Thursday, July 31, 2014

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

9781478953531I’ll say up front that I have become a huge fan of author Michael Koryta and narrator Robert Petkoff. Put these two together and you get a chilling, suspenseful tale that will have the hair on the back of your neck standing up.

A perfect example of their collaboration is the audio format of Koryta’s latest thriller, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, with Petkoff during the narration.

Petkoff gives each character – teenager, adult, male and female – their own unique voice. His cadence, especially portraying the killers, is captivating. He does a superb job highlighting the emotions of the victims, killers and all those involved in this mesmerizing story. 

Koryta has created a well-developed story of innocence lost while trying to do the right thing.

The main focus of the story is young Jace Wilson, a teenager who witnesses a murder and is being pursued by the killers to stop his testimony against them. The story is also about Ethan Serbin, who teaches wilderness survival training, and his wife, Allison. Thrown into the mix is Hannah Faber, a firefighter just returning to the field after a tragic forest fire claimed the life of her crew including her boyfriend. The last pieces of the puzzle are the killers, brothers Patrick and Jonathan, who have a unique way of communicating that is both fascinating and chilling. They’re known as the Blackwell Brothers.

The brothers will stop at nothing to get what they want – the boy. They seem unstoppable even when Jace is placed in a wilderness camp for troubled boys under a false name and off the grid.

As the brothers get closer to finding Jace, the more death and destruction they leave in their wake. As they close in, others are just as determined that they won’t win, no matter the cost.

Koryta has fashioned two of the worst killers I’ve ever read about. While their acts are horrible, it’s their manner and charm that makes these two so calculating and frightening. But at the same time, there is a point where Koryta shows a different side of the killers so profound that you catch yourself feeling sorry for them, taking in some of the emotions they feel. For a fleeting moment you see them in a different light.

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD is an adrenaline-fueled rush that will leave you breathless at times. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions as all the paths come together for a dramatic conclusion. Near the end, the author included a series of events that took me completely by surprise adding more depth to his characters and enhancing an already captivating story.

The mountains of Montana make for an eerie setting in this gripping thriller. As the killers close in, so does a devastating fire as time and options run out.

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta, Performed by Robert Petkoff, Hachette Audio, @2014, ASIN: B00JEI5T4G, Unabridged, Digital Download, Listening Time: 10 Hours and 30 Minutes 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you enjoy thrillers that throw you a curve at the end with an unexpected twist? Do you enjoy books where the author makes you have empathy for the killer?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Perfect Stranger: What Have You Told Them?

The Perfect Stranger coverHave you ever met any of your blogging friends in person?

With blogging a large part of our lives, author Wendy Corsi Staub has incorporated that into her latest thriller, THE PERFECT STRANGER, the second installment in her ‘cyber predator’ series that was released yesterday.

Wendy is joining us today to answer some questions about her writing and her latest book. First, here’s a brief description of THE PERFECT STRANGER.

      During the darkest period of her life—her battle with breast cancer—Alabama mom Landry Wells found solace in a group of online bloggers who had been in her shoes and lived to tell the tale.  She's shared things with her online friends that even her husband and children didn't know. Things that now, looking back, make her uneasy.
      At last, years later, the close-knit, geographically scattered circle of online friends is about to meet in person at a funeral for a fellow blogger.
      Though these women are no strangers to death, they never expected they would have to mourn a friend’s death after she was viciously murdered. And, as the story unfolds after their meeting, Landry suspects that her beloved friend’s death wasn’t as random as it seems—and that the killer might be masked behind a familiar screen name. These women are her closest confidantes in the world: they understand her; they know everything about her --- and one of them might be a cold-blooded killer.

Early praise for this latest thriller:
      "In a word: terrifying…” RT Book Reviews
      “Solid gold suspense!” Lee Child

Please join me in welcoming Wendy as she graciously answers my questions.

Mason - What was your research process like for this book?

