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Title: Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree Author: David Ahern Genre: Cozy Mystery, Thriller
Series: Madam Tulip, book 4 Publisher: Malin Press Publication Date: March 14, 2020
I was eager to jump back into this series again. It was refreshing to go on another adventure with Derry, also known as Madam Tulip.
While the plot of this was is unique from the others, there is a pattern with the books. Derry gets an acting job and something goes wrong and she finds herself deep inside a murder investigation. This isn’t a complaint. I think the overall structure of each book and therefore the series as a whole is well done.
Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree has a lot of twist and turns within its pages. It keeps you guessing until the very end.
As always, this book has a great case of characters. Derry is a fun protagonist along with her friend Bruce and her parents popping in from time to time.
I even enjoyed the side characters and the antagonists in this one. They’re all unique from one another and from the books before it. The development is well done.
This book is written in the third person which is how I personally prefer mystery stories to be. The author’s writing is easy to follow along with a good amount of well-done descriptions and funny quips within the dialogue.
Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern
I think this one was my favorite Madam Tulip book so far. The book is well-rounded in every aspect of writing a book, in my opinion. I would highly recommend this one.
The thing about issues is that as you get older, they become ever more dangerous.
David Ahern, Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree
About The Author
David Ahern grew up in a theatrical family in Ireland. He become a research psychologist in Scotland and the Netherlands, before inevitably his genes kicked in and he absconded to work in television. He became a writer, director and producer, creating international documentary series and winning numerous awards, none of which got him free into nightclubs.
After stints playing in great bands, all doomed to obscurity, and writing equally obscure plays, he took to novel-writing. He now creates the Madam Tulip mysteries, in part as a tribute to the way actors never give up dreaming, but mostly to make himself laugh and scratch his head. David Ahern loves pretending this is actual work.
David lives in the beautiful West of Ireland with his wife, a cat, a tame pheasant, a clan of badgers and a vegetable garden.
Things about myself? Well I’m not sure where to begin. I really don’t like talking about myself *cough* but if I must pontificate about myself at length I will marshal on. It’s funny because as a writer you are of two minds the narcissist and the demur. I say this laughingly because if you give me a mic and an audience of at least one it’s like flipping a switch. I like to tell stories and make people laugh. It’s what I am best at. I obviously can’t speak for other writers but I would be willing to bet they too are victims of their own hubris. I was raised as a child during the economic downturn that gripped the Western slope of Colorado.
As a child I often spent a lot of time daydreaming. The stories and events that lived in mind were fantastical in nature. As I grew older I often times would watch others and create elaborate fantasies. I wasn’t really all that popular but I did pretty well of fitting in. I wasn’t the class clown or a real show off but I did a good job of framing heroes and villains in stories.
In my mine tween years I started to craft the ability to tell stories. Particularly during English for book reports. But it wasn’t until I took a writing class at a local community college where I really started to write. I don’t recall how many words or pages you were required to crank out daily but I know it felt like a lot. It’s also where I really started to work out scenes and play around with dialogue.
I’ve said this before but the line between good and bad is not always clearly black hat or white hat. It’s this conflict I’ve always been drawn too. To me stories about crime are far more interesting when the actions and words of the characters slide in and out of good and bad behavior. The procedural stuff is a means to bring the story to conclusion but friction between people is what makes a scene really pop on the page.
When I started this book a long time ago it started with the scene in Pea Green Hall. The main thrust of how it is written today holds true to how I saw it in my mind before I wrote it and how it “wrote” are different.
How long have you been writing for?
Really long and not very long at all. I’ve had a couple of different ideas for stories and have attempted to write them but for a lot of reasons they just never reached the end. That’s the really long side but the short side is about five years. Like I was just saying this novel started with a scene and from there I started to build a story around it. The difference for me is I always had started a story from the start and had tried to walk it through to the end. One seems like a better way than the other but hey, this one scene is how this book got written and published.
What motivates you to write? How did you begin writing?
Honestly the motivation is to get the words and images out of my head. I lived with the first book for about two years in my head and dreams before I set down to write it. Most of the stuff I produce that I really like comes out of living with it for a while. Turning it over and over. Wash, rinse and repeat. This book came about because I just wanted to get it out of my head and on the page to read.
I really got serious about writing when I started my blog. I know, I know everyone has one and some of them are really not good at all I leave them up for better or worse because it’s a way for me to gauge how I am progressing and maturing in the words and how they fit together.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?
