Month: May 2019

Book Review: In the Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise

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In The Best Interest of the ChildIn The Best Interest of the Child by Felicia Denise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a surprising book! I knew it would be good because I’ve read author Felicia Denise’s reviews of other novels, interacted with her on social media, and visited her blog; however, there were so many different levels and components in the story, I really connected with it beyond expectations. And that’s saying a lot because I am very far removed from the primary topics and experiences it covers. Kudos to the author for capturing this reader’s attention and making my flight across the country quite entertaining and heartwarming.

Olivia was victimized in foster care ~25 years ago. Her father was killed, her mother’s memory practically erased in an accident. Despite everything that happened to her, Olivia pushed herself to become a successful lawyer who helped other children in similar situations. The only issue… her emotional confidence and ability to open up to others never fully developed. She threw herself into work and closed the doors to many things in life. But then life throws her a curveball with a case about a young girl in a very similar situation who needs help. Olivia agrees to take the case, but it’s far worse than she imagined: corruption, evil, family, secrets, and theft. On the flip side, the temporary family who is looking out for the young girl’s interest is amazing, and there’s a sexy uncle with a crush on Olivia. What’s a girl to do?

My favorite aspect of this book is the writing style Felicia Denise has chosen to employ. After much build-up regarding the awful side of the family who is trying to gain custody / oversee the case (hard to explain, but I don’t want to give anything away), readers will feel anger and frustration over the lengths selfish people go to steal from others. At the same time, we watch Olivia assemble information to protect the child, but we don’t necessarily know what facts she’s learning from all her meetings. We see her interact with others but through summaries while she’s getting to know the temporary family. It’s a wonderful approach because when the case goes to court to make the decision, EVERYTHING comes out and Olivia looks AMAZING. I had this jittery excited moment where I’m thinking… “Go Olivia, go!” I loved this approach and commend the author on igniting my passion for her story.

At some point, Olivia decides to give in to her feelings for the girl’s uncle whom she’s met and gone on a few dates with. The book completely changes in this chapter when we see Olivia’s barriers removed, and readers are treated to a passionate, vivid physical encounter, what I imagine is along the lines of a romance novel. I’m not a huge reader in that genre, so I can’t really compare… but it was quite strong and had a lot of contrast to the emotional tugging over what was happening to the young girl and Olivia’s heartbreak. I didn’t expect it and was like… wait… did I change books? All good tho, as it was tightly written, showcased the author’s range, and made me thoroughly excited for Olivia.

Well-written, tons of heart, lots of pain (in a good way), and provides proof that readers should chance reading different styles. I look forward to my next book by this author, as I hear there may be a sequel coming!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: One Step Closer – #1 by Lisa Reynolds

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One Step CloserOne Step Closer by Lisa Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Reynolds is an Irish blogger I follow. I read one of her books last year and was entertained by the wit and character relationships she created. Before continuing with that series, I wanted to try another one of her series to see which I preferred. While on vacation last week, I read the first book in the One Step Closer collection. Although the same tone and style were present in both books, this is a vastly different type of story but also one I enjoyed very much. I think I like this one slightly more…

One Step Closer is a televised music competition along the lines of American Idol and The Voice. It takes place in the UK and puts the contestants and the judges much closer together than I thought ever happened (could just be my ignorance of reality). When that happens, the plot becomes ripe with conflict and tension — both emotional and sexual. Wow, what a crazy dynamic went on behind the scenes and during the competition’s live performances.

We get to know all 5 judges and about 10 of the contestants, some more than others, as we get glimpses of those who fall out of the competition early and details of those who make it to the top 5. A few of the judges were monsters, of course, and Reynolds does a wonderful job making us dislike them. Near the end, a few have minor redemption points, but overall, the characterizations are strong and keep you interested in the action.

Relationships were key. Judges slept with contestants. Contestants slept with each other. Fights broke out. Contracts were signed. Blackmail happened. Secrets were unearthed. So much drama in such a short time period — I wouldn’t have survived, as if the producers asked me to spice it up for TV, I would’ve said ‘No thanks, this is me. Take it or leave it.’ Luckily, one contestant did just that, and so, Gavin was my favorite. That said, he made far too many snap judgments about the people around him, as did some of the others. Oddly enough, that’s probably a very accurate depiction of people despite my inclination to think it was too much to handle.

