BOOK REVIEW: THE PRESERVATIONIST By Justin Kramon


Review by Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery

It didn’t take long for the hairs to stand up on my neck when I started reading THE PRESERVATIONIST. I could feel something ugly coming and didn’t quite know from which direction. Told in an alternating point of view, the three main characters are Julia, a college student, Marcus, also a student, and Sam, an employee at the snack bar on campus.

As Julia develops relationships with the two men, she also struggles with a recent tragedy in her own life. The plot simmers as the two men show parts of themselves that are at the very least, unappealing. Sam is older, gentle and Julia makes him feel young and vibrant. Marcus is quiet and shy, but sometimes his actions make Julia uncomfortable. Violence is on the horizon, but where will it come from, and in what form?

I’d recommend this book for lovers of mystery and suspense as well as those who love psychological thrillers.

Below you’ll find a sysnopsis as well as an excerpt of  THE PRESERVATIONIST, and a bio of the author, and if you’d like to leave a comment, you will have an opportunity to win a copy of the book.  Also, at the bottom of this post is a list of other participants in this blog tour where you’ll find more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and more opportunities to win.

The Preservationist

by Justin Kramon

on Tour October 1 – November 30, 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller / Psychological Thriller / Women’s Fiction
Published by: Pegasus/Norton
Publication Date: 10/15/13
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-1-60598-480-3
Purchase Links:

** Note: Explicit sexual scenes

Synopsis:

To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention. But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia.

Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches—and Julia becomes less and less sure whom to trust.

Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1
JuliaOf all the places Julia Stilwell thought she might be on a September afternoon, less than a year after the accident, this was the last she would have imagined. College. A freshman headed out on a first date. It was too normal. She felt like she’d snuck into the wrong movie, like any minute a guy in a little hat would come running up the aisle, shine a flashlight in her eyes, and ask to see her ticket.But here she was, ten minutes to two, fixing her hair, getting her shoes on, smiling at her reflection so she could paint blush on her cheeks, going back and forth in her mind about whether to bring a backpack or a purse. It was all the usual stuff girls do before dates, but to Julia it felt like a test, a set of pictures she had to line up in the right order. Wrong answer sends you back to go. It was a blessing her roommate Leanette was in class and not around to witness the chaos of these final preparations. Leanette had dates every weekend and went to all the parties, and Julia was sure this fussing would have seemed amateur to her, like a kid playing with an adult’s makeup kit.In the end, she decided on a messenger bag. She slung it over her shoulder, flipped the lights off, and left the room.Outside, it was gorgeous. Cloudless and warm, the air felt like a shirt just out of the dryer. Julia lived in an off-campus dorm, and though the building was musty, with cinder block walls and a dull gray carpet that gave off a smell like boiled milk, there was a pretty courtyard out here, a cement bench, a trellis wrapped with vines and bright flowers. She took a long breath, enjoying the weather and her anticipation, perched for a moment on the fragile edge of happiness.Julia was headed to campus, and she decided to take the path through the woods. She could have gone through town, but didn’t know whom she’d run into, and whether they’d ask what she was up to. The date with Marcus didn’t have to be a secret, but for some reason she wanted to keep it to herself, like a note in her pocket.
Before the accident, it would have been different. Julia would have had to tell Danny and Shana about how Marcus had asked her out, making little jokes to play it down. They wouldn’t have let her get away with the secrecy. In high school, when she wasn’t practicing the trumpet, Julia had spent most of her free time with these friends. She knew everything about them, from what they’d gotten on their last history tests to what their boyfriends had whispered in their ears the first times they’d had sex.

Julia had always been a bit of an oddball, with her quirky sense of humor, the flat way she delivered jokes that caught people off guard and sometimes made them smile, sometimes give her confused looks. She was never a star in the classroom, and didn’t go in for all the primping and social striving most of the girls did. She didn’t need it; her music and her plans for the future had been enough. They’d given her distance, kept her insulated from the storms of teenage social life. When her friends were worked up over a boy or a conflict with parents, Julia was always the first to jump in with a silly line to relieve the tension. She wore thrift store T-shirts and frayed corduroys and didn’t try to be the prettiest or the smartest or the most popular, just didn’t care that much about it.
But all of that was gone, that old life. She didn’t talk to any of those people anymore. She’d gotten rid of her cell phone, tossed it into a lake, actually. Burial at sea.

