Category Archives: mystery

New Release: WICKED TRUTHS by Michelle Areaux



Death seems to follow seventeen year old Sadie Sanders everywhere she goes–literally. As a mediator to the dead, she must constantly face fighting demons and the occasional angry dead girl. In WICKED TRUTHS, the third instalment of the WICKED CRIES series, Sadie learns that some secrets are meant to stay dead, for the truth, once it has been uncovered, may be wickeder than she could have ever imagined.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Paranormal, Clean Romance
Pages: 178
Release Date: 1 Oct 16
Blog Tour Date: 1 – 8 Oct 16

Death seems to follow seventeen year old Sadie Sanders everywhere she goes–literally. As a mediator to the dead, she must constantly face fighting demons and the occasional angry dead girl.

After a dangerous and almost deadly first year in Salem, Sadie’s parents decided to send her away for the summer to visit her Aunt Morgan in the small town of Nicholasville, Kentucky. After uncovering a murder hidden for centuries, she embarked on a deadly mission to solve the crime while trying to enjoy her summer vacation.

Now back in Salem, Sadie has found another hidden secret in the wicked town. Secret underground tunnels are hidden under the streets of Salem, beckoning to those with wicked souls. When Sadie encounters a ghost named Laura roaming the streets of Salem, she and her friends Noah and Lucy must uncover the clues leading to Laura’s death, which is made even more complicated by the fact that Laura has no memory about her life or death. To make matters worse, Sadie must also track down the person who has been sending her threatening messages in an effort to stop her mission for justice.

In Wicked Truths, the third installment of the Wicked Cries series, Sadie learns that some secrets are meant to stay dead, for the truth, once it has been uncovered, may be wickeder than she could have ever imagined.

Buy Wicked Truths by Michelle Areaux at Google Play, Kobo, iBooks, Kindle, and Amazon.

Also by Michelle Areaux – Coming Soon!

Wicked Cries – Book 1 of the Wicked Cries Series


For 16-year-old Sadie Sanders, dealing with the dead is growing tiresome, especially when they expect her to be their messenger from the afterlife. But when her family moves to Salem, Massachusetts, and she finds the diary of a young girl named Elizabeth who was accused of witchcraft, she may need some help. Soon, Elizabeth begins to haunt Sadie, first in her dreams and then when she’s awake. As Sadie delves into Elizabeth’s journal, she slowly uncovers the secret Elizabeth needs to reveal, and it’s one that could change the course of history. Sadie needs help, and she wonders whom, if anyone, she can tell about it. Worried that her friends and family wouldn’t believe her, or worse, prevent her from continuing her journey to find the truth, Sadie has a choice to make…and it’s not going to be an easy one.

Wicked Lies – Book 2 of the Wicked Cries Series


Sadie Sanders believed her life couldn’t get any worse when her parents moved her from sunny California, to gloomy Salem, Massachusetts. Of course Sadie was wrong–dead wrong.

After a dangerous and almost deadly first year in Salem, Sadie’s parents decide to send her away for the summer to visit her Aunt Morgan in the small town of Nicholasville, Kentucky.

Seeking normalcy from her twisted life as a messenger for the dead, Sadie hopes her stay in the small Kentucky town will be the break she needs from her paranormal obligations and a way for her to escape the demons that haunt her.

Unfortunately for Sadie, the dead don’t take a break, not even for summer vacation. Soon after arriving in Nicholasville, Sadie discovers a murder that’s been haunting the town for centuries. Refusing to ignore the injustice she uncovers, Sadie sets off on another wild adventure.

In Wicked Lies, book two of the Wicked Cries series, Sadie’s quest for justice just may be the thing that finally ends her career as a messenger to the dead, and her life

Guest Post: My Publishing Journey by Michelle Areaux

hiking-1312226_960_720Hello all, my name is Michelle Areaux and I am excited to talk with you all today about my crazy journey in the publishing world and what inspired me to write my debut novel, Wicked Cries. When I first got the idea for Wicked Cries, I was a college student at the University of Kentucky. I was studying English as part of my degree to become a middle school language arts teacher. My true dream was to be a writer, but let’s face it: I needed a “real” job in case my dream job never came true. Thankfully, I accomplished both dreams.

