Book Blitz: Death in Vermilion by Barbara Elle (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Blog Tour Death in Vermilion

Death in Vermilion
By: Barbara Elle

Death in Vermilion

Publication Date: April 16, 2018
Genre: Murder Mystery

SYNOPSIS

A psychological mystery about art and obsession…
Artist Leila Goodfriend is laying down the bones of a painting. When she’s interrupted by Iris, the noisy, unlikeable artist in the studio upstairs, Leila is distracted and annoyed.
When Leila discovers the racket was actually Iris’ dead body hitting the floor, she becomes obsessed: Who murdered Iris?
The other Red Barn Cooperative artists—competitive, jealous and hypocritical—are prime suspects. They all hated Iris. “An artist owes his life to his art,” Iris said.
Iris was good for a laugh. But no one is laughing now.

In this gripping mystery, new author Barbara Elle paints a clever, twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a charming Cape Code town.
Alibis fall apart. Plot twists multiply. And Leila comes to a dangerous conclusion.

Goodreads

Purchase link: Amazon

EXCERPT
Chapter 1: Bellies and Strips

There was no glance more cutting or cruel. The narrowing of unsympathetic eyes a shade of cool, blue slate, like Dylan’s on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. The imperceptible flare of nostrils, followed by a slow yoga exhalation in Savasana, the corpse. It wasn’t going well.

Leila Goodfriend was laying down the bones of a painting. She took a step back from her easel. A no-name clam shack clung fearlessly as a barnacle to the edge of the old East End pier. A forlorn wooden structure, barely bigger than a Punch & Judy puppet stage, had withstood the fierce winds whipping off the water in the dead of winter. The pier was deserted. Anyone could paint a sunny day.

After outlining the shack in ghostly charcoal strokes, she stood, hand on hip, poised with a palette loaded with ultramarine and cobalt blues for the sky, sap green for foliage, a transparent manganese blue hue for waves in the water, Van Dyck brown for the pier’s planks and Naples Yellow Hue for sunlight. Flake white blobs dabbed in the foreground could be gulls, or children, or discarded clam containers. She hadn’t decided which. Leila loved that shack, the rough pier, and the view of dotted Race Point Lighthouse off the distance. Painting was all about execution, feeling a connection to the subject, the composition, the angles of light. Though local artists mostly painted popular summer scenes of boats and beaches.

That’s what the summer birds, vacationers who nested in the Cape Cod dunes from June until the end of August, bought. Her husband Joe dubbed them the dorks of summer. Leila didn’t care what unflattering name Joe had for them, or whether the summer birds cared as much about this place she called home as she did. She wanted to sell them a painting capturing what she loved about this place.

If she was lucky, and painting was largely a matter of luck, random strokes on the canvas would become a painting, At the Clam Bar: Succulent Bellies and Strips. If one of the summer birds bought her painting, she’d be happy. Even the most dedicated of artists needs affirmation sometimes.

A loud whacking thump overhead jarred Leila rudely from her thoughts; the thud traveled like a jolt of electricity down her spine Immediately, Leila knew the disturbance, of course, was Iris. Iris again. Always Iris. Of the six other artists who called the Red Barn home, her studio had to be, unfortunately, overhead.

And inevitably, as Iris worked, the creaking old floorboards quaked under her relentless assault with her flapping Birkenstock sandals.

Leila complained about Iris to Joe more than once, actually almost every day. It was impossible for someone who barely grazed five feet could make so much noise. Iris could be quiet if she tried, she’d say. She was inconsiderate. She was pompous. “Art,” Iris would say, “has a life of its own and an artist owes his life to his art.” Quoting Iris was good for a laugh.

