Posted in reviews

Goddess of Justice: A Brad Coulter Thriller by Dwayne Clayden Review

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

In the fifth book in author Dwayne Clayden’s “Brad Coulter Thriller” series, Detective Brad Coulter finds himself being hunted by his own police department as a brutal killer begins pointing evidence towards the infamous detective in the upcoming novel, “Goddess of Justice”.

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The Synopsis 

Goddess of Justice

A series of seemingly unrelated deaths have occurred around the city. When one is an obvious homicide, Detective Brad Coulter gets the case.

Coulter has barely started investigating when more murders take place. It is clear that the killer not only understands Crime Scene Unit protocols but also has special forces military skills—or training in some sort of Tactical Unit.

During the investigation, Detective Coulter realizes he has a connection to some of the victims. Then the Crime Scene Unit discovers evidence that points to Coulter as the murderer.

Now hunted by his own police service, he has to clear his name.

But the killer has other plans.

The Review

Another powerful entry in the Brad Coulter series, author Dwayne Clayden has expertly crafted a perfect thriller. Combining classic whodunnit style storytelling with intriguing character growth and a brilliantly suspenseful narrative, the novel takes readers through so many twists and turns that the big reveal will take some readers by surprise. 

The author perfectly balances the action and mystery elements of the narrative with the important character development and drama that comes with Brad’s framing for crimes he hasn’t committed. The heart of this story is Brad of course and the relationships he’s built with his amazing cast of supporting characters. Readers will be shocked to discover who has Brad’s back when he is framed, and who turns on him when the evidence begins to pile up. 

The Verdict

Entertaining, mysterious, and action-driven, author Dwayne Clayden’s “Goddess of Justice” is a must-read thriller. The author’s own expertise in the field is evident in every chapter, bringing that special authenticity most thrillers are hard-pressed to find. The writing is brilliantly done, drawing the reader in with steady pacing and fantastic characters, including a shocking new killer. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author portraits for use on books and book proposals, as well as on LinkedIn, portfolio websites, and other online marketing tools. ©2015, Sean Phillips http://www.RiverwoodPhotography.com

DWAYNE combines his knowledge and experience as a police officer and paramedic to write realistic crime thrillers.

CRISIS POINT, Dwayne’s first novel, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards.

OUTLAWMC is the second in the Brad Coulter Series.

WOLFMAN IS BACK, is the third in the Brad Coulter Series.

In his 40 year career, Dwayne has served as a police officer, paramedic, tactical paramedic, firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS) chief, educator, and academic chair.

Dwayne is a popular speaker at conferences and to writing groups presenting on realistic police, medical, and paramedic procedures.

The co-author of four paramedic textbooks, he has spoken internationally at EMS conferences for the past three decades.

DwayneClayden.com

Posted in reviews

The Mirror by Neerav Harsh Review

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

An unnamed man goes through a psychological journey as he comes into contact with a man in a mirror, and sees two realities come shattering together in author Neerav Harsh’s “The Mirror”.

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The Synopsis

This is the story of an unnamed man. One morning, he looks into the mirror and finds someone else looking back at him. His first reaction was not to jump into an adventure to unravel this mystery. He chooses to keep it under wraps. He is worried that it may affect his prospects of an upcoming promotion at work and tries to function normally in his dysfunctional marriage of 5 years to Lina. But the secret comes out and brings with it its own complications. It is learned that this, not the first time. The last time this happened, he was young. He was in school then.

For the safety of everyone, the man is locked inside a room. It is there that he first interacts with the man in the mirror (also unnamed) which opens a pandora’s box. His reality shifts constantly between the present and his childhood. He had always found the inside of a pea a little special. His mental journey to get rid of the outer layer is the center of this story. Slowly he starts losing touch with reality and the relationships he has outside of the room. What he doesn’t know is what changes as he loses this outer cover.

The Review

This is a short yet powerful and thoughtful thriller. The obscurity of the main character does a fantastic job of adding to the mystery and suspense of this narrative, while the author’s thought-provoking layering of the themes allows readers to go back and re-read chapters to see the things that may have been missed previously.

