Uncle Neddy’s Funeral by L.M. Pampuro


Uncle Neddy’s Funeral by L.M. Pampuro
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (450 pgs)
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Giuseppe Vittorio Vaffanculo, a.k.a. Neddy, is an idiot. Not a bad person, he just holds himself in high praise. Neddy is the perfect target for Rayleigh O’Connor, member of the underworld organization The Shadow and soon to be Ms. Neddy number five. As part of the Vaffanculo-Cuzzuto clan, Neddy is the perfect mark Rayleigh needs to avenge the death of a comrade by killing Victor Cuzzuto.

All Victor Cuzzuto wants to do is finally retire to the beach, spend time with his family, and hand over the reins of his Federal Investigation branch office to his protégée.

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral opens into obvious intrigue… where, exactly “Neddy’ is becomes apparent pretty quick, but why…well that is the story.

It’s a family affair from the get-go, and Italian! Oh yes, from gnocchi to the classic big family, Uncle Neddy is part of a stereotypical big-city Italian family, with the all the connections and expectations one imagines. Faithfully reported on by sister Gia, we readers get a good look at ‘relations’ and family history. Yet, pinning down information on the ‘real Neddy’ – not to mention other family members, is hard to achieve. Everyone has a different view…often of each other. There are complaints and lies, and lies about liars, and we readers must wonder what is actually heartfelt.

Wondering what was going on kept me reading.

Clever writing spins out an intrigue that seems a backward one and not at all lacking in humor. Although it’s an odd journey, it is all ‘La Familia.” Who married (or marries) who is all important, as is the families’ opinion. Even more important is the motive for the marriage, and this upcoming Bad Decision might be more about retribution than love.

Fresh and original–okay, perhaps ‘fresh’ given the opening description, is not the best word choice…ahem–unpredictable and zippy, or perhaps it would be better to say ‘downright unusual.’ Uncle Nedddy’s Funeral is not so much just for mystery fans as for those wanting a reading adventure. Expect the unexpected and do add it to your Must Read List.

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral by L.M. Pampuro – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.M. Pampuro will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. Also, don’t miss reading our review here!

Giuseppe Vittorio Vaffanculo, a.k.a. Neddy, is not a bad person, he just holds himself in high praise. Neddy is the perfect target for Rayleigh O’Connor, member of an underworld organization and soon to be Ms. Neddy number five. As part of the Vaffanculo-Cuzzuto clan, Neddy is the perfect mark Rayleigh needs to avenge the death of a comrade by killing Victor Cuzzuto.

All Victor Cuzzuto wants to do is finally retire to the beach, spend time with his family, and hand over the reins of his Federal Investigation branch office to his protégée, Bruno.

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral – The King Of Bad Decisions.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Neddy took in a deep breath of air. A violent cough followed. Surrounded by darkness, he had zero perception, which, for him, was fortunate. His arms touched the silky sides, as did his legs. He tried stretching his feet to the end. It figured, where he didn’t need it or couldn’t use it, he had the space. His breath bounced back from the top. He could smell mama’s tomato sauce from breakfast. Leftover gnocchi and eggs made the perfect meal to get him through the day. With each exhale his heart skipped.

About an hour ago, the air became lighter, best he could tell. The stench had to be from his exhales. He tried not to smell, breathe. Leave it to Joe and Victor to come up with a plan that involved a disgusting odor. Those two could fill a room after one of mama’s meals. Not that mama’s meals were gassy, it’s just those two needed no incentives to let one loose. Neddy’s laughter broke into a coughing fit.

“Ah, minor inconvenience,” he said. In the distance, he could hear hushed voices yet couldn’t make out the conversation. The voices grew louder as Neddy assumed, people came closer.

“Be careful with this one,” Victor’s brogue came through clearly.

“Why boss,” another voice spoke. “Ya think he can feel anything?” Laughter filled the room. Neddy strained to hear the paused conversation. A couple of awkward coughs filled the space.

“Just be careful,” Ah, Victor used his I am in charge voice. Neddy knew the tone. His crew isn’t following directions. Neddy smirked. “Think of this as precious cargo.” Footsteps followed, growing weaker by the clank.

“I think the boss is getting weird”

“In what way?”

“Well he’s worried about a corpse.” Neddy smiled. He curved his temptation to knock. As funny as he thought it would be to make whoever jump at the sound, he knew better. Victor Cuzzuto would kill him.

“Victor got his job. Our job is to move the sucker.”

“Well, if Victor had finished the last job we wouldn’t be here, now would we?”

“Not our problem.”

“When will the old guy retire…” Neddy banged into the side of the casket. His head bounced off the top.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed as he bit into his hand. The casket stopped moving.

“You hear something boss?”

“I ain’t heard nothing,” came a quick reply along with a jolt. “Let’s just finish this up. Place like this gives me the creeps.”

About the Author: L.M. Pampuro is the author of five novels: Dancing With Faith, Maximum Mayhem, The Perfect Pitch, Passenger – the only game in town, and Uncle Neddy’s Funeral. (All available at Amazon.com)

She is an avid skier, loves dancing to live music, and possess a warped sense of humor.