My inspiration for this novel came from my interest in the Salem witch trials. I have always been intrigued by moments in our history that really defined an historical moment. I began researching the history behind the Salem witch trials. Once I began delving into the unanswered mysteries around the people, the town, and the events that transpired, I knew I was in trouble; I was hooked. I had to know more about their stories. I needed to capture that moment, but put my own twist and find my own destiny for those people. I wanted to create characters and put them in fantastic dilemmas while having a control over their fate. I also wanted to create raw characters that readers could identify with and who shared the same quirks, insecurities, strengths, and dilemmas we all face.  So…I began writing a story about a young girl who found a journal hidden in a restored home her parents had purchased in Salem, Massachusetts.  I wanted this character, who I named Sadie, to be a martyr for the victims and to stand up against the hate and unfair treatment of those involved. While researching the history of the events of this tragic moment in our history, I became obsessed with telling this story. As silly as it sounds, I felt like I was becoming an advocate for the people who were shamelessly condemned. Of course I had to add in a cute boy and a mean girl to add some more spice to the story line.  Even though this story is fiction and contains fighting ghosts and paranormal activity, the concept behind the plot is real.

Fast forward ten years.  I am a middle school language arts teacher, mother of two crazy little boys, and a wife of a very patient, and motivating husband. Wicked Cries sat untouched for almost ten years. Finally, after gaining the courage to share this story with my husband Anthony, he encouraged me to send it to agents and publishers. Now, I wish that I could say this journey was easy and that the first publisher I sent my query letter to jumped at the chance to represent me. But, sadly, that is not the case. It took another year of sending my manuscript to agents and publishers before Black Rose Writing took a risk on me and my novel and offered me a publishing contract. Black Rose Writing has been amazing, and the authors I have met along the way have been helpful and great mentors.  My novel is sold on Amazon, Barnes and, Black Rose Writing’s website, and at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, Kentucky.  The publishing journey has been crazy and exciting at times. Holding my novel in my hands was a true accomplishment and a dream come true. But having my family, friends, and students read the story and share their thoughts about the characters with me was exhilarating.  My goal in becoming a published author was not to get popular or become a rock star like Jamie McGuire, Stephenie Myer or J.K. Rowling. No, I wanted to become a writer so I could share my stories with others and live my dream. Wicked Cries is more than just a story about a girl who fights ghosts and learns about the Salem Witch Trials. This story contains real life scenarios that teens and adults face.  I wanted the story to be fun, educational, and something anyone could connect with.  I guess the momma and teacher in me took over when writing this book.

For anyone reading this who aspires to be an author, my advice to you is simple: never give up. I know it sounds so cliché, but it is true. Once you have the idea and the itch to write a story, do it! Keep writing. Send out your story to anyone willing to take a peek at it. What’s the worst that could happen–someone says no? If you don’t try, you will never know. My novel was published ten years after its making. Forget the timeline, don’t stress about how long it takes to get noticed. Keep focusing on your dream and you will get there.

Book three in the Wicked Cries series, Wicked Truths, is now available via EMSA Publishing, wherever online books are sold. Look for the reprints of Wicked Cries and Wicked Lies by EMSA Publishing before the end of the year!

*Image by MaxMann through Pixabay CCO Public Domain agreement

Win 1 of 3 copies of Wicked Truths by Michelle Areaux in our Rafflecopter Giveaway!

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Sam Jenkins’ Companion

FROM NY TO THE SMOKIES....front..coverDetective Sam Jenkins is back in Wayne Zurl’s From New York to the Smokies, a short story collection spanning over four decades in the life of the character. From a young age, Sam Jenkins wanted to do what was right. When he foils a mob crime and saves his father from going to jail, someone suggests he become a police officer and that’s what he does. The stories span Sam’s career, beginning as a lieutenant in New York through to his time as chief of the Prospect PD, a town in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, which is where Zurl gets the title.

This is the second book I’ve read in the Sam Jenkins series, and I enjoyed the stories in this book as much as I enjoyed the last. Zurl’s writing flows smoothly, his dialogue is casual and realistic, and though Sam’s police business gets quite serious at times, Zurl is always sure to interject a bit of humour, providing what at times is much needed comedic relief.

