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A Review of Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time: A Charlotte McNally Novel

by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Prime Time is the first book in the Charlotte McNally series. It was originally published in 2007, and won the Agatha Award for best first novel of 2007. The whole series is being reissued this year.

Charlotte McNally is an investigative reporter with a Boston TV station, as is the author, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Since Ms. Ryan knows the business, everything about Prime Time smacks of reality. A lot of authors follow that old adage, “Write what you know.” That usually works. Most of the time the author is able to tell a story that could really happen, but that doesn’t mean that they can write a story that is worth reading. Ms. Ryan is that exceptional writer that can grab the reader with engaging, realistic characters, and an exciting, authentic plot filled with unexpected twists.

You really believe in Charlie. She is a TV reporter trying to get that next big story that will guarantee that she has a job for another few months. You want her to figure out what is going on, and expose the powerbrokers before they can eliminate her.

I give Prime Time 4 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! I recommend it to anyone who likes their Mysteries blended together with a touch of romance and humor along with a heavy dose of reality.

I received a copy of this book from the author.

Book Description

Prime TimeSeasoned investigative reporter Charlotte McNally knows that in the cutthroat world of television journalism, every story could be your last. There’s always someone younger and prettier to take your place, always a story more sensational to drive ratings through the roof.

When Brad Foreman’s widow demands to know why Charlie never answered his email, Charlie is confused. She never received his message. What did Brad, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company, want to tell her? As she searches through her computer, she finds an innocent-looking email in her junk mail folder that may turn out to be the biggest story of her career.

Is the encoded email–and the ones that follow–linked to Brad’s “accidental” death? Charlie’s investigation leads her to Brad’s friend, professor Josh Gelston, who is charming and exceedingly helpful–perhaps suspiciously so.

Charlie must decide if she can trust Josh…before a multimillion-dollar fraud ring with murder in its arsenal makes her the next lead story.

Book Details

Series: Charlotte McNally (Book 1)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (February 9, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765384752
ISBN-13: 978-0765384751
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

hank-ryan-crop-pressHank Phillippi Ryan is the bestselling author of eight award winning novels of suspense. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.”

Her newest 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 has the extraordinary honor of winning 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 NBC affiliate. 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. In addition to 33 EMMYs and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards, Hank’s won dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. She’s been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine.

Hank is a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and served as 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.

Learn more about Hank at http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com.

A Review of Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

Trail of Echoes: A Detective Elouise Norton Novel

Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell HallTrail of Echoes: the latest Elouise Norton mystery novel from critically acclaimed writer Rachel Howzell Hall.

On a rainy spring day in Los Angeles, homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton is called away from a rare lunch date to Bonner Park, where the body of thirteen-year-old Chanita Lords has been discovered. When Lou and her partner, Colin Taggert, take on the sad task of informing Chanita’s mother, Lou is surprised to find herself in the apartment building she grew up in.

Chanita was interested in photography and, much like Lou, a black girl destined to leave the housing projects behind. Her death fits a chilling pattern of exceptional African-American girls–dancers, artists, honors scholars-gone recently missing in the same school district, the one Lou attended not so long ago.

Lou is valiantly trying to make a go of life after her divorce and doing everything she can to avoid her long estranged father. She races to catch a serial killer, but he remains frustratingly out of her reach, sending cryptic cyphers and taunting clues that arrive too late to prevent the next death. This one is personal, and it’s only a matter of time before he comes after Lou herself.

Book Details

Series: Detective Elouise Norton (Book 3)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (May 31, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765381176
ISBN-13: 978-0765381170
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

About the Author

Rachel Howzell HallRACHEL HOWZELL HALL is the author of Trail of Echoes (Forge), the third novel in her new mystery series featuring LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise Norton. The first, Land of Shadows, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and was included on the Los Angeles Times’ “143 Books to Read This Summer” and the U.K Telegraph’s “Top Ten Crime Books for Summer.” Rachel was also a featured novelist on NPR’s acclaimed ‘Crime in the City’ series.

Her first novel, A Quiet Storm, was a featured selection of Borders’ Original Voices program, as well as an alternate selection of the Black Expressions book club. She is the marketing manager of individual giving at Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Rachel lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles, the land of exceptional drought.

Excerpt from Trail of Echoes

Chapter 1

At twelve thirty on a rainy Wednesday after noon, I was breaking one of my cardinal rules as a homicide detective: Never eat lunch with civilians. But on that Wednesday in March, I sat at a Formica- topped table in Johnny’s Pastrami with no ordinary citizen.

Assistant District Attorney Sam Seward had eyes the color of mint leaves, hands that could palm Jupiter, and a mind agile enough to grasp the story arc of Game of Thrones.

I had a crush on Sam.