The themes themselves are so powerful and lend well to the emotional core of this narrative. Themes of identity, reality, and looking back and dealing with regret and what may have been all come crashing down around the protagonist as his life and the reality he knew begin to deteriorate the further and further he goes on this journey to understand the man in the mirror. 

The Verdict

An emotional, chilling, and psychologically deep narrative, author Neerav Harsh’s “The Mirror” is a must-read short story/novella. The reader will be enthralled with the author’s natural world-building and pacing in such a short yet powerful read and will want to read more of the author’s work to be sure. If you haven’t yet be sure to grab your copy of this amazing story today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Neerav is a trained salesman selling innovations by the day. He wrote his first poem at the age of 10.

He lives and works out of his home in Mumbai (India) and spends the holidays traveling and exploring the world with his beautiful wife, Rini.

A serious daydreamer, he can spend lazy afternoons dreaming of anything under the sun and beyond. He loves history, physics, philosophy. His favorite questions are 1. What is going on? Has this happened before? So, where is it all heading?

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08T21QDN4/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F56794385-the-mirror&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

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A Caller’s Game by J.D. Barker Review

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

A controversial radio host finds herself forced to face the past as a caller plays a deadly game live on the air in author J.D. Barker’s “A Caller’s Game”. 

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The Synopsis

DIE HARD meets TALK RADIO in this heart-pounding, relentlessly fast-paced thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Fourth Monkey—master of suspense, J.D. Barker.

“I’m going to offer you a choice.”

Controversial satellite radio talk show host, Jordan Briggs, has clawed her way to the top of the broadcast world. She doesn’t hold back, doesn’t spare feelings, and has no trouble sharing what’s on her mind. Her rigorous pursuit of success has come at a price, though. Her marriage is in ruins, she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and she’s distanced herself from all those close to her. If not for her young daughter, Charlotte, her personal life would be in complete shambles.

When a subdued man calls into the show and asks to play a game, she sees it as nothing more than a way to kick-start the morning, breathe life into the beginnings of drive-time for her listeners. Against her producer’s advice, she agrees, and unwittingly opens a door to the past.

Live on the air with an audience of millions, what starts out as a game quickly turns deadly—events long thought buried resurface and Jordan Briggs is forced to reconcile with one simple fact—All decisions have consequences.

The Review

What a heart-pounding thriller. The author immediately jumps into the action as readers are introduced to the protagonists, Officer Cole and Jordan Briggs. The threat of this anonymous caller is evident to the entire city as he unleashes the first of many attacks and lays the blame at Jordan’s feet. Yet from the beginning it is clear not everything is as it seems.

The author expertly balances character development and action/thriller vibes in this narrative. Themes of facing the past and roads to redemption make this a memorable read, as we see the character’s overcome some dangerous situations while facing some difficult memories that could tear apart the best of us.

The twisted game that the antagonist, “Bernie”, plays with Jordan and Cole really does capture the action and suspense of films like Die Hard and Phone Booth, with the threats increasing and the reader’s hearts pounding faster and faster as the mystery behind this relentless killer takes unexpected and emotional twists and turns, drawing the reader in deeper and deeper.

The Verdict

This is J.D. Barker at his best. “A Caller’s Game” is another fantastic thriller from one of the best authors I’ve read in recent years, and readers will love delving into this mystery. The evolution Jordan Briggs takes as her ruthless talk radio personality starts to face the consequences of her actions over the years, and Cole emerges as a fantastic new hero facing down this powerful threat. If you haven’t yet, be sure to preorder or grab your copy of this amazing novel today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J.D. Barker is the New York Times and international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. His latest, SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE, released March 31. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, sold in more than 150 countries, and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

Posted in reviews

13 Days of Terror (Brad Coulter #4) by Dwayne Clayden Review

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

A deadly sniper taunts detective Brad Coulter and the city of Calgary as the killer leaves no clues, and stalks the streets of the Canadian city like a predator in author Dwayne Clayden’s “13 Days of Terror”, the fourth book in the Brad Coulter series.

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The Synopsis

Monday morning. A man drops dead in the parking lot of a car dealership in downtown Calgary. No one knows where the shot came from. No one knows why the victim was targeted. The shooter? Invisible.

