Friday, November 24, 2017

"Dark and Stormy" by J. Mercer

Dark and Stormy
by J. Mercer

Dark and Stormy by J. Mercer

Dark and Stormy by J. Mercer is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Faryn Miller wants to build a new life in a small town. It’s her last chance to figure out, of all the roles she’s played in her thirty-some years, which one truly fits. Her aim at simplicity sounds like the perfect medicine until she meets Kai Allen, who’s spent his life doing everything the hard way and never bending for anyone. Lucky for Kai, Faryn has no preconceived notions about what he’s done and who he is, unlike the rest of town.
When cryptic messages start sneaking their way into Faryn’s apartment, then blatant threats, the two of them compile a long list of who could be stalking her. Unable to keep his frustration and rage hidden any longer, Kai explodes on everyone in his path, and Faryn can’t help but wonder if the storm is closer than she thinks.

Sometimes I felt wild and restless, like a mustang that turns around one day and realizes it’s been domesticated when all it thought it did was take the offer of a simple apple. It always started the same way, from a point deep in my center, and would grow to an incessant itch I couldn’t shake.
To soothe it, I’d been driving for days, all my belongings stacked high behind me in my small SUV. The ones I’d seen as necessities anyway, since my goal was to pare back and succumb to basic need.
I yearned for amnesia to settle on my mind and recreate me into who I was supposed to be, because at thirty-three I didn’t know anymore. I’d been so many things, so very split and so widely scattered.
If I chased solitude and eliminated distractions, I figured my true self would have no choice but to rise from the ashes of all the other roles I’d spent my life playing. And if it did, maybe I could go back home and survive the future, whether that entailed the path I’d been on or a new one altogether.
Or maybe I’d find a home here, in this small Midwestern town that spoke to me of fresh beginnings. After an hour of winding along its streets, exploring every corner, I stopped in the driveway of an old brick house that was split into four units. A large cube with many windows, it pulled at me more than the apartment building a few blocks over, or the gaping farmhouse on the edge of town, all three of which had for rent signs crookedly staked in their front lawns.
It was manageable and adorable, at least from the outside. All brick, but lighter than the standard red, with faded white windowpanes and a small covering over an even smaller front porch. An attached covered staircase ran up the left side, and an old grill stood sentry on the right.
Fishing my phone out of my bag, I dialed the number written in fat permanent marker beneath the words encouraging me to call. And as if fate had shifted the winds to drop me here, my new landlord was not only home, but able to forgo everything to meet me and hand over the key in ten minutes flat.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Complex characters give way to a brilliantly written story ... Incredible writing from a first time author."
"Great small town setting with an awesome cast of characters. J Mercer masterfully takes you on a journey full of twists and reveals that are woven so skillfully into the story you’ll want to read it again and again."
"J Mercer combines her gift for poignantly haunting characters with a plot that is intriguingly complicated."
"I couldn’t put this book down! When I reached the last page, I sat, breathless, stunned."
"This book had me hanging on page by page. With thought provoking character development and surprises at every turn."

About the Author
J. Mercer
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology, only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband - though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Dark and Stormy by J. Mercer (open internationally).


Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Li Bai's Shadow" by Lee J. Mavin

Li Bai's Shadow
by Lee J. Mavin

Li Bai's Shadow by Lee J. Mavin

Author Lee J. Mavin stops by today to share an excerpt from Li Bai's Shadow. Keep an eye out for my review, coming soon.

It appears I have undoubtedly been mysteriously transported to a young child’s bedroom, her name is Caitlin and she is of course very fond of my poetry. However despite this unusual occurrence I miss my homelands, dreadfully. This dry and scorching hot city, that she calls Sydney is beyond any distance I can comprehend, but I have always been a traveler, so I am contempt with the path I have stumbled upon. Her mother has faded into the shadow, so I must guide her, keep her safe and share a glass or two of good wine. It is rather odd that her father behaves like I don’t exist, it is at the very least disrespectful, doesn’t he know who I am? Why I am none other than the world’s greatest poet to have ever lived, Li Bai and my words have been etched in history and sang throughout the ages with the guzzling of wine. Yes indeed, I have informed and educated the girl on the most important pleasures of the world, to drink wine whenever one desires to, though she is still a youngling, it is rather amusing to watch her chant my poems in a drunken stupor. Together we will drink and recite my old rhymes and perhaps not long after I will figure out how to get home.