He liked me, too, even though I associated “bracelets” with “handcuffs” and smelled of gun oil more than lavender. And so when he had asked if I wanted to grab a pastrami with him, I had immediately chirped, “Sure. Why not?” I wanted to have Normal People Lunch with ketchup that squirted from bottles and conversations about March Madness instead of murders, bodies, and blood. More than that, I wanted to have Normal People Lunch with Sam.

And now he smiled at me like the secret goof he was. And I futzed with the belt of my cowl- necked sweater like the nervous virgin I hadn’t been in twenty years.

Outside, clouds the color of Tahitian black pearls and drizzle softened the crimson glare of car brake lights. Inside, the diner smelled of meat and onions, and George Harrison crooned from hidden speakers about the way she moves.

“Elouise Norton,” Sam said, shaking his head. “I cannot believe it.”

I nibbled a sliver of pastrami. “Why not? I do violence all day.”

“Which is why I can’t believe you’d watch a show on your downtime that’s all decapitations and grit for an hour and three minutes.”

I gasped. “You made me watch it.”

He smoothed his slate- blue tie. “ Couldn’t talk to you about the Darson case forever.”

Sam was prosecuting Max Crase, the man who had murdered high school cheerleader Monique Darson, her sister Macie, and my sister Victoria. Now recovering from a brain tumor, Max Crase had pled insanity. And well . . . “insane” was just one word I’d use to describe him.

“Nor do I want to talk about the Darson case now.” I smiled at Sam, then pointed at his face. “You have mustard . . .”

He squinted at me. “Get it off, then.”

My heart pounded— I loved challenges.

I waited a moment . . . then leaned forward.

He moved aside sandwich baskets and almost- full glasses of Diet Coke, then leaned forward but only a little. “Closer,” he demanded.

I waited . . . then obeyed.

His butterscotch- colored cheeks flushed.

With his face an inch away from mine, I parted my lips.

And the bell tower tolled: the ringtone for Lieutenant Zak Rodriguez.

Sam crooked his neck, going for the kiss.

But the bell tower tolled again— louder and crankier this time.

“Sounds official,” Sam whispered.

Going cold, I sank into my seat. “It’s my boss.” I reached for Sam’s hand as my other hand grabbed the phone from my purse.

“Where you at?” Lieutenant Rodriguez asked.

“Having pastrami and soda pop.”

“With Taggert?”

Sam kissed my hand before he let go.

“Nope.”

“Pepe and Luke?”

I pushed my bangs off my flushed forehead. “Nuh uh.”

Lieutenant Rodriguez sighed. “Please say you’re not with your ex.”

“ Don’t worry. I’m not.”

“Hate to break it up, but you’re on deck. Some joggers found a body up in Bonner Park.”

My ankle holster, stuffed now with my lunch gun, pinched my skin— death had a way of yanking you from Wonderland. “ Really? This early in the day?”

“And whoever left it there is one cold son of a bitch.”

“ Aren’t they all?”

“He put it in one of those large duffel bags, the kind soldiers carry. And he left it there on the trail. In this weather.”

Outside our window, the wind had picked up, making palm fronds frantic and street signs swing. Back in the calm mustiness of Johnny’s, someone had dropped a quarter into the tabletop jukebox and had pressed E6: Olivia Newton- John asking if I’ve ever been mellow.

“Yeah,” Lieutenant Rodriguez was saying, “and where he left it? Up on that trail? It ain’t the typical boneyard. Anyway, I’ll call Taggert and we’ll meet you over there. Maybe you shoulda had one of your salads today. Edamame and shit instead of all that meat.”

Martha Bonner Park. Hills, trees, valleys— a beautiful jewel in the city’s crown. I jogged, hiked, and fed ducks there whenever I wasn’t watching divers pull guns and bodies out of its murky- green fake lake.

“Gotta go?” Sam asked, eyes on his iPhone.

“Yep.”

“Same here. I’m helping to plan Congresswoman Fortier’s jazz funeral.”

“Saturday, right?”

He nodded. “A second line down Crenshaw. A horse, a brass band, all of it.”

I dug in my purse for the car keys. “How many permits did you all have to pull for a New Orleans homegoing in the middle of Los Angeles?”

He rubbed his face. “You have no idea. And I hear all of NOLA is coming to usher her into the great beyond.” He emerged from behind his hands with a smile. “But I’m glad we had a moment to ourselves.”

I blushed. “Me too.”

Even though this was our first date, nothing else needed to be said or explained. I gotta go. No apology, no weird hostility. He, too, had to keep LA from exploding.

Oh, how I liked Sam.

Hand in hand, we walked to the parking lot, stopping at the light- blue Crown Vic that would stink of mildew until August.

“So you owe me.” Towering over me, Sam rested his hands on my waist.

I tensed, aware of my bulky ballistics vest, hoping that he didn’t think that was all . . . me. “Owe you? For what?”

“For ending our lunch so soon.”

I shivered— not because of the forty- degree weather. “Bullshit. We were basically done.”

“I wanted pie.”

