Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"The Riverman" by Alex Gray

The Riverman
(DCI Lorimer Book 4)
by Alex Gray

The Riverman, the fourth book in the DCI Lorimer series by Alex Gray, is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Fans of atmospheric police procedurals will love watching Glasgow vividly come to life with the shocking twists and turns that have made Alex Gray an international bestseller.
When a dead body is fished out of Glasgow’s River Clyde the morning after an office celebration, it looks like a case of accidental death. But an anonymous telephone call and a forensic toxicology test give Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer reason to think otherwise. Probing deeper into the life and business of the deceased accountant, a seemingly upright member of the community, Lorimer finds only more unanswered questions.
What is the secret his widow seems to be concealing? Was the international accounting firm facing financial difficulties? What has become of the dead man’s protégé who has disappeared in New York? And when another employee is found dead in her riverside flat these questions become much more disturbing. Lorimer must cope not only with deceptions from the firm, but also with suspicions from those far closer to home ...

The Riverman
The riverman knew all about the Clyde. Its tides and currents were part of his heritage. His father and others before him had launched countless small craft from the banks of the river in response to a cry for help. Nowadays that cry came in the form of a klaxon that could waken him from sleep, the mobile phone ringing with information about where and when. It wouldn’t be the first time that he’d pulled someone from the icy waters with only a hasty oilskin over his pajamas.
This morning, at least, he’d been up and doing when the call came. The body was over by Finnieston, past the weir, so he’d had to drive over the river towing a boat behind him on the trailer. He was always ready. That was what this job was all about: prompt and speedy response in the hope that some poor sod’s life could be saved. And he’d saved hundreds over the years, desperate people who were trying to make up their mind to jump off one of the many bridges that spanned the Clyde or those who had made that leap and been saved before the waters filled their lungs.
George Parsonage had been brought up to respect his river. Once it had been the artery of a great beating heart, traffic thronging its banks, masts thick as brush-wood. The tobacco trade with Virginia had made Glasgow flourish all right, with the preaching of commerce and the praising of a New World that was ripe for plucking. The names of some city streets still recalled those far-off days. Even in his own memory, the Clyde had been a byword for ships. As a wee boy, George had been taken to the launch of some of the finer products of Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry. But even then the river’s grandeur was fading. He’d listened to stories about the grey hulks that grew like monsters from the deep, sliding along the water, destined for battle, and about the cruise liners sporting red funnels that were cheered off their slipways, folk bursting with pride to be part of this city with its great river.
The romance and nostalgia had persisted for decades after the demise of shipbuilding and cross-river ferries. Books written about the Clyde’s heyday still found readers hankering after a time that was long past. The Glasgow Garden Festival in the eighties had prompted some to stage a revival along the river and more recently there had been a flurry of activity as the cranes returned to erect luxury flats and offices on either side of its banks. Still, there was little regular traffic upon its sluggish dark waters: a few oarsmen, a private passenger cruiser and the occasional police launch. Few saw what the river was churning up on a daily basis.
As he pushed the oars against the brown water, the riverman sent up a silent prayer for guidance. He’d seen many victims of despair and violence, and constantly reminded himself that each one was a person like himself with hopes, dreams and duties in different measure. If he could help, he would. That was what the Glasgow Humane Society existed for, after all. The sound of morning traffic roared above him as he made his way downstream. The speed of response was tempered by a need to row slowly and carefully once the body was near. Even the smallest of eddies could tip the body, filling the air pocket with water and sending it down and down to the bottom of the river. So, as George Parsonage approached the spot where the body floated, his oars dipped as lightly as seabirds’ wings, his eyes fixed on the shape that seemed no more than a dirty smudge against the embankment.
The riverman could hear voices above but his eyes never left the half-submerged body as the boat crept nearer and nearer. At last he let the boat drift, oars resting on the rowlocks as he finally drew alongside the river’s latest victim. George stood up slowly and bent over, letting the gunwales of the boat dip towards the water. Resting one foot on the edge, he hauled the body by its shoulders and in one clean movement brought it in. Huge ripples eddied away from the side as the boat rocked upright, its cargo safely aboard.
The victim was a middle-aged man. He’d clearly been in the water for some hours so there was no question of trying to revive him. The riverman turned the head this way and that, but there was no sign of a bullet hole or any wound that might indicate a sudden, violent death. George touched the sodden coat lightly. Its original camel colour was smeared and streaked with the river’s detritus, the velvet collar an oily black. Whoever he had been, his clothes showed signs of wealth. The pale face shone wet against the pearly pink light of morning. For an instant George had the impression that the man would sit up and grasp his hand, expressing his thanks for taking him out of the water, as so many had done before him. But today no words would be spoken.There would be only a silent communion between the two men, one dead and one living, before other hands came to examine the corpse.
George grasped the oars and pulled away from the embankment. Only then did he glance upwards, nodding briefly as he identified the men whose voices had sounded across the water. DCI Lorimer caught his eye and nodded back. Up above the banking a couple of uniformed officers stood looking down. Even as he began rowing away from the shore, the riverman noticed a smaller figure join the others. Dr. Rosie Fergusson had arrived.
‘Meet you at the Finnieston steps, George,’ Lorimer called out.
The riverman nodded briefly, pulling hard on the oars, taking his charge on its final journey down the Clyde.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt. Please note the US and UK editions have different covers.]

