Monthly Archives: September 2020

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman born with a unique gift to commune with the dead finds herself in the middle of a dastardly plot involving grave robberies and murder in author Hester Fox’s “The Orphan of Cemetery Hill”. 

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The Synopsis

The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission.

Boston, 1844.


Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.

The Review

What a beautiful written Gothic-Horror novel. The author wonderfully captures the early to mid-19th century era of Boston and brings readers into the narrative with ease. Tabby is a sympathetic and strong protagonist and the vivid imagery used to showcase to readers what her ability is like makes this a truly astounding read.

The narrative is served best by the amazing character development and the setting of this story. The reader is instantly transported into this gothic world and the eerie atmosphere and storyline felt like an homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in a lot of ways, capturing the obsession of man’s understanding of science and conquering nature.

The Verdict

The perfect way to start off the beginning of the scary/horror season, author Hester Fox’s “The Orphan of Cemetery Hill” is a must-read gothic horror like no other. The amazing characters and the many twists and turns they take as the mystery of these “Resurrection Men” deepens will keep readers on the edge of their seat. With a fantastic ending and an evenly-paced narrative, be sure to grab your copy of this phenomenal novel today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.

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Author Website: http://hesterfox.com/

TWITTER: @HesterBFox

Insta: @trotfoxwrite

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17440931.Hester_Fox

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin 

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Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Walmart

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iBooks

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Book Excerpt

1

IN WHICH WE MEET OUR YOUNG HEROINE.

Boston, 1844

Tabby’s legs ached and the wind had long since snatched her flimsy bonnet away, but she kept running through the night, her thin leather shoes pounding the cobbled Boston streets. She didn’t know where she was going, only that she had to get somewhere safe, somewhere away from the bustling theaters and crowds of the city. Every time someone shouted at her to watch where she was going, or ask if she was lost, she was sure that they were one of her aunt and uncle’s friends. Would they drag her kicking and screaming back to Amherst? Tabby shuddered. She wouldn’t go back. She couldn’t. 

Her weary feet carried her up a hill lined with narrow houses, and gradually she left behind the streets choked with theatergoers and artificially brightened with gas lamps. After cresting the hill, she paused just long enough to catch her breath and survey her unfamiliar surroundings. 

It was quieter here, the only sounds the groaning of ships in the harbor and the distant call of a fruit hawker trying to sell off the last of the day’s soft apples. Going back down into the heart of the city wasn’t an option, yet a wrought-iron gate blocked her way any farther, forbidding pikes piercing the night sky. Pale headstones glowed faintly in the moonlight beyond the gate. A cemetery. 

Tabby stood teetering, her heart still pounding. Dry weeds rustled in the thin night breeze, whispering what might have been a welcome, or a warning. Behind her was the land of the living with house windows glowing smugly yellow, the promise of families tucked safe inside. In front of her lay the land of the dead. One of those worlds was as familiar to her as the back of her hand, the other was only a distant fairy tale. Taking a deep breath, she shimmied through the gap in the gate. 

She waded through the overgrown grass and weeds, thorny branches snagging at her thin dimity dress and scratching her. Panic gripped her as she heard the hem tear clean away; what would Aunt Bellefonte say if she found that Tabby had ruined her only frock? Would she smack her across her cheek? Would Uncle lock her in the little cupboard in the eaves? Aunt Bellefonte isn’t here. You’re safe, she reminded herself. As she pulled away to free herself, her foot caught in a tangle of roots in a sunken grave bed and she went sprawling into the dirt. Her lip wobbled and tears threatened to overflow. She was almost twelve years old, yet she felt as small and adrift as the day she’d learned that her parents had perished in a carriage accident and would never step through the front door again.

 This wasn’t how her first day of freedom was supposed to be. Her sister, Alice, had planned their escape from Amherst last week, promising Tabby that they would get a little room in a boarding house in the city. Alice would get a job at a laundry and Tabby would take in mending to contribute to their room and board. They would be their own little family, and they would put behind them the trauma that their aunt and uncle had wrought, making a new life for themselves. That had been the plan, anyway. 

When she and Alice had arrived in the city earlier that day, her older sister had sat her down on the steps of a church and told her to wait while she went and inquired about lodgings. Tabby had dutifully waited for what had felt like hours, but Alice never returned. The September evening had turned dark and cold, and Tabby had resolved to simply wrap her shawl tighter and wait. But then a man with red-rimmed eyes and a foul-smelling old coat had stumbled up the steps, heading right toward her. Tabby had taken one look at him and bolted, sure that he had dark designs on her. She had soon become lost and, in a city jumbled with old churches, hadn’t been able to find the right one again. 

Another thorn snagged her, pricking her finger and drawing blood. She should have taken shelter in the church; at least then she would have a roof over her head. At least then Alice would know where to find her when she came back. If she came back. 

Tabby stopped short. Toward the back of the cemetery, amongst the crooked graves of Revolutionary heroes, stood a row of crypts built into the earth. Most of them were sealed up with iron doors and bolts, but one had a gate that stood just enough ajar for a small, malnourished girl to wriggle through. 