I straightened the collar of his black wool overcoat. “Fine. You’ll get your pie.”

Then, my freakin’ iPhone caw- cawed from my pocket: the ringtone for Colin Taggert, my partner of nine months.

Sam dropped his hands and backed away from me. “If your case is a dunker, come over to night and watch something other than a basketball game. You could bring pie.”

“Maybe.”

“You’ll call me?”

“Yes.”

And the eagle caw- cawed again: America was calling.

I plucked the phone from my pocket. “I’m on my way,” I told Colin, slipping behind the Ford’s steering wheel. In the rearview mirror, I watched Sam climb into his black Bimmer.

“The body in the—” Colin sneezed, then sneezed again. “The body in the park. Prepare yourself: it’s a girl.”

Just when you’re trying to be mellow.

Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Howzell Hall

A Review of Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe

by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe is written with multiple Points of View. Each chapter starts with a name and a date. The chapter is from that person’s Point of View. The time jumps around for some of the characters, so you really do have to pay attention. I often gloss over those chapter headings, but quickly found out that I couldn’t with this book. This complex threaded type of story can be difficult, but Ms. Seddon handled it very well. Everything twists and turns around, but you can follow it. You get hints and start to have ideas. It all comes together at the end.

Since you are inside the head of all the people in this book, you get to know them pretty well. Everyone seems quite believable. Alex Dale wallows in alcohol. If she doesn’t stop drinking it will kill her. Amy Stevenson was attacked and nearly killed fifteen years ago. She has been in a persistent vegetative state since the attack. She has thoughts but can’t interact with the outside world. Her high school boyfriend, Jake Arlington, comes and sits with her often, and has for most of these fifteen years. But he is married, his wife is pregnant, and Amy is becoming a problem because her never told his wife, Fiona, about Amy. She thinks that he is having an affair and that he is hiding things from her.

Once Alex and Amy come together, Alex knows that Amy can be her way out. Alex is a journalist, and so she thinks that Amy’s story could help her climb out of the bottle. The police never found Amy’s attacker, but Alex knows that if she can find him, she will be able to write an important article. But to do this, she needs to control her drinking.

I liked the multi-layered way this story unfolded. Ms. Seddon must have had quite a complex outline for this book. She had to tell you enough in each chapter to keep the story moving forward, but also be careful of what was said, so that you never found out too much. You may have an idea of the attacker’s identity, but you aren’t really sure until the end. Quite well done.

I give Try Not to Breathe 4 1/2 Stars and a Big Thumbs Up. It kept me engaged and interested the whole way. I recommend this debut novel to anyone who likes a character driven mystery thriller, without blood and gore, but with plenty of suspense and tension.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Try Not to BreatheFor fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, and Paula Hawkins comes Holly Seddon’s arresting fiction debut—an engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense. 

Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.

Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found unconscious after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Amy Stevenson, who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.

Soon Alex’s routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter’s story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from her attempt to uncover the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she’s not just chasing a story—she’s seeking salvation.

Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.

Book Details

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 23, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1101885866
ISBN-13: 978-1101885864
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

About the Author

Holly SeddonHolly Seddon was born and raised in the sleepy south-west of England and now lives slap bang in the centre of Amsterdam with her husband and four children. Throughout her 15-year career, Holly has been privileged to work in some of the UK’s most exciting newsrooms.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE is her first novel, published in the UK (Corvus/Atlantic), Australia and New Zealand (Allen & Unwin) and The Netherlands (Ambo Anthos) in January 2016. Soon after, it will be available in the US (Ballantine/Penguin Random House), Germany (Heyne), Russia (Sindbad), Swiat Ksiazk (Poland and, Crown (Taiwan) .

Holly is currently writing her next novel.

A Review of Ochoco Reach by Jim Stewart

Ochoco Reach

by Jim Stewart

4,0

Ochoco Reach isn’t an easy book to classify. There are some of the elements of a typical adventure thriller. The main characters are always in danger and the cast of villains is fairly typical. There are drug cartel bosses and their soldiers who want them captured or dead, crooked law enforcement officers who want to put them in jail or kill them, along with the other assorted bad guys that you run into in a story set near the US/Mexican boarder. But there is something else going on here. This book isn’t just a fast-paced action story, it has elements to slow it down. Sometimes it nearly feels like a slow-paced “American Indian becomes one with the land story” blended with a fairy tale and a story of true love. But the danger is always there. You can’t forget that.

This story wouldn’t work if you didn’t really like the four main characters, Willimina Hayes (Willy), freelance investigator Mike Ironwood, his special ops brother Daniel, and Bucket, a Catahoula leopard dog. Mr. Stewart makes these characters feel real. They aren’t like anyone you know, but you like them right away. You believe them. You care about them. You want the best for them.

I enjoyed the varied pace of this book. Sometimes it felt nearly too slow, but that was OK. It just let you relax for a few pages. There was plenty of action. The blood and guts were kept to a minimum. There were moments of contemplation and thoughts of what is most important in life; truly connecting with people, the land around you and the animals that live there. Overall a very different book, but well worth reading.

