Amazon, Authors Life, Baseball, Blog, book review, Books, Cozy Mystery, novel, Publishing, Writing

Review of Nicole Asselin’s Latest Cozy Mystery – CONCESSION STAND CRIMES – Ball Park Mysteries Book 2

Book Description:

HOTDOGS, CRACKER JACK, BEER, and MURDER. PLAY BALL!


MADELINE BOUCHER is still reeling from her first few weeks of working for her family’s Independent League Baseball Team, the Abington Armadillos. She found a dead body and survived a kidnapping before finally clearing her brother of murder. She didn’t think anything could be as dramatic as that, but she was wrong.

Her parents have given her more responsibility in running ballpark events in the hopes that they could retire and leave the team in her hands. Her brother is moving on to the big leagues, so this is her time to shine. Her first task? Deal with a concession stands kerfuffle. Redmond Brewery heiress, Alaska Redmond, storms her way into the ballpark making demands.

The next day, the son of the concessions manager finds Redmond’s body in one of the beer stands along the ballpark concourse. Again, Madeline finds herself immersed in an investigation. While the suspects start piling up, including a promising young player on the team, Madeline knows she must get involved. With the help of Davis, her new love interest, and head of the security department, she delves deeper into the death of the heiress.

Trying to run team events, solve a murder, and have a normal life takes their toll as Madeline comes to depend on those in her baseball-loving community, including Bronia, her old family friend who runs a garden center and helps her make sense of things. She even chances a psychic for advice while at a Salem Warlock’s away game. Will anyone help her untangle the mess of suspects including the victim’s family?

Can she clear the name of the Abington Armadillos and start focusing on the season?

My Take:

The story is what matters most to the reader. So foremost, an author needs to be a great storyteller. Nicole Asselin is that. For the sake of the cozy genre, though, there are tropes and conventions that readers expect, and for this, an author needs to be a well-read fan of the genre and be cognizant of the work of the best-known authors of the genre. No problem there, either. Nicole Asselin is an avid reader who takes weekly trips to her local library and bookstores adding to the to-be-read section of her home library.

In CONCESSION STAND CRIMES we are reacquainted with Madeline Boucher, the cadre of characters from Book 1 in the series, and some new friends as well. There is even a character based on a real person, an Abington resident who won a contest the author ran prior to the book’s composition. The critical challenge of the story is set early and well-executed, setting up the prevailing whodunit element. The victim is an heiress and local celebrity/socialite whose personality is the opposite of the main character who under other circumstances might be considered a peer, as she too is the daughter of a local business owner. The contrast is significant and lends to the initial conflict between them, setting up Madeline as an immediate suspect, though she is almost instantly learned. So now, she is left with the quandary of what happened and why that plays out through the interactions with the many other characters, and Madeline’s desire to clear one of her team’s players of suspicion.

Fans of the series will find a lot to love in this continuation of the storyline established in Book 1. If you’re new to the series, it’s not necessary to start with Book 1, MURDER AT FIRST PITCH, but it’s probably recommended as you’re going to fall in love with Madeline and her friends.

Author Bio:

Nicole Asselin grew up a Navy Brat and spent her formative high school years in the middle of Pennsylvania but always identified with her New England roots. Nicole’s family is originally from Connecticut, and her Grandpa Asselin introduced her into the Red Sox nation where she has been a member for her whole life and her Grandma Asselin introduced her to the world of mystery novels. Now those two loves are combined into her new Ballpark Mystery series.

Nicole graduated from Curry College in Milton Mass with a degree in English/Creative Writing, minoring in Dance in 2004. She also attended George Mason University and received a Master’s in Arts Management. She worked in the Government sector for over ten years before transitioning to Healthcare. Now working just outside of Boston as a Technical Writer, she lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts with her three cats Julia, Jacques, and Madeline (no relation to the main character of her book).

Nicole is a current member of Sisters in Crime (National and New England) and the Mystery Writers of America. She sits on the Board of Directors for the NE branches of both groups as Social Media Liaison. She’s attended several conferences in the past few years to study the craft including Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and the NE Crime Bake. Her short story, “Mile High Murder” can be found as part of Z Publishing’s “America’s Emerging Suspense Writers: East Region” published in early 2019. Asselin is a highly approachable author who makes personal appearances a priority and enjoys meeting her fans or just discussing books in general. Find out more about her and per scheduled events at the author’s website.

CONCESSION STAND CRIMES launches 6.29.22 at Amazon.

Blog, book review, Books, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Review: BLUE BILLY by Laura Ellen Scott

Description:

Turn the Living into Corpses

I am the dirt. I am the grave.
I don’t meditate nor drink. I don’t write manifestos.
I turn people into bodies.

So begins the confession of a boogeyman that no one believes in. As he settles into the abandoned Magic River Café, Blue Billy doesn’t care that it has deteriorated into a derelict, filth-ridden shack on the banks of a rancid backwater. This is his home, now. Or it could be, if it weren’t for three women out to prove that he is real.