If Iris bothered her so much, Joe would say, why keep talking about it? Why not rent a different studio? That would make sense, except Leila loved her space, had been there for nearly five years, and was lucky to have found it in this touristy town. Besides, she hated giving in to her own annoyance; she’d learn to ignore Iris if it killed her. Maybe, someday, Iris would just float away like a child’s birthday balloon. No such luck; gravity worked overtime with every tread Iris inflicted in her flapping Birkenstock sandals. Leila fought her first instinct, which was to grab the long, telescoping pole by the casement window, stand on a stool and bang her weapon of choice sharply on the lofty ceiling, twice. It wouldn’t work. It never did. Iris would ignore her.

Instead, Leila turned up NPR on the radio. She could drown out Iris with the sound of undemanding human voices on the radio. NPR was excellent company and, when necessary, excellent white noise. The hourly news, a lengthy interview, a personal piece affected in that breathless NPR accent was the perfect antidote for distraction. And the distraction was usually Iris.

Iris McNeil Thornton was a fellow member of the Red Barn Art Cooperative at Castle Road, which was housed in the happily dilapidated Red Barn Studio. It was high on a hill, overlooking Pamet Marsh, close enough to spy the flights of blue herons and egrets wheeling through the Aliziran Crimson sky, the sun an orb of Cadmium Yellow falling into the salt marshes from her window.

Among the Red Barn’s many charms were the old building’s quirky twists and turns, the sizeable studio spaces with high ceilings from its former life as the Southwind Bros. Button and Snap factory. Leila loved the patina on the old, uneven oak floorboards, the room secreted under the stairwell, doors that jammed and staircases that creaked.

But it was the heady mix of gesso, turp, linseed, pigments, primer, developers and emulsions, the fat smell of oil layered with acrylic resin and a faint dash of watercolor, an acrid, chemical concoction heady in the nasal passages, smells as familiar as the scent of a baby, that made it home.

Not that the Red Barn was without its problems. The daily irritations of artistry and intimacy meant the Red Barn artists were often less than happy. And when the Red Barn artists were less than happy, which occurred as frequently as the tides, they would reach for anything on hand ⎯ brooms, clogs, slammed doors, sighs in the hallways, post-it notes on the bulletin board, giggles behind a back, and any combination thereof ⎯ to convey their displeasure. Under other circumstances such communications might be considered rude, but the Red Barn operated by its own set of rules.

It wasn’t that the Red Barn, a collective space of otherwise solitary individuals, didn’t have its share of fellowship and communal spirit. Sometimes it was nice to see a friendly face.

But, recently, their friendships had been called into question by a series of items gone missing, small stuff, seemingly at random, from their studios, Daklon paintbrush, a can of gesso, and unused tube of paint and a half-used tube of paint. A box of plastic gloves was now empty; which Leila was sure had been half-full. No

one said theft, not at first. It was more like, did I leave this in your studio? did you find this in the bathroom? I must be a little crazy because I was sure I had it, but as the missing items mounted, minor though they were, so did whispering, suspicion, and an uneasy sense someone, maybe one of them, was a thief.

It made Leila uneasy; maybe someone was invading her studio, without her knowing. She debated whether, like Iris, she should lock her door at the end of the day. But she shook it off as unnecessary paranoia and decided to ignore it.

Leila took a deep breath, brushed back her unruly, graying curls, squinting at her canvas. When she painted, the circling steps of the heavy woman upstairs receded from consciousness, and time was suspended.

The wood planks of the pier were muddied. The perspective wasn’t quite right. The colors weren’t right. Leila waggled the end of her paintbrush like a cigar between her lips. It was a messy habit. She looked down at the black-and-white photo of the shack, not that she had any intention of painting the snapshot, any more than a musician only plays the notes.

Leila picked up her palette knife. Shaped like a small trowel for digging in the dirt, its usefulness came from its versatility in blending colors, creating textural effects, or scraping across the surface of a painting to obliterate an offense. Artists can be rough on their work; Leila was her own toughest critic.

