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 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.

Posted in reviews

The Tech by Mark Ravine Review

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

A young FBI agent takes charge of a new team, and discovers that a series of new cases are mysteriously tied to a shadowy organization in author Mark Ravine’s novel, “The Tech”. 

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The Synopsis

Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments. With a history of rebelling against authority and blunt speaking, she vows to change her ways and make this assignment work.

Within minutes of her taking charge, she is drawn into a bank robbery case. She leads her new team to catch the robbers but discovers that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. The very next day three girls go missing. Before they could be trafficked out of the country, she races against time to rescue them. Soon, she begins to realize that all the cases coming her way are mysteriously connected. As she unravels the threads of a massive conspiracy, she discovers that a secret organization with immense power and authority is behind these horrific crimes. Forces within the FBI thwart her every move to discover the truth. Helping her navigate this maze is the shadowy Michael Patterson. But can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? Soon, witnesses disappear, suspects are killed, with her life and the lives of her team in lethal danger. Will she come out of this alive? Will she uncover and expose this cabal? As time starts running out, Alexandra Cassidy has to evade indictment and defy death in a deadly game of cat and mouse. 

The Review

The author has excelled in his debut novel. The characters are fully developed and do an amazing job of pulling the reader into the narrative as a whole. The complexity of the plot really keeps the intrigue and suspense of this FBI thriller alive, weaving together various cases and plots involving human trafficking, bank robberies and murder. 

The author does an amazing job of crafting a narrative that focuses on a tech-based approach to investigative work and yet makes it accessible and easy for the average reader to delve into, even venturing into sci-fi territory with the sophistication of the tech used in the investigations. Yet it is the character development that really shines the brightest in this novel, crafting a unique blend of suspense and bonding between the protagonist and the team of characters she finds herself surrounded by. 

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The Verdict

A must-read action-fueled thriller, author Mark Ravine’s “The Tech” is a smash hit debut novel. The author has put together a memorable cast of characters and an amazingly interwoven plot that ticks every box in the classic FBI thriller and takes it up several notches. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

Posted in reviews

The Poseidon Files by Mike Rickett Review

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

A high octane thriller that blends the supernatural with science fiction and political thriller takes center stage in author Mike Rickett’s “The Poseidon Files”. 

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The Synopsis 

This is a story about conspiracies: A top-secret military plot which threatens humanity and another plot to leak the secret to the world. But it all backfires and two women find themselves in the centre of intrigue and menace.

The Streets of Liverpool and the picturesque village of Llanberis in Snowdonia, as well as the mountain itself, also play an atmospheric part in a tale of murder and deceit where the supernatural also plays a part.

A gripping supernatural thriller that will captivate you to the very last page.

The Review

A shocking yet fun genre mashup, author Mike Rickett delivers a stellar story and wonderful cast of characters that fans won’t soon forget. What begins as a government cover-up soon turns into a shocking mystery of death, visions, and a race against time as shadowy figures emerge and put two women brought together seemingly by fate into the crosshairs of a dangerous enemy. 

In a larger than life plot lie this, the author does a fantastic job of keeping the story as grounded as possible with memorable characters who keep the reader engaged. The quick friendship and bond between the protagonists in particular keep the reader invested as the story progresses. 

The Verdict

A one of a kind story that is filled with powerful drama, suspense and heart-pounding thrills, author Mike Rickett’s “The Poseidon Files” is a must-read thriller that never slows down. Entertaining and action-packed, the story’s final arc is an edge of your seat scene that will keep readers’ attention throughout its entirety. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mike Rickett is a career journalist having worked for the London Daily Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside in the UK. In a long and varied career, he has worked as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. He has also worked as a PR executive for a major bank and a multi- national electronics company.

His qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University.

He has two children, a son in Tallinn, Estonia and a daughter in Toronto, Canada. He lives in Liverpool in the UK and divides his time between art and writing.

Posted in reviews

Night Sweats: How Moral Philosophy Failed by Michael Bernhart Review

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

In the final chapter of the Sally and Max Brown series, the protagonists face personal and professional hurdles as health scares and the dark horrors of the human organ trade come to light in author Michael Bernhart’s “Night Sweats: How Moral Philosophy Failed”. 