Li Bai
Being in this world is like a dream,
What’s the point of toiling our life away?
That’s why I’m drunk all day,
Lying flopped by the reception hall from the pillar
I do not dwell on the reasons for my current state as it is too complex for even a genius such as myself to comprehend. It is better to enjoy all of the moments in one’s existence and the little instances like these, oh and a little wine can be very helpful along the way. Perhaps the final lines from my old friend Du Fu’s poem are most appropriate:
Fluttering from place to place
I resemble the seagull between earth and heaven
As the seagull doesn’t question the path it flies, it simply soars above, in the blues of the sky and twirls down below into the depths of the sea, so I have accepted my destiny and here I am, beholding my Caitlin as she glares at me with that slight grin, brushing her brown hair from her pale face, just like she has always done since I arrived in her world, when she was but an infant. I fondly reminisce, being delivered to her like I was a rolled up message wrapped around a pigeons’ leg, miraculously gifted with celestial hearing, I could understand every word her tiny mouth uttered. It was not long before we were dancing around her soft green dwelling, bathing in the bright sun, carefree and joyous. I did enjoy the tea parties with her toys, as I struggled to squeeze into her elaborately decorated doll house and the ghost stories in her little pink hut, where she would shine a light on her face and speak in a deep voice in an effort to sound frightening. But they are all just memories now, fading away into blackness between the stars. Thirteen dull winters have disappeared into that blackness and now we stand together at the edge of a river of change, where the cold wind meets the end of the sky.
You may be wondering why an old poet like myself has been gifted with such an odd but wondrous fortune. Perhaps it is something to do with my timeless contribution as I am the great Li Bai. There is of course no need reiterate my importance as I am the greatest poet who ever lived, praised by the Emperor himself as a genius! If you are poorly informed and lack a proper poetic education then you may have not heard of me. It is as true as the rising and setting of the sun that I am an everlasting poet and have clearly been placed here for a reason. I know not of the reason, but I have lingered here with her all this time, watching her grow into a woman, bearing witness her uniqueness in her habitual counting and repetitive mumbling. Yet her oddities are a part of her and now she distinguishes herself from her school mates, most of whom follow foolish songs of lust and improper pompousness in senseless jingles through their musical devices. She does not concern herself with the major banalities of this modernity and has always embraced my poetry with open arms. She has grown naturally inquisitive and eventually questioned me about my golden wine bottle, however I could not educate her on something I didn’t quite understand myself. That is, until now. I have gradually uncovered the secrets of this spiritual liquor and learned that it must be consumed in very small portions. It is like drinking life itself so one must withstand the temptation to indulge. Caitlin is no longer the giggling infant who loved to pull at my beard and who would climb onto my shoulders and tug my ears.  She has blossomed into a rather independent and complex individual and her eagerness to venture out into the wide world has grown. So, as she wishes, I will go with her, into the shadows of these murky lands. Her time has come to drink the blessed wine and experience the rich senses of my homeland.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I was instantly drawn into how readable it is. The story beckoned me through its pages, feeling an air of mystery overtake me. [...] Lee Mavin's magical story reveals itself from so many points of view that it becomes a test to wonder how real Li Bai is. He is real to some characters, to others an imaginary friend. This is one of those coming-of-age stories that I couldn't put down until I finished. It will take you through Sydney and China (modern day and Tang Dynasty time), gives you perspectives from each main character and keep you wondering. Is Li Bai real? A figment of Caitlin's OCD imagination? A ghost? Or a time-traveller?" ~ Chris Johnson