Because I’m not wealthy my typical day is just like everyone else’s. Get up and go to work come home, hang with the kids and wife. But when it comes to writing I generally write in evenings after the kids have went to bed. My day job takes me on the road so I spend a lot of time in hotels, airports and behind the wheel. The airports and windshield time is where I do a good portion of scene layouts and dialogue.
On nights or weekends when I write there are a few things that for me are a must. First the room temp has to be around seventy five or eighty. I don’t like cool wind blowing on me when I write so no air-conditioning. I don’t like my arms sticking to the top of a desk so a lot of time I have a blanket or a towel to keep me from sticking to the desk.
Like now I am sitting in a recliner with pillows stacked around me to prop up my arms and my laptop is on top of another one. The only thing missing is some type of drink. Mostly I like coffee when I write but booze works pretty good as well.
What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?
I got an email in late fall of 2016. What I remember most is the grin and the satisfaction of all the hard work and slaving over the words, grammar, spelling and formatting had finally paid off. The compliment I got from Leesa at Wallace Publishing was something I will not ever forget.
But as to your question as to what I did. First I showed my wife the letter and then we both toasted the good news and after that had a really nice evening. The details of which I will leave to your imagination. It was a really good day.
What was the publishing process like? How long did it take?
The editing process takes a while to get through especially as an unpublished writer. Wallace did a great job with the particulars of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
I really did feel for them because when I was in high school grammar and English weren’t high on my list of things to succeed at. My girlfriend at the time used to do most of the English work for me which is exactly what it sounds like.
Overall it took about thirteen months and I think we went through two major edits, one minor and one really superficial final edit. But other than grammar and some rewording of some sentences there was only one paragraph we cut. So what you read today is very close to what went to the publisher.
The thing I liked the most was I was in control and had final say on what went to print. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot about the process of writing and self-promotion.
Are you currently working on anything new?
Why yes I am. Right now I am working on some research and supporting characters for the follow up novel which is titled The Sometimes Long Road Home. It takes place about 18 months after On the Devils Side of Heaven.
Walt is a cop in Fruita and a fulltime single father which he’s never had to be. Not to mention sobriety and just being a responsible adult. For a guy like that it’s a lot to take on suddenly. Ronald is still whereabouts unknown but when he shows up he too is a different character. Jessica is still reeling from her dramatic experience and all in all life in Fruita is a lot different now for everyone. So you get to see how all of this plays out.
Oh and there is a murder or two and some dinosaurs so that makes it interesting.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?
I wish I was an established writer with the income to go along with it. But I still have one of those “day jobs”. In fact it’s the same job I’ve had for almost twenty years. I work in telecommunications. I travel a good deal which is fodder for the books and occasional blog.
What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?
Honestly it’s how much effort marketing and promoting takes. As chic as the title of indie author is you are not the recipient of a larger agency who promote these for you. It takes a long time to build an audience and readership. In the end its worth it because it’s yours for better or worse and no one is a better guardian and promoter than you are.
What is your favorite book, genre, or author?
I have always liked a good adventure and thriller. Books that on its face require you to buy into these worlds where things happen that you know are not believable in reality. Especially in the digital world of today.
James Lee Burke is my all-time favorite author I’ve read just about everything he has written. His world and characters are visceral.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
You have to love the process of storytelling first and foremost. Write the stories you want to read and write for your enjoyment and freedom of movement of the mind and expression. Unless you have the magic ticket to literary freedom and success be prepared for a very long road to getting published. Building an audience and a following takes time, energy and some money on your part. But there are a lot of support on social media that can help. Lastly don’t expect anyone in the “bookstore” business to really help out a lot. You are your own best advocate for your work and your brand
Sometimes stories or scenes just don’t write and when it happens take some time for reflection maybe hit the backspace key a few times and either start again or better yet look for those off beat paths that are adjacent to the one you are working on. But never let it stop the story.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Don’t let anyone tell you not to write. The written word is everlasting and the core of all the arts. Plays, movies and songs don’t exist without words. My fifth grade teacher gave me probably the best advice I still use today. Never use the same word to start a sentence in the same paragraph and take care not to use the word “that” too often.
Other than that no one should tell you how to tell your stories. But when a reader takes the time to give you feedback remove the ego and listen. It will only make you better.