Of the five stories in this collection, my favourite was “Ode to Willie Joe”, in which a light-hearted, sci-fi element turns out to be something unexpected. The first story, “The Boat to Prison”, gives interesting insight into Sam’s character. Growing up in a bad area, with a less-than-upstanding father as a role model, his life could have taken a turn for the worse if it weren’t for his inherent good and desire to help save the people around him. This collection makes an excellent companion to Zurl’s Sam Jenkins series. It was fun to take a trip back into Sam’s world, no matter how brief.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Believably Dystopic

rp_autumninthecityofangelscover-220x300.jpgWhen 17 year old Autumn finds herself alone in Los Angeles after a global pandemic, she does her best to survive. On a foray into the city, she is taken in by The Front, a group whose focus is power and repopulation. Autumn escapes and is saved by Grey, who disappears shortly thereafter. She returns to her condo where she discovers Ben and his seven year old sister, Rissi. The three of them set up house in Autumn’s penthouse and grow to become a family, but waning supplies forces Autumn out into the dangerous streets of Los Angeles in search of Grey. Due to the air of mystery surrounding him and the kindness he showed her, Grey has become all Autumn can think of lately. And she thinks she knows just how to find him, based on the directions he left her just before he disappeared.

Kirby Howell’s Autumn in the City of Angels was a great read. Howell expertly sets the scene of a believably dystopic Los Angeles. And while Autumn contains many of the plot lines familiar to this genre– a mysterious boy with whom the protagonist can’t help but fall in love; two camps, one good, one evil; most of the world destroyed by a super-virus–there is one plot twist that I didn’t foresee (and which I won’t divulge here) that makes it different from the rest. Autumn in the City of Angels is more than a simple tale of surviours in a post-apocalyptic world. The sci-fi elements are there if you look closely enough. These elements serve to throw a wrench into Autumn and Grey’s sweet love story and hooks the reader further in as the novel races toward the end.

I’ll admit I was thrown for a loop when the big sci-fi element was spelled out for me. When I went back to write this review, I realized that was because I wasn’t reading closely enough. Howell drops hints that I’d missed throughout. Simple things like Autumn’s loss of time that are credited to her injuries, have a much deeper meaning, so watch out for them when you read. And though my first impulse was to stop reading at the point of the reveal, I’m glad I didn’t. My one true complaint is that the book ends too abruptly, and without resolution, probably to leave the reader wanting more for the next book in the series. I’m one of those few people out there who don’t particularly like binge reading series, and would have preferred more of a plot resolution as a result. If you enjoy reading series, however, then you won’t be disappointed. Howell’s intention, to leave the reader wanting more, is bang on.

If you enjoy dystopic sci-fi and paranormal, romance book series, you are in for a treat in  Autumn in the City of Angels.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WICKED CRIES by Michelle Areaux

Wicked Cries full coverFor 16-year-old Sadie Sanders, dealing with the dead is growing tiresome, especially when they expect her to play messenger to the afterlife. Her constant struggle to mend teenage broken relationships and translate last wishes seemed to be her biggest problem.

Up until recently, Sadie had been able to juggle her double life without anyone detecting she was not only an average high school student, but a messenger to the dead as well. Even after a close call at the local teen night club, Sadie was able to keep her secret hidden.  But when her father decided to move her family clear across the country from sunny Los Angeles, California to gloomy Salem, Massachusetts, Sadie wondered if the move would be the fresh new start she needed to leave her old, wicked life behind and become a normal high school girl.

Only Sadie was wrong, dead wrong.  Once in Salem, Sadie finds a hidden journal from Elizabeth, a once persecuted witch who documented the last few days of her terrifying life. Desperately wanting to push the journal aside and begin her new life, Sadie finds herself haunted by Elizabeth, but this time is different.

Elizabeth desperately needs Sadie’s help to clear her name, but one man attempts to destroy Sadie’s journey to uncovering Elizabeth’s truth.

Sadie’s only goal, to make it through high schpol without another deadly adventure.

She may be in for a rude awaking her senior year.

Buy Wicked Cries at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on Black Rose Writing.  

About the Author:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMichelle Areaux  is a wife, mother, and seventh grade language arts teacher.  When she’s not playing with her boys or teaching, she writes. Her passion for writing stems from reading everything from The Babysitters Club series to The Outsiders. She strives to write fiction that her children, students, and grandmother would enjoy.

Michelle earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky and teaches in Lexington, Kentucky.

Follow Michelle Areaux on Twitter.

Interview with author Libi Astaire

Britbear’s Book Reviews welcomes author Libi Astaire, author of The Moon Taker, with an interview in today’s author spotlight. 

Moon Taker cover_kindle


There’s trouble afoot in Regency London’s Jewish community, and no one to stop the crimes—until wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Mr. Ezra Melamed teams up with an unlikely pair: General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane, the leaders of a gang of young Jewish pickpockets.