My research process for any book is always hands-on, extensive and ongoing, beginning long before the first word is written and stretching to the very last page. THE PERFECT STRANGER is the second in my trilogy of social networking thrillers that began with THE GOOD SISTER (HarperCollins, October 2013) and will conclude with THE BLACK WIDOW (HarperCollins, March 2015), so naturally I spent a lot of time online, not just learning about internet predators, but lurking on various social media forums, absorbing the rhythms, nuances, shorthand, etc., of how strangers interact with each other. 

This particular book focuses on bloggers who are all breast cancer survivors and was initially inspired by my sister-in-law’s personal experience, so I was able to get a firsthand take on some of it. And because it features a group of characters who are scattered around the country, I visited all the locations in person to make the settings (Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Boston, and L.A., in addition to my own home city New York) as authentic as possible. In addition to the usual forensics, police procedural, criminal psychology, etc., I did extensive research into what I can only refer to as “turtle lore,” for reasons that will become clear to anyone who reads the book.
Mason - Now that THE PERFECT STRANGER has been published, what surprised you the most about this project and its outcome and your Cyber Predator series in general?

All three books in this trilogy are cautionary tales about
Photo Credit: Lisa Nasca
the dangers of sharing too much online. It continues to amaze me that people are so willing to make themselves vulnerable by sharing intimate details and personal information with total strangers in the cyber world that they might think twice about sharing with even a casual acquaintance in person.
Mason - If you could write a book with any author (living or dead), who would it be and what would the book be about?

I’d collaborate with my author pal, the wonderful Laura Lippman, and any other contemporary authors who care to contribute to a collection of essays about our favorite vintage YA novels/series. (Don’t be surprised if this actually comes to fruition someday—Laura and I and some fellow Beany Malone enthusiasts had a field day with this topic on a recent Facebook post on my page.)
Mason - What do you hope readers take away from reading your latest release?

My longtime readers are loyal and clever and appreciate a complex plot filled with unexpected twists, so it’s always a challenge to stay one step ahead of them. I owe them a satisfying read and I work hard to ensure that I meet their expectations. My goal with every release is to ultimately unmask a villain the audience least expected or throw in a curve they never saw coming.

Mason - Do you have any habits/rituals you follow when writing such as a certain place to write, favorite beverage to drink, quiet verses noise, etc.?

These days I travel constantly, and my deadlines are tight, but I’m not one of those writers who can casually open a laptop on a plane and bang out a chapter. While I occasionally have to do just that, I prefer to write in my home office, on my desktop Mac computer. I sip coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, and coconut water in between. We moved to our neighborhood two decades ago because it was quiet and idyllic—the perfect working environment for me--so the chaotic, noisy, constant construction disruption of a house being built next door over the past eight months was infuriating and literally caused me to blow a deadline. Now I’m making up for lost time. As always, when I’m home, I work 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, so that I’m living and breathing my fictional world. I try to save the many non-writing tasks that go with my career for days on the road. (I’m actually answering these interview questions in the midst of a 7-hour Amtrak trip!)

Mason - Are you currently working on any new projects?

Always! I’m currently reviewing the copy edit for THE BLACK WIDOW, the third book in my social networking thriller trilogy—it’s set in the world of online dating and will be published by HarperCollins in March. I’m under contract with them for a new suspense trilogy set in a fictionalized Hudson Valley town, Mundy’s Landing, with a notoriously bloody past that stretches back to the first settlers. I just finished writing the first book, tentatively entitled BLOOD RED, and it will be published sometime next year. Before I begin working on the second, I’m finishing a top-secret project that I hope to share soon!
Wendy, thanks for joining us and sharing this insight into THE PERFECT STRANGER. In listening to the book, I’ve been wondering if you had personal knowledge of someone with breast cancer from the tone of the characters. Now I understand how you captured their essence so well.

Now let me sharing some background on Wendy.

New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five published novels and has sold more than four million books worldwide. Under her own name, Wendy achieved New York Times bestselling status with her single title psychological suspense novels. Those novels and the women's fiction she writes under the pseudonym Wendy Markham also frequently appeared on the USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top Ten, and Bookscan bestseller lists. 

Wendy’s latest suspense novels for HarperCollins are linked by a social networking theme and include THE GOOD SISTER (Harper, October 2013), which has been optioned for television by Fox, as well as the upcoming THE PERFECT STRANGER (July 2014) and THE BLACK WIDOW (2014). 