The pier had to go. Leila wielded the knife, scraping hard until she hit the tooth of the canvas. She preferred working on a good, tightly woven cotton duck. It wasn’t an inert surface, so it recovered quickly after Leila’s brief attack. She dabbed a rag soaked in turpentine on the wound. The reconstruction of the pier could wait until tomorrow.

What time was it? Leila lost track of time as she worked. She never wore a watch in the studio.

But if she left too late, Joe would be annoyed his port wine reduction for the seared tuna had broken. It wasn’t the sauce—he could revive with a quick whisk of butter on a low heat—it was her spending more and more time at the studio and coming home later. The sky over Cape Cod Bay was a wistful grey heading into night.

Leila put down her palette knife, turned down her radio, and listened. There was quiet, finally quiet, blissful silence.

Now, at the end of the day, Leila had to steel herself for the most infuriating moment of the day: Iris leaving. The torrential thumps of Iris’ flapping Birkenstocks as she gathered up her belongings, slammed the window, searched for her purse, and slammed her door. The old oak boards were punished as as Iris clomped overhead.

The stomp was followed by the slam. Iris was incapable of doing anything quietly. There was some relief in the slam—it meant Iris was no longer overhead. The Red Barn artists never said good night, pretending not to notice each other’s comings and goings. So Leila didn’t expect Iris to poke her head in, or wave when she passed by. However, the daily drama of the swirling clamor that was Iris, like a performer doing a star turn on the stage, made it impossible not to notice her entrances and exits.

Leila walked to the window. The light of an Indian summer day was fading. Sailboats moored in the bay listed drunkenly. Had the final thump earlier signaled Iris’ departure? Leila walked back to her canvas. She recognized this as the same solitary circling as that of her neighbor overhead. It was ironic, but that didn’t stop Iris from being an annoyance.

She put her tools on her workbench. She should rinse them in turpentine and water in the bathroom at the end of the hall—the brushes would be tackier and difficult to clean after drying overnight. Oh well, she’d deal with that in the morning. Grabbing her backpack, she turned out the lights and closed her door. The hallway was silent. The other studio doors on her floor were closed. No Philomena, no Dové.

But something in the quality of the jarring loud noise earlier somehow made the quiet louder.

The stairs were poorly lit, even after Leila switched on the bare bulb dangling overhead. The whole damn place was a fire hazard. She climbed to the second floor. No Liz, no Gretchen. Later, she couldn’t quite explain why hadn’t she gone home.

The crap fixture in the upstairs hall, that never worked right, was out, as usual. The damn, dusty moose head Iris had mounted above her door stared down dolefully through its blind, button eyes. Its antlers wore a fine coat of dust.

Iris’ door was open a crack, which surprised Leila. Iris worked behind closed, locked doors, all day, every day. The other Red Barn artists left their doors open at least a smidgen, not exactly an invitation, but not a deliberately antisocial act. Iris had no such compunctions.

Leila knocked. Silence. She hesitated. Should she leave Iris alone? She took a few steps back toward the stairs, but turned around. What harm was it peeking inside? “Iris, its only me, Leila. ” No answer. “Iris, are you there?”

Leila stared through the crack in the door. At first, she thought the room was empty, but as her eyes adjusted, Leila made out a shape, or maybe a shadow, in the center of the studio.

The value of the only available light source, through the far window, made it difficult to see. Iris refused to use artificial light. She insisted on painting ‘as the Old Masters had’, that is, only by natural light. For a time, she had painted by candlelight, until the Red Barn got wind of it, banning burning candles before Iris burned the place down.

Leila stared at the shape. It didn’t move. Iris never left her door unlocked. Maybe she’d left something behind and would come back for it. Leila pushed the door open further, venturing into the silent studio, under the disapproving gaze of the mildewed moose, inching towards the shadow.

Iris, who incurred the Red Barn artists’ collective ire by deprecating the work of her fellow artists, neglecting to lock the front door, leaving puddles around communal hall sink, and far worse, as the prime suspect in the ongoing war of toilet squatting accusations, that same annoying Iris, was splayed on the floor, eyes wide open, inert as a tube of sepia.

