This is a murder mystery that involves a busy but secluded religious commune, New Life, headed by Father Ambrose. A trash bag containing the mutilated remains of a young girl is thrown onto their property, thus forcing the community to be dragged into the real world it tries hard to avoid as the murder is investigated.

The book begins very well and this author’s forte is in narrative writing. However, it rapidly gets bogged down with a lot of tedious and repetitive dialogue. Too often characters are telling, and retelling, each other things where it would be far more efficient if the author just told us, the readers, once. There are too many phone calls – two long ones in one chapter alone. Phone calls are notoriously difficult to portray in any novel – should we hear one side only, both sides, how much small talk need there be, and so on – and it’s best to avoid them if possible. Luckily these days we can have brief texts or emails to do their job, because as in this book, they do jar and slow the pace.

The plot is interesting and the descriptive writing generally excellent, but elsewhere the quality is much lower. The book is written in the third person but the author also uses, rather inconsistently, first person techniques such as direct thoughts. These rapidly become intrusive since you start to wonder why particular paragraphs are presented as his thoughts whereas others aren’t. There’s too much inconsistency. The majority of the characters aren’t well developed and remain shadowy.

There’s much to admire but generally I found this book disappointing after such a good start.

 

Help yourselves to a festive feel-good freebie from me!

Anna is house-sitting for family friends in a very cold cottage in the middle of snowy France. She’ll be there for a fortnight over Christmas. It’s all rather quiet and unexciting until, on Boxing Day, a pheasant gets tangled in the pear tree in the garden. Anna can’t possibly leave it there but her rescue attempt goes wrong, leaving her the stuck one. All she can do is wait for a knight in shining armour, or at least a passing Frenchman…

Anna Partridge in a Pear Tree is available in a variety of ebook formats for free from Smashwords here. And please spread the word!

This is a very polished cozy with lots of personality.

Our heroine Cassie, months away from becoming a fully qualified surgeon, is knocked down in a car park and the injuries she receives put paid to her career. She sinks into depression, so decides moving to London might be just the tonic she needs. In fact, she knows this must be the case when her mother, completely out of character, actively encourages her to spread her wings.

And so Cassie arrives in London. Despite having a generous compensation package to live off, she starts off in a hostel, into which she sneaks first a bike and later a cat! The bike is soon stolen and that sends Cassie to the police station where she bumps into DCI Tony Williams and his determined, straight-talking French colleague Violet Despuis, who quickly susses out Cassie’s medical past. And so when four people are poisoned at a soup stall, she tracks down Cassie to help her. Violet is someone you don’t dare say ‘non’ too (especially when Violet finds Cassie’s missing bike) and suddenly Cassie finds herself part of a crime-busting duo, and new owner one of the ginger cat of one of the murder victims.

Love interest arrives in the gorgeous form of ME Jake Edmonds, and this gives Cassie a boost, as does discovering that she’s not half bad at this detecting lark. True, she and Violet resort to breaking and entering, lying and deception to achieve results, but it works!

The author has given us a very interesting and unusual set of characters in this sparkling, clever cozy. It’s utterly absorbing and huge enjoyable. And it’s only the first in a series, so plenty more treats to come.

I am a great fan of cozy mysteries, as you’ve probably guessed by now. What you may not know is that I’m also equally addicted to scones. So how could I possibly resist a cozy involving scones and that’s also set in Oxford, where I spent three wonderful years as an undergraduate rather longer ago than I care to remember!

I was hooked by this book from the very start. It has a very dramatic opening: “I never thought I’d end the week facing an American with a sharp knife.” Gemma is our narrator. She owns the Little Stable Tearooms in Meadowford-on-Smythe. She’s turned her back on corporate life to follow her dream, much to her parents’ despair. But she’s sure she’s made the right choice for her. However, when the unpleasant American turns up dead outside her tearooms the next day with one of her scones stuck in his throat, then even she begins to wonder if she shouldn’t have stayed in Sydney.