Earlier in 2013, she concluded a bestselling, award-winning trilogy that was launched by HarperCollins in September 2012 with NIGHTWATCHER, which won the 2013 Westchester Library Association Washington Irving Prize for Fiction. It was followed in October by the New York Times bestselling SLEEPWALKER, which went on to become a finalist for the prestigious Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award presented at the Mystery Writers of America Edgars Symposium in April 2013. The trilogy’s final title, SHADOWKILLER, was released in February 2013. 

Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband of twenty years and their two children. A 1986 graduate of the State University of New York at Fredonia, she proudly delivered the keynote commencement address at her alma mater in May 2008, was a featured speaker at the 2011 Academic convocation, and is serving a three-year appointment to the Dean's Advisory Council for the College of Arts and Sciences.

For more on Wendy and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Now to tempt you even more to pick up a copy of this tantalizing thriller, is the book trailer for your viewing pleasure. THE PERFECT STRANGER may have you rethinking what you share online.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and visiting with Wendy. Do you think as a society we share too much online with perfect strangers? If so, why do you think we do that?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Tour: The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane

The Tea Shop on Lavender LaneAuthor Sheila Roberts is on a Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour for her latest release, THE TEA SHOP ON LAVENDER LANE, the fifth installment in her Life in Icicle Falls series.

I’m delighted to be a part of this tour by sharing my thoughts on this fun romance novel. You can follow Sheila’s tour by clicking HERE.


Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children.

Writing since 1989, Sheila’s books have been printed in several different languages and have been chosen for book clubs such as Doubleday as well as for Readers Digest Condensed books. Her best-selling novel ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a movie and appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS has just been optioned for film and is slated to be a Hallmark movie later this year. Her novel ANGEL LANE was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Romances for 2009. Her latest book is the women’s fiction/romance, The Teashop on Lavender Lane.

When she’s not making public appearances or playing with her friends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. 

For more on Sheila and her writing, visit her website.

Now for my thoughts ………

Family pulls together in a time of crisis and can weather any type storm is the core theme of THE TEA SHOP ON LAVENDER LANE by Sheila Roberts.

A fake food poisoning sends Bailey Sterling’s L.A. catering service into a nose dive. As the cancellations come in, Bailey’s bank account isn’t the only thing being depleted – so is her self-confidence. When big sister Savannah insists she come home to Icicle Falls, Bailey agrees.

Staying with her other sister, Cecily, life is going well for all. However, when Bailey decides to open a tea shop things get strained when Cecily learns her sister is going into business with Todd Black, the man she’s seeing. Cecily is sure there’s more than tea business going on between her sister and Todd. Meanwhile, Luke Goodman is certain he’s the one for Cecily, but she just can’t seem to get past the ‘bad boy’ Todd.

As things escalate between the sisters, will they have to decide between the men they think they love and their bond as sisters?

The author has created a well-blended romance that includes humor and loyalty. She touches on self-confidence and how easily it can be shattered. The small town atmosphere enhances the story as it flows smoothly.

THE TEA SHOP ON LAVENDER LANE is the fifth installment in the Life in Icicle Falls series, but can be read on its own. This is a tantalizing tale of sisterly love, regaining confidence, and finding true love.

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts, Life in Icicle Falls series Book #5, Harlequin Mira, @2014, ISBN: 978-0778316183, Paperback, 352 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author has part of her virtual book tour. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you enjoy books that incorporate everyday problems such as lack of self-confidence or trust, conflict among family members and job stress into the story?

*This post contains affiliate links.

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane banner 2

Monday, July 28, 2014

Scottoline Awesome Giveaway Pack

HaveANiceGuiltTripDo you jump right into Monday morning ready to take on the world? Or are you like me and like to slowly ease into the day? 

Either way, I have a couple of awesome giveaway packs to start your week off.