It was a body. Iris’ body. Later, Leila recalled the body like a dead deer, abandoned on the side of the road after an accident. She remembered noting the color of Iris’ skin, like the underpainting of flesh in a neutral shade—what artists called grisaille, or dead coloring.

Ironically, under the circumstances, the scene is not unlike Iris’ own brooding assemblages: the carnage of death, overripe fruit in silver bowls, bird carcasses on platters, and game animals, fresh and bloodied, trophies of the hunt hung in the background, rendered in the style of the Old Masters.

And later, Leila was vaguely ashamed of her observations, her detachment. But, she thought defensively, isn’t observation was a habit developed over a lifetime?

Tentatively, Leila inched forward, reaching out her hand to touch the body. She yanked it back as if it was submerged in a shark tank. Iris was surprisingly warm, alive warm.

As her eyes adjusted to the low light, Leila saw Iris’ blood was a seeping stain from her flowing blue dress onto the floorboards. The red was the red every paint manufacturer had tried, but failed, to capture in a tube. Brilliant, blood red. But the eyes were dead, even if the heart was beating. Leila’s heart dropped a beat. Fear crept up her throat. Leila had to look away; she couldn’t look at those eyes. Should she call out? Is anyone here? But it was better she was alone, even if it was with a dead body. But, Iris wasn’t alone.

A small figure stood—as if on guard—over the body. Leila bent down to look at it: it was a wooden artist’s mannequin, no bigger than a child’s toy, standing guard over Iris. She recognized him immediately.

Jesus, it was Fred, fucking Fred— Leila, in a fanciful mood, had painted the figure to be anatomically correct, as well as well-endowed—who had gone missing from her studio months ago.

But poor Fred, as an eyewitness to a crime, could have nothing to say. There was no doubt he was Fred, and that he belonged to her. Bending down to pick up her missing mannequin, Leila gazed into his dead eyes. What to do?

In truth, she was both embarrassed by her handiwork, and concerned his presence could be construed as evidence at the scene of the crime; she pocketed Fred and in a sleight of hand he disappeared.

Leila didn’t need Fred to paint the picture. Iris prone. The blood. The burnished wood handle of a knife stuck in an ample left breast. Iris had been murdered. Leila didn’t scream. Leila wasn’t a screamer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barbara Elle

Barbara Elle grew up in Boston, but as an adult became a New Yorker. Barbara loves writing about people and places she remembers, so Death In Vermilion is set on Cape Cod, a place of many memories. She continues collecting memories and places, traveling the world with her touring musician husband, whether exploring Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna or Kabuki Theater in Tokyo, in search of new stories to write about. She invariably packs a notebook and her laptop.

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Twitter: @barbaraelleauth

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Blog Tour: Go Home, Afton (Afton Morrison #1) by Brent Jones

Go Home Afton

Go Home, Afton
by: Brent Jones

Go Home, Afton

Genre: Thriller
Series: Afton Morrison, Book 1
Release Date: June 25, 2018

Blurb

We all wear masks, and Afton Morrison is no exception.

A small-town librarian with a dark side, Afton, twenty-six, has suppressed violent impulses her entire adult life. Impulses that demand she commit murder.

Blending her urges with reason, Afton stalks a known sexual predator, intending to kill him. But her plan, inspired by true crime and hatched with meticulous care, is interrupted by a mysterious figure from her past. A dangerous man that lurks in the shadows, watching, threatening to turn the huntress into the hunted.

Go Home, Afton is the first of four parts in a new serial thriller by author Brent Jones. Packed with grit and action, The Afton Morrison Series delves into a world of moral ambiguity, delivering audiences an unlikely heroine in the form of a disturbed vigilante murderess.