Marcus had suggested they meet at two-thirty, since the snack bar would be less crowded then, between lunch and dinner. As usual, Julia was early. She couldn’t help it. She’d always been the type to arrive ten minutes before a meeting, and none of the tricks she pulled to delay herself ever seemed to work. If she were ever sentenced to execution, she’d probably arrive ten minutes early for that, just to get a good seat.

She tried to slow down, scraping her shoe soles on the dirt and rocks in the woods.

As a way to distract herself, she started thinking about how the date had come about. “You have this way about you,” Marcus had said that night in the library, when they were working on the counterpoint project. “It’s like you live in your own self-contained world. I’ve been wanting to know what’s going on in there since the first time I saw you.” After he said it, he smiled in a teasing way, and she wasn’t sure if he was being genuine. She almost made a quick joke back, her habit. Nothing going on in here. My world’s in a budget crisis. But then she noticed he was blushing, all the way from his ears down to the base of his neck. There was something reassuring about his discomfort. Seeing it, she’d felt a protective tenderness for him, the way you might watching a child pedal a bike up a steep hill.

“You want to get lunch on Thursday in the snack bar?” he’d said after that, so casually anyone listening would have thought he’d just tossed out the offer, not even caring what her answer would be. But he’d given a specific day. He’d mentioned the snack bar, as if an off-campus date would have been too much to ask.

“I’d love to,” Julia had said. “But are you going to be there?”

And Marcus had smiled.

When she got near the top of the hill, where the woods let out, Julia heard a train clacking away from the station at the base of campus. She checked her watch: ten minutes early. Of course. She walked onto the train platform, into the warm bright sunshine.

That was when it happened, suddenly, in the midst of all that sparkling weather. It was as if someone had pulled the plug on the day, and all the excitement just drained out, like water from a tub.

She knew what it was, this feeling. She’d told El Doctor about it, these aftershocks, as she thought of them, reminders of events she couldn’t change, events she would have preferred to snip out of the cloth of her memory. She closed her eyes, and there it was again, her brother’s face, pale with shock at what he was witnessing, his lips opening and closing, making no sound, until finally he’d asked, “Is that mine?”
But she couldn’t do this now, couldn’t let herself get dragged under. If you want to move forward, you have to stop looking back. Positive thinking, positive results. She stood straight, pushed her shoulders back, breathed, fixed the strap of the messenger bag like a seatbelt across her chest, and continued across the tracks, up the tree-lined path to campus.

Inside the snack bar, Julia couldn’t spot Marcus. She looked around at all the tables and booths. Most were empty. At one table, two women in suits were smiling over something one of them had said, then they got up to leave, carrying stacks of paper. Inside a booth, three muscular-looking boys sat talking over empty plates and balled napkins.

They made Julia nervous, these people. The way they moved and talked and smiled seemed foreign, like they were all doing a dance she’d never learned. The thought surfaced again that maybe she wasn’t fit to be here, at a college, so soon, no matter what El Doctor said.

But it’s best not to overthink things. That’s how you get yourself into trouble. When you stop and think about how vulnerable you are, or how strange the world is, it’s easy to end up feeling confused and lonely.

In the corner, next to the doors where people walked in to order their sandwiches, a man in a red shirt and white apron was standing beside a trashcan. Julia recognized him as the guy who usually made her sandwiches. She remembered thinking more than once that he was cute. He had shaggy brown hair, and could have passed for a student if he were a couple years younger. He always smiled when he saw Julia, and offered her an extra handful of chips or a second spear of pickle with her order. She didn’t know if he did that for other girls, but it was such a simple and plainly sweet gesture that it charmed her. A pickle for your thoughts, my dear.

When she looked at him, though, smiling, ready to wave, he looked down, like he was embarrassed. She wasn’t sure if maybe he didn’t recognize her, or was surprised at meeting her without the lunch counter between them, or if he was just socially awkward, but whatever it was, she felt disappointed. She wanted to give him a signal that it was okay to be friendly, wave to her when she came in. I won’t bite.

She didn’t have a chance to do anything, though, because just as she was considering it, Marcus walked in.

