Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Rich Zahradnik - A Black Sail - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

On the eve of the U.S. Bicentennial, newsman Coleridge Taylor is covering Operation Sail. New York Harbor is teeming with tall ships from all over the world. While enjoying the spectacle, Taylor is still a police reporter. He wants to cover real stories, not fluff, and gritty New York City still has plenty of those in July of 1976. One surfaces right in front of him when a housewife is fished out of the harbor wearing bricks of heroin, inferior stuff users have been rejecting for China White, peddled by the Chinatown gangs.

Convinced he’s stumbled upon a drug war between the Italian Mafia and a Chinese tong, Taylor is on fire once more. But as he blazes forward, flanked by his new girlfriend, ex-cop Samantha Callahan, his precious story grows ever more twisted and deadly. In his reckless search for the truth, he rattles New York’s major drug cartels. If he solves the mystery, he may end up like his victim—in a watery grave.




My Review

Do the biggest crimes occur when the biggest events are happening? This story certainly gives merit to the idea. It's summer 1976 and preparations are in full swing for the Fourth of July Bicentennial celebration. Tall-mast ships from all over the world are descending upon New York City for this once-in-a-lifetime event. From a PR standpoint, the cops, the media, they all know they need to make the city look like a fun and happy place. But what if the underground criminal element doesn't agree?

A few days before it's all set to go down, a body is found beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Almost immediately, the murder is hushed up since a whole lot of drugs are taped to the woman's corpse. The NYPD assumes it's likely the Chinese sending a message to the Mafia (since the mob supposedly doesn't kill women and children), as they battle for control of the city's narcotics trade. No one in charge wants word of this getting out until after the festivities are over. They can't afford for a drug war to erupt in the middle of everything, compromising the safety of the millions, attending the event.

The book lays out one cardinal rule when it comes to crime in New York City—it usually occurs when the sun goes down. So things get even crazier when hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry is stolen right out of the Empire State Building—in broad daylight. A flock of reporters literally run to the scene, giving the cops no chance to cover it up. And just when things can't get any hairier, the situation almost spirals out of control when the Coast Guard is forced to intervene after gunshots are fired and a boat explodes on the water across the harbor in Newark. Yet strangely enough, the next day, nothing manages to make it into the papers about it.

I liked the parallels that were drawn to the present day. In 1976, there are bombings in Boston. There's discord with Russia. There's a strong racist element among those in power. And there's a presidential election, looming in the fall. When you look back, in some ways, the United States wasn't so different than it is today, which is alternately scary and comforting, depending on how you look at it.

In the current age of terrorism and gun violence (by and against) police, it's interesting to compare 1976 with 2016 and wonder just how much is going on that we don't know about. The only thing is that now camera phones are beginning to change the story, shining a light on things that authority figures would much rather keep us in the dark about.

And that's what great storytelling, like this book, gets us to do—think, look beyond the surface and question the status quo.

***

A Black Sail can be pre-ordered at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $15.95 paperback
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Pages: 264
Release: October 1, 2016
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812115
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

About the Author

Rich Zahradnik is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor Mystery series (A Black Sail, Drop Dead Punk, Last Words).



The second installment, Drop Dead Punk, won the gold medal for mystery/thriller ebook in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). It was also named a finalist in the mystery category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Last Words won the bronze medal for mystery/thriller ebook in the 2015 IPPYs and honorable mention for mystery in the 2015 Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Awards.



"Taylor, who lives for the big story, makes an appealingly single-minded hero," Publishers Weekly wrote of Drop Dead Punk.



Zahradnik was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter.



In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New York's Center for Fiction.



Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1960 and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where writes fiction and teaches kids how to publish newspapers.

Links to connect with Rich:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Michael J. Bowler - A Matter of Time - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

The world's greatest evil stalks the world's greatest ship, and the only one who can stop him hasn't been born yet. Jamie Collins is a junior at Santa Clara University in 1986. He has friends, a professor who mentors him, and a promising future as a writer. Then the dreams begin - nightmarish memories that transport him back to a time and place fifty years before he was born: Titanic's maiden voyage in 1912. When Jamie discovers a foreign cell in his blood that links him to the famous vessel, the two timelines begin to overlap and he realizes an unimaginable truth - something supernatural stalks the ill-fated ship, something that will kill him if he can't stop it first. And the only way to stop it may be to prevent Titanic from sinking. But even if he can figure out a way to do that, should he? What will be the effect on history if he succeeds? And what about the lady he wasn't supposed to fall in love with? As her destiny becomes entwined with his, Jamie discovers the value of friendship, the power of love, the impact of evil, and the vagaries of Fate.



My Review

What I like about a Michael J. Bowler novel are the sub-plots within the main plot. And the standout in this one has to be the main character's calling to be a writer.