In this newest addition to the Jewish Regency Mystery Series, General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane set out to discover who murdered Mr. Hamburg, a colleague of theirs in the secondhand linen trade. But before they can unmask the killer, they must unravel the secret of a mysterious snuff box, a quest that takes them from their East End slum to an elegant country house where a group of distinguished astronomers are meeting – one of whom has a secret as dark as the night sky.

Buy the Jewish Regency Mystery Series on Amazon.  Buy Moon Taker on Amazon as an eBook or paperback.

Hello, Libi. I’m curious, why do you write about the Jewish Regency period?

One of the things I love about the Regency period, in general, is that although it was brief there was so much going on—the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, fortunes being made and lost overnight on the Exchange or in the gambling halls. All of that makes a wonderfully colorful backdrop for a mystery series. But like many people, when I used to think of the Regency era I thought of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. I had no idea that there was a thriving Ashkenazic Jewish community living in London at the time. As I learned more about them—their experiences while trying to “make it” in British society foreshadowed the experiences of Jewish immigrants to the UK and the United States a century later—I thought it would be fun to introduce readers to this little known community and look at the Regency era through their eyes.

What appeals to you about mystery and detective fiction as a genre? 

I’ve always enjoyed reading mystery novels, especially the ones written by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Rex Stout. The “whodunit” aspect keeps me interested in the story, but I also appreciate the way the best of the mystery writers use the investigation of a crime as a way to open a window into their world and examine the undercurrents lurking beneath the polite surface of everyday life. So, I’ve tried to do that with my Jewish Regency Mystery Series, using the structure of a mystery story to look at the social and financial challenges facing an immigrant community that is still struggling to establish itself—and sometimes stumbles along the way to “the good life.”

Your characters in this series, “wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Mr. Ezra Melamed [who] teams up with General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane – the leaders of a gang of young Jewish pickpockets – to solve crimes affecting Regency London’s Jewish community” sound really interesting. How did you come up with this idea?

Actually, the idea was forced upon me by the historical facts. During the Regency period there wasn’t yet an organized police force. Back then the English didn’t like the idea of the government intruding too much into their lives, and so they preferred dealing with crime privately. Therefore, if someone broke into your house and stole all the silver, for example, you might hire a Bow Street Runner or thief-taker with knowledge of the criminal underworld to find the culprit. Or you might try to find the thief yourself, since he was often willing to return your stolen property, for a price.

So in my mystery series, Mr. Ezra Melamed takes on the role of sleuth for the Jewish community rather reluctantly. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t associate with young pickpockets, but since General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane live on the streets of London they have access to information that he needs and can’t get on his own.

By the way, when I first began writing the series my pickpockets were minor characters. But they ended up stealing the show, so to speak, and since readers kept asking to see more of them I gave them their own mystery to solve in the newest book, The Moon Taker.

What is the significance behind the names of these characters?

Both the Earl of Gravel Lane and General Well’ngone are ironic names—a bit of Jewish chutzpah, if you will. During the Regency era the Jews, like the Catholics, didn’t have full civil rights. Jews couldn’t vote or go to university or become an officer in the military, for example, and they certainly couldn’t become a member of the peerage. Therefore, the teenaged leader of my gang of pickpockets, the Earl of Gravel Lane, is thumbing his nose at some of the prejudices of British society by dubbing himself an Earl during a time when a Jew couldn’t even be a baronet. As for Gravel Lane, it’s a real street in London’s East End, which was a poverty-stricken area during the Regency, and it was home to the most famous Jewish criminal of the era, Ikey Solomon.

General Well’ngone, the Earl’s “commander in the field,” is a take-off on the Duke of Wellington, who gained fame while fighting—and ultimately defeating—Napoleon. But while Wellington was a popular military hero, a poor orphan who turned to pickpocketing to stay alive was regarded as a pest. So, General Well’ngone’s chosen name is also ironic—he knows that respectable people wouldn’t mind if he was hanged or transported to Australia or in some other way removed from the streets of London.

You must do a lot of research before you begin writing. Just how much research do you carry out before writing your novels? What’s the most interesting thing you discovered as a result of your research?