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Buy the book at Amazon.

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Leave the Night On by Laura Trentham – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of Leave the Night On by Laura Trentham. Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a beach prize pack.

Love, betrayal, and sweet revenge—life in Cottonbloom is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .

Sutton Mize is known for lavishing attention on the customers who flock to her boutique on the wealthy side of her Mississippi town. So when she finds a lace thong in her fiancé’s classic cherry-red Camaro, she knows just who she sold it to: her own best friend. In an instant, Sutton’s whole world goes up in flames. . .

Wyatt Abbott has harbored a crush on Sutton since he was a young kid from the other side of the tracks. He witnessed Sutton’s shocking discovery in the Camaro at his family-owned garage—and it made him angry. What kind of man could take lovely, gorgeous Sutton for granted? But then Sutton comes up with an idea: Why not give her betrothed a taste of his own medicine and pretend that she’s got a lover of her own? Wyatt is more than happy to play the hot-and-heavy boyfriend. But what begins as a fictional affair soon develops into something more real, and more passionate, than either Sutton or Wyatt could have imagined. Could it be that true love has been waiting under the hood all along?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Sutton stared at the lace concoction. From La Perla’s fall collection. Fine Italian lace. Ridiculously expensive for something so small. A special order with the addition of a small embroidered heart to sit at the owner’s hipbone. Oh yes, she was acquainted with the underwear but not intimately acquainted. She’d ordered them through Abigail’s Boutique, but not for herself. She was too practical.

Wyatt Abbott shook them even closer to her face, obviously expecting her to take them. The thought of touching the lace made her shrink against the driver’s door, and she fumbled for the handle, finally finding it and yanking. The door opened and her momentum sent her to the shop floor on her butt.

Her skirt bunched around her thighs, probably high enough for Wyatt Abbott to see her simple cotton pink panties from Victoria’s Secret. The fact they weren’t white was the wildest she got. She’d even waited for them to go on sale. With a bruised ego and bottom, she scrambled up.

Wyatt hadn’t moved. His mouth was parted, still in a slight smile, the panties dangling from his fingers. Instead of the roil of emotions gaining steam inside of her, she concentrated on his hands. They were rough-looking and callused. The nails were short but lined with grease. And they were big. They built things. Fixed things. Put things back together.

A darkness came over his face, clouding his earlier good-humor and giving him an edge of danger she hadn’t sensed through his teasing. Instead of getting out of the car from the door, he stood up on the passenger seat, stepped to the driver’s seat, and hopped next to her, the black lace of her betrayal dangling in his hand.

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

A jackhammering noise from the other bay filled the space so she didn’t have to. The crazy thing was that she had sensed something wrong. Something had been wrong pretty much since she and Andrew had gotten engaged.

She’d tried to put it down to nerves or how busy they both were with work. But the truth was she’d been dragging her feet with the wedding preparations. Between the two of them pulling away, the distance had grown until only an echo of what had drawn them together remained.

The hum of a motor and the flash of sunlight on metal drew her attention to the open bay door. Her best friend, Bree Randall, stepped out of her BMW coupe dressed in heels, grey slacks, and a sleeveless silk shell, the pink contrasting beautifully with her dark brown hair and ivory complexion. She was a lawyer for Cottonbloom, Mississippi’s city government and had been Sutton’s best friend since first grade.

No way could Sutton smile and pretend everything was fine. She grabbed the front of Wyatt’s coveralls and looked up at him. The boy she remembered had been too cool and a borderline jerk, teasing her incessantly, almost to the point of tears. The man was still too cool, yet something new lurked behind his ease. She hoped it was akin to kindness.

Bree drew closer. Stuck between a devil she knew and one she didn’t, Sutton took a chance. Her voice was hoarse and begging and she didn’t care. “Get me out of here. Please.”

Without taking his eyes off her, he called out, “Yo, Jackson. Could you put the lady from the Beemer in the waiting room? Tell her Miss Mize isn’t feeling well and stepped out back for some fresh air.”

If his brother answered, she didn’t hear him. Wyatt put a strong, stabilizing arm around her shoulders and guided her around various pieces of equipment and mechanical parts to a door tucked away at the back of the shop floor. She stepped outside, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. The freshness of the air counteracted the bile rising in her throat.

Her knees wobbled as the stark reality of the situation and the fallout took shape in her mind. She glanced at the man by her side. What was Wyatt Abbott thinking right now? Probably that she was borderline psychotic.

A huge red barn sat behind the shop, and they passed from sun back into shadows. A body-sized punching bag twirled from a high beam as they passed by. That explained why the arm at her back was so solid. Her heels tapped on the wide-planked floor. The smell of weathered wood was overlaid by something sweeter. Honeysuckle, maybe.

No hay was stored in the Abbott’s barn. Two tarp-covered cars, the bottom curves of their tires the only part visible, formed a path to the back where a scratched up leather couch and mini-fridge sat.