An hour later, another body hits the ground. Random victim, random location.

A sniper is terrorizing Calgary.

Detective Brad Coulter has just returned to work after a long leave of absence. He is thrown directly into the fire and tasked with stopping what is rapidly becoming one of the city’s deadliest killers. The shooter leaves no evidence behind but taunts Brad with notes addressed directly to him. As the death count rises, city-wide panic ensues.

It is a race against time. But how can Brad hunt a ghost?

The Review

This was a fantastic and heart-pounding thriller. The author had a great way of bringing everything in this story to life, from the setting of Calgary to the bitterness and anger of the killer and the frustration and heartbreak of the protagonist. While I am a newcomer to the series, I found the characters engaging and the narrative easy to delve into as a newcomer, making this book accessible and entertaining for both newcomers and longtime fans alike.

This is the perfect read for fans of classic suspense thrillers, as the author does a great job of incorporating their own personal experiences in law enforcement into the narrative to make the plot a lot more realistic than the typical thriller. Yet the author adds just enough drama and creativity to elevate the action and character growth of these characters, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable read.

The Verdict

A memorable, action-driven and suspenseful read, author Dwayne Clayden’s “13 Days of Terror” is the perfect next chapter in the Brad Coulter series. The author masterfully weaves amazing character development for the protagonist and supporting cast with a plot that twists and turns with shocking developments, and by the book’s end leaves room for another exciting chapter in this growing series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab the perfect winter thriller read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author portraits for use on books and book proposals, as well as on LinkedIn, portfolio websites, and other online marketing tools. ©2015, Sean Phillips http://www.RiverwoodPhotography.com

DWAYNE combines his knowledge and experience as a police officer and paramedic to write realistic crime thrillers.

CRISIS POINT, Dwayne’s first novel, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards.

OUTLAWMC is the second in the Brad Coulter Series.

WOLFMAN IS BACK, is the third in the Brad Coulter Series.

In his 40 year career, Dwayne has served as a police officer, paramedic, tactical paramedic, firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS) chief, educator, and academic chair.

Dwayne is a popular speaker at conferences and to writing groups presenting on realistic police, medical, and paramedic procedures.

The co-author of four paramedic textbooks, he has spoken internationally at EMS conferences for the past three decades.

DwayneClayden.com

Posted in reviews

Murder Across the Ocean by Charlene Wexler Review

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

A woman’s trip to London to visit her granddaughter takes a shocking turn when a run-in with her high school love turns into a murder mystery in author Charlene Wexler’s “Murder Across the Ocean”. 

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The Synopsis

American widow Lori Brill thought she’d have an uneventful vacation in London visiting her Granddaughter, Cate. At the airport she ran into Josh, her high-school boyfriend. This resulted in an unexpected night of passion in a London hotel. Lori was all smiles as she stepped out of the shower the next morning, until she saw Josh’s bloody corpse lying in the bed. Who killed Josh? Find out in Murder Across The Ocean.

The Review

The book immediately takes readers through the wringer, as one minute the protagonist is flying high on a cloud of happiness and pleasure, and the next her world is turned upside down as the man she’d spent the night with is now dead. The author does an amazing job of blending a slow-burn style murder mystery with quirky and engaging characters. The relationships between characters like protagonist Lori and her granddaughter Cate or Cate and FBI agent Jordan Gould was one of the more unique ones of the novel, as their heated arguments and clashing as he investigated her grandmother took some shocking turns that readers will love.

One of the most interesting things about the story was the way American and English cultures clashed within the narrative. The setting of London as the backdrop made this feel like a cozy yet entertaining British Murder Mystery on BBC, and the narrative came to life easily on the page as the twists and turns the narrative took only served to enrich the characters themselves overall. 

The Verdict

An engaging, thoughtful, and entertaining murder mystery, author Charlene Wexler’s “Murder Across the Ocean” is a truly memorable read. The author does an excellent job of hitting the reader fast in the first couple of pages before settling into nice and steady pacing that keeps the mystery alive all the way to the book’s final pages. If you haven’t yet be sure to give this book a read for yourselves and grab your own copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Charlene Wexler is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She has worked as a teacher and dental office bookkeeper and as “a wife, mom, and grandmother,” she said. In recent years, Wexler’s lifelong passion for writing has led her to create numerous essays as well as fiction.