I do quite a bit of research, and that’s actually my favorite part of the process. For the first book, I had great fun pouring over old maps of London and deciding where my characters were going to live. I also read over the records of the Old Bailey, which are now available online, to see what sorts of crimes were being committed. I did general research of the period as well, since I like to ground the stories in real events that were happening at the time. I’m always on the lookout for interesting but lesser known aspects of the era, such as advances in science and technology that can lend themselves to some sort of “white cravat” crime. And then, of course, there are all the wonderful fashions—studying the old fashion plates to get the details right is always great fun.

But while there is lots of information about the Regency, there isn’t that much firsthand information about the everyday lives of the Jewish community. I was therefore thrilled when I came across a rather ancient book by the British historian Lucien Wolf where he interviewed an elderly Jewish man who had been a child during the Regency era. Fortunately, this man confirmed that the wealthier Jews lived on Devonshire Square and Bury Street—which is where some of my characters live. But what was most amazing was the account he gave of how a Jewish holiday called Purim was celebrated. It’s the only firsthand account I’ve found (so far) that describes how a Jewish holiday was observed. Since Purim is a pretty lively holiday, I was happy to see that the Regency-era Jews went all out and had a great time.

What’s the story behind the subtitle for your blog, “From Kansas to Jerusalem, with a few stops in between“?

I grew up in Kansas—and, yes, Dorothy and Toto were my neighbors—but for a big period of my life I lived vicariously in England. I loved English history and literature, and I was in heaven when PBS started to broadcast a weekly show called “Masterpiece Theatre.” (Anyone remember the original Upstairs, Downstairs?)  I finally got a chance to live in England when I did my junior year of university in London, and I’ve been there many times to visit and do research, which has helped enormously with the writing of my mystery series. But I’m very grateful that my life’s path brought me to Israel, where I presently live.

Your Amazon author page mentions an interest you have in the “crypto-Jews of Spain”. Please tell us a bit about this.

My day job is working as a journalist, and about seven years ago a Jewish magazine asked if I’d like to try writing a serialized novel. I had already written a few articles about Spain’s crypto-Jews—these were the Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Middle Ages and were then targeted by the Spanish Inquisition—and I knew that I wanted to learn more about their story. One of the amazing things I learned is that there are still communities of these crypto-Jews living in Spain and Portugal, even though the Inquisition ended in the early 1800s. My curiosity about why they are still living these secret lives—outwardly Christian, but they consider themselves to be Jews—became the starting point for my serialized novel Terra Incognita, which has since been published as an ebook and paperback. I continue to write and lecture about the history of the crypto-Jews and I’d really like to write another novel about them, but my mystery series keeps me pretty busy.

The Amazon page also says you “didn’t realize [you] were fascinated by Jewish history until long after [you] had graduated from college. What did you study in college? What made you realize you were so passionate about it?

Officially, I studied theatre, English literature and European history in college. Unofficially, I was crazy about Shakespeare and so many of the courses I took had something to do with either the plays or Shakespeare’s life and times. My big dream was to become a Shakespearian actor, but while I was studying acting in London—and seeing the plays put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company—I realized that I didn’t have it in me to be a great actor. After college, I moved to New York and I eventually did some directing. But as time went on I became disenchanted with the whole New York theatre scene and decided it was time to move on. But to what?

It was during this time that I stumbled upon a class in Jewish meditation and that opened so many doors for me. I was introduced to the Chassidic movement within Judaism, and in addition to being intrigued by the spiritual practices, which are very inner-directed, I became intrigued by the history of the movement. There has been so much tragedy in Jewish history—expulsions, blood libels, the Holocaust, etc.—but the Chassidic masters concentrated on finding the joy in life, and I found that very inspiring and appealing.

Since then I’ve been lucky to write for several Jewish magazines that allow me to indulge my interest in the daily life of Jews who lived in different places and times. Some of the topics are serious, such as the Jewish experience during the Spanish Inquisition. But my editors also give me lighter assignments, such as the history of kugel, a traditional Jewish dish eaten on the Sabbath.

Your box set of Chasidic tales sounds intriguing. What was your motivation in writing them?

The Jewish year is filled with many wonderful holidays, but most of us are so busy with work and family and getting the car repaired and the mortgage paid on time that we don’t have time to step back and prepare spiritually. Thus, we may miss out on the deeper aspects of the holidays—which are times for enjoyment but also opportunities for introspection and self-improvement.  Chassidic tales, which are often the Jewish version of “wisdom tales,” are a simple but powerful way to explore these deeper dimensions.

