fawn picI’m thrilled to feature new author Fawn Atondo on Books Are Cool today. Fawn has just published her first book, Chosen Darkness. It’s contemporary paranormal, with some very original twists and turns along the way. The main characters are Falyn, a lone werewolf, and Alex, a vampire bounty hunter. When they meet, there’s instant attraction, but werewolves and vampires aren’t allowed to become partners, on pain of death. And Falyn soon learns she has a crucially important role to play in uniting the fractured werewolf society. It could be too much for a nineteen-year-old but Falyn has buckets of attitude and stamina.

Fawn Atondo creates some unusual and wonderful characters. She puts them into testing and entertaining situations, and you’re never sure what’s coming next. Chosen Darkness is exciting and different, sexy and imaginative.

I asked Fawn some questions about Chosen Darkness and her experiences as a self-published author.

What inspired you to write Chosen Darkness?

I have always loved vampires and werewolves. I wanted to make them something other than just bad or monsters. Yet not go Twilight with it either. Something for adults, something full of all kinds of immortal beings. A world inside a world.

Please describe it in 100 words.

Falyn is a lone werewolf whose work leads her to Alex Rave, a vampire bounty hunter. They quickly find out she is the bounty. After she escapes from the man who hired Alex to find her, Alex teams up with her to help her find out about the strange power locked inside her. She is meant to lead her race. It won’t be easy, but she finds a way to do it: she must become a shadow wolf. The only problem is she will have to give up the one thing she wants more than uniting her people: Alex.

What’s the appeal of paranormal as a genre?

The fact you can do so much with it! The endless ideas you could make out of the same creatures everyone knows about and writes about. I like how quickly things can go wrong in a paranormal world, making for great plots and story lines. Plus – it’s fun to write!

Which character did you enjoy creating the most and why?

I love my main leads, but the character I enjoyed creating the most was Lark. There’s just so much he can get across without saying very much. And I can’t wait for his love story, which will finish up the series.

Which character are you most like?

Um, this is a tough one! I think I am somewhere in the middle of Falyn and Break. Like Falyn, I had a rough start to life but I made something out of what I had. Always moving on and never looking back. And like Break I am very short and enjoy my tea!

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?

There is something sensual about a vampire, I can’t lie I would love to have that effortless confidence and power. However, the whole blood drinking thing just wouldn’t work for me. I would be one hungry vampire! I would much rather be a werewolf!

Chosen Darkness has a really great cover. Did you design it yourself?

chosenfinal2I am very lucky in the fact I did get a lot of say on my cover. I needed the people on the front to be as close to the people whose story is inside as possible!

Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

Yes, a few. One of them is that I always start with a title. I will hear a song or see a title of a TV show and something in the wording will stand out. I think, “Man, that would make a great title!” This is what happened with Chosen Darkness: I was watching an episode of One Tree Hill that was called ‘As for me, I have Chosen Darkness’. And the phrase ‘Chosen Darkness’ stood out. After that the world started building and the story was born.

Tell us briefly about what you’re writing at the moment.

Along with Chosen Shadows, book two in the Chosen Series, I am working on a contemporary novella series. Book one, Office Hours, should be out by the end of this summer.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write. And write often! If you want to be an author you need to keep at it. You’re only going to get better with each story!

What do your family and friends think of you being an author?

No one is surprised I am writing as I started young. I won so many awards for my short stories and poems in school that no one is shocked I am still at it. My sisters and girl cousins use to beg for me to finish my stories I told them at night! Yes, even then I started a series of stories that I spun out over long summers for them.

And finally, in Chosen Darkness, one of the characters, Break, loves a nice cup of tea! What’s your favorite food and drink?

Glazed pork chops with strawberry salsa. Yum! As for drink, tea. I have so much tea, it’s insane! I love to collect it! I drink it with milk which my hubby thought was the oddest thing when we first got married. He never heard of putting milk in your tea! I couldn’t picture it any other way. Coffee is a close second – I’m not sure I could function without it most days!