Jamie has always been a bookish kid. Even now that he's in college, he still lives in his head, instead of the real world. To his friends, he's known for having a vivid imagination, which is why no one believes him when he says he has to hire a boat to take him to the middle of the North Atlantic on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. According to him, he's slowly turning into a vampire, thanks to a series of troubling dreams he's been having about being onboard the doomed ocean liner. (On a side note, I love how he makes it all happen simply by handing over the MasterCard his parents gave him for any "emergencies" that might come up.)

He doesn't understand what's happening to him, but deep down he feels he has to do this. He's out to find his destiny, but what he doesn't understand is that sometimes it finds us whether we're ready for it or not. He believes in what he's doing because he feels it. He's positive he's right about this, even though his insistence on following through on this hunch is bordering on obsession.

Jamie doesn't think the way other people do. He's not afraid to delve into his inner self to see what's there. But there's a danger in that when he withdraws further into himself, and starts acting like one of his characters. It's sad that his exceptional mind makes him feel very much alone.

And really that's where Jamie's identity crisis stems from. His father is a hard man. He doesn't accept his son for who he is. He's displeased with him because he's not the kind of man he wanted him to be. It's the classic case of the husband blaming the wife for babying a grown son.

But when Jamie steps foot on the fishing vessel that's going to take him to the Titanic's last known coordinates, he meets someone who gets him, the captain of the ship. They have a lively discussion about "Moby Dick" and the dangers of excessive pride. And the literary allusions keep coming, most notably in the Hamlet-like decision Jamie's going to have to make, if indeed, he's able to journey back through time. If he chooses to alter the past, is he ready to accept the consequences of changing the future ... and possibly making things worse than they are now?

And the kicker is, that the ship's captain used to be like Jamie's father. He didn't understand his bookish son either. It's not until after he died, that he bothered to read any of the books that are now lining the walls of his cabin. In Jamie, he sees the man his son could've become. And he'll stop at nothing to do whatever he can to help him.

Even if it means, setting him adrift at sea, to write the next chapter in his life.

***

A Matter of Time can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

Formats/Prices: $2.99 ebook, $12.95 paperback, $14.95-$21.83 Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 340
Release: March 2, 2012
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 9781432787110
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of nine novels—A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner – 2013 Wishing Shelf Book Awards; Reader Views Honorable mention; Runner-Up Rainbow Awards; Honorable Mention - Southern California Book Festival), Running Through A Dark Place (Bronze Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), There Is No Fear (Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America; Spinner (Winner Hollywood Book Festival; Honorable Mention San Francisco Book Festival; Bronze Medal from Reader’s Favorite; Literary Classics Seal of Approval; Runner-Up - Southern California Book Festival; Honorable Mention - Halloween Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards), and Warrior Kids: A Tale of New Camelot (Honorable Mention in the London Book Festival and The New England Book Festival; Finalist – 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards).

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II.”

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He has finished writing a novel based on his screenplay, “Like A Hero,” and another book aimed at the teen market. He hopes to find a publisher or an agent for both.

His goal as an author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world. The most prevalent theme in his writing and his work with youth is this: as both a society, and as individuals, we’re better off when we do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Tumblr
Pinterest
Instagram
Blog Tour Site


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Claudia Riess - Semblance of Guilt - 99¢ Ebook Sale, Review, Excerpts & Giveaway



About the Book

Ellen Davis’s husband left her for another woman. Post-divorce, she’s trying to reassert her independence and lands a job as a reporter for her local newspaper. One of her assignments is covering weekly items on the police blotter, which is how she gets to know Lieutenant Pete Sakura—a handsome, witty Japanese- American Ellen is drawn to immediately.

Another of Ellen’s assignments is interviewing for the paper’s “Around The Town” column, and in this capacity, she meets Graham and Sophia Clarke, newcomers to the community. He’s an administrator at Columbia; she’s his beautiful Greek wife. Ellen and Sophia become fast friends, so it comes as a great shock when Sophia ends up dead.

Sophia Clarke is found murdered, and to all appearances, Ellen is the last person to have seen her alive. When Ellen’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, she’s arrested, and evidence steadily mounts against her. Ellen takes matters into her own hands as her romantic feelings for Pete intensify. Closing this case could either save Ellen or lead to her destruction.


Review

Wanting control. Wanting respect. Wanting it all. There's a tug-of-war going on in this mystery novel, and I never knew what side of the rope I was going to end up on.

Claudia Riess's writing style involves a lot of back and forth, plenty of push and pull. One minute I was inside the head of one character, one minute the next. Reading a chapter, I was in one place before the scene shifted to another. It left me with an unbalanced, unhinged sort of feeling, like I was never exactly sure what was going to happen or what was going on. I just had to trust Riess and hold on for the ride.

Take for example when Riess frames Ellen Davis, her main character, for a murder she didn't commit. Ballsy stuff that's all wrapped up in the conundrum known as Graham Clarke. Sometimes, Ellen is afraid of him, and sometimes she's not. At first glance, he seems harmless enough, a college admissions advisor, sporting preppy horned-rim glasses, a hen-pecked demeanor, the whole nine yards. However, once Ellen befriends his wife, Sophia, that's when my impression of him began to change. Ellen starts picking up on the more sinister edge to his personality…albeit a little too late.