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The Synopsis

Advancing age brings its discomforts and challenges: failing health, concern over diminished appeal, loss of optimism – sometimes even hope. For Max and Sally Brown, it also brings an encounter with some of the most ruthless and unprincipled men on earth: recruiters and doctors who harvest and sell human organs.This, the final episode in the Max Brown series, provides a thrilling, and often disturbing, look inside the “red trade” in human body parts. The action is set against the backdrop of honor crimes against women, and takes place in Jordan and Switzerland.

The Review

A thrilling conclusion to the Sally and Max Brown series, the author presents a truly personal journey for both protagonists. The inspired use of journal entries for both characters to illustrate the ongoing nature of the narrative makes for an engaging way to bring the reader into the story. 

The weight of previous adventures with the characters within this series are shown and take their toll on the protagonists, as the most heinous and harrowing journey is set upon when a series of women who are victims of “honor” attacks begin to die, and soon Sally and Max are investigating the possibility of organ harvesting on the black market. When those they thought they could trust become suspect, the characters are pushed to their limits to find a way to bring justice to the Middle Eastern women who are consistently victimized and yet never spoken up for. The inclusion of a personal health scare for one of the characters and the tragedy of the past haunting the other makes the overall narrative much more engaging for the reader overall. 

The Verdict

A must-read final chapter in the action-thriller series, Night Sweats is a one of a kind tale of crimes against humanity, and the few people willing to step up to fight against it. By the book’s final pages readers will be left in shock as the final events begin winding down. This lengthy yet captivating read is filled with action, suspense and fantastic character development that readers will absolutely love. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Michael Bernhart is an award winning author who has published extensively on international development and public health. His credentials for this written outpouring are a PhD (from MIT!) and four decades of international work – currently 50 countries and counting.

The journey from writing funding proposals to writing pure fiction was short and easy. The result is the Max Brown tetralogy (plus 1) which traces the arc (from age 10 through 68) of a man who tries to be proactive, but whose behavior is driven by external events. Each of the five novels finds Max struggling with a new existential crisis – or crises – as he grows up in these trying times. Manhood used to be a birthright; now it seems to be an unending series of challenges. Each novel also finds Max confronting a new face of evil.

The novels occupy an emerging genre provisionally dubbed ‘philosophical thrillers.’

Dr. (why not use it?) Bernhart started this project before the internet could serve up virtual experiences to authors.The contextual information and situations come from service as a pilot in the USAF, living in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and inexplicable success at snaring women well out of his league. These remarkable similarities with the main character noted, he insists the work is not autobiographical. It’s wish fulfillment.

Bernhart currently lives in a yurt on a mountaintop in northern Georgia with one ex-wife, two daughters, and three cats. He still flies his vintage plane, although more cautiously than before, and he’s unshakeable in his conviction that he’s God’s Gift to Aviation.

Posted in reviews

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be 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 young boy meets a mysterious girl, and begins a lifelong journey of shadowy organizations, haunting deaths and strange happenings no one could possibly believe in author J.D. Barker’s “She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be”. 

The Synopsis

A haunting tale of suspense, rendered with the masterful skill only Barker could muster.

After the loss of his parents, young Jack Thatch first met Stella as a child–this cryptic little girl of eight with dark hair and darker eyes, sitting alone on a bench in the cemetery clutching her favorite book. Gone moments later, the brief encounter would spark an obsession. She’d creep into his thoughts, his every waking moment, until he finally finds her again exactly one year later, sitting upon the same bench, only to disappear again soon after.

The body of a man found in an alley, every inch of his flesh horribly burned, yet his clothing completely untouched. For Detective Faustino Brier, this wasn’t the first, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. It was no different from the others. He’d find another just like it one year from today. August 9, to be exact.

Isolated and locked away from the world in a shadowy lab, a little boy known only as Subject “D” waits, grows, learns. He’s permitted to speak to no one. He has never known the touch of another. Harboring a power so horrific, those in control will never allow him beyond their walls.

All of them linked in ways unimaginable.

SHE HAS A BROKEN THING WHERE HER HEART SHOULD BE conjures thoughts of early King and Koontz. A heart-pounding ride that creeps under your skin and will have you turning pages long into the night. 

The Review

After the grim and compelling series 4MK, my expectations for J.D. Barker’s next novel were definitely high, and he definitely did not disappoint. While not as chilling in nature as 4MK, this novel creates not only engaging mythology and story but a wide cast of characters that elevate the story and create a wide range of emotions in the reader overall. 

The mystery of the young girl this boy meets and the journey he goes on as the years go by creating a truly mind-bending thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. The genre combination of sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and crime with a hint of romance and suspense keeps the readers guessing at every turn, questioning the character’s motives and firmly invested in the story, especially that of the protagonist, Jack. 

