Book Review: Outside In by Doug Cooper

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Why This Book 
In early 2017, I had drinks with a former colleague when we discussed my goal to publish a novel that year. She had grown up with someone who published a book and offered to introduce us. I said ‘sure’ and never actually contacted the guy. Months later, I signed a contract to publish my book, then realized I never followed through, so I sent a message, we chatted a bit, and I thought… I should read Doug Cooper‘s book: Outside In. I got hold of a copy, it sat on the shelves for a bit, but I decided I wasn’t allowed to buy/download another book in 2018 until I finished everything I already owned… hence how this one got picked for January!

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Brad Shepherd is a middle school teacher whose student overdoses in class. As part of the Administration’s way to handle the student’s death, Brad’s out of a job. He heads to Put-in-Bay, Ohio to meet a friend and have a summer off, where he can party for a little bit and find his new life path. When he arrives, a life he never knew, or perhaps had forgotten, begins to surround him: he’s quick to fool around with a bunch of women, drink himself silly and experiment with a range of drugs. Over the course of the summer, he makes several mistakes and finds himself going off into a darker oblivion. His family re-surfaces, and a friend has an accident, which helps re-structure his course, but life is definitely going to be different in his future.

Key Thoughts 
For starters, I’ll say the book is a very realistic portrayal of what could happen in this environment. It’s not something I’m familiar with, but based on tons of movies, other books and conversations that touch on these subjects, I’d comfortable stating it is accurately written. That said, it is not an environment I would ever want to be in, nor did I like ANY of the characters in the book. They were a mess, indulgent, immature and frustrating. BUT — that’s the point and they belonged being that way for the story. Cooper brought out my inner ‘angry man’ attitude over people who behave like this, so major kudos to him for a brilliant portrayal of his character set.

The writing has quality and brings to life both the background and the tone you need to be successful in a book like this one. While there are some plot points, e.g. the death of the student, the move to the island for the summer and the results of some of the drug overdoses, it’s essentially a story about a group of experiences people have while drinking and taking various drugs. It’s of course larger than just that simple observation, but you have to be comfortable reading about this side of life to enjoy the book. It’s not going to be ideal for everyone, but it definitely has a large audience to work with. Once you get beyond drugs/drinking, you start questioning how we make choices, our fears, what makes us fall for another person, how does someone guilt you into doing things…

The dialogue and narration provide all the details readers need to know what’s going on in the main character’s head; you will hear his voice, see his actions, know the reasons (most of the time) and follow along on his journey. Sometimes you’ll think he’s stupid and full of fault, others you’ll know he’s suffering from a tragedy and just floating around without any anchor. For those reasons, it is pretty obvious that this has happened and continues to happen to people going through this stage of life. The sum of the parts equal the whole for me with this book. It’s a solid read, full of a wide range of situations and thought-provoking ideas. I think if I had gone through something like Brad did, I’d probably like the book even more. I ended up around 3.75 stars.

I’m curious to read his other novel, The Investment Club, about a group of people in Las Vegas going through some life experiences at the Blackjack table. It seems this is the realm the author writes in… that space where the group of people interact in ways we can all relate to, but not nearly as far into the depths… and I’m confident when he hits on topics that are more pertinent to me, I’ll be really invested in the novel and have an entirely deeper connection to the author and his work. For now, I’m glad I read this one and look forward to reading more.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. 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.
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Review: Jeopardy in July

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Jeopardy in JulyMy rating: 4 of 5 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s Jeopardy in July, the fifth book in her Jamie Quinn mystery series. I’m starting to love this series! It’s simple, direct and easy-to-read, but it makes for such a fun experience.


Why This Book
The author and I connected months ago and I began reading her series. When the newest one came out, we chatted again and I was quick to jump on this read. I added it to TBR in late March when it was released and found myself propelling it to the must-read rather quickly. And I sat down at the end of my day today and finished it in less than 3 hours!