Praise for the Book
"Brings Glasgow to life in the same way Ian Rankin evokes Edinburgh." ~ Daily Mail (UK)
"Gray has no equal when it comes to unmasking killers and she has excelled herself here ... Gray is the new master of Scottish crime writing." ~ Scottish Daily Express
"I enjoy these books from Alex Gray. I like the fact that it is set in Scotland. If you enjoy a good detective book you will enjoy this." ~ Shirley McDonald
"All are very good stories, although I would recommend reading them in the order that they were written, to keep track of the Inspector's personal life." ~ AB

About the Author
Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.
Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of three print copies of The Riverman by Alex Gray (US only).


Monday, January 30, 2017

"Return to Autumn" by John Richards

Return to Autumn
by John Richards

Return to Autumn by John Richards is currently on tour with YA Bound Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Adam will never forget the summer of 1992, when his reality was forever altered by the temptations presented to the teenage boy. The summer before their senior year was supposed to be spent with his best friends drinking a few beers and trying to hook up with girls at the pool. But when Adam takes a lawn care job at the Autumn’s, he’ll come to know the meaning of love, lust and loss. As Adam’s focus turns to Carolyn Autumn and less on his best friends, he will have to make choices that will lead him to lose everything he had at the beginning of summer.
Return to Autumn is a coming of age story that explores a series of firsts for the boys.

Chapter One
The Beginning of Summer
Every year on the last day of school it was our ritual to exit the school bus by jumping out of the emergency exit in the back. Mark, Joey, and I had been doing it since we were in sixth grade. Irritating the bus driver went back further than the sixth grade though. In third grade when we had a substitute bus driver that didn’t know the route, we would yell, “That’s it! That’s my house!” This shouldn’t have mattered since the driver was only supposed to stop and let us out at designated stops. Nonetheless, she slammed on the brakes and jerked the bus to a halt and we hid behind the tall-backed green seats calling out “Why are you stopping?” or “NO! Not here you idiot.” The woman just sat there looking back at all us kids in her huge rearview mirror, stunned and trying to figure out if someone was actually going to get off. Someone would eventually tell her no one was getting off, and she would start driving again to the chorus of our profanity. The bus was so full she wouldn’t have a clue who was doing all the yelling, and in hindsight, I don’t think she cared who was yelling. She just wanted off the bus herself. Now, we were juniors in high school. Even though we all had our driver’s licenses we couldn’t drive to school until we were seniors due to limited parking spaces.
You could only jump out the back of the bus on the last day of school. If you did the jump midyear, the principal would be waiting on the bus after school the next day and the bus wouldn’t leave for home until he found out who had activated the fire exit. He would threaten to give everyone a detention if nobody tattled or confessed. I know because we tried to do it on a Friday once in eighth grade, and the next Monday there he was waiting for us inside the bus. Carolyn Autumn was the one who told on us. She didn’t even hesitate; she wanted to get home and ‘prepare’ for a history test she had the next week. Carolyn was constantly worrying and studying. She lived down the street from us and we rode the bus together since our first-grade year.
“I’m sorry Adam,” she said. “I had to. I thought I was going to fail.”
But she was one of the most successful students in school. She was always on the honor roll, as long as I could remember anyway. Her obsessive worrying was likely the reason for all her success in school.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"A perfect coming of age story. I was perplexed by the authors character. I felt submerged in the trios activities. The joys of finding love, and the heartbreak of losing it. I hope the author is writing more, because I want to know what happens to Adam." ~ Mike
"Really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that kept my attention every page. Hoping this turns out to be a series to see what happens to Adam, Mark and Joey." ~ Tracy S. Woods
"Return To Autumn is perfect for high school age boys experiencing the trials of adulthood." ~ Max
"A well written story of a young man's journey through his coming of age. A beautiful and heartfelt novel that I found to be thought provoking and emotional. The author Richards does an excellent job of portraying Adam the main character, typical of a teenage boy growing up. A great read that I couldn't put down." ~ Mrs O
"A well written story, coming of age story that captures the true nature of loss and grief in young adults." ~ Erica Garvin