Find out more about Fawn at her blog here.

And do treat yourself to Chosen Darkness which you can buy here.

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Melina’s back. You may remember I reviewed the first book in this culinary cozy mystery series, A Crusty Murder, here recently. Now it’s time to look at the second book.

Blurb

When Franklin Seever, the father of Melina’s best friend BettyJo, is poisoned from eating Melina’s fresh baked croutons at a dinner party, a police investigation once again targets Melina.

But Melina has learned her lesson after finding her landlady lying in a pool of blood, and with a crusty piece of bread protruding from her mouth, just a few months ago. If there is one thing Melina is aware of, it’s that you never really know people until you break bread with them.

BettyJo’s dad, a wealthy banker, already disliked Melina before the crouton calamity. What’s he going to think of her now that his life is hanging in the balance? Out of the bread pan and into the fire for Melina as she tries to keep BettyJo from freaking out about her dad, and engages in keeping her safe from a weirdo stalker.

And wouldn’t you know it? Just when Melina’s life couldn’t get more twisted than a loaf of braided bread, the sexy Scotsman, Aidan Sinclair, once again arrives on her doorstep with a smile on his face and an offer that could change Melina’s life forever.

Review

This is another very entertaining novella that makes you hungry as you enjoy the mystery. It’s a well-constructed whodunnit, with very real tension and suspense. But there’s also comedy, hints of romance, friendship, loyalty, patience, impatience and, well, real life. The characters are people you could meet on the street, they’re so very human and convincing. The mystery itself is tightly written and plausible, so all in all, this is an easy-read, easy-enjoy story. J M Griffin has a sharp eye for detail and a sure way of grabbing the reader’s attention.

A perfectly baked piece of fiction – attractive looking, crispily written and ultimately very satisfying and more-ish!

About the author:

J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.

ONLINE LINKS:

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Grand Cru Heist by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen is best summed up, I think, as a cozy mystery for men set in the ostentatiously wealthy world of winemakers and connoisseurs. There is a definite feeling of Gentlemen’s Club in the novel with erudite discussions and witty wordplay amidst a haze of cigar smoke. The characters we meet would definitely never confuse “a Bordeaux with a Burgundy”, and I’m not sure the same could be said for a lot of its readers. (I know I’d be struggling!) However, the book gives us a fascinating glimpse into this exclusive world.

Winemaker Benjamin Cooker is the victim of a carjacking in Paris. To recover from the unpleasant ordeal, he takes himself off to a rather nice hotel in Touraine to convalesce. Here he meets the British version of himself – Robert Morton, another man who likes his fancy motors and vintage wines. He’s also pulled into a murder when Morton’s young female companion is found dead, and shortly afterwards Cooker stumbles on another body. While this is going on, his friend Hubert de Boüard, owner of the Château Angélus, is suffering from burglaries and receiving clever, cryptic messages from the thieves. Cooker throws his returning energy and intelligence into working out what’s going on in both cases. He certainly does seem more clued up than the investigator from the gendarmes, especially when it comes to European car registration numbers. With the help from his assistant, Virgile, Crooker sets to.

The book is partly set in Bordeaux, without doubt the most beautiful city in France. (With my daughter at university there, I get to visit it every now and again.) If you know the city, but actually even if you don’t, you can really appreciate the descriptions of various parts of it that we find in the book. There are a few mentions of its history too. There is some lyrical writing (“The two pilgrims braved the west wind and the light rain that seeped into their bones, and for a while, they forgot their ages, their health, their ambitions, and perhaps even their own convictions”), and sharp observation (“Restaurants always seemed to be full of bored couples who enjoyed eavesdropping”). It’s tightly written, moves steadily and always with dignity, like Cooker himself, and is an intriguing mystery.