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Review

Go Home, Afton is the first novella of a series written by Brent Jones. As with most stories structured to be in multiple books, there is a certain continuity and character building as well as environment building required. Perhaps the part I can’t get past with this decision is really why structure it as a novella instead of just an entire book? However, those are the author’s decisions but personally, as with most novels like this, it falls into a trap of being the setup phase. We get a lot of setup with really not a lot going on. I’m not saying nothing goes on because the redeeming quality which is the center of this story is the character of Afton Morrison and her development. She is a complex character to say the least with different sides of her that we learn about and she sits in a gray area of right and wrong both for Afton and the situation she encounters or at least gets involved in.

Its a novella and a thriller so its a fairly quick read. As a thriller, it did have some nice descriptions to help with the imagery. Some creepy characters which makes us wonder on what is real and what is just a part of the imagination. As we learn more about Afton, we get to feel the tension as her situation gets more complicated. It builds well-structured thriller moments. The writing style here is refined as well to easily feel immersed into the story. The ideas presented in the structure have a lot to love especially as there are some psychologically thrilling moments (and I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers).

Overall, Go Home Afton as a first part in a series has its good and bad. Good is the detail and the ideas and the sum of its parts coming together to make this a fun read. It gives it the time to really draw out Afton to have many layers to discover in her character. However, the downside of this is that there is the whole issue of certain parts being drawn out and the pacing not being as tight-knit as it should be to keep it a page-turner. First parts with deep characters usually need the first part for set-up and part of me felt like nothing incredibly substantial or surprising happened so while it had some thrilling and tense moments, it still fell short.

On a side note, I’m hoping this means that book 2 can get the ball rolling right away and the thrills and pacing will be a lot better.

Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5

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About the Author

Brent Jones

From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his career to pursue creative writing full-time.

Jones writes from his home in Fort Erie, Canada. He’s happily married, a bearded cyclist, a mediocre guitarist, and the proud owner of two dogs with a God complex.

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Road to Riverdale, Volume 2

If you missed the Volume 1 review, check it out HERE.

Road to Riverdale, Volume 2

Road to Riverdale

In the past two years, the little town of Riverdale has changed in a number of amazing ways. The entire Archie universe has been given a fresh coat of paint and it’s only getting bigger and better from here. Road to Riverdale presents to readers all of the second issues of each of our new series so far, including Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica, Josie and the Pussycats and Reggie & Me, timed to the Season One Finale of the brand new CW series Riverdale. This volume also contains a new story based in the show’s universe as a bonus for viewers! – Goodreads

Its surprising to see the there is a volume 2 of Road of Riverdale. I had talked about it when I first bought this that I had gotten it online without looking carefully and realized that its just a snippet of the different volumes in the Archie comics universe. If you want to follow through just snippets of their lives, these ones give you a good idea of the stories of each of the characters with their own graphic novels in the revamped Riverdale. This one does acknowledge the link of the revamp to the CW series, Riverdale so they added in an extra story for it, which is pretty neat. I’m a fan of the TV show (although I am currently behind on Season 2), so it was a touch that I appreciated.

The purpose as it stands with the review of the first one is to really get an idea of the stylings of each of these characters and their own stories. What is nice is that while we get the focus on different characters, like Archie is different from the tone in Jughead, as Betty and Veronica is different from Josie and the Pussycats. These diverse characters give us a hint of a different version of high school lives of these teenagers living in Riverdale. That is the charm of reading Road to Riverdale. For myself, I already try to catch up mostly with Archie however I am planning on getting the volumes from Betty and Veronica and Josie and the Pussycats as well because of Road to Riverdale because those tones work for me. However, it keeps me in the loop with say the Reggie & Me and Jughead stories also, which I feel less invested in.

