Monday, July 29, 2013

Review of The Reluctant Blogger--by Ryan Rapier

If it was a movie it would be described as a dramedy—a drama and a comedy. Since it is a book I have to use different words to describe it: words like refreshing, enchanting, fun, poignant, hilarious, though-provoking, profound.

Ryan Rapier’s debut novel, The Reluctant Blogger, takes a candid look at Mormon life through the eyes of an active priesthood holder who is dealing with one heart-aching layer of life after another. The plot is braided together in so many ways it is impressive. Rapier has done a great job of bringing together the lives of the main characters. The author’s ability to also weave words into that glorious fabric is another big part of the charm of this novel.

Hero Todd Landry has lost his wife of fifteen years. Before he can heal from that loss he finds himself reluctantly blogging about his life and his loss. He also finds himself shopping at Wal-mart with a cart full of kids and potato chips, looking for the fastest check-out line.

“Regardless of a person’s ability to predict or prophesy,” Todd blogs, “choosing an express lane is always tricky business.....Crossing my fingers, I inhaled sharply and ventured forward. At first, things looked positive as my cart made steady progress toward the cashier. Then suddenly things came to a grinding halt. The individual two spots in front of me began to raise her voice regarding which brands should be included in the price match guarantee for whipped cream. Seriously?"

When I read that I wanted to shout out with Todd..."Seriously??!!! It's called an express lane for a reason! If you're going to argue over price matches, go to a regular line!"

In addition to Wal-Mart trips, Todd blogs about golf, Boy Scout paperwork, the calling of a bishop, making pies for Thanksgiving, and his own first attempt to enter back into the LDS dating scene. At his first Single Adult activity it doesn’t go well for Todd and his memories of high-school and college dating angst causes him to blog about what the Discovery Channel might have to say about LDS dating rituals. The hilarious script (complete with British accent) is right out of a nature documentary. (I had to wonder how many documentaries Ryan Rapier watched to perfect the wording! Nicely done, Ryan!)

After one particularly spontaneous decision the hero finds himself committed to date someone he loathes. Later he is bluntly asked, “Tell me, had you given any thought to asking this woman for a date prior to the moment you began to verbally vomit all over yourself in front of her?”

I LOVED the description of verbal vomit! I think we’ve all done that.

And there are unique, fun and enchanting descriptions on every page, like the time Rapier returns the novel’s momentum after an awkward silence. “Slowly, the noise level in the room returned to normal, like a 45-speed vinyl record starting up with the needle already in place”

And his description of Ms. Turcel is wonderful when Todd derisively blogs, “She’s the only woman I’ve met who clearly missed her calling in life as an IRS auditor.”

But there are also endearing moments through out the book as Todd struggles with the loss of his wife and how that affects every aspect of his life. Some of the fallout is deep and soul searching—like the time Todd blogs, “Up next is the ambivalence—the day when everyone’s life starts again and yours doesn’t.”

Other moments are light-hearted, like the night he tries to dress his youngest son for bed and places both of the boy’s feet into the same pajama bottom leg…three different times.

Though Todd blogs about the routine things in life there are also moments of deep, honest reflection. Slowly, Todd’s blogging helps him recognize that he needs to build a closer relationship with his domineering father, help his daughter Alex grieve, and repair a falling out with his best friend. Yet through all of his ups and downs and growing understanding, Todd still manages to painfully ignore the one good thing that has happened to him in the last eighteen months—Emily. Will he realize he also needs to heal the hurt he has caused her?

I found this book so engaging—from the writing style, to the plot and characters, to the way Rapier manages to get the reader laughing and reflecting tenderly on their own attitudes at the same time. When demands pulled me away from the book my thoughts reflected on his novel until I could return to its pages and even after I finished I found myself often thinking about the life issues handled by the author.

Though Todd faces plenty of diverse turmoil the humor and humanity on each page lightens the mood without detracting from the message. I loved a question posed toward the end of the book and I felt this question (which I’ve slightly reworded to avoid any spoilage of the story), really underscored every part of this novel. As Todd struggles with so many different things, one person lovingly asks, “What if this isn’t God’s test for him? What if it’s God’s test for us?” I think many problems in life faced by those we love are just that—tests for us more than for them.