Needless to say, Ellen doesn't see it coming when Sophia winds up dead and she's the one accused of being the killer. (Even though, I did…from reading the blurb!) Right from the start, it comes across as almost too neatly done, as if Graham had targeted her ahead of time, casting her in the starring role of offing his wife. My biggest mistake was the same as Ellen's. We both underestimated nerdy Graham, not believing him capable of being as cunning as he turns out to be.

It's not until later on in the novel when the comments of his deceased mother are revealed, that Riess beings to show how her cutting words continue to emasculate Graham from beyond the grave. His mother even goes so far as to leave her inheritance to charity in order to spite him. So it's no surprise when his resentment of his wife's wealth bubbles up and spills over. He's sick and tired of living to please the demanding women in his life. First, his mother, then his wife, then his college-aged mistress. He snaps, not intending to play second fiddle to anyone anymore. Mama's boy, Graham, is taking charge now—let the pieces fall where they may. Watch out, Ellen. He wants a new life, regardless of who he has to destroy in order to get it.

Let's say this: Reiss knows how to pen one heck of an elaborate plot—one that certainly left my mind spinning.


Excerpts


After navigating past the desks, she knocked on the door of the cubicle. No response. The second, more deliberate, rap was answered with an impatient “Come!”

Ellen entered the office and was somewhat taken aback by the sight of an attractive Asian man in shirt-sleeves awkwardly poised by the side of his desk, arms out, legs spread one behind the other, the front one slightly bent, the rear rigidly locked. He looked, she thought, as if he were trying to keep his balance on a skateboard. His attention was fixed on an open book sitting at the edge of his desk. “Give me a second,” he said testily, without taking his eyes off the book and at the same time adjusting the position of his front foot to a more pigeon-toed angle.

“I won’t ask what you’re doing,” Ellen said.

“Smart.” There was a sound of raised voices coming from the outer room. “The door!”

She closed it. “However, maybe you’d like to know what I’m doing?”

He ignored her question. “Damn, I’m not getting it.” He glanced up. “Do me a favor, take a look at number fifty and tell me what the hell is wrong here.”

Ellen approached the desk and peered down at the open book. A two-page spread of photographs showed a man in what looked like an usher’s uniform demonstrating a series of exercises. “Is this tai chi?”

“This is a pain in the ass. Could you look at the picture, tell me where I’m off, please?”

“‘Fair Lady works at Shuttles,’” she read aloud. She looked up from the page at him then back down again. “I see where you are. Figure fifty-A. It says: ‘Elbow bent, your right hand comes to your center line, fingers pinched together…’” She looked up. “For starters, your fingers aren’t pinched together.”

“Just hold the book up so I can see it from a better angle, okay?”

She held the book, show-and-tell style. He went through a variety of disconnected motions, clearly becoming more frustrated. “Shit.”

Ellen had formed a perception of the Japanese male as meditative, controlled, mysterious, soft-spoken, one who quietly went about transcending the material world while politely manipulating it. She had never realized she harbored this fully defined and fallacious stereotype until that moment, as she was looking at what appeared to be its antithesis. “If your phone rings, should I answer it?”

“Forget it.” He dropped the pose, took the book from her and put it back on the desk. “I’m all out of sync.”

“Now I’ll ask. What are you doing?”

“Getting my goddamn yin and yang together. My doctor tells me I have an ulcer and prescribes pills, but I don’t like pills. I’m taking up the eastern approach.”

“But isn’t tai chi Chinese?”

“Yeah, so?”

“‘Sakura’ sounds like a Japanese name.”

“Let me ask you a question. You ever eat chow mein?”

“Well, yes.”

“I rest my case.” He waved her toward the chair on the other side of the desk and dropped down into his own. “Sit.”

She remained on her feet. “I’m Ellen Davis. I was told you had the data for the Chronicle’s ‘Blotter’ column. I’m just here to collect it.”

He threw up a hand. “What’s the point of that column? All it does is stigmatize the poor saps who appear in it. There’s no investigation of circumstances, no disclaimers stating charges could be erroneous. Just a cold-blooded list of citations.”

“It’s supposed to serve as a deterrent,” she said without conviction. “Actually, I don’t particularly like the column myself, but I don’t make up the rules. I’m sorry I messed up your exercise routine. May I have the material, please?”

She became aware of herself as an unattached, uncompromised individual as she once was at Penn. She sensed the boundaries of her being as clearly as she felt the hem of her knit dress pull tightly against her legs with each step she took. It was as if she had never been married, had instead dressed for an interview and walked straight out of west Philadelphia into Morningside Heights.