She decides to investigate, helped by a group of very nosey old ladies and her own inside knowledge of Oxford, where, like me, she was a student. The police are busy hunting down the killer too, led by Devlin O’Connor, Gemma’s ex-boyfriend who was at Oxford with her. His reappearance results in a lot of mixed feelings for Gemma and definitely causes complications.

There’s a great deal of fun and clever writing in this book. It’s delightful – sweet but never cloying, and tongue-in-cheek at times but never slapstick. Extremely entertaining, it’s cozy at its most delicious. It comes with an explanation of very British terms for readers from different backgrounds, and has a glossary of those strange terms that Oxford University positively revels in. And there’s a recipe for scones too. What more could you ask for! More books in this series? Then don’t worry, there are currently four more books to enjoy, and there’s even a prequel too.

 

 

This is the fifth book in Lise McClendon’s series about the five Bennett sisters. Merle, our Elizabeth equivalent, is the main character, and out of the five impressive sisters she’s probably the strongest. But her strength is tested in this book.

She works for a legal aid company and is about to take a long break in France in order to get busy on the gothic novel that is floating in her head. Unexpectedly her steely boss announces that she’s planning to retire and wants Merle to take over her role. This brings prestige and salary but Merle resists this temptation. Her mettle is tested again when, on arriving in France having been reunited with her French detective boyfriend Pascal, she finds her beloved little house has been vandalised. And a man with a scarred face is making her nervous. She’s not through yet. Pascal disappears. Has he given up on her, or is he in trouble?

Author Lise McClendon

Merle has a busy and anxious time in France. Despite all the distractions, her novel begins to take shape, and it’s woven through the book. It’s set in the French Revolution, and also throughout the book there’s an ingenious theme of references to that troubled time – to events that took place then, and people, real and imagined.

It’s an absorbing story. It doesn’t give a twee, rose-coloured view of life in France, such as appears rather too frequently in cozies and chick lit, but presents it warts and all. Insurance assessors can be mean and moody, dropouts can cause trouble, sons don’t necessarily relish time with their mother, life doesn’t go as planned. It’s all very human and convincing.

My only niggle is about the title. There are a lot of books with The Frenchman as the title, or in it, and I always advocate a distinctive, unique title for discoverability’s sake, especially for a book as unique as this one.

Do read this, and the rest of the series too! Be sure to enter the giveaway below.

 

Lise McClendon

on Tour

September 8-21

with

Frenchman-ebook-cover

The Frenchman

(mystery)

Release date: September 8, 2017
at Thalia Press

278 pages

 

 

SYNOPSIS

In this 5th installment of the Bennett Sisters Mysteries (beginning with Blackbird Fly), attorney Merle Bennett goes to France for an extended stay to drink in the essence of ‘la France Profonde’ and write her own novel.
But the countryside is not as tranquil as she hoped. A missing Frenchman, a sinister one, an elderly one, a thieving one, and a vandalizing one: all conspire to turn Merle’s sojourn of reflection into a nightmare of worry. Where is Pascal, her French boyfriend? Who is the man with the terrible scar? Why is someone spray-painting her little stone house in the Dordogne? And will her novel about the French Revolution – snippets of which are included – give her a soupçon of delight or a frisson of danger?
Works fine as a stand-alone

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frenchman - Lise McClendon

Lise McClendon
is the author of fifteen novels of mystery, suspense,
and general mayhem plus short stories.
Her bestselling Bennett Sisters mystery series
began with ‘Blackbird Fly.’
She also writes thrillers as Rory Tate,
the latest of which is ‘PLAN X.’
Her short story is included in this fall’s noir anthology, ‘The Obama Inheritance.’
She lives in Montana.
Visit her website
Subscribe to her mailing list
Follow her on Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy the book: on Amazon

***

GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
7 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS,
EXCERPTS, AND GUEST-POST

Frenchman - banner

Save

It is a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, I admit, but the opportunity to take part in the book tour for this intriguing sounding book from New Vessel Press was too good to miss.

Short story collections by assorted authors can be hit and miss. Harnessing together authors from different periods with very different writing styles is quite risky. The logic behind such an enterprise is, I imagine, to seek to introduce the reader to a variety of writing united by some common theme or themes – as here where we have two in Frenchness and Christmas – at the same time bearing in mind that not everyone is going to like everything, but should at least like something! This book very successfully presents us with an excellent selection of festive French literature that I think will please and interest the vast majority of readers.