Great job on a first novel, Ryan! I look forward to reading more of your wit and wisdom in the future.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Emerald Ring--an excerpt

The Emerald Ring
Cleopatra's Legacy series
Book One
by Dorine White

Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus spends the last few days of summer anticipating middle school and helping her Grandma Dora around the house. Her ordinary life turns upside down when she discovers an emerald ring once belonging to Cleopatra. Touching the ring sends a lightening like zap through her system, while putting the ring upon her finger causes it to stick like glue.

Now strange things are happening to Sara. She has troubling visions, can understand animals and learns to transform herself into an Egyptian cat. However, the worst thing is the strange man that shows up in town. He is hunting for the emerald ring, and will not stop until he acquires it. With the ring stuck on her finger, Sara has no choice. She can be hunted, or become the hunter.

A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom--an excerpt

A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom
by June McCrary Jacobs


This debut novel by June McCrary Jacobs won the 2012 Cedar Fort Holiday Tale contest. It will be released in October 2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blue Sky--an excerpt

Blue Sky
by Melissa Lemon

Sunny pulled out a deck of cards and began shuffling them.

“Do you have a good poker face?” she asked.


“Will you teach me?”

“To play poker?” He obviously thought she must be joking.

Sunny nodded. Was this a good idea? Why did she feel like she had to take his side now? Her dad had always said that when two teams were bad it was okay not to choose a side. You could just sit back and watch the game and hope that they both lost somehow. You could forget about the score and just revel in every mistake, injury, and bad call made by the officials.

Lewis stared at her for several moments, but then he sat down across from her. “What are the stakes?”

“Let’s see…” Sunny began, putting her index finger at the side of her mouth. “If you win, I’ll make you breakfast.”

He seemed to like that. But then he became somber. “And if you win?” he asked.

“If I win, I get one request.”

“And what is it that you’ll be requesting?” he said with suspicion, perhaps even hopelessness. He trusted her as much as she trusted him. Nice.

“That’s part of the risk. I won’t tell you until after the game is over.”

He thought only briefly. “I’m in,” he said. “We’ll play Five Card Draw.”

The Siren's Secret--an excerpt

The Siren’s Secret
by Heather Ostler

A dark shape appeared next to her, and Julia tripped on an uneven surface. Falling onto the noisy gravel, she scrambled. When she tried to scream again, a clammy hand fell over her mouth.

“Julia Levesque,” the figure whispered. “Don’t be afraid.”

The hand was removed, and Julia sat up. “Who are you?” she demanded.

A small light illuminated the space around Julia. She took in the image of a tall, beautiful woman with brilliant blue hair. Her face was round and her eyes were dark. Was this the creature from her dream?

“I am Riley, and I am a friend of yours.”

Julia took a deep breath. “A friend? But I’ve never met you. And anyone using dark magic is not my friend.”

Riley opened her eyes wide, looking confused. “I had to talk to you. This is urgent.”

“This is not okay,” Julia retorted. “Once they realize I’m gone, we’ll both be in a lot of trouble.”

“Julia,” Riley said, her tone becoming a little more serious, “I had to talk to you. And I knew the Soldier Union would never let me speak to you.”

“What do you want?” Julia asked. “Are you with the Guild?”

Riley’s face became troubled. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

Julia looked at the castle. She wasn’t close enough for anyone to see what was going on. And who would even be looking out the windows right now? Sierra wouldn’t realize Julia was missing until morning.

“It seems pretty suspicious that you lured me out here. Please say what you need to, quickly, and then release me.”

“This is important, Julia,” Riley answered. “I’m about to change your life.”

“Ch-change my life?” Julia’s heart began to beat madly. It was time she shapeshifted and clawed her way back into the castle.

“Yes. You see, you are a siren.”

Julia willed herself not to shapeshift. “What?”

Riley nodded innocently. “I’ve been sent on behalf of our leader. It’s time you know the truth.”

“I’m not a siren,” Julia answered. “I’m a werecat, a shapeshifter.”

“I know what a shapeshifter is,” Riley said. “And I know what a siren is. You are both.”

Julia shook her head. “No!” she yelled. “That’s impossible. Sirens are evil.” She’d been taught repeatedly to stay away from them because of how dangerous and manipulative they were. “You’re lying to me. It’s not true.”

Riley watched her. “So you haven’t had any strange occurrences lately? Nothing to do with,” she glanced at the lake, “water?”

She didn’t answer. Whenever her reflection changed, it had been in water.

“You’re a siren, Julia. And it’s not the first time someone’s been half-werecat, half-siren.”