She is the author of the books Lori, Murder Across the Ocean, Murder on Skid Row, Milk and Oranges, and Elephants In The Room.

Her work has appeared in several publications, including North Shore Magazine; the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry’s Vision magazine; Alpha Omegan magazine; the book and CD Famous Poets of the Heartland: A Treasury of Beloved Family Poems, Talent, OR: Famous Poets Press, 2014; and the Gazette newspaper of Chicago.

She also has had essays and fiction published on the websites AuthorsDen.com, The Best Short Stories, Cat Stories, Cats and Dogs at Play, End Your Sleep Deprivation.com, Funny Cat Stories, Funny Cats Playing, Funny Passport Stories, How Old is Grandma?, Laughter Is My Medicine, Moral Short Stories-Ethical Tales, One Bright Star.org, Scribd.com, Short Stories for Women, True Cat Stories, and Way Cool Dogs.com.

Wexler’s first novel, Murder on Skid Row, was published in 2010. It is the story of a double-murder on Chicago’s Skid Row in the 1960s. Murder on Skid Row won an international Apex Award of Excellence from Communications Concepts, a writing think tank outside Washington, DC.

Published as an e-book on Smashwords and as a print edition by Central Park Communications in 2012, Milk and Oranges, is a collection of her short fiction and essays examining life, love, and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition. Whether she is tackling fiction or essays, Wexler writes from the heart. With a keen eye for detail and a way of looking at the world a bit sidewasy, wexler’s writings in Milk and Oranges entertain while they make you think.

Milk and Oranges received a Bronze Award in the Women’s Issues category of the eLit Book Awards competition sponsored by the publishing services firm Jenkins Group Inc. of Traverse City, MI, and a rare international Grand Award in the Apex Awards competition by Communications Concepts in 2012.

In 2014, Charlene published two novels as e-books on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle: Lori, a family saga spanning several decades, and Murder Across the Ocean, a murder mystery set in England. Murder Across the Ocean also is available from Amazon as a paperback.

In 2016, Amazon Digital Services published her book Elephants In The Room, Charlene’s latest collection of short fiction and essays examining life, love, and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition.

Her short story Abracadabra Magic received a “Very Highly Commended” rating in the AuthorsDen.com Tom Howard Prose Contest, 2009.

Wexler is active with the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, the Authors Marketing Group, the Chicago Writers Association, Children’s Memorial Hospital philanthropy, Lungevity (an organization that fights lung cancer), the McHenry Bicycle Club, the Museum of Science and Industry, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Richmond IL Book Club, the Jewish United Fund, and the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

“I have always used writing as therapy,” Wexler said. “Now I have the time and opportunity to pursue it as a career.”

Her advice for other aspiring writers–even grandmothers like herself–is to “follow your dream. You can do it, and it’s never too late.”

Posted in reviews

The Girl Who Can Cook by Mike Wehner Review

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

What begins as a tale of revenge soon turns into a search for life and the hidden nature of those we care about most in author Mike Wehner’s “The Girl Who Can Cook”. 

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The Synopsis 

She killed my best friend.

Shame on me.

She lied and said it was self-defense.

Shame on me.

She wrote a book about it.

Shame on you.

It’s been three years since chef Erin shot her boyfriend, John, five times during a domestic dispute. Two years since she was found not guilty on murder charges by way of self-defense. And one year since she opened Essen, a German restaurant in San Francisco’s East Bay. You can read all about it in her memoir; there’s a copy on the front seat of the car parked in front of Essen. The man in the driver’s seat was John’s best friend, Alex, a former engineer. He’s abandoned his career to take justice into his own hands, what he doesn’t know is that soon he’ll be inside, using those hands to peel carrots for the girl who can cook. 