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Beginning in the summer of 1992, Return to Autumn follows Adam and his friends, Mark and Joey, from their last day of junior high to the first months of college. Over that first summer, Adam does yard work for Mrs. Autumn and falls for her daughter, Carolyn. As Adam draws closer to Carolyn, he drifts further away from Mark and Joey, leading to some unfortunate consequences. We watch the boys grow up, as they struggle to deal with new relationships, parents' divorce, drug addiction, and even death.
The book starts of well, with humorous tales of boys drinking, swearing, pumping iron, swapping conquest stories, and smoking pot. The book later turns into something totally different, with some really confronting scenes. In essence, the genre changes from Young Adult to New Adult, so it's difficult to discern the appropriate audience. The boys' banter is realistic and believable - albeit a bit juvenile for my taste. In contrast, the adults' speech is stilted and too formal. The writing, which flows quite naturally at the beginning of the book, later becomes a series of short, choppy sentences. Numerous editing errors appear, especially in the second half of the book, including references to things that weren't current at the time. It's almost as if the book was written by two different people - or the editor (or author as editor) gave up half-way through.
This is a quick, entertaining read, that holds the reader's attention. It is, however, by no means a light book, and it ultimately left me feeling uncomfortable and grossed out (sorry, can't think of a better way of putting it).
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, underage drinking, drug use.

Guest Post by the Author
Inspiration for Return to Autumn
Return to Autumn was based on many events that actually occurred while I was in the 7th grade through senior year of high school. Not the same exact events, but similar. The characters in the novel are also based on people that I have known along the way. It was funny because my editor would tell me that something I wrote wasn't actually believable or that people don't really talk like that. I would tell her on those occasions that the events actually happened or that we actually did talk like that. Much of what she had wanted to cut, I left in to be true to the story. Carolyn, who is Adam's main love interest, was based on a girl I knew from the first grade. She was an awesome student, and never did anything wrong. She grew up to be stunningly beautiful.

About the Author
John Richards was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs where he currently resides with his wife, kids and German Shepherds. John worked as a book seller for a few years before attending law school and becoming a litigation attorney. John’s writings are loosely drawn from personal life experiences but would never admit to it. When not at work or writing, John and his family enjoy spending time outdoors and vacationing in the Mountains of Tennessee.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two $25 Amazon gift cards.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

"What You Don't Know Now" by Marci Diehl

What You Don't Know Now
by Marci Diehl

Author Marci Diehl stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from What You Don't Know Now. You can also read my review.