Holding her breath against the damp musk, Tabby plunged inside. Without any sort of light, she had to painstakingly feel her way down the crude stone steps. Lower into the earth she descended until she reached the burial chamber.

 Don’t invite them in. As she groped around in the dark for a resting place, Tabby tried to remember what her mother had always told her. Memories of her mother were few and far between, but her words concerning Tabby’s ability remained as sharp in her mind as words etched with a diamond upon glass. The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission, if you don’t make yourself a willing receptacle for their messages. At least, that was how it was supposed to work. 

The only other thing she had learned regarding her gift was that she should never, ever tell anyone of it, and the lesson had been a hard one. She couldn’t have been more than six, because her parents had still been alive and had sent her out to the orchard to collect the fallen apples for cider. Their neighbor, little Beth Bunn, had been there, picking wild asters, but she hadn’t been alone; there was a little boy Tabby had never seen before, watching the girls with serious eyes from a branch in an apple tree. Tabby had asked Beth who he was, but Beth insisted she didn’t know what Tabby was talking about. Certain that Beth was playing some sort of trick on her, Tabby grew upset and nearly started crying as she described the little boy with blond hair and big green eyes. “Oh,” Beth said, looking at her askance. “Do you mean to say you see Ollie Pickett? He used to live here, but he’s been dead for three years.” That was how Tabby learned that not everyone saw the people she saw around her. A week later she had been playing in the churchyard and noticed that all the other children were clustered at the far end, whispering and pointing at her. “Curious Tabby,” they had called her. And that was how Tabby learned that she could never tell a soul about her strange and frightening ability. 

But even in a place so filled with death, the dead did not bother Tabby that night. With a dirt floor for her bed and the skittering of insects for her lullaby, Tabby pulled her knees up to her chest and allowed the tears she’d held in all day to finally pour out. She was lost, scared, and without her sister, utterly alone in the world.

Excerpted from The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox Copyright © Tess Fedore. Published by Graydon House Books.

Guest Blog Post: Turning a YA Book into a Bestseller: The Best Tools for Online Promotion by Hayley Zelda

Hi there everyone. I am honored to welcome writer Hayley Zelda onto my website today to discuss with you all the best tool for online promotion for any author of YA books and how to turn those books into a best-seller. Give her a warm welcome and enjoy this wonderful guest post.


These days, a YA book doesn’t turn into a bestseller just by its story alone. In many cases, much of the success can be attributed to promotion as well. Whether it’s an e-book, a paperback or a hardcover, there are many digital strategies you can use to help get your book out there.


Online marketing comes in many forms —there’s at least one option that can match your budget, skills, and specific marketing goals. Below are some ideas you can try online to YA novels.

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The Sign-Up Form and the Mailing List

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have encountered those pop-ups asking for you to sign up or add your email address in exchange of a freebie. Sometimes, the sign-up form is also placed prominently on the top or bottom portions of a website. You may find them on sidebars, too.


This is an integral part of email marketing. Basically, the said strategy involves sending emails or newsletters to those who signed up (a.k.a. subscribers). With this, you can pique your subscribers’ interest by sending a sneak peek to your book or by announcing a book giveaway. To help you get started with your email marketing, you can use services like Constant Contact and MailChimp.


These days, many YA authors have their own websites where they have their own sign-up forms. Kelley Armstrong, author of Aftermath and The Masked Truth, has her sign-up form on the bottom of her website’s homepage while Broken Things author, Lauren Oliver, has it near the top.

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The Author Interviews

Nothing can beat author interviews when it comes to putting the spotlight on you and your work. Even if you’re just debuting as a YA novelist, there are many magazines, organizations and bloggers out there who may consider featuring you.

For instance, Shannon Hale, well-known for her Princess Academy series, has been interviewed by AdLit.org and the Young Adult Library Services Association. You can prepare for magazine-style and video interviews like hers.


Meanwhile, the Hunter’s Moon author, O. R. Melling, had a radio interview posted on Mixcloud. If you like discussing your book over the phone, look for local radio stations or podcasters. As much as possible, choose platforms that teens and twenty somethings prefer as they are your target readers.


Smaller scale sites are great practice and can provide great niche exposure as well. Sites like Wired For Youth are much easier to land interviews on and can still drive some great exposure. Don’t just search for platforms with a great audience though. Make sure you also prepare for the questions and the way you present yourself.


Ann Brashers, the novelist behind The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, features her YouTube interviews on her own site. The Hunger Games series creator, Suzanne Collins, has featured an interview on how site as well. You can get the video links from your interviewer and include them on your platforms, too.

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The Cross-promotion with Other YA Novelists (Or Any Other
Author for That Matter)


All writers get help from other writers. For most authors, it’s just inspiration. Promotion is another assistance that you can give and take. This can be a mere mention of another person’s work on social media. A recommendation through blog posts, vlogs, interviews and book
conventions is more favorable though.


Aside from inspiring people, John Green uses his influence to recommend books written by other writers. Sometimes he just give others positive reviews like when he stated that Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette as the funniest novel he had in years.


When you’re starting out though, don’t expect that you’ll get on the radar of popular authors right away. Instead of wishing for their attention, you can find those who are in a similar situation like yours. Join Discord servers and Facebook groups meant for writers. You can scan for chats or posts from those who are looking for someone to cross-promote with. When there are none, you can post one yourself.