“Sorry it’s so dusty in here. We like to keep the doors open if the weather’s nice because of the views and cross breeze.” He took a blue towel from his back pocket and wiped off a section of the couch, leaving yellow streaks of pollen. Getting a little dirty was way down on her list of worries and she plopped down, wrapping her arms around her stomach and leaning over so her forehead nearly touched her knees.

“You want a Coke or tea or something?”

She raised her head enough to see his big hand holding out a bottle. He shifted back and forth in his black work boots, the hem of his coveralls ombrèd black to grey with grease.

“It’s a little early for whiskey, but I’ve got that too if you’d rather.” He sounded so worried and unsure, she straightened, took the Coke and pressed the cool plastic against her cheeks and neck.

“You must think I’ve gone batty.” She rarely drank alcohol and never whiskey, but for a moment she considered it as a viable option, even though it was still technically breakfast. It was five o’clock somewhere, right?

“I think something really bad happened,” he said. “I’m not sure what, but I suspect it has something to do with the restaurant receipts and the underwear.”

“Oh God. The receipts.” Her mind hadn’t even circled back around to those, but everything notched into place like a puzzle whose missing piece turned up stuck on the bottom of a shoe covered with chewed up old gum and bug guts.

His late nights working. Breaking dates at the last minute. His distraction. How long had it been since they’d shared the same bed? Two months? Three? She’d put it down to the natural progression of a committed relationship and the busyness of their lives, assuming things would be better once they were living under the same roof.

“I’m a moron.” Tears crawled up her throat and choked off her feeble attempt of a laugh.

About the Author:An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. The first two books of her Falcon Football series were named Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. Then He Kissed Me, a Cottonbloom novel, was named as one of Amazon’s best romances of 2016. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

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All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Connie di Marco will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder

Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Celia’s house was set back from the wide boulevard on a street that never seemed to be busy with traffic. I pulled up in front and climbed the stairs. After her husband died, Celia was fortunate. She could still afford to live in her home. The front lawn was perfect, a postage stamp of lush brilliant green bordered with hydrangeas. No leaf would dare be out of place in Celia’s garden.

I lugged the shopping bag up the stairs, forcing myself not to think about the remnants of Michael’s life that I had packed away. After all, the very least she could do would be to open the door and say thank you. When I reached the top of the stairway, I rang the bell and waited. I waited a few minutes more and then rang the doorbell again. She was home. I was sure of it. She simply refused to have anything to do with me. That old familiar ache rose in my chest. The orphan with her nose pressed against the window looking in on a life she couldn’t hope to have. Angry at my automatic reaction, I rang the bell a third time. Finally, I gave up. Okay, Celia, you win. I placed the bag at the front door and returned down the steps. As I was opening my car door, someone called my name. I turned back. It was Maggie, Michael’s sister.

“Julia. Wait.” She rushed down the stairs, out of breath when she reached me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the bell. I was upstairs.” She gave me a warm hug.

“Hi Maggie.” I smiled. “It’s great to see you.” I had always liked Michael’s younger sister. I had never known their father, but they both must have taken after him. There certainly was no spiritual resemblance between them and their mother.

“How are you?” I responded.

“I’m fine. I was just visiting at Mom’s.” Her smiled faded. “Julia, I’m sorry she’s treating you this way. She’s home. She just won’t answer the door.”

“Maggie, I gave up a year ago, wondering what she held against me.”

“It’s not just you I’m afraid. She won’t talk to anybody in the family. Doesn’t see her old friends. She rattles around that big old house day and night. She’s made a shrine of my brother’s room. I think she spends most of her time there.” Maggie shrugged. “I’m really worried about her but I just don’t know what to do. That’s why I try to stop by whenever I can.”

“I wish I could help, but I’m likely the last person she wants to see. You don’t have to apologize for her.”

“I know that. I just don’t think you need to be treated like that. We all hurt. It doesn’t help to be cruel to you. Michael really loved you. I just hope you always remember that. Don’t let my mother’s behavior color your feelings about him and what you had together.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t expected this greeting and hadn’t thought it would strike such a chord. “Thanks, Maggie. I do appreciate that.” Her eyes were Michael’s eyes, the same green flecks in the brown that gave them a hazel tinge.

“You can call me anytime.”

I glanced up at the front door. Maggie had left it wide open. I spotted Harry, Michael’s dog. When Michael and I first started seeing each other, we went bicycling in the park whenever we could. One day, I spotted something moving under a bush and halted. We investigated and found a beautiful white poodle, half starved, smelling very badly, and suffering from infections. He had obviously been abandoned and someone had beaten him severely. Michael left me to watch over him, and hurried back to retrieve his car. We loaded the bikes on the back and I held Harry on my lap all the way to the emergency vet. Michael paid for all his treatments and then adopted him. His budget as a student was tight, but he didn’t hesitate to help a wounded creature. I think that was when I fell in love with him.

“Harry’s with you?”

Maggie followed my gaze. “Harry! What are you doing?” Harry had knocked over the shopping bag and was sniffing it. When he heard his name called, he raised his head, one of Michael’s gloves in his mouth. He whimpered and looked at us.