When ebooks first came out I decided to retell Chassidic tales about the Jewish holidays—Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Chanukah and other holidays—so that people could grab a story on their ereader or mobile phone and spiritually prepare while on the go. This past Chanukah I compiled all the short ebooks into one boxed set, and now readers can download just one file and get stories for the entire year.

What’s the one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview and how would you answer it?

Question: How does it feel to be a best-selling author?

Answer: I’ll let you know when it happens. J

Thank you so much for participating in this interview, Libi.

Here’s where readers can learn more about Libi Astaire and her work:

| Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest |

| Amazon Author Page | Smashwords Author Page | Goodreads |




Author bio:

LibiAstaire2Libi Astaire is an award-winning author who often writes about Jewish history. In addition to her Jewish Regency Mystery Series featuring Ezra Melamed, General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane, she is the author of Terra Incognita, a novel about modern-day descendants of Spain’s crypto-Jews, The Banished Heart, a novel about Shakespeare’s writing of The Merchant of Venice, and several volumes of Chassidic tales. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel.



“Redemption” teaches we are capable of rising above hardship

redemption coverIn Redemption: A Parson’s Gap Story, author Samantha Charles pens a gripping tale about Lindy Harrington as she comes to terms with her past, present, and future. After escaping her abusive husband, Lindy returns to Parson’s Gap, the town of her birth, where she is reacquainted with the people from her youth, in particular, ex-boyfriend Kit, friend Grady, and her father, a less than ethical preacher who uses coercion and might to do what he thinks is the Lord’s work. While there, Lindy uncovers clues that indicate the accident best-friend Sara was killed in was no accident, and the murderer is still alive and well and living in Parson’s Gap. Sara’s murder is not the only secret the small town harbours, and it’s not in Lindy’s character to shy away from the truth.

Abused, first by her father and then by her husband, Lindy emerges as a strong, female narrative voice, who refuses to give up her quest until the ghosts of her youth have been exorcised. Though Lindy’s story meanders between high and low, the conflict is compelling. Charles creates an air of mystery throughout, driving the reader to continue reading to discover the truth, alongside Lindy. Besides Lindy, the most interesting character is Lindy’s father, Reverend Carver, whose puritanical façade is pitted against Lindy’s realism. Though Carver preaches redemption, it is Lindy who sets out to achieve it, and she does, emerging victorious in the battle against her father’s warped sense of values, social prejudice, and the fallout from family secrets brought to light.

At times a page turner, at times a sleeper, my main criticism for Redemption is that it sometimes tries to do too much. Among the themes embedded in the novel include incest, homophobia, racism, black market adoption, abortion, religion, infidelity, and abuse. While reading I was unsure if this was a story about a woman’s struggle for self-determination, or a murder mystery, or something else entirely. Many of my reviews include a text-to-text comparison, but I can find none here, which is a good thing, I think, as it serves as testament to Charles’s originality. Samantha Charles’s Redemption: A Parson’s Gap Story, though the characters (save Lindy) are somewhat stereotypical, tells a powerful story against the backdrop of a setting made vibrant to impart the message that all of us are capable of rising above hardship in order to create ourselves anew.

Mamabear gives this book


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Read a guest post by Samantha Charles, “Shattering the Silence“.

A Captivating Window into Time

Journey_of_an_American_Son_full_cover-3_copyIn Journey of an American Son, Ben Albert marries Catherine, goes to war, loses his left hand, and finds himself caught in an international web of deception, intrigue and murder. In this book, John Hazen employs a technique of dual narrative, following Ben’s story and Catherine’s in separate chapters. When Ben is framed for murder, Catherine must step in and take charge of the investigation in order to prove her husband innocent.

I liked Journey of an American Son. Though the dual narrative is awkward at first in that it tells of the journey of the so called “American son” in third person and his wife, Catherine, in first person, the choice to do this begins to make more sense midway through the novel when Catherine emerges as the true protagonist. In following Catherine, Hazen is able to portray the role of women in society just after the turn of the century with interest. But Catherine is no ordinary early twentieth century woman. Rather, she is a modern woman transplanted into an early twentieth century world, which is what makes her character so interesting.

Though I enjoyed Hazen’s novel, and found myself often immersed in the pages, I do wish there was a better balance between narrative and dialogue throughout. I would have also liked for the story to be a bit more streamlined to eliminate the overlap in narrative and the repetition throughout as a result of the dual narrative format.

