secrets

Book Review: Mackenzie’s Distraction by Angie Dokos

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Reading new genres has become part of my routine to find fantastic new authors, understand different writing styles, and explore great stories and content. I found all three with the latest book I read, Mackenzie’s Distraction, written by Angie Dokos in 2016. The book is considered new adult contemporary fiction, but it’s stocked full of romance, emotions, attitude, and possibilities. I bought the book a few weeks before a recent vacation and read it poolside on the Amalfi Coast while in Italy. What a perfect combination of beauty in a book just like the many splendors of my surroundings.

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Mackenzie’s been hurt in the past and steers clear of relationships especially when the man seems too good to be real or true. But in this case, before she even meets him, her life is traumatized when her mother is a car accident and struggles to survive. Though Mackenzie has friends and other family to help her handle the huge blow, it’s not quite as simple as all that. Her mother’s hospitalization leads Mackenzie to learn a few deep-rooted family secrets, meet friends from a parent’s former life, and discover things about herself she never knew existed. That’s when the potential man of her dreams walks into her life, but is she too crushed and shocked to accept it? Let’s not forget the sudden onset of several available and potentially great catches who are very interested in getting to know her. Who will she choose, if any? Now that’s where the plot of this book takes off… weaving readers on a very emotional and manic ride with the unfortunately impacted young woman just looking to heal.

I’m normally a plot, then character guy. In this book, though the plot is important, it’s less about what the secrets and actions are and more about how Mackenzie deals with all the repercussions. It was a great change of pace for me as you had to settle in, listen, and understand why Mackenzie reacted the way she did in each instance. I didn’t always agree, and I sometimes got angry with her for what seemed like an unnecessary or spoiled adolescent attitude; however, I also haven’t suffered through the craziness that hits her in the span of a few days. In that sense, she certainly tries to find a balance, and readers can easily connect with her on the journey. I vividly recall thinking, if she didn’t accept Trevor’s love and attention, I’d certainly volunteer to stand in. (I won’t tell you if she does or doesn’t, but it’s complex!) He was practically perfect in every way, what exactly was stopping her? Well… that’s where psychology and personality truly come into play and drive her responses. It takes a truly analytical, sensitive, and courageous mind to deliver this kind of story. Kudos to Dokos.

Writing style and caliber were strong. Characters were vivid and relatable. Actions and dialog were balanced well, even if at times I was feeling a little frustrated with some of the things people did or said. But that’s the beauty of a good book: sometimes it takes the writer to challenge the reader to engage outside their normal comfort zone, and readers should keep an open mind to fully understand the vision of the author. Then you see why it works… and you have a thrilling escape in someone else’s complicated life. Being a teenager or even in your early 20’s is ridiculously tough in a modern world. Dealing with siblings who have different attitudes, step families with bigger concerns and questions, friends who just want you to be happy but get in your face all too often… wanting to open your heart to love but not knowing how any more… trusting someone who is virtually a stranger despite spending days with him in the first week… people are often secretive and misleading, so I understand Mackenzie’s concerns. But from one particular scene, the girl can take care of herself! Awesome scene, Ms. Dokos. 😊

I really enjoyed the book and will definitely look for more from the author this year, as she has another book published and is hopefully working on a few more already! She’s got a new fan and I’m confident many more as they take a chance on reading her work. I recommend giving it a chance for all readers, but most definitely if you enjoy balanced romance and emotions, journeys, analytical decision-making and learning how to let go and accept change.

I am also a big fan of Angie’s blog. She covers so much beyond just books on her blog, and it’s a welcome distraction every week to see what’s going on in her life. A wonderful writer, blogger and person to know… stop by for yourself!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. 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: Sun, Sand & Secrets by Carolyn Dean

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In the 6th book, Sun, Sand, & Secrets, of the Ravenwood Cozy Mystery series published in 2017 by Carolyn L. Dean, Amanda ponders the question of what it will mean to marry her sweetheart, James, a local police detective. In the course of her analysis, Madeline Wu, a local shopkeeper we’ve met before, goes missing, then someone turns up dead. Along the path, a neighboring town’s mayor gets involved, and some new romances might be brewing around the lovely little Oregon town.

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I enjoy reading about the comings and goings of Amanda’s renovated bed and breakfast / inn. This book felt more like a mini-edition, prepping us for Amanda’s upcoming nuptials, rather than a full-on mystery. While it was fun, cute, and cozy, the mystery was very light – much more than usual. I enjoy light mysteries, but the crime didn’t happen until about 50% into the book, and there wasn’t a lot of investigating in the second half. It was a good read, but not a standout in the series. Still worth taking on, as it’s under 2 hours… and I really do love the interactions Meg, Truman, Gram, and all the other wonderful characters.