About the Author
Lee J. Mavin
Lee J. Mavin is the author of The Students Sold Us Secrets Volume One and VolumeTwo (he’s working on Volume Three now) and The Intergalactic Custody Battle. He holds the annual Students Told Us Secrets short story competition for ages 12-18 and he has also taught Japanese, Chinese fiction, ESL, and creative writing from primary to tertiary levels.
He lives in Sydney with his wife Grace, who has been married to for ten years, and his two children Declan and Charlotte. He previously lived in Shizuoka, Japan and Shanghai where he discovered the poet Li Bai and also taught English. Since then he has completed his Masters in Creative Writing and continues to teach ESL in Sydney to adults from all corners of the globe.
Lee J. Mavin enjoys reading horror, fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. He normally selects books by new authors he hasn’t heard of, regularly in these genres, as he believes in supporting indie authors all over the world. When he is not busy discovering the next Stephen King, he often dwells over lines of ancient Chinese poetry and debates post-game NBA statistical analysis. He tries not to spend too much time online and reads and writes between ESL lessons whenever he can. Strangely enough, he is also a pretty inexperienced driver, having just got his license to drive a few years ago. Though he doesn’t let the monotonous Sydney traffic frustrate him too much and is always thinking about a new plotline and a new character.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"The Christmas Letter" by Steven H. Berman

The Christmas Letter
by Steven H. Berman

The Christmas Letter by Steven H. Berman

The Christmas Letter by Steven H. Berman is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Mary is a naïve twenty-year-old in 1945 when her high school sweetheart, Jack, returns to their small Indiana steel town wounded from World War II and makes her his bride. While Jack struggles to find his place in the world, Mary begins her own journey of self-discovery. As the years and letters unfold, Mary and Jack have five children, including their first-born son, Junior who is not "right", an issue that contributes to the turmoil in their marriage and impacts their lives in unforeseen ways. Mary's Christmas letters track her children from toddling to adulthood, while also commenting on her marriage, her friendships, and the world around her - advances in technology, the dawn of the nuclear age, the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Cold War, Vietnam, Woodstock, and more. Through disappointments, triumphs, dark moments of doubt and suspicion, loss of loved ones, and the lessons learned from hard experience, Mary’s Christmas letters are a constant in an uncertain world.