That aside, Hazen’s Journey of an American Son provides the reader with a captivating window into a time when the economy was less global, people used snail mail, telegrams and land telephone lines to communicate, and, outside of fingerprinting, there was no such thing as forensics.  Hazen’s story documents the rocky path one immigrant family travels while trying to attain the American dream in the New World. In Journey of an American Son, whether or not the Albert family ultimately meets that elusive dream is subject to the reader’s interpretation.

Mamabear gives this book


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with author Mark Love

Britbear’s Book Reviews would like to welcome fellow Black Rose author Mark Love and his novel, Why 319? to today’s author spotlight.

Why 319Summary from Goodreads:

There’s a serial killer loose in Metro Detroit, but nobody knows it. Three female victims have been discovered in motel rooms in different suburban cities that surround Motown. These deaths have not captured the media’s attention. The only connection is that each body is found in room 319 and the killer leaves the taunting message “Why 319?” on the bathroom mirror, written with the victim’s lipstick. The nude bodies have been cleaned and neatly arranged. All personal items are gone.

Now an elite squad of detectives has entered the scene. It’s up to them to take over the investigations from the police force and solve the riddle. The detectives know that time is not on their side. If the public learns there is a serial killer at large, will panic set in? Will they be able to figure it out before the killer strikes again?

Buy Why 319? on Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and Black Rose Writing.

Thanks for joining me today, Mark. What was your inspiration for your last novel?

I’ve always wanted to do a story about a serial killer and the investigation. It was during a brainstorming session with my son, Travis, who also likes to write, when the idea started to take shape. There were many revisions over the time it took to come up with a story that I was satisfied with. That’s where Why 319? came from.

It’s really cool that you and your son brainstorm like that.

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My favorite segment was when I wrote from the killer’s point of view. Since the majority of the story is told from the protagonist, Jefferson Chene’s, perspective, it was a challenge to make that transition. But I’ve had some great feedback on it.  One reader said those sections gave her shivers. I’ll take that compliment anytime.

It’s always fun to think outside the box like that and pen something so far removed from our own perspectives. How about some of that outside the box thinking now? What would your protagonist think about you?  Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author, his creator?

I’m sure Chene has more than a few questions he’d like to get answers to. Chene was an orphan, abandoned at birth and raised in a Catholic orphanage. His name comes from the intersection near downtown Detroit where he was found. So the chance to kick back and learn more about his background would definitely drive him.

Do your characters try to create ever more convoluted plots for you?  Or do you have to coax them out of your characters?

(Laughs) Oh, they definitely like to make the plots more twisted and challenging! I don’t work with an outline. I have a basic story idea in mind and maybe one or two key characters. I put them in motion and then just run alongside and see what they do. Some of the turns they suggest lead to major plot changes. But I think the result is a much better story.

My writing process is similar, so I know what you mean. Looking forward, What are your current projects?

I’m working on a sequel for Chene.  The main characters from Why 319? are clamoring for more attention.  I’m also trying to work on a prequel for the Jamie Richmond romance-mystery series (Devious, Vanishing Act and Fleeing Beauty).

What other books are similar to your own?   What makes them alike?

I think Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch novels are similar to Why 319? Like Bosch, Chene has his internal demons but is driven to solve the mystery.  To him, every victim matters regardless of their status in life.

While we’re on the topic of other books, which writers inspire you and why?

As a kid I was hooked on the novels of John D. MacDonald, who wrote the Travis McGee series.  McGee wasn’t your standard hero. He only worked when he needed the money or when it involved someone he was close to. Once the case was done, McGee went into an early retirement mode, enjoying life. MacDonald could coax the reader into the story quickly and throw enough curves at you that you never knew what was coming. Other writers who remind me of him include Elmore Leonard, James W. Hall, Greg Iles, John Sandford and James Rollins. I take inspiration from them to keep writing, keep polishing the story.

Still on the topic of books by other authors, what is your favourite book and why?

Stephen King’s The Stand.  I started reading this epic one evening after work and became so engrossed in the story that I didn’t blink until about three o’clock in the morning. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before going to work. Later during the day, I was waiting in line at a fast food restaurant when someone behind me sneezed three times. That was the warning sign in the book that someone had the disease that was wiping out humanity. Then next thing I knew, I was in my car with a death grip on the steering wheel.  Since I started writing, it’s been a goal to capture someone’s imagination as well as he grabbed mine.