Writing feedback for each other’s books and having them published in your respective works could help. Each of you can use your social media pages and mailing list for further co-promotions as well. As much as possible, choose to work with someone who have similar niche and range for your social media reach.

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The Fanfictions (and Other Forms of Fan Labor)


On his blog, Neil Gaiman once responded to a fan who asked about his opinion on fanfictions. The author behind the award-winning The Graveyard Book said it didn’t bother him. However, there are authors out there who preferred not to have their works used as bases for such kind of
fan labor.


If you haven’t made a mark though, you might want to consider letting your readers make fan-fictions out of your characters, settings and/or plot. Platforms like Wattpad and Commaful are there for such pursuit. You can also allow them to create their own drawings or trailers based on your work.


Or, you can also get started by writing fanfiction yourself. Just remember not to exploit others’ works for commercial purposes. Make sure you’re not also lifting characters, settings and plots from the books of those who are against fanfictions.


Many writers have tried this out before they hit it big. Meg Cabot, the creative behind the Princess Diaries series, used to pen Star Wars fanfic. Even Gaiman admitted that he used Marv Wolfman’s horror plot for an essay he wrote when he was younger.

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Conclusion


Just like the contents of your YA book, make sure you plan your promotion as well. Take some time in testing and revising your marketing campaigns accordingly.

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About the Writer

Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience.

What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Three individuals in the sixteenth century find themselves brought together after a shipwreck brings escaped African slaves together with local indigenous people on coastal Ecuador to face the Spanish and become an independent state in author Matthew Hughes historical fiction novel, “What the Wind Brings”. 

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The Synopsis

In the mid 1500s shipwrecked African slaves melded with the indigenous peoples of coastal Ecuador and together they fought the Spanish colonial power to a standstill, to remain independent for centuries. The story of the people of Esmeraldas is told through the eyes of three characters: Alonso, an escaped slave; Expectation, an a-gender shaman; and Alejandro, a priest on the run from the Inquisition. With its slipstream elements this novel carries a flavor of South American magical realism tradition into a grand historical epic. Both sweeping and intimate, it is a delight to read from beginning to end.

The Review

The author does a fantastic job of crafting a narrative that draws its strength from intricate and memorable characters. The use of historical figures as the protagonists was an inspired choice and made it easier for readers to connect with the characters overall. 

What really makes this story stand out is the time period for which the narrative is based around. The setting of 16th century South America and the tumultuous time that came from the Spanish colonization efforts that resulted in conquered peoples, enslavement, and eventually rebellion and bloodshed gave readers a rarely seen point in time to learn about and connect with. The strength it took for the African escaped slaves and the indigenous people to come together and face the many obstacles they did to become an independent state are fascinating to read about.

The Verdict

A lengthy yet powerful read, author Matthew Hughes’s novel “What the Wind Brings” is a must-read historical fiction read. The way the author took in the various belief systems and cultures of those involved in the narrative and how they both clashed and came together made this a one-of-a-kind story. This is a fascinating read that will engage with readers who love history, so be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in Liverpool, his family moved to Canada when he was five years old. Married since late 1960s, he has three grown sons. He is currently relocated to Britain. He is a former director of the Federation of British Columbia Writers.

A university drop-out from a working poor background, he worked in a factory that made school desks, drove a grocery delivery truck, was night janitor in a GM dealership, and did a short stint as an orderly in a private mental hospital. As a teenager, he served a year as a volunteer with the Company of Young Canadians.

He has made his living as a writer all of his adult life, first as a journalist in newspapers, then as a staff speechwriter to the Canadian Ministers of Justice and Environment, and, since 1979, as a freelance corporate and political speechwriter in British Columbia.

His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’sAsimov’sThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionPostscriptsInterzone, and a number of “Year’s Best” anthologies. Night Shade Books published his short story collection, The Gist Hunter and Other Stories, in 2005.

He has won the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada. His novels and stories regularly make the Locus Magazine annual recommended reading list.

http://www.matthewhughes.org

Interview with Author Vali Benson

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I grew up in the Midwest, an imaginative but rather solitary child and from the time I could write, I did. Much of it was nonsense but I didn’t care. Later I wrote stories and articles. After college, life happened (as it tends to do). It was years, after early retirement, that I picked it up again. I do it because I love it and because it seems a shame to keep all the crazy characters running around my head to myself.    

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

My new book, “Blood and Silver”, was inspired by my many visits to Tombstone, AZ. We live less than an hour away and I became increasingly curious about what was now a town of thirteen hundred people. In 1884, Tombstone was a roaring metropolis and was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.  

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope my readers realize that you often have to ask for help to receive it. Also, that many issues which affect society presently are not new ones. Racism, for example, was a problem in the 1880s as it has been for thousands of years and continues to this day. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I am fascinated with history; from fiction, to non-fiction, to textbooks, to mythology. History is the world’s greatest teacher and it creates a perfect launch point for a writer’s imagination.  