The Review

The novel starts out swinging and doesn’t slow down from there. The protagonist, Alex, is a man beset by anger and fury after his best friend is killed, and the woman responsible not only gets away from it in his eyes but makes money off of it through a tell-all book. The path of vengeance is explored heavily here, as far too often vengeance blinds us to the truth. That also plays into the other narrative here, which is what we do when confronted with a harsh truth about those we care about. Far too often those we trust and love harbor dark secrets about themselves and who they truly are, and it doesn’t come to light until it is too late. 

The author achieved a perfect balance of character development and action within this narrative. A commentary on our modern obsession with true crime-style storytelling, the author highlights the pain of loss and the lengths those who have lost someone will go to see justice done when the law fails them. The use of food and recipes throughout the narrative brought a creative and lightheartedness to the novel, making this a truly entertaining and memorable read.

The Verdict

Emotionally-driven, at times humorous and always action-packed, this evenly-paced novel “The Girl Who Can Cook” by Mike Wehner is a must-read. The exploration of the thin line between revenge and justice is a marvelous thing to see in this narrative, and the twists and turns the reader endures all the way to the book’s end make this a remarkable and fun read. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mike is a novelist, illustrator and fine artist. When he isn’t writing he’s drawing and painting. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with one small wife and two large dogs.

https://www.instagram.com/wehnermike/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MikeWehnerArt

Posted in reviews

The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker Review

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

An FBI agent and a local detective must work together when evidence of a long-hidden serial killer emerges, even when the suspect has no memory of his accused crimes, in authors James Patterson and J.D. Barker’s “The Coast-to-Coast Murders”.

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The Synopsis

A detective and FBI agent join forces on what seems like an open-and-shut case — but a new rash of killings sends them on a pulse-pounding race against time in this intense thriller.

Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past. Both adopted, and now grown — Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology — they trust each other before anyone else. They’ve had to. Their parents are public intellectuals, an Ivy League clinical psychologist and a renowned psychiatrist, and they brought up their adopted children in a rarefied, experimental environment. It sheltered them from the world’s harsh realities, but it also forced secrets upon them, secrets they keep at all costs.

In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Dobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended –but then there’s another killing just like the one they’ve been investigating. And another. And not just in Los Angeles — the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators’ attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss — if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?

From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer — one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.

The Review

The action begins immediately as readers are thrust into a shocking turn of events. Michael is introduced and is immediately thrust into a position of a suspect as a dead woman is found in his home, only he doesn’t know her. However, evidence begins piling up that he had some sort of life with this mystery woman, and soon he finds himself hunted by the law. The twists and turns that take the reader into the heart of this mystery are truly entertaining, as are the multiple POVs that the authors introduce. Michael’s sister Megan is one of the most peculiar and fascinating characters, as her narrative to the police via a written document portrays the damaging and harsh environment these two siblings were raised in. 

The suspense as readers are constantly torn between who the killer truly makes this book stand out. The shift from a complex homicide investigation into a manhunt for a notorious serial killer as the mystery of Michael’s identity and memories comes into play keeps readers invested, and while this is a lengthy read, the twists and turns make this story feel fresh and unique throughout the entirety of the novel. 

The Verdict

A must-read novel, authors J.D. Barker and James Patterson have created a masterpiece thriller with “The Coast-to-Coast Murders”. The characters are memorable and the action intense, and by the book’s end readers will be both pleased and shocked at the final reveal of it all. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of this book today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Official US Site

Official UK Site

JIMMY Patterson Books

ReadKiddoRead

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He has sold over 380 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, among them The President Is Missing with President Bill Clinton, Patterson also writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein Estate. He is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.

The son of an insurance salesman and a schoolteacher, Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, and began casually writing at the age of nineteen. In 1969, he graduated from Manhattan College. He was given a full-ride scholarship to Vanderbilt University’s graduate program in English. He left Vanderbilt before getting his PhD due to complications involving the Vietnam War.

Instead, he moved to New York to become a junior copywriter for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, eventually becoming CEO of its North American company.

In 1976, while still working for J. Walter Thompson, Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, with Little, Brown and Company. After being turned down by thirty-one publishers, it won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Patterson’s 1993 novel, Along Came a Spider, his first book to feature Alex Cross, was also his first New York Times bestseller in fiction.