I like inserting these types of books into bigger thrillers so I get a break from major analytical thinking, but I still have some puzzles to solve and the comfort of a fun, warm and interesting setting. It’s not a complete week unless I’ve sneaked in a cozy of some sort. Two more reviews to write, then I officially shut down and begin vacation mode!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. 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.

Book Review: Love, Secrets & Absolution by KL Loveley

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Why This Book 
Someone (I wish I could remember who — and if it’s you, please tell me) recommended Love, Secrets, and Absolutionby K.L. Loveley earlier this year. I downloaded the book while it was free, then it sat in my TBR on Kindle Reader until I had time to read it. I am trying to clear off all my ARCS, giveaways or commitments on authors I know, so I chose this one to read while boarding a flight over the holidays. I’m glad I did — it’s quite a good story – 4 stars!

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
The book kicks off when Alfie is born in a small English village to parents Grace and Paul. As he grows into a toddler, his behavior becomes questionable, pushing his father Paul to grow angry and ultimately have an affair, as he no longer loves Grace over how she coddles Alfie. Grace, with little education or money, learns how to raise Alfie on her own. Alfie learns how to make friends, socializes with others and attends college throughout the course of this novel. He encounters drugs, alcohol, girls and bullies, all in a way to self-medicate or handle his different personality and social anxieties. We later learn he likely has Asperger’s Syndrome, which has helped shape how he sees the world.

Approach & Style 
The book is relatively short and very easy to read in one sitting. I read the Kindle version on my iPad in ~2 hours. It’s told in third person POV with a focus on a bunch of different characters who all interact with Alfie. It’s inviting and simple, yet complex in emotions.

Thoughts 
I adored this book. Alfie and Grace have a very sad — and happy — story that will tug at your heart. It avoids all the cliches of the high points and low points, instead focusing on the middle range of someone with this type of alternative approach to interpreting the world. Alfie is such a likable character, and I could read more about him anytime. He makes mistakes – I want to shake him. He shows love – I want to hug him. It’s a snapshot of different points in his life where he learns lessons of who to love and trust, and who will lead him astray. Loveley captures a brilliant and endearing quality in a boy who deserves so much more than what he was given. Even though Grace is a wonderful mother, and Paul turns out to be fairly decent in the end, Alfie deserves even more. He needs friends, better extended family and true support from a school. It’s a remarkable story and I cannot recommend it enough for the way it will help you see things just a little bit differently.

Summary 
Loveley is a great writer; she knows how to elicit your feelings and trust. I will definitely read more from her, as there is a beautiful quality in how she tells a story. You’ll be engaged from the first moment where Alfie talks to you while in his mother’s womb to the very end where he has to handle all that’s thrown at his mother when she needs help. Take a chance on this one, please.

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.

Review: Angels & Demons

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Angels & Demons Review
4+ out of 5 stars to Dan Brown‘s Angels & Demons, the first book in his “Robert Langdon” thriller series. When I saw the movie trailer for The Da Vinci Code, I was hooked and immediately bought the book so I could read it first. When I got home, I realized it was not the first in the series…

I refused to read it… and then I went to the store and got the first one, Angels & Demons, so I could read them in order. And while it’s not really necessary, I always follow the order (unless I have an ARC with a due date on a newer book and no time to get to the whole series). So I started Angels & Demons, and I was was simply blown away.

Not everyone loves Dan Brown, and people aren’t always kind, but man… I LOVE HIS BOOKS! And I’m not afraid to say it… so if you don’t like them… don’t be hating on this review because I will

On a more serious note, the climax with each of the murders, the deep connections to so many Catholic rituals and ceremonies, the brilliance of the chase… it just left me unable to stop reading it. It’s exactly the kind of book I like to read:

1. Has some connection to me — I’m Catholic and knew most of the stuff they were talking about

2. I love reading about murder — since I won’t do it in real life, I have to get my thrills somehow

3. Secrets are the best thing in the world — I have so many about others, but I never let anyone have one about me

4. Classic battle of good versus evil — This is my life. Should I be good or bad today? Ugh… Sophie’s catch #22…

5. It’s non-stop thought-provoking messages and themes — How much control and time do we really have right now?

Oh, that’s the spot baby!

And with that said… if you want a real review with details about the story, go find someone else’s! Today was all about just being excited to think about the book again. Now that said, I thought Da Vinci Code was a slight bit better, hence the 4 here.