What it did was make for fantastic drama! Reynolds draws you in with the smoldering tensions and silly crushes until you can’t help but start to pair off characters. There are a lot to keep track of (each one has a voice and tells their story in alternating chapters), all with different personalities, but it’s a great start to the series. In the first 1/3, I struggled to keep everyone clear / straight, but Reynolds manages them well as the chapters unfold and we see which are the important ones to truly pay attention to. I’m very curious to see if the next book in the series focuses on a different group of contestants or the same group of people post contest. I could see it going in both directions, or even a combo.

I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a fun and indulgent read where you can get all angst-ridden about whether things like this really happen or not. I’m confident they do, but being removed from the industry, it feels shocking. Good drama – exactly what I like to read among my mysteries. Kudos to the author for showing such range in her writing style and genres.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Alice by K. L. Loveley

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AliceAlice by K.L. Loveley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alice is a novel written by K. L. Loveley and published in 2017. I read another work by this author last year and enjoyed her writing style, plot, and character creation, prompting me to pick up one of her earlier books. Prior to the book’s opening, Alice’s husband cheated on her and left her quite unhappy. She put herself through school, raised their two children, and kept her focus on the future. A few years passed before she remarried and joined her family with his 4 teenage children. His wife had died, leaving a broken and disjointed family who never healed properly. Alice chose not to be the wicked stepmother, but unfortunately, their father wasn’t very strong at parenting. The stage is set for us as readers, and we can’t help but feel compassion for Alice.

In the first part of the book, Alice tries to handle everything that goes on in their new home, caring for both their aging parents, and being a mother to her own grown children who at times need her support but for the most part have become wonderful human beings. By the middle of the book, Alice can’t take the stepchildren’s awful behavior and leaves for 6 months to see if she needs a more permanent break. By the third part of the book, Alice’s life has fallen apart and she’s drinking daily to cope on her own. Except… she’s possibly gone too far in trying to remove herself from her surroundings.

For me, Loveley excels at creating emotional connections with characters. She knows exactly how to warm a reader’s heart or to anger their spirit. Alice was amazing and too understanding. Her husband was a weak fool; while he stepped up sometimes, he ultimately was afraid to hurt his children and therefore, he never disciplined them properly. All 4 of his children were monsters, especially when they were in their 20s and still living at home without jobs or paying anything to support the home. I wouldn’t have lasted as long as Alice, and if they were my stepchildren or children, they would’ve been given enough time to change their behavior, or they’d be kicked out WAY sooner. One interesting question the book poses: should teenagers / young adults be working while in school and if they do, should parents take a portion of their wages to teach them how to manage money, et al. Great concepts to address!

Lovely also shows the deep spiral one can fall under if they allow substances to make the day go by more easily. We watch Alice go from a glass of wine to a half-bottle to an entire bottle, and finally to shots and hard liquor multiple times per day. When she’s hospitalized, it’s awful to know the damage she’s caused to herself, especially through the alienation from everyone who loves her. Thankfully, she’s saved for a small time by someone new, and it’s this friendship which closes the book in a way that satisfied this reader. I really enjoy Loveley’s work and will definitely read her next book when it’s released.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Casket Cache by Janice J. Richardson

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Casket Cache (Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery, #1)Casket Cache by Janice J. Richardson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Casket Cache by Janice J. Richardson is the first book in the “Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery” series and was published in 2016. The author is new to me, but I’d seen a few of her book reviews and social media posts previously and wanted to read one of her novels. I was happily entertained and will continue reading the series in the future.

Jennifer Spencer (~25ish) inherited an uncle’s funeral home several months ago. She’s quickly adapting to life in a different but familiar town, learning how to run her own business. In between the time her uncle passed on and she took over, a temporary director / mortician ran the show. Jennifer has an easy transition with him, hires a great new helper she can mentor, and loves being guided by her uncle’s former assistant / manager who wants her to succeed. Then some weird things transpire… Jennifer learns what really happened in her uncle’s wonderful funeral home during those last few months. Was the temporary director responsible or just an unknowing fool who was too focused on his job?