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

If I could sit down with any character in my book, “Blood and Silver”, it would be China Mary. I would love to hear about her life in her own words. But China Mary was an actual person so as far as a fictional character, I would like to talk to Mai and find out what she thinks of her new friends and their crazy western ways. 

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I would say that Facebook has been the most helpful in developing my readership because it allows me to reach a specific demographic. It also allows me to cast a wide net to people who are strictly interested in the written word. 

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

My advice to anyone who wants to write a book is to ask yourself if you have a passion for writing. If you do, sit down and write, write, write! There is no magic formula. You have to just have to do it. You have to determine where you want to take your reader and put words on the page until you arrive at your destination. 

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I have two more books in pre production right now, but first I am planning a sequel to “Blood and Silver” for my many fans who love the book.  

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About the Author

Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.
In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, “Blood and Silver”. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.

Links:
Website:http://valibenson.com/
Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Silver-Vali-Benson-ebook/dp/B086R4RBF3

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/RealValiBenson/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Twitter:https://twitter.com/BensonVali
@BensonVali

LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman forced to move to a small English town after inheriting a massive manor from her deceased Uncle finds herself digging into the history of her family’s manor, and discovers a web of dark secrets that tie into her own past, present and future in author Liz Butcher’s “LeRoux Manor”. 

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The Synopsis

Camille’s father just inherited the family manor from his estranged uncle, forcing her to leave her friends and city life just before her senior year of high school for the small town of Woodville, England. After seeing a strange old woman lurking on the estate grounds, she embarks on a mission to uncover the history of her new home. What she finds is wilder than she could have imagined—the murder of her ancestor, Caleb LeRoux, on the same day his six-year-old daughter vanished without a trace. And an unforeseen connection to Camille herself, as the only female LeRoux born to the family in over two hundred years. With the help of her new school friends, Camille delves into the secrets of the manor, uncovering an all-encompassing truth that will change the entire course of her life—past, present, and future.

The Review

This was a well-written gothic horror story for young readers. This YA hit occult horror read did an amazing job of hitting readers immediately with a creepy and haunting introduction to a centuries old mystery, then slowly built the tension and the suspense in the modern-day story to keep readers invested throughout. 

The imagery used by author Liz Butcher really highlighted the classic gothic horror element of the story, with LaRoux Manor itself becoming so ingrained in the reader’s mind it became a character in its own right. The pacing and imagery all came together thanks to a strong story and fantastic character growth for protagonist Camille and her family and new friends, as she began to uncover the hidden secrets and haunting past of LeRoux Manor. 

The Verdict

A powerful, gripping YA Horror novel like no other, author Liz Butcher has established a wonderful tale in “LeRoux Manor”. Blending the great atmospheric nature of a good Gothic horror novel with the modern day mystery and suspense element made this story shine, and the shocking final chapter will leave readers reeling as the story concludes. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Liz Butcher resides in Australia, with her husband, daughter, and their two cats. She’s a self-confessed nerd with a BA in psychology and an insatiable fascination for learning. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Liz enjoys road trips, astronomy, music and knitting.

https://lizbutcherauthor.wixsite.com/lizbutcher

The First To Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The line between revenge and justice blurs as several people get intertwined with a plot involving Big Pharma and the lack of ethics involved in the industry in author Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “The First To Lie”.

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The Synopsis

What happens when an undercover reporter gets in too deep? And when a practiced liar has to face off with her own truth—how does she choose her true reality?

Who will be the first to lie?

Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan delivers another twisty, thrilling suspense novel that will leave you breathless.

The Review

What a truly thought-provoking and engaging thriller! The cat and mouse storyline from these multiple points of view really keep the reader guessing as to who is the cat and who is the mouse in this web of lies and deceit. The multiple viewpoints each help to unravel the larger conspiracy and mystery surrounding this major Pharma company and how their actions led to a domino effect like no other. 

The many paths the plot takes readers on are gripping in their own right, but the moment these paths finally start to converge readers will be shocked and amazed when identities are revealed and truths are laid bare. The author does a great job of developing an intricate plot that challenges the reader to think and uncover little clues as the story progresses to see who the true “villain” of this tale is, and whether or not true justice exists in this world.

The Verdict

A brilliant thriller that fans of the genre will not be able to put down, author Hank Phillippi Ryan’s “The First to Lie” is a masterful deep-dive into the suspenseful world of lies and conspiracies. An evenly paced narrative and characters that readers will both love and love to hate, the complex morality of each character and the twist and turns of the story will keep readers invested entirely. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of eleven award winning novels of suspense. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her newest thriller, THE FIRST TO LIE, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, calling it “Stellar.”

Her earlier psychological thriller, THE MURDER LIST, received a *starred review from Library Journal–which called it: Masterly plotted, riveting and a must read. It’s now an Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, a number one legal thriller on Amazon, and a USA Today Bestseller.

Her first psychological standalone, TRUST ME (now in paperback) , is an Agatha Award nominee, and was named BEST of 2018 by the New York Post, Real Simple Magazine, BookBub, Crime Reads, and PopSugar. Mary Kubica says: “Dazzling!” and Lisa Gardner says “Mesmerizing!”

The Booklist *starred review says “…it’s a knockout. First-rate psychological suspense.”