The Verdict

One of 2020’s standout hits already, J.D. Barker wows readers everywhere once again with his novel “She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be”. The story is lengthy yet exciting as each chapter goes on, never leaving the reader unengaged and yet always exciting enough to have the reader wanting more. A thrilling novel that felt reminiscent of the early days of Stephen King, this is a must-read book for any fan of a good suspense, mystery and crime thriller. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

J.D. Barker is the international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His novels have been translated into two dozen languages 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 Blog Tours, reviews

First Cut by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell Review

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

A medical examiner new to the San Francisco area finds herself embroiled in a harrowing case involving a murder to cover up the actions of a ruthless drug lord in authors Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell’s “First Cut”. 

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The Synopsis

Wife and husband duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell first enthralled the book world with their runaway bestselling memoir Working Stiff—a fearless account of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner. This winter, Dr. Melinek, now a prominent forensic pathologist in the Bay Area, once again joins forces with writer T.J. Mitchell to take their first stab at fiction. 

The result: FIRST CUT (Hanover Square Press; Hardcover; January 7, 2020; $26.99)—a gritty and compelling crime debut about a hard-nosed San Francisco medical examiner who uncovers a dangerous conspiracy connecting the seedy underbelly of the city’s nefarious opioid traffickers and its ever-shifting terrain of tech startups.

Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals—on both sides of the law—that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.

The Review

A brilliant read, this novel perfectly blends the expertise and gritty reality of forensic work and the work of the medical examiners office with the harrowing and heart-pounding action that comes with a good thriller. 

The story cuts into the complex web of lies uncovered by Jessie Teska, from drug kingpins and dirty lawyers to collegues she thought she could trust and beyond. Haunted by a painful past, Jessie finds herself fighting to uncover the truth behind a horrific crime, with only her brilliant mind and determination to aid her in her fight against politics, criminal empires and more. 

The Verdict

A fantastic thriller for anyone who enjoys a heavy mix of medical forensics and suspense, authors Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell have created a masterful story that will give readers a protagonist to root for, a story to engage with and a brilliant race to the finish that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of Final Cut today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Judy Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.
T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.

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EXCERPT

PROLOGUE

Los Angeles
May

The dead woman on my table had pale blue eyes, long lashes, no mascara. She wore a thin rim of black liner on her lower lids but none on the upper. I inserted the twelve gauge needle just far enough that I could see its beveled tip through the pupil, then pulled the syringe plunger to aspirate a sample of vitreous fluid. That was the first intrusion I made on her corpse during Mary Catherine Walsh’s perfectly ordinary autopsy.

The external examination had been unremarkable. The decedent appeared to be in her midthirties, blond hair with dun roots, five foot four, 144 pounds. After checking her over and noting identifying marks (monochromatic professional tattoo of a Celtic knot on lower left flank, appendectomy scar on abdomen, well-healed stellate scar on right knee), I picked up a scalpel and sliced from each shoulder to the breastbone, and then all the way down her belly. I peeled back the layers of skin and fat on her torso—an ordinary amount, maybe a little on the chubby side—and opened the woman’s chest like a book.

I had made similar Y-incisions on 256 other bodies during my ten months as a forensic pathologist at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, and this one was easy. No sign of trauma. Normal liver. Healthy lungs. There was nothing wrong with her heart. The only significant finding was the white, granular material of the gastric contents. In her stomach was a mass of semidigested pills.

When I opened her uterus, I found she’d been pregnant. I measured the fetus’s foot length and estimated its age at twelve weeks. The fetus appeared to have been viable. It was too young to determine sex.

I deposited the organs one by one at the end of the stainless-steel table. I had just cut into her scalp to start on the skull when Matt, the forensic investigator who had collected the body the day before, came in.

“Clean scene,” he reported, depositing the paperwork on my station. “Suicide.”

I asked him where he was going for lunch. Yogurt and a damn salad at his desk, he told me: bad cholesterol and a worried wife. I extended my condolences as he headed back out of the autopsy suite.

I scanned through Matt’s handwriting on the intake sheet and learned that the body had been found, stiff and cold, in a locked and secure room at the Los Angeles Omni hotel. The cleaning staff called the police. The ID came from the name on the credit card used to pay for the room, and was confirmed by fingerprint comparison with her driver’s license thumbprint. A handwritten note lay on the bed stand, a pill bottle in the trash. Nothing else. Matt was right: There was no mystery to the way Mary Walsh had died.

