Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Blood Orchids by Toby Neal

Blood Orchids by Toby Neal
Publish Date: November 27, 2011
Fiction, Suspense, Crime, Detective/Police Novel
A Lei Crime Novel

My Review:
I love being surprised by books.  While I was intrigued by the blurb of this book and accepted it for review, you never know what you are getting.  What I got from Blood Orchids was a thoroughly mesmerizing book based in Hawaii, which I hardly ever read about and a culture that was new to me.  And not only did I get this new culture and setting, but I read about some amazing characters and a plot that kept me flipping the pages to see what would happen next.

The character of Lei Texeira rings very true.  She is a woman with a past and some problems to work through.  She is a tough woman cop who wants to make things right in her town of Hilo and when two girls show up murdered, it feels personal and she will stop at nothing to find the killer and bring him to justice.  Though Lei is just a beat cop, through her skills she ends up involved in the investigation.  She also ends up with a stalker which brings her closer to lead detective Michael Stephens, who also has a past that he is dealing with.  I liked Michael as much as Lei and I was cheering for them as a couple through the whole book.  I like how Ms. Neal handles them and I won't give anything more away, you need to read the book to find out.  Suffice it to say, the book has a little bit of romance to take the edge off the hard suspense vibe going through the majority of the book.

The suspense is gripping.  The plot moves along great.  As the detectives, Lei and her partner plow through the investigation, things don't just fall into place.  They have to work for the answers and it takes time.  This isn't a CSI episode where the DNA just happens to be there and things are wrapped up quickly.  I think Ms. Neal paced this well to keep the reader turning pages and engaged in the book.  I wanted to know who was behind the murders, rapes and kidnappings.  I also wanted to know who was stalking Lei.  Was it the murderer?  Or one of the other people that Ms. Neal puts forth?  It's definitely a guessing game and I have to say I guessed wrong.  So well done Ms. Neal!

So, in summary, Blood Orchids is an amazing debut effort.  It's tough, it's edgy, but it has some romance as well.  It kept me guessing, it kept me turning pages.  It has me anxious to read more about Lei.  She's an intriguing character and I want to see more of her and from the note at the end it looks like there are several more books involving Lei planned so I am in luck.  But don't worry, everything is tied up nicely at the end of Blood Orchids so you aren't left wanting for the next book, I just want one to see more of Lei.  Blood Orchids is interesting, fresh and a great read.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:
Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei's intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she's being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei's quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first.

About the Author (from her website): 
Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”

She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.

Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.


FTC Information: I received this book from the author for an honest review.  

Guest Blog: 7 Things I've Learned On Writing by Toby Neal (+ Giveaway)

7 things I’ve learned on writing by Toby Neal

1. Notice everything. The world is filled with sounds, smells, textures, and fabulous stories
unfolding all around you. Take the time to notice, and keep something handy to jot down new
thoughts/ways to describe that sensory input as it comes to you. Sometimes, when I really let
myself experience any given moment in time, I’m overwhelmed by all that’s going on. Life is a
series of amazing moments.

2. Write what interests you. I ended up writing “crime/suspense mysteries with a romantic twist”
which I never expected to do in my younger, more literary-ambitious days. I started no less than
5 novels before I finally finished one in a genre that kept my own interest long enough to write
350 pages of it. (I also LOVE reading these kinds of books, but honestly never thought I could
write them. Shows what I know!)

3. Write about themes that touch something deep inside. I became a therapist for a lot of reasons,
not least of which is my desire to help others heal—but there’s another side to me that wants to
kick some abuser ass, and it’s that part of me that Lei, my crime-fighting detective, “actualizes”
as we say in the biz. Course, it took me three books with her for me to really understand WHY I
was drawn to the themes I was, and to really own them, shucking off cognitive dissonance.

4. Write whatever interests you. I know I already said this, but this time I mean don’t try to write
something only for it to sell. Write poetry, essays, novellas, series, flashfiction, fanfiction,
bumper stickers… it’s all practice and part of the body of your work, and you never know what
piece will lead to something else.