Mid-block between 109 and 108 Streets, as she was passing a shoe store and scanning the view across the way, her attention was drawn to the bright blue awning of Charlie’s Snack Bar. At that moment the door to the restaurant opened, and a tall young woman with cropped red hair and wearing a tight black turtleneck sweater, clingy black pants and black cowboy boots, stepped out into the daylight. The girl stood aside to allow the man behind her to pass, and as he emerged completely into the sunlight, Ellen recognized Graham. She was about to hail him, when he took a step toward the redhead and Ellen realized he was with her. Unable to tear her focus from the scene or insinuate herself into it, she backed up into the shadow cast by the overhanging eave of the shoe store.

While Graham snapped down and adjusted the removable sun-visors of his eyeglasses, the young woman reached into the breast pocket of his blazer, drew out a pair of sunglasses he must have been holding for her, and put them on, in the process grazing her breasts against his left elbow. The act defined them as intimate friends, yet the distance springing up between them immediately afterward seemed devised to refute it. They stood apart talking to each other, their postures stiff and formal, their not touching as conspicuous as an open embrace.

Ellen watched them as her years at Penn were sucked into a black hole, and all she could remember was her husband Kevin dropping the bomb, telling her he was leaving her. Watching Graham and the redhead across the street was like catching the discovery scene she had missed, seeing it replayed for her benefit, like a burlesque in which she was both captive audience and object of scorn.

Almost at once she felt a connection with Sophia.

Sophia pulled her hands away and struck out at Ellen in one continuous movement, throwing herself off balance and stumbling sideways. She stared in horror at the gouge one of her nails had made on Ellen’s chest, and Ellen, stunned by the violence and not yet feeling the pain, gazed in disbelief at the drop of blood tracking toward the scalloped edge of her white satin bustier.

“Go—get out of here,” Sophia rasped. “I’m afraid what I might do to you. Get out, get out.”

The blood trickled onto the rim of smooth white fabric, forming a small, irregular stain. Ellen looked up at Sophia. The woman she thought she knew had become a trapped animal, her eyes wary-wild.

A sharp pain from the nick in her chest jolted her from her numbing inertia. She moved quickly from the room, feeling the tears coming, holding them back, postponing them as she ran silently down the hall. She descended the steps with blazing deliberation, her pace quick and even, her focus on reaching the door and disappearing into the sheltering night. She could feel her eyes, static-wide in bewildered alarm, betraying her attempt to appear in total control. Still, she focused straight ahead, concentrating on her goal, hearing Anna calling her name but moving through the sound, pacing herself to simulate haste without flight as she sliced through the clear zone of the foyer and pushed open the storm door. Midway across the porch she collided with an incoming guest, all pearls and black silk, the woman’s staccatoed “Shit!” like a gunshot in an open field of combat.

Picking up speed, she hurtled down the bluestone drive, anticipating the sound of the engine starting up even before she could spot her car.

***

Tuesday, March 13. First day in court. The jury sat knit-browed and entranced, leaning forward so as not to miss a word, not yet settled in their role of deliberative body. To Ellen, they looked as if they’d been caught off guard at the supermarket, a rainbow assortment of shoppers rounded up one afternoon and transported to a box at the opera, best seats in the house.

Ellen sat in a heavy, slat-back chair drawn up close to a long oak table. She was wearing a gray suit and paisley print blouse because Rosenthal had told her to wear something conservative but not somber. The skirt buckled and slid around her waist every time she moved because in the last two months she’d lost ten pounds from under-eating and over-exercising. As she’d taken her seat in the courtroom, she’d snagged her pantyhose on a rough spot on the table leg and felt the rip crawl up her leg, making her feel exposed to the prying eyes in the room. She’d been unable to choose earrings that morning, vacillating between small and large, shiny and dull, gold and silver, fixating on this final aspect of her attire as if she could determine the decision of the jury by choosing the politically correct objects to hang on her earlobes. When Rosenthal blew his car horn in the driveway she’d grabbed for familiarity, the small gold hoops, before allowing herself to be whisked off to the mind-boggling unknown.

Sitting next to her at the oak table, “Try to relax,” Rosenthal whispered in her ear, leaning toward and away from her in one smooth, condensed motion.

Ellen sat back in the chair, her rigid spine meeting hard wood, the word “relax” banned from her body’s vocabulary. Through an impromptu technique of auto-suggestion and deep breathing, she was barely managing to bring under control the strangulating tension in her neck and the explosive blood-humming in her ears. It was not her lawyer’s fault she hadn’t been prepared for Mark Gilbert’s speech. Rosenthal had described the prosecutor’s meticulous approach, but there was no way he could have prepared her for the immediacy of the event: the way Gilbert cocked his left hip as he stood facing the jury; how his dark eyes seemed to glow from some deep passion or conviction; how he flashed her alternating looks of consternation and pity; how he stressed syllables unexpectedly, so that his words jumped against the wall of her chest—“enter the room,” “points of the scissors,” “homicidal violence”; how his brow suddenly furrowed as he reminded the jury—“You and I, we represent the People. We have been charged not to avenge a wrong, but to deliver justice.”