The Frenchness emerges in various ways in the anthology. France has long been thought of as a bastion of male chauvinism, something reflected in the language itself. Get one guy and a thousand girls together and you have to refer to them as ‘ils’ because of that one man! Times are changing, however, if slowly, but it was rather disappointing to see just one female author included in this anthology. Yes, it’s a long story/screenplay but it’s still just one as opposed to nine male authors. The lone female is Irène Némirovsky, of Ukranian Jewish origin, lived half her lifetime in France and wrote in French, but was refused French citizenship. Had she been awarded it, this prolific author might have avoided being arrested as a stateless Jew on 13 July 1942, despite having converted to Roman Catholicism, and sent to Auschwitz where she died just over a month later. It is thus very poignant and powerful to find her work included in this French anthology, since her adopted country let her down.

Other Frenchness emerges in how Christmas isn’t overly romanticised in any of the stories. In many, it’s mainly a background. This is how Noël is in this country. There isn’t the crazy hype starting in October that you get in other countries. There’s an air of restraint about it, but nonetheless, a good time is had by all. There is also a clear focus on eating during the festive season, and this emerges in many of the stories. The importance of food is one French stereotype that holds firm! But there are some small helpings of magic and wishful thinking, a crucial part of Christmas.

Straight talking is another Frenchness. No beating around the bush. Thus it’s a little startling and uncomfortable, for Western European readers at least, to come across an African character called Black Jo in one of the stories. It’s not offensively motivated, it’s who he is to the other boys at the school, and as the narrator of the story comes to know the boy better, he begins to call him Jo or Joseph.

But all these Frenchisms, together with the variety of writing we are offered, give a good impression of the country’s historical and present culture.

These are the stories and authors:

The Gift – Jean-Philippe Blondel (b.1964) Relationships and loneliness at Christmas.

St Anthony and his Pig – Paul Arène (1843-96) Great fun this one! St Anthony struggles with terrible temptation.

The Louis d’Or – François Coppée (1842-1908) A gambler seeks redemption.

Christmas in Algiers – Anatole La Braz (1859-1926) A soldier far from home attends a midnight mass with a difference.

The Wooden Shoes of Little Wolff – François Coppée (1842-1908) A touching tale, the most Christmassy of them all.

Christmas Eve – Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) The moral of this story is don’t pick up a pregnant prostitute on Christmas Eve…

Christmas at the Boarding School – Dominique Fabre  (b.1960) A young African boy in France, because of ‘events’ faces Christmas far from home.

Salvette and Bernadou – Alphonse Daudet (1840-97) Two imprisoned French soldiers remember the Breton Christmases of their youth.

A Christmas Supper in the Marais – Alphonse Daudet (1840-97) A Christmas ghost story – or just too much wine for Christmas supper?

A Miracle by Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) Evil spirits at Christmastime.

I Take Supper with my Wife – Antoine Gustave Droz (1832-95) Husband and wife share a playful Christmas Eve supper.

The Lost Child – François Coppée (1842-1908) A sweet Christmas miracle.

The Juggler of Notre Dame – Anatole France (the pseudonym of Jacques Anatole Thibault 1844-1924) Another religious miracle based on a medieval legend.

Noël – Irène Némirovsky (1903-42) Bittersweet undercurrents during a Christmas party held by affluent Parisians.

My only gripe is with the subtitle – in my opinion it’s a little rash to claim things are the ‘greatest’ but it gets attention I suppose, and it’s acceptable ‘puff’. However, I think the anthology would have worked just as well without it. Clearly the stories are selected because the editing team considers them to be exceptionally good and worthy of inclusion, and thus it’s implicit that there is merit in reading them. I suspect an anthology of awful stories not worth reading has yet to be published…

I also take slight issue with the ‘of all time’ label as three of our ten authors were born in the twentieth century, and all the other seven in the nineteenth from 1832 onwards. But since some of the stories refer to earlier times and we come right up to the present, then we do get a taste of several periods.