Author Bio:

Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation. He lives in Philadelphia.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:

1.   10/01 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Must Read Faster
2.   10/01 ~ Showcase & Interview @ CMash Reads
3.   10/02 ~ Guest Post @ Brooke Blogs
4.   10/03 ~ Review & Giveaway @ SavingFor6
5.   10/04 ~ Review & Giveaway @ A Dream Within A Dream
6.   10/07 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Dear, Restless Reader
7.   10/07 ~ Showcase @ SweepingMe
8.   10/09 ~ Interview @ Lauries Thoughts
9.   10/09 ~ Interview @ Lauries Thoughts
10. 10/10 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Beagle Book Space
11.  10/10 ~ Showcase @ Lavender & Camomile Press
12. 10/11 ~ Showcase @ Read 2 Review
13. 10/14 ~ Guest Post @ Writers and Authors
14. 10/15 ~ Review @ Marys Cup of Tea
15. 10/16 ~ Review @ Smoochiefrog Reviews
16. 10/17 Showcase & Review @ Reader Girls
17. 10/18 ~ Showcase @ My Devotional Thoughts
18. 10/21 ~ Review @ Sweet Southern Home
19. 10/22 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Thoughts of Joy
20. 10/23 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Beth Art from the Heart
21. 10/24 ~ Review @ Gabina49s Blog
22. 10/25 ~ Guest Post & Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
23. 10/28 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Deal Sharing Aunt
24. 10/29 ~ Review @ Amy The Crafty Book Nerd
25. 10/29 ~ Showcase @ Omnimystery, A Family of Mystery Websites
26. 10/31 ~ Showcase @ Rose & Beps Blog
27. 11/01 ~ Review & Giveaway @ My Cozie Corner
28. 11/02 ~ Showcase @ The Stuff of Success
29. 11/04 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Celticladys Reviews
30. 11/06 ~ Review @ Views from the Countryside
31. 11/08 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Kritters Ramblings
32. 11/12 ~ Showcase @ The Book Faery Reviews
33. 11/19 ~ Interview & Review @ JeanBookNerd
34. 11/22 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Ryder Islingtons Blog
35. 11/29 ~ Review & Giveaway @ THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK

BOOK REVIEW: Murder by Syllabub by Kathleen Delaney


Review By Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE A Trey Fontaine Mystery

Syllabub? I’m from the South and I’d never heard of it. Turns out it’s sweet drink. The book, Murder By Syllabub? Far from sweet! This is a great cozy, with lots of red herrings, several suspects, and characters who can irritate you just by walking into the room…wait…onto the page. The book is so well written, the characters so well-rounded, that they have become friends, and a few have become like some of my relatives…they can be a real pain in the *&%.

Ms. Delaney has done an excellent job with this Ellen McKenzie mystery, starring a real estate broker, married to a small town sheriff, who goes with her aunt to help the older woman’s dear friend. Turns out there’s more trouble than Ellen or her aunt anticipated. Murder. Theft. Ghosts. Family secrets.

As five women try to figure out who did what, the danger and intrigue build. And yes, it is a cozy, not an international spy thriller, or a maniac-on-the-loose suspense. But for a cozy, it has its share of spying, maniacs (or at least borderline idiots) and suspense.

I’d recommend this book to lovers of the good old-fashioned mystery, as well as lovers of suspense, Southern history, and modern cozies with nosey characters who get into trouble minding business best left to the police. now I have to go back and read the first two books in the series, though I thoroughly enjoyed book three without the need to read the others. A first-rate mystery that kept me turning pages to see if I could outsmart the villan, which by the way, I didn’t.

Those who leave a comment regarding this post get their name entered for a chance to win a copy of Murder by Syllabub, and at the end of this post is a list of other sites where you can find articles, interviews, other reviews about this book, and more chances to win, so please take a few minutes to learn more about this Kathleen Delaney and her new book, Murder by Syllabub.

Murder by Syllabub

by Kathleen Delaney

on Tour September – October, 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 298
ISBN: 978-1-60381-957-2
Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble? When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator. Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia. Murder by Syllabub is the fifth book of the Ellen McKenzie Mystery series.

Read an excerpt:

