Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Stilettoes and Scoundrels" - Laina Turner (Virtual Book Tour Blog Tour)

"Stilettos & Scoundrels
Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?

Necklaces & Nooses
When Presley’s boss is found hanging she thinks its suicide until the police discover its homicide. Who would want to kill a boutique owner? Presley’s not sure but she’s determined to find out. The cute detective assigned to the case makes it all the more exciting.

Handbags & Hooligans
Presley went to Vegas to watch her friend Anna get married and the event turned into solving the mystery of her brothers girlfriend disappearance. But Ashley wasn't exactly the schoolteacher she appeared to be. Who was she and was she kidnapped?

The holiday short…Mistletoe & Murder
In this holiday short story, Presley goes home for Christmas expecting it to be a relaxing holiday until her old boyfriend, Brian, asks for her help finding out who has been stealing from him and it turns from theft to murder. Why would anyone want to kill Tommy and what was he hiding?

Gems & Gunshots
Presley heads to San Diego to hang out with Cooper and enjoy the great west coast weather. She didn’t expect that while hanging out at the local coffee shop she would be a witness to a robbery and murder at Gemstone’s Unlimited. Much to Cooper’s dismay Presley feels compelled to investigate. She discovers that not only was the store owner a womanizer but also was filing false insurance claims for diamonds that weren’t really stolen. Was that why he was being blackmailed? Was that why someone robbed his store? Presley is determined to find out!

As a bonus get the short story prequel, A Day in the Life of Trixie Pristine.
In this short story prequel, Trixie and her friends Berklie and Sophie, considered themselves typical thirty something females until someone turned up murdered in their newly opened bookstore/wine bar. They thought they would be living out their dream in their new shop not trying to catch a killer. Who killed Sylvia and why? Or was one of them the intended target?"

"Who am I? It kind of depends on the day. I am a human compendium of unrelated things. I used to think I was just weird, had shiny ball syndrome and couldn’t focus, scattered, you name it. Then I decided it was OK to be all over the place as long as each avenue I wanted to explore had meaning and purpose or was fun. So I embrace the fact I am a college professor, a writer of fiction and non-fiction, promoter of other authors, human resource professional, business consultant, mom, and all around interesting person (according to my closest friends).

When I’m not working toward my goals I like, ok fine, LOVE wine, coffee, shopping, and books. I enjoy my kids, they are awesome. I hate the cold but yet live in the mid-west. Vegas is one of my favorite spots as I love to people watch and if I ever get married again it will definitely be in a drive through chapel by a fake Elvis.

Women.  Can't live with 'em, can't make 'em stay out of it when trying to conduct a murder investigation.  Gossip is a crucial part of small town life (much to my annoyance...I grew up in a town of approx. 450 -- fart on one end of town and the other is talking about it before you arrive).  Gossip fuels hair salon chats, meetings over coffee, and small town rumor mills when someone dies who just might have something to hide.  We get criticized for gossiping - and rightly so, it is a bad thing to do - but what if gossip lends help to the unofficial investigation of a small town politician's murder?

The Good
Presly Thurman - the main character - is a tough cooky.  She brandishes stubbornness forged in the fires of caffeine and board rooms, doesn't take "no" as an answer when she's trying to get to the bottom of something, and has a serious thing for designer shoes.  She was a corporate person working her way to the top, until a guy who thought a bit too much with his "tiny brain" got in the way and tried to destroy her career.  Oh really?  Well, she lands on her feet and gets wrapped in the middle of a murder investigation simply by returning home for a visit with her well-meaning but exasperating parents *cough* mother *cough*.  Think Lorelai Gilmore from "Gilmore Girls" mixed with Cordelia Chase from the Buffyverse, and you've got someone kind of like Presley.  Kind of.  

This work throws a woman battling for her life in the corporate world into a situation where she quite literally has to battle for her life in the midst of small-town politics, nosy neighbors, gossipy gals, coffee, old flames, and mob bosses.  What's a girl to do?   = )

I loved this story.  Now, I'll 'fess up and admit something.  My momma didn't raise a liar and I won't feign that I've read the entire story set that I was provided with as a part of this review.  I read the first story, "Stilettos and Scoundrels" and that made me itchy to read the rest of anything I can get my hands on about Presley!