The talented mother-daughter author team of @Lisa Scottoline and @Francesca Serritella just recently released a brand new essay collection, HAVE A NICE GUILT TRIP, through St. Martin’s Press. To celebrate that release, I have the following prize pack to giveaway:

One set of FIVE books--Lisa and Francesca's new essay collection, plus the 4 previous collections. The following titles will be included in the prize pack, one winner gets all FIVE books:

1. Have a Nice Guilt Trip
2. Best Friends, Occasional Enemies
3. Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim
4. My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space
5. Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog


This is an amazing collection of books and a fun giveaway on its own. But, there’s more.

There is also a larger summer-long ‘Guilt Trip Giveaway’ that Lisa and Francesca are running in which a different winner will be chosen – one every week through Aug. 29 – to win a prize pack worth more than $1,000. 

Every Wednesday, Lisa and Francesca are giving away everything you need for your own personal ‘Guilt Trip.’ Click HERE for full details and the entry form.

For more on Lisa, connect with her on
Facebook and Twitter and you can also find Francesca on Facebook and Twitter.


The Five book prize pack giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only. This giveaway will end Monday, Aug. 11.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. It may take the widget a few seconds to load, so please be patient.

The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Scottoline Giveaway’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you read any of Lisa and Francesca’s books? I’ve got HAVE A NICE GUILT TRIP on my TBR stack and have sneaked a few pages already. They never fail to make me laugh. Now tell me, if you could sneak off for a solo summer getaway, where would it be?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chu’s First Day of School: There’s An Owl in the Closet: The Crew Goes Coconuts

With school starting soon in our area, as well as numerous parts of the country, I couldn’t resist sharing several more children’s books with you.


Chu's coverWith students preparing to go back to school, it’s a perfect time for author Neil Gaiman’s CHU’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL to help with those anxiety pains.

This delightful tale is beautifully illustrated by Adam Rex. His vivid drawings brings the story to life. Rex’s eye for rich detail will hold young readers’ attention as they story unfolds.

Chu, a young panda, is worried and apprehensive about his first day of school. He wonders if the other students will like him and what school will be like.

After a funny introduction session, Chu has no more worries about school and his new classmates. The class learns his talent is sneezing and they accept him as he is.

This is an amusing story of how youngsters worry what their peers will think of them and if they’ll be accepted. Gaiman handles the situation with fun and understanding. Geared toward youngsters, ages 4 to 8, this is a tale all ages can appreciate.

CHU’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL is an enchanting story that will calm youngsters’ fears and spark adults’ memories of their first day of school.

Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Adam Rex, HarperCollins, @2014, ISBN: 978-0062223975, Hardcover, 32 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

THERE’S AN OWL IN THE CLOSET by Donna L. Douglas Walchle
There's An Owl coverIf you know a youngster that tends to collect stray animals, then THERE’S AN OWL IN THE CLOSET by Donna L. Douglas Walchle is a must read.

This charming story is brought to life by the beautiful illustrations of Jose Daniel Ovedo Galeano. The colorful drawings will capture the reader’s attention and enhances the story.

Seven-year-old Davey has two favorite things he enjoys – rescuing lost, hurt or homeless animals and making up songs about them. His nine-year-old sister, Lily, enjoys writing stories about her brother and his antics.

Due to limited space, Davey is told he can help animals just not adopt anymore. Later Davey shares a secret with his sister. He had a hurt baby owl in his closet and then sings her a song about the animal. That night Lily dreams of different animals Davey would adopt if given the chance and the songs he would sign about them.

THERE IS AN OWL IN THE CLOSET is an inspiring story of love and caring. It deals with adoption (human and animal) and the joys it brings. As an added bonus, a free copy of the sing-along owl song can be downloaded from the author’s website.

This is a delightful story readers of all ages will enjoy even though it’s geared toward youngsters ages 4 to 8.

There’s An Owl in the Closet by Donna L. Douglas Walchle, Illustrated by Jose Daniel Ovedo Galeano, Westbow Press, @2014, ISBN: 978-1490809328, Paperback, 32 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – I won this fun book in a giveaway hosted by the lovely Caren and amazing Cody @ Cat Chat With Caren and Cody. No review was required, recommended or even suggested. I’m sharing my thoughts solely because I like the book and want to let others know about it. Winning the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


The Crew Goes Coconuts coverBullying is a problem facing many youngsters so it’s good to see stories that show how wrong bullying is and that respecting each other is important.