Mildred leaned back against the drain board, as if she needed it to prop her up. “Do you think he’ll be back?”
I set the dish on the drain board along with the other rinsed dishes. “You mean the murderer?”
Mildred nodded.
I’d wondered the same thing. “I think it was Monty prowling around upstairs, looking for something. Why he was dressed like that, I can’t imagine, but I don’t think he found whatever it was he was looking for. The only reason I can think of for both Monty and whoever slipped him the poison to be here is they were looking for the same thing. I don’t think they found it. So, yes, I think whoever it is will be back.”
Mildred nodded. “I think so, too. That crate was no accident.” She paused before going on, her voice filled with apprehension. “You know, McMann isn’t going to buy the mysterious prowler story. He’s going to take the easy way out. Elizabeth fed Monty the poison before she left for the airport and we’re protecting her.” She sighed deeply and turned to the dishwasher. “Might as well load this. Can you hand me that bowl?”
She opened the door, pulled out the top rack and froze. “How did that get in here?”
“What’s the matter? Oh no.”
We stood, frozen, staring at the immaculately clean crystal glass, sitting on the top rack in solitary splendor.
“That’s one of the old syllabub glasses.” Mildred turned around to look at the glasses on the hutch and returned her gaze to the dishwasher. She pulled the rack out all the way but the dishwasher was empty, except for the one glass.
I’d had a close enough look at the glass next to Monty to know this was from the same set. “It’s the missing syllabub glass.”
“Missing?” Mildred’s hand went out to touch it, but she quickly withdrew. “Where are the others? Cora Lee and I packed these away years ago. There were eight of them. How did this one get in here?”
“Noah didn’t tell you?”
“That boy only tells me what he wants me to know. What was it he should have told me?”
“The set of these glasses were on the sideboard in the dining room where Monty was killed. Six of them. One was beside Monty with the remains of a sticky drink in it. That made seven. One was missing. The one the murderer used.”
We stared at each other then back into the dishwasher. “That’s got to be the missing one, right there.” Mildred took a better look. “It’s clean. Someone’s trying to frame Elizabeth.”

Author Bio:

Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. A number of years ago she visited Colonial Williamsburg and fell in love. Long fascinated with our country’s history, especially the formation years, she knew she wanted to set a story there. Another trip with her brother and sister-in-law solidified the idea that had been rolling around in her head but she needed more information. A phone call to the nice people at Colonial Williamsburg provided her with appointments to visit the kitchen at the Payton Randolph house, where she got her first lesson in hearth cooking and a meeting with the people who manage the almost extinct animal breeds the foundation is working to preserve. A number of books purchased at the wonderful bookstore at the visitor’s center gave her the additional information she needed and the story that was to become Murder by Syllabub came into being. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. She is close to many historical sites, which she has eagerly visited, not only as research for this book but because the east is rich in monuments to the history of our country. Luckily, her grandchildren are more than willing to accompany her on their tours of exploration. You can find Kathleen on the Web at delaney.camelpress.com.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants

1. 09/02 ~ Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
2. 09/03 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Kaisy Daisys Corner
3. 09/04 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Savingfor6
4. 09/04 ~ Review @ The Book Connection
5. 09/06 ~ Review @ Vics Media Room
6. 09/07 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Caroles Book Corner
7. 09/09 ~ Interview @ Lauries Thoughts
8. 09/10 ~ Review @ Hotchpotch
9. 09/11 ~ Interview @ ?The Pen & Muse
10. 09/12 ~ Showcase @ I Read a Book Once
11. 09/13 ~ Showcase & Interview @ CMash Reads
12. 09/16 ~ Review @ Ginas Library
13. 09/17 ~ Review by Carol
14. 09/18 ~ Review @ Wall-to-wall books
15. 09/19 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Read 2 Review
16. 09/20 ~ Review & Giveaway @ bless their hearts mom
17. 09/23 ~ Review @ Buried Under Books
18. 09/24 ~ Guest Post @ Buried Under Books
19. 09/24 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Deal Sharing Aunt
20. 09/25 ~ Review @ Views from the Countryside
21. 09/26 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Mochas, Mysteries and More
22. 09/27 ~ Review @ Hezzi-Ds Books and Cooks
23. 09/30 ~ Review & Giveaway @ THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK
24. 10/01 ~ Review @ Brooke Blogs
25. 10/02 ~ Review @ Book Dilettante
26. 10/03 ~ Guest Post @ Omnimystery, A Family of Mystery Websites
27. 10/05 ~ Showcase @ The Stuff of Success
28. 10/07 ~ Review @ Mama Knows Books
29. 10/08 ~ Interview, Review & Giveaway @ Words by Webb
30. 10/09 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Deco My Heart
31. 10/10 ~ Review @ B&M Review Gazette
32. 10/11 ~ Review & Giveaway @ By The Book
33. 10/14 ~ Showcase @ Rose & Beps Blog
34. 10/15 ~ Interview & Review @ Melinas Book Blog
35. 10/16 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Marys Cup of Tea
36. 10/17 ~ Review @ WV Stitcher
37. 10/18 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Ryder Islingtons Blog
38. 10/21 ~ Review @ My Devotional Thoughts
39. 10/30 Showcase @ A Room Without Books is Empty