I give Ochoco Reach 4 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! I hope that this is the first book in a long-running series, because I want to read more about these wonderful characters and their lands.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

9780990859338-Perfect (revision test).inddMike’s usual strategy was to gently stir the pot and wait for patterns to emerge, but this case was boiling over from the day Willimina showed up at his office…

Freelance investigator Mike Ironwood doesn’t hesitate for a moment when a lovely stranger asks him to help her get to the bottom of suspicious happenings on her family’s cattle ranch.  The case is intriguing, and Willimina even more so.

Six days in, the case has turned up two dead bodies, an alphabet soup of secretive federal investigators, and a client who just might be The One. That’s when things get complicated.

When a greedy DEA agent and his complicated and deadly trigger man kidnap Willy, Mike enlists help from his brother and sets out to rescue her from the conflicted jefe of a major drug cartel.  The trail takes them on a surreal tour that extends deep into Mexico, but they come home with dangerous unfinished business.

Ochoco Reach introduces Mike Ironwood, his special ops brother Daniel, and Bucket, a Catahoula leopard dog who is equally at home herding cattle and pinning bad guys to the floor. They have each others’ backs, and they have unexpected allies in the natural world, who appear in surprising ways. But they also attract trouble at every turn.

Book Details

Release: January 4, 2015
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
ISBN: 978-0-9908593-3-8
Price: $16.99 (library discount available)
Kindle Price: $2.99
Pages: 289
Distribution: Ingram, B & T
eBook Distribution: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords
Publicity Contact: MindBuck Media

About the Author

Jim Stewart HDJim was born in Chicago and has memories of living in Buffalo, New York, New England, and southern California. finally, he grew up in Oregon where he has lived and worked for the last four decades. his working life has been eclectic, with time spent as a musician, truck driver, laborer, mechanic (of both vehicles and musical instruments), house painter, business owner, salesman, and, through it all, a writer and poet. as a songwriter and performer, Jim has been featured in the films “Dancing on the Edge” and “Pacific Vibrations.” with his longtime musical partner Craig Abrahamson, he formed Bivalve, a lively collaboration that has produced two CDs: “Unhinged” and “Middle Ground.” With bassist Jamie Keller, the group has morphed into a band called tuna reuben and can be heard sporadically around Portland and Oregon’s north coast.

As J.R. Stewart, Jim has published poetry and/or short fiction in the following journals: The Alembic, The Licking River Review, Mostly Maine, Orange Willow Review, Orion Magazine, Progenitor, Rattapallax, The Blue Hour, and Tulane Review. He’s also published short pieces in the North-Coast Times-Eagle and the Portland Guitar Society Quarterly. Jim’s short story “White Ravens” was a finalist in a Glimmer Train open fiction contest.

Jim is hard at work writing the sequel, “Dead Me.” there are more novels and a poetry collection in the queue awaiting their turn to shine.

A Review of Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Ashley Bell: A Novel

by Dean Koontz

4,0

I’ve read a few books by Mr. Koontz over the years. Some of them have been great, others have left me feeling unfulfilled. He certainly knows how to write. His descriptions often make me just stop reading and let the picture that he is painting settle into my brain. His characters often feel so real that you are sure that you really know them.

Ashley Bell begins like one of his best works. I was immediately drawn into the story. Bibi Blair’s character was alive and strong. She was someone who I really wanted to get to know. She was driven and nothing was going to stop her. Not cancer, or anything else.

As the book progresses, you learn more about Bibi. She is an author. One of the ideas that comes up, during a section about writing, is that some authors write a book in a well structured manner. They outline their book, laying out the plot before they even start to write. Other authors jump right in. They develop a main character, and then that character has a life of its own. The character takes the story wherever it ends up going. Bibi is that type of an author, and maybe Dean Koontz subscribes to this philosophy also. That may be why so many of his books have such great characters and the scenes are so realistic. His characters are alive inside of his mind. That also may be why some of his books seem to wander around trying to come up with a satisfying conclusion.

On the whole, Ashley Bell was a captivating book. The story was engaging. I liked Bibi Blair, but the rest of the characters were not that fascinating. I was a little disappointed with some of the story development, but it worked. I think most readers will find it an exciting book and enjoy the multiple storylines.

I give Ashley Bell 4 Stars out of 5, and a Thumbs Up. If you are a fan, then you probably will like this book. If you have never read Dean Koontz before, this would be a good starting point.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Ashley-Bell-CoverTHE MUST-READ THRILLER OF THE YEAR: Featuring the most exhilarating heroine in memory and a sophisticated, endlessly ingenious, brilliantly paced narrative through dark territory and deep mystery, this is a new milestone in literary suspense and a major new breakout book from the long acclaimed master.