***

“Come up to the bedroom.”

“Yes.”

“Stay the night.”

“Yes.”

“Hurry.” She wanted to be taken on the spot, jammed against the table or pinned to the floor, but delay would set the act apart. She could foresee it, her first experience of absolute exposure—the loss of her true virginity on her sex-worn bed. The chaste and devilish nuances of amazing contradiction lifted the event to the peak of desire. He was one step behind her, holding on to her hand as they climbed the staircase. She was aware of every footfall, every breath, every sound of this outwardly conventional drama. She led him down the hall, almost turning in at the wrong doorway, almost forgetting where she slept, his presence casting an aura of unfamiliarity on the surroundings. He caught her hesitation and uttered a short, nervous laugh, sharing her bewilderment.

As they entered her bedroom, it seemed to lose all connection to her past, as if it had come into existence at that very moment just to harbor them.

In rapt silence they helped each other with the shedding of clothes, marveling at the unhurried pace of the ritual, as if their bodies had agreed to temper urgency with curiosity.

They lay on the white comforter, barely disturbing it in their intent exploration, the upheavals taking place inwardly, while over audacious globes and rises and along newly accessible furrows, their fingers, lips, tongues concentrated movement in targeted pressures, exacting exquisite modulations of sensation from each focal point.


***

Semblance of Guilt can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

99¢ EBOOK SALE!
runs July 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: 99¢ $3.99 ebook, $21.99 paperback, $39.95 hardcover
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 328
Release: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Archway
ISBN: 9781480827851
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

"A determined amateur detective who'll garner fans with her refusal to either back down or give up." -Kirkus Reviews

***

About the Author

Claudia Riess, a Vassar graduate, has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt Rinehart and Winston. On her first novel, Reclining Nude, Oliver Sacks, M.D. commented: “exquisite—and delicate.” Her second, art suspense Stolen Light earned: “complex and intriguing” —Kirkus Review

Links to connect with Claudia:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Frank Nappi - Welcome to the Show - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

It’s 1950 and Mickey Tussler—the now-famous pitching prodigy with autism and a golden arm—is back for another baseball season in this third installment of Frank Nappi’s critically acclaimed Legend of Mickey Tussler series. Talk of Mickey’s legendary exploits on the field has grown since his improbable debut two years prior, as have the fortunes of Murph and the rest of the lovable ragtag Brew Crew. Now Mickey, Murph, and Lester find themselves heading to Bean Town to play for the Boston Braves.

The call up is sweet, for all of them have overcome insurmountable odds to get where they are. But life in the major leagues is filled with fast-paced action both on and off the field. The bright lights of Boston hold a new series of challenges, hardships, and life lessons—especially for Mickey, who finds himself a long way from throwing apples into a barrel back on the farm. The three newest Braves have each other to lean on, as well as a new group of fans who are swept away by pennant fever, but balancing everything this new world has to offer may prove to be the greatest challenge of all.




My Review

I always judge a book based on how quickly I'm able to get through it. And this one I was able to finish in one, maybe two sittings tops. So it definitely gets my seal of approval for that. I'm not a fan of long, drawn out story lines  that take forever to get to the point. And thankfully WELCOME TO THE SHOW was the complete opposite of that. It moved along at fast clip. I didn't get bored. Honestly, I was fully engaged in the story from the first page to the last. So thanks, Frank Nappi for capturing my attention, and keeping it.

Because let's face it, coming up with the plot of a baseball book is tricky. If you're going to write one from spring training to the end of the season, it means A LOT of scenes about A LOT of games. The danger is things can get repetitive in a hurry. The same line-up. The same pitches coming in. But this book held some surprises for me, like the back-to-back home run blasts that go foul, first one to the left field foul pole then one to the right. Or having the starting pitcher, who pitched the night before, come in to close out a do-or-die game with everything on the line. Nappi is no doubt a fan of the game, and he gets all its little eccentricities right. I'm pleased to say that the amount of detail - like the pitch counts, or the catcher's signs - don't affect the overall pace of the storytelling. It moves quicker than one of Mickey's blazing fastballs.

While I love reading baseball books for the baseball, that's not what I'll take away from this one. The emotion behind each play, each managerial decision that's what I'll remember. Players can go out and take the field night after night, but if a group of guys isn't busting their butts for each other, no matter how talented the individual players are, you're not going to have a TEAM. Mickey's tale is a good reminder that the game is played by people, people from all walks of life. And when the chemistry is right, sometimes magical things can happen.