Overview of Story
Jamie Quinn has been a family law attorney for about ten years, growing tired of the boring cases that pass her desk. Though she’s had fun working on the unexpected murder cases over the last few years, those aren’t ones she comes across very often. And her boyfriend is stuck in Australia for a month longer than they expected, leaving her facing the world on her own. When she takes on some extra work at the local senior facility, providing advice about wills, inheritances and long-term care. But when something seems amiss with too many deaths at the facility, Jamie’s hot on the trail again.

South Florida. Forged paintings. An artist with a potential passion to do the right thing. Unfamiliar family connections. A mysterious flower that causes death, appearing as though it’s a foaming mouth. And that’s just 1 of her newest cases. How will Jamie figure it all out? With the help of bestie Grace, and Grace’s state senate candidate boyfriend, who annoys the heck out of Jamie. As she gets closer to the clues, along with PI sidekick Duke, Jamie’s sure to find a future in crime fighting this time!

Approach & Style
Barbara Venkataraman‘s style is absolute ease. The main character is a fun and quirky lawyer, one who has a witty and snappy tongue, but always comes across as someone you wish you knew. The book has so much humor, it’s hard to stop giggling sometimes. It’s not all-out crazy laughter, but a subtle hint of “this chick is cool and I wanna know her” type humor. And her banter with her favorite PI, ladies’ man Duke Broussard, is dynamic. I love their scenes together, even if it’s not about the case. Long-term, I kinda want them to end up together.

I read this as an e-read on my iPad through Kindle. The point of view stays on Jamie the whole story, following her antics across her own family drama and her various cases. In this one, two of her cases collide when art forgery meets death at the senior care facility. Chapters are short, quick to ingest… always humorous… and they leave you constantly wanting to click forward to the next one. And the author publishes a few a year, which should be enough, but I’m always wanting more!

Jamie’s a true heroine. She’s funny. She’s smart. Flawed. Tragic. Strong. And represents us all.
Duke’s such a hoot. He’s over-the-top and warrants a good slap in the face… or a little fun on the side… hard to tell sometimes.

The plot is straightforward, but has a few fun jaunts along the way. It is easy to follow, leaves you wanting to solve it on your own with all the information at your fingertips.
Jamie’s search for her own love and family hops along throughout the story, and with each of the five books, she gets a little closer. I love following this side-story.

Open Questions & Thoughts
I wish these were longer. Barbara Venkataraman‘s gonna hate me for saying this, but it always ends a little too soon. I wish the plots were a little more complex and a little longer, just to draw out the fun.

Jamie just falls into her situations all the time. I think it’s a good thing, but it can also be a problem… as in too coincidental; however, the way book 5 ends shows a lot of promise for changes to Jamie’s life that I think could be of a great benefit.

Final Thoughts
When I first started the series, I thought it had potential. As I read each story, my biggest concern was they were too short (about 200 pages). As I made the journey from book 1 thru book 5, I found myself really looking forward to reading each book. It’s an uncomplicated and focused read, taking you on a fun journey through a likable character’s personal and career growth. It’s not about how complex the plot is or how much the author can shock you. It’s just a good laugh-out-loud read for a few hours. And I’m quite fond of them!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: Brew or Die: A Java Jive Mystery

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Brew or Die: A Java Jive MysteryMy rating: 3 of 5 stars to Caroline Fardig‘s Brew or Die: A Java Jive Mystery, the fourth book in her “Java Jive” mystery series. When I first began reading this book, it reminded me of either Sue Grafton‘s “Kinsey Millhone Alphabet” series or Janet Evanovich‘s “Stephanie Plum” series, given they are about independent PIs or bail bonds women… and then when this book covered running a coffee shot, I thought of all the food related cozies. By the end, I struggled a little bit as it didn’t quite fit into either type of series, but grew on me more as I went along. That said…

Cause I wasn’t quite sure I had enough to be able to keep up with some of the character’s perkiness! Truth be told, I think I may have been a victim of that disease we all suffer from occasionally “OuttaOrderRead.” I rarely contract it, but on occasion, I’m weak, and it happens. It did because NetGalley offered it as an easy request, and I am new to NetGalley, and I had to increase my %… so I caused it all myself. When I went back to read the summaries of Books 1 thru 3, I thought… “oh, these sound good.” End result: Read this series in order, I suspect it may be better than I am thinking.