Crocus Rowe is a parolee with anger issues, who finds herself on the run after she assaults a professor over his unspeakable crimes. When the professor winds up in a refrigerator submerged in the ironically named Magic River, things look bad for Crocus, whose first call is to Alma Bell, a memoirist and much-maligned Blue Billy “expert” from New Royal University’s notorious Crime Writing Program. Haunted by the unsolved 1992 murder of her best friend, Alma will go to any lengths to prove that Blue Billy is responsible. And then there’s Tara Rowe, Crocus’s damaged cousin. As one of Blue Billy’s rare survivors, she’s endured years of experimental therapy and exploitation to become the person she is today: Blue Billy’s stalker.

Children still whisper “Blue Billy” around the campfire, but if Crocus, Alma, and Tara can uncover the truth behind New Royal’s darkest mystery, they may just put an end to the legend, once and for all.

My Take:

In BLUE BILLY, the third book in Laura Ellen Scott’s New Royal Mysteries Series, she has created a monster that is equal parts myth, local legend, and deranged psychopath. As has become a tradition for Scott’s novels, she assembles a cast of quirky, damaged, dysfunctional characters to resolve the essential crime mystery, a thread that strings all three installments of the series together. And she does it with the expected attention to detail of which nightmares are made and carefully crafted exposition that often makes one’s skin crawl. A deviation from the previous parts of the series, this one ventures into the country where the natural decay of nature has intersected with the demise of what was once a recreational hot spot. There is a scene that involves a submerged refrigerator that I guarantee will haunt you afterward.

But this gritty, visceral story is as much about relationships as it is a series of unsolved murders. Crocus and Tara, cousins who share as much disappointment in their lives as DNA, must resolve enough of their past issues to join forces with Alma, a self-proclaimed expert, in exposing a demonic presence that has plagued the surrounding community. It’s no Sunday picnic at the riverside where the drama draws to its climax where the survival of the trio demands destroying their shared nemesis that no one else believes exists.

If you haven’t yet discovered Laura Ellen Scott, Blue Billy is a great place to start. Even though it is part of a series, it stands on its own, though it will compel you to dive further into the weird world of New Royal, Ohio for more of the background.

About the Author:

Born and raised in the tiny Northern Ohio town of Brimfield, Laura Ellen Scott was named after the classic noir film and song, “Laura,” so it makes sense that she enjoys writing dark, quirky fiction in the tradition of Tom Robbins, Kelly Link, and Robert Altman. She started out writing short fiction, and her stories can be found in places like Ploughshares, Pank, Mississippi Review, and Wigleaf, but it wasn’t until she received an out-of-the-blue email from the great Dorothy Allison (BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA) that she started writing novels. That email said, among other things: “Damn you are good. You are just seriously satisfyingly good.” Eventually, Allison would blurb Laura’s first novel, DEATH WISHING (Ig Publishing, 2011), a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

These days she is an author with Pandamoon Publishing, and her latest novel, CRYBABY LANE, is the second book in the NEW ROYAL MYSTERIES, a series set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio. The first book in the series is THE MEAN BONE IN HER BODY (2016). The second book is CRYBABY LANE (2017). Book 3 is titled BLUE BILLY, coming 5.11.22. Prior to launching the series, Pandamoon published Scott’s THE JULIET (2016), a western/mystery about a cursed emerald lost in Death Valley.

Scott is a term full professor in the English Department at George Mason University, and she divides her time between Fairfax, VA and Great Cacapon, WV.

Blue Billy is available at Amazon as of 5.11.22.

Alien, Blog, book review, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Space

Review: The Greys by Becky Barnard & Dave Housley

Description:

Every teenager feels like an alien.

Deerdra Grey is the typical new girl in school. In fact, she’s been designed to be scientifically, perfectly typical. Her mission? Assimilate into Indiana’s Danaville High, 600 light years away from her home planet. While her parents go about the traditional alien business of gathering soil samples, examining crop circles, and inadvertently mutilating cattle, Deerdra’s goal is to find her missing predecessor, Eunice Tiffany.

As she digs deeper into the mystery, Deerdra enlists the help of Gavin and Barb, two high school classmates who are skeptical of the official reports about Eunice’s disappearance. Eventually, Deerdra and her allies will come up against the Reptilians, a predatory advanced species who resemble the Real Housewives and intend to take over the planet for themselves.

The Greys is a fun and propulsive read about what happens when one alien girl is forced to make a choice between following orders and following her heart.

My Take:

Growing up is a challenging time at best. For most, figuring out where to fit in is a struggle while simultaneously coping with the myriad of physical and psychological changes. Choosing the right friends, the right clubs, the right team sports, whether to be a thespian or participate in a music program helps define each of us not only in our own eyes but also in how others think of us. The risk of not belonging is intense and persistent. Consider all that in addition to being a visitor from a distant planet sent on an important mission. It doesn’t help that understanding of what it means to be young and human is somewhat flawed.