In 2001, Morgan Freeman starred as Alex Cross in a film adaptation of Along Came a Spider, and Tyler Perry also played the character in the 2012 film Alex Cross. A film adaptation of Patterson’s middle-grade novel Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life was released in theaters in October 2016.

James Patterson has donated more than one million books to students, focusing on some of the most under-resourced schools and youth programs in the country. To date, he has donated $7.25 million to school and classroom libraries throughout the United States, and $2.1 million to independent bookstores and employees.

Patterson has recently donated over $35 million to his and his wife’s alma maters—the University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and Manhattan College—and he has established over four hundred Teacher and Writer Education Scholarships at twenty-one colleges and universities throughout the country. Patterson has also donated more than one million books to U.S. soldiers at home and overseas.

In May 2015, Patterson launched a children’s book imprint at Little, Brown—JIMMY Patterson—that is unwaveringly focused on one goal: turning kids into lifelong readers. This imprint also provides resources, strategies, and programs to serve teachers, parents, librarians, and booksellers. Patterson invests proceeds from the sales of JIMMY Patterson Books in pro-reading initiatives.

Patterson also founded ReadKiddoRead.com, a website designed to help parents, teachers, and librarians ignite a new generation’s excitement for reading. Awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize and the American Library Association’s Great Websites for Kids, the site features thoughtful book reviews from a variety of genres and age ranges, a large and lively Facebook community, and contributions from other authors.

J.D. Barker is the New York Times and international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. His latest, SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE, released March 31. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, sold in more than 150 countries, and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

A note from J.D.

As a child I was always told the dark could not hurt me, that the shadows creeping in the corners of my room were nothing more than just that, shadows. The sounds nothing more than the settling of our old home, creaking as it found comfort in the earth only to move again when it became restless, if ever so slightly. I would never sleep without closing the closet door, oh no; the door had to be shut tight. The darkness lurking inside needed to be held at bay, the whispers silenced. Rest would only come after I checked under the bed at least twice and quickly wrapped myself in the safety of the sheets (which no monster could penetrate), pulling them tight over my head.

I would never go down to the basement.

Never.

I had seen enough movies to know better, I had read enough stories to know what happens to little boys who wandered off into dark, dismal places alone. And there were stories, so many stories.

Reading was my sanctuary, a place where I could disappear for hours at a time, lost in the pages of a good book. It didn’t take long before I felt the urge to create my own.

I first began to write as a child, spinning tales of ghosts and gremlins, mystical places and people. For most of us, that’s where it begins—as children we have such wonderful imaginations, some of us have simply found it hard to grow up. I’ve spent countless hours trying to explain to friends and family why I enjoy it, why I would rather lock myself in a quiet little room and put pen to paper for hours at a time than throw around a baseball or simply watch television. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to do just that, sometimes I wish for it, but even then the need to write is always there in the back of my mind, the characters are impatiently tapping their feet, waiting their turn, wanting to be heard. I wake in the middle of the night and reach for the pad beside my bed, sometimes scrawling page after page of their words, their lives. Then they’re quiet, if only for a little while. To stop would mean madness, or even worse—the calm, numbing sanity I see in others as they slip through the day without purpose. They don’t know what it’s like, they don’t understand. Something as simple as a pencil can open the door to a new world, can create life or experience death. Writing can take you to places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’ve never met, take you back to when you first saw those shadows in your room, when you first heard the sounds mumbling ever so softly from your closet, and it can show you what uttered them. It can scare the hell out of you, and that’s when you know it’s good.

jd

Posted in reviews

The Child Wore Pearls by Morgan Matthews 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 contemplating life beyond her father’s jewelry store and struggling with self-confidence issues and a strained relationship with her mother finds not only a new friendship in an older woman, but a trail of secrets that could upend her whole life in author Morgan Matthews’ thriller, “The Child Wore Pearls”.

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The Synopsis

June Randolph and her father make the perfect team at their small, family-owned jewelry store. While the pair have always maintained a close relationship, the dynamic she shares with her mother has proven much more challenging throughout the years. Now at seventeen years old, June has found herself contemplating life beyond working at her father’s shop. 