At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

Unprecedented in scope, infinite in heart, Ashley Bell is a magnificent achievement that will capture lovers of dark psychological suspense, literary thrillers, and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Beautifully written, at once lyrical and as fast as a bullet, here is the most irresistible novel of the decade.

Book Details

Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Bantam (December 8, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345545966
ISBN-13: 978-0345545961
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

About the Author

dean_photo_1When he was a senior in college, Dean Koontz won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and has been writing ever since. His books are published in 38 languages and he has sold over 450 million copies to date.

Fourteen of his novels have risen to number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list (One Door Away From HeavenFrom the Corner of His EyeMidnightCold FireThe Bad PlaceHideawayDragon TearsIntensitySole SurvivorThe HusbandOdd HoursRelentlessWhat the Night Knows, and 77 Shadow Street), making him one of only a dozen writers ever to have achieved that milestone. Sixteen of his books have risen to the number one position in paperback. His books have also been major bestsellers in countries as diverse as Japan and Sweden.

The New York Times has called his writing “psychologically complex, masterly and satisfying.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune said Koontz is, “at times lyrical without ever being naive or romantic. [He creates] a grotesque world, much like that of Flannery O’Conner or Walker Percy … scary, worthwhile reading.” Rolling Stone has hailed him as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Dean Koontz was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University), and his first job after graduation was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-to-one basis. His first day on the job, he discovered that the previous occupier of his position had been beaten up by the very kids he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks. The following year was filled with challenge but also tension, and Koontz was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer. He wrote nights and weekends, which he continued to do after leaving the poverty program and going to work as an English teacher in a suburban school district outside Harrisburg. After a year and a half in that position, his wife, Gerda, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “I’ll support you for five years,” she said, “and if you can’t make it as a writer in that time, you’ll never make it.” By the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her job to run the business end of her husband’s writing career.

Dean Koontz lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.

A Review of Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Concussion

by Jeanne Marie Laskas

5-stars

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. After all, how often does a book and a movie come out at the same time. Maybe a Star Wars movie and a novelization of the film, but that isn’t the usual timeframe. Now I understand. The movie is based on an article that Ms. Laskas wrote for GQ magazine. The article was titled “Game Brain”. It was published in 2009. Here is a link to the article on GQ.com, Game Brain.

Ms. Laskas expanded that article, and made it into the story of the man, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered that there was something seriously wrong with the brain of a star NFL football player, Mike Webster. This book, Concussion, is more than just a summary of evidence of the brain damage that occurs to professional football players. It is the story of one mans struggle to be heard, when one of the most powerful organizations in the United States, the NFL, wanted to bury what he had found.

Ms. Laskas puts Dr. Omalu’s discoveries into perspective. She tells the story of his life, starting in Nigeria, coming to America, and then what happened to him once the NFL wanted to discredit him. She fills the story with direct quotes from Dr. Omalu. But she tells the story behind the quotes. She lets you see the struggles, and feel the pain, and the excitement that his discoveries bring to his life. He feels that he has heard “Iron Mike” talk to him, and needs to tell the world what he said. We all need to listen to this story.

This is an important story that crosses the boundaries of American Professional Football. After reading this book, I wonder if athletes in other sports are suffering from the same sorts of brain damages. Do soccer players do damage when they use their heads to knock the ball into a net. What about rugby and hockey players? Then there are the obvious sports of boxing, wrestling, and MMA fighters. Are these people losing their brain functions? Do they have trouble remembering? Do they have personality changes? Is this what they signed up for? Is sport that important?

I give Concussion 5 Stars out of 5, and Two Big Thumbs Up! If you know anyone who plays football, soccer, hockey or any other sport that may cause head trauma, you need to read this book. If you don’t, well read it anyway.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Concussion by Jeanne Marie LaskasSoon to be a major motion picture starring Will Smith, Concussion is the riveting, unlikely story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who made one of the most significant medical discoveries of the twenty-first century, a discovery that challenges the existence of America’s favorite sport and puts Omalu in the crosshairs of football’s most powerful corporation: the NFL.
 
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion. Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he’d never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?,Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu’s life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster’s brain—proof that Iron Mike’s mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game—was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.

Taut, gripping, and gorgeously told, Concussion is the stirring story of one unlikely man’s decision to stand up to a multibillion-dollar colossus, and to tell the world the truth.

Book Details

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1 edition
(November 24, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0812987578
ISBN-13: 978-0812987577
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

Photo: © Scot Goldsmith
Photo: © Scot Goldsmith

 

Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of seven books, including Concussion, Hidden America, and The Exact Same Moon. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. Laskas serves as director of The Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing, and she lives on a horse farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

A Review of Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Crimson Shore (Pendergast #15)

by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

4.5

This is pretty simple. If you like the Pendergast series, you will definitely like Crimson Shore. If you haven’t read any books in this series, this could be a decent starting point. This is the 15th book in the series, so you won’t know the whole back story, but you won’t feel lost.