The premise of this book is immediately engaging. It’s easy to identify with Deedra Grey’s plight. We’ve all felt out of place, forced into the precarious situation of having to adjust to strange situations. But Deerdra Grey is more than just the new kid in school. Her mission is of supreme importance, but in order to accomplish it, she must break some rules and trust a couple of human friends who she discovers are not all that different from her. The Greys is a nice escape into another world that superficially seems familiar but proves to have just enough spicy strangeness to keep the adventure interesting. It pokes some fun at SyFy tropes as well as the traditional coming-of-age story while holding close to what’s expected of a well-told story. It’s a great weekend excursion I fully recommend.

About the Authors:

Dave Housley is the author of the novel The Other Ones. His other novels are Howard and Charles at the Factory and This Darkness Got to Give. He is also the author of four collections of short fiction, the most recent being Massive, Cleansing Fire, a collection of stories that all end in a massive, cleansing fire. He is one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse, a national literary magazine, small press, and literary-based nonprofit. He is also one of the co-founders and organizers of the Conversations and Connections writer’s conference. He is the Director of Web Strategy for Penn State Outreach and Online Education.

Becky Barnard is a book nerd who fell in with a crew of fantastic writers and eventually wrote a book to try to blend in. The Greys is the result, and also her first novel. She’s an editor-at-large at Barrelhouse literary journal and a web project manager in State College, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and their awesome dog.

The Greys is available as of 5.4.22 at Amazon in Print and eBook.

Blog, book review, Books, Fantasy, Magic, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Writing

Book Review: Faie and Fury – The Faie King’s Mortal Book 1 by Devon Atwood

Description:

Anwen is pretty sure she loves her future husband. The problem is, he’s not real.
When Anwen discovers that she has been under an enchantment for months and that her betrothed, Gresham is a mysterious being obsessed with keeping her forever, she escapes to the forbidden Faiewood after a voice on the wind calls her to safety. She finds herself the captive of a green-eyed Faie king who gives cryptic half-truths to Anwen’s questions and refuses to let her leave the Faiewood. With her family’s life at stake, and the safety of all Faie hanging in the balance, Anwen learns that she is his birthright. They are bound by the strings of fate, and she is left with only one choice: trust him, or watch the vales burn.

My Take:

Let’s talk about world-building. It is essential for constructing all fiction, even the genres that appear to be close variants of our world. With fantasy, where the existence of magic redefines the relationships between the living and the physics of their universe, the author’s imagination is fettered only by the nature of magic and the level of magic inherent in nature. For example, do all the inhabitants of the world have access to magic? If not, how is its distribution limited? Do only special beings control the magic? Is there one being or group of beings inherently more powerful? How well the author establishes the rules and consistently follows them allows the reader to suspend disbelief, escape into the story, and become immersed in the conflicts and adventure, same as any other well-told story.

Enter the world of Faie and Fury. Here, Devon Atwood has borrowed some character types and themes from the genre while also paving new ground, redefining myth and legend to suit a well-crafted variation of the eternal conflict of good versus evil. Anwen’s family is under attack without knowing it. When she discovers the truth, she takes flight from the source of the evil, escaping into Faiewood, a mysterious place chock full of dark places and stories of enchantment. Even though the wood borders on her kingdom, she knows next to nothing about it, having never been within it because of the suspected dangers lurking within. And it’s there that her adventures truly begin as she discovers that her fate is directly bound to a Faie who would be king. And in order to save her own family, she must enlist the aid of the creatures of a fantastic world who have at least as much apprehension and misinformation about humans as Anwen does about the Faie.

Faie and Fury is the beginning of The Faie King’s Mortal and for lovers of stories about mythical beings and magical powers. This one does not disappoint. Atwood’s imagination reveals her creation through descriptive prose detailed enough to engage the reader’s senses and it compels us to follow the characters’ travails. We cheer their triumphs and suffer their defeats, eagerly turning pages unto the end. It’s always best to get in on the ground floor of a new fantasy series and having read this one, I’m already waiting for the next installment’s release. As I understand it, the raw tale for Book 1 was composed in about a month. Atwood’s prolific writing schedule bodes well for expectations of Book 2 sometime in the near future. But for now, savor this one as your weekend read. Preorder it now and enjoy the spellbinding tale on Kindle starting April 4, 2022.

About The Author:

Devon Atwood lives in the mountains of Wyoming with her husband, their seven children, and a menagerie of animals. Devon’s favorite thing is writing in silence with a good playlist on in the background, but she will settle for her usual ambiance of bickering children, barking dogs, and Cheerios crumbs under her butt.

​Atwood holds a Bachelor of Science from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and her currently published works include Lunula, Inito, and K-Love.