Though it isn’t until she is befriended by a ritzy, older customer that June begins to come out of her shell. The woman’s kindness and infectious energy are a welcome addition to her young life the summer before her senior year of high school. However, secrets from her mother’s past begin to threaten June’s newfound happiness – calling into question all that she has ever known. Confronted with the often-perverse intentions of the human heart, the teen must uncover the truth which has been concealed by years of deceit.

The Review

A truly magnificent thriller, author Morgan Matthews has crafted a fantastic story that will shock and amaze readers. Not only does the author create a great cast of characters that have richly developed storylines in a short period of time, but the narrative itself takes readers through twists and turns that will take readers by surprise. 

The author’s tone and the writing style did a great job of utilizing imagery to paint a picture of each scene in the reader’s mind. This story soon begins to feel like it should be adapted into a limited series on Netflix, as the story ramps up with shocking twists that keep the plot thickening more and more. June is a well-rounded protagonist, right on the cusp of adulthood and dealing with personal struggles that readers can relate to while introducing a tense and dangerous new set of problems that could drastically change her life forever.

The Verdict

A brilliantly written, entertaining, and thrilling novel, author Morgan Matthews’ “The Child Wore Pearls” is a must-read novel. The shocking final chapters reveal a tangled web of lies and deceit no one will see coming, and as relationships are tested and new dangers unfold, June will have to learn who she really is in time to uncover the true mystery at the heart of this tale. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of this fantastic thriller today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

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Morgan Matthews is a wife, mother, photographer, lifestyle blogger, and fiction writer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Posted in Interviews

Author Interview with Kelly Brakenhoff

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

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was little. But you know . . . life happened.

In between raising four children, I worked as an American Sign Language Interpreter for more than thirty years, primarily in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. I attend classes with the deaf students and overhear both the most inspiring and the most inane professors you could imagine. At faculty meetings, I’ve seen the jockeying for position that happens on a daily basis. The academic world involves drama and intrigue that even a talented fiction writer could not make up. It’s the perfect setting for a mystery series. 

The Cassandra Sato mysteries began as a NaNoWriMo project in 2014 where I mashed up many of my life experiences together to create a fictional college campus with a funny, strong-willed main character. Writing 50K words in one month proved that I could fulfill my lifelong dream to write a novel. It took me five more years of polishing and learning before publishing the first book, Death by Dissertation in 2019.

Once I checked off that huge item on my Bucket List, I set my sights on a bigger goal. Months of searching for my purpose here on earth led me to start the Duke the Deaf Dog ASL Series. In Never Mind, children and parents alike learn how it feels to be left out because you communicate differently than others. No one of any age likes to be brushed aside with a “never mind.” Farts Make Noise, the second in the series addresses the topic of manners and which things make soft or loud noises.

More than 90% of children who are born deaf or hard of hearing have parents who can hear. My research showed that very few books with deaf or hard of hearing characters focus on young children. I wanted to write a children’s book series that deaf children could feel connected to, because I believe every child can love reading if they find a story they enjoy.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

The Cassandra Sato mysteries are inspired by many real-life experiences. Years ago, I met one of my best friends while my husband and I lived in Hawai’i. I’ve often wished she lived closer to me in Nebraska so we could hang out together in person. Of course, who in their right mind trades the sunny skies and sandy beaches of paradise for miles and miles of cornfields? Right, no one. 

When I began writing my novel during National Novel Writing Month in November of 2014, it was my chance to finally bring my wishes to life. So, I invented Cassandra Sato (who is only a little like my real-life friend) and moved her to Carson, Nebraska, to see how she’d handle the face-freezing winters and ethnically homogenous people. 

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

In the first two books of the series, Cassandra’s predicament as a fish out of water helped readers relate to her difficulties getting used to her new home in Nebraska. Now that she’s settled in a bit, for Dead of Winter Break, I threw in a few obstacles to disrupt her plan for a quiet, restful winter break between semesters.

Winter in the Midwest isn’t for wimps and Cassandra quickly learns what it feels like to shovel snow off her driveway. She has a new dog, Murphy—her first pet ever—and she’s learning some ASL so she can chat with her Deaf students and colleague, Dr. Bryant. All of these changes push Cassandra to her limits. 