The book makes for an interesting, enjoyable and educational read, will make your Christmas more multi-cultural and will, I hope, tempt you to discover more French writers after sampling the writing in this anthology.

 

A Very French Christmas:
The Greatest French Holiday Stories
of All Time

on Tour

August 8-14

Very French Christmas Cover

A Very French Christmas:
The Greatest French Holiday Stories
of All Time

(short story collection)

Release date: October 10, 2017
at New Vessel Press

ISBN: 978-1939931504
142 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

A continuation of the very popular Very Christmas Series from New Vessel Press, this collection brings together the best French Christmas stories of all time in an elegant and vibrant collection featuring classics by Guy de Maupassant and Alphonse Daudet, plus stories by the esteemed twentieth century author Irène Némirovsky and contemporary writers Dominique Fabre and Jean-Philippe Blondel.
With a holiday spirit conveyed through sparkling Paris streets, opulent feasts, wandering orphans, kindly monks, homesick soldiers, oysters, crayfish, ham, bonbons, flickering desire, and more than a little wine, this collection encapsulates the holiday spirit and proves that the French have mastered Christmas. This is Christmas à la française—delicious, intense and unexpected, proving that nobody does Christmas like the French.

THE AUTHORS

Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France
Irène Némirovsky, Jean-Philippe Blondel, Dominique Fabre,
Paul Arene, Francois Coppee, Antoine Gustave Droz, Anatole La Braz

Follow New Vessel Press on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive their latest news and deals.

Buy the book: on Amazon

***

You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to US residents
5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS

Very French Christmas Banner

Other genres, such as mismem and griplit, come and go in popularity, but cosy mysteries remain constantly popular. These require creativity, ingenuity and humour on the part of the author, which make for a winning formula for readings. You find some really excellent writing.

Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa is no exception. This is a short, delightful read. Our heroine Cat works in the family organic food store. She’s recovering from the recent violent death of her father, but her supportive husband and lively children have kept her going. Also she’s making an effort to be there for her Korean mother, Yunni. When Lucy is found dead after nipping home to fetch dinner rolls for Cat and the other members of the Chubby Chicks Club, a group of friends who get together for pot luck suppers and chats, a chilling clue seems to link her death with Cat’s father’s. The police consider it to be a suicide but Cat is convinced otherwise. Annie Mae, the chubbiest of the chicks, joins Cat for a day’s eventful sleuthing which threatens to land them both in jail. Handsome cop José keeps a nervous eye on proceedings and rushes in to rescue the crimebusting pair when the difficult situations they get themselves into threaten to get out of control. They do get a little carried away at times! However, they also get the murderer, but Cat is still determined to track down her father’s killer, whatever the cost.

Once you start this novella it’s hard to put it down. The characters are quirky, diverse and fascinating. Cat is a lively, likeable heroine with strengths and flaws that make her so utterly identifiable with. Annie Mae, twenty years her senior and, by the sounds of it, twenty times her weight, makes for the perfect sidekick for her. The plot twists and turns, just as it should, and the result is a clever, original cosy that has you gasping in horror and chuckling in delight in equal measure. I highly recommend it, and I’m now off to read the next two books in the series.

Just a couple of tiny nitpicks – well, I am an editor! There were just a couple of typos, but that’s quite acceptable as the error-free book has yet to be published, and the cover is a little too cluttered. The image is clean and classy but the quote and the Chubby Chicks logo rather spoiled the overall effect for me.

I was pretty certain I was going to like this book even before I started reading it. First up, it’s a Christmassy romcom that manages not to have ‘little’ in the title! The author could have jumped on the bandwagon with ‘Christmas at the Little Village Pub’ or similar, but thank goodness she doesn’t! ‘Little’ is currently one of the most overused words in book titles, or at least I think so. Instead we have ‘Christmas at the Dog & Duck’, and the novel is as unpretentious and down to earth as the pub’s name, although we get our magic sprinkling of festive happiness at the end which we and the protagonists all deserve.