“Oh, God.” Maggie said. “He knows that’s Michael’s glove. Poor guy. Come here, Harry,” she called. Harry dropped the glove and bounded down the stairs. He came straight at me and leaped towards my face. “He remembers you.” Maggie said.

“Of course, he does.” I bent down and hugged him as Harry left slippery kisses on my face. I looked up at Maggie. “I’m so glad you’ve kept him.”

“Of course, I’d never let him go. I just love Harry to death. It’s like having a part of my brother to hold on to.”

Seeing Harry had brought a rush of memories. I had to get out of there before I turned into a blubbering idiot. I hugged Maggie and thanked her. As I started the engine, Maggie leaned in the window. “Just remember, Julia – it’s not you. It’s nothing you’ve done.”

About the Author: Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Book 2 in the Zodiac Mysteries is All Signs Point to Murder, to be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Penguin Random House (Berkley Prime Crime), set in the village of Snowflake, Vermont. Her recently released A Clue in the Stew is the fifth in this series. Some of her favorite recipes can also be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.

Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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Buy The Madness of Mercury, Book 1 and All Signs Point to Murder, Book 2 at Amazon.

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Saving Mr. Perfect by Tamara Morgan – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Tamara Morgan, who is celebrating the release of her upcoming book Saving Mr. Perfect. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.

“A sexy, fun, cat-and-mouse chase that hooked me from page one!” —JENNIFER PROBST, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author of The Marriage Bargain

She’s a famous jewel thief.
He’s FBI.
What’s that saying? Keep your friends close…and your husband closer.

Being a retired jewel thief certainly has its perks.

1. Oh, wait.
2. No it doesn’t.

Without the thrill of the chase, life’s been pretty dull. Penelope gardens, drives her gorgeous husband up the wall, and watches as her old world slowly slips away. But what’s that old saying? When one thief closes the door…a copycat jimmies open a window.

And now all fingers at the FBI are pointed at her.

Set up to take the fall for thefts worth millions, Penelope have no choice but to strap on her heels and help her FBI agent husband track the thief. Grant might not think he needs a partner, but this is one case only a true professional can solve. Besides, she’s got to know who’s been taking her bad name in vain.

Let’s just hope curiosity doesn’t kill the cat burglar.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“I’m sorry,” Grant says. “I don’t mean to be so overbearing, but you have to remember that as much as I love you, you’re not a favorite with everyone at the Bureau.”

“Give me time,” I say. “I’m only one woman. It might take me a few years, but I’ll get there.”

His lips twitch. “Penelope…”

“And it’s not as if he said or did anything bad,” I add, eager to leverage that oh-so-promising break in his exterior. “We mostly talked about you. He seemed nice.”

“That man is not nice. I don’t want you to have anything to do with him or with this case from here on out. Promise me.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” I scoff. “I’m not a child you can order around.”

“Promise me,” he repeats, firmer this time. He also takes an anticipatory step forward, though I’m not sure whether it’s to kiss me or throttle me. “If there’s any self-preservation in that crooked heart of yours, you’ll swear not to have anything to do with Christopher Leon or the Peep-Toe Prowler.”

As if I could promise that now.

“Why? What are you hiding from me?”

“I’m not hiding anything,” he says too quickly, his normally implacable exterior slipping. “Could you please be conciliatory for once in your life and do as I ask?”

I think about it. I really do—for a whole two seconds and everything—but there’s more to this situation than he’s letting on. A man doesn’t grow distant and moody from his loving wife for no reason. He doesn’t throw around sex shoes unless he’s trying to create a distraction. And most importantly, he doesn’t lay down mysterious ultimatums without secretly wanting her to do everything in her power to determine the cause.

That one’s plain common sense.

“I can promise to try not to get in the way,” I hedge. Trying not to do something always makes for a good promise, since there’s no real rubric for measurement. I tried not to steal things for years. I just wasn’t any good at it. “But you can’t ask me to pretend this whole conversation never happened—that these past few months haven’t happened.”

“This has nothing to do with you.”

“Yeah, but I’m emotionally invested in the Peep-Toe Prowler now. I want to catch her as much as you do.”

It’s only through sheer force of will that Grant suppresses his smile in time. “Penelope, so help me…”

“Helping you is what I intend to do.” I stand on my tiptoes to graze his jaw, rough in all the right ways. “I can, you know. I might be able to access information that’s closed to you. Thieves talk.”

“You aren’t a thief anymore, remember?” He makes a vague gesture around the room. “The walls have ears.”

“And you did want me to get a hobby…”

“Swimming is a hobby. Interfering in a federal investigation is obstruction.”

“It’s not obstruction if I help you solve the case,” I point out. “Besides, didn’t you just say you wouldn’t arrest your own wife?”