Author Carole P. Roman conveys this sentiment in her children’s tale, THE CREW GOES BANANAS: A Captain No Beard Story. Through the story, the author relays an important lesson about being a true friend.

Captain No Beard and his crew set sail for a day of adventure with a new member on board - Matie the goat, a friend of Hallie’s. When the crew become parched and no water or juice can be found, the blame is placed on Matie, who had drank double portions all day. When the crew started picking on Matie, the captain had to step in to remind them that no one is perfect. Each one had to share something good about themselves, as well as something they didn’t like. When Matie banged her head on a tree, sweet coconut milk was found and the crew concluded their adventure after consuming plenty to drink.

This charming book comforts bullying and tackles it head on. Through a fun adventure, enhanced with beautiful illustrations, youngsters will come to see everyone has faults, including themselves. THE CREW GOES COCONUTS will provide youngsters with a swashbuckling good time, while learning a valuable lesson.

The Crew Goes Coconuts: A Captain No Beard Story Volume 6, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, @2014, ISBN: 978-1492162698, Paperback, 48 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks for stopping by today. Aren’t children’s books just adorable? They are such a great way for youngsters to learn while having fun. What book are you reading today?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange {+Giveaway}

Good Morning Mr. Mandela coverOne’s most feared enemy can sometimes become one’s closest ally and friend when given the opportunity.

That’s one of the life lessons Zelda la Grange expresses in her recent memoir – GOOD MORNING, MR. MANDELA. La Grange, a white Afrikaner, grew up in segregated South Africa and went on to work for Nelson Mandela for almost two decades.

La Grange describes how growing up her family supported the regime and the rules of apartheid. She notes the man she would one day call “Khulu” or “grandfather” was referred to as a “terrorist” by her conservative family.

A young secretary working in a government typing pool, La Grange became one of three private secretaries to President Mandela in 1997. She later became an aide-de-camp and managed his office when Mandela retired, becoming a full-time employee in 2002 of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

This is a moving and inspiring story about La Grange’s journey and how it was shaped by a man who she had been taught to fear and hate. It’s a story of how her life was transformed by the man who also transformed a nation.

La Grange shares insight into her thoughts and feelings for this remarkable man, as well as sharing a closer look at the private side of him.

GOOD MORNING, MR. MANDELA is a blend of history, culture, personal journey, inspiration, love, caring, friendship, and loyalty. It’s a glimpse at a legend that was also a caring and forgiving man and the woman who found a true friend in an enemy she was supposed to distrust.

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela: A Memoir by Zelda la Grange, Viking Adult, @2014, ISBN: 978-0525428282, Hardcover, 384 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks to the lovely Emma at Penguin Group, I have a print copy of GOOD MORNING, MR. MANDELA to giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only and will end Sunday, Aug. 3.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress GOOD MORNING, MR. MANDELA in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

I so appreciate you stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out this intriguing story of history and personal growth. What’s on your reading radar for today?

*This post contains affiliate links.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 25, 2014

Off the Shelf: Fatal Fortune {+ Giveaway}

Fatal FortuneIt’s always fun to take a book off the shelf and share it with you. Today’s book, FATAL FORTUNE by Victoria Laurie, is the 12th installment in her Psychic Eye Mystery series, and a delightful cozy murder mystery.

In celebration of this release (thanks to Victoria and the lovely Kayleigh at Penguin Group), I have a print copy of FATAL FORTUNE to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Here’s a brief description of FATAL FORTUNE:

In New York Times bestselling author Victoria Laurie’s newest Psychic Eye Mystery, Abby Cooper is trusting her intuition and heading to Sin City to bet on a friend’s innocence....
        When police show Abby surveillance video of her best friend and business partner, Candice Fusco, shooting a man in cold blood, she can’t believe her eyes. And when the cops tell her they think the victim has ties to the Mob —and perhaps Candice does too — she can’t believe her ears. Surely there is a logical explanation. But Candice is nowhere to be found.
        Abby decides the only way to find out the truth is to go to Vegas herself —which may be the biggest gamble of her life. Once in town she begins to uncover a rigged game of dirty double-dealing where the stakes are no less than life and death. And if she’s not careful, Abby can forget about ever leaving Las Vegas...alive.

