review

Book Review: Focus Lost by Doug Cooper

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Focus LostFocus Lost by Doug Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doug Cooper is not afraid of a challenge when it comes to his plots and characters. In his latest book, Focus Lost, due to be released next month (yes, I got an early copy!), he tackles another set of complex human emotions that many of us have experienced but usually only in the privacy of our own immediate life circle. Add the fame and fortune of the art world and Hollywood, then you’re entire existence is on display for the public and your ‘adoring’ fans to admire, impugn, and question. And Cooper gets it all right in this intense ride.

The three central characters–Levi, Eva, and Gabe–represent the actor, the agent, and the artist. Yes, they represent a whole lot more, but in this case, we’ll start there. Gabe’s a photographer who accidentally takes a few photos of Levi and his 17-year-old film co-star having a romp on the beach. Given Levi’s in his 30s and playing her father in the next movie, it’s quite compromising. Gabe’s sister sees the photos and decides to take action. Eva, Levi’s agent, is called upon to find the photos. Thus, an elaborate scheme has begun, except… it actually began much further back. You’ll have to read to find out what I mean by that.

All three of our main characters have siblings or parental figures who met some sort of tragedy. They’re bound together in a way without knowing it. Levi’s younger co-star has an odd reaction to the photos becoming public, what game is she playing? Eva plays both sides against one another, what’s she truly after? Gabe appears to be innocent but makes a few less-than-proper decisions, what is really going on? Ultimately, Gabe’s sister is the one we should all feel the emotional tugs for. She may have done something wrong, but it was for the right reason, and she’s just a teenage girl who hasn’t had enough life experience yet to know the implications of her actions. Eva should know better, but she’s had some painful experiences that have taught her to look out for number one. Levi, while he’s suffered, is your true stereotype of a golden boy-turned-egomaniac. But he’ll surprise you with his final play near the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting some of his decisions!

By now, you either love this plot or know it’s not for you. I’d urge you to give it a chance as you will see a different side of life, but it also has a sentimentality running through the story and the words like a small stream that will eventually open into a large body of water. In other books I’ve read by Cooper, he tackles sex, drugs, and the intensity of the partying lifestyle. While there are touches of those elements in here, it’s more driven by an inner desire to succeed despite what hand life has dealt you. The characters aren’t very likable, but they’re not meant to be. They’ve been jaded for years, and Cooper drops tons of memories and past events to show us what’s made them who they are today. Between the author’s descriptions and his actions, I felt fully engaged and connected with the characters’ choices. Agreeing with them is a different thing. That’s solid writing!

I found myself unable to put the book down on several occasions. Each chapter builds upon the last by showing us what’s unfolding in the primary characters’ mindsets. Since we follow a few of them around, we know when they’re making wrong decisions based on what someone else has just done. But we can’t stop them. We’re drawn in at this point. We are invested. Well-crafted and clever are the two words that quickly come to mind about this book. We’d all like to say we wouldn’t change when fame knocks on our door, but is that a true statement? How far would you go to protect your reputation or survive in a society that quickly shreds you for the littlest of mistakes?

Kudos to Cooper. Definitely my favorite of his books so far. I’m glad to get in early on this one and spread the word. High-recommendation!

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 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.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

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Depraved Heart (Scarpetta, #23)Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Depraved Heart is the 23rd novel in the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. It is also the middle novel in a three-book arc focusing on a common villain who’s resurfaced from the past. To be honest, I don’t recall whether we read about Carrie Grethen in one of the very early novels, but I believe she was mentioned at some point given the books began in 1990 and the time period referenced was 1995 thru 1997 when the criminal interacted with the main characters. Sorry! After this many books read and this long of a period passing by, my mind isn’t 100% certain on everything I read (without a refresher); and I’m too lazy today to verify. Ha!

Depraved Heart was a strong book for me, although others didn’t love it as much. It’s hard to keep momentum in a series, especially when they are technical and detailed. Most of the plot of this book takes place over a 24-hour period when we focus on the legal aspects of what the FBI can and can’t do to Lucy based on a tip they’ve received and an inkling they have about what really happened in the last book in Florida. While we do have a body and an autopsy, Kay isn’t doing it herself, and she only comments on what she’s seen or heard from others. We’re not even certain who killed the woman as it could be a couple of people, but we’ll be sure in the next book when the arc concludes.

Overall, this was the kind of book where I couldn’t stop flipping pages to see what the key characters would learn about Carrie Grethen, the criminal FBI mastermind who’s been stalking them for years in the background. She’s a formidable villain and can hold Scarpetta AND Lucy at bay for their actions in the past and currently. We see very little of Benton in this book, and Lucy is only there for a few conversations. We’re almost entirely witnessing a few hours of time between Kay and Marino as they investigate a potential homicide, receive a video about Carrie and Lucy’s former friendship, and realize the crime is connected to the past.

For suspense and thrills, it’s top notch but not in terms of a chase. It’s a methodical look at how Carrie could pull off such actions from the dive ‘accident’ in Florida to the copper-mining to the murder of the starlet’s daughter in the initial crime that we think is unrelated. Watching the drama unfold was fantastic, but I like this sort of novel. If you’re looking for detailed medical procedures and analysis, this book strays from the norm. If you like connecting prior events we’ve seen bits and pieces of to something current and crazy, you should love it.

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Book Review: Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay

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Hitting the Books (Library Lover's Mystery, #9)Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ‘Library Lover’s Mystery’ series by Jenn McKinlay is one of my favorite cozy mystery series. By reading the 9th book, Hitting the Books, I’m now current and eagerly awaiting the 10th one due to be released later this year. Although I thought this one was too simple from a mystery plot perspective, I enjoyed all the normal library shenanigans and small town community relationships.

When Lindsey notices a friendly library patron–famed tennis player, Theresa Huston–run down by a car, she tries to save the woman. Luckily, she’s only injured and survives the accident. Then Lindsey’s friend, Charlie, is hit by the same driver later that day. A gunman is shooting throughout the town. Is someone attempting to knock off Briar Creek residents? Or is it a misunderstanding? Emma, the Chief of Police, asks Lindsey to look into some library books that were in the car (once it’s found), and it leads them to a young kid we’ve met before in a prior book. Liza, Theresa’s soon-to-be step-daughter, is worried sick, but she’s acting strangely, too. Ultimately, Larry, the soon-to-be husband and Liza’s father, knows more than he’s saying about his ex-wife, Liza’s mother, who supposedly died. It comes together in a crashing finale where we know who and why, but I was left a little disappointed at the minimal amount of suspects and detail surrounding how it all came to pass.

That said, it wasn’t enough to detract or worry me from moving on. I just think it could’ve been stronger to really intrigue me as to what was going on behind the scenes. Instead, I found the normal comings-and-goings around the library as my focal point. From ‘The Lemon’ to Mary’s new baby, we had great moments of sentimentality and thought-provoking questions about Lindsey’s relationship with Sully. Will he wants kids? How are they doing now that they’re living together? What’s Beth’s new marriage like? I enjoy the side stories, so I am still happy with the book and will keep reading the future ones.

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: White Colander Crime by Victoria Hamilton

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White Colander Crime (Vintage Kitchen Mystery, #5)White Colander Crime by Victoria Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

White Colander Crime is the 5th book in the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series written by Victoria Hamilton. This is the second series I’m reading by the author, but it’s taking longer to grow attached to the characters. Jaymie is a solid investigator and lead, but she doesn’t have a lot of anchors in her life which makes her a little distant for me. Each book is helping improve that connection, but I wish she were closer with her family or had a lengthier relationship (or none at all). Over the five books, she’s dated four different guys, but at least the current one is the best one. I only bring it up because it’s hard to build a relationship with her when hers keep changing, and she hardly ever talks about or visits her family to show a strong level of intimacy. That said, it’s really my only concern in the series. The rest is smooth sailing.

The book takes place in a small tourist town on the border of Michigan and Canada. Jaymie writes for the local newspaper, clerks in a market, and works with vintage kitchen tools… sometimes helping a museum authenticate an exhibit, and at others, refurbishing tools and gadgets so they can be resold at an auction. Through her editor, Jaymie meets a group of young twenty-somethings who are involved in complex dating situation. The editor’s son might be abusive, but it’s hard to be certain whether he’s actually hit a girl or she’s faking it for another reason (we do find out the truth). Jaymie’s new boyfriend gives the kid a chance and lets him work on the farm. Soon, the girl is beaten to death. Was it the editor’s son? One of her many other boyfriends (we learn she was dating a few guys all who had a similar experience with her). It’s a confusing plot, as I couldn’t tell what was going on regarding the abuse, i.e. was she unable to stop it, or was she trying to catch bad guys in the act? We find out the whole story, and it’s full of layers that keep us guessing. Physical abuse all happens off-screen, but it does occur a few times in case any reader has triggers.

At the end, I really enjoyed the diversity of the characters in this one. It wasn’t just the normal townspeople, but most of the new folks had solid connections to the place or other characters. The plot was strong, but the culprit was fairly easy to pick out. The setting and descriptions are always enjoyable. I recommend the series for someone who wants neither a funny cozy nor a serious one… something in between more focused on the setting, a quaint town, and some interesting relationships among the citizens. It’s not a typical family-based series, nor is it is a ‘which guy will she choose’ arc.

Next up… the sixth book in the series, probably toward the end of this month.

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. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. 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: A Mersey Maiden by Brian L. Porter

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A Mersey Maiden (Mersey Murder Mysteries, #3)A Mersey Maiden by Brian L. Porter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Mersey Maiden is the third book in Brian L. Porter’s clever and complex ‘Mersey Murder Mysteries’ series set in England in modern times. I’ve read all six novels that have been written to date and am looking forward to the seventh when it’s published in the near future. While the books focus on Detective Inspector Ross and his special investigation team in and around Liverpool and the River Mersey in England, this story takes us from the end of WWII to modern Germany and the USA, covering at least 4 murders that happen during the crux of the story. (There might be others in history, but those are not the direct focus, and I’m not giving everything away!)

What stands out most in this book is the sheer volume of research and planning that went into the story’s production. Of course, there are the normal red herrings, clues, and interesting twists, but the details are intensely thorough and well-plotted above his norm (which is quite high). To develop a story of this caliber, Porter had to carefully lay small and discrete elements that collide together like a fireworks explosion near the end. But it’s not just once or twice…. the levels and layers keep popping in the last 10% showing what we think we understand isn’t fully fleshed out until the finale and then some. It’s like a wonderful roller coaster ride where you think you’ve hit that last and final mega-drop, but then you get the jaw-dropping surprise of yet another one!

From the precise use and design of submarines to life-threatening diving techniques, Porter challenges readers to navigate the murky English Channel and how it’s changed in the last ~70 years. What if a small watercraft was sunk but never found? What if it contained secrets Hitler wanted to keep hidden? What if information had been passed through generations until love was questioned between people who knew nothing of the past? Porter handles it all adeptly and provides a bevy of side stories about each of the detectives or investigators working on this case. Many of our favorites have big steps in their personal lives or moments that clarify how good they truly are.

This was a very well-rounded and easy-to-read installment in the series. It might be my favorite, but I’m neck-and-neck with another that also gave me all the amazing reader feels. Looking forward to the next one with great excitement.

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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 –and multiple Readathons. 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: Endgame by Patrick Hodges

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Endgame (Wielders of Arantha, #3)

Endgame by Patrick Hodges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Endgame is the third book in the Wielders of Arantha trilogy written by Patrick Hodges. I read the first two book in late 2018 and had to finish the conclusion while every little detail was fresh in my mind, as these books pack in a tremendous amount of story, characters, and settings. Each is a fantastic component, but when woven together, the series is a definite stand-out with the makings of potential major fandom. And that comes from a non-frequent fantasy reader who’s mostly familiar with works like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings — I got the same feels reading Hodges’ work as I did the others!

Think of it as a cosmic chess game. Two unknown players (until the end, of course) battling for control over millennia, tossing curveballs and misery at one another, until the game concludes. But it’s much more than that… Hodges has created a bevy of memorable characters and intense passions for survival that will keep you glued to the book for hours at end. While the focus is on epic battles to conquer other lands or obtain your freedom, within each major conflict exists the fundamental emotions and goals we all experience in life — love, pain, embarrassment, lust, anger, revenge, friendship, shock, judgment…

At times, I wasn’t sure who would end up winning the war. It could be the good or the bad guys. Then again, I had moments where I was no longer sure which side was good or bad. There is a middle ground where Hodges forces readers to question our loyalty and our connection to certain characters. People make mistakes, can they be forgiven? Others betray you for a necessary reason, can it be forgotten? Power is thrust upon those not ready, should they be punished for inexperience or immaturity? Mothers are forced to abandon, but what if they had the best interests at heart? These are only the basic level of questions readers will evaluate while reading this trilogy. It gets deeper from there.

As a conclusion, it’s strong. There were a few characters I wish had different endings, but that’s only because I feel different things than other readers will. The entire story is wrapped up, but it is not perfect and happy. Just like life. There are losses in war. The bad guys / girls sometimes win a few battles. People will die. Sin will persist. Hodges covers all the remnants of a long-lasting war that will never be forgotten. I found happy endings for some couples and families, but it was a wonderful balance of humility, acceptance, and tolerance.

If you’re a fantasy fan, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this trilogy. While you could just read this last book, as Hodges does an excellent job of briefly summarizing pertinent history, you’d lose out on all the beautiful emotions and relationships that lead us to this final epic ending. It’s a quick read despite being either ~400 or ~500 pages for each book, which makes it highly worth it, and then even a little sad when it ends! With over 20 key characters, all easily identifiable and visualized, I couldn’t possibly describe everyone here… but I’ll definitely share my favorite: Maeve is a the strongest, the type of person you’d want to be on your side in any battle. She has the nurturing and loving side to make her appeal even more, but it’s her honesty that is the best.

Definitely give this one a chance if you love complex and multi-generational tales that have surprise connections between characters and history you learn as the story unfolds. Congrats on a superb finish, Hodges!



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. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 –and multiple Readathons. 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.

Strong Leading Female Characters

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I’m excited to share a video about 4 fantastic books I’ve read… all centered around strong female leading characters… check it out!

https://videopress.com/embed/eZlWVDM7

Leading female characters are a force to be reckoned with! They present the kind of strength and dynamics that are both admired and envied. I love to completely bury myself in books where the story lines are driven by headstrong and capable women! It’s empowering, uplifting, and admirable to say the least! Today, a few fellow Creativia authors and I would like to present a sample of our own books that feature STRONG LEADING FEMALE CHARACTERS! Enjoy, and click-through the links for more!

1st Stop: WATCHING GLASS SHATTER, by James J. Cudney

Purchase HERE:

Direct Book Quote:

** As she left the bedroom, Olivia ignored the dirtycup still sitting on Ben’s nightstand, its importance far less than anything else in her life these days. Time had arrived to arrange for her sons’ return home to honor Ben’s memory on what would have been his seventieth birthday, but also so she could rebuild the bonds between brothers. She needed to stop obsessing over the letter and determine how to help her sons fix their problems. The letters had become an unfortunate crux to lean on, a red herring for what loitered among her years of ignorance… a rabbit hole to get lost in… and she was too old to play Alice. **

Find more from James J. Cudney on his Website, Blog, and his Amazon Page!

***

2nd Stop: HEIR OF DOOM the Roxanne Fosch Files Book 2, by Jina S. Bazzar

Purchase HERE:

Direct Book Quote:

** Because there was nowhere to run, I waited until the passenger door opened… only to find myself staring at the barrel of Logan’s gun. The little jolt of fear that zinged through me was skillfully hidden under a blank façade.

“Get in,” he snapped tightly. His shoulders were tense, his eyes held annoyance and irritation, but no anger or hints of crazed triumph. Two things I gathered in that instance. One, if he was going to shoot me he would have done it the moment the door opened. Two, the expression on his face told me he didn’t want me dead.

I eyed him and was proud my gaze didn’t waver. My hesitation only seemed to irritate him more, although I guessed his crankiness stemmed from following me around for the past few days. I weighed my options. I had this curious hunch and was tired and aching enough to not think better on it, so I turned my back on him and walked—shuffled—away, despite my body begging for the warm comfort the Range Rover could
provide for a few hours. **

Find more from Jina Bazzar on her Blog and her Amazon Page!

***

3rd Stop: KALORAMA ROAD, by E. Denise Billups

Purchase HERE:

Direct Book Quote:

**An invisible threat festers, warning and urging me to recapture lost memories scattered in cerebral crevices. Undaunted’s blog, the mysterious manuscript, and the campus photo of Patrice and Penelope are only frazzles—pieces of a daunting puzzle. There’s a reason Penelope’s resurfaced two years later with her friend’s stolen online identity. I sense a scheme intended to unearth Patrice’s disappearance. She’s providing small clues, guiding me closer to Patrice. Detective Pennington, Senator Murphy, is the PayPal address also evidence?

Penelope didn’t want to publish the novel. It’s a subtle entrapment. She knows something about that party, and if she does, it’s because she was there. God, if only I could remember. I don’t have a choice but to follow the next clue. I dial information for Patrice Jensen’s number at Ninety Windsor Street, Chevy Chase, Maryland. The operator reveals the address belongs to Doctor Mark and Connie Jensen. Another piece of the puzzle fits. I suppose they’re Patrice’s parents or relatives. Hesitantly, I dial the number. A woman answers and warily I ask, “Is this Mrs. Jensen?” **

Find more from E. Denise Billups on her Blog and Amazon Page!

***

4th Stop: SEARCH FOR MAYLEE, by Didi Oviatt

Purchase HERE: (FREE Feb. 22-26)

Direct Book Quote:

** The afternoon Maylee’s case was practically declared unsolvable and doomed for a cold shelf life, all hope drained from Autumn. Her car was left in the parking lot, and slow dragging feet carried her home, she moved in a blurry haze. Amidst the draining three mile walk to her front porch, the heat transformed into gloom, and before Autumn knew it she was engulfed in rain. The weather as unforgettably odd.

The door swung open, and she collapsed onto the floor, unable to take in air. Anxiety surged through her body in waves, and salty tears streamed down her face. God only knows how long she lay paralyzed on the floor before she got up and ran out the door. Pushing herself through the stinging oversized drops of rain, she rounded a corner and made her way to the beach. Giant deadly ocean swells had never looked so inviting, but she refused stop, continuing to run faster. Step after painful step in the sand, she pushed forward. **

Find more from Didi Oviatt on her Blog and Amazon Page!

***

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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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.