Turner has crafted a wonderful story through writing about Presley Thurman.  Presley is that snarky, colorful, designer handbag/shoe/clothes obsessed neighbor that we all wish we had and wish we could be like.  She says what is on her mind, is almost fearless (almost) and somehow always seem to have hunky guys trying to win her over.  Okay, so maybe some of those hunks are dorks, but you get the picture.  

Anyways, Turner's character development is sublime and wonderful.  I grew to feel as though Presley was one of my best friends, the one with whom you love to gossip and adore.  Her best friend, family members, childhood beaus, past flames, and all those whom she comes in contact with are wonderfully crafted so they each have their own distinct voice (point: 1), are clearly discernible from one another in conversation (point: 1), consistently display their own personalities (point: 1), and are a pleasure to read (point: - 4 points!).  

The plot?  Let's see...this is kind of a grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-and-don't-let-go kind of plot (at least for the first story).  It is gripping, intriguing, intoxicating, and downright interesting in a way that kept my virtual pages turning quite quickly. Okay, so maybe I've read mystery stories before where the main character is a gal trying to solve the whodunit, and perhaps even a few of those stories heroines' have been operating under the guise of reporter.  That does not mean this story was any less interesting.  In fact, having a troupe in place while reading this allowed me to really enjoy Thurman's snarkiness...and she has plenty!  =)

Writing style?  It flows incredibly well.  There is a smidge of stream-of-consciousness in parts where Thurman is trying to work something out (whether that be the whodunit or what the heck is going on with the social interaction in which she was just engaged), but it is done in a way that makes sense.  

This is a very fun, quick and easy read that will leave readers laughing, scratching their heads, and feeling wholly satisfied at the end.  It is like the perfect kiss - spontaneous, thrilling, intoxicating, and leaving you wanting more.  I loved it, and you should read it too.  

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
A few things (oh leave me alone, you know I'm picky...)

First, while the work flowed incredibly well, there were a few patches where it...well, kind of got a little confusing.  Mostly these patches surrounded portions where voice switched back and forth.  Turner kept the voice mainly to Thurman (and I'm glad she did or we would have missed out on a lot of mental snarkiness...and you all know I'm a fan of snark), but there were a few points where we would read/hear the inner workings of other characters.  Sometimes it was hard to figure out who was talking.  Usually going back and re-reading a confusing portion would reveal the identity of the speaker...but I abhor having to backtrack while reading.

Second, I recognize it is hard to be completely original...especially as more and more people are getting into writing.   This kind of story, however, has been done and done and done.  Girl gets dumped out of executive track position by sexually harassing boss, becomes reporter, sticks her nose into things to the point where it nearly gets bitten off...yadda yadda.  Now, I'm not saying this story is one that has already been told.  It just employs a few too many things that made parts of it feel a little predictable (I like being surprised).  

Third, Thurman gives into her old beau a tad too easily in some places when compared to how staunchly she defends her position to him in others.  Maybe this is a reflection of the vacillating feelings she has towards him for a number of reasons, but it bugged me.  Melting damsel one minute, stalwart feline the next.  Um...huh?

Overall, this is a super good read that should be enjoyed with chocolate and coffee (Thurman would approve).  It's a quick read that is very enjoyable, minus the quibbles I note above.  I really liked it, and it made me smirk, snort, and all out laugh in a couple of points.  The return to a small-town feel was kind of nice and reminiscent of my own childhood.  And the whodunit was surprising.  

Overall, I give this work (the portion I read) an 8 out of 10.

If this were made into a movie, who would your lead lady in the first short story be cast by in your ideal world?  Why? 
Debra Messing because she's a smart,fiery personality.

What was your process for determining "whodunit"?  Your resolution surprised me!
I actually don't write with a concrete ending in mind and often my original thought about who the bad guy is totally changes by the end of the book. My imagination takes weird turns.

Murder, mystery, intrigue: what was your favorite thing about writing this work? 
I like the mystery part. I grew up loving Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew and pretending as a little girl I could solve mysteries. I guess this is my adult way of living out the fantasy.

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