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I’ve mentioned the Gentlemen’s Club atmosphere, and this is a predominantly male book. There are some women amongst its pages, although they do stay in the background. There’s Cooker’s wife, Elisabeth, patient and loving, also a bossy nurse, a moody prostitute and an eye-catching waitress. They’re succinctly portrayed and, whilst minor characters, they’re certainly not shadowy.

Time for a very quick, gentle grumble. We get a ‘discretely’, meaning separately, where we need a ‘discreetly’, meaning stealthily, and teetotaler preceded by ‘an’ amongst the, admittedly, very few typos in this very well presented novel. However, to make up for that we get the lovely touch of the made-up term ‘Saint-Emillionnaire’ to describe someone who’s made a fortune from that type of wine. And I was delighted to see that Cooker’s dog is called Bacchus – I mean, what else! And to return briefly to our ‘an teetotaler’, the definition is wonderful and gives us a good idea of what our hero Benjamin Cooker is about. To him teetotalers are “A race of individuals not to be recommended…”, and the same can be said of the criminals Cooker helps to root out. (I’ve since been informed that I had an ARC – advanced review copy – of the book and that these and other typos will be sorted out in the final version.)

This is an enjoyable read. It’s quite a short book but, since it’s only the second of a promised series of twenty-two, then we can be consoled with knowing that there is plenty more entertainment coming our way from these two authors.

grandcru authorsPhoto is copyright of David Nakache

Follow the rest of this enchanting book’s virtual tour by visiting the France Book Tour  website.

 

 

sevenminutesWill has recently been made redundant so he’s taking care of the farm and family while his wife commutes abroad to work for the mother she’s never got on with. There’s not much demand for history of art graduates and job hunting isn’t going well. So when Will finds an untitled book on his doorstep, he’s more than happy to let it distract it from what he should be doing. It’s a mysterious manuscript, presenting him with snippets from the lives of various people – Angelica, Sabina, the inappropriately named Clemence (he’s a boy), Helen, Louise and Mangikas – at key moments in their lives. These are their most powerful memories. They give Will fascinating insights into these memorable characters, but gradually he begins to see that their lives are connected to each other.

But what has all this got to do with him? Why has this book ended up on his doorstep? Did his wife, Sarah, write it? The mysteries in his life only deepen when he’s invited to what has to be the most bizarre interview he – and possibly anyone else – has ever had. And increasingly he finds himself drawn ever more deeply into the pages of the book. It’s almost as though a web is closing around him.

This is a fantastically imaginative novel from debut author Jessica Stritch. She has taken this idea of us each having our seven minutes of crucial memories, which is intriguing itself, and turned it into a fast paced, absorbing, highly original story. Every aspect of her writing is sharp and honed, but her strength undeniably lies in her creation of characters. She gives us people from not only different walks of life, but also of different nationalities and at various ages. Whether interacting with others, or wrestling with their own beliefs, they are persuasive and empathetic. Given the diversity of the people we meet in the book, the settings vary from sunny Greek beaches to a car race track to boarding school to wartime Germany, to give a few examples. Like Will, the reader can’t help but be drawn into their lives. There’s an unexpected but welcome twist as the novel reaches its climax making this a rewarding and very polished piece of fiction indeed.

You can buy the book here at Amazon.com and at all Amazon branches.

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REVIEW:

Here in France, it’s normal to be presented with an amuse-bouche when you go to a restaurant. An amuse-bouche is a small, tasty hors d’oeuvre, designed to both whet your appetite and show you what the chef is capable of, and, most importanly, leave you wanting more.

A Crusty Murder is J M Griffin’s amuse-bouche. It’s a fairly short but wonderfully tempting and enjoyable novel filled with delicious characters as well as food. It’s a mouth-watering mystery and a tasty introduction to a new series from this author. This is apparent from the very first paragraph:

Crusty bread protruded for her mouth, a dreadful halo of dark red blood pooled around her head. But, it wasn’t a halo. It was a nightmare scene before me. I peered closer touching the bit of bread. My fingers brushed her skin. I gasped and jumped back. Mrs. Peterson was dead.