***

Welcome to the Show can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

Prices/Formats: $9.99 ebook, $9.99 paperback
Genre: Sports, YA, Special Needs
Pages: 288
Release: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony
ISBN: 9781634508292
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

Video




***

About the Author

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty five years. His debut novel, ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Nappi continues to produce quality work, including SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story and the thriller, NOBODY HAS TO KNOW, which received an endorsement from #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. The third installment of Nappi's Mickey Tussler series, WELCOME TO THE SHOW, was released April 2016, and he is currently working on his next thriller, AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE. Nappi lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

Links to connect with Frank:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
YouTube


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Friday, June 17, 2016

M. Glenda Rosen - Dying to Be Beautiful series - 99¢ sale, excerpts & giveaway



BOOK ONE: WITHOUT A HEAD

Saturday Morning, 6:00am

The head in the sink stared up at her. Darcy Monroe, the owner of a popular, chic hair salon was used to this. Only this time, the head was there without a body.

Chapter One: The Murder

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons. A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish setter sitting next to her.




Excerpt


Chapter 1
The Murder


Saturday, 6:10 A.M.

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons.

A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish Setter sitting next to her.

As a well-respected private investigator in the area, she told the salon owner, “I’ll be right there, and don’t touch anything until the police arrive.”

Jenna knew they needed to secure the business as a crime scene and Coroner Doc Bishop and Head of Forensics Lara Stern had to be brought in as well.

“Troy, someone left a head, without the body, in a shampoo bowl at Darcy’s Salon. I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

”Damn it, Jenna, I nearly spilled my coffee listening to this bizarre message. I’ll be there within the half hour. Meantime, I’ll ask Lara to get over there to check the crime scene for prints and other possible evidence and for Doc to arrange to bring the head to the morgue. We’ll want to look at it there, after he’s had a chance to determine how it was cut off and anything else he might find.”

Detective Johnson hung up.

He and Jenna had worked together and known each other for a long time. They clearly trusted each other. He knew she would follow police protocol at the crime scene.

Saturday, as always was an exceptionally busy day, “in season” at Darcy’s Salon, which is why she had gotten there so early. She always wanted the salon looking perfect, ready for stylists and clients, who this day had appointments beginning at 7 am.

Located off the main avenue of this posh resort at the East End of Long Island, less than ninety miles from Manhattan, the salon was known for catering to the rich and famous, as well as some of wanna-be customers, primping for weekend parties and fundraising events.

The salon was truly beautiful with warm color tones and soft matching leather client chairs facing gold (well, fake gold), trimmed mirrors. There was a reception area with the latest issues of fashion magazines from Paris and Rome, and a few of the more popular Hampton rags, like Dan’s Papers were spread out on a marble table, next to it a coffee machine offering gourmet flavored coffee and teas.

Most of the women who came to Darcy’s Salon had plenty of money, some from their own success, although others were arm candy for much older, wealthy men. Sometimes one of them would joke (maybe not) that they were “Dying To Be Beautiful” like some of the famous models and celebrities, many of who summered in the Hamptons.

“Jenna, you’ve seen how difficult and fussy they can be, and their egos—they’re constantly seeking confirmation of how beautiful they look. They want to come to a high-end salon, expecting to be treated like royalty. And believe me, we do.”

Darcy Monroe was only too glad to charge megabucks for her services since it included a whole lot of catering to their whims and demands. Beauty could indeed be expensive in The Hamptons. The chatter amongst the clients, the eight hair stylists, three manicurists and several assistants meant gossip was a basic ingredient of conversation. The story about the body without a head, and the head found in the salon, was sure to explode through The Hamptons. It certainly had all the elements of a soap opera.

“My god, Jenna, the gossip about this mess is going to be like a volcano spilling over this town.”


***

Dying to Be Beautiful: Without a Head can be purchased at:
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runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 140
Release: February 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483445304
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

BOOK TWO: FASHION QUEEN

Monday, 6:45am

Kevin Larson swam in his pool nearly every morning. Going on sixty-five, he prided himself on being in good shape.

Walking toward the small pool house, off to the left of the pool, he noticed a light was on. He was certain he turned it off the night before. Strange, he thought.

Even stranger, lying in a different sort of pool—blood—was his long time friend and lover, fashion designer Andre Yellen. Yellen was stuffed into one of the gowns he had designed and a wearing a blond wig.

The gown had been auctioned off the night before at a huge Hamptons fundraiser.

People in the Hamptons were certainly dying to be beautiful.




Excerpt


Chapter 1
THE GOWN


Monday, 7:30 a.m.

Detective Troy Johnson was at Larson’s house when Jenna arrived. He had covered the victim with a large beach towel until the coroner and forensics arrived. [deleted “He and”] Sergeant Stan Miller, who had taken the call, accompanied him and was presently attempting to hold back the media. They had heard about Yellen’s death on the police scanner, and in no time, the active crime scene was quite a wild sight.

It was 6:30 A.M. when she had received the call from Johnson that he was on his way to Kevin Larson’s house: “Jenna, there’s been a murder. Designer Andre Yellen, the Fashion Queen, was found dead this morning at the home of movie mogul Kevin Larson. He gave her the address and exactly where it was located, “past the windmill at the edge of Southampton.”

