are a few minor things (verb tense consistency, one or two typos). In a lesser read those tiny points might have stood out more.

As is, the concept for this story is so compelling that the reader is swept up in the story, turning pages late into the night, desperate to find out what happens next. The parts of the story that center on Imogen are intense and compelling, and as a cast of supporting characters is fleshed out her world becomes very real for the reader.

There are sections intended to provide backstory, and while this is done in a way that ultimately intersects authentically with Imogen directly, I wasn’t completely certain the reader needed all of the details, but that’s more of a question of taste. Of course, I was invested in Imogen’s story, and the intersecting history stepped away from directly focusing on that, so I did find myself reading on to get back to her.

I’ve had to cut off my top recommendations for 2018 and start building a list for 2019, but had I read this a few weeks ago there is no doubt it would have been on my 2018 list and my 2019 list starts with this book firmly on top. It is worth every cent and if you love a good action/adventure/sci fi story with some romance this should rise right to the top of your TBR pile.

Check out my interview with the author here and my review of book 2 in the series here.

Review: INTO THE ASHES by Lee Murray – an intense thriller that will have you holding your breath, and perhaps your heart

Screenshot_20190214-133937_FacebookAll hell is breaking loose in Lee Murray’s INTO THE ASHES right from the start. A constant series of eruptions coupled with activity from the volcano have prompted an extensive evacuation of parts of New Zealand’s North Island. NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna* is ordered to evacuate people from the area and has no idea how just how complicated that’s going to be.

First, the ground is splitting apart. Second, there are fire demons that may or may not be wreaking havoc and claiming lives. Third, there are rivers of rubble blocking roads and sweeping people and vehicles away.

Oh, and there just happen to be a group of armed convicts from the prison who are on the loose with a dangerous leader who is determined not to be charged for the murder of a guard that he commits in order to gain his freedom.

Add in that Taine’s ex-girlfriend, Jules, is on the mountain and is taken hostage by the convicts and you have a cat-and-mouse game with Taine determined to rescue Jules, but forced to overcome obstacles every step of the way.

This is an edge-of-your-seat white-knuckle ride that is action packed and intense. You never know what will happen on the next page. Murray is an expert at weaving multiple plot lines and perspectives together and always keeps the reader straight so they know whose eyes they’re seeing the world through and where they are. As the characters intersect the obstacles increase and the body count rises. Both Taine and Jules are coming to terms with the fact that they still love each other, but equally aware of the likelihood that they’ll never get a chance to put things right.

Lee Murray has been a guest at Toe Six. Check out her actor picks to play Taine and Jules here. Learn about her writing assistant, Bella, here. Read an interview about Into the Sounds here. And then Lee was back with Dan Rabarts to talk about their collaboration here.

* Completely personal note. In three of my novels set in Canada I have a protagonist named Tain, who is Native. And in my novel Harvest of Ruins my protag’s surname is McKenna. How can I not love a character who combines two of my favorite names to make one supercharacter (who thinks he’s a superhero)? And he has some Indigenous blood from one of New Zealand’s tribes as well, so he’s in tune with the spiritual aspects of the story.

Imogen’s Story: B Fleetwood talks about how a novel became a trilogy and what’s next for Imogen

Haven’t heard of B. Fleetwood? Let’s correct that right now. I had the opportunity to read both Imogen’s Secret and Imogen’s Journey not that long ago and they are already perched on top of my best 2019 entertainment list. I could not put these books down. Ya/Coming of Age Sci Fi with a bit of romance, some tremendous worldbuilding and a riveting plot that keeps you turning the pages all hours of the day and night. I finished both books in a matter of a few days and just had to catch up with the author to find out a little more about Imogen, the idea for the story, and where things will go in book 3.

Buy Imogen’s Secret

Buy Imogen’s Journey

51jg7gt99tlThere’s a lot of worldbuilding in the Chroma series books, and there’s also a very compelling cast of characters. What came first for you – the worldbuilding or Imogen? How did Holis affect Imogen’s character as she took shape?

Imogen came first. I had imagined a character with the ability to ‘see’ lies for many years, long before I put pen to paper.

When I began to seriously consider why my main protagonist would have the ability to read Chroma, or auras (I did not want this to be a magical power), I decided there needed to be a genetic reason for her gift. Writing the first chapter, it came to me; Imogen had to be of another race, a race that had been genetically engineered. This would allow her to have all sorts of other differences, like her ability to absorb information, ‘read’ thoughts by touch and for her body to self-heal.

It became crucial to her character development for the truth to have been hidden from her; she could not know she was from the planet Holis. I wanted her and the reader to fathom it out together. As Holis developed as a tangible place, Imogen’s abilities crystallised on the page. As a new author, I am rather in awe of how her character evolved.