For the people who are thinking about reading this series, let me tell you what it is like. Special Agent Pendergast is an FBI agent from New Orleans, but he is unlike any FBI agent you have ever run across. He is eccentric to say the least, but he has a fascinating strangeness about him. There is something about this series that reminds me of Sherlock Holmes. They both are very meticulous and see things that other detectives miss. Many of the Pendergast books seem to have an obvious mystical component to them, but usually there is some scientific solution that disproves the supernatural. But sometimes there seems to be a touch of the metaphysical still left at the end. If you think about some of the more famous Holmes stories, you will notice the similarity. (The Hound of the Baskervilles comes to mind.)

In Crimson Shore Pendergast works closely with his ward, Constance Greene. She plays a major role in the investigation, but she feels like Pendergast discounts her contribution. I always enjoy the books in which Constance plays a major role. She is a good foil to Pendergast’s meticulousness, and an interesting character in her own right.

One thing that you should realize before starting this book, is that there is a cliffhanger. The Pendergast series has had a couple of these trilogies. The Diogenes Trilogy and The Helen Trilogy were each three book mini-series’. I expect that is the start of another one. So if you shy away from trilogies, this might not be the best book to start with. But of course if you are a Pendergast fan, then it won’t matter to you, since you were planning on reading each book as it came out anyway.

As nearly always, I enjoyed this Pendergast book. There has been a couple of low points in the series, but this isn’t one of those. Even though there is a cliffhanger, the main story does have a conclusion. So all in all Crimson Shore is another great read. I give it 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! If you haven’t read Pendergast, what are you waiting for?

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston & Lincoln ChildA secret chamber.
A mysterious shipwreck.
A murder in the desolate salt marshes.

A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.

Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.

Pendergast and Constance soon learn that Exmouth is a town with a very dark and troubled history, and this skeleton may be only the first hint of an ancient transgression, kept secret all these years. But they will discover that the sins of the past are still very much alive. Local legend holds that during the 1692 witch trials in Salem, the real witches escaped, fleeing north to Exmouth and settling deep in the surrounding salt marshes, where they continued to practice their wicked arts.

Then, a murdered corpse turns up in the marshes. The only clue is a series of mysterious carvings. Could these demonic symbols bear some relation to the ancient witches’ colony, long believed to be abandoned?

A terrible evil lurks beneath the surface of this sleepy seaside town-one with deep roots in Exmouth’s grim history. And it may be that Constance, with her own troubled past, is the only one who truly comprehends the awful danger that she, Pendergast, and the residents of Exmouth must face . . .

Book Details

Series: Agent Pendergast series
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (November 10, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1455525928
ISBN-13: 978-1455525928
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

About the Authors

Douglas Preston & Lincoln ChildThe thrillers of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child “stand head and shoulders above their rivals” (Publishers Weekly). Preston and Child’s Relic and The Cabinet of Curiosities were chosen by readers in a National Public Radio poll as being among the one hundred greatest thrillers ever written, and Relic was made into a number-one box office hit movie. They are coauthors of the famed Pendergast series and their recent novels include Fever DreamCold VengeanceTwo Graves, and Gideon’s Corpse. In addition to his novels, Preston writes about archaeology for the New Yorker and Smithsonian magazines. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published five novels of his own, including the huge bestseller Deep Storm.

Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly “strangely entertaining note” from the authors, at their website, www.PrestonChild.com. The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.

A Review of Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Playing with Fire

by Tess Gerritsen

4.5

This book really grabbed me. I could barely do anything else. I was reading an e-book, so I had it with me on my phone. I would sneak in a couple of pages every chance that I could. I’m glad that it was such a quick read, because now my life is back to normal.

Playing with Fire has so many twists that I can’t say much about it without spoiling some of the book. It has two main Points of View. The first POV is in the present. Violinist Julia Ansdell discovers an old , hand-written piece of music. She buys it, and attempts to play it. The story takes off from there. The second POV takes place in Venice, Italy, just before the start of World War 2. You meet Lorenzo Todesco, the composer of the piece of music and learn why it exists. The two POVs are different sections in the book, so you are always aware of what is going on.

This is a very exciting book. There is a magical, nearly fantasy feel to it at the beginning. If you aren’t a fan of books based on magic or cursed items, don’t worry it doesn’t go spiraling off in that direction. Everything stays pretty realistic. But there is just a little touch of the mystical, just the right amount. It’s just a little spooky, and that’s a good thing!

I give Playing with Fire 4 1/2 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! The only reason it doesn’t get 5 Stars, is because I was a little disappointed in one of the final twists. I can’t say more without it being a major spoiler, but when you read it, you will probably know what I meant. But don’t let that hold you back. This is a great book, and you really should read it. I loved the stories, and how they came together. The characters were realistic and likable, and there was a message behind it all. A must read!