What a thing to find in the kitchen. However, our heroine, Melina Cameron is as resourceful as she is a skilled baker. She copes surprisingly well with this gruesome discovery of her dead landlady, but when another body with associations to her turns up, the heat goes up. Melina now has to prove her innocence as well as keep her bakery, The Hole in the Wall, going. The finger is also pointing at Melina’s best friend and neighbour, Betty-Jo so the two of them unite to track down what’s behind these deadly events.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s her grandmother to cope with. She’s something of a handful, a twenty-year-old trapped in a seventy-year-old’s body!

Luckily there’s Aidan Sinclair, a handsome Scotsman here on business, to lend a hand. He’s not the only man to find Melina attractive. Detective Graham is also rather smitten, but he also seems rather too keen to pin the murders on her too!

The characters are particularly strong. They’re all fascinating in that they’re all very real with their quirks and flaws. Between them they create a rich atmosphere of coziness with intrigue at its centre, a bit like the wonderful empandas that are cooked up: unassuming pastry on the outside but a surprizing filling on the inside.

So we have murder, romance, friendship, tension and wonderful food all in the same book. It’s a well written novella, which I thoroughly enjoyed, fulling showing off the versatility and talent of the author and tantalizing us to want more bites of this series.

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AUTHOR BIO:

J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.

ONLINE LINKS:

  • Blog  http://mycozymysteries.blogspot.com
  • Facebook  danastone.5815
  • Twitter  mycozymystery

BUY NOW LINK:

 

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Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for I See London, I See France by Paulita Kincer. I’ll begin with my review of this beautifully written and engaging novel, and then we’ll hear from Paulita.

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Review

“What have I done?” I silently asked. “I’m stepping off into this madhouse with my children.”

Which parent hasn’t asked themselves that at some point when they’ve taken drastic action of some sort? (I know I did during the early months after we moved to France!) This is the question Caroline poses herself when she decides to go to Europe with her three children after her marriage to Scott crumbles. She’d spent time in France as a young woman in Aix-en-Provence and Corsica and has interesting memories of the country, and especially of the attractive Jean-Marc, which are shared with us through the book. And so she is drawn back there, via London, Cornwall, Scotland and Paris.

The various settings are portrayed in wonderful detail – the scenery, the people, the sights and smells. The physical journey reflects Caroline emotional journey as she tries to decide what to do with her future, how to proceed from this point of marital breakdown. London is the businesslike, responsible Caro, whereas the wilds of Scotland, and the exotic Gustave, see her starting to shake off her inhibitions and worries. But it still seems her happiness prove to be as elusive and possibly fictional as the Loch Ness Monster. But then comes Paris, some self-realisation, and the next stop is Aix-en-Provence. She meets up with some people from her past, and at the same time finds her life is taking “a relaxing turn” and “is easier here”. And Jean-Marc reappears, and also Gustave.

And so briefly on to Italy and Scott…

The novel is absorbing, beautifully written and fabulously enjoyable. It also offers us a gentle reminder that relationships need working at. It’s too easy to take certain things for granted or get stuck in a behavioural rut. Teenage first crazy love is contrasted with married love and life, temptation with loyalty, self-indulgence with duty. There’s comedy, sadness, romance, bitterness, temptation, discipline – Paulita Kincer keeps us gripped. Caroline is a sympathetic heroine, honest and genuine, but most of all human. She’s not superwoman, although she comes fairly close at times in my opinion. She’s someone we can admire. Above all she’s warm and caring and real and we can see ourselves in her shoes.

Do read this touching, inspiring novel, available here from Amazon.com.

And Paulita’s website is here.

And now let’s hear from Paulita.

 

Interview with Paulita

Paulita Kincer

Stephanie, Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your blog today. I feel like I just dropped by your lovely gite for a mid-morning coffee klatch. I know, tea for you, but I’ll have a café crème without the spoon left in the cup.