Her thriller SAY NO MORE, is a Library Journal BEST OF 2016. And this just in: it’s a nominee for the AGATHA AWARD and the MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD! And now, breaking news, it is also a DAPHNE AWARD nominee! Associated Press calls it “stellar” and Publishers Weekly calls it “thrilling” “unflinching” and “gratifying.”

Her 2015 book, WHAT YOU SEE, is a Library Journal BEST of 2015, an ANTHONY and AGATHA Award nominee, and a Top Pick!, dubbed “exceptional suspense.” It received a starred review from Library Journal which says: “Readers will find themselves racing to the finish!”

Her 2014 book, TRUTH BE TOLD, won the AGATHA Award for best mystery, and is a Library Journal Best of 2014. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, which says, “Drop everything and binge read!”

THE WRONG GIRL won the Agatha Award and the Daphne Award, and is a seven-week Boston Globe bestseller and Anthony Award nominee.

THE OTHER WOMAN won the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was listed as a Best Book of 2012 by the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee, Suspense Magazine, and The Boston Globe, won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was the only novel nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Shamus and Daphne awards for Best Novel of 2012.

Her first four mysteries, beginning with the Agatha Award-winning PRIME TIME, feature Charlotte McNally, a Boston television reporter. FACE TIME was a BookSense Notable Book, and AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME were both Anthony and Agatha Award nominees for best novel of 2009 and 2010. They are now available in all new editions.

Hank is also an award-winning investigative reporter at Boston’s WHDH-TV. In addition to 37 EMMYs and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism.

Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for victims and consumers. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine, working with Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Avedon and Richard Goodwin.

Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as president of national Sisters in Crime. She blogs at Jungle Red Writers and Career Authors.

Learn more about Hank at www.HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @HankPRyan, on Instagram @hankpryan and on Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

Disorder by Israfel Sivad Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A truly unique memoir tells the story of a young writer who struggled with addiction and mental health, and found a way to overcome it all through love in author Israfel Sivad’s “Disorder”.

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The Synopsis

Disorder is the story of Michael Adams, the man behind the pen name, Israfel Sivad. At 37-years-old, Michael wasn’t sure any longer if he was hipstered out or truly beat. He was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He’d been in psych wards, and he’d spent almost a decade writing his second novel. But then, he found himself inspired in a whole new way. He believed he might be falling in love…

Disorder traces Michael’s experiences from a period of homelessness at the age of 32 through his battles with alcoholism and psychosis back to his birth in Southern California. Simultaneously, it weaves a tale of the relationship Michael is trying to build with his girlfriend, Pam.

In this story, the author develops a groundbreaking, nonlinear style that captures both the disjointed madness of psychosis and the natural rhythms of memory. He reveals the reality behind what many of us believe we would never be able to live through: drug addiction, alcoholism and psychotic breaks… and his ability to overcome those demons to discover love, even when it seemed he was already too damaged to let that emotion take hold.

The Review

The author does a fantastic job of conveying a powerfully painful and harsh period of time in their lives, using a non-linear style storytelling device to convey the author’s life. From memories of childhood having lost a grandfather and best friend to dark times living in and out of psych wards and the streets of Richmond, the author doesn’t hold back on the physical and mental toll his life took when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the psychosis that he endured as well. 

The imagery really conveys the struggle the author had in his life to the reader, while the story between himself and Pam is the beginning of a path to redemption that anyone who is struggling in life can hang onto and see for themselves that the trials and tribulations in their life aren’t forever. While the writing style can change sometimes throughout the narrative of the author’s life, it adds to the allure and interest of the non-linear storytelling, making this a fascinating read.

The Verdict

Powerful, emotional, and a brilliant read, author Israfel Sivad’s “Disorder” is a truly one of a kind memoir both stylistically and intellectually, giving voice to the struggles of those with mental health struggles and addiction in a way that few have ever really captured before. Grab your copy on September 8th, 2020, and see for yourselves how this amazing author came to be.

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About the Author

Israfel Sivad is the founder of Ursprung Collective, which has been referred to as “fantastic brain food” on ReverbNation. His first novel, “Crossroads Blues”, has been compared to the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Palmetto Review). His second novel, “The Adversary’s Good News”, was a finalist for the 2016 Chanticleer Paranormal Book Award. His stories and poems have appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, The Stray Branch and Badlands Literary Journal. 

https://israfelsivad.com/

Weekly Comic Book Roundup #13

Justice League Dark, Volume 1: The Last Age of Magic

(Justice League Dark (2018) #1)

by James Tynion IVAlvaro Martinez (Illustrations), Daniel Sampere (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

The new Justice League Dark is here! Led by Wonder Woman this team of Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man-Bat and Detective Chimp (?) must bring the fight against all supernatural foes too big for the World’s Greatest Super Heroes!

From the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE comes writer James Tynion IV’s epic new series JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK! Earth’s magic once belonged to them. Now they want the magic back. But who exactly are they? It’s up to the new Justice League Dark to find out and stop this nightmarish new threat at all costs! After the events of NO JUSTICE, Wonder Woman guides the misfit magic mix against enemies too fantastic even for the Justice League. Plus, what awful things are coming through the Tree of Wonder? Dark days ahead…

Written by James Tynion IV (Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) with phenomenal illustrations from Alvaro Martinez (Detective Comics), this bold new graphic novel series is one of the most anticipated in years! Collects issues #1-3 and 5-6.