His reluctant and groan-filled laugh is all the confirmation I need to know I’ve won this round. A nice side effect of having an important and busy husband is that he can’t always spend as much time arguing as he’d like. He has a job to get back to.
Unlike me. I, unfortunately, have nothing to do and no one to do it with. I’m not one of the good guys, but I can no longer be one of the bad ones, either. I’m just a housewife with nothing but time on her hands and mischief on her mind.

“To be perfectly honest, my love,” he says with a mock sigh, “the idea of putting you behind bars grows more appealing every day.”

About the Author: Tamara Morgan is a contemporary comedy romance author. Ninety-nine percent of her information comes from television, movies, books, and all other pop culture activities that limit the amount of time she has to spend in polite company.

Her long-lived affinity for romance novels survived a B.A. degree in English Literature, after which time she discovered it was much more fun to create stories than analyze the life out of them. She lives with her husband and daughter in the Inland Northwest, where the summers are hot, the winters are cold, and coffee is available on every street corner.

Tamara loves to participate in reader conversations, blog tours, and the occasional venture into public, so feel free to drop her an email at tamaramorganwrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Riverside Lane by Ginger Black


Riverside Lane by Ginger Black
Publisher: Momentum Books
Genre: Mystery
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced.

Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death.

Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy …

Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.

I love English movies- especially mysteries – and I really enjoy the ones that give us a slice of British life along with the mystery. If you’re like me, you should give Riverside Lane a try. At first glance, you are presented with a slight mystery to tantalize the inhabitants of Riverside Lane when an American shows up as part of a house swap. It soon becomes evident, though, that there is more to this American than meets the eye, and we also are drawn into the undercurrents that are part of English village life.

Not only does the American have secrets, we soon find that every member of the village does as well. Ms. Black does a masterful job of bringing those secrets out and letting us have a glimpse of them.

It is very character driven, and we get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about them. It’s true that you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and this is amply illustrated in this book.

Kudos to Ms. Black. This is my first time reading this author, but it definitely won’t be my last.

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How to Handle Negative Criticism by Ginger Black – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ginger Black will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour and check out our review here.

How to handle negative criticism

Gaynor Pengelly: My co-writer, Julia Thum and I make a point of not taking negative criticism personally. In the same way, she enjoys completely different types of books to me, it’s only natural that our novel is not going to appeal to everyone on the planet.

Rather than focus on the negative, we take pride in the fact Riverside Lane is a well-written, intelligent book – if the genre or story is not some readers ‘cup of tea’, then so be it. There’s nothing we can do, so there’s no point in getting upset.
That said, we feel it’s important to listen to constructive criticism. Occasionally an observation resonates and we’ve taken it onboard when writing our second novel.

It doesn’t matter what you do, for a living, there will always be criticism. You only have to pick up a newspaper, to understand criticism is part of the modern-day culture, whether you’re a banker or real estate worker, doctor or journalist, everyone gets criticised at some stage in their career, so why not a writer?

At the end of the day, Julia and I have had the focus and commitment to sit down and write an 85000 word novel, we’ve found the energy and drive to market and promote it. We’ve had the resilience to face being turned down by agents, and the strength to cope with rejection from publishers. We are just one of a tiny percentage of the world population that has actually completed a novel, and then an even tinier percentage who has got our book published. If that is not a reason to hold your head up high, then what is?

Joyfully, a lot of people have praised our efforts and given Riverside Lane rave reviews, a few haven’t, but that’s life. In the words of the late, great Bing Crosby:

‘You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between’

After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced.

Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death.

Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy …

Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.

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A dusky gauze veil lifted to reveal the soft pink light of dawn. The sun recast the Earth in a glorious patchwork of fields, and a cacophony of birdsong stirred the residents of Riverside Lane from their slumber. Cherry and magnolia trees formed a guard of honour over the lane, which lay tranquil, deserted and calm.

High above, skimming the rose-coloured clouds, a British Airways jet descended over the River Thames. Luca Tempesta checked his seatbelt and reached for his cigarettes, curling his fingers around them with the zeal of a junkie. He flipped the packet, prompting disapproving looks from a couple playing chess beside him, and thought about his meeting with the Russian academic. He had felt bound by reckless honour to visit his wife’s friend and mentor in Moscow, despite the risk. The man had deserved to know what happened to Natasha, but it gave Luca even more to hide.

The scent of freshly ground coffee permeated the cabin, reminding the American of his caffeine-addicted wife; he missed her clear, analytical mind and ability to rationalise situations. He thought of her final moments, and her terror as the net had closed in. She had paid the ultimate price for her loyalty. He stretched his legs into the aisle, seeking a comfortable position for his tall frame, and quashed a familiar feeling of dread that he knew served no purpose. It was imperative that he maintain a cool head; he could not afford the luxury of surrender. He turned his attention to a photo of Kingfisher House. Luca’s agency partner, Maria, had found the place through a movie-industry fixer who knew an Englishman in need of a roof over his head in California.

About the Author: Ginger Black is a writing partnership between Gaynor Pengelly and Julia Thum.

JULIA THUM

Julia left Somerset for London at 16. She founded & ran her own consumer P R agency representing a range of international brands including Braun, Molton Brown, Clairol & Kleenex. After selling the business she trained as a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders & hosted a phone-in show on Radio Luxembourg.