 

515lgq7ukalConsidering all the talk about global warming and damage to our planet, your series is both incredibly entertaining and captivating, and also timely. Every now and again we hear about other planets that have been discovered that might be capable of sustaining life. Do you think if we had the capability to reach such a planet that we’d learn from our mistakes or repeat them? Was this something that inspired you as you developed the series? (What did inspire you?) 

I studied Sociology at University, fascinated with what makes a society ‘tick’ and conversely, what makes societies break down.

I believe there must be planets out there that would support human life or alien lifeforms.

Would we make the same mistakes if we reached them? This intrigues me. I don’t have a clear answer. Do humans have a basic destructive nature they cannot escape or a capacity for nobler action? The optimist in me wants to believe humans are capable of rising above greed, self-interest and perpetuating differences. In Chroma, my superior Holans look at Earth with much disdain. And whilst it’s easy to despair of our race, I believe there is an integrity / spark within us all which, if encouraged, will allow the human race to advance to a point where we would learn from our mistakes.

 

You’ve billed this as a trilogy. Did you have a clear plan for all three books from the start? How much advance plotting did you do before you started writing? 

My decision to create Holis transformed Imogen’s Secret from a standalone novel into the first of a trilogy – I had not planned this in advance. It honestly just ‘came to me’ with an unshakeable conviction: it had to be more than one book. I knew if I was the reader, reading Imogen’s Secret, I would want to go to her home planet and see how it all worked. For a few weeks, during the writing of Imogen’s Journey, I considered finishing the tale in two books (I think I was feeling rather daunted by the task!) but as Holis became more than a vague imagining, I realised there would have to be a third book in order to do justice to the story.

 

Which character do you relate to the most in the books and why?

It would have to be Imogen. She finds out there is a whole new world out there and she cannot take things at face value if she wants to uncover the truth. She goes from being passive to active. This directly relates to the revelations I experienced at University – my coming of age –discovering the world was not all as my parents had painted it and the start of questioning everything!

 

There definitely seems to be a connection between Imogen’s people and sites on earth, such as the pyramids. Some people do believe the pyramids were built by aliens. What do you think? Or is this something you just wanted to play with in the story?

I have visited Egypt and been astounded at the building of the pyramids, temples and obelisks. The race was so advanced for the time. Do I believe aliens intervened? Not really, but I decided to play with this in the story. It makes a great link to how Holan folk ended up on Earth (more to be revealed in Book 3!).

 

There are five personality lines on Holis – Ra, Iris, Nut, Hathor and Amon Anon. If you could only choose one of those personality lines to be, which one would you pick and why?

The five lines have been lifted from general psychological theories (still used in management evaluations today). Whilst I don’t like putting people in boxes, I can see that personality traits are more dominant in some folk than others. If I had to pick just one, I guess it would be Iris (creative and imaginative – or over imaginative perhaps?) or maybe I’d be a Bi-Crypt with Hathor (compassionate and caring – I cry at the slightest thing!) as the other line? This is mainly because I don’t fit the other lines; I’m neither dominant or decisive, calm or disciplined!

BTW: the name, Iris, was originally Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) but I felt compelled to change the name to Iris after the militant terrorist group took Isis as their name. Grrr… An example of how politics influences writing!

 

If you were Imogen would it be Araz or Tarik?

Araz! The chemistry is compelling; however, he would need to lose his arrogance and grow Tarik’s sense of humour to be completely perfect!

 

Whether intended or not, there’s certainly some political commentary the books make in a subtle way. The people from Imogen’s home planet don’t even seem to question their leaders, which leads to abuse and manipulation from those in power. Was this intentional or is it just coincidence that it feels so timely given the current state of politics around the globe?

The lack of challenge by the Holan populace was intentional. With no conflicts, no disparity and no enemy, I decided to portray Holans as having become complacent in their ‘idyllic’ lives. I am also influenced by the political state of the world and the seemingly incomprehensible decisions made by supposedly intelligent beings. Just because a race is superior in intellect, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would not make the same mistakes.

 

Give us a teaser for book 3. What do we have to look forward to? What do we have to fear?

Imogen, separated from Holis and Araz, must unlock Kekara’s secret, stolen from her chambers. Could it have anything to do with the new direction being taken by the Holan regime? The reason the history of Holis has been re-written?

Imogen is unaware the regime has developed a hybrid version of the Repros. Will they follow her and can her family keep her safe?

Desperate to see Araz again and unsure if the Tractus link will be broken between their two planets, Imogen fears for Araz’s safety. She also cannot squash her unease knowing he is twenty light years away with Naomi – a penta-crypt just like her. Could this clone replace her in Araz’s affections? And is the prophecy true? Either Imogen or Naomi must die?

As the growing evil on Holis threatens to come to Earth, Imogen must fight to decide where her true destiny lies.