One of my favourites, too.

Why do you write?

I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. Being able to entertain the readers by writing an engaging story, creating characters and conflicts they can identify with or relate to is not easy, but it’s something I’m driven to do. It’s important to me. I think everyone has talents. Mine is to write a good story, to take you along for an adventure.

Where do those ideas come from?

(Laughs) Inspiration comes from everywhere and nowhere. I’ve gotten ideas for a story from conversations I’ve overheard, from watching people interact in a restaurant, from hiking on a trail or riding a motorcycle down a country road.

What about building your author platform? What’s your view on social media for marketing?

I’m behind the curve on social media and definitely need to catch up. So many people are on it, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest and more, that it’s a great way to reach a larger audience. I just need to find the time to get busy with it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Check out new authors. There are many talented people out there, working with smaller publishing houses who have written great stories.

Truer words were never said, Mark. Thanks for investing your time to do this interview. One last question: where can readers discover more about you and your work?

| Blog | Facebook | Amazon Author Page |

“Why 319?” is Well Written and Structurally Sound

Why+319+eimageDetective Jefferson Chene is on the trail of a serial killer. His only clues are the bodies of the killer’s female victims, all found sprawled on the beds of hotel rooms numbered 319, the cryptic message “Why 319?” written on the bathroom mirror in lipstick. Can Chene and his task force find the killer before they find the next body?

I liked Mark Love’s Why 319? Detective Chene is tough and vulnerable at once. His relationship with partner Meagan is endearing and believable. Love’s prose is easy to read and descriptive. The story is interesting by way of a police procedural in that it doesn’t read like an episode of CSI, but in a good way. In CSI (in most police procedurals on television, in fact), the team always interviews the perpetrator at some point in the investigation. By contrast, Why 319? may be a more realistic glimpse into police investigation, especially when the killer’s agenda is nothing personal with respect to the victim. Undaunted, Chene and his task force slowly collect and piece together the murderer’s puzzle. I wasn’t surprised by the killer’s identity, mind you, but rather, by the story-web Love weaves in order to reveal it.

When reading for review, I often form my opinion of how many gummies (or stars) I will ultimately award the book long before I finish. This opinion always wavers as I read, sometimes several times. For the first 2/3 of Why 319? I was set to give it five stars. Then the narrative changed inorder to give the reader 2 or 3 glimpses into the mind of the killer. As a writer, I understand why Love might want to do this–to show the murderer sweating as the police grow near, taunting and chiding them all the while–but in this case, Love should have resisted as the scenes, though brief, were out of place and unnecessary to Chene’s narrative; Love should have found an alternate route for imparting this information.

That observation aside, I recommend Why 319?, especially to those avid mystery and police procedural junkies. If you are a fan of CSI, Criminal Minds, Stalker, and the like, you will not be disappointed by Why 319?

Mamabear gives this book:



Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Personable and Real

New Prospect cover..2 badgesWayne Zurl’s A New Prospect introduces the world to Sam Jenkins, formerly retired police officer, and brand new police Chief of Prospect, Tennessee. When he’s thrown into Prospect’s first murder on his first day on the force, the game’s afoot (as both Sherlock Holmes and Sam, himself, would say). Barred from investigation by the FBI, Sam nevertheless sets out to find the murderer.

I liked Sam Jenkins from the moment he’s introduced, but Zurl captures his reader long before that in the prologue when he introduces characters germaine to later action. Zurl’s narrative is easy-going and easy to read, capturing Sam’s persona, which renders the narrator’s voice personable and real. Jenkins is about as honest a narrator as they come, letting the reader in on his every thought, and I do mean every, including his unabashed attraction to the female characters he meets.

In Prospect, Zurl has created a bucolic, near backwater town, populated with intriguing characters enough to rival that of Mayberry. This parallel is deliberate; Zurl  frequently interjects references to popular culture from the fifties through the seventies, showing that Jenkins identifies with the detectives and cowboys that went before him. These allusions imply Zurl’s writing is for an older audience of about thirty and up, which he acknowledges in the persona of Sam. When those around him don’t get his allusions, rather than feel past his prime, Sam is energized by their confusion.

I really enjoyed my trip to Prospect and the time spent with Sam. I hope to visit with him (and Zurl) again, sometime soon.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

For more on Wayne Zurl and Sam Jenkins, read his guest post, Real Cops vs. Hollywood, and his Interview on Britbear’s Book Reviews.