Julia writes bespoke literature & articles for private clients and visits secondary schools & prisons representing two national charities in providing emotional support to pupils & inmates. A keen kayaker and a passionate cook, she lives in Bray-on-Thames with her husband Nicolas and their four children.

GAYNOR PENGELLY

Gaynor has worked as a national newspaper correspondent for more than twenty years, interviewing everyone from the great and the good to extraordinary people in ordinary lives. The rich variety of her subject matter and their circumstances has given her a rare insight into human nature and the challenges many people face.

Gaynor’s great loves include sitting in pavement cafes watching the world go by, National Trust and English Heritage and hiking across the windswept Yorkshire moors. She lives in Bray-on-Thames with her husband Jonathan and their son, Freddie James.

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Prairie Muse by S.S. Hampton, Sr. – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The fireworks are about to begin as the sexual adventure of Rachel and Burt Markham continues. Small business owners and happily married couple of 20+ years, they live in the small town of Four Corners, Kansas. The year before, with the permission and encouragement of her husband, Rachel had the freedom to explore the depth of her sensuality through having her first Bull. After saying farewell to her Bull, Rachel and Burt settle back into the routine of small town life. Then, African-American frustrated artist and new fireworks territory sales manager Horus Grant arrives in Four Corners. He is searching for new sales territory for the Missouri-based company and wants to open a fireworks stand next to Rachel and Burt’s seed and feed store. Outwardly friendly and personable, he is plagued by hidden demons. Though based in near-by Wichita, Horus finds himself returning to Four Corners again and again, and not because of the fireworks stand. Rachel is also drawn to him and soon realizes she may hold the key to Horus’s slim chance of defeating his demons, of healing, and learning to live again.

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The hum of speeding tires on the concrete highway was a reassuring monotony that carried Horus toward an unknown future in the heartland of Kansas.

He had indeed kept his boss apprised of the challenges in his life, but when asking for a leave of absence at the start of the fire season, the top bosses were less than enthusiastic. He was told that he could stay or resign, but there was no leave of absence. If he resigned with less than two weeks notice, a return to the Forest Service, especially at his former position, would be next to impossible.

Horus made his decision. Five days after calling Denise, he put everything in storage and hit the road in his Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, bound for Kansas City. In addition to his clothing, laptop, and a collection of DVDs and CDs, he added a digital camera, artist easel, sketch pads, and art kits—two heavy duty plastic tool boxes—filled with brushes, oil paints, charcoal and pastel chalk, drawing bottles of turpentine, and a host of other accessories. Though he always told himself he would start painting and drawing again, it had been years since he did either. Gathering the art supplies was a tradition rather than preparation.

Two days later, on a bright Saturday morning, he arrived at the motel where Denise booked a room for him. That afternoon she met him for an early dinner, in part to welcome him to Kansas City, in part to assess his state of being…

About the Author: Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a published author, photographer and photojournalist. He retired in 2013 from the Nevada Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, and the Army Individual Ready Reserve (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War). He enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom, with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. He recently returned from spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.

After 16 years of desert in the American Southwest, and Southwest Asia, he still misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

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See the author’s work at Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, Melange Books, or Muse It Up Publishing.

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Using Science in Science Fiction: How Not to Annoy Your Readers, in Three Simple Steps by Edward Ashton – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Edward will be awarding a 14 Ounce Nalgene—filled with candy corn! & 1 VeryFit Smart Band (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Using Science in Science Fiction: How Not to Annoy Your Readers, in Three Simple Steps

There was a time, believe it or not, when many of the folks who wrote science fiction were, you know, scientists. Guys like Isaac Asimov, David Brin, and Robert L. Forward didn’t need to worry about getting things ridiculously wrong when they were writing about space travel or alien biology or robotics. They knew their stuff, and if they didn’t, they knew other people who did. If you have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, you probably do too.

What if you don’t, though? What if you’re an MFA grad, or a philosophy major, or just somebody lacking a crazy beard and tweedy jacket? Do you need to forever forego writing stories about alien invasions, post-human cyborg family life, and genetically modified apes? Absolutely not! Everyone deserves to write at least one genetically modified cyborg ape invasion book! It’s good to remember, though, that many of the folks who like to read those types of stories are scientists, or are at least very science savvy—and if you get something glaringly wrong in your writing, your readers are unlikely to be merciful.
With that in mind, here a few simple guidelines for using science in science fiction, no Ph.D. required.

1. If you’re using known technology, do a tiny bit of research and get it right.

A while back, I read a story in one of my favorite semi-pro zines. It was a good story. The characters were fleshed-out, well-rounded people. The plot was fun. The writing was solid. But…

A big chunk of the plot of this story involved things in orbit, and it was clear after two sentences that the author had no idea whatsoever how orbiting something works. To be clear—all I know about how orbiting something works is what I’ve picked up from the zeitgeist over the years. Still, I knew enough to know that the things the author was describing were so far from right that it almost seemed deliberate. I scrolled down to the comments section, and sure enough, nobody was talking about the fun plot or the awesome characters. They were talking about the fact that five minutes of googling could have saved the author from embarrassing himself.