December 12, 1946
Dear Midge,
Another Christmas here again already! (Almost)
I’m a little early with this letter as Christmas isn’t for another week and a half, but we all know the mail can be unpredictable, and I didn’t want to chance this letter arriving too late. I know I haven’t written in too long. Thanks for your letters.
You sound like you and Willy are moving right along. Willy’s in college at the University of California? I always thought he was smart. Engineering? Sounds like big brain stuff to me (unless by engineer you mean he’s going to work on the railroad, ha-ha). Why not go with the G.I. Bill paying for it? I don’t think Jack would want to go to school, though I wish he would or at least try. I can’t even get him to look into the housing benefits, which I think allow a veteran to buy a house with no money down and a very low mortgage rate. He says there’s plenty of time and he doesn’t want that kind of burden right now.
I guess you’ll be keeping the typing pool job for a while. I sure hope it lasts. You should hang out in drug stores and get discovered like that Lana Turner. You’re as pretty as she is!
Everyone is coming here for Christmas dinner this year and bringing potluck, as the baby is still much too little to take anywhere, especially as it’s been so cold. For New Year’s we are just going to stay in, not like last year when our celebrating brought forth little Jack Junior, nine months to the day! He was small and spent his first week in the hospital in an incubator. I was there for a few days recovering, anyway. I was happy to stay there close with him. Now he seems all right. Between you and me I think he’s a little too quiet. But everyone says he’ll be screaming his lungs out soon enough. “Be thankful he’s not colicky,” Mom says. I’m trying to be thankful, but I do worry.
According to Mom, all three of us: me, Jenny, and Richard were screamers for the first six months we were babies. At least Richard and I grew out of it. Jenny’s still a screamer and a crier. Anyway, Jack Junior’s got huge blue eyes (still a little bit crossed) and one large blond curl at the top of his head. I swear there are times he looks exactly like that munchkin from The Wizard of Oz—the one that was in the Lollipop Guild. Remember that movie from before the war? Seems like so long ago.
Jenny is bringing over her new boyfriend, Patrick. He works at the radio station. I guess he did something with radio in the war. Maybe Jenny will be more serious with him. We’ve met him once. At least his ears are normal size, not like the last one. He says pretty soon he’s going to buy a television box. No one around here has seen one except in the magazines. Hard to believe you can actually “see” radio like you’re looking through a window. So instead of sitting in the living room, listening, you also watch what you’re hearing. It doesn’t seem possible to me. Anyway, why would you want to watch people talking? Isn’t that what you do when you’re just having a conversation with someone sitting in your living room to begin with? At any rate, we don’t have to worry about buying one. So expensive!
My brother Richard wants to go to college, but he’s probably going to be drafted. No one understands why there is still a draft when the war is over, but at least, Thank God, it is over. Everyone I talk to never wants there to be a war again. I know we saved Europe and ourselves from Hitler and Hirohito, but you would think the war would have taught people like that something—not to do it again.
Jack got a job at the mill, which is not what he wanted, but the fact is that with all the soldiers coming back from the war at the same time and with the factory work slowing down because the war is over, there just aren’t that many jobs open. His G.I. Bill unemployment payment of $30 a month wasn’t getting us very far (he got an extra ten because of his leg). It doesn’t seem fair that these men fought all that time and now they’ve come back and can’t even get a job. Is it the same way in California? I tell Jack we should be happy that he’s got a job at all, especially because he’s got new responsibility with Jack Junior all of a sudden.
He goes to work, don’t get me wrong. I would only tell you this, Midge. I guess the truth is he doesn’t seem quite the same since he came back from the war. I don’t know what he went through over there, except for his leg injury, and that has healed. You can’t even tell if you didn’t know because he doesn’t limp very much at all. He used to be easier. Do you know what I mean? He’s the kind that won’t ever say if something’s bothering him. I’m trying to be the best wife and mother I can be. I know Jack is trying to figure something out, and that something is bothering him. I’m sure it will all be okay.
Jack is on the list to buy a surplus jeep and if he gets one, he won’t have to take the bus to work. He says they should give every G.I. one because they earned it in the war. But of course, the jeep means we’ll have to buy gasoline, and that’s fifteen cents a gallon. Everything adds up so fast. Jack’s making almost twenty-two hundred dollars a year at the mill, but we have to stretch it, what with the baby and the paying off the hospital bills and everything else.
Still, we manage to have some fun, mostly because of little Jack Junior. I had to laugh the other day when Jack tried to change his diaper. Unfortunately, Jack Junior got him with all guns firing! Not only was Jack Junior still pooping when Jack changed him, but poor Jack also got sprayed with the “yellow peril.” Then finally, just when Jack managed to get the baby cleaned up, powdered, and pinned, and picked him up, sure enough, Jack Junior upchucked right down Jack’s back! Luckily, I was there before Jack threw him against the wall.