The Verdict

A brilliant new dive into the world of magic for DC Comics, everything fans thought they knew about this world is turned upside down. The emergence of new magical threats, as well as the rules of magic being rewritten and magic’s origins all come into play here as Wonder Woman finds herself leading a team into a world she only partially understands. Shocking betrayals and amazingly horror-themed artwork make this a must-read for DC Comics fans.

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Old Lady Harley

(Old Lady Harley #1-5)

by Frank Tieri

The Synopsis

After liberating New York City from her now-feral Gang of Harleys, poor Harley wants nothing more than to slip back into retirement in her coastal (and heavily guarded) paradise. But the Laughing Boys Gang has another idea–they’ll follow her to the ends of the Earth, to drag her back to their leader!

If you think that’s a big problem, just wait. The Joker couldn’t possibly still be alive, could he? After all … Harley killed him with her bare hands! Should she turn to President Power Girl for help? Or flee to the 51st state, Atlantis? Step into an insane vision of a future DC Universe we all better hope we don’t live to see!

In this dystopian-future tale, Harley’s quest to find out how The Joker could possibly still be alive has taken her back to their old stomping grounds, but Gotham City is very different nowadays! Nobody’s allowed on the streets without the Batman’s permission–but who is this Batman, anyway? Harley’s only choice is to return to Arkham…the Arkham Home for Criminally Insane Retirees, that is! Fancy a round of bingo with the Riddler? Or some pool aerobics with Killer Croc? Collects Harley Quinn #42 (Rebirth Series) and Old Lady Harley #1-5

The Verdict

A hilarious and gritty dystopian future for the world of DC Comics, only a zany character like Harley Quinn could appropriately bring this story to life. Seeing the state of the world in this apocalyptic world is fascinating to see, with a nation of zombies on one side and a nation led by a villain on the other, the United States is in a state of chaos, and Harley must navigate it her way to find out if the Joker has truly returned. Dark secrets and shocking revelations await for this amazing series, with fantastic artwork that is reminiscent of Mad Max. 

The Hellblazer, Volume 1: The Poison Truth

(The Hellblazer (2016) #1)

by Simon Oliver (Writer), Moritat (Artist), Andre Szymanowicz (Colourist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer)

The Synopsis

John Constantine, the hard-hearted Hellblazer returns home to London to face an impossible choice: live an immortal life bonded to a demonic curse, or shift that curse to eight million people–killing each and every one of them! What to do, what to do…

The Hellblazer is back in the first volume of the continued story of one of DC’s most iconic and long-lasting characters by writer Simon Oliver (FBP) with art by Moriat (The Spirit).

CollectingHellblazer 1-6

The Verdict

A true testament to the character of John Constantine, the fantastic gothic artwork compliments the story of one of DC Comics most fascinating magical antiheroes. The story focuses on the character’s ability to con his way out of any situation, and the consequences that come as a result. A marvelous look at the delicate balance John walks between the real world and the magical one just beneath the surface. 

The Batman Who Laughs

(The Batman Who Laughs #1–7)

by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), James Tynion IVJock (Illustrator), Eduardo Risso (Illustrator), David Baron (Colorist)

The Synopsis

Left rattled by the events of Dark Knights: Metal, Bruce Wayne must come face to face with the ultimate evil spawned from the Dark Multiverse. One part Batman one part Joker. The Batman Who Laughs.

“A Batman who laughs is a Batman who always wins.”

The mastermind behind Dark Nights: Metal, Scott Snyder, gives you a look inside the most terrifying version of Batman ever! He and superstar artist Jock (Batman: The Black Mirror) kick off a chain of events that makes Dark Nights: Metal seem like child’s play.

The Batman Who Laughs not only survived his fight with The Joker at the end of Dark Nights: Metal, but is now enacting a sinister plan across the Multiverse–something both terrifying and oddly familiar. When Bruce Wayne realizes the only way to stop this madman is to kill him, he must consider violating the very rule Batman can’t ever break … the rule that created this insatiable villain–the Batman Who Laughs!

As Bruce begins to deduce that his current life is somehow wrong and that all the mistakes he’s made are somehow connected, the Batman Who Laughs unleashes a brand-new evil. Enter one of the most punishing Batmen of the Dark Multiverse: the Grim Knight!

Collects The Batman Who Laughs #1-7 and The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1.

The Verdict

This marks the next chapter of one of Batman’s darkest chapters. After the events of Dark Nights: Metal, Batman got a grim look at the darkest aspects of himself across the dark multiverse. However things aren’t what they seem, as the most evil of them all survived and is now haunting Batman and the DC Universe. The Batman Who Laughs is a fantastic and dark new edition to the DC Universe villains, and this story sets up several future storylines in the multiverse. 

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Thor, Vol. 1: God of Thunder Reborn

(Thor (2018) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Jason Aaron (Writer), Mike del Mundo (Illustrations), Christian Ward (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

LET SOUND THE CRY – THE GOD OF THUNDER HAS RETURNED! Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the Earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost on hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.