The key point here is that we don’t need to earn a doctorate in astrophysics these days to find out that you don’t strap a big rock to your spaceship in order to give it more thrust. The internet is a wonderful thing. Use it.

2. If you’re writing hard sci-fi, you still need to make it believable.

You’re not writing a journal paper, right? This is fiction. It’s totally okay to make stuff up. However (and this is important) the stuff you make up has to, on some level, make sense. Want to send your characters to Alpha Centauri using an antimatter rocket? You should probably know that those things have a theoretical top speed of about 0.3c, which means that your trip is going to take a minimum of twelve or thirteen years. Want to genetically engineer your post-humans so that they live by photosynthesis and never have to eat? Please be aware that the energy density of sunlight at sea level is about 1.4 kW/m2, your body has a total surface area of less than 2 square meters, the conversion efficiency of photosynthesis is about 5%, and you need about 8.4MJ of energy per day to live. That means that if your photosynthesizing post-human spends twelve hours a day naked and spread-eagled in the desert, she can absorb enough energy to replace one pop tart, give or take. Apparently, there’s a reason that plants don’t move around much.

3. It’s okay to use imaginary future tech, but please keep it internally consistent.

Plenty of classic science fiction uses tech that isn’t just unknown—it’s almost certainly never going to be known. Warp drives and transporter rays and mental telepathy and whatnot are tons of fun, and I’ve read and enjoyed a million books that feature them. The keys to making these things believable are simple. There have to be rules. You have to know what they are. You have to follow them to a T. This is true even if you’re writing about straight-up magic—and yeah, I’m looking at you right now, Mr. Paolini.

The bottom line to all of this is pretty straightforward. Science fiction is all about imagination—but it’s better if your imagination is grounded in some level of truth. Make friends with the googles. Your readers will appreciate it.

Drew Bergen is an Engineer. He builds living things, one gene at a time. He’s also kind of a doofus. Six years after the Stupid War — a bloody, inconclusive clash between the Engineered and the UnAltered — that’s a dangerous combination. Hannah is Drew’s greatest project, modified in utero to be just a bit better at running than most humans. She’s also his daughter. Her plan for high school is simple: lay low and run fast. Unfortunately for Hannah, her cross-country team has other plans.

Jordan is just an ordinary Homo-Sap. But don’t let that fool you — he’s also one of the richest kids at Briarwood, and even though there isn’t a single part of him that’s been engineered, someone has it out for him.

Drew thinks he’s working to develop a spiffy new strain of corn, but Hannah and her classmates disagree. They think he’s cooking up the end of the world. When one of Drew’s team members disappears, he begins to suspect that they might be right. Soon they’re all in far over their heads, with corporate goons and government operatives hunting them, and millions of lives in the balance.

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“So,” I said when I’d picked the last bit of rind out of my teeth. “What now?”

Nathan shrugged.

“Wait for death, I guess.”

“Huh,” I said. “I see where you’re going with that, but I was actually hoping you’d have some kind of last-minute escape plan to present now.”

“Escape plan?”

“Yeah. If this were a vid, this is where you’d suggest a super-complicated scheme to get out of here. I’d say ‘that’s crazy!’ and you’d say ‘do we have a choice?’ and then we’d do it and it would work somehow and you would totally be my hero.”

He stared at me, downed the last of his bathtub water, and stared at me some more.

“So,” I said finally. “Do you, uh… have a plan?”

“No,” he said. “Unless ‘wait for death’ counts as a plan, I do not have one.”

“Huh.”

I looked down at the lantern, and found myself wondering if the battery would give out before we did. A shiver ran from the base of my spine to the back of my neck and down again.

“Hannah?” Nathan said. “Are you, uh…”

I groaned.

“Am I what, Nathan?”

“Are you really gonna eat me?”

I stared at him.

“Seriously?”

He looked away.

“Well, yeah. I don’t mean now. Just… you know… eventually?”

I dropped my head into my hands.

“No, Nathan. I am not going to eat you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, you might have to, right?”

I stood up, and picked up the lantern.

“You are an odd duck, Nathan. I’m going for a run.”

About the Author: Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.

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Never Dare a Dragon by Ashlyn Chase – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Ashlyn Chase who is celebrating the upcoming release of her newest book Never Dare a Dragon, the third book in her Boston Dragons series. Enter the Rafflecopter to win an Ashlyn Chase bundle.

Third in Ashlyn Chase’s light paranormal romance series featuring hot dragon shifters. No one would believe that lovely Lt. Kristine Scott of the NY Fire Department is an actual dragon, but there’s no denying the flames that ignite when she meets firefighting phoenix shifter Jayce Fierro.

One Boston Phoenix + One New York Dragon = Scorching Heat

You think it’s tough being a dragon? It’s a piece of cake compared to being a phoenix shifter. Dragon shifters just have to worry about accidentally setting their stuff (or a loved one) on fire. A phoenix can rise from the ashes, but then they have to start over…as if growing up once wasn’t tough enough..