I hit the dictaphone’s toe trigger and pointed my mouth toward the microphone dangling over the table. “The body is identified by a Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s tag attached to the right great toe, inscribed LACD-03226, Walsh, Mary Catherine…”

I broke the seal on the plastic evidence bag and pulled out the pill bottle. It was labeled OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, and it was empty.

“Accompanying the body is a sealed plastic bag with an empty prescription medication bottle. The name on the prescription label…”

I read the name but didn’t speak it. The hair started standing up on my neck. I looked down at my morning’s work—the splayed body, flecked with gore, the dissected womb tossed on a heap of other organs.

That can’t be, I told myself. It can’t.

On the clipboard underneath the case intake sheet I found a piece of hotel stationery sealed in another evidence bag. It was the suicide note, written in blue ink with a steady feminine hand. I skimmed it—then stopped, and went back.

I read it again.

I heard the clipboard land at my feet. I gripped the raised lip of my autopsy table. I held tight while the floor fell away.


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Q&A with Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Q: Do you plan your books in advance or let them develop as you write?

A:The idea for First Cut was prompted by some of Judy’s actual cases when she worked as a San Francisco medical examiner. She has real experience performing autopsy death investigation, and she also has the imagination to apply that experience to a fictional framework for our forensic detective, Dr. Jessie Teska. Judy invented the story, and together we worked it up as an outline. Then T.J. sat in a room wrestling with words all day—which he loves to do—to produce the first complete manuscript. That’s our inspiration plus perspiration dynamic as co-authors.

Q: What does the act of writing mean to you?

A: It is, and has always been, something we can do together, an important part of our marriage. We’ve collaborated as a creative team since we were in college together many years ago, producing and directing student theater. We’ve also spent twenty years raising our four children, and have always approached parenting as a partnership. We find it easy to work together because we write like we parent: relying on one another, each of us playing to our strengths. It helps that, in our writing process, we have no overlapping skill set!

 Q: Have you ever had a character take over a story, and if so, who was it and why?

A: Oh, yes! That’s our heroine, Dr. Jessie Teska. She has elements of Judy in her, and elements of T.J., but Jessie is a distinct individual and a strong-willed one. We’re often surprised and even shocked by the ways she reacts to the situations we put her in. There are times we’ll be writing what we thought was a carefully laid-out scene, and Jessie will take us sideways. She’s coming off T.J.’s fingertips on the the keyboard, both of us watching with mouths agape, saying, “What the hell is she up to?”

Q: Which one of First Cut’s characters was the hardest to write and why?

A: Tommy Teska, Jessie’s brother. He’s a minor character to the book’s plot, but the most important person in Jessie’s life, and he’s a reticent man, downright miserly with his dialogue. Tommy carries such great emotional weight, but it was hard to draw it out of him, especially because so much of his bond to our heroine is in the backstory of First Cut, not in the immediate narrative that lands on the page. We’re now working on the sequel, Cross Cut, and finding that Tommy has more occasion to open up in that story.

Q: Which character in any of your books (First Cut or otherwise) is dearest to you and why?

A: The late Dr. Charles Sidney Hirsch, from our first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Dr. Hirsch is not just a character: He was a real person, Judy’s mentor and a towering figure in the world of forensic pathology. Dr. Hirsch trained Dr. Melinek in her specific field of medicine and imbued in her his passion for it. He was a remarkable man, a great teacher and physician and public servant—a person of uncompromising integrity coupled with great emotional intelligence.

Q: What did you want to be as a child? Was it an author?

A: Judy’s father was a physician, and though she never wanted to follow in his immediate footsteps—he was a psychiatrist—she has always wanted to be another Dr. Melinek. T.J. has always been a writer, but also has theater training and worked in the film industry. As much as we enjoyed authoring the memoir Working Stiff, and as happy as we have been with its success, we are even more thrilled to be detective novelists.

Q: What does a day in the life of Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell look like?

A: Judy is a morning person and T.J.’s a night owl, so we split parenting responsibilities. Judy gets the kids off to school and then heads to the morgue, where she performs autopsies in the morning and works with police, district attorneys, and defense lawyers in the afternoon. T.J. takes care of the household and after-school duties. If we work together during the day, it’s usually by email in the late afternoon. T.J. cooks dinner, Judy goes to bed early, and he’s up late—at his most productive writing from nine to midnight or later.