Mom and Dad are over the moon about little Jack Junior. He’s their first grandchild. Dad made him about a half-dozen hand-carved wooden toys— a boat, a plane, a car, those kinds of things. I guess he sees transportation in that baby’s future! Mom can’t get enough of him. She wants to hold him the entire time she’s here, so I let her.
I didn’t realize how much work a baby was going to be. At least with my job at the bank I got a coffee break and after work I could go home. Being a mother, there are no breaks and I’m already home and that’s where my job is! I’m just happy a day isn’t more than twenty-four hours. I have a whole new appreciation for Mom.
We’re all looking forward to Mom’s cookies this year. The rationing has eased for sugar for the first time in no one knows how long. She’s been buying all they will sell her and trading for more. My guess is she’ll make about a thousand cookies, and I’ll probably eat about nine hundred.
I’m going to bed now to try for a few hours of sleep before Jack Junior needs his 2 o’clock feeding. That’s one good thing about being a mother. I can fall asleep in an instant—lying down, sitting, standing, or leaning anywhere. The other good thing is that little Jack Junior is eating all the weight I gained carrying him right out of me. So, I’m already close to where I was before. Soon, Jack may take an interest in me again (I hope). But even with its challenges, I love motherhood. It’s what I was meant for. President Truman says, “The buck stops here.” Well, being a mother means the poop stops here… and so does everything else!
I’m going to finish the letter now; I actually fell asleep on the table last night. (That’s why the ink is smudged a little) Another night done. That’s what I want for Christmas—a good night’s sleep. Maybe Santa can do the 2 o’clock feeding on Christmas Eve. I wonder how Jack sleeps through it, but he works hard at the mill, so I can’t blame him. I’m just jealous, and like Jack says, he doesn’t have the equipment for it.
Jack says maybe we should move out to California. He thinks there might be more opportunity there. I reminded him that he has a good job here and who knows what he could get out there. What do you think? Isn’t everybody out there in the movie business? Jack can’t even handle our Brownie camera… or maybe he just doesn’t want to. I’ve taken a few pictures of Jack Junior. Everyone says how cute he is. He is cute, but sometimes he does look like Grampa falling asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. And I have to say, sometimes before he’s changed, he smells like Grampa, too… or Grampa smells like him (maybe Gramma needs to change Grampa). Anyway, I’ll send you a picture when I get the roll developed.
You can just feel the whole country is beginning to relax, can’t you? After all that time with the war. And for so long, everything you read in the paper was about the war and the rationing and worrying every single minute of every single day. Now, it’s really over and it’s like we can breathe a whole breath again. Somehow, it’s sweeter air than it was and fresher. It just tastes like hope. It’s the air of the future.
I hope you and Willy have a wonderful Christmas and while you’re eating an orange under your palm tree in the sun, think of us here shivering under a blanket of snow so deep Mom and Dad almost lost their new puppy dog, Shadow, in it. But seriously, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Write me, I live for news from the outside world.
Merry Christmas! We miss you!
Mary, Jack, and Junior
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Told in the annual Christmas letters Mary Townsend sends to her best friend, The Christmas Letter is an emotional roller coaster; an immersive, uplifting, deeply satisfying read. I loved it." ~ Warren Littlefield, Multi-Emmy, Peabody, Television Award winning Executive Producer of Fargo, and The Handmaid’s Tale
"A great literary gift of the Christmas or any season. It’s a story of a family so real, so moving and so heartwarming, you’ll want to invite Mary and her brood home for dinner." ~ Jeff Melvoin, Emmy Award winning Executive Producer, Designated Survivor, Army Wives, and Northern Exposure
"I could barely stand to leave these characters at the end of the book and have thought about them daily since, as though they were real and part of my real life. What a moving story, so beautifully written. ’The Christmas Letter’ is a testament to the strength of the human heart to persevere, against all odds and obstacles, bolstered by faith and stubborn belief." ~ Barbara Corday, Creator of Emmy Award winning series Cagney and Lacey, former President Columbia Pictures Television and Executive Vice-President of CBS Entertainment
"Steve Berman gives readers a poetic, beautiful and powerful understanding of the truth and love that connects hearts in his magnificent new book The Christmas Letter. The path these characters take, make it impossible for you to put this book down. ‘The Christmas Letter’ has courage and compassion. The finest convictions, the most challenging situations are met by true faith. You will experience a turbulent ride, with a result that speaks to friendship, family and faith. If you read one new book this year, please meet Mary and read The Christmas Letter." ~ Kathy Ireland, CEO kathy ireland Worldwide