As well as the title, the book cover is also distinctive. There’s a definite craze for Christmas romcom covers to be shades of blue with a snowy house in the centre. At the bottom of this review you’ll see four such covers that I found within a few minutes of searching! Christmas at the Dog and Dog bucks this trend. We have a striking, unique look for this book, and it’s equally as Christmassy as all those snow scenes.

The book turns out to be equally as impressive. The story is beautifully and intelligently written. I notice some reviewers have grumbled about this not being a very Christmassy book as a lot of the action takes place during the months preceding the festive season. The plot of this novel is such that this needs to be the case, and quite frankly it doesn’t disqualify it from being a seasonal story at all. We see characters and their relationships develop over time, and a chain of events unfold. The action culminates on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a superbly warm and cosy way. This is most definitely a Christmas romantic comedy.

Heroine Ellie is smart and sensible, and taking time after a redundancy to sort herself out. She’s returned to the village she grew up in to housesit for her absent parents and sets up a dog walking business to tide her over. She also works at the Dog and Duck, and the pub is central to the story. The main love interest comes in the form of Max, a local landowner. They first bump into each other in less than flattering circumstances, at least for Ellie, and we get our share of mishaps and misunderstandings that are crucial to the romantic comedy. There are some endearing animals in cameo roles, but we stay well clear of the mawkish cutesiness that’s all too rampant in this genre.

This a measured, classy and immensely enjoyable novel. Three cheers for Jill Steeples, and five stars for her book.

 

Here are those other covers I mentioned earlier:

I’m a big fan of Paulita Kincer’s novels, and I honestly think this is her best yet. It’s an exciting story that takes us from Florida to Paris and Marseilles as Sadie tries to find her runaway daughter, Scarlett.

Sadie is still healing after an unpleasant divorce and has been neglecting herself and devoting all her energies to her two girls, to try and keep their family life going. Conversely, although she is going through a complete nightmare of worry and helplessness, the experience is bringing her back to life. She teams up with Auguste, the father of the young man, Luc, that Scarlett has followed to Paris. This new partnership benefits them both.

There is such sharp attention to detail it keeps the reader riveted. All those little Frenchisms which, as a visitor to the country, hit you with such force. As an expat in France for ten years, I’ve stopped n noticing some of them, so as I read this book I had plenty of ‘oh yes, that’s so true!’ moments. A couple of examples are how the way of numbering floors is blocks of flats is uniquely French, and how there really is such a thing as ‘the art of French shrugging’.

The characters are so well portrayed. Sadie is in many ways a very typical fifty-year-old mum of growing up, if not quite grown up, children. She’s pretty au fait with social media, and she’s one step ahead of me in being able to store her plane ticket on her mobile phone. Auguste and the minor French characters we meet are so obviously and convincingly French. Scarlett is not quite every difficult teenage girl, because she takes things to the extreme in her flight abroad, but she exhibits many of the traits you associate with her age group. I particularly like the monotone which she reserves especially for her poor mum.

This is a wonderfully written story and it will keep you gripped from cover to cover. I’m already looking forward to Paulita Kincer’s next novel.

The book is available from all Amazon stores in paperback and ebook.

A cover reveal for you today.

aim

Skye Lotus will be launching her new book, Aim, on 5th May.

It’s a book for young adults featuring Greek gods, but not as you’ve seen them before. The god of war, for example, lives in a war plane. I’ll tell you more about the book when it’s published, but for now, all you need to know is that it’s a lively adventure featuring a very modern young lady slash goddess, Zara, who needs some answers to her questions. The Greek deities have no idea what’s about to hit them…

This cover is by Maja Majetic. It’s perfect, in my opinion. The style and colours are modern and energetic, like the story. The pose of our heroine shows confidence and spirit, and yes, that’s a wolf by her side. We have to wonder what that’s all about. Already we’re intrigued to find out what this story is all about. This is beautiful artwork. You can find out more about Maja here.

Come back here on 5th May and I’ll give you a few more hints…. Meanwhile, please spread the word about this forthcoming novel by a young, talented author. I featured Skye on this website back in 2012, and she’s gone from strength to strength to strength since then! Aim is a book you’re going to love reading.