Q: What do you use to inspire you when you get Writer’s Block?

A: We go for a long walk together. Our far corner of San Francisco overlooks the Pacific Ocean, bracketed by cypress trees and blown over with fog, and serves as an inspiring landscape. We explore the edge of the continent and talk out where our characters have been and where they need to get, tossing ideas back and forth until a solution, what to do next on the page, emerges. Getting away for a stroll with our imaginary friends is always a fruitful exercise!

Q: What book would you take with you to a desert island?

A: T.J. would take the Riverside Shakespeare, and Judy would take Poisonous Plants: A Handbook for Doctors, Pharmacists, Toxicologists, Biologists and Veterinarians, Illustrated.

Q: Do you have stories on the back burner that are just waiting to be written?

A: Always! We are inspired by Dr. Melinek’s real-life work, both in the morgue and at crime scenes, in police interrogation rooms, and in courtrooms. Our stories are fiction—genre fiction structured in the noir-detective tradition—but the forensic methods our detective employs and the scientific findings she comes to are drawn from real death investigations.

Q: What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?

A: The hardest thing is juggling our work schedules to find uninterrupted time together to write. The most fun is meeting and talking to our readers at book events, especially those who have been inspired to go into the field of forensic pathology after reading our work.

Q: What advice would you give budding authors about publishing?

A: It’s all about connectivity. Linking up with other writers, readers, editors, and research experts is a crucial way to get your work accomplished, and to get it out to your audience. Yes, ultimately it’s just you and the keyboard, but in the course of writing your story, you can and should tap into the hive mind, online and in person, for inspiration and help.

Q: What was the last thing you read?

A: Judy last read The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, and T.J. last read The Witch Elm by Tana French.

Q: Your top five authors?

A: Judy’s are Atul Gawande, Henry James, Kathy Reichs, Mary Roach, and Oliver Sacks. T.J.’s are Margaret Atwood, Joseph Heller, Ed McBain, Ross Macdonald, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Q: Book you’ve bought just for the cover?

A: T.J.: Canary by Duane Swierczynski. Judy: Mütter Museum Historical Medical Photographs.

Q: Tell us about what you’re working on now.

A: First Cut is the debut novel in a detective series, and we’ve recently finished the rough draft of Cross Cut, its sequel. We are in the revision phase now, killing our darlings and tightening our tale, working to get the further adventures of Dr. Jessie Teska onto bookshelves next year!

Posted in reviews

I know When You’re Going To Die by Michael J. Bowler Review

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

A young man living life as the social outcast finds himself fighting to save his best friend after he is given a haunting power in author Michael J. Bowler’s “I Know When You’re Going To Die”. 

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The Synopsis

Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death.

His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike.

Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.

The Review

A brilliant read, the author does an amazing job of capturing the raw nature of fear that grips us all when staring into the face of death while also delving into the hardships and struggles modern day teens face from peers and adults alike. 

The story weaves together a tale of suspense and horror into a modern day high school drama setting, bringing together the problems teens face all too often, including the process of finding one’s place in the world. As protagonist Leo sets out to save his friend, secrets and relationships are revealed, and highlight the heartbreaking process many teens face when forced to conceal their true selves in the face of cruelty from both students and teachers alike. 

The Verdict

An amazing read, I Know When You’re Going To Die by Michael J. Bowler is a must read. A story many can relate to while telling a gripping tale of suspense and thrills, this novel really weaves together multiple genres well, and will leave readers on the edge of their seats. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this novel by either pre-ordering your copy today or getting your copy when it releases on February 25th, 2020!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California for many years, both in general education and students with disabilities. When Michael is not writing you can find him volunteering as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, volunteering within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles, or caring for his newly adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, and hopes his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.

You can find Michael at:

Website: www.michaeljbowler.com

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Michael-J.-Bowler/e/B0…

Facebook: www.facebook.com/michaeljbowlerauthor

Twitter: twitter.com/BradleyWallaceM

tumblr: michaeljbowler.tumblr.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/michaelbowler

Instagram: www.instagram.com/stuntshark

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2NX.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z48BHH4?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1484221699

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/i-know-when-you-re-going-to-die

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-know-when-youre-going-to-die-michael-j-bowler/1134221152;jsessionid=ACEF0B8A8DBF47B8C52210F233FF2F1F.prodny_store01-atgap15?ean=2940163679256