With that said, I had already reviewed the full volumes of Josie and the Pussycat snippet and the Archie snippet. You can find them below:

Archie, Volume 2
Josie and the Pussycats, Volume 1

There honestly isn’t much to review here for Road to Riverdale. If you want a snapshot of Riverdale, these books are easier than having to follow 5 different series and still get the enjoyment as they pick the most standout story of the book (I would assume for the two that I didn’t read). Its a fun little trip to Riverdale. I still maintain that the revamped graphic novels are a modernized and stylistic version of the old comics as it retains the characters and their natures. While the TV series takes the characters but essentially changes them up quite a bit along with their back story and character arc. My best example always is that The Vampire Diaries did that and it worked out for an 8 season run so no reason that the TV series can’t do that. Putting aside the TV series (as this isn’t the discussion, that is coming up in a future TV binge post), Road to Riverdale has its benefits and charms for those looking for a quick visit to Riverdale.

King of Me (King’s Trilogy #3) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Check out the review of the second book, King For a Day, here.

King of Me (King’s Trilogy #3)
by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

King Of Me

What if you were asked to love a dangerous man who betrayed you at every turn, who terrified you even in your sleep? Could you do it to save the people you hold dear?

Mia Turner is ready to give it all—her body, her heart, her soul—to the mysterious, ruthless billionaire who holds the cards to saving her family. But when this sinfully sexy man, simply known as King, demands something more, something horrifying, Mia will be forced to face the impossible truth about their lives.

Sometimes the truth brings salvation. And sometimes the truth breaks you. – Goodreads

In the final book of the King’s Trilogy, King of Me is a pretty decent read. It has a lot to thank for the first two books doing a great build-up to this point. Of course, this third book also has to bring an end to all the teasing and seducing and arousal from before so we finally get some sexual action here. However, the core of the story is Mia embracing who she is as in the time of danger she escapes to the past before King was cursed. However, history is set in a certain way and even Mia’s Seer abilities aren’t almighty so there is some mystery behind what she does and how things turn out. Its journey to the past that feela destined and changes Mia’s mind about King and his demons and also drawing comparisons to the other people linked to King as well. Its a big unveiling and does a decent job. Everything makes sense and the erotic scenes play out well. It adds even more depth and development for all our characters, King and Mia but also Mack and the Spiros as well as the truth behind the story from the last book while seeing why Mia falling in love with King is the key to changing everything one way or another, at least for a better outcome.

With that said, King of Me did suffer some of the erotic novel pet peeves that I have. I have some odd ones and it comes from a little similarity of finding redemption for King drawing some comparisons to Christian Grey in the last book of Fifty Shades trilogy. Its this way out where they feel compelled to make love center to just giving in to abusive behavior. However, King of Me does give it a reasonable route afterwards to somehow shed the light a little on why there was this drastic change in that point in King’s history that Mia had stepped into.

Overall, King of Me was decent as the supposed final book of the series. It answered all the questions and sorted all the emotions out. It was fast paced and added depth to the characters.

Of course, reading it after the initial release means I also know that the trilogy turned into more so this isn’t actually the end. There currently two more books, #4 Mack and #5 10 Club. I was hoping to wrap up the series and move into something else. I will try to catch up to the final two books later this year. With that said, I wonder how they will be seeing  as the original idea was a trilogy but these two has now turned it into a series. Hopefully it will work out well.

King for a Day (King’s Trilogy #2) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Check out the review of the first book, King’s here.

King for a Day (King’s Trilogy #2)
by: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

king for a day

When Mia Turner’s life becomes tethered to a mysterious billionaire, who she swears is the devil himself, she knows she must break free. It doesn’t matter if everything about him—those sinful lips, those pale gray eyes, that perfect male body—keeps her awake at night. He’s evil. She has to get away.

But when this man, known simply as King, suddenly disappears, Mia will discover she’s not home free. Because without King, she’s no longer safe from his ruthless, depraved, power-hungry social circle.
To survive, Mia will have to conceal King’s absence and walk a mile in the evil man’s twisted, cruel shoes. What she discovers will leave her more terrified and her heart more conflicted than she ever imagined.