“More like the situation was at the edge of reason,” Jenna thought.

“Jenna, they’re acting like a bunch of hungry vultures. Help! These are your people. Well, they’re reporters like you used to be. The homeowner is either in shock or just completely uncooperative except for telling me where and when he found Yellen’s body.”

Jenna sighed, “Sure, I can’t say no to such a lovely invitation.”

The death of Andre Yellen was big news.

Andre Yellen was squeezed—really, truly squeezed—into a beautiful ocean blue, sleeveless, silk gown he had designed and donated for a fundraiser the evening before. The size-8 dress was torn at all the seams. Yellen, in his early fifties, 5’9” and clearly out of shape, was more like a size-18-plus, and stuffed into a dress way, way too small for him.

As a designer for major celebrities for nearly twenty-five years, Yellen was a man about town who loved both the ladies and the men, or so it had been gossiped around the East End of Long Island, also known as The Hamptons.

After all, this is THE HAMPTONS, and all sorts of lifestyles are accepted, where choices are supposedly not judged, and relationships are not restricted by conventional boundaries. Unfortunately, there are always those determined to exercise their own brand of severe judgment.

However, there was no evidence this murder had anything to do with narrow minds. Not yet, anyhow. In fact, it wasn’t clear at all what this murder was about—or who had committed it.

Private Investigator Jenna Preston was familiar with many celebrities who lived or vacationed on the East End. Before becoming an investigative reporter, she was entertainment and social events reporter for the local daily paper and had interviewed quite a few of the “anointed” as she had once called them. Gossip columnists covered the rest.

Jenna was regularly hired by law firms, insurance companies and businesses for corporate fraud issues. She also had an arrangement and relationship with the local police—especially when it came to murder investigations. Some of the people she had once written about also tried to hire her for personal investigations and for, what she considered, ridiculous reasons. Such complaints included some new fence being too high or people walking on the beach in front of someone’s home.

Most of these cases she didn’t accept.

“For me, it’s about justice. We all have reasons, even life experiences motivating our passions. I have mine for what I do,” Jenna told a local reporter whose paper was doing a story on crime in The Hamptons.

Jenna had a solid reputation for being smart, resourceful and most definitely charming—without an attitude—which was different from many of the people who summered in The Hamptons.

She did love nice clothes, including the red shoes or red boots she almost always wore.

“Hey,” she laughed once when Troy made fun of her red shoes, “you wear a cowboy hat most of the time, so don’t make fun of me, Tex.”

Jenna and Troy worked together professionally almost as soon as she had become a licensed private detective. It was a small police force, often stretched thin during the summer season. Because they actually had few experienced investigators, he had requested and been given approval by his captain to use a discretionary fund to hire Jenna on an as-needed basis. She was often a member of his investigative team, usually for murders.

Lately, there didn’t seem to be any shortage of them.

Slender and almost 5’5,” yet always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, sometimes pulled back in a ponytail when she was working. She also had deep blue eyes. With more than a hint of spunk and mischief about her, she was definitely considered attractive.

Jenna’s new romance, Dave, thought so!


***

Dying to Be Beautiful: Fashion Queen can be purchased at:
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Barnes and Noble
iTunes

99¢ EBOOK SALE!  

runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 132
Release: June 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483449159
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

About the Author

M. Glenda Rosen is the author of The Woman’s Business Therapist: Eliminate the MindBlocks and RoadBlocks to Success, and award-winning My Memoir Workbook. For over fifteen years, she helped numerous authors develop and market their books, and presented writing programs in New York, The Hamptons, New Mexico and Carmel, California, on “Encouraging and Supporting the Writer Within You!” She's the founder and owner of a successful marketing and public relations agency for twenty-five years.

Links to connect with M. Glenda:
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jerome Charyn - A Loaded Gun - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

We think we know Emily Dickinson: the Belle of Amherst, virginal, reclusive, and possibly mad. But in A Loaded Gun, Jerome Charyn introduces us to a different Emily Dickinson: the fierce, brilliant, and sexually charged poet who wrote:

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—

Though I than He— may longer live
He longer must—than I—
For I have but the power to kill,
Without—the power to die—

Through interviews with contemporary scholars, close readings of Dickinson’s correspondence and handwritten manuscripts, and a suggestive, newly discovered photograph that is purported to show Dickinson with her lover, Charyn’s literary sleuthing reveals the great poet in ways that have only been hinted at previously: as a woman who was deeply philosophical, intensely engaged with the world, attracted to members of both sexes, and able to write poetry that disturbs and delights us today.




My Review

This critical look at Emily Dickinson's life moved me more than I thought it would. I was expecting a scholarly rundown of her life, but Jerome Charyn penned something far richer and deeper. He presents Dickinson as a tragic figure, a nineteenth century woman forced to live on the fringes of society simply because she was ahead of her time. Her fierce intelligence and her vivid imagination set her apart in a little, sleepy, New England town that quite frankly didn't know what to do with her.