This 304-page mystery (Obsidian Mysteries. Hardcover; July 1, 2014, $24.95.ISBN: 978-0451240613) can be read own its own.
Here is what others are saying about the Psychic Eye Mysteries:
        “A clever, fast-paced plot…and a cast of fun, engaging characters.” — New York Times bestselling author Margaret Coel
        “Well-drawn characters and a wickedly clever plot—you’ll love unraveling this mystery.” — New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs


Victoria is the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books. With two series in full swing, Victoria divides her time between The Psychic Eye Mysteries and The Ghost Hunter Mysteries. However, she is also branching out into YA with her debut novel, DEATH DATE, slated for release January 2015. (You can pre-order now.) 

As a professional psychic herself, Victoria knows all too well the tricky world of the paranormal in which her protagonists psychic Abby Cooper, and spiritual medium M. J. Holliday tackle murder, mayhem, and the occasional demon with plenty of plucky humor and determination. 

For more on Victoria and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a video of Victoria discussing her inspiration for her Psychic Eye Mystery series.

This is a charming and energetic series that blends mystery with paranormal in a way that will have you believing.


This giveaway is for one print copy of FATAL FORTUNE. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Saturday, Aug. 2.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Victoria Laurie’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks for stopping by today, I truly appreciate it. I hope I’ve enticed you a bit to check out FATAL FORTUNE and discover a fun series to follow. Have you ever been to a psychic? If so, how did it turn out? If you haven’t been, would you want to?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Journey to Publishing: Pies & Peril {+ Giveaway}

Pies and Peril finalIt’s a pleasure to be participating in a virtual book tour for friend, fellow blogger and author Janel Gradowski as she stops by with her recent release, PIES & PERIL, the first installment in her Culinary Competition Mystery Series.

As part of Janel’s tour, she’ll be talking about the journey to publishing this book and including an excerpt. I’ll also share my thoughts on this delightful murder mystery. In addition, Janel is giving away a copy of PIES & PERIL to one lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Please join me in welcoming Janel as she tells us about her writing voyage.

The grain of sand that forms a pearl. A mountain out of a mole hill. A novel from a short story. My new book, PIES & PERIL, is a mystery novel, but it started out life as a short story. I’ve always loved to write short fiction. In fact, for several years I wrote flash fiction almost exclusively. 

Flash fiction is generally used to classify stories that have under 1,000 words. While I’m sure I have written enough short and flash stories to total the number of words in a novel, PIES & PERIL is the longest story I have ever written. It was like a seed that grew and grew until it was all grown up and now it’s bearing fruit.

The journey to publishing this book is also a tale of taking advantage of opportunities when you happen upon them. A year ago, I never planned on signing with a publisher. I wasn’t querying agents or publishers. I was just writing stories, self-publishing some of them, working to place others in magazines or websites.

I had a lot of fun writing the original short story for a contest. The story didn’t win any prizes, but I wasn’t terribly disappointed. Rejection is a part of being a writer, like it or not. So I choose to view rejections as office work. I record the date I received the rejection on my tracking spreadsheet and maybe research some other markets to submit the story to. I did all of those things, then got a surprise. The author that held the contest, Gemma Halliday, contacted me. She was starting a small publishing company and wanted to know if the short story was part of a book.

It wasn’t at the time, but I thought about it for a few days. The internal conversation went something like: “It could be a book. Definitely. Yes. Absolutely. I can write a full-length novel. Right?” After that little self-administered pep talk, mixed with a bit of apprehension, I got to work figuring out who was going to be murdered then wrote two more chapters. I submitted the sample chapters and jotted down some notes about the plot of the book, if by some chance I was actually offered a contract for the book. Another saying you may have heard before…life is stranger than fiction. Suddenly, I had a book contract and a novel to write to fulfill it. My writing life took an unexpected curve, but I couldn’t be happier.