About Roger Peppercorn
Roger Peppercorn has suffered for the better part of his life from wanderlust and this need to see the other side of the horizon has taken him to all parts of the world. The people and backdrop of his travels have served as the inspiration behind his characters and storytelling. As a child, his mother taught him to read and write. His father’s collection of Louis Lamour novels provoked the fantastical images in his mind and the romance of the written word. In the seventh grade, his history teacher brought the characters of a bygone era alive. From that point on, Roger began to hone his skills in storytelling. After high school, Roger took a course in creative writing that was taught by a long haired hippy in a Hawaiian shirt. Roger’s grandmother used to tell tales of traveling across the plains in a covered wagon, the woes of having a son sent off to war, and the larger-than-life man she met at Pea Green Hall who later became her husband. His first two novels “On The Devils Side of Heaven” and “The Sometimes Long Road Home” take place on the western slopes of Colorado, in the sleepy town of Fruita, where he grew up. They center on the strained relationships and sorted histories of three characters – Walt, Ronald and Jessica, and violence that erupts around them. Roger is married and is a father of four beautiful children. He currently calls South Dakota his home.
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I received a free digital review copy from the author’s publicist in exchange for an honest review.
With the drop of a judge’s gavel, Walt Walker has finally lost everything. The badge and gun he used to carry and the moral certainty of right and wrong, good and evil that used to keep him grounded. Now Walt, sans gun, gets his badges from an Army Navy store. He spends his days in South Florida, working for a boutique insurance firm as their investigator. He spends his nights in dive bars, trying to forget the mess he has made of his life.
Ronald Jacobs always preferred the title Human Resource Manger to Hitman. But now that he’s retired, he can concentrate on living in the shadows as a respectable gentlemen farmer. Far from the reach and pull of his past life.
Their transgressions are behind them but a chance encounter and a failed assassination attempt sets the two of them on a collision course of violence and retribution. Hunted by contract killers, the law, and corporate bag men, they are pursued across the unforgiving adobes and the sweeping vistas of the Mesa Valley in Western Colorado.
Survival means putting their past in front of them and their differences aside, because in this world the only thing that matters is to cast not others on the devil’s side of heaven, lest you be cast in with them.
I like the cover, it’s simple and a pretty picture of a forest. One look at it and for reason I can tell what the genre of the book is.
This was an instant read for me mostly due to the genre. I enjoy crime and thrillers and this was a little different from what I usually read.
The plot isn’t a bad one as two old friends – who also happen to be brother-in-laws meet up once more to foil some bad guys’ plans. The plot itself was fairly well executed and certainly fit for a thriller. There was plenty of action involved and it moved pretty quickly.
I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get into any of the characters. Walt, the protagonist, was a bit of a cliche – he lost his job, got divorced and lost his kids, and he sits in bars all night trying to drink away his problems. It kind of got old pretty fast.
Ronald wasn’t too bad of a character. However, he’s a retired hit-man but I couldn’t picture him ever being a hit-man other than the fact he was good with guns.
Even the group of bad guys. They acted tough, high-and-mighty, and swore a lot, but it seemed like it was all for the sake of them being the “bad guys.” There was no depth to it.
I had a hard time reading the book due to the writing style. The POV switched between the characters. It was third-person omniscient, which is fine, but Walt’s parts were in first-person. So, sometimes I was reading the story along with Walt and other times I was with Ronald or an assassin with a third-party unknown narrator. I wasn’t sure which one to believe and it just made the story confusing, especially trying to piece the parts together.
This wasn’t a bad book, but it was hard for me to get into. I would have liked to see more consistent storytelling with more in-depth characters. It was hard for me to keep track of, though with the fast-pace action and high crime, you may want to give this one a try.
On The Devil’s Side Of Heaven by Roger Peppercorn gets… 2 out of 5 cups
“He was a killer of all killers and he feared no man. But if his wife was mad, he came a-calling just as pronto as any lovesick dog.” –Roger Peppercorn, On the Devil’s Side of Heaven
Title: The Black Book Author: James Patterson
Published: March 2017 by Little, Brown and Company Genre: Mystery How I got the book: I borrowed it from my mom
How can you prove your innocence when you can’t remember the crime?
Being a cop runs in Billy Harney’s family. The son of Chicago’s Chief of Detectives whose twin sister, Patty, also followed in their father’s footsteps, there’s nothing Billy won’t give up for the job, including his life. Left for dead alongside his tempestuous former partner and a hard-charging assistant district attorney out for blood, Billy miraculously survives. But he remembers nothing about the events leading up to the shootout. Charged with double murder and desperate to clear his name, Billy retraces his steps to get to the bottom of what happened. When he discovers the existence of a little black book that everyone who’s anyone in Chicago will stop at nothing to get their hands on, Billy suspects it contains the truth that will either set him free…or confirm his worst fears.
James Patterson is a wonderful author, but I don’t read his books enough. My mom raved about this one so I decided to pick it up and give it a try myself.