5. Be brave when you write. Think of it as “touching universal themes”—write about pain,
pleasure, rage, and joy from the depth of your experience. FEEL the experience as you write
about it. There’s no getting away from exposing yourself when you’re a writer. Course it doesn’t
all have to be agony and ecstasy; a good description of that niggling, drafty suspicion that your
pants have burst a seam is also universal.

6. Persevere. I had no idea how really, truly difficult it is to get published. I could way more easily
have done a doctoral degree—that also requires a lot of study and writing, but at the end when
you’ve fulfilled all the requirements, they HAVE to give you the little paper with “doctor” on
it. At the end of every considerable, unpaid, and even paid-for-professional-editor effort you
can still get, “Thanks for letting me have a look at this. However, it’s not right for our list at this
time” (a nicely worded rejection. Many are less kindly worded.) What’s my advice? Cry. Rant
to friends about the obtuseness of everyone not getting your obvious genius. Then, get back
in front of the computer and revise, rewrite, and never stop learning how you can improve.
Humble out. You don’t know everything even when you think you do. Oh, and nothing is ever
actually finished until it’s in print.

7. Make room in your life for writing. Most people have at least toyed with the idea of writing a
book. If you’re going to be a “professional” writer (and don’t give up your day job just yet) you
need to have actual time behind the computer built into your life. Study what works for you to
produce words on the page—spurts of productivity with a deadline, daily goals, an outline, a
laptop at Starbucks—figure it out and plan it in. For me it’s setting goals for myself, scheduling
time (I work six days a week, so NOBODY gets to whine to me about not having time) and then

DO IT. I get most done on what I call “retreats”—stretches of time when I step out of my regular
life and into the world of my characters. A writing day for me is akin to a spa day—a wily tactic
for luring the muse out to play. On the other hand, the dearth of time I have creates an urgency
that people with more may not feel. If so, fake yourself out. No excuses, this is your life you’re

Now stop reading blogs and get out there and create!

 Blood Orchids by Toby Neal
Blood Orchids follows police woman Lei Texeira, whose life starts to unravel after discovering a gruesome murder scene on the shores of beautiful Hawaii. A scene that also begins to expose Texeira’s dark buried past. After an impulsive mistake she is sent to mandatory counseling to help deal with the escalating violence and how it triggers her. Meanwhile she gains the attention of a killer, and the lead detective on the case, Michael Stevens. Even deeper conspiracies develop the story, originating with her father, a convicted drug dealer. Haunted by a persistent stalker, the shadow of her past looms over the growing relationship with Stevens, Texeira, with the help of her loyal Rottweiler, battles the monsters of her past and present, reaching out toward a loving future.

BookSparks PR is offering 1 copy of Blood Orchids to a winner in the US.  Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Only your email address is required for entry, and if you are signed in through Facebook, just simply hit the enter button.  Ends 2/28/2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guest Blog: "Best of" Liz Reinhardt's Favorite Books

Today I welcome Liz Reinhardt, author of Double Clutch who is currently touring with Teen Book Scene.  Today at My Reading Room she is sharing about some of her favorite books, some she would find in her library.  So please welcome Liz and make sure you check out her other tour stops on the schedule.


There are so many books I really treasure and love, so I know I’m going to make this list, then think, “Oh, man, I should have mentioned that one!” or “I can’t believe I didn’t mention this one!” So I’ll make a few “Best Of” references, and just let everyone know that there are so many that I’m missing.

Best Keep-You-Up-All-Night Don’t-Start-This-Book-If-You-Have-Somewhere-You-Need-To-Be Book:
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire
I found this book through an Amazon recommend. It had a lot of really passionate reviews. Almost everyone loved it. Some people hated it! I had to find out for myself. I stayed up until 2 AM reading it. I told my sister to get it. She texted me at 3 AM to yell at me…and thank me. We sent it to our sis-in-law, she stayed up all night. It’s a really addictive love story, and the thing I love is how passionate and rebellious it is. It breaks a lot of the unspoken ‘rules’ about how a romance should be, and it’s just fearless. This book, after I read it, made me want to publish Double Clutch, so huge thanks to Ms. Maguire!!