 1.      What’s the story behind I See London, I See France? Why did you write it?

This book began long ago when my husband and I first traveled to France with the kids. They were 2, 4 and 6 years old. I wrote a “memoir” of sorts for us. Thinking of how difficult that trip was, I imagined what it would be like to handle three kids on your own in France and how desperate someone would be to try that. That’s what became the idea for I See London I See France. Also, marriage can be tricky. Everyone has down times and up times. It’s easy to start longing for that French love who got away during a down time.

2.      Please describe your novel in 100 words.

An unhappy American woman sells her minivan and uses the proceeds to escape to Europe with her three kids in tow. She’s searching for joy and thinks that a previous French love might be the answer. Along the way, she’s distracted by a handsome gypsy and the travails of motherhood, all in gorgeous vacation settings.

3.      How does the cover encapsulate your novel?

Originally, I’d pictured a book cover with a bicycle leaning against the front of a French country house. When I couldn’t find that, I went with the iconic Eiffel Tower. It definitely lets the readers know where the novel takes place. This picture is especially meaningful because my son Tucker took it on a class trip to France last year.

4.      Which do you prefer – London or Paris?

Definitely Paris – no offense to anyone who loves London. Most of the action takes place in France with just a brief touchdown in London, western England and Scotland.

The title for the book actually comes from an American childhood rhyme.

I See London

I See France

I See Stephi’s underpants

Since Caroline, the main character, is traveling with her children, I thought the rhyme would help readers make that link. I didn’t count on the rhyme not being universal though.

5.      Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I just finished your book, Stephanie, which I enjoyed. I like to read memoirs set in France, but I really love any kind of fiction, usually written by women. Last week I read After Her by Joyce Maynard. Marian Keyes is one of my favorite authors so I’m always on the lookout for something by her.

6.      When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have notebooks full of pioneer stories that I wrote as a little girl. I used to take my notebook and a peanut butter sandwich and leave the house early in the morning to find adventures to write about.

7.      Tell us briefly about what book’s coming next.

I’m writing a novel called Paris Runaway. It’s about a divorced mom whose 17-year-old daughter disappears. The mother learns she’s followed a French exchange student from Florida to Paris. The mother goes after her and learns a lot about herself while in pursuit of her daughter.

8.      What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Keep writing. Don’t stop to admire your work after you’ve finished one novel. The next one awaits, and they usually just get better as you keep going.

9.      What does your family think about you being an author?

My daughter is 22 now and she is a great cheerleader for me. She tries to stay on top of my social media. My boys are 20 and 17, and they aren’t so interested in my books. My husband has to juggle his editor hat and his husband hat to offer me criticism and support. And my parents, well, it’s kind of embarrassing the way they are always trying to sell my books to people.

10.  OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate, wine and cheese. Is that too cliché? Well, maybe that’s one of the reasons why I love France so much. Okay, how bout:

A nice flaky croissant with melted chocolate in the middle

Little squares of goat cheese on salad

A sweet dessert wine

 

Thanks so much for interviewing me for your blog and thanks to all of the readers who love reading about interesting characters who find adventures, whether within themselves or out in the world.

 

Thank you Paulita, and I wish you every success with your marvellous novel. 

 Click here to find out where else Paulita is visiting on her book tour and enter the giveaway here.

 

yarnfarmingI knew I was going to like this book – Adventures in Yarn Farming by Barbara Parry – from my first glance at the contents list. Someone who can come up with Good Fibrations, Lamb-pedes ad Hay-lelujah is my kind of author – clearly imaginative and with a fine sense of humour. And, as a sheep, alpaca and llama owner myself, the subject matter of these cleverly named chapters fascinated me.