Billy Harney, the protagonist, gets himself into a lot of trouble. He solves a crime with no true evidence and it’s because of that that people question him. Then he wakes up from a coma. He had been shot and was lucky to be alive. His partner, Kate, and the woman he was seeing, Amy, were not so lucky.
The thing is, Billy has no memory of what happened.
The only thing that can help Billy is finding a little black book that will reveal everything. That, and getting his memory back. He is now framed and accused of four murders, Kate and Amy included. While he can’t remember, he knows that he would never kill anyone.
This was a long and twisted plot, but pretty easy to follow along and it certainly kept my interest the whole time. Once you thought you and the characters had figured something out, something else would happen. It was suspenseful, real, and twisty.
I did enjoy all the characters. Billy, the protagonist, was my favorite. He seemed to be the only one who had most of his stuff together. He seemed to be the definition of a true cop, despite some cliches here and there (his wife and daughter had died).
All the other characters seemed to be in it for themselves, which made sense. They were all trying to protect themselves in the severity of the case. Kate was a cool character too, though she and Billy seemed to have a falling out towards the end which made me a little sad.
Patti, Billy’s twin sister, who is also a cop, was just an okay character for me. The book opens up with her and I thought she was going to be a protagonist as well, but she wasn’t really. She did have a few big parts, but other than that, she wasn’t in it too much.
I loved the way this book was written. It’s broken up into parts, the past and the present. Billy’s parts were told in first person, but he couldn’t remember the past. So we, as the readers, knew what had happened by reading the past, and then when we jumped back to the present, Billy was still trying to piece everything together.
It was a clever way of revealing everything, especially at the end when they all went to court. Everything started to come back to Billy and we learn the major climax through alternating between the past and present within the chapters.
It was clever, easy to follow along, and kept my attention.
This was a great read. If you’re into mysteries or suspenseful reads, this would definitely be a good one to pick up.
The Black Book by James Patterson gets… 5 out of 5 stars
“It’s easier to focus on someone else’s grief than cope with your own.” –James Patterson, The Black Book
Title: Underneath Author: Anne Goodwin
Published: May 25, 2017 by Inspired Quill Genre: Psychological Thriller How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
He never intended to be a jailer …
After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.
Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.
Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?
I read and reviewed Anne Goodwin’s debut novel Sugar and Snails and enjoyed it. When she contacted me about this thriller, and I love thrillers, I was excited to give it a shot.
We follow the first-person point of view of Steve, a man who buys a house and tries to get his life in order. He meets Liesel and they hit it off right away. She moves in with him and together they decide how they should use the cellar. The cellar is used for a few reasons as Steve tries to fix it up. It isn’t until Liesel gives him an ultimatum: They have kids together or she leaves, that Steve decides to use the cellar as Liesel’s own “home.” He doesn’t want kids, but he doesn’t want to lose Liesel.
It’s an interesting premise for a story and I was intrigued by it. However, it was pretty slow-going in the beginning. Nothing really happened until 150 pages into the story and, at that point, there were only about 100 pages left. Still, we did get flashbacks into Steve’s childhood which showcased how he grew up without a father and potentially why he never wants to be a father himself.
The characters were developed well. I felt for both Liesel and Steve and their own inner problems. Liesel wanted kids after her career didn’t work out and Steve just wanted a simple life with the girl of his dreams and it took a sudden turn for the worst.
Liesel was a go-getter from the beginning. When she decided she wanted something, she went for it as best as she could. This included Steve, her career, and then wanting kids. I loved that about her, but since we were in Steve’s head, I knew that Liesel could do better than him. Still, they had a cute relationship with one another.
To be honest, I couldn’t relate to Steve that well. I didn’t care for him as a character, even though he was the main protagonist and antagonist. I sympathized with him for his childhood, but that was about it. There was just something about him that turned me off from him.
The story is told to us in parts as opposed to chapters, which isn’t a bad thing. However, there were no timestamps or dates to indicate where we were and when. Time jumps were used an extra space in between paragraphs and flashbacks had a page break, but that was it. This made it a little confusing to read, but the author does write well regardless.
This was a good read, but I do wish the timeline was a little clearer and I felt more for Steve. Still, it was interesting, especially the ending. It makes you wonder what actually happened and whether your interpretation of the book was real or not. In that sense, it was cleverly written.
Underneath by Anne Goodwin gets… 3 out of 5 stars
“You’ve got to be prepared to fight for what you believe in.” –Anne Goodwin, Underneath
Underneath by Anne Goodwin comes out May 25, 2017. Preorder the book today!