What a fantastic story! I loved learning all about the mortuary business and seeing the protagonist’s empathetic heart when dealing with a man who lost his son, a couple who had a stillborn child, and family grieving for their loved one. While this cozy veered from the traditional approach in terms of “find body, solve crime,” it’s fully set the stage for great things to come. I liked how Jennifer didn’t actually investigate anything but reacted to situations she found herself put in from a business perspective. Using friends and new colleagues, she realized something was amiss and provided all the details to the police. In the end, we solve one crime but had some open questions on the other: a mini-cliffhanger. I loved that aspect of the story.

Richardson’s writing style and tone make this an easy book to read. I like the main character, and her supporting cast seems to be well-rounded and have a lot of potential. The Niagara setting makes for a wonderful backdrop, and the possibilities in a funeral home are kinda cool. I’m glad I found this one and look forward to reading more later this year.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: By Chance by E. Denise Billups

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By ChanceBy Chance by E. Denise Billups
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By Chance, written by E. Denise Billups, focuses on three women who have a shared, unknown connection in the beginning of this supernatural story. Although they start out as colleagues working on a TV home remodeling show that gives a house away each year to one lucky entrant, they become friends over time and support one another through multiple difficult, personal situations. They also have varying degrees of paranormal abilities, enabling them to predict what might happen and to recall memories from long ago. When they each receive a peculiar gift one holiday morning, they turn to each other to protect themselves from a harmful entity seeking vengeance.

Enter Tom and his family. He appears to be a man suffering from something awful that occurred in the past. He previously won the home giveaway contest, but after time, things went awry. We never quite know what happened, but he wants to punish the show for its lies and the unfairness it’s caused in his life. He makes a difficult decision to leave his family in order to travel around the country to get revenge against the show, stalking and hunting down the three women (and a few others) who were part of his downfall.

Told from different perspectives, we learn the history leading up to Tom’s anger through the eyes of different situations and characters. At the same time, we watch the women try to discover who is out to get them, as Tom’s notes and presents are purposefully confusing. The women are also unable to clearly see Tom’s identity, and nothing indicates he is past winner, at least in the beginning. As the events unfold, and Tom unravels, he makes mistakes which lead to someone figuring out his identity. But then, they can’t actually find him. They just foresee the final encounter, which doesn’t bode well for their futures. What can the trio do to stop him?

While the supernatural abilities are important to the story, they aren’t what made this such a great read for me. Billups created memorable characters with painful history and wonderful, outgoing personalities. I believed the kindred spirit and friendship among the three primary women, and they kept my attention throughout the tale. The concept of the story was intriguing–a home giveaway contest gone wrong. Or did it? There is a heightened psychological aspect to this story because at times, we are unsure who might be involved in the entire situation. It creates good suspense and makes for a very easy read.

This isn’t a whodunit tale, nor is it focused on what actually went wrong with the house that was given away. It’s more a story of perspective and overcoming challenges. The main plot takes place over about a year, and the subplots are plenty–we see all the new relationships and events in the women’s lives while the stalking continues to occur. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t know that will haunt you in the end.

Tom suffers through a lot, but we won’t find out all the details until much further in the book than you’d expect. I turned the pages quickly on a flight halfway across the country, and before long, it’d ended. Pacing and timing were strong, and I found myself invested in the outcome. The ending was a nice surprise, and I realized how much I enjoy Billups’ writing style. A definite recommend from me for fans of something that blends a few genres and turns out a solid story.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Breakdown by Sara Paretsky

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Breakdown  (V.I. Warshawski, #15)Breakdown by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ‘V.I. Warshawski’ books by Sara Paretsky were one of the first mystery series that I began reading years ago. I’d stopped reading for a few years, then when I picked ’em up again, I’d somehow forgotten this one. I added it to my TBR and recently decided to get caught up this summer. After the first chapter, I thought… ‘oh no, this isn’t very good.’ But I persisted and forced myself to finish it while procrastinating about packing for a trip. By about 10% in, I was hooked again. I’m happy to share my feedback on this book, and if you’ve struggled with the first few chapters, push yourself to get past them. It’ll be worth it.