COLLECTING: THOR (2018) 1-6

The Verdict

A new era of Thor kicks off here with this original story that sees Thor and Loki on an adventure straight to Hel. With the War of the Realms nearly on them, the two brothers and adversaries must traverse Hel and find a way of stopping a fiery army hellbent on taking over the realm for themselves, all in the name of Malekith. Exploring Thor’s complex family and his path to reclaiming the mantle of Thor, this was a visually stunning and exciting read. 

Tony Stark: Iron Man, Vol. 1: Self-Made Man

(Tony Stark: Iron Man (Collected Editions) #1)

by Dan Slott (Text), Valerio Schiti (Illustrations), Gang Hyuk Lim (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

From the cusp of tomorrow’s dreams to the forefront of imagination, one man always soars on the cutting edge of adventure! You know his name. Everyone knows his name! Tony Stark is Iron Man. And Iron Man…is an idea. Always changing. Always evolving. Now Dan Slott and Valerio Schiti propel the ultimate self-made hero to new heights of inventiveness! But Tony has been holding back an enormous secret since his return, and there’s only one person on Earth he’d trust with it: James Rhodes?! This will change everything. Plus: Jocasta! Machine Man! The Gauntlet! The Wasp! The arrival of Tony Stark’s new rival…Sunset Bain! And the Manticore, the most powerful assault vehicle in the Marvel Universe! Tony Stark is Iron Man. The future is now. Strap in!

COLLECTING: TONY STARK: IRON MAN 1-5

The Verdict

Tony Stark is back! The new and improved Iron Man takes the world by storm as he adds new team members to his company and he begins his work as Iron Man once more. However his new lease on life comes with a cost, and he begins to question just how much of himself returned to the land of the living. A bustling new series that has a great focus on the tech side of the Marvel Universe, and the age old question of rights and morality for the AI heroes of the universe. 

The Immortal Hulk, Volume 1: Or is he Both?

(Immortal Hulk (Collected Editions) #1)

by Al EwingJoe Bennett

The Synopsis

THE RETURN OF BRUCE BANNER! You know Bruce Banner. He’s quiet, calm, never complains. He’s a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world. If someone were to shoot him in the head… All he’d do is die. But the horror lives deeper. A horror that refuses to die. When night falls something other than the man gets up again. The horror is the Immortal Hulk. COLLECTING: IMMORTAL HULK 1-5, MATERIAL FROM AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER 684

The Verdict

The story of the Incredible Hulk returns to a more horror-centric story, as the Hulk gains a new persona in the Immortal Hulk. The many horror motifs are present throughout this comic, and it was refreshing to see Bruce Banner and the Hulk on the run, hitting the road much like he did in his early years. This was a fantastic first run in the new Hulk’s story.

Black Panther, Vol. 6: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, Part One

(Black Panther (2016/2018) (Collected Editions) #6)

by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Text), Daniel Acuña (Illustrations), Jen Bartel (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

A bold new direction for the Black Panther! For years, T’Challa has kept foreign invaders out of his homeland, protecting his people from everything from meddling governments to long-lost gods. Now, he will discover that Wakanda is much bigger than he ever dreamed…across the vast Multiverse lies an empire founded in T’Challa’s name! Jump on now and learn the truth behind the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda! Ta-Nehisi Coates welcomes aboard fan-favorite artist Daniel Acuña for a Black Panther story unlike any other!

COLLECTING: BLACK PANTHER (2018) 1-6

The Verdict

First and foremost, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the late and great actor and the King himself, Chadwick Boseman, aka T’Challa of the MCU. It was a devastating loss to not only Marvel fans but the world and his family. My deepest sympathies to everyone impacted by this loss.

This comic does a great job of taking Black Panther and the lore of Wakanda into a whole new direction. A great blend that puts the world of Marvel Comics into a galactic setting like no other, the story behind how T’Challa found his way into a whole other galaxy is both fascinating and engaging. This is a story not to be missed in the Marvel Universe.

Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Vol. 1: Back to Basics

(Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #1)

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Ryan Ottley (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

An alien invasion attacks New York City and the only one who can stop it is…Spider-Man?! But that’s far from all you’ll find here – a revelation from the past puts Peter Parker’s job, relationships and whole life in jeopardy! And if even that’s not enough, you’ll see a new roommate, new love interests and a new villain!

COLLECTING: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1-5, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN STORY)

The Verdict

Back to Basics is an appropriate title for the brand new Spider-Man series. Peter Parker is back to his life as Spidey, and dealing with the complications as a result of it. Being framed as Wilson Fisk’s new buddy by the Mayor himself, all the heroes see Pete as a sell-out to one of New York’s worst villains. Meanwhile, Pete’s job is in jeopardy and his newest roommate is a shock even to himself. This is a great new start to one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes. 

