Friday, August 26, 2011

Tina's Review of VIPER by John Desjarlais

I am such a sucker for a strong (if sometimes flawed) female protagonist -- and VIPER by John Desjarlais delivers. Selena de la Cruz is strong because she's vulnerable, both contemporary and traditional at the same time, which makes for an uneasy road.

A former cop now working as an insurance agent, she's brought back into the world of drugs smugglers and homicide when her name turns up in the Book of the Dead. She's still alive, but the people whose names proceed her have all been violently murdered. Suddenly a marked woman, Selena must face an old nemesis -- El Serpiente -- while solving a series of murders that may or may not be part of a plan of divine retribution, and may or may not be a prelude to her own demise.

Exciting stuff, this. The mystery hits several themes — faith vs belief, insider status vs outsider exclusion (and how those edges cut both ways), justice vs retribution. I especially appreciated Selena's struggle to be an assertive, intelligent female in a culture that has traditionally valued a certain home-and-hearth-based passivity even as it produces strong women who buck that trend.

Selena may seem like a contradiction herself – she has Jimmy Choos on her feet and axle grease under her nails. She’s an insurance agent who can work you a fine home coverage package . . . and also chase down bad guys (and bad gals too) while she’s at it. But her character is big enough to contain all these paradoxes (which also serves to ask the smart question of why these things seem like paradoxes in the first place. Why must a woman choose between her car and her shoes?)

This book isn't just smart; it's also fast and edgy and laced with murderous tension. Read VIPER, and then do like I'm doing and go get BLEEDER, the first mystery novel by Desjarlais and Selena’s introduction to the literary world. Or better yet, do it the other way around. But don't miss these books.

Suggested food and beverage pairing: Desjarlais' description of home-cooked tamales had me wanting to crawl into the pages and snatch them from Selena's plate. So tamales, yes, and a nice cerveza, por favor.

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Visit John at . He's also available on Facebook ( and on Twitter ( Visit his alter ego Johnny Dangerous at

VIPER is available at Amazon and through Sophia Institute Press.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot Iron Age Lovin'

by Susanna Ives

You’ve read Regency, Roman, Victorian, Ottoman Empire, Western and Viking, but let me introduce you to a new romance setting: Iron Age Denmark. Because nothing says romance like sleeping in a thatched mud and wattle hut in sub zero degree weather, snuggled with Lars under your wild boars pelt, listening to the gentle oinks of the pigs in the other half of your hut and calls of the wild aurochs in the distance.

For starters, Iron Age Denmark isn’t as far away as you think. Just fast forward past those Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and the beginnings of the Roman Empire to 1 A.D: that’s the Danish Iron Age.

Imagine your Iron Age Lars, sweat pouring down his rock hard muscles as he works over the clay furnace, smelting down some hot iron. He would build that furnace for two days and then fire it up for 5 hours using a cubic meter of wood. Then he packed down 70kg of charcoal and 50kg of the iron he dug up from the bog pit. He baked this for 24 hours to make sponge iron. Then he hammered the sponge iron into 1 kg of usable iron to make ten knives or an axe. Imagine his bulging biceps as he slung that hard hammer down. If that doesn’t turn you on…

When Lars wasn’t making you pretty axes, he was farming with the oxen so he could harvest barley, wheat, and spelt to for you to grind in your super modern grain grinder. Trust me, your man loves you when he gives you this grinder.

Your friends still have to use the old-fashioned hand and stone method.

And don’t forget the wool Lars sheared for you to weave your family’s fashionable clothes.

At night, when you’re sitting around the fire in your mud hut and your young children are playing with this wooden pig your husband carved, you tell them stories about how you and your hot iron smelting man met.You were still a virgin and it was the spring fertility festival. The elders placed you in the center of the dancing labyrinth. The village boys raced each other through the labyrinth and Lars reached you first.

You were a lucky virgin because they could have just chucked you in the peat bog as a sacrifice to the bog gods.

Also, your Lars fashions himself quite the artist. Look at the beautiful sculpture he made for you. You can see the beginnings of the phallic symbolism that would later characterize Viking art.

I think Danish Iron Age has great romantic potential. If, after reading this post, you have the burning desire to write some hot Iron Age loving please visit Sagnlandet or Danish National Museum

NOTE: The last Aurochs died in 1627. At Sagnlandet there are several Heck Oxen, a type of oxen created by the Germans under Hitler in an attempt to revive the Auroch. The Heck Oxen were very playful and chased each other around the grounds. Here is the only picture I took of them:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mojito Literary Great News

The Mojito Literary Society is proud to announce that writer Susana Daniel won the PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize in Fiction for her beautiful novel Stiltsville. Click here for the Mojito LIterary Society review of Susana's novel. Congratulations! The Mojito sisters toast to you!