Monday, August 26, 2013

The Limpopo Academy Of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

There is just something about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series that I absolutely love. Maybe it is the simple practicality of Mma Ramotswe. Or the steadfastness of her husband J.L.B. Matekoni. Or her associate Mma Makutsi who has an opinion about everything. Whatever it is I have enjoyed every book in the series and hope to have many more books to read about Mma Ramotswe and her detective agency.

In this installment we have Phuti and Mma Makutsi just starting out in their married life. They are excited to be building their first home. Mma Makutsi has some misgivings about their builder and before too long so does Phuti.

Mma Ramotswe has been having a dream where a man she has never seen comes to visit the detective agency. When a surprise visitor shows up both she and Mma Makutsi are star-struck.

Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphanage has been fired by the board because of her refusal to support the idea of a central cafeteria instead of family homes for the orphans.

Fanwell, one of J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentice mechanics gets himself into trouble with the law because he trusted a so-called friend.

All of these circumstances call for Mma Ramotswe's ability to detect and find out what is behind people's motives, who is being truthful and who is lying. With many cups of tea Mma helps the people in her life by lending a listening ear and dispatching sage advice when needed.

Set in Botswana, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection is a cozy read that takes the reader to a simpler time and place where we find that human nature is still much the same. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. If you have never read any of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books I highly recommend them!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guest Post by Amber Stokes and review of her book BLEEDING HEART

I was so excited when Amber asked me to be a part of her blog tour for her debut novel BLEEDING HEART. I read the book with much enthusiasm and enjoyed it very much. I asked Amber if she would be interested in doing a guest post and she was gracious enough to accept. My review for BLEEDING HEART will be at the end of this post. And's Amber!

Three Signs You’re in Love – And What To Do About It (Novel Settings)
By Amber Stokes

Human characters don’t have to be the only ones to fall in love! The settings of a novel are characters all their own – or at least that’s how they’ve been for me. And while I don’t approve of their faults (and there are faults in characters of any sort), there’s something about the settings I love that prompts me to look deeper, to lean close and listen to their heartbeats and their stories.

For a writer, what are the signs of a blossoming setting-romance? (While Bleeding Heart has two main settings, I’m going to reference Virginia City, Nevada in my examples, as I just had the pleasure of revisiting the town while on vacation.)

1.      Tell Me Everything. You’ve just met, and you can’t get enough of hearing about their past. You want to know what the other enjoys, what bothers them, where they come from, and what their passions are.

Every little detail I learn about Virginia City fascinates me. When I was working on the prequel to Bleeding Heart (Forget Me Not), I loved incorporating little historical tidbits – like adding a Cornish character after visiting an archaeological dig, where it was noted that the uppermost street of the town used to be where the Cornish miners lived. Back in high school (when my setting-crush first began), I even chose to write an extended essay on the town’s history. And you know what? It didn’t make me tired of the history – it only fueled my love of the place. When visiting the town again this summer, I still felt the urge to take pictures of informative signs in order to record historical details I might have missed that I might want to use in the future. I can’t get enough of the place!

2.      You, Too?? It sends a little thrill through your heart each time you find you have something in common. You love to discover the things you share.

What might a lawless-turned-tourist old mining town and I have in common? I guess that’s the fun part – discovering the things that work for us both! The summer before my senior year of college, my family and I stayed at Seven Mile Canyon Ranch, in a canyon below Virginia City. That summer I was wooed by the wind through the canyon, the rugged beauty of the place and the mysteries that spoke to my soul. I learned then and have since learned that Virginia City (then and now) and I share a love of history, an appreciation for community, flaws and inconsistencies between our hopes and our actions, a desire to find and hold onto the beautiful, and tenacious, big dreams.

3.      Can’t Wait For More. The future feels bright, and you look forward to the coming days when you’ll get to write your own story together.

Yes, Virginia City is no longer the size it once was back in the bonanza days. Yes, Virginia City has had to adapt into a tourist town in order to survive. But yes, it lives on in my imagination and in the imaginations of all those who take an interest in its history – and in the hearts of those who call it home. I’d say that Virginia City has a bright future with all of its fun events and the secrets it has yet to share. Visiting the town again made me excited to dive into edits for Forget Me Not!

For some reason, when visiting Bodie, California (a ghost town and a state park) during this trip, I didn’t feel the same connection. I bought a couple of info packets just in case a spark might someday arise and a story take root in my heart, but it definitely didn’t give me the same feeling Virginia City has given me. I guess the contrast helped me realize that each writer/author/reader won’t fall in love with every setting… And that’s what makes an obvious passion for a setting something special – something to be cultivated and cherished.
So if you have the signs of setting-love, what do you do? Well, I guess what you would do in the beginnings of any relationship:

1.      Spend Time Together. Immerse yourself in the history. And, if you get a chance, visit the place. Get a feel for the atmosphere that will make your story one that readers can really get into.

2.      Talk – And Listen. Tell your setting your ideas. (Not literally, of course. But figuratively set the stage in your mind and tell the story as you walk along through the actual setting or through the history you learn. Let your imagination play!) However, be sure to listen, too – the setting might have secrets to share and ideas of its own that you might not pick up on unless you’re paying attention.

3.      Give It Time. Give the setting time to win you over. There might be more than one story there! Let yourself mull over all that you discover, and don’t rush into a setting-relationship that isn’t making you excited. You might need to give it time, yes, but realize you can’t force a passion you don’t feel.
How about you? Have you had a setting-romance as a reader or writer? 

Here are a few pictures of Amber's recent trip to Virginia City, Nevada:

Today is the first day of the blog tour for BLEEDING HEART. If you would like to follow the blog tour and see what other bloggers are saying about Amber's book follow this link to the blog tour page:

About Amber:

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now
back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing her debut novel, Bleeding Heart.

You can also visit Amber at her blog Seasons of Humility. I'm sure she would love to have you visit!

About the Book: 

Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey.

Summer 1886

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

To purchase BLEEDING HEART: 


“Journey to the West” Giveaway! One U.S. resident (randomly drawn) will receive a signed copy of Bleeding Heart and a collection of items from the story’s settings, handpicked by the author.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

  And now my review of BLEEDING HEART:

Desperate to escape the life that she has been living, Sally Clay swallows her  pride and begs Joe and his friend Myghal to take her with them wherever they are going. Having been rejected by a man she thought loved her Sally had been forced to support herself in a brothel. Sally knows the only man that will ever want her now is a man she must escape at all cost. 

Having lost the woman he loved to another man Joe plans on heading to California to find work in a logging camp. When he agrees to allow Sally to travel with them he has no intention of allowing his heart to be broken by another woman. 

Sally is determined to find her lost love and make him pay for abandoning her. Once more when her heart is broken Sally turns to Joe and Myghal to help her through her loss. Will their mutual bleeding hearts find the love they so long to have in this life? 

Bleeding Heart is definitely not a light and fluffy romance. Its characters are filled with deeply hurting hearts and suspense is woven throughout the pages. I couldn’t help but become invested in each character. Amber has a way of writing that drew me into the story and had me turning pages until the very end. I think my favorite character may have been Myghal. I would definitely love to read his story in future and find out about his past and continuing story after Bleeding Heart. 

Final Note:

Having gotten to know Amber through her blog and through emails I have seen her love for the Lord shine through in her blogging and in her writing. I look forward to many more books from this talented young woman!