By the end of the holidays, Cassandra has to decide the depths of her commitment to her long-term career goals and balancing those with a healthier home life. Can an orphaned dog worm his way into her heart? 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite genres to read so it was a natural choice when I started writing seriously. My books are light-hearted PG-13 because reading is an escape for most people and the real world is too serious and crazy, especially this year.

College communities are microcosms of the larger world and the perfect setting for shenanigans, mayhem, and murder. I think we all struggle to fit in somewhere, whether it’s a new job, with classmates, or who we want to be when we grow up. This series touches on all of those emotions, while also making you laugh. Because when I’m overwhelmed by life, laughter is the best way for me to deal with difficulties and move on.

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

Marcus Fischer is one of the guys who’s romantically interested in Cassandra, but so far, they’ve had a mostly business relationship. We know he was stationed in Iraq during his time in the military and that he has an injured knee, but Fischer’s pretty tight-lipped about his past. I’d ask more about his time overseas because I think those experiences have made him the quiet, deliberate guy he is today. Fischer will have to come to terms with his secrets if he wants to move on with his life, whether he and Cassandra get together or not.

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

Cozy mystery readers in general tend to hang out on Facebook where I’ve joined several very active reader groups. Since I read mysteries and thrillers myself more than any other genres, it’s natural to chat with fans and other authors. The best advice I’ve read about social media says to just be yourself and actually talk to people instead of bombarding them with sales pitches. Since I’ve been stuck working from home for months, I’ve found it easier now to take a while each day to chat with people in the reader groups.

I’m also present on Twitter, but mostly there I support other writers or talk about sports. I haven’t developed relationships with many people from Twitter. Instagram has potential for conversations, but I use it mostly for sharing personal photos and book updates. Other authors use Instagram more than I do, and I’d love to engage there more next year.

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

Against all popular advice, I still struggle to write every day on my works in progress. Usually ideas and dialogue are percolating in my head while I’m doing other tasks, but the only way to finish books is to sit in the chair and write the words. I know that’s what everybody advises. Because they are right!

When you’re just getting started, it comes down to fear of being uncomfortable. Is your discomfort at not finishing that manuscript worse than the fear you feel while you’re writing or revising? You don’t have to be great at something before beginning. The more you write, the better you will get. 

When you feel like vegging on the couch bingeing TV or napping instead of writing, remind yourself how good it will feel when you finish that day’s words. I can’t honestly say I enjoy writing first drafts. It feels like an angsty headache mixed with heartburn and looks ridiculous when I scroll back and re-read it. However, I am addicted to the satisfied feeling I get when I have finished my day’s word goal. 

When a reader leaves a sincere review about why they liked the books, or emails me a question, I love the feeling of having written about characters they enjoyed in a story that touched them. It feels great!

The main thing I’ve learned is to just get started. Don’t wait any longer to pursue your dreams and goals. If I can do it, so can you. Good luck!

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

 Right now, I’m finishing up the text for the next children’s book so I can get that off my plate and into the illustrator’s magic hands. Next, I’m working on the draft of book four in the Cassandra Sato series coming out in early summer of 2021. I have so many ideas for the series, I’ll probably do a few short stories in 2021 to fill in between the full-length books. Although I became an author fairly late in life, I’m having so much fun I plan to do this for a long time!

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About the Author

KELLY BRAKENHOFF is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends.

Kelly writes the Cassandra Sato Mystery series including DEATH BY DISSERTATION, a 2020 RONE Award Mystery Finalist, DEAD WEEK, “a diverting whodunit,” (Publishers Weekly), and DEAD OF WINTER BREAK, a holiday themed cozy new for 2020!

NEVER MIND, and FARTS MAKE NOISE are her children’s picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog and illustrated by her sister, Theresa Murray. The Duke books have quickly become popular with children, parents, and educators for promoting inclusive conversations about children with differences.

The mother of four young adults and a hunting dog, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.

https://www.instagram.com/kellybrak/

https://www.facebook.com/kellybrakenhoffauthor