Julia opened her mouth to protest but fell silent. Could this be possible? She had once denied that she was a werecat. What if she were a siren too? The thought made her feel sick. Sirens were scary, terrifying creatures.

“And now having told you that,” her sweet voice began again, “I need to continue my mission and take you to Loretta.”

Julia immediately took a step back. “Loretta?” she whimpered.

Riley walked closer, and her blue hair moved softly in the breeze. “Yes, it’s my job.” She spoke so kindly.

Something stirred in the lake, and Julia froze. She watched as two more sirens arose from the water and slowly walked out onto the lake’s shore. The women looked almost identical to each other, but one had long, silvery white locks, while the other had short, apple-green hair.

“I’m not leaving the castle grounds.” Julia planted her feet.

“Come with me,” Riley said, an edge to her voice. “Now.”

Julia closed her eyes and began to imagine herself shapeshifting. She felt the fear rising inside of her and used it to motivate the process.

However, as two clammy hands gripped each ankle, Julia’s legs flew out from under her and she landed on her back. She yelled out as the two women dragged her away from the castle.

“Stop! Help!”

“Quiet, Julia,” Riley ordered. “You’ve left us with no choice.”

Riley stepped onto the shore and the two sirens followed, pulling Julia. She kicked and thrashed against them, but they were too strong and only ignored her cries. Julia dug her fingers into the lake’s gravel, but she could already feel her foot in the water. She let out one last cry before she became completely submerged, and her consciousness slipped away.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Thousand Suns-an excerpt

A Thousand Suns
By Jim Haberkorn

A Rulon Hurt Adventure

Chapter 1

In the bowels of the Kremlin, two hundred yards from Lenin’s tomb, late at night, hallways dark and deserted except for the occasional security guard and tired custodian, a guard made his rounds, the click of his boots echoing on the polished floor. Checking each door, he came to one and saw the fractured luminescence of a small green lamp through the frosted glass. This one he knew to avoid and moved on. The echoes of his passing faded down the hall.

Inside the room, the lamp’s soft glow dropped a dim circle of light on a gray metal desk, leaving an old man’s hollow eyes and hawk-like face securely in the shadows. He sat in a wooden roller chair talking quietly into a speakerphone. The voice on the other end was male, mid-thirties, insistent.

“Reconsider, sir. Please.”

“Why?” the thin man asked.

“The Serbians are demanding revenge,” the younger voice said.

“As they have since Kosovo Fields,” said the old man impatiently, referring to the 1389 battle with the Ottomans.

“Please reconsider, sir. Except for this, I have never asked for anything twice.”

“And that is why you are still around to annoy me,” said the old man sharply. Instant silence. Then more patiently to his protégé, “I said there would be no retaliation. I did not say we would do nothing.” The old man pressed a button, ending the call but not his dilemma. He sat thinking, slowly stroking the chair’s left arm, buffed smooth by decades of hard decisions. Both he and the chair were old comrades-in-arms, he liked to joke – both relics of the siege of Stalingrad. He tapped his finger on his laptop touchpad. For the fifth time that night, he clicked ‘play’, closed his eyes, and listened to the DVD from CERN.

The camera had been knocked over as soon as the American cowboy broke free, giving only an angled, distorted picture of a table leg, a confusion of booted feet, and the cowboy’s black loafers. The audio came through perfectly, however. An unintelligible, bellowing roar. And they say we Russians are brutes. Yells of alarm. Thudding, hammering blows. Two explosions – gun shots three seconds apart: an eternity in that room. Now screams from the dying – sounds impossible to interpret unless you saw the bodies, which the thin man had. The cowboy with his hammer. The old man tried recalling an expression he once heard. It came to him…anger management problem. He smiled grimly. The Americans and their euphemisms.

The thin man ejected the DVD, returned it to its plastic case, and resumed stroking the chair. After a few minutes, he reached into his top drawer, pulled out a file and laid it on the desk. Flipping through the tabbed sections, he came to a picture of a man and woman taken in a stairwell by a CERN surveillance camera: Rulon Hurt, cowboy from America, and Yohaba Melekson, Swiss citizen, his woman. He picked up the photo and studied the girl closely. A smart girl, he’d been told, and quite lovely. Yes, the cowboy had his reasons.