Meet Lt. Jayce Fierro of the Boston Fire Department, and Kristine Scott of the FDNY. A long distance relationship could never work—especially not with the secrets they’re keeping. But when Kristine lands herself in a blaze of trouble, she’s in no position to turn down Jayce’s help. Even if it means letting down their guards…and giving in to their sizzling attraction.

Boston Dragons

I Dream of Dragons (Book 1)
My Wild Irish Dragon (Book 2)
Never Dare a Dragon (Book 3)

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The rest of the dinner went well. In fact, Kristine was surprised by how well it was going. She hadn’t dated a guy like Jayce in a long time. Their connection seemed to be almost instantaneous. It was just too bad he was a firefighter—and lived three hours away as the Acela train flies. Actually, a quick plane ride would reduce the commute to only an hour and a half, but the hassle and time it took to go through security would make the trip even longer.

Walking down the wide sidewalks of Times Square, hand in hand, sure made her feel as if the trip might be worth the hassle. His hand was warm and rough. For once she wasn’t concerned that hers were the same way. No hand cream could stand up to a firefighters’ routine. Wet gloves, rough weather, unbearable heat… All of that detracted from the soft, supple skin she longed for.

They had decided over dinner to visit the top of the Empire State Building. Jayce had never been there before, and Kristine had only visited with friends—never a date. It was supposed to be romantic. She’d never understood why. Probably because her cynical ex-boyfriend thought it was hokey. As she glanced over at Jayce, he glanced back, and they smiled. One thing she wasn’t seeing in him was a city dweller’s pessimism. Its absence was a refreshing change.

Eventually, they arrived at their destination, and as luck—or the stars aligning at the right moment—would have it, they stepped into an elevator with no one right behind them. The doors whooshed closed while they were still alone.

She spun toward Jayce with a hand over her mouth. “I guess that wasn’t very nice of me. I probably should have waited.”

He stepped right into her space. “I’m glad you didn’t.”

As the elevator began to ascend, he leaned in and captured her mouth with his firm lips. She looped her arms around his neck, and he pulled her close. She immediately opened her mouth, and their tongues found each other and swirled together. Kristine wasn’t at all sure her light-headed feeling was due to the elevator traveling so fast. Unfortunately, she felt as if she were falling instead.

Don’t think about it. Whatever happens happens… She seemed to have found a new mantra. She heard the ding of the elevator doors opening, and they were greeted by chuckles and a wolf whistle.

“Yeah, yeah…” Jayce said, but he was grinning and holding Kristine’s hand as they made their way off the elevator.

When they spotted a space at the building’s edge that was fairly deserted, they walked over to it with no hesitation.

“You’re not afraid of heights, I guess…” Jayce said to her.

She laughed. “I’d be in deep trouble if I were.” Not only was she a firefighter in a company that specialized in high-rises, but she was a full-fledged, fire-breathing, wing-soaring dragon. She could hover at this height and enjoy the view.

Speaking of enjoying the view…

Jayce turned his back on the dazzling city lights and kissed her knuckles as he stared into her eyes. She felt as if her insides were melting. A deep shimmer in his eyes must have been reflecting the lights. Or not. His eyes seemed to glow for a moment, and then he quickly turned back toward the city.

She took her first good look at the city lights as well. Dear Lord. At last she realized why people thought this place was romantic. At night, so many lights against the velvet black sky were more beautiful than Christmas. Some even seemed to twinkle like stars. Below, white headlights and red taillights trailed through the landscape, but the sounds of the city were far away.

A chilly breeze ruffled her hair. Jayce enveloped her in a side hug. If she felt a chill, it was forgotten in favor of his warm, strong body alongside hers. Everywhere they touched, merging heat radiated through her. Wow. How she’d missed this! Or had she ever had this feeling?

Good Lord, Kristine… Get ahold of yourself!

“So, Jayce… What do you think of the view from up here?”

He turned her toward him and said, “I think the view right in front of me is as beautiful as it gets.” Leaning in, he delivered another toe-curling kiss, and she realized she was a goner.

About the Author: Ashlyn Chase was a registered nurse for twenty years. During those years she wrote articles for professional journals and a thesis, but eventually, thank goodness, discovered the joy and freedom of writing fiction.

Ashlyn considers herself lucky. Her degree in behavioral sciences is a combination of psychology and sociology, so she has studied people most of her life. She doesn’t have to write out exhaustive character sketches to understand her characters or predict how they will behave. That doesn’t mean they don’t surprise her. Sometimes they take her on grand unexpected journeys.

Ashlyn has learned to go with the flow. To enjoy the journey is not only one of her writing goals, but also a challenge in life. She tries to follow where the story takes her. Her identified theme involves characters who reinvent themselves. And why not? She has reinvented herself numerous times—from artist, to nurse, to hypnotherapist, to author, and she has lived in seventeen different places. At last, she’s all settled down and comfy in New England.

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