Charyn paints a picture of Dickinson as a woman who hated her creative gift. He depicts her as being afraid of it, and subsequently of herself. She knew she wielded a dangerous weapon, so she removed herself from the world in order to use it. What's even more remarkable is that Charyn points out that Dickinson was self-taught, relying on her Bible and Lexicon to reshape the English language into something we've never seen before.

But the upside is that even while Dickinson was suffering through a life of isolation and contempt, she still managed to thrive. Her anger at the injustice she was forced to endure fueled her, demanding a release. She didn't want to be some man's plaything, yet all her life she yearned to be loved. She was plain, and she knew it, denouncing herself as a kangaroo. So she retreated into the lofty heights only her mind was able to ascend to, even while she was stuck dredging through a mundane existence along with everyone else, never going anywhere, never seeing the world or doing anything spectacular.

Instead, she became a living, breathing contradiction, a special type of person one doesn't encounter often, if ever. She was strange, eccentric, unpredictable, in the best possible way. She wasn't accepted in her own time and place, yet now is universally revered as a poetic master because in her heart, she knew she was on to something, even if while she was alive no one else believed in her. The triumphant thing about Emily Dickinson is that her internal turmoil counted for something because in the end she was the one who turned out to be right.

***

A Loaded Gun can be purchased at:
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Bellevue Literary Press

Prices/Formats: $11.99 ebook, $19.95 paperback
Genre: Literary Criticism
Pages: 265
Release: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
ISBN: 9781934137987
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

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Video




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Excerpts

CLICK HERE to read Excerpt One.

CLICK HERE to read Excerpt Two.


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Reading Groups

CLICK HERE for a Reading Guide.



About the Author

Jerome Charyn was born and raised on the mean streets of the Bronx. He graduated cum laude from Columbia College. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Rice, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the City University of New York and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the American University of Paris. Charyn is a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, Esquire, American Scholar, New York Review of Books, New York Times, Ellery Queen and many other publications. Charyn's most recent books are The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham and Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. His latest book is A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.

Links to connect with Jerome:
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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kathleen Gerard - The Thing Is - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Can a woman mired deep in the throes of grief have her heart and soul rallied by a therapy dog named Prozac who possesses supernatural wisdom and a canine Mensa IQ? Meredith Mancuso is depressed. Ever since the death of her fiancĂ©, she has shrunk from the world. Even with her successful writing career, she's not motivated to work. When her sister, Monica, begs for a favor, Meredith wants nothing more than to say no. But she’s ultimately roped into pet-sitting an orphaned Yorkshire terrier named Prozac. Blessed with spiritual wisdom and a high IQ, Prozac is an active pet therapy dog. To heal broken-hearted Meredith, he rallies his fan club at Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where he visits each week. Prozac and the community of resilient older folks challenged by losses of their own propel Meredith, often against her will, back into the land of the living. Meredith learns that most people carry some sort of burden, but it's still possible to find meaning, purpose, and joy—and even love—along the way. THE THING IS—a perfect read for fans of General Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Comedy, and Dog and Pet Lovers!




My Review

This is a beautifully written book, tender and deep. It touched me on so many levels because Kathleen Gerard's insight into the human soul is quite remarkable. Everyone needs love. Without it, we wither and die, simply going through the motions of being alive without really living. It's heartbreakingly sad to see the lonely, isolated routine that Meredith has fallen into. She's been hurt, traumatized by grief and she shuts herself off in order to keep going. Feeling anything for anyone just hurts too much.

But Gerard doesn't give Meredith a free pass. She's critical of what Meredith's let herself become, and she lets it be known through the voice of Prozac the dog. It's a fascinating take on looking at human interaction—how an individual perceives herself versus how the rest of the world does. We can trick ourselves into believing that we're okay when we're really not. It's only when we see ourselves reflected in other people that the truth begins to emerge, forcing us to see what we'd rather not see.

I enjoyed reading how the elderly residents of Evergreen Gardens held that mirror up in front of Meredith's face, opening her eyes to the possibilities still within her reach. Meredith is only in her early thirties, but she's an old soul who has experienced a heck of a lot. That's why she's able to relate to the senior citizens and be herself around them. Once she lets her guard down, she's finally able to let love back in.

Sometimes all it takes is finding the right people at the right moment to get a person back on track. Prozac is like Meredith's spirit guide. He gets a non-animal lover to love him, and in turn gets her to love herself and love others again too. Bravo, Kathleen Gerard!

***

The Thing Is can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

Prices/Formats: $5.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Pages: 299
Release: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Red Adept
ISBN: 9781940215587
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Kathleen Gerard writes across genres. Her work has been awarded many literary prizes and has been published in magazines, journals, widely anthologized and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). Kathleen writes and reviews books for Shelf Awareness. Kathleen's woman-in-jeopardy novel, IN TRANSIT, won "Best Romantic Fiction" at the New York Book Festival.

Links to connect with Kathleen:
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