The author Barbara Parry tells us about four seasons on her New England farm. She also tells us how she tends to take “an awfully long and complicated way around most things”, but most definitely not with her writing. The book is succinctly written, full of absorbing detail about the life of a small-scale sheep farmer, and Barbara Parry outlines why she embraces this fascinating but formidable lifestyle. And there’s plenty of humour, as I expected. You pick up lots of interesting facts about the various different breeds of sheep, how and why they differ with regards to their wool type and yield, and the author explains how she made her own choices. Being a llama farmer, I was delighted to see that she added llamas (one of whom shares my daughter’s name!) to her menagerie to act as bodyguards, a role these camelids perform brilliant as I know from experience.

The author shares with us how she processes the fibre, from shearing to spinning; it’s a veritable goldmine of information. There’s hands-on advice, workable tips and hints, not just about yarn processing, using and storing dyes, but also about lambing, stock health maintenance and running a farm. Throughout there are fabulous photos. There are even knitting patterns too and a glossary. This is such a well planned and executed book but most of all it’s so readable. Barbara has a wonderful, welcoming conversational style.

Any yarn lover will surely love this book.

The book is published by Roost Books. Find all the details here.

Cover art photo better_gohome_300A married man’s unexpected departure from Czechoslovakia? with the neighbor woman and her children?is at the heart of a mysterious trail of true events that has inspired University of Washington writing instructor Scott Driscoll to write his first novel, Better You Go Home.

“At a family funeral in the early 90s, I learned about a cache of letters written in Czech to my aunt. I had them translated and learned that a male relative had left his wife and three children in a remote farm village in Bohemia prior to World War One.” Driscoll continues, “I learned my relative and the neighbor woman married bigamously in Iowa. The other fact revealed was the presence of a child named Anezka?who seems to have simply disappeared. I suspect she was their illicit child.”

Not long after, Driscoll visited his relative’s village and began to speculate. “What had become of the unidentified child? What if my life had deployed on her side of the Iron Curtain? Once that question lodged in my psyche, like a small wound that wouldn’t heal, I knew I had to write this story.” The work of literary fiction that trip inspired is Better You Go Home. The novel traces the story of Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch, who is diabetic, nearing kidney failure and needs a donor organ.  He travels to the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister who may be able to help save his life. What Chico does not count on is unearthing long-buried family secrets.

It begins when he searches through his father’s attic after the Velvet Revolution and discovers letters dated four decades earlier revealing the existence of a half-sister. That sets him on a quest to see if he can find her. Once in the Czech Republic, Chico meets Milada, a beautiful doctor who helps him navigate the obstacles. While Chico idealizes his father’s homeland, Milada feels trapped. Is she really attracted to him, or is he a means of escape to the United States? Chico confronts a moral dilemma as well. If he approaches his sister about his need for a kidney, does he become complicit with his father and the power brokers of that generation who’ve already robbed her of so much?

Better You Go Home is about a son seeking his father’s secrets, but in a larger sense it’s about the progeny of exiles. Says Driscoll, “Much has been written about the survivors of WWII and its aftermath; I want to draw attention to the lives of their children.”

 

About the Author: 

DriscollScott Driscoll, an award-winning writing instructor at UW, Continuing and Professional Education, took several years to finish Better You Go Home (October 2013, Coffeetown Press), a novel that grew out of the exploration of the Czech side of his family in the 1990s after Eastern Europe was liberated. Driscoll keeps busy freelancing stories to airline magazines.

 

Scott shares a few of his writing secrets.

“I never just sit down to write.  I do a lot of prep work.  I read, research, take notes, sketch story lines, sketch character profiles. When I am ready to dive into a chapter, much work has already been done.  But when that time comes to get busy with a chapter, I start by reading something I’ve recently written, and when I have a feel for sentence rhythm and timing, then I get busy with the writing. It wasn’t always this way.  I use to just write write write. But you reach a point where you begin to be much more task driven rather than writing just to be producing prose.

“I read books on related topics.  I interview people. I am not averse to checking Web sites for actual photos or physical descriptions. YouTube videos can also be useful. You need an idea of what a barn fire looks like? You can find examples and steal the sensory information.  All that is there.  Why not use it?”