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Venom by Donny Cates, Vol. 1: Rex

(Venom (2018) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Donny Cates (Writer), Ryan Stegman (Artist)

The Synopsis

An ancient and primordial evil has been awakened beneath the streets of New York. With it, something equally evil has been awakened in that most wicked of web-slingers: Venom! The symbiote may still be a Lethal Protector of innocents in New York, but this never-before-seen threat could possibly force Venom to relinquish everything it holds dear — including its human host, Eddie Brock! As Eddie and Venom summon the strength to defend New York against the most powerful foe they’ve ever faced, there’s one more thing standing in their way: Miles Morales, Spider-Man! Two of the hottest creators in comics today, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, join forces to deliver a Venom adventure a thousand years in the making!

COLLECTING: VENOM (2018) 1-6

The Verdict

The origin story of Venom and the Symbiotes takes a dark and cosmic turn as the true nature of this alien race is revealed. As Eddie Brock bonds with his symbiote once more, he discovers that an ancient and powerful force deriving from the Symbiote’s origins is awake, and is setting it’s sights for Earth. He must fight to stop this powerful force before everything is consumed by the coming of a dark god. A gritty and twisted new spin on the Venom mythos. 

Absolute Carnage

(Absolute Carnage (Collected Editions))

by Donny CatesRyan Stegman (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

After turning Venom’s world upside down a year ago, DONNY CATES and RYAN STEGMAN are about to put the Sinister Symbiote through hell again, only this time CARNAGE has come calling, and everyone who’s ever worn a symbiote is dead in his sights! He’s skirted the periphery of the Marvel Universe for months, but Cletus Kasady at last stands poised to make his grand return to New York in a blistering, action-packed story…and he wants to paint the town red! And there’s NOTHING anyone can do to stop it!

COLLECTING: Absolute Carnage 1-5 

The Verdict

One of Marvel’s deadliest and most terrifying crossover events in recent years was also one of its best. The development of the Venom/Carnage mythos is fascinating to see unfold, and treating the Carnage event like a more terrifying zombie apocalypse was an inspired choice. Definitely a must-read for Marvel fans. 

Occupy Avengers, Vol. 1: Taking Back Justice

(Occupy Avengers #1-4)

by David F. Walker (Writer), Carlos Pacheco (Penciler), Rafael Fonteriz (Inker), Sonia Oback (Colourist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Synopsis

Super heroes – they’re a privileged class. Doing what they want, when they want, and suffering no consequences. They have no regard for the ordinary people who are left behind to suffer in their wake. Who will stand up for the little guy? There is a man. If you can find him, and if he believes in your story, he and his friends will put things right. Some call him an outlaw, rebel, Robin Hood. To others, he is a hero. No powers to speak of – just skills, smarts and a burning drive to take back justice. The man’s name is Hawkeye. He doesn’t look for trouble, but trouble finds him – and he’ll quickly drag Western hero Red Wolf into it as well! It’s a shame that they’re facing certain death; they would have made a great team.

COLLECTING: Occupy Avengers 1-4 and Avengers (1963) 80-8

The Verdict

A refreshing new vision for the famed archer and classic Avenger, Hawkeye gets to hit the road and become a new kind of hero. Righting wrongs wherever he goes, he seeks to make a difference for those who have no one to fight for them, all while being haunted by his slaying of his friend Bruce Banner during the Civil War II events. It’s a great introduction for some new heroes like Red Wolf and a great new direction for Clint Barton overall. 

A-Force, Volume 1: Hypertime

(A-Force (Collected Editions) #1)

by G. Willow Wilson (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Kelly Thompson (Goodreads Author), Marguerite BennettJorge Molina (Artist), Jim Cheung (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

What do you do when a sentient cosmic event rampages through Japan? ASSEMBLE A-FORCE! Marvel’s newest hero, SINGULARITY, has escaped Battleworld and found her way to the Marvel Universe! But she didn’t make the journey alone. To combat the villainous ANTIMATTER, Singularity will call upon Earth’s mightiest team of Avengers. And one thing’s for sure: They are A FORCE to be reckoned with!

CollectingA-Force 1-4, Avengers 83, A-Force 1, material from Avengers 0 

The Verdict

A fantastic new direction for some of Marvel’s most powerful female heroes. The dynamic between characters like She-Hulk and Medusa are fascinating to see unfold here, and the new hero Singularity is a great new character to include in the Marvel Universe. Beautiful artwork and a much deserved all-female heroic team make this a must-read comic. 

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Falcon: Take Flight

(Falcon (2017) #1-8)

by Rodney BarnesJosh Cassara (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

LEGACY! In the wake of SECRET EMPIRE, Sam Wilson has laid down the shield and taken to the sky once again! Reborn and recommitted, THE FALCON takes flight on a personal mission to reconnect with the American people and train his new partner THE PATRIOT. But when a gang war overtakes the streets of Chicago, Sam finds himself stuck in the middle of a situation far more dangerous than he could’ve imagined-one with its roots in an unexpected corner of the Marvel Universe! COLLECTING: FALCON 1-5

The Verdict

A brilliant follow-up to the events of Secret Empire, the personal journey of Sam Wilson and the anger he harbors for the betrayal he felt after Steve Rodgers (actually a faux-Rodgers at the time) led a HYDRA invasion. With the true Steve Rodgers returned as Captain America, Sam begins his life as Falcon once more. Introducing the character to the world of the supernatural while also showcasing the racial tension and violence in our world today made this an instant must-read for Marvel fans.