One of my favorite things to tell me kids, when they get discouraged or are resistant to try something, is: You may not be able to do some things, but you can TRY to do everything.

Janel, thanks for joining us and sharing your excursion into publishing. Life does throw some unexpected and happy curves from time to time and this sounds likes one of those.

Now let me share a bit of background on Janel for those who aren’t familiar with her.

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. 

Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. 

She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

For more on Janel and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also learn more about this book and virtual tour HERE.


        Amy shifted her basket so that it was directly in front of her, both hands on the leather handles, in battle position. Ahead of her a knot of people clustered around the booth selling miniature pies and tarts. A couple teen girls, dressed in black nylon smocks that signified they were enrolled in the downtown beauty college, scowled as Amy wriggled through the throng. She should've picked the small gap between two older gentlemen to squeeze through. Coming between women and sugar fixes was always a bad idea. People had poured out of the downtown businesses to find a meal at one of the many prepared food stands or food trucks set up around the perimeter of the park. The farmer's market was one of her favorite parts of summer, but during peak hours the crowd was often so thick it felt like hand to hand combat as people jostled each other to select the perfect size of summer squash or the most beautiful wildflower bouquet. Being short didn't help, especially on hot days, since she was pretty much at the armpit level of most normal-sized people. It felt and smelled like she was a sardine being packed in a tin. Ugh.
         The crowd thinned a bit once she got past the pie-hungry mob. Ahead, the last booth she wanted to visit was surrounded by customers. Amy channeled her inner miniature basketball player and made a break for it. Her petite stature, for once, worked to her advantage as she darted around a couple women standing in the aisle having a conversation about removing stains from cloth diapers, and slipped into a crack in the human barricade. The vendor's offerings were a sight to behold, like Mother Nature and the Easter Bunny had gotten together and made tomato babies. The table was filled with baskets full of heirloom tomatoes in a range of colors from acid green to chocolate brown. Some were as large as softballs while others truly looked like eggs. Amy had been making salads with the lovely tomatoes for over a month, but she'd had an idea while making the casseroles for Kevin earlier in the day. Tomato pie.
        She chose a basket with a nice variety of medium-sized tomatoes and paid for them. Luckily she had brought a hard-sided wicker basket with her, to protect the delicate cargo from bony hips and giant zucchinis protruding from shopping bags like vegetal clubs. She tilted her head from side to side like a prize fighter before a match as she steeled herself for the last push through the mass of hungry humanity. There was only about 20 feet left in the vending area. Then she could break free and make a dash to her car. As she turned she caught a glimpse of Elliot Maxson's unmistakable helmet-like black hair.

PIES & PERIL is available at the following sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, and Print.


PIES & PERIL by Janel Gradowski
If you’re a fan of food fiction and/or cozy murder mysteries, you’re in for a treat when you pick up a copy of author Janel Gradowski’s newest release, PIES & PERIL.

Gradowski’s first installment in her new Culinary Competition Mystery series is filled with zany characters, delicious food tidbits, suspense, a dab of romance, and all-out fun tracking down a killer.

Amy Ridley is out to win the third crown in the local cookies, cakes and pies competition, having captured the first two jewels. However, the pie honor has gone to Mandy Jo, Amy’s former friend and co-worker, for the last five years. It’s a fierce competition between the two woman and little love loss as they prepare their best pies. Despite being foes, when Amy discovers Mandy Jo’s dead body at the competition, she’s determined to help find her killer. Little does Amy realize just how close she’s getting to the killer and how quickly she could become the next victim.

The author has created likable characters with realistic actions and traits readers can relate to. She’s combined humor and suspense for a well-balanced story that flows quickly and smoothly.

The small town setting pulls the story together and draws the reader in. The food elements add to the story, but don’t overwhelm the mystery and suspense aspects. The recipes at the end of the story are a nice bonus.

PIES & PERIL is a delightful start to an intriguing and fun new cozy murder mystery series that shows great promise.