He carefully replaced the photo in the file. Yes, the cowboy would live. There would be no hollow-point bullet in the face from close range. No camouflaged sniper in the hills above the ranch in Idaho. No poison-tipped umbrella. No booby-trapped cell phone.

Neither mercy nor romanticism played a part in the thin man‘s decision. In fact, any suggestion of either would have only made him laugh. Having ordered in his lifetime the deaths of many enemies and more than a few comrades, he no longer felt intoxicated by the power of life and death, or the need to wield it indiscriminately. An execution was but a tool, and he understood its limitations. And while he did not believe in God he did believe in martyrs.

The cowboy would not be executed. The dead men had disobeyed orders. The cowboy had meted out … a proportional response. But something would have to be done. Something.

A Thousand Suns-a review

A Thousand Suns

by Jim Haberkorn
I have a new favorite author of intrigue and suspense…Jim Haberkorn! I just devoured his newest book, A Thousand Suns and wanted to read more.

I love books and Haberkorn’s writing has garnered him a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I want his book always visible, always waiting for me to pull it out again and get lost in its exciting pages. Move over Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Tom Cain. Haberkorn writes just as fast and keeps my interest tied just as tight without the crudeness, language, sex or graphic details.

Like a correctly delivered roundhouse, Haberkorn packs power in his style. The writing is intelligent, crisp and rapid. It flows over the page with no wasted words.

Rulon Hurt is a tough, no-nonsense cowboy whose earlier encounters in Europe garnered him some powerful international enemies. It also got him a wife.

Yohaba is a brilliant, playful partner who can get her husband into trouble as easily as she can pull him out of it. She can also assemble and shoot a gun better than most wives can clean and dress a turkey. (Gotta love that in a wife. Never know when it will come in handy.) With the aid of a lethal Russian who has more than one secret to hide, Yohaba takes the battle for Rulon’s life across the world.

The plot twists are as tightly coiled as the barbed wire on Rulon Hurt’s Idaho property. The facts are woven seamlessly into the plot and show a great deal of research and personal knowledge on Haberkorn’s part. (I love it when an author is that dedicated to getting things right.) The Rulon Hurt series is set in modern times with plenty of action and suspense, thrills and footwork…all of it racing over shadows of fact.

And I have to say I have never crossed paths with an author who can write about duct tape in quite the way Haberkorn can! What he has Boris do with duct tape is one of my favorite scenes of the book. I had a smile as big as the Russian all the way through that part and chuckled later in the church when the Russian makes a comment about it. Absolutely perfect dialogue in my opinion!

I started to read A Thousand Suns one night just before dinner. Somehow I managed to get in a few chapters while burning (oops) cooking the chicken and doing the dishes. Then, for the next few days, every time I got a chance between my own job as a writer and the never ending pile of laundry, I hungrily swallowed a chapter or two.

His first book, Einstein’s Trunk, is coming to join A Thousand Suns on my bookshelf. I want to know just how Rulon and Yohaba mix it up in the first story--and I have to find out more about this dangerous and mysterious Elsa that’s making the rounds. (A quick search on the internet tells me Elsa is very real…another one of those intriguing facts Haberkorn has masterfully woven into fiction.)

Here’s a great interview with Haberkorn that explains things like Yohaba’s name, how music influenced one of my favorite scenes in the book (and his), and other thoughts on writing. Getting to know Jim Haberkorn

(If you want to have fun, go back and read that scene while listening to the music that inspired it. I did and, yeah, it fits.)

You can order a copy of Jim Haberkorn's book here. A Thousand Suns

Trust me, his books are like rolls of duct'll want more than one!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Winner for Lair of the Serpent giveaway!

Sarah Kozlowski...You won!

Congratulations! You will receive a complete Tombs of Terror series which has been optioned by Hollywood producer Kevin Buxbaum! His movies include Academy Award winning Life of Pi and Avatar.

In the 3-book Jonathon Bradford encounters mummies, terrorists, and the lost tunnels of the Incas in Tombs of Terror. He and his friends face the Death Light, a skin walker and international archaeology thieves in The Lost Curse. And, in the newly released Lair of the Serpent, Jonathon deals with his most dangerous challenge yet--human traffickers and the Naga in the jungles of Cambodia.

You can read all the first chapters right here, on this blog. Just click on the book covers and immerse yourself in legend and very real facts.

A big thanks to everyone who entered and all the great blogs who helped promote the release of my book Lair of the Serpent!