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Beginning Christmas 1945 and ending Christmas 1981, The Christmas Letter consists of a series of Christmas letters written by Mary to her best friend Midge, who has just moved to Los Angeles with her husband. We visit Mary's family every year and get an update on births, deaths, and marriages. Over the course of the years, her letters describe her family life, as well as the movies, music, events, and politics of the times. As her family grows and life becomes more hectic, what starts off as a simple letter sent before Christmas gradually turns into a report of the Christmas happenings written over several days before and after Christmas.
Throughout it all, runs the thread of her mom's Christmas cookies, which I think should have featured on the front cover! I love the recipe for these cookies: "You start with love, put in some wisdom and add all the faith you can muster and finish them off with a hug and kiss." I also would have loved seeing the real recipe at the end of the book. But I guess it's a family secret!
It was hard to put this book down. I kept telling myself, "Just one more letter ..." When you close the book, you'll feel like you're saying good-bye to old friends. A must-read this Christmas season.

About the Author
Steven H. Berman
Steven H. Berman is a veteran writer-producer with more than fifteen produced credits, including a dozen Movies of the Week and five mini-series. His mini-series Roughing It brought him a Writers’ Guild of America nomination for best adaptation. His movie Twice Upon a Christmas premiered at the White House. The Christmas Letter is his first novel.
Steven lives in Los Angeles with his wife Marcia, the Director of Advancement at a private school. They have two children; Rachel whose debut novel, Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen was published last year, and Dan, an entrepreneur.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Early Bird Books

Early Bird Books

Early Bird Books

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Praise for Early Bird Books
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Monday, November 20, 2017

"Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog" by Arla Jayne

Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog
by Arla Jayne

Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog by Arla Jayne

Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog by Arla Jayne is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

He’s not like me ...
Come along with Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog and his momma on his first journey outside of Tiny Yard. Meet a young toad named Johnny and experience Hayden’s first interaction with someone not like him.

Book Video

"Being different is OK as long as you are you.
So be yourself and let your friends be their own selves too."

Praise for the Book
"This book has a wonderful message for all children. It teaches kids that everyone is different and that those differences are what makes us great. Very well written and the artwork is vibrant and sure to capture your little one's attention." ~ B Fett
"Hayden the Perfect Hedgehog is a great addition to any young child's library. It highlights important values while keeping kids engaged and interested. The cute illustrations, along with lessons of acceptance and friendship, will be something that children can share for ages to come!" ~ Joseph J Zukoski
"Great 1st story in Hayden's adventure. Can't wait for the next one." ~ Joanna
"My daughter and I really enjoyed this book. It has a wonderful lesson, and the book flows wonderfully." ~ mb
"Such a cute story and my kids enjoyed it!!" ~ Bonnie Gilligan

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Hayden lives in Tiny Yard with his momma, and he's never been anywhere else. When it's time to start school, his momma gives him this advice: "You be you and I'll be me. We'll be happy as can be." Hayden doesn't understand this at first, but then he meets someone who isn't like him. He learns that everyone is different, and that's a good thing.
The story is written in cute rhyming verse, but some of the sentences are awkwardly phrased in order to get that rhyme. In addition, some of the pages contain too much text, which may be overwhelming for the target audience of children ages 3 to 7. The colorful illustrations, also by the author, bring the characters to life, and children are sure to fall in love with Hayden the Hedgehog. However, I'm not sure if calling him "perfect" is appropriate, as he so obviously isn't - and that's not a bad thing!
This is the first in a series of adventures featuring Hayden the Hedgehog This book provides a valuable lesson about diversity, and I'm interested to see what the author comes up with next.

About the Author
Arla Jayne
Arla worked in corporate America for over thirty years. Her favorite responsibility was diversity training. This experience, combined with her love of children, drove her to create this series with the intent to bring diversity understanding and acceptance to the youngest readers. Arla is married to her wonderful husband, Ron. She has a son, whom this book honors, and was blessed to have four beautiful young ladies brought into her life through marriage. Being a mom to these wonderful people is her favorite job!