This coming-of-age romantic novel begins in the summer of 1967, and 18-year-old American Bridey McKenna is in Europe for the first time. It’s supposed to be the ultimate mother-daughter vacation, but nothing about it is working out that way. Chances for adventure, romance and enlightenment look slim-to-none until Bridey arrives in Umbria and meets Alessandro - someone who could change everything about her future. Alessandro is no ordinary singing waiter, and he’s the last person on earth Bridey’s mother wants in her daughter’s life. Bridey’s only hope is to connect in Rome with her worldly aunt and uncle - a man who holds a position at the British embassy in Jordan that no one ever quite defines. When an emergency takes Bridey off the tour, on to Athens and further into her aunt and uncle’s world than Bridey ever dreamed, the complex terrain of family, love and womanhood holds a surprising itinerary.
More than just a coming of age romance novel, What You Don't Know Now is an adventurous new adult love story of sexual awakening, and a loss of innocence for readers young and old.

Book Video

In the Summer
The grass was soft and she could smell the rich earth beneath her. Some voice of reason tried to struggle up inside her as she lay stretched out with him on the ground. You’re in big trouble now, it tried to say, but her legs ignored it, they opened beneath him. The hem of her dress bunched in a creased crumple under her arms. Her bra stretched, deflated, along her neckline. She sensed the disarray, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the feeling of her breasts against the warm skin of his chest, the soft tickling of hair that spread across his breastbone.
Her head was cradled in the grass and she slipped into his eyes, a swimmer walking into the warm surf of an ocean, poised to dive in. This was what she'd wished for at the beginning, wasn't it -? The unexpected? Something real? He was all of this, and so much more. She'd prayed for something to happen, something extraordinary from this trip, but even when she was praying, she doubted. She’d wanted to come to this city least of all. What could it hold for someone like her?
Now she knew. She closed her eyes and let him take her where she needed and wanted to go.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"This debut loss of innocence/coming of age novel has romance, intrigue, romance, travel, romance, opera, romance, and the gorgeously portrayed Alessandro who catches the eye and heart of young Bridey McKenna. Marci Diehl's smart, upscale writing makes this story real and terrific. A five star must read for lovers of romance, intrigue and remembrance of things past." ~ Kathy Johncox, author of What a Kiss Can Do
"My mouth was literally agape as I read certain sections of this fun and engrossing story." ~ Cynthia Kolko, author of Fruit of the Vine
"Reawaken your sense of adventure! Have you ever read a book that gave you the feeling of packing your bags and just going where your feet will take you? What You Don’t Know Now is definitely a book to read this summer." ~ Goodreads review by Scribes23
"A gem! I felt as if Bridey had packed me in her suitcase and taken me along on her adventures. Diehl writes with vivid exuberance in an entertaining and thought provoking way. I found myself indulging in 'just one more chapter'. Would make a stunning movie. I hope there's a sequel!" ~ Amazon Customer
"Growing up in the sixties, I can totally relate to the attitudes and mores of the time.The book was very well written and Marci Diehl's writing style is A+. [...] So glad I have read this marvelous novel." ~ C. Ray

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
It's the summer of 1967, and Bridey McKenna is on the trip of a lifetime in Europe with her mother, aunt, and fourteen-year-old cousin. Bridey even gets to spend her eighteenth birthday in Venice. However, things aren't as idyllic as they should be - until a hairy bus ride through the Italian mountains lands them in Assisi. There, Bridey meets Alessandro, the charming singing waiter, and is swept off her feet. A detour to Greece brings a whole other adventure, and Bridey is forced to make the hardest decision of her life.
Based on the author's own travels through Europe, What You Don’t Know Now brings us a realistic look at life in the 1960s, and a glimpse of what long-distance romance looked like in a time before email, cell phones, and social media. The author paints a vivid picture with her words, making us feel like we are really there. She also uses dialect very skilfully to give Alessandro a true Italian "voice".
There were numerous editing and formatting errors in the version I read, as well as the use of a few too many similes and metaphors, especially at the beginning of the book. Nevertheless, the story flows well, and we are swept away with Bridey on her adventures. Bridey and the support characters are all well-developed, with the dynamics between them being both interesting and believable. The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. I, for one, would very much like to follow Bridey on the rest of her journey through life.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes.