 

And here is his advice for a new writer:

“Devote as much time as possible to writing. Don’t be afraid to imitate a writer you particularly admire (great way to learn), take classes (it will boost your professionalism), and don’t write entirely in a vacuum.  Be aware of your potential audience. And, by all means, be part of a writing critique group composed of people similarly earnest and if possible including one or two writers who’ve already had some success.”

 

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This collection of tough, urban reality short stories, You Are Here, by Joe Boland, are set in Romville, a fictional town in Connecticut. They are told in a direct, no-frills style. Hardships and horror aren’t damped down, and the language is uncompromising too. But in the same unexaggerated way, there is dark humour and also trust, loyalty, and love. There may not be much of these last three, and sometimes the characters don’t even recognise it, but it is there and it gives just enough hope to keep humanity hanging on. The people we meet see what’s bad and good in others, and in themselves too, and don’t gloss over any failings and disappointments.

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The stories are This Story, Well She Killed Me, Where the World Goes When It Goes Away, Division Street, Dreamy, My Life Up To Now and Not a Word. Between them they demonstrate the creativity and versatility of the author. Whilst all fall into the genre of noir, they are all original and quirky and peopled by unique characters. There are no stereotypes but sharp insights into personalities and somewhat bleak situations.

You Are Here is a refreshing, rewarding, unconventional collection of stories for someone who enjoys a more challenging read.

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The book is available from http://www.ramsfieldpress.com/ and also from Amazon.

Joe Boland’s website is here.

His Facebook page is here.

cafe insomHow well can you trust yourself? No matter how you cut it, you cannot. Your eyes can see things that are not present; you can hear things that you should not. Hallucinations are omnipresent, and in reading Café Insomniac you too will find yourself wondering what is real and what is imaginary, as the lines between real and unreal blur to a greater and greater extent.

Such is the predicament of Justin, insomniac and latterly a latte-serving ex-teacher in charge of the titular Café Insomniac, a co-venture with his father. The premise of Café Insomniac is self-explanatory – it is a café, open all night and ready to dispense caffeine and pastries to those who find themselves burning the midnight oil or otherwise unable or unwilling to receive a visit from the proverbial sandman.

However, things are not quite as they seem, as the sleep-deprived protagonist finds himself drawn into an unnerving series of events of worsening insomnia, seemingly sparked by a murder of one of his patrons. The insomnia soon becomes a total inability to sleep, and as Justin finds his reflexes duller and duller and the imaginary harder and harder to distinguish from the unimagined, things become stranger and stranger and the normal becomes unnerving. Can Justin get to the truth of the matter and save his sanity, or was he never really sane to begin with?

The book is a definite change of pace from anything else on the market at the moment. It sends the reader into an uncanny valley where things seem normal, but not quite. There is an undercurrent of just something strange to each sentence, each paragraph. As the plot progresses, the strangeness becomes a little bit more pronounced, just a little more, until you find your skin crawling as the writing crosses into something mildly, yet fundamentally, unnerving.

Mark Capell is a fluent word-smith to craft a work with such a profound effect on the reader. When the book is not attempting to rattle the reader, the descriptions of the characters and places are down to earth and can be related to, while at the same time keeping you just ever so slightly off-balance and continuing the ever-so-slightly unsettling narrative.

In keeping with the book’s departure from the market norms, the plot lends itself to the atmosphere. It is undeniable that it is a slow build-up all the way through, and yet it complements the tiredness of Justin and the fogginess of his mental state.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. It captures the confused and unsure mental state of anyone who has found themselves awake in the small hours of the morning, eluded by sleep and groggily fumbling with reality to try and find out just what is going on around them. As a little bonus, the author also proposes, on his website, a playlist of songs that appear in the book itself and which compliment the ambiance of the story. So tune in, read on and try not to slip away…

Book review by Benjamin Dagg of the Books Are Cool team.