Juliet and Pete are best friends and they run a coffee cafe in Nashville. They are probably in love but keep dating other people. Pete’s previous girlfriend was killed and he’s now dating someone who was impacted by her murder (happened in last book, not sure). Juliet was dating a detective who worked on the last murder case, but he left her (unknown reasons again) and she’s now dating another cop (who seems a bit boring). Juliet’s also just gotten her PI license and is working for Maya on “lighter” cases to get her situated in the biz. Two plots in this book (all for the price of one):

1. Shane works for Pete. His girlfriend was just found dead of an overdose at her desk at work, where she was a party planner for a well-known paparazzi family. He begs Juliet to prove she was murdered, and Pete wants to help. As she investigates, Juliet realizes that Shane’s girlfriend, Josie, had a bit of an unknown past; however, she also was caught up in a bizarre land of parties where the hosts bring in Hollywood-type entertainment, drugs and lots of booze. Juliet and Pete get close to Josie’s colleagues, quickly learning everyone stabbed each other in the back. But which one was after Josie?

2. Juliet gets her first PI case from Maya: to help Gentry figure out what his partner is doing in their shared warehouse business, as suddenly there is an influx of cash and a lot of confusing deliveries. Juliet goes undercover with Maya as the cleaning staff and infiltrates the organization from the inside out. When Maya has to visit her sister who just had a baby, she asks Ryder, the detective who hurt Juliet in the last book, to help watch over Juliet. Ryder and Juliet are forced to spend time together, re-living their old relationship and sparks fly again, despite that Juliet’s now with the new boring cop. When Juliet realizes it is drugs being smuggled in the warehouse organization, and finds her new boss at the warehouse dead from some weird powder, her two cases collide.

How do drugs cross both cases? Who is the supplier and who is really buying them? Which new friends should she trust? You gotta read to figure that out! 🙂


The setting for this series works. You’ve got a good way Juliet can connect with her clients and cases, given she works at a PI firm, is a musician, runs a coffee shop and has a close relationship with the local police.

Juliet’s a cool character. She’s funny, has some substance, a good head on her shoulders and has an analytical mind. Pete’s a nice guy, too, and I’m curious if something will ever occur between them.

The plot of both primary mysteries was interesting and held my attention. It was mid-level complexity, which meant I had to work a little to think about who could be the culprits; however, it was an easy read that didn’t require me to stop and think well into overtime about all the options.


While I like the approach of having two big mysteries, it brought in such a large cast of characters, it was hard to keep track of who was important. Each story line had 12 to 15 suspects or supporting characters, plus the various romances going on… at some point, there were 40 people to keep track of and when the stories collided, I was a little frustrated. If the series sticks with 2 primary cases in each book, the suspect list needs to be a little smaller in each one.

Parts were a little too perky and too romance-driven. Parts were just silly. It was like eating too much candy at some point.

Final Thoughts

If you want to try this series, start with Book 1 — even tho I haven’t read it yet. It’ll make more sense from the beginning, and then you can decide if you like the characters to stick with it. The more I read it, the better it got (going from 2.5 to a 3ish rating). I put it down 2 or 3 times the first few days and barely squeaked out 50% over those few days (rare, but slow for me). But then the last night, I buckled down and finished the last 50% in one sitting… I mean bedding. I was laying in bed. Do you call that bedding? Eh… I think I’m done here.

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Review: The Nest

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The Nest
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel fits right in with my own choice of writing: family dramas. And it doesn’t disappoint. the family feels very real — a little too much drama / secrets for one family, but then again, it did keep me interested.

It has something for everyone, characters to love and characters to hate. I am disappointed in one of the 4 children especially since I don’t feel we got a good ending for this person’s post-book life.

But still, this is a good read and I will look for more by the author. I didn’t give it a higher mark only because I felt the story for the one character was a bit unfinished and the ending didn’t seem to be the right one for me.

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