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Playing with Fire by Tess GerritsenA gripping standalone thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series

In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music—the Incendio waltz—and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Full of passion, torment, and chilling beauty, and seemingly unknown to the world, the waltz, its mournful minor key, its feverish arpeggios, appear to dance with a strange life of their own. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard.

Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia’s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz’s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred—and Julia’s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score.

Her quest beckons Julia to the ancient city of Venice, where she uncovers a dark, decades-old secret involving a dangerously powerful family that will stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Book Details

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 27, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1101884347
ISBN-13: 978-1101884348
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.4 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

About the Author

Photo: © Paul D’Innocenzo
Photo: © Paul D’Innocenzo

Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

Tess’s first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Her suspense novels since then have been: Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), The Bone Garden (2007), The Keepsake (2008; UK title: Keeping the Dead), Ice Cold (2010; UK title: The Killing Place), The Silent Girl (2011), and Last To Die (August 2012.) Her books have been published in forty countries, and more than 30 million copies have been sold around the world.

Her books have been top-3 bestsellers in the United States and number one bestsellers abroad. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon). Critics around the world have praised her novels as “Pulse-pounding fun” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “Scary and brilliant” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “Polished, riveting prose” (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the “medical suspense queen”.

Her series of novels featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the TNT television series “Rizzoli & Isles” starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

A Review of What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan

What You See (Jane Ryland & Jake Brogan #4)

by Hank Phillippi Ryan

4,0

Sometimes people think they know what you are going to say before you finish telling them something. They may jump in and finish your sentence for you, or even worse they may just assume that they understand what you are trying to tell them, and then not really listen to you. They may be on their phone or watching something on TV, or thinking about their hot date for Saturday night. Communication seems to be suffering in these fast paced days that we are living.

Ms. Ryan highlights this phenomena in What You See. Everyone cuts off each other. They are trying to multitask and therefore can barely single-task. Too much is going on, and too many worries and problems get in the way, so everyone thinks that they are getting the whole picture, but really they are missing crucial facts.

All of this churning around frustrated me. I wanted to yell at Detective Jake Brogan. He needed to follow-up. He had to do one thing at a time, but of course he couldn’t. He was pulled every which way and didn’t even have time to sleep, which just made everything worse. Laid-off Reporter Jane Ryland wanted to find a new job. She had her sister’s wedding to deal with at the same time. Then her sister’s future step-daughter goes missing. She is offered a temporary job with a local TV station. Everything happens at once. I wanted to yell at Jane too. Everyone just needs to calm down and complete what they are doing!

This book is very fast paced. It’s hard to feel comfortable while reading it, but that’s what the author wanted to convey. She wanted to make you feel what all of the characters were feeling, the hectic pace and the confusion. The feeling like you were being pulled in multiple directions, never able to compete anything before having to switch tasks and work on something else. The struggles of dealing with other family members. Trying to keep feeling from being hurt. She did a very effective job.

I give What You See 4 Stars out of 5 and a Thumbs Up! If you are ready to put up with the fast-paced challenge of modern multitasking along with the struggles that dealing with the secrets that families keep, then this book will keep you up all night.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Description

What You See by Hank Phillippi RyanWhat You See: another thrilling installment in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s award-winning Jane Ryland mystery series.

Why would a father abduct his own child? A wedding is planned in Jane Ryland’s family, but there’s a disaster instead. Nine-year-old Gracie-supposed to be the flower girl-has been taken by her stepdad. Where are they? Is the girl in danger? Reporter Jane Ryland learns there’s a limit to the bonds of family-and learns to her peril what happens when loved ones are pushed too far.

Meanwhile, Detective Jake Brogan’s got a doozy of a case. At Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, a man is stabbed to death in front of a crowd of tourists snapping photos of the murder on their cell phones. Solving the case should be easy, but the pictures and surveillance video lead him to a dark conspiracy of extortion and stolen lives.

Jane and Jake must explore where their loyalties lie-to each other? To their families? To their careers? If they make the wrong decision, the consequences could be fatal.

Book Details

Series: Jane Ryland (Book 4)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (October 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765374951
ISBN-13: 978-0765374950
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

About the Author

hank-ryan-crop-pressHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. A television journalist since 1975, she has won 33 Emmys and thirteen Edward R. Murrow awards for her work. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution.

A best-selling author of seven bestselling novels of suspense, Hank’s first Jane Ryland novel,THE OTHER WOMAN won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award! It was nominated for the Anthony, Agatha, Daphne, Shamus and Macavity Awards. THE WRONG GIRL won the Agatha for Best Mystery, the Daphne for best suspense. It spent seven weeks on the Boston Globe Bestseller list.

Her current book TRUTH BE TOLD also won the AGATHA for Best Novel of 2014. it is also a Library Journal Best of 2014.

WHAT YOU SEE (Oct Forge 2015) is already an RTBR TOP PICK! Reviewers say “Ryan is master of her craft” and say the book offers “exceptional suspense!”