King is not who she thought. She wasn’t even close. – Goodreads

One of the things I love the most from the King’s Trilogy, and maybe it has to do with Mimi Jean Pamfiloff’s writing but I have only read this trilogy so I have no comparison, is that the setup of the mystery and the characters are quite multi-layered which makes it intriguing to read. In the first book, we learned the basics of Mia and her dilemma, got hints of King and how he is not quite human and of course, the twisted elite 10 Club and the disturbing people involved. But those are fairly skin deep and leaves a lot of room for both the mystery and the characters to grow. In King For a Day, that was exactly what happened. And no one was left out in this character and situational development process, which is always nice to see, making all the characters meaningful to the story as a whole and more depth for the mystery in this one. At the same time, the scope expands with the story widening to other locations and the extent of King’s “powers” being revealed a little bit more.

King for a Day does fall into a familiar path that I didn’t really want it to go down. Part of it was rather predictable and the story line here really seems to fall away from why I found it unique in the first place. However, Mia stays true to her character and King, well, is King, filled with mystery and discovery. The fantasy of figuring out bad boys really never dies. You know, the quiet and cryptic ones who seem to have a lot to hide and are probably wildly dangerous. This story feeds on that mentality for sure. Its always nice to remember when to pull a character out to cool down a little just as King of a Day does as it removes King and makes him disappear, leaving Mia to fend for herself with the help of King’s loyal helper, Mack. Both properties of King, the 10 Club is ready to claim them and they need to find a way to hide the fact that he is missing even if they know who is behind it all. It add tension when the main character is left in the dark especially when the secrets and dangers seem pressing.

With that said, this is a fast-paced read. Even with the few twists that come in play, there is still a playfulness to this one that transforms quickly into a mix of feelings. It builds primarily the depth of King’s backstory and who he is, while also giving Mia her strength and building upon her learning more about what it means to be a Seer and her abilities. At the same time, what I loved from the first one is that this one teases sexual tension and attraction but manages to keep Mia from doing anything that will betray herself even if she finds this strong attraction and pull to him, not only because she was marked (or claimed) by King. Its been one of the characteristics in this series that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with King For a Day. Its a worthy sequel. There were some predictable moments but it was a fast-paced read. The story and characters both had a decent amount of development to not only keep the mystery and suspense keeping the matter at hand fairly contained but building on the backstory for King as well as the future of Mia and King as well as their tension. At the same time, the other characters never feel dispensable as they also get a fair growth and development to their characters to make them necessary in the story.

The Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise by Bob Collopy

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

The Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise
By: Bob Collopy

The Phoenix Cycle

New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Now Steve and Leslie must choose whether they will apply for the General’s once in a lifetime opportunity to “Rise from the Ashes” and join the Inner Circle that rules the city. If they don’t, they will be damned to spend the rest of their lives in the ghettos of Edingburg, a place where virtual reality has become a government-subsidized addiction.

For Steve, the choice is easy. His loyalties lie with the IRA, a revolutionary army led by a voice only known as “Mom.” They are trying to overthrow the General and free the people of New San Francisco from the cruelties of the City Guard. Steve’s mission is to broadcast a recording of a speech that a famous philosopher died to tell. Many thousands have and will perish to get this message out, but is anyone willing to listen? – Goodreads

The Phoenix Cycle was a hard one to get immersed it. There is a lot of potential here for success. There is the dystopian factor and the world building and backstory of what this whole revolution is about for the characters versus those of higher rankings, General and the government. I’m going to be honest that as the characters started filing in frequently to the story, it started getting incredibly confusing to track who was loyal to who and what the whole deal was going on. I criticize the writing style here as it dwells on small facts a lot making it feel like it drags out a lot the story itself. At the same time, I also would say that the structure of the story also causes the idea itself to get lost in its potential depth and doesn’t deliver it. As mentioned before, the idea here has a lot of potential, it just wasn’t executed with a lack of engagement.