Warshawski is a tough-as-nails Chicago private eye, reminiscent of the Golden Age detectives from nearly a century ago… with one difference: V.I. is a woman! Tougher than Kinsey Millhone but with a feminine side and a tenderness for some of her family, Victoria Iphigenia is the person you’d want to find the killer. It doesn’t matter if she gets beaten up, shot, drugged, tortured, or stabbed, V.I. always pulls through in the end. In this novel, her cousin, Petra, is running a book group for preteens, and the latest craze is a YA vampire / paranormal series. When some of the girls act out a ritual in the nearby cemetery, they’re unfortunately in for a lot more than expected. Another private eye is stabbed with a stake by a murderer who reminds the girls of a vampire. Throw in a few parents with political ambitions, a wealthy international business mogul, some Nazi / Polish immigrant histories, and a few vengeful but loving mothers, and you’ve got quite a story.

At first, the vampire angle threw me off. I felt like it was gimmicky and silly, not the Warshawski I knew. But once it began settling out, and I ignored the way the preteen girls behaved (seriously, one was just a witch because she didn’t want to get in trouble–and with a murder ten feet from her, what kind of parenting led to that abomination of a child who thought it acceptable to act so spoiled and lie for such reasons!) Then the subplots began to take over, and I felt like the meat and substance were front and center. I enjoyed the twisty path, the historical connections to wars of the past, and the methodical approach to solving the crime.

I’m glad I picked up the series again and will order the next one when I return from vacation. There are 4 more before I’m current, so I can finish them this summer… then what will I read if all my tough female detective series are up to date!?!?! If you haven’t read these before, you don’t necessarily have to go in order, as V.I.’s life is fairly low-key. A few people that die in later books might be alive in earlier ones, so the order could be confusing, but never in regard to the main mystery. Onward I go…

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Author / Series Alert: Ellen Crosby & Wine Country Mysteries

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In the past, I used to share a weekly author alert on my blog. Often it was a new indie writer I’d come across, or it might have been one I really enjoyed reading. Since I’ve given up writing my 365 Daily Challenge and have been posting mostly book reviews and my own book promotions, I decided I needed to get back to a few basics again. One of those will be sharing an alert on authors and series I’ve either finished or gotten caught up on and am awaiting the next book.

I’ve been a major fan of series ever since I was a young child and participated in summer readathons at my local library. I used to sit for hours and read books only ever in order… I’m ashamed to say I have only been about 80% faithful to that rule of reading in order, but I’m trying to be as consistent as possible these days. This week, I’m starting with a series I actually have read in order — The Wine Country Mysteries by Ellen Crosby.

I think the Wine Country Mysteries might be my favorite series right now. There are 9 books currently published with the next one due out in the Fall of 2019. I can’t wait to take that one on, even hoping I get a NetGalley ARC or find a potential blog tour. Although they fall under the cozy mystery category, they are much more complex and dynamic. All the books have detailed histories on wine-making, American politics, and the forming of the US as a nation during the Revolutionary period. Crosby is brilliant when it comes to including facts about the past in her tales. I lap it up each time and truly find her to be an impressive author. I’ve only read this one series and not the other which has two books thus far. I might give it a chance in the future, but for now, I’m focused on the wine country!

Lucie Montgomery was injured in a car accident that left her with a limp and a cane. She inherited the family vineyard after her parents both died. While her mother was killed in an accident, her father might’ve been murdered. You’ll have to read one of the books to find out the truth. She has a brother and a sister, but we mostly only see the brother. There are a few local residents whom we’ve gotten to know, and even some who end up being killers in future books — I love it! We meet some of the help at the vineyard, the local cops and news reporters, and tons of out-of-town family. The supporting cast is wide and varied, but they always make you feel a connection to the story. My favorite books have been the ones about politics, even those that reveal presidential secrets (really, true ones!). Lucie is smart and dependable; she’s not nosy nor flighty. I would be friends with her, even if she is a little direct for my taste, at times. The best part, I’ve learned so much about wine that I can’t wait to test it all out. I doubt that will happen, since like books, there are more vintages or versions of wine than one could truly imbibe! All that said, I highly recommend this series. It’s solid and intriguing with each and every book.

Meet Ellen Crosby

For some links to a few sites that might help you decide to move forward, and to read my 9 reviews of the books in her Wine Country Mysteries, check these out:

https://thisismytruthnow.com/crosby-ellen/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/371811.Ellen_Crosby

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.