Interview With the Author
Author Marci Diehl joins me to discuss her book, What You Don’t Know Now.
What genre is your book?
What You Don’t Know Now is a coming-of-age novel. This is women’s fiction (a commercial novel with a female on the brink of life change and personal growth, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending to her romantic relationship). It also crosses into a new genre – New Adult (a genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket, with a focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices).
Please describe the main character, Bridey McKenna.
Overprotected, raised to follow the rules, and longing for even a hint of adventure to experience, Bridey McKenna is an 18-year-old American touring Europe in the summer of 1967 with her mother, aunt and 14-year-old cousin on a 21-day, 7-country bus tour. The tour is loaded with nuns, widows, a priest and an elderly man, and worse, is inauspiciously named the Summer Vacation Pilgrimage. Smart, flippant, and self-absorbed, Bridey is a ‘60s girl with her long hair, mini dresses, and Twiggy eye makeup but she’s no hippie. She’s just graduated from an all-girls school, college-bound for Georgetown University. "She wasn’t about to follow some priest around all day. She planned on finding enlightenment in other ways."
Bridey comes from a small town in western New York State where her father is a carpenter and her mother stays at home, raising Bridey and her two brothers. But Bridey has an aunt and uncle who have lived most of her life in Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan. Bridey idolizes her glamorous, worldly Aunt Maura while feeling intimidated by her mysterious and distant Uncle Hugh, who has a job with the British government no one talks about. Bridey’s journey causes her to question old rules and roles, and stirs her rebellion, her blossoming sexuality, and her awakened sense of miraculous possibility in life and the world around her.
What made you write this story?
When I was 18, I took a similar trip in Europe and kept a travel journal. Turning 18 is a threshold for girls – a step into early womanhood, and most 18-year-olds think they know all they need to at that stage. I think I certainly felt that way. The tour I took was so terrible I knew it would make a great (possibly funny) book someday. It wasn’t until I was grown and re-read the journal that I saw myself as an 18-year-old complaining endlessly about the misadventures of the tour, not appreciating what was before me. I did see how much I loved my family for keeping their sense of humor and bond despite separation.
I imagined a different story unfolding. It was a story about the love between mothers and daughters, aunts who were like "second mothers", and the bond of sisters. I also wanted to write about the idea of the lightning-strike of love during a summer holiday, and the question of whether you fall in love with someone because of his charisma and talent. The push-pull of love.
Our trip also included dumping that tour and heading to Athens, where my aunt, uncle and cousins were staying after being evacuated out of Jordan during wartime. The uncle character in the novel is based upon my own uncle, who was a spy for the U.S. – but I had no idea as a teen that he was an important intelligence officer. I thought the idea of writing about the "normal" side of a spy’s family life was intriguing and lent an unusual element to Bridey’s story.
Who should read your book?
It’s definitely for adults at least over 18, due to the sexual content of a couple of scenes. Who should read it? Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, nieces; women who lived through the 1960’s; anyone who took a trip to Italy or Europe and found a romance (there are more women out there that did than you may imagine!). People who are interested in history, travel, operatic tenors and their incubation, Italy, the Vietnam War era, life in the 1960’s, or Greece. Or anyone who has faced the choice of giving up what you most want to keep.
Thanks for stopping by, Marci. I certainly enjoyed the book!

About the Author
Marci Diehl has been a writer ever since she was the geek who got excited when her grammar school class had to write paragraphs for English. She kept a "log" of her experiences as an 18-year-old on an ill-fated bus tour of Europe. That trip became the basis for her debut novel What You Don’t Know Now.
She spent 10 years traversing the nation as a PGA Tour Wife, from the East Coast all the way to Hawaii, Jamaica and Japan. As a traveling mother of four, she wrote for national and regional magazines - Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Success Magazine, SCORE (Canada), Jacksonville Today (Florida) on lifestyle, golf, travel, humor, and business. Behind the scenes of writing non-fiction for a living, Diehl always has a short story or novel in progress.
She's been an avid reader her entire life. When she isn't walking her dog or going to the movies for the popcorn, she is a writer, editor and producer for multi-media and marketing. She lives in the Finger Lakes area of New York State.