Ciao! I’ve got some branding to do…

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. 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.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 20 – Curious

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Curious: eager to know or learn something, strange or unusual

The first thing people often think of when they hear the word “curious” is the old adage, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I was so curious where that originated from, I had to look it up. And Wikipedia told me, which we all must believe because: 

“The earliest printed reference to the original proverb is attributed to the British playwright Ben Jonson in his 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, which was performed first by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare used a similar quote in his circa 1599 play, Much Ado About Nothing. The proverb remained the same until at least 1898. Ebenezer Cobham Brewer included this definition in his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.”

But when I delved a little further, you know… past 1898… it was more about a cat having 9 lives and how it was cared for. The true origin of the “curiosity” part is unknown. So that’s no help to me. That said, I am a very curious individual even though we all know:

I wasn’t the repetitive child who at two years old always asked “Why? Why? But why?”; however, I was the child who ran to the library, my encyclopedias and then eventually the internet… to get my answers.

  • This comes out in my thirst-quenching need to research my family tree and subsequent obsession with genealogy.
  • Searching for spoilers on all the TV shows I watch to know what happens as soon as possible.
  • To looking up the ending of a book while I’m still reading it.
  • To researching something until I literally spew data about it all day long and annoy my friends and family.

But it’s also dangerous, as you saw with our lovely fairy tale princess a few spots above in this post. For me, the danger presents itself when I cannot find the answer I’m looking for and I want to explode.

Or I cannot trace something as far back as I’d like to. Or if you love murder mysteries and want to play detective, and you track the criminal to the point where they try to kill you. While I’ve only done this thru books, if I had to pick a career, I’d want to be a snoop.

I am always curious about other people. Why do they make certain decisions? Why did they yell when they could have whispered? Where did they go during that two minutes I couldn’t find them? Why do I care?

Not really sure. I’m thinking it may be that I am fascinated by people’s actions and thoughts, wondering why and how we all think so differently. Or it could be I need to consolidate so much information in order to determine my own thoughts. Now that’s a bit scary…

Being curious has always felt like a good thing to me. Shows you care. You have interest. You want to grow. You want to process information. Hence the 365 Daily Challenge: I’m curious to learn more about myself, and as a result, about others who reply and share thoughts with me.

But some people don’t like it when you’re curious, and you will hear “Mind Your Own Business.” That’s harsh. A nice ol’ slap in the face to someone who just wants to learn.

Not to say privacy isn’t important. Each person decides what (s)he wants to remain private and therefore limits other people’s curiosity. Obviously if I’m revealing so much in this challenge, and I believe I’ve noted it before, I’m not a private person. I like when people ask questions. I think it helps create bonds. Brings out challenging new ideas and a flow of intimacy.

But don’t go out and just start peppering people with detailed and intricate questions. Find your own balance and activate the right level of curiosity.

How about you? Anything you want to know? Or anything you want to share? I do love a little gossip!

Review: Sunset in Old Savannah

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Sunset in Old Savannah3 of 5 stars to Mary Ellis‘s Sunset in Old Savannah, the fourth in her “Secrets of the South” mystery series. In this book, the Price Investigation team heads to Savannah to investigate a new case and enjoy this lovely view:

This was my introduction to the series, as I received a free ARC from NetGalley and Harvest House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I will go back to read the first few books, and I suggest reading this series in order to ensure you understand all the history. This was a good ole’ cozy, leaving me interested in reading more, but didn’t spark a major love-fest with the series quite yet. Let’s hit the slopes…


Story

As I didn’t read Books 1 thru 3, I’m not sure I have the full background, but here’s the gist: Michael Preston and Beth Kirby have been working together for a short time as PIs in the Price Investigation Firm. Beth’s a former cop who left the force after a bad experience with a former partner. Michael resigned from his accounting position to take up more investigative work. Their boss sends them from their hometown in Natchez, Mississippi to Savannah, Georgia to help a wealthy woman, Evelyn Doyle, determine if her husband is cheating. Seems a few fights and sparks have happened between Michael and Beth in previous books, but that’s all so far.

After a few days in Savannah, they prove Evelyn’s husband was having an affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter. Evelyn thanks them and mentions she will forgive him and ask him to stop, after all, she is a good, Christian woman. Beth thinks the woman’s a little crazy, but later finds kinship with her, almost looking at her as a mother-figure. The boss encourages the pair to take a few paid days off and relax after finishing the case early. But when they do, they start getting a little romantic and wondering whether there could be more between them. Suddenly, Evelyn calls from jail, needing help to get a lawyer and release — hubby’s dead!

Along the path, Beth and Michael discover some shenanigans in the husband’s insurance business, a brother with a grudge, a confused and bitter jilted lover and some secrets about where the wealth came from. Michael and Beth split the work, track down clues and try not to piss off the local police who want them out of town ASAP. Beth comes closest to tracking down the ultimate culprit and finds herself in need of a rescue at the end.