Reviewers have called her “a superb and gifted storyteller” (Booklist), ” a master of crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “Stellar!” (Library Journal.)

Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her short stories.

Hank is on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America (and a founding instructor at MWA-U) and is 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime.

She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Washington Bureau, worked on the political column “Capitol Chatter” and organized presidential campaign coverage for Hunter S. Thompson. She began her TV career anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in her home town of Indianapolis and then Atlanta.

She and her husband, a nationally renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live just outside Boston, Massachusetts. http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com

 

A Review of Mojo And The American Female by SW Hammond

Mojo And The American Female

by SW Hammond

4.5

I’m really not the target audience for this book. My son or daughter may even be slightly too old to get all the movie and television references, but they would get more of them than I do. Now I can connect to the music. I always keep current, so when Mr. Hammond is commenting about the Riot Grrrl movement, I get it. But those TV shows, I never did watch “Full House”, and who is John Stamos, and why should I care? Someone thirty years younger may get more of the topical items than I do, but I still relate to the actual message that this book is trying to convey.

And another thing! The blurb about Mojo and the American Female seems to indicate that this book is a collection of short stories. I don’t think so. This is more a print version of articles that were  published on Mr. Hammond’s website. If you call something a short story, that implies that it has some sort of a plot and a character or two. Short stories also mean fiction. But these articles are more autobiographical. Mr. Hammond may have distorted the truth, but that still doesn’t make this a book of fictional short stories. He may have changed some facts to fit the story that he wanted to tell, but I think it strongly follows his own life.

And speaking of story. This book really does have an underlying message. Even a 66-year-old guy can relate. If fact, I might get more out of this story than Mr. Hammond intended. He has one section of this book where he is talking about me. He figures that the only thing I have left is to wait until I die. I’ve got him fooled! My life is everything he is looking for in this book, and more. I found my perfect mate. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I just get to have fun and that includes spending time with my family that I love and with my children and grandchildren who love me too! I’ve got what he only wishes he could find.

But back to the book. What is it? I think that this is a collection of semi-autobiographical stories that Mr. Hammond has written over the past dozen years. He discovered that he really was growing up in these stories, and thought that his struggles might be worth reading. Well, he was right. This collection is thought-provoking. You can zip though it in one day, but take a little time to let it stew in your brain. Maybe you can hear it speak to you, like it did to me.

I give Mojo and the American Female 4 1/2 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! If you are ready to take a little mind trip, join in, you really might learn something about your life, while reading about his.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

MojoAndTheAmericanFemale_400x533A collection of short stories spanning more than a decade woven together to create the misguided anti-love story of a young man learning about relationships and the opposite sex through music, movies, and television.

From music and baseball industry professional Sean Hammond, comes Mojo And The American Female, a collection of provocative short stories on his life as a Lost Boy in search of Winnie Cooper.

Raised on rock n’ roll, with a particularly strong affinity for women who rock, Hammond blends an unparalleled view of pop culture and philosophy that follows him from his early twenties through his early thirties. Mojo And The American Female is rich with photography capturing Hammond’s days as a tour manager on Warped Tour and working for Sony Music Entertainment, as well as bringing to life the music, movies, and television that has plagued his rational sense of love and relationships. From childhood viewings of Full House leading to his lifelong hatred of John Stamos, his introduction to the Riot Grrrl movement and Kathleen Hanna, and to a questionable infatuation with The OC’s Summer Roberts – each story blends a reflective Kevin Arnold-like inner monolog with Wild Turkey.

Mojo and the American Female is the byproduct of one too many romantic comedies. Inspiration, enlightenment, and delusion fuel Hammond’s quest as he searches for a bit of meaning to life and someone to share it with.

Book Details

File Size: 30091 KB
Print Length: 81 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Surf Star Media (April 7, 2015)
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00VU3QMLW

About the Author

seanaboutSW Hammond is a freelance writer and fiction novelist. His contributions can be found in music zines, athletic periodicals, and technical publications throughout the world. He has worked in the music industry for Sony Music Entertainment, Warped Tour, WAR Records / United Interest, and has managed and consulted a variety of artists. He has also worked in the baseball industry for the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels / Diablo Stadium, and in the Commission’s Office of Major League Baseball.

Hammond’s writing style, particularly within his commentary, is often compared to Chuck Klosterman-esq with countless references to pop culture, especially music. His brazen and honest approach creates camaraderie with the reader, then tests the boundaries with sensitive subject matter. Philosophy, ethics, and nobility square off against a materialistic society driven by instant gratification, with Sean treading water right in the middle.

His fictional writing makes a conscious effort to blend perception, rumor, and fact leaving the reader to question reality. His stories often taking place in historical settings or playing on modern headlines, Sean uses common themes to drive home critical points about the human condition. Though often grand, epic, and futurist, the backbone of his novels hinge on honor and virtue, or lack thereof.