Killer Instinct: Barbara Winkes Writes About an Ex-Cop With Regrets and Shares Which of Her Characters She’d Take With Her to a Deserted Island

 

KICoverSR: Practice pitching: tell us what your new book is about in 50 words or less.

BW: It’s a vigilante thriller. An ex-cop killed a murderer and, after an investigation, served a sentence. She is trying to distance herself from her past, but then one of her former cases becomes active again, and she can’t stay away—even considering the risk that history could repeat itself.

SR: Where did your idea for this book come from?

BW: I wanted to work with a character that’s a little different from the usual “female cop hunting the serial killer” theme that I am drawn to as a reader and writer, because these women are by the book. Joanna threw out the book. She felt like the system failed, and took matters into her own hands, and she’s been paying for it. A new relationship and past connections create a tug of war between past and present.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If your protagonist could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

BW: I’m thinking Arya, because of the setting. Killer Instinct is one of my darkest books, so this would probably be a good fit.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

BW: Generally, the infuriating amount of misogyny that we can’t seem to get rid of on this planet. I don’t think that vigilantism is the solution, but as a writer I have the privilege to explore those ideas in fiction.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

BW: I can easily dwell on old decisions, though in my case, there’s nothing this tragic, fortunately.

SR: If you were the right gender could you have a romantic relationship with your protagonist? Why or why not? Would it be a good relationship?

BW: If I wasn’t married…I might still find her a little intimidating. And I gave her a love interest!

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

BW: I’ve always been drawn to suspense, and serials, right from the start. I read a lot of books with characters like Nancy Drew as a child, then moved on to adult mystery and thriller series. That’s where I always wanted to go as a writer, to have a series that readers can discover and binge on. My next release after Killer Instinct will be Impressions, #8 in the Carpenter/Harding series.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

BW: I had to wait for Christmas! The book is set during the holidays, so I wanted it to come out before. The coziness of Christmas music and parties with friends present a backdrop and also a stark contrast to the isolation Joanna feels in the beginning.

SR: You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?

BW: I hope I’ll never have to flee from Canada—it’s my home of choice! Iceland? Since we’re already used to the cold…

SR: It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to pick a weapon from what’s currently within 10 feet of your present location. What will you defend yourself with?

BW: The lamp next to me? Otherwise I can only hope that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

SR: How long will you survive in the zombie apocalypse? How long will your protagonist survive? Why?

BW: Me, not so long. I write action and thrillers, but I don’t think I’d be that savvy when it comes to real zombies…Joanna, she’d be okay for a while. The book is called Killer Instinct, after all.

SR: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

BW: Write a lot, read a lot. Develop a good marketing strategy before the first book is even out (this is something I wish I’d known more about six years ago). Get early feedback from people who trust to tell you the truth. There is a lot of advice out there from many. Examine it carefully, and find out what works for you.

SR: Now for fun, if you were stuck on a deserted island and found that magic lamp with a genie and the genie had the power to bring any character in any of your books to life to be your companion, who would you pick and why?

BW: Jordan Carpenter from the Carpenter/Harding series – she’s as capable as Joanna, but more by the book and less scary! Although she wouldn’t like being apart from Ellie, so she might try to intimidate me into sending her back.

SR: And if the genie would only bring characters from works by another author to life who would you pick to spend eternity on that deserted island with?

BW: James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club. I think they’d be fun to hang out with. Or Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles. Either way, we could all share a lot of stories to pass the time…

 

A

 

Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.


Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

 

 

 

http://www.barbarawinkes.wordpress.com

Kicking Off The New Year

Better late than never? What a month. My mac is dying in long, slow stages. Our internet was out for weeks, limiting me to tethering for work and little extra time for indulgences.

Plus the list of household repairs got longer and longer …

But what better way to return than with some exciting news for readers.

Great News For Readers! Isabella Maldonado has a Special Announcement:

death blow cover, amzAs luck would have it, my publisher has arranged to have the first two books in my series discounted during the month before publication of the third book. Please let your readers know!

Discounted 1/26/19 through 3/1/19 across all ebook vendors (Kindle, Nook, iBook, Kobo):

  • Blood’s Echo (Veranda Cruz #1) (9780738751337), discounted to $0.99

o   Print book on Amazon discounted to $7.99

  • Phoenix Burning (Veranda Cruz #2) (9780738753935), discounted to $1.99

o   Print book on Amazon discounted to $7.99

March 8, 2019, Book 3 in the series, Death Blow, will go on sale at bookstores (nationwide and overseas) and on Amazon!

 

To celebrate, Isabella is sharing a look into her workspace!

 

 

cover-king-ten-seven-6

Plus, we have Dana King chatting about

his new novel, Ten-Seven.

 

 

The Truth Waits Cover with quotes

 

And – lost in the holiday season shuffle –

Susanna Beard talks about what made her an author.

Plus, catch up with her TBR pile and author assistants!