Pies & Peril by Janel Gradowski, Culinary Competition Mysteries Book #1, Gemma Halliday Publishing, @2014, ISBN: 978-1500385835, Paperback, 198 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


This giveaway is for one copy of PIES & PERIL. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents (print or eBook), as well as international (eBook only) and will end Friday, Aug. 1. The eBook will probably be awarded through Smashwords.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Janel Gradowski’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you ever enter or attended a pie baking competition? Would you like to be a judge at such a contest?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Science Fiction or Science in the Fiction?

Cover Ignore the PainIt’s always an honor when I get to introduce a ‘new-to-me’ author to y’all as it’s fun to learn about the writer and their books. Today I’d like to welcome author J.L. Greger to Thoughts in Progress. She’s going to talk about ‘Science in Fiction,’ as well as share a bit about her books. 

Welcome, J.L.

Do readers want science in their fiction?

In 2013, at least fifteen TV shows featured realistic portrayals of science, medicine or technology. Before I continue, I should define realistic. Real labs can’t provide analyses instantly as shown on TV, and most scientists don’t have perfect hair. Even so, the popularity of TV shows suggests viewers, and presumably readers, like bits of science in their fiction.

Fiction that focuses on realistic science is called “science in fiction,” not science fiction. Many of the writers of science in fiction, like me, were or are practicing physicians or scientists. In one sense, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Arthur Conan Doyle and Robin Cook were physicians.

What’s important in science in fiction?

Accuracy. In my third novel, my heroine Sara Almquist learns silver miners in Bolivia carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves. The active ingredients in coca leaves and its derivative cocaine are not analgesics that dull pain. They are stimulants and help users ignore pain. Accordingly I named the book IGNORE THE PAIN not Dull the Pain

In case you think the facts seem a bit dry, here’s a synopsis of the action. Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to be the epidemiologist on a public health mission in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market of La Paz and on to the silver mines of Potosí. Unfortunately, she can’t trust her new colleagues, especially the charming Xave Zack, because they might be under the control of the coca industry. Worst still she’s not only put herself in danger but also her sister, Linda, back in New Mexico. 

Coming Flu Front CV 
Excitement. As a biologist, who regularly reads scientific journals, I am amazed how easily a few mutations can change a fairly benign flu virus into a virulent one. A variant of the common H1N1 flu virus killed three percent of the world’s population between 1918-20, and the wrong mutation to a flu virus today could kill millions if scientists weren’t prepared.

In COMING FLU, a new flu virus hits a small, walled community near the Rio Grande. A quarantine is declared because experimental vaccines and antivirals are ineffective against this flu mutation. Epidemiologist Sara Almquists pries into the lives or everyone in the community looking for way to slow the spread of the flu. She finds promising clues - maybe too many. 

Relevant science. Almost all Americans are interested in easy ways to lose weight. Scientist know fat animals (including humans) lose weight when their gut bacteria are altered, but scientists don’t know which of the 15,000 to 36,000 species of bacteria in the gut are important. I thought descriptions of this research (based on current ongoing studies) would be intriguing, maybe slightly funny, to readers.

cover Murder- A New Way to Lose WeightIn MURDER: A NEW WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT, a diet doctor is found dead after she charges her partner with recklessly endangering the lives of obese subjects in their clinical trials. Linda Almquist, the associate dean in the medical school, must protect the subjects in the clinical trial, while she searches for a sophisticated killer who knows a lot about drugs. 

Would you like to read a science in fiction novel?

BTW, Bug, my Japanese Chin dog and character in all three of my novels, says hello to Traveler, the resident cat at Thoughts in Progress.

J.L., thanks for joining us today and sharing this difference in science fiction and science in fiction. All three books sounds like they are quite intriguing ‘science in fiction’ stories. And, Traveler sends a hello back to Bug.

Now for a bit of background on J.L.

J.L. Greger is no longer a professor in the biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, instead she’s putting tidbits of science into her medical mystery/suspense novels. 

For more on J.L. and her writing, visit her website, check out her blog, JL Greger’s Bugs, and her Amazon link.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and visiting with J.L. Had you ever considered the difference in ‘science fiction’ and science in the fiction’ writing?

*This post contains affiliate links.