The Fictional Guy I Would Run Away With If He Came To Life Book

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty is the first of five books that follow the ups and downs of Jessica Darling and her romantic interest, Marcus Flutie. Um, excuse me.


Thank you. Marcus is a rebel and a brainiac. A tortured musician who loves his parents. A sexy, sexy guy who can write a poem that will knock you over! Jess and Marcus travel a long road (from 10th grade to post college), and it’s amazing. Read these books and fall in love!

The Book That Made Me Want to Run Away and Live Somewhere Else…Right NOW!

Over in Samoa and New Zealand, Lani Wendt Young is ripping up all the YA charts with her epic book about a young girl who finds out she’s a Samoan volcano goddess. Telesa is one of those books where I felt like I moved in with the characters! It was wild, gorgeous, lush, and very, very romantic. Leila and Daniel have serious sparks, and I felt like I went on this huge, crazy journey with them.

If you love tropical destinations, paranormal craziness, romance, family stories…this one has it all!

The Book that Made Me Weep Until My Eyes Were Red and Puffy, But Was Also So Uplifting and Amazing

If you haven’t picked up Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, please, please do it now. Especially if you have a sister. Disclaimer: you may hate me for that last bit. I have a sister I love very much, and reading TSIE felt a little like jabbing a knife in my heart over and over. But it was also intensely beautiful. And romantic. And amazing. I can’t say enough good stuff about this book! Please check it out!

The Book That Made Me Feel Like I Was An Amazing Dancer, Even Though I Have Two Left Feet

My sister and I love to have Bring It On movie marathons where we sit on the couch and eat cheesy/buttery/chocolaty/delicious snacks and wonder how people actually have the strength and coordination to do all the jumps and twists and leaps that you see onscreen. I read Angie Stanton’s Dream Chaser, and now I know!

They work their tails off.

I admit, a book about a cheerleader/dancer sounded like it might be a little fluffy. Um, no way. Willow is a strong, determined young woman who has a nasty fall as the flyer on her cheer squad. She has this frenetic energy she needs to keep up with, and she trades her cheer career to go back to her roots; dance. I will tell you, I felt exhausted just reading about her grueling practices…but also elated when she got it all down, and the performances? Amazing! If you want to feel like you got a chance to dance/cheer/perform while still eating your delicious snacks on the couch, check this one out!

Thanks Liz - I have some of these books, but now I know I need to get reading them!

About Double Clutch:
What happens when you fall in love with the perfect guy...twice...in one day?

Brenna Blixen spent her freshman year homeschooling in Denmark; now that she's back in the States, she's determined to make her sophomore year unforgettable. And by unforgettable, she imagined awesome classes, fun friendships, and maybe a little romance.

What she got was a whole lot of romance, and all at once.

The same day that dark, brooding Saxon Maclean charmed her with his killer good looks and whip-smart wit, Jake Kelly stole her breath away with his heart-wrenching smile and intelligent, thoughtful focus.

But Saxon is a proud player who makes it clear that he doesn't know why he can't get Brenna off of his mind and out of his system, and Jake's sweet and humble attitude hides a secret past life that might be more darker and more complex than Brenna's willing to handle.

Complicating the matter is the fact that Saxon and Jake were once best friends and are now arch-enemies...and the more Brenna finds out about their connection to each other, the more intrigued and worried she becomes.

Between keeping the peace with her lovingly over-protective parents, designing t-shirts for her high school's rising punk band, keeping up her grades in both academic and technical high school, and running the track like a maniac, Brenna has enough to worry about with out juggling two guys who make her heart thud and drive her crazy all at once.

She has to make a choice. But how can she when giving her heart to one of them might mean breaking the other's?