And then specifically one of the characters and only that character alone is written in what I suspect is an Irish accent. If everyone fighting in the IRA is supposed Irish then why only that person has this sort of writing and not the others. Actually, to write with someone’s spoken accent is more of script writing instead of say novel writing. It does nothing but make the reading harder and also makes it lack the uniformity that it needs, adding onto the frustration. Sad, because that character was one of the engaging ones to read. In terms of characters, there are a few main ones who are focused in the story, particularly mentioned in the synopsis above. “Mom” has the mystery behind her and she creates quite the mind-boggling situation. The IRA members perhaps are a little more interesting to read just because their cause seems so straightforward and yet so unclear. In terms of who seems like the focus, Steve is one of the main characters from the start as well but always feels very one dimensional.

Confusing, overly descriptive and way too complex for its own good. The Phoenix Cycle has been one of those frustrating reads that takes a whole lot of energy to get through. There are pet peeves in reading that it commits and doesn’t stay uniform to what it tries to achieve. There always seems to be a depths and layers that get carried away far too much than it has given enough time to build-up for. The Phoenix Cycle feels very much like other novels in its genre except lacking some of the polish it should have perhaps in the final editing phase within its structure and writing style.

Goodreads rating: 2 stars out of 5

Book received by:

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Blog Tour: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw (Review & Giveaway)

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
by: Charlie Laidlaw

Things We Learn When We're Dead

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor
Publication Date: January 26, 2017

Synopsis

With elements of The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead shows how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, and how sometimes we can get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions. It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home. – Goodreads

Review

Leaning much more towards the contemporary fiction than humorous side for myself, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead works the best in its creative setting. Perhaps the best way to start is that The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is set up in a structure that takes us between the present state of after Lorna’s accident and waking up in a foreign place that she realizes is a spaceship called HVN and is run by a man calling himself God. How can you not stop to think about whether heaven is actually run by some alien life who is stranded in limbo and has the power to live for eternity. The constant question is whether this was the vision of her death or was this all in her head or maybe some other situations will come to mind as we also get Lorna’s significant moments in life that create a connection to the memories that are regenerating as the time passes by in heaven. In many ways, the story here is something of a character study in itself because of the focus pretty much solely on Lorna. Other characters, no matter how close, were simply passing through her life and things that affected or observed her choices. In that way, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead works very well. It actually achieves quite a few moments of where we get to see the little details of her pass sprinkle into the present people and locations that she visits in heaven.

However, where the story that fall a little bit apart is something of the overly descriptive spots or sometimes feeling like the past had way more focus and detail than it needed to have. It is the defining points of her life but sometimes it also failed to really see the importance of some of the people that kept recurring or simply situations that didn’t seem to matter so much. While that is the case, the writing and word choice is something that I haven’t seen in a while using some obscure things in comparison (at least in my opinion) and added that extra bit of detail and creativity that gives it merit. I guess what I’m saying is that the writing overall was very good but the story was a little overly long for its own good and as the book progressed to the end, the past events dominated over the present and it felt like it lingered a little bit too long and the balance of the two was lost on me.

Overall, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a decent read. Its not exactly a page turner through and through but the creativity here deserves a lot of credit. Life is made up of our choices and how we choose to live our lives and in many ways, Lorna’s life story in all its detail is very honest and realistic. It might have dragged at certain parts but very few stories do hit those personal journeys with so much honesty and it works on that level. At least I was able to relate to some of her sentiments that she went through.

On a side note, the guy characters here have last names related to birds, “Bird, Dove, Crow”, it makes me wonder if there’s something more about freedom or something linked that I can’t find a connection to, or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Goodreads score: 3/5

Purchase link: Amazon

About the Author

charlie laidlaw

I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault.  That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father.  That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh.  I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist.  I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries.  Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa.  What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then.  However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

Twitter: @claidlawauthor
Facebook: charlielaidlawauthor
Website: www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

GIVEAWAY

2 Printed Copies of The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f35/?

Blog Tour organized by:

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