But the boss, who has too much work in Savannah, asks them to recruit another PI to work out of Savannah for future cases… while solving the murder and helping their client Evelyn, the pair interview potential candidates and take-on a new case at a sushi restaurant where the owner suspects someone’s stealing.


Key Thoughts

1. The setting is beautiful. Love hearing about the old town squares, the weather, the big homes, the views of the ocean. Helps bring a clear picture into focus for the story.

2. The banter between the two leads can be amusing part of the time. But on the whole, their dialogue felt a bit stiff and planned. Too much unnecessary drama for a couple starting to date. They fell into all the traps of the boring get to know you details.

3. Beth Kirby can be very annoying. In the first few chapters, she’s a complete and utter train wreck to her partner and the client. She seems to think she’s better than everyone else, has a snotty reply that can only be taken one way, and she has trust issues. I’d have dropped her right away… but she gets better throughout the book. Only issue is, there were times where I thought she wasn’t likable enough to read another book. Part of her attitude becomes a little bit of charm along the way, even though she cries several times, which makes me think she’s not well-balanced to handle a job as a PI. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometime’s it’s not.

4. The POV alternates between Michael and Beth, or the focus of their activities does — one or the other. Doesn’t feel 100% consistent. Then when the third detective is added, and a different case being discussed, it feels a little off. While it was a fun short diversion, it won’t work for all readers.


Final Thoughts

So while parts of the book fell a bit flat, the overall story arch, the characters, the setting, etc. had some good points and I’d be curious to see another book by this author. It’s a decent read, the normal cozy you can handle over a few days and drift off into someone else’s world without getting too caught up. Take it for a spin and get comfy in the historic charm of Old Savannah.

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“Watching a Glass Shatter” – Literary Agent Time

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After months of outlining, organizing, researching and… oh yeah… writing, I have a draft of a new novel that I’m finally happy and ready to share. I’ve been through two rounds of beta reading and editing, now embarking on my third and final round while I prepare the list of literary agents and query letter for next steps.

I am excited about this stage and would love to share a few chapters with several of you to get more feedback, as well as take any advice and thoughts on next steps. As a writer, I feel really passionate about what I’ve created, but as a reader, I want to know others feel the same way.

It’s quite a journey, and as I look back over the last few months, I find myself thinking… the first goal was always to finish it. And I’ve completed that goal. Now, my new one is to find an agent and to build up a readership who wants more. It’s amazing how you can transfer your thirst for a goal from one activity to another, ultimately all culminating in the same final outcomes.

I can’t wait to move this forward. How about you?

About the Novel

The novel is approximately 350 pages (95k words) and I would classify it as contemporary fiction / women’s fiction given this is a story about how Olivia Glass deals with her husband Ben’s car accident and untimely death – a drama about family relationships. In his will, Ben leaves behind a letter for his wife Olivia where he confesses a massive fmily secret. Upon reading this letter and waiting for the family attorney to locate a woman who holds all the answers, Olivia visits each of her sons to spend time with them before she has to tell them what Ben did. The novel also tells the story from each of her five son’s perspectives and the secrets Olivia learns about each of them during their visit. As Olivia begins to realize how far removed she’s been from what she thought was a perfect family, the lawyer locates the missing woman who can answer the questions. After a powerful journey, Olivia prepares to tell the family what she’s learned but circumstances get in the way changing the choices she has to make.

Want to Beta-Read?

I’m looking for passionate readers who love stories about families, relationships and journeys, who don’t mind laughing and crying in the same book and who will provide real and honest feedback. I’d like to know where it falls apart, where it really grabs you and what you think the most important changes should be in the story. You won’t need to check for spelling, grammar, consistency or punctuation. The story may not work, the descriptions may seem off, etc. but that’s where you come in — a true reader’s feedback on the story, readability and overall appeal. Please message me on here to further discuss.

About Me

You can learn more about me on my profile here or my personal webpage where you will see my own book reviews, samples of stories I’ve written and the first two chapters of “Watching a Glass Shatter.” Hopefully this will give you a taste of what I am capable of and you will be interested in providing a few hours to read my book in the hopes of enjoying your read and providing me with some good direction for where to focus next. I have been surrounded by strong and emotional women all of my life and feel that I can write a novel in this genre given the relationships I’ve developed over the years. I majored in English and have been writing in my day job (non-fiction) for nearly 20 years. I’ve also written a few other books, short stories and poems, but have been too busy working a day job to try to get anything published. I am now focusing on entering the publishing world with a goal to launch 1